Tag Archives: imaginary contest

Little Red Boy

"Little Red Kid." 11/6/12. Crayon. 11x8½".
“Little Red Boy.” 11/6/12. Crayon. 11×8½”.

This was a treatment assignment, one morning in group. To draw a portrait of my “inner-child.” Or – more accurately – to let my inner child draw his own self-portrait (using just a few crayons (of my choice) and my non-dominant hand). So… this is me at age four.

There’s not much I feel like writing about it beyond that explanation, so here’s an excerpt from my “life story.” Since I’m pairing it with a drawing of me as a kid, I chose a part about my childhood but not that particular age.


Sometime during third grade, it was decided that I’d test for Pine View, the “gifted” public school in south county. IQ of 140 or higher required for admission. My parents wouldn’t tell me what I scored because they didn’t want Racey and I comparing.

I started fourth grade at my new school and was relatively okay with the change. I got along with the other kids better than I had at other schools and some of my friends from the last one had made the switch as well. There was one important difference. I had always been the destroyer of other students without even having to try; I constantly got the best grades on everything with very little effort.  Some of the kids here though were smart. Maybe even as smart as me. That would’ve been okay had they not also been extremely motivated. Like me, they enjoyed being the best. Unlike me, they were willing to work for it. In hindsight I can also see that they had something with which I was almost totally unfamiliar: an alien concept called “self-esteem.” They wanted to get the highest grades they could, but seemed less concerned with how well their peers did. I, on the other hand, would be thrilled with any grade – no matter how low – so long as nobody else got a higher grade. They wanted As; I wanted to win the contest in my head. I needed to win the contest in my head. I may have been an uncontrollable, argumentative, morally-challenged basket case of a nine year-old, but so long as I was smarter than the other kids, that made it all okay, right?

It was time to buckle down, put in the necessary time and energy and learn to be proud of my achievements independent of the performance of my peers.

Yeah. Right.

I’m not sure if I was aware of it at all at the time, but I called an audible and went with a brilliant alternate strategy. “If victory’s not guaranteed, just don’t play.” I may not even know how to play chess, but if I never sit down at the board, all you can do is guess. I could be terrible but I could be Bobby fucking Fisher. Prove me wrong. You can’t.

From that point on, I did a half-assed job on everything. I was still well-spoken enough for everyone to know that I was intelligent; I had just opted out of the contest that might have given someone evidence that I wasn’t the most intelligent. The kids at Pine View loved to accuse each other of having parents that bribed the psychiatrists who administered their IQ tests for admission. I had the lowest grades in class, yet no one ever pointed at me. “Sam’s smart, he just doesn’t care.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I cared a lot. But what else could I do? Try, and risk failure? No way. These kids can’t think they’re better than me. I can’t think these kids are better than me.


When fourth grade started, there was still only one band that I really gave a shit about. A couple months into the school year, they put out a new album. I had a bunch of favorites but, on the day I got it, the best song was “Brat.”


Signed and numbered prints of “Little Red Boy” are listed for sale in my webstore.