Dreamer collects strays.
Not dogs, not cats, (I will write about the dead possum another day), but humans. Being a gentle soul, Dreamer would offer friendship at school to anyone who seemed as out-of-place as he felt. He collected rocks, shiny things, and all the bully-bait.
He befriended the super-smart kid with the super-fast mouth that made the other kids feel inferior. He adopted the sensitive, gentle kid who was being bullied. He hung out with the kid with the second-hand clothes and uncoordinated gait, and the super-hyperactive ASD kid who drove Dreamer mad with his noise and movement but was welcome anyway. There were a few more who drifted in and out as their need or lack of friends dictated.
By the time year 7 rolled around, they were half-a-dozen strong, and they called themselves the Weirdo Gang. The larger used their strength, the smaller used their wit, and together they were untouchable.
When I asked Dreamer if he had any problems with bullies at school, he'd tell me "No, nobody bothers the Weirdo Gang." They had safety in numbers, and I loved those kids.
I did not choose a high school based on recommendations of the best Special Education Unit, but on where the Weirdo Gang were going. Even so, numbers were thinned to three for Year 8. Motor-mouth drifted away to another group, then the gentle kid moved away from town.
By this time, though, Dreamer had found the Library Kids, and they had adopted him.
Do all schools have Library Kids? It seems to be a bit of a given - if you like books more than 'footy on the oval', and realise that libraries are open and staffed during lunch breaks, then you quickly discover that you can sit outside the library, and duck inside if bullies are lurking with intent. I know these things because I was a Library Kid too.
Gangs and cliques and school... workplaces... everywhere.
It's survival of the fittest and strength in numbers, but you can't beat a gang of weirdos.
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