Dialogue Between Will McLean and Pat Conroy

Essay by nickcarr90High School, 11th gradeA+, September 2006

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Scene: A bar in South Carolina, where one Pat Conroy sits on the end of the bar, drinking a beer. Will McLean has just walked in, taking a seat next to Pat, and ordering the same drink. Both had just graduated from their respective colleges.

Pat: You've got good taste.

Will: Yeah I do have good taste, especially since I'm drinking something that might as well be urine. But then, nothing is better for drowning your problems than alcohol.

Pat: You really need to drown them?

Will: More than you could ever imagine.

Pat: I'm Pat Conroy.

Will: Will McLean.

They shake hands and order more beer. They drink, laugh at jokes and continually get drunk. Six beers later...

Pat: So Will, care to share your unbelievable problems you manage to have at your young age?

Will: Not really but I don't think this beer is going to give me a choice.

Both laugh. Well, I just got out of college and lets just say my last year at the Carolina Military Institute was the most eventful one of my life.

Pat: How so?

Will: It started with a black guy. I have no prejudice for blacks, so the Commandant of Cadets, Colonel Berrineau also known as The Bear, assigned me to watch over the blackest young man to walk through the Gates of Legrand. He wasn't coming to mow the lawn or fry chicken in the mess hall; he was there to begin the Institute's integration, Tom Pearce, the only black face in the Long Gray Line.

Pat: Any reason why this guy needed protection?

Will: He's a black man going to school in South Carolina's most prestigious military institute dumbhead. The Institute's students have been as white as a flounder's belly since it was founded. With all the racist white boys in that school, he would've gotten run out by the cadre with his black butt on fire. Besides that, if Pearce didn't make it through, the federal government wouldn't be too happy with us, and there would probably be "a little" trouble with federal funding, especially since we had been resisting integration.

Pat: I guess being the only black plebe in the South's strictist military institute can be pretty tough.

Will: That's an understatement dumbhead. He even got worked on by the... nevermind.

Pat: The who?

Will: I really shouldn't say.

Pat: Here's another beer friend.

Will: The Ten. The Ten is a secret elite group of the Institute's best. They vowed never to let an unworthy cadet graduate, especially blacks. They tried to run Pearce out. They kidnapped him from his room, tied him up, stuck him in the trunk of a car, and brought him to a torture house. They beat him and electrocuted his genitalia until he cried, pissed himself, threw up, and swore to leave the Institute. They soaked him with gasoline and I knew that in a few moments I would witness the Ten's most inhumane and undoubtedly most effective means of running out a plebe. I would've sat there and enjoyed the show but the little voice in the back of my head told me it was my job to protect him so I threw a brick at the chandelier to draw their attention away. Then I did the smartest thing in the world, I told them who I was.

Pat: That was stupid.

Will: I was being sarcastic dumbhead! Anyway, there was a wonderous chase through the night,and when I was about to be murdered, my best friends, Mark Santaro and a man whose name I can no longer speak showed up to save my skin.

Pat: Mark and who?

Will: Pig. Dante Pignetti, my best friend who was discharged for an honor violation, which is why I am no longer allowed, as a wearer of "The Ring" to speak his name. He got caught siphoning gas from my car. I didn't mind, but sadly, the Ten had it out for us. Pig got discharged and he later committed suicide by walking into the path of a speeding train. Death was an easier escape for him than facing the shame of having been drummed out of the Corps just a few weeks before graduation.

Pat: I'm very sorry for your loss Will.

Will: I place all the blame on my ex-best friend, Tradd St. Croix, the Honey Prince himself. He was the Queen of queers. He was Mark's, Pig's, and my other best friend. He was also a member of the Ten. He intercepted my messages from Pearce. He tried to get us run out without graduating, it's his fault our friend is dead. And all because he didn't feel like a man. He went and knocked up poor Annie Kate Gervais, to prove he was a "real man", leaving her when she got pregnant.

Pat: Who's she?

