Barry Bagsley Quotes in Don’t Call Me Ishmael
“Ishmael? What kind of a wussy-crap name is that?”
What could I say? Up to this point in my life I hadn’t even known it was a wussy-crap name. No one had warned me that I had a wussy-crap name. Why would my parents give me a wussy-crap name in the first place? Was Herman Melville aware it was a wussy-crap name?
It soon became obvious to every Year Eight that if you wanted to survive your stay at St. Daniel’s Boys School relatively unscathed, there were only two courses of action open to you: either avoid Barry Bagsley at all costs, which was what the majority chose to do, or risk the road less traveled and seek out the dangerous safety of Barry Bagsley’s inner circle of “friends.”
Every atom in my body told me that this was one of those times when the sensible thing to do was to make myself small. A few backward steps and I would be out of sight. Then I could forget all about Barry Bagsley and his mob. But that was just it. I could forget about the rest of them, but I couldn’t get the kid out of my mind. I won’t lie. I’m no hero. I wanted to turn around and run. I wanted to make myself small. I wanted to disappear. The problem was, I had the terrible feeling that if I did, I might not ever be able to find myself again.
The class stared at James Scobie. Something wasn’t right here. This wasn’t the way things went. When Barry Bagsley threatened you, you backed down. That’s just the way it was; the way it had always been. You couldn’t just go changing things—just doing what you want. The whole room was one big furrowed brow. Something was happening here—we just weren’t quite sure what it was.
As for Barry Bagsley, rumor had it that Brother Jerome had given him the “last warning” speech. In any case, when he finally returned to class, he was as sullen as a caged animal, a bit like the T-rex at the beginning of Jurassic Park, trapped inside that steel enclosure with a zillion volts of electricity zinging through the wires (which was fine by me). The only trouble was, I kept thinking that when you watch a movie like that, you just know that eventually, for some reason or another, someone or something will turn the electricity off.
“Now, some of you may feel that debating is for wimps. I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. Research shows that most people are more afraid of speaking in public than they are of dying. Debating is not for wimps. It’s for boys with courage. That’s right, courage—the courage and commitment to stand up and perform under pressure.”
“Sort of…the tumor, the operation…they’re true. The other thing…not being afraid…Well, it depends on how you look at it. Maybe it wasn’t a scalpel that did it. Maybe…when you’re lying in an operating room and someone is cutting into your brain…and you don’t know whether you’re going to…”
For a few seconds all I could hear was Scobie breathing. When he continued, it was almost in a whisper.
“Well…maybe there’s just so much fear you can have…and in that one moment you use up all the fear you were ever supposed to feel…and it’s the fear that cuts you…and it cuts you so deep that you decide that nothing else is worth being afraid of…and that nothing is going to scare you anymore…because you just won’t let it.”
I looked at Bill. I remembered his face after that last debate. Now he looked numb and broken.
I ripped the certificate from the desk. “That’s it. I’m taking this to Barker.”
“No, Ishmael, don’t!”
“Why can’t you just leave him alone?”
“Maybe I don’t want to. Are you going to make me?”
And there it was. The question we’d all been waiting for. The question whose answer I knew, and Barry Bagsley knew, was no. I looked at the smug, arrogant face before me, a face without a shadow of a doubt that it had nothing in the world to fear. I hated it and I hated how it was making me feel. I wanted to blow it away.
The second thing I decided to do was ask Dad if I could borrow his copy of Moby-Dick. “Aaarrgh, me hearty,” he said, rolling his eyes crazily, “ye be seeking the white whale!”
I wasn’t, though. I be seeking Ishmael.
But there was someone else onboard the Pequod who I could relate to. Maybe I hadn’t lost my leg to a great white whale like he had, but I understood what it was like to have a part of yourself torn away, and I also knew how much you could grow to hate whoever or whatever it was that had taken that part from you. I knew all about that, because every time Barry Bagsley taunted me and ground my name into the dirt, and every time he paid out on Bill Kingsley and I did nothing, it felt like there was much more of me missing than just a limb. But was I really like Ahab? Did I crave revenge like him? Would I really like to hunt down Barry Bagsley and harpoon him and make him suffer for what he had done?
I let my eyes drift over the words. They seemed so simple, so harmless—just marks on a page. I read them to myself for the hundredth time.
Let us pray that Barry Bagsley can learn to let other people be themselves instead of bullying them and putting them down all the time.
I could tell she was asking if he was alright. It had to be Mrs. Bagsley, but it didn’t seem possible. It was hard enough imagining Barry Bagsley with a mother at all (surely he was thrown together in some dingy rat-infested laboratory) let alone one who looked…well…nice.
But there was another reason why I couldn’t go through with it. It was that look on Barry Bagsley’s face, the one that I had put there, the one that reminded me of Kelly Faulkner’s little brother, of Bill Kingsley, and of myself. I didn’t want to be the kind of person that made people look like that. No matter who they were.