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Summers' End

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Summers' End
A true story about a local murder that became almost too local.
[910 words]
John C Smith

J C Smith

[May 2000]
A Winter Poem (Poetry) Short [26 words]
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How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Times. (Short Stories) An account of orgasmic discovery? [372 words]
The Smart-Ass Shall Inherit The Earth (Short Stories) A true story about winning by losing. [399 words]
Summers' End
John C Smith

When I was in third grade I was sure Neal Summers would grow up to be President of the United States. Not a murder victim. Neal was one of those kids who just seemed perfect. With his hair in a constant crew cut, he was self assured and neat as a pin. I don’t even think his lunch bag ever got wrinkled. He was the teacher’s pet in all of his grade school classes and kids picked him first (or second) for their dodge ball teams. Neal’s home life was 1950’s TV family perfection with his mother a fixture on the PTA and his father and brothers involved in scouting. But that was grade school.

When we graduated to junior high Neal seemed to stop growing both physically and socially. It was here that I stopped thinking of Neal as presidential material. He was developing slow physically and had more than his share of pimples, and gym class became a challenge for him. Most of the guys were becoming aware of such a thing as fashion and how they dressed became very important to them, but Neal still dressed the way he did in grade school. Becoming more introverted and nerdy Neal seemed more interested in his science projects than girls. High school was no improvement and with the increased student population I lost him in the crowd. The only place I thought I’d ever see him again after I graduated from high school was in the yearbook. As it turned out, I was wrong.

About sixteen years after graduation my son Gary came home from middle school and told me one of his teachers knew me. “Yeah Dad it’s Mr. Summers. He said he went all the way through school with you and remembers you as a good artist.” “Oh you mean Neal Summers. You know, at one time I figured he’d be president, but it makes sense he’s a teacher. He was pretty studious.” I replied. Gary went on. “Yeah, everyone thinks he’s like a big kid. Me and the guys call him Buddha because he’s so roly poly and smart. By the way Dad, is it okay if I go camping with him and a bunch of the guys this weekend up to his cabin?” I thought about it, then asked him if this was a school thing. His answer was no, it was just something Summers did each year with his best students. I told him he could go but I’d feel better if the school was involved. Then I asked if Neal’s family was going along. “Naw, Summers isn’t married. He says he’s too busy to have time for even a girlfriend.” “Hmmm,” I replied and shot him a suspicious look of concern. Gary picked up my drift and assured me, “Don’t worry, Buddha isn’t like that, besides if he tried anything weird we’d kick his ass!”

A short time after the camping trip Neal called, and after catching up on each other’s personal histories he told me he had an extra ticket to a Sonics game and wanted to know if my son could go with him. He promised to have Gary back home right after the game (this being a school night). I was feeling a little uneasy about this student-teacher relationship but his question caught me off guard and I was not able to come up with a logical objection, so I said yes. Neal picked Gary up shortly before the game and didn’t have time to come up to the door. When they returned Summers came up to the porch with an overly anxious grin and gave me a sweaty handshake. “Hey, did you hear about Grey (another obscure classmate)?” Not waiting for an answer he went on. “He’s a queer and owns a salon down in Ballard!” Shocked by his weird choice of news I replied, “Wow. I’ll bet he’s making great money if he can afford his own shop.” Neal sensed my uneasiness with the conversation and switched the subject to some embarrassed small talk and then left. I immediately located Gary and told him that under no circumstances was he to do anything outside school with Summers again. “Why?” He asked. “Because he gives me the creeps, that’s why.” I answered. Gary shrugged and said, “okay, no biggee.”

About ten years later I woke up to the news on TV that Neal had been shot and killed at the school where he taught. Neal had achieved a lot as a teacher and was extremely well thought of and trusted. Parents and students alike were stunned with disbelief and baffled by who or why anyone would want to kill such an inspirational teacher.

The shooter was caught and discovered to be a boy who had been a former student of Neal’s. He blamed Neal for totally screwing up his life and had sought revenge. As candles were being lit and prayer vigils being held, the police were discovering evidence in Neal’s cabin to support the killer’s claim that he and Neal had had a long-running sexual relationship that started when he was a middle school student. When the news of Neal Summers’ unseemly hidden life came forward, the plans to dedicate a memorial to Neal’s memory were abruptly put on hold and eventually faded out of the news.

In the end, there wasn’t much I felt about Neal’s fate, only that I was lucky it wasn’t my son that kicked “Buddha’s” ass.



"Wow, John - just goes to show you can never really tell what kind of people you meet day to day." -- Jennifer Nobile Raymond, New York, NY.
"Wow, how weird, you did good keeping the audience's attention. It's weird how it does come so close to home." -- Tracy , Normal, Illinois, USA.
"I really liked this short story. Neal Summers was very creepy, and the story kept me in suspense the whole time. However, I thought there was going to be an interesting twist at the end, with Neal Summers and his student Gary. " -- Jessica, Chicago, IL, USA.


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© 2000 John C Smith
September 2000

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