“You know, someday you’re going to have to stand up to him,” my next door neighbor Gus warned (actually, he was two doors over, but you get the gist). He walked me to my porch and put his protective hand on my shoulder. “Don’t be afraid to fight back.”
“You can say that because YOU don’t see him everyday. You don’t have to FIGHT him.” I replied in frustration.
The only reason Gus was able to intervene was because my 1st grade bully (whom I’ll respectfully and mercifully call “Ricky”, for reasons you’ll learn at the end of this tale) had kept me after school, long enough for the Junior High school about 200 yards over to let out (15 minutes after us). Gus, being in 7th or 8th grade, seemed like a giant to me, already being taller than most of his classmates. He was a kind neighbor with excellent manners, well-liked by my family. He was also my protector, which he had to be again that afternoon. Once again, he had walked up on my bully who had already taken my lunch money and was poking me in the chest, telling me what he was going to do to me if I ever forgot my/his money. Of course, when Gus saved the day, that meant it was going to be twice as bad for me the next day.
So it was always an ass whoopin’ or a stay of execution.
And it WAS twice as bed the next day, as I had anticipated. During recess he punched me repeatedly in my trembling chest before making me hand him my lunch money. He’d given up on the practice of reaching into my pockets and taking my change since the day he poked himself on the T-pin I inadvertently left in my pocket from that morning.
It wasn’t intentional. I honestly had a fascination with them and would carry them around from time to time, never considering how they could hurt me if I inserted them at the wrong angle or bumped into something. But he found out sooner than I did when he went digging, then screamed and quickly withdrew his hand, showing a growing red dot on the tip of his finger.
“You stabbed me!’ Ricky yelled as he clutched his hand. “You tried to kill me, Kenny Davis!” (I don’t think there’s a single grade where my classmates didn’t call me by my first AND last name, despite the fact that I was the only Kenny in the entire school.)
“No, I didn’t!” I screamed before he began pummeling me for my booby trap. If I had known it would have had that end-result, I would have put a bear trap in my pocket. At least then the whoopin’ would have been worth it.
I thought about Gus’ words and how I was going to explain my heightened hunger after getting a 3rd and possibly 4th helping at dinner. More often than not, no explanation was need. Despite my scrawny, so-called build, I was big eater.
Someone could have warned me that that habit would come back on me someday when I would have to wear sweat pants to be comfortable in church.
Days later, I stood in the play area, watching Ricky wind his old 70s spinning top, in preparation for activation. I’d never owned one. I’d never even tried one. Thus I figured I’d ask him if I could have a go at his. It was a normal thing in the playground areas. You played with your bullies as much as you did your best friends.
“Can I try it?” I asked.
“Do you know how?” he returned.
“No, but it looks easy.”
“Here,” he said, smirking as he handed me the top – string, tightly wound around it.
Without hesitation or consideration, without training, knowledge or understanding, I quickly flicked my hand outward, opening my wrist and releasing the top. I looked more like Spiderman, spinning his web. The top quickly rolled out and landed on its side, as opposed to the tip, bouncing its way across the concrete, into the fence.
“Bwwwwaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahaha!” he guffawed, holding his stomach and doubling over in exaggeration. “You can’t even spin a top! You’re stupid!”
“I’m not stupid.” I answered softly, but firmly, gritting my baby shark teeth.
“You’re stupid and a SISSY!” he continued, goading me as he laughed.
“I’m not a sissy!” I snapped in anger, feeling my fear dissolve.
“Sissy! SISSY! Kenny Davis, you’re a stupid sissy!”
As the antagonizing continued, my dying cowardice gave way to something else. In its stead, I could feel something dark brewing from deep inside. Something I’d never felt before. It felt hot. It felt wrong. It felt right.
It felt good. REALLLL good.
Goodbye, Obi-Wan. Hello, Emperor Palpatine…
You’re retarded! You’re a SISSY!! You’re a RETARDED SISSYYYYY!!!”
I snapped, jumping on him while screaming in a high-pitched shriek.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
It was actually more like this…
His shocked face only helped support his frightened screams as I continued to yell while clawing at his face like a psychotic chimpanzee with my ragged, unclipped fingernails. In desperation, he pushed me off of him, screaming. He ran off crying, holding his face, which revealed lines of blood from the scratches I gave him. As much as I wanted to give chase, I just stood there, panting heavily, enjoying the moment. The rebellion was over. I was free.
From that day on, I only needed one portion of dinner. Didn’t need a second plate unless it was something my mother made that I really liked. I wasn’t hungry anymore.
While walking home one day, I heard a spitting sound just as I caught Jeremy Williams (another name change) in the corner of my eye, landing beside me and running away. I reached up to feel the top of my head which was moist from the saliva he left as he disappeared around the corner laughing.
Another bully. Not gonna happen.
The next day, I walked into my 2nd grade teacher’s class silently as the seats began to fill. I grabbed the unabridged hard cover dictionary off of her desk and walked back behind Jeremy, who was seated at his desk, looking forward. Without warning or speaking a word, I lifted it over my head and swung down with all of my mustered strength, onto his head. The impact sent him, nose first, into the desk. Bloodying the desk and his lips almost immediately.
I walked back to the teacher’s desk and calmly placed the dictionary back in its original place. With a blank stare, I looked at her and declared flatly, “I will NOT be bullied.”
When the story got home via phone call, there were no consequences. In fact, my father was proud.
30 years later, I introduced my wife to Ricky at the 20-year class reunion by laughingly saying, “This is Ricky, my first bully.”
His looked at his wife with an embarrassed blush as he nervously replied that he had no idea what I was talking about.
Looking back on the reunion, I suppose I could have spared him the detailed trip down memory lane because the story shamed him incredibly. Especially since he had long since given his life to Christ and had become a missionary.
Oh well. I guess I’ll have to explain that one at the Pearly Gates in hopes of entry.
In meantime, as the old phrase goes, “Bully for me!!”