January 1, 2015: A New Leaf
The beginning of a new year. A time for resolutions. I resolve to try to avoid bashing in people’s skulls.
Things have been pretty somber around here since I nearly killed Jake at Christmas dinner. I think most of my family knew that I had a long fuse with a big bang but none of them had ever really seen the big bang in person before. That thirty-five year-long fuse led to a pretty scary explosion, I guess.
What was really frightening for me was the lack of control that I experienced when I attacked Jake. I suppose I should be concerned about attacking him, period, but, if I’m honest, I’m not. In my mind, Jake had thirty-five years of “you got this coming to you”. Wrong attitude? Probably. I should just turn the other cheek, right? I’ve struggled with that all my life.
However, I haven’t “gone off” like I did with Jake since I was a teenager.
I was almost always one of the smallest kids in my class growing up. That, naturally, made me a target for bullies. Every now and then, the long fuse would finally reach the dynamite and … boom, I’d blow up. They had to pull me off of a kid in Kindergarten – ironically, almost the same position I was in when I took Jake down. This kid was probably the biggest kid in Kindergarten. He picked on me. He picked on my friends. He picked on pretty much everyone. Finally, one day I’d had enough. He was picking on me at recess. I “went off”. Some switch flipped deep in my brain and the next thing I knew, the recess teacher was pulling me off of his chest. I had been sitting astride of his chest (much like I had Jake’s) for I don’t know how long, and beating his face to a pulp.
That episode kept the bullies away from me until a new kid moved to town. It was a small town. We didn’t get many new kids. I think this was fourth or fifth grade. This kid – his name was Charlie Allberry – was big for his age and he’d been held back for a year so he was at least a year older than anyone else in our class.
Well, a new kid needs to establish himself in the pecking order, right? Charlie set out right away to let everyone know that he was the top dog. It wasn’t hard. He was a head taller than even the biggest kid in class – the one that I beat up in Kindergarten. For some reason, Charlie took a special interest in me and one of my good friends, Mikey. He would pick on us on the playground. He would pick on us in the hallway. He would wait for us after school and beat on us some more.
Mikey and I lived about a block apart so we walked home from school together. Charlie would throw rocks or dirt clods at us and then run up and shove us down. Every once in a while, after we were on the ground, he would throw in a few kicks for good measure. Looking back, you have to admire the guy’s tactics. Soften us up with rocks or dirt clods, knock us down and then kick us while we were down. I believe they called that “shock and awe” when we went into Iraq in 2003.
Mikey and I were getting pretty tired of this routine so we mapped out some tactics of our own. Instead of walking home together, we decided to separate. One weakness in Charlie’s tactics was that he always attacked in the same place. He would hide out between two houses with plenty of available ammunition. There was a garden between the two houses filled with rocks and dirt clods. This gave Charlie quite a selection of ”bombs” to use to soften us up before he ran in for the “kill”.
We decided to exploit Charlie’s one weakness. Mikey was the bait. He walked the normal route home. I followed slightly behind, in parallel, in the alley that ran behind the houses that Charlie used as his hiding place.
True to form, as soon as Mikey came into view, Charlie started chucking rocks and clods at him. We’d gotten pretty good at dodging so I don’t think Mikey got hit. When he noticed that his air attack wasn’t having the desired effect, Charlie rushed out to push Mikey down. I was right on Charlie’s heels. Instead of waiting to be pushed down, Mikey dropped to his hands and knees at the last minute before Charlie reached him. I was running at full speed from behind Charlie and launched into him (See a pattern here?) as he slowed down to start kicking Mikey. I hit Charlie in the back, between the shoulder blades, with all of my weight. Our timing was almost perfect. Mikey saw me coming and rolled into Charlie’s legs as I hit him high. Charlie tripped over Mikey and went down like a sack of potatoes onto the sidewalk. Mikey and I jumped up and started kicking Charlie for all we were worth. We only stopped when he rolled over and we saw all the blood on his face.
Charlie hit the sidewalk face-first when Mikey and I knocked him down. He had some pretty bad “road rash” and his nose was bleeding like a stuck hog. I think all the blood kind of freaked Mikey and me out. We ran home as fast as we could.
Charlie didn’t show up for school for several days. When he did show up, both of his eyes were black, his forehead had a patch of scab on it about three inches wide and his whole face had a general yellowish color.
I don’t think Charlie ever bullied another person the rest of the time he attended school with us. As I recall, his family moved away a couple years later. I wonder how he approached establishing himself at his next school.
What does all that have to do with anything?
The last time I remember “going off” like I did on Jake was when another new kid showed up in high school. It was a similar story to Charlie’s. The kid was trying to prove himself. I eventually reached the end of my fuse and the next thing I remember, teachers were pulling me off of him.
My point … I’m trying to turn over a new leaf in this new year of the new normal. No more “going off” … unless I absolutely have to.