Will: Annie Kate was a girl that Abigail St. Croix arranged for me to meet and take care of. I ended up falling in love with her, hearing of the death of Tradd's child from the doctor, and experience losing her when she left Charleston. Such a nasty prick. Begged for forgiveness when I told him I knew he was in the Ten and about Annie Kate. He cried you know, truly is the Honey Prince, waltzing around Charleston claiming things are "tacky". Haven't seen him since I threw water from the Ashley River mixed with Pig's blood into his face and hope I never will again.

Pat: I experienced something very similar with another girl, coincidentally, her name was Annie Kate too. But with Tradd, it's harsh, betrayed by someone you trusted. The hate and disappointment you feel for him must rival my hate for my father.

Will: Why hate your father?

Pat: I've been in his shadow for all of my life. Basketball, he was better, just like in everything else.

Will: I play basketball too, but still why hate your father?

Pat's eyes burn with passion.

Pat: He is the definition of cruel. He expects nothing but the best. He will degrade and berate you until you feel like dirt.

Will: Sounds like a jerk.

Pat: Trust me he is. He cares nothing for his family. If it weren't for the fact that he is our only source of income, I would have reported him to the proper authorities as soon as I knew how. My little brother, Jim, was warned by my father not to climb a tree to avoid an accident, which seems normal. Guess what happens when he gets hurt?

Will: He's taken to the hospital and scolded?

Pat: If my father was a good one, that probably would have happened but since he's horrible, Dad orders Jim to come over, yells at him to shut up, than backhands the kid's still bleeding, battered and bruised face. Obviously Jim screams and I laugh at the stupidity of my family, my father in particular. He responded to my ridicule by throwing a glass at my head, which shattered on impact. I had to get a couple of stitches. When the doctor asked what had happened I had to say that I had hurt myself playing a rough game of touch football with my family.

Will: At least you had basketball to keep you occupied.

Pat: I guess it helped. We had a decent team, but I wasn't the best so our coach, Mel Thompson made me a benchwarmer, opting to play the more talented Tee Hooper. I had learned to play by watching the black kids from the black neighborhood. I thought I was good back in middle school and high school. When I got to the college level, I found out that a lot of people were much better.

Will: Dumbhead, in life, no matter how good you are, there will always be someone better.

Pat: My motivation to stay was to keep my father at bay. My mother warned me not to quit. I also wanted to prove to my father that I wasn't worthless.

Will: You're a real military school man Conroy.

Pat: I could care less about my military career. Our coach worked us hard in my senior year, but we never learned to be a team. He focused more on working us until we collapsed.

Will: Teamwork is important in basketball. The players are like parts of a machine. Just as all the parts are needed to run the machine, players must work together for the team to win.

Pat: I wanted nothing more than to have a good last season. I wasn't a starter because one of my underclassmen was better. Hell, I had overheard the coaches talking about how I probably would never get to play in another game. I accepted this and cheered on the Citadel Bulldogs' starters, but they wouldn't do well, losing to the bench warming Green Weenies in practice due to Mel's constant pressure. The Green Weenies could actually play as a team, as we showed the world in our New Orleans game. Coach Thompson said he'd let us start in the Tampa Invitational Tournament. But it was an empty promise; I was the only starting Green Weenie in that game and we lost. I started the next game too, against Columbia; headlines say I led the team to victory. After that I went home for Christmas, the one time of year my family seems normal. When I came back to the Citadel, I was a starter.

Will: Wonderful, you got the chance to fulfill your fantasy of doing well your last season.

Pat: Well, at first we kept losing, and Tee Hooper was subbing for me, but once I stopped listening to Mel and just playing, I started to do better. I even had a career high of 25 points in a single game. We even beat our rivals at the Virginia Military Institute in their gym and ours in a game with quadruple overtime.

Both laugh.

Pat: I did get on Coach Thompson's bad side later on in the year though. I had become vice chairman of the Honor Court and one of the coach's new players had committed an honor violation so I had him leave. I am proud that I am one of the only people to receive a compliment from Coach Thompson. I do wish my last season had been a winning one though.

Will: Don't worry dumbhead, we're both out of college and we can put all of this crap behind us.

Pat: You said it, smackhead.

Both continue their drunken conversation until they are kicked out of the bar at 2 A.M.