Invasion of Privacy
When I heard the news about Ronnie Bork, I had my editor arrange for me to interview him
at the St. Clair County Jail. I met Ronnie in 1969; we were in the eighth grade together. He was
easily the biggest kid in school; in fact, he was bigger than most of the teachers. That was the
first year kids were bused to our school, and Ronnie was glad to have some “fresh meat.” None
of the new kids would fight him so he tried to pick a fight with the bus driver. I can still see him,
rocking the bus full of scared kids and yelling at the driver to “come out and fight!” The driver
didn’t get off the bus, and I can’t say for sure, but I bet he wasn’t the same driver who came to
our school the next day.
Ronnie wasn’t very smart. I’m sure that he only made it to the eighth grade because of his
age; the teachers passed him just to get him out of their classes. He was fun to watch in class. I
remember one time he decided he wanted to go home so he took a key and split the bottom out of
his pants. Everyone could hear the ripping sound in the quiet classroom. He raised his hand and
said, “I’ve got to go home. My pants are torn.” At the time, we all thought it was a great idea, but
most of our parents would’ve killed us if we came home with the ass ripped out of our jeans.
Ronnie’s dad owned a bar in the neighborhood. My dad used to work with Mr. Bork as a
truck driver before he bought the bar. He told my dad that a semi- truck driving down Broadway
once hit Ronnie. He got up and walked away. Knowing Ronnie, he probably walked in front of
the truck on purpose.
I noticed Ronnie always smelled like paint. I never asked him why, but I figured it out years
later. I hitched a ride to a concert downtown one night and Ronnie was in the back seat of the
car. He didn’t recognize me and I didn’t say anything to him. He was preoccupied. I’d heard
about „huffing,’ but I’d never seen anyone do it before. He had a small paper bag with a rag in it
that was soaked with toluol, a solvent. He had the opening of the bag pressed to his face and was
breathing the fumes. He must have been inhaling that stuff since grade school. That sure would
explain why he seemed so dumb; most of his brain cells were fried!
When I met Ronnie in the jail’s interview room, I wasn’t sure if he would remember me, so
I introduced myself to him.
“Oh yeah,” he said, “I ’member you. We used to fight all the time. C’mon, let’s fight, like
the good ole days.”
He got up from the table. Unable to raise his chained hands, he sat back down.
“No, Ronnie,” I said, “you’re thinking of someone else. We never fought, we were friends,
“Right, you were one of the smart kids.”
No one had ever considered me one of the smart kids in school, but I figured to Ronnie, we
all seemed smart.
“What happened to you?” I asked. “Why are you in jail?”
I was aware of the reason fo r his arrest, but I wanted to hear his side of it.
“I got mixed up with some bad people,” he said.
I always thought of Ronnie as one of those bad people. I couldn’t imagine what this crowd
must be like.