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The Fight

April 4, 2014

     I have been in one fight in my entire life. I was 6 or 7 years old and in the first grade at the time it occurred, shortly after the school year began. I lived in Chamblee, Georgia, which is a suburb right outside of Atlanta. We lived about two blocks away from our school, Dresden Elementary School, on Dresden Drive. My three sisters and I could walk to or from school in five minutes. For two weeks, that short, two-block, five minute walk was the bane of my existence; my own private hell.

     It all began out of nowhere. I was walking home alone from school one day, minding my own business when some big, fat, red-headed boy named Larry called me “Four Eyes”, a horrible insult in the early 1980’s for a young boy who was already overly self-conscious about wearing glasses. It was an insult I had heard before though, so I disregarded it and went on my way. My lack of reaction was not appreciated. This taunting beast yearned for a reaction of some kind. When he didn’t get it, he resorted to muscle. He shoved me.

     “Hey! I called your name, Four Eyes. Why didn’t you answer me?” He bellowed.

     “That’s not my name. My name is Robbie,” I meekly responded.

     “No, your name is ‘Four Eyes’! Where do you think you’re going, Four Eyes?”

     “I’m just walking home,” I tried to reason as I slowly walked towards my house. Though it was only two blocks, it seemed like a mile at that particular moment. I am not ashamed to admit I was scared. Although Larry was in the same grade as I was, he was two heads taller than me! He must have entered the first grade after he failed reform school!

     “No, you’re not walking home. We’re gonna fight!” He threatened.

     “No thanks. I don’t wanna fight. I wanna go home.” I tried quickening my pace to get home. General Hospital was already on and I was missing it!

     My sisters and I watched General Hospital after school every day (against our mother’s wishes). One time, Mom came home from work and we were downstairs watching it. We stupidly locked the chain on the front door upstairs, thinking she couldn’t get in while we were watching it, so she wouldn’t know we were watching it. We were idiots. She unlocked the door, saw the chain was on, got mad, and pushed/kicked the door in, ripping the chain from the door frame completely. She was apparently a lot stronger than her five-feet-nothing frame led us to believe. Needless to say, we got in trouble that day. Anyway, I had to get home to watch my “story”.

     “No, you’re not going home! We’re gonna fight!” I was clueless as to why. I didn’t even know the guy, so I asked, “Why?”

     “Because I said so! That’s why!” This kid was meant to be a parent.

     He grabbed me by the shirt and started pulling me towards him, but just then my oldest sister, Sandy, walked up with some of her seventh grade friends, so Larry let me go. Just before he left he managed one more threat, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” As he walked away, I realized I missed him already. I jest. I was scared out of my wits. Sandy asked if I was alright.

     “Are you alright?”

     “Yeah, I’m okay.”

     “I’m going to tell Mom and Dad about that kid,” she said, being a concerned big sister.

     “No, I’ll be fine,” I bravely, fakely stated.

     The next day, I saw Larry in the hall and he posed the tender question, “Are you ready for after school, Four Eyes?” I just gulped and walked away, anxious to get seated in Miss Alligood’s class. Miss Wickie Alligood was my first grade teacher’s name, but we called her “Wicked Alligator”. She was mean. She was an older woman with graying hair, which was always pulled up into a tight bun on top of her head. She had cold, blue eyes. Cold like steel. Cold like death.  She also liked to wear low-cut, silk blouses. It was quite difficult not to peer into her freckled cleavage as she would lean over to help us at our desks. It was quite creepy that she would inflict old lady cleavage trauma on small children. The fact that I was anxious to get into my classroom said something about Larry.

     After school, it began again, “Hey, Four Eyes! I’m gonna beatchu up!” I wondered how long this was going to go on. I tried to ignore Larry, but he shoved me in the back all the way home, right up to the sidewalk in front of my house. Once I reached the sidewalk, I ran in the house. He yelled after me, “Chicken! You’re a chicken!” I didn’t care what he had to say, as long as he didn’t hit me, especially in the face.

     I had taken a fall out of a first-story window of a house under construction the previous year. I landed face first onto concrete. That did not feel good. I had also been kicked in the face by an unobservant child on the swing set at my pre-school a couple of years earlier. Both accidents resulted in black eyes. Getting hit in the face was painful, especially when thick glass lenses and plastic and wire frames were added into the mix.

