9) Snitches Get Stitches

Notes From Tha Cove – Snitches Get Stitches

By Bill Boyles

This one has been bothering me since…., well, it’s been bothering me since the day I saw it happen. It’s burned into my brain. It’s one of those things you never forget. I’m very conflicted about this one, because this story can be spun two ways, and I see both viewpoints. In one, a very nice kid does something honest and commendable and is unjustly attacked for it. In the other, a program robot breaks the cardinal rule and pays for it dearly in a manner he was well aware could be the consequence of his action. Whatever your viewpoint, the action is the same. I think it’s up to me to tell the story, and to let the reader decide which case is true. So here goes.
To protect this kid, I won’t use his name. We’ll call him “M”. I remember this kid had one of those names with a common nickname, but he went by the full version. I mention this in order to paint a portrait of him, which I think is very important. More informative details (at least to program kids): he had trouble making the upper levels from Level 3 even though he never caused any trouble; he finished high school early and started correspondence college classes and worked as a teacher’s aide; he was a Boy Scout and somehow did his Eagle Scout project there on the beach and became an Eagle Scout; he turned 18 and never even considered his exit plan, but stayed voluntarily, at which point they kinda charity-cased him to the Upper Levels. Does this paint a good picture of him yet? He was a really nice guy for the most part, but a program robot to the core and that caused him to be douchey sometimes.

The Sinalele Beach School Fale, now abandoned, still reveals a glimpse of what "school" was like at Paradise Cove.

To understand the rest of this story, you must first understand the way the school system in Paradise Cove (and the rest of the WWASP empire) worked. It wasn’t really so much school as a lack of anything the average American would give the name to. We had no classes, no teachers, in some cases no books, and no impetus to learn. Here’s how it worked: when one arrived, one was given an “Educational Plan,” a piece of paper with the required classes on it and empty spaces for you to write in electives with the approval of the “teacher.” The “teacher” did not actually teach anything, he was basically a glorified room monitor to make sure no one talked or cheated or anything. So one referred to one’s Educational Plan, decided which course one desired to take, and went to the closet at the back of the schoolroom to check out the book, or in some cases the Xeroxed copy of the real book. One then sat and read the book by oneself until one felt one was ready to take the test for the chapter. Then one put the book away, went to the front of the room, and checked out the test from the teacher. The tests were contained in 3-ring binders, one per subject, and the tests were in those little plastic sheet protectors. One took the test on one’s own sheet of paper, usually multiple choice and true/false type questions, and turned it in to the teacher. It was taken to the main office upstairs and graded, then returned to one the next day or day after. If one did not score at least an 80% on the test, one had to redo it until one got at least an 80%. And that was school. Rarely was one’s academic progress monitored. I have done entire half-credit classes in one single day; I spent months sometimes reading books and doing nothing.

There were several school scams going around. The first was that, for certain people, in certain subjects, at certain times, the teacher would give people credit for classes they hadn’t done in exchange for bribes. In the case I am very familiar with, it was Nike T-shirts, at that time like gold in Samoa. The second scam was that people would make two copies of their tests, one to turn in and one to keep and sell. A subject’s worth of tests could get you maybe a bar of soap or even two. (Soap, American, anti-bacterial soap, was currency in Samoa.) The final scam, and the one relevant to this story, was that a lot of the tests had the correct answers marked on them. I tried using them one time, however, and got a worse grade than I could have gotten on my own, so I just did my own thing. But everyone knew about the answers, and no one said anything. It was like this huge, common secret from the staff. It was kind of laughable to be honest. How did they not know? All they had to do was look. It’s a sort of testament to the kind of “education” (or lack thereof) we were getting there that the teacher didn’t even know he was handing the answers out with the tests.

The stage is now set. Miserable educational experience, bumbling useless teacher, widespread cheating. Enter “M”. He had graduated early from high school. He was now taking college correspondence classes and he is working as a Teacher’s Aide. He started taking over the teacher’s duties, but the teacher only had two duties: handing out tests and enforcing the rules in the schoolroom. M was not an upper level; he had no business enforcing any rules and quite frankly no one would have taken him seriously if he had tried. So that left handing out tests. Now, maybe for some reason M just flat out wasn’t aware of the answers written in on the tests. Maybe he was and had kept silent before, but now as a Teacher’s Aide felt compelled by the duties of his Office to drop the royal dime. For whatever reason, drop it he did. He snitched like there was no tomorrow. He blew the doors off the whole thing. It all came out, and all the answers went away, which was largely a personal effort of his. He didn’t just nark, he literally went and personally changed the tests so there were no answers anymore. As a result of his revelations, the tests were moved to a back closet in the school room. A table was placed across the doorway, and one had to literally sign in and out the tests. And guess who was assigned to monitor this whole process? Yes, M. He handed the tests out and diligently checked them for signs of cheating before taking them back. Like I said, a little douchey at times.

