Behind Green Eyes

Boy sitting at table

by James Savik

Warning: This story is set in a time with very different attitudes, which modern readers may find disturbing. Graphic language. Reader discretion is advised.

1975 - Central Mississippi

The phone on the district psychologist’s desk rang. Kevin Hardin had been given a heads-up, and he was dreading it. Someone had fucked up badly, and now it was his problem. He steeled himself and answered.


“This is Coach Sal Ward, over at Oak Hill. I’m glad I caught you, sir. I’ve got a big problem with one of my seventh graders.”

“They told me about the kid you want to talk about. His file is on my desk, and it looks good.”

“That was last year. Something bad must have happened over the summer.”

Hardin said, “Tell me about it, Coach.”

“The coach at the elementary school is a graduate assistant for State. Dave Brock is sharp and told me about this kid last fall. Big, fast, checks all the boxes. He was popular with his team, and they won the County Cup last season.”

“So far, I’m not hearing a problem,” Hardin prodded the coach.

Ward audibly sighed and said, “I don’t know what the hell happened to this kid over the summer, but it has wrong written all over it. I’m no expert, but it smells like abuse. He was in his first fight before 1st bell on his first day. Another one that afternoon, and at least one a day every day this week.”

Hardin prompted, “OK. Tell me more. Physical aggressiveness is only one of the markers.”

“Well, he’s bruised up, but I don’t know whether it was from fighting or something else. I’ve been watching him between periods and when I have him in the gym. He stays away from the other kids and tries to slip away from trouble. The fighting, most of it, isn’t his idea. What the hell have I got here?”

“Trouble,” Hardin replied succinctly. “Do you know who his old man is? They call him the Colonel. Not just any Colonel. THE Colonel. If we go anywhere near this, we’re courting an all-out shitstorm if we go after a bone fide war hero.”

“I know,” Ward said with asperity. “I have managed to get some leverage over the boy. In exchange for not calling his father to discuss the fighting, he’s agreed to sit down with you. He’s not saying anything useful to us other than everybody hates him now.”

Hardin paused and said, “OK, Coach. I’ll be at the high school on Monday. I’ll talk to him about the fighting and see what we can figure out.”

Ward said, “One other thing, sir. I want to have a quiet word with Sheriff Daniels to see if they’ve heard anything that might shed some light on this.”

“That’s probably a good idea. See you Monday, Coach.”

Fran’s Diner
7:00 am Saturday

Sheriff Daniels sat, fiddled with his coffee, and said, “Thanks for meeting me for breakfast, Sal.”

Coach Ward said, “No problem, Sheriff. I’m very concerned about the behaviour of one of my students. It’s clear something drastic happened to him over the summer. I was wondering if you had heard anything that might explain it.”

The Sheriff’s expression changed to disgust. “I know exactly what happened. My esteemed Deputy, Harry Gaddis, held a little inquisition with Bob Rainer. Rainer had reason to believe that some of his scouts were committing sodomy. Gaddis actually brought in a seventeen-year-old for questioning. He read the sodomy law from a volume of the Mississippi state criminal code to the boys. Threatened to arrest them if he caught them.”

Ward exclaimed, “Jesus. No wonder he’s been fighting every day.”

The Sheriff took a bite of bacon and said, “Gaddis is a religious nut. I’d fire him, but he’ll run against me and win if I’m perceived as soft on queers. If there’s a crime, I can do something about it, but as it stands, it’s a family matter being handled badly.”

Coach Ward persisted, “This kid… looks so normal. He’s tough, a good student, and maybe my best player. Took on his whole homeroom and was kicking their ass before I stopped him.”

“He’ll need to be tough because we can’t do anything for him other than scrape him up.”

Oak Hill High School
Monday, Junior High Guidance Counselor’s Office

Kevin Hardin looked through the window in the door to get a look at the kid. He was certainly a big thirteen who could easily pass for older. The kid looked like any other junior high kid with bruises and a skinned elbow. He was wearing faded jeans and a t-shirt with The Who’s logo. He had a notebook out and was doodling and singing quietly.

Hardin realized he had heard it on the radio, but the boy had changed the words. He listened to see if it could give him any insights.

No one knows what it’s like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind green eyes

No one knows what it’s like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies

No one bites back as hard
On their anger
None of my pain and woe
Can show through…

(Mangled version of Behind Blue Eyes by The Who from Who’s Next, 1972.
Listen to it here.)

Hardin backed away from the glass, walked across the office, and asked the secretary quietly, “Are you sure that’s the kid I’m supposed to see?”

The young woman said, “Coach Ward brought him in just before you arrived. He beat up half his homeroom a week ago when classes started.”

He thanked her, returned to the door, knocked, and went inside. The boy looked up and said, “I was wondering if you would come in.”

Inside the office, the boy was even more impressive. He had reddish blond hair and striking green eyes and was built solid. No wonder the coaches liked him.

Hardin said, “Hi. I’m Kevin. I’ve heard that you have been having some problems.”

The boy sat back in his chair and said, “You have no idea. OK. I’ll skip a step or two. I’ll say I don’t want to talk about it, and you’ll say I have to because of all the fighting.”

“Good. What should I call you?”

The boy huffed and said, “People have been calling me all sorts of things lately. Queer. Faggot. Bitch. Criminal. Filthy animal. My personal favourite is abomination.”

Hardin was intrigued by the boy’s emotional state. He was clearly angry, but it came out cold, controlled, and sarcastic. He sat down in the chair across the table from the boy and said, “You’re pissed.”

“You think? I didn’t even know what the hell Bob Rainer was even talking about! I was too dumb to deny it. Now… I don’t have any friends, and everybody hates me.”

Hardin said, “Frankly, I’m glad you’re pissed and not just giving up. You beat up your whole homeroom.”

The boy blushed and slumped in his chair. His body language said clearly that he wasn’t proud of that incident.

“That… was a big failure on my part. I lost control, and the rage won,” he said dolefully. “I had been friends with most of those kids for years, and I just lost it. Now, I’m not just an abomination. I’m a crazy abomination.”

“There’s your favorite label again,” Hardin said. “Why does that bother you so much?” he asked gently.

Clearly agitated, the boy stood up and moved around. There was an expression of pain on his face, and he turned away. His emotional control was slipping.

The boy took a moment to gather himself and said, “I was raised in church. Our family goes every Sunday, so I’m just delighted to discover I’m eternally damned.”

It was Hardin’s turn for a strong emotional reaction. This kid really believed it. “Would it be… helpful to get you a pastor or somebody to talk to?”

“Hell no. I’ve had a Christian counselor babbling nonsense Bible verses at me twice a week since all this bullshit started. I had a belly full of thees and thous, my temper got the best of me again, and I told him to fuck off. After all, I’ve got eternal damnation to look forward to. What else can they do to me? Spank me? Put me in jail? They’ve already used their Sunday punch. Anything else is just… annoying.”

Hardin said, “I know what you’re going through isn’t easy. We want to help, but we don’t want to make things worse for you.”

“Can you give me my friends back?”


“Can you make my dad not look ashamed and disappointed?”


“Can you tell me Jesus loves me again?”


“Then leave me alone. I’ve had enough ‘help’ to fuck up my whole life.”