     And so this continued for four days before I went to my dad and asked him for advice. His advice? “Turn the other cheek.”

     “But I’ve been doing that, Daddy. He won’t leave me alone.”

     “Keep doing it and he will leave you alone.”

     I begrudgingly agreed to continue letting Red-Headed Larry torment me until he got tired of doing it. Larry proved to be indefatigable.

     On day five, when I saw him coming, I dashed across Shallowford Road, the major street that intersected with Dresden Drive, ahead of Larry and the crossing guard, just to get away from him. I decided not to do that again after almost being run over by a truck. So, the next week, I would have to go back to being bullied.

     I had told my best friend Carl about Larry picking on me. Carl knew Larry, though they were not very close friends. He said I should stick up for myself and fight back. I told him that my dad had told me to “Turn the other cheek.” Carl, who was a big Star Trek fan, said “Captain Kirk wouldn’t turn the other cheek! Captain Kirk would fight back!” Spider-Man, Superman, and the Lone Ranger, all of my heroes at the time, would have also fought back. My patience with the situation was growing thin.

     On day nine, I decided to try a different tack along a path similar to “Turn the other cheek.” Larry caught up with me after I had already crossed Shallowford and the typical taunting began again: “Hey, Four Eyes! I’m gonna beatchu up! Look atcher stupid Mickey Mouse book bag! Mickey Mouse is stupid! You’re stupid, Four Eyes!” As soon as he shoved me, I sat down on the ground. He paused for only a moment when presented with this new strategy. He reared his right leg back and then, with the force of a charging bull, kicked me square in the lower back! Lord, it hurt like sin. I may have cried, but I don’t remember. I do remember being mad though. I got up and charged home with him yelling at me all the way, “You don’t sit down, you chicken!” I showed my mom the damage when she got home. She was so mad that she yelled at my dad when he got home, “Tom! Look at what that stupid jerk did! Tell him to fight back!” My dad looked at the bloody, swollen bruise on my lower back and said, “Okay, Bob. Do what you have to do.”

     The next day, Day Ten: I saw Larry in the hall before going back to class after lunch. “Four Eyes! I’m going to kick your butt today.” “Okay,” was my retort. He had no idea what was in store for him after school.

     Then came 3:00. The bell rang. School was out. I felt no need to confront him or to force the issue. I knew he would find me. He always did. As I crossed over Shallowford, I heard him: “Hey, Four Eyes! Stop right there! I’m gonna beatchu up!” I slowly turned around. It being a Friday, no one had stayed after school, so a larger than normal crowd had crossed Shallowford all at once. We had an audience, and it was big.

     I threw down my Mickey Mouse book bag and my Marvel superheroes lunch box, and yelled back at him for the first time, “I’m sick of you!” The crowd proceeded to surround the two of us as we began circling each other like two jungle cats. I removed my vinyl skiing jacket with the removable zipper sleeves and threw it to the ground. The bloodthirsty crowd yelled and cheered, and I swear some of them chanted my name, “Come on, Robbie! Get ‘im, Robbie! You can do it! Fight! Fight! Fight!” I didn’t recognize anyone. They were all strangers to me in that moment.

     This was the moment for which Larry had been waiting two weeks. “Come on and hit me, Four Eyes! Hit me, you little chicken!”

     “You swing first, ya big jerk!” I responded. My blood was up!

     “No way! You’ve got one chance! You won’t get another one!” He had no idea what I was going to unleash on him. All of the pain, all of the anger, all of the (tears?)…They had all led to this moment. I decided to take my chance. He was going to regret ever picking on me. I lunged toward him and with my right fist tightly clenched, I swung up to the sky to try to reach his chin. I missed and swung around 270 degrees. He grabbed me by the shoulder, swinging me the remaining 90. He then hauled off and landed a crushing blow to the left side of my face. I fell to the ground, face first, and he promptly sat on my head.

     Here ended the fight, my one and only. After I finally stood up for myself, Larry never bothered me again. We actually became pretty good friends after that. What I learned is that you can only turn the other cheek for so long. At some point you have to defend yourself. I have not been in a single fight since. My dad must have been right after all, with the exception of Larry, of course.


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