I faced classical options: Fight or Flight. Yet owing to the odd silence when I'd expected taunts, another seemed feasible: Bluff.
Their fear seemed to exceed mine. My ailment had attracted their malice yet—like the nuns' object lessons—it triggered fear that might be manipulated.
I chose Bluff.
Wearing a guess-I-showed-you glare, I bent to retrieve fool's cap from dust while eyeing my still-on-his-ass antagonist. Instead of replacing the dusty cap on my fishbelly-white dome, I jammed it in a pocket, turned, and sauntered out of the schoolyard and home as though I'd just thumped a school bully.
Had I heard howls of derision while walking away, the day's lesson would've been as lame as catechism. Yet I heard only the hush of fear behind me, then the sounds of recess cautiously resumed.
Vivid memory ends there. I wanted to quit school but Mom nudged me to return the next morning. "Act like nuthin' happened," she advised. That I did but no more Stigma Cap.
The nuns squinted disapproval but could no longer make me wear stigma on my gleaming, born-again noggin.
* * *