Dissent: “The Indomitable Andrew Smidt”
The submission to a writing competition each month usually ends up as an eBook. But I thought I’d just post it for your enjoyment. The topic was “Dissent.” This is a true story–as I remember it
“The Indomitable Andrew Smidt”
I was a freshman in high school in South Africa. It was one of those overly civilized schools–a holdover from British colonial days– where compliance to rules is as part of your life as the uniform you don every morning. Individualism was discouraged, and traditions were enforced by the Prefects, a class of senior student that stalked the corridors like demagogues, clothed in blazers with white braiding and lapels peppered with shiny badges depicting their academic and sporting accomplishments. Oh to be a Prefect…
One of the many traditions that ran like rebar in the concrete of our collective psyche was the hatred we harbored for our athletic nemesis, the Afrikaans school four blocks away. Unfortunately for the student body’s ego, those urban farm-boys were from the hardy old Dutch stock, and thumped us royally in every sphere of competition involving physical prowess (though we ruled at chess and debating).
It happened during recess, the whole school was minding its own business, playing soccer, red rovers, or lazing about munching cucumber sandwiches. Suddenly, about a dozen seniors from the rival school descended on us like storm troopers. They had hopped the perimeter fence, gloved in ski masks, ululating like pagan marauders, and toting an arsenal of rotten eggs and tomatoes.
The student body disintegrated into a maelstrom of utter panic. Every man for himself. Startled souls were charging in every direction like frightened wildebeest, as they were pelted by a rain of expired produce. We were doomed. Even the prefects were dodging eggs and running for cover. They bled with the same tears and mud and whimpers as the rest of us. With these student leaders wilting like wet paper maché my hope melted too. I slumped down in a corner, waiting the inevitable coup de grâcè that would end the misery of my humiliation. Perhaps an egg to the head was what fate had for me. So young. So idealistic. My school wasn’t the paragon of civilization I had believed in. We were a bevy of sissies.
But in the milieu of chaos, I noticed through the tears and dust and dripping egg yoke, one boy. A lone 10th grader in an ill-fitting uniform who wasn’t fleeing. And I remember his name: Andrew Smidt. He was an odd, lanky fellow. Smidt boasted no school honors, claimed no girlfriend, but sported a surprisingly good haircut. He was the type of kid who was perpetually bumping his head against the ceiling of teachers’ authority. It hadn’t worked out well for him, his bull-headedness, until that day.
Smidt strode confidently toward the fray, seemingly impervious to the tomatoes that whizzed by him.
And as he neared the bevy of rabid hooligans and their stock of rotten ammo, he came to a halt, slowly bent down, and picked up– a brick.
And with a bloodcurdling, Braveheart-like yell, he hurled his missile directly into the centre of the enemy raiders, who involuntarily scattered like cockroaches in the light. And there was silence. It lasted two and half eternal seconds. And in that moment of time, it was like peering into a tear in the fabric of the universe, and catching a glimpse into what might have been. Our hearts were knit in the unified resolve to defend our turf, and our minds melded in realization that– we outnumber them.
Then the whole school, like one man picked up stones and rocks, and began the counteroffensive of ricochet of wrath that drilled relentlessly at the intruding hordes.
The enemy was tackled, stripped of masks and pants. Those that made it back to the getaway car would think long and hard about future plans to return. Rumor has it that some were never accounted for or heard from again. MIA. Oh well.
That was a day that would live in infamy. But it was also the day we learned about the power of one, the strength in numbers, and the value of standing up to fight for what we treasured. If its worth living for, it’s worth dying for. We felt like warriors defending lands and family with dignity and daring. We felt like men. I will always be grateful for that one dissenter, the indomitable Andrew Smidt.