Friday, February 12, 2010

The Big Boy

When I was in grade school (7th grade) I was smaller than most boys my age.  I was extremely thin and had not started growing yet.  I really didn't have a growth spurt till my freshman year of high school.

For some reason that is lost in my past, one of the "big boys" had it in for me.  I don't remember why.  I was quiet, wore glasses and it was my first year at E.J. Brown Elementary School. I don't remember why he didn't like me or why he came after me. I was terrible at sports, couldn't make a basket in gym at all! I was the nearsighted kid that brought a stack of books home from the library every time I went. I was the little nearsighted boy who read Jules Verne, Andre Norton, L Frank Baum, Edgar Rice Burroughs and JRR Tolkein.

Maybe it was because his team lost some dumb game in gym class, maybe because I was the kid on his team that couldn't climb that stupid rope all the way to the ceiling. I just don't remember why he wanted to "pound me".

One day in the spring of my 7th grade year this "big boy" told me he was going to beat me up at the end of the school day.  Every time he saw me he looked at me and told me, over and over.  Can you imagine the fear and dread?  Imagine the stress I felt the whole day. He really didn't have to beat me up. I was already beat up inside just hearing him tell me over and over "I am gonna pound you, beat you up, hurt you real good".

Being smarter than him, I planned my escape from the building that afternoon. All the books I had read, all the narrow escapes of Frodo, John Carter of Mars, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. even made me wise and crafty at the escape game. I'd done it before. Donnie and I had escaped the big boys before.

Donnie was my best friend. Another skinny little guy with glasses like me. I told Donnie that I needed an escape plan and together we determined to go through the kindergarten area, sneak across the big back playground, across the street, past the small family run market and up another street before the big boy was even out of the building.  If we could get to that street we were safe.  I was safe. 

I knew the big boy went out the side door after school and onto the side playground. That was the way I usually left the building also. I hoped to leave just as the bell rang, go down another hall and get out onto that big back playground. If I was lucky, I might be lost in the crowd of kids rushing home (no bus service back then).

The bell rang and Donnie and I walked quickly through the kindergarten area ("no running boys, no running").  We blended into the crowd and I felt better.

I don't know how he caught up with us or how he found us, but as we were walking past the gym building the big boy ran up, grabbed me by my right arm and swung me as hard as he could into the brick wall of that building.  My books flew everywhere.  My glasses flew off and I hit - BAM-forehead first into that brick wall.  I fell like a calf at a stockyard hit with a sledge hammer. I went down stunned and unable to move.

If my friend Donnie (who was no bigger than I was) hadn't started slugging the big boy, I am sure the big boy would have continued his rage filled attack against me... the little boy.

I sat up and heard Donnie cussin' the big boy, heard the splats of meaty fists hitting Donnie, giving him my licks.  I felt for my glasses and put them on.

I then realized I could not see.  There was just darkness. Nothing, no light, no blurry figures, just darkness. No blood, no swollen eyes.  I just could not see.  I cried out several times; "I can't see, I can't see!" 

Donnie got away from the big boy and came over to where I was. My skinny little friend had stood in the gap for me when I was helpless and then came to help me up. 

"Don, I can't see. I'm blind. I really can't see anything." The words didn't sink in for him at first. I said it again, "I'm not foolin', Donnie. I can't see."

The big boy was heading toward us, Donnie told me later a group of kids including the "big boy's gang" had gathered to see the "fight" and the big boy was trying to give his gang a show.

When I said I couldn't see he stopped and just stood there.

I wouldn't let Donnie take me inside for help.  Both my folks were working and I knew my Mama (who had a beauty shop in the back of our home) would freak out.  I just wanted to go home.  I had Donnie lead me.  The "big boy" and his friends ran away and went home.

As we walked home, a huge goose egg - a hematoma swelled up on my forehead.  It was huge, bigger than a duck egg (which is bigger than a hen egg).  My vision began to come back a little as we walked.  By the time I was in my yard most of my vision returned. I went in the house with Donnie and to my room to lay down.

The "big boys gang" had gone home as soon as I said I couldn't see. One of the kids in the gang must have been a little worried because he told his mom.  That mom called the big boy's mom... who called my Mom and insisted I be taken to the hospital.  Remember, I had not seen my Mama yet.  She flew into my room all wound up.  I was taken to the hospital where the big boy and his mom met us.

Apologies, assurances of punishment and x-rays, which confirmed I would live.  I had a mild concussion. Mama had to check my eyes every hour overnight to make sure I was OK.

I don't remember a lot about the days following that incident. It was a pretty normal year after that. I do remember I didn't get beat up by the big boy again.

I still have a donut shaped knot in the middle of my forehead still.  It isn't big, but you can definitely see it, especially when I frown.  It is scar tissue from that injury and the hematoma.

At 6'2" and weighing 220 or so, I am not afraid of too many folks today.  I haven't been picked on or beat up for the last 40+ years, but that day left a mark, on my forehead and my psyche. 

I don't suffer fools or let bullies get their way.  I have walked between "big boys" and their victims more than once.

When you are my size you don't have to lay a finger on a "big boy"  A time or two I had to grab a boy by the scruff of the neck and pull him off his victim.  Usually I just stepped between the boys.

Each time I just stepped in, looked quietly deep into the eyes of the "big boy" and waited. ( giving my best evil eye look at the time)

Funny how "big boys" shrink when they aren't the biggest dinosaur on the playground.