There was one guiding attitude in Paradise Cove: It was Us vs. Them. There was one cardinal rule in Paradise Cove: No snitching. Ever. For any reason. No excuses. This rule was maintained with a brutal efficiency that would have impressed the Nazis. Snitches got stitches. Period. Always. I don’t know if poor M forgot this, or thought the staff would/could protect him (they couldn’t, and for some reason for snitches they didn’t even try), or if he was delusional and thought that he would skate because he was such a great guy and everyone loved him, or what…but he learned differently.
I remember this one clearly and as I recall I was the closest one to the action. It was late at night (for us), the last school, period, the very end of the period, almost 8:00 PM and almost bedtime. A kid named Shorty (do we all remember Shorty from previous Notes From Tha Cove episodes?) walked up to the testing room, followed by two other kids. As soon as Shorty got close he jumped right up on the table pushed across the door. The staff was sleepy. It had been a quiet day, and it was almost over and time for shift change, their three-day stint over. M was relaxing, thinking he was done for the day. No one would ask for a test so close to the end of the period. When Shorty jumped up on the table, some people didn’t even notice. Those that did, like myself, or poor M, were frozen by surprise. Even the staff didn’t move. And then it came: a viscious, unwarranted attack or Divine Justice made flesh and bone in the form of Shorty’s foot colliding brutally with M’s face in a snap and crunch of bone clearly audible across the room. A spray of blood and M’s head violently whiplashing backwards as he flew out of his chair and smashed into the plywood shelves behind him. Shorty hit the table, having delivered the nastiest dropkick I have ever seen, inside or outside a UFC octagon. The other two kids jumped over the table and crowded into the narrow space where there was barely room for M, much less two attackers and Shorty crowding in as well. They were punching, kicking, stomping, smashing. He was yelling, and then screaming. Blood was flying. Some people stared on in horrified or fascinated silence. A few let up a ragged cheer that the snitch was getting his. I was frozen, both horrified and fascinated. It was an internal struggle; the deeply ingrained Paradise Cove mindset that told me that snitches get theirs vs. that voice inside your head that screams, “No human being deserves THIS!” By the time the staff appeared and got it together, it was far too late for poor M or his face. It was ruined. I know they broke his jaw, he had to have it wired shut and drink his food from a straw for a long time. (I can imagine the only thing worse than program food is drinkable program food!) His nose was clearly broken, his lips split, I think he lost teeth. I heard they broke his cheek, too, and that he needed stitches in several places. I mean, the words “savage beating” don’t even begin to do this justice. I may be missing some of what they did to him. A vague memory of further broken bones is tugging at my mind but won’t fully surface. At any rate, whether you believe he was unfairly attacked or whether you believe he got what he so richly deserved, one thing is certain: M learned a very valuable lesson that day about life, not just life in Paradise Cove, but life in general: bucking social mores can have violent repercussions, so only do it if you’re willing to suffer them and if your cause is worthy of tribulations. That was the story of how snitches get stitches, and this was Notes From Tha Cove.

2 Responses to “9) Snitches Get Stitches”

  1. Meyla Atkinson Says:

    Interesting way that Samoa differed from CCM. CCM culture had little of the camaraderie and us vs them mentality that I see you describe often in Samoa. Every girl had to tell on their peers as a part of the program at CCM, and it was ingrained into culture there since the punishment for knowing and not telling was at least as severe as the punishment given to the girl who was caught.

    The educational system at CCM and there sound almost identical. We also had the answers written on the tests too, usually tiny dots. Sometimes they worked, sometimes not, but I could almost always get better answers by just taking the test, so they never struck me as worth my time. We had those cheating tests in the punishment room (often called worksheets or the tape room) as well. Staff were always trying to fix it, but girls were really good at making small marks.

    I, too cannot figure out whether he was a martyr or needlessly cruel. Probably both.


    • BillBoyles Says:

      Firstly I would point out that as this and other stories by me describe, the camaraderie between kids only extended as far as friends. Otherwise, it only existed insofar as the choice was “Us” or “Them.” You didn’t snitch out even your worst enemies to the staff; rather, honor lied in dealing with them yourself, generally in a manner similar to the one described above. While knowing and not telling was extremely against the rules in Pardise Cove, going down for it was considered a mark of trustworthiness and earned one much respect amongst the boys. Indeed, having a reputation for keeping one’s mouth shut was extremely desirable.
      Secondly, I lean towards “M” not as a villian, necessarily, but as a schill. I don’t subscribe to the “got what he deserved” line, but he did get what he knew he was coming. How he thought he would remain exempt or protected is beyond me. When in Rome, do what the Roamns do, or get crucified. It may be Paradise Cove talking, but he certainly isn’t a tragic hero to me, doomed to pay the price for his good deeds. The school was a joke, who did it serve making everything harder? Only the program, and I can never condone cooperating or working with the program. Complying yes, cooperating no.
      And finally, we could never cheat in the Worksheet Room because they only had one copy of the test and they read it out loud, so you couldn’t make little dots or anything.


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