That day was pretty typical, the day we met. Typical for me, anyway. We’d just been let out for morning recess – the older kids on their side of the yard and we on ours. As usual, I started a ruckus. One of the littlest kids had taken out a candy bar, so I ran up, yanked it away and pushed him down. Then I ran off, and turned back to taunt him with my mouth full of chocolate. All seems pretty stupid, looking back. And a pretty rotten thing for me to do. Like I said, I was a rotten brat. And I knew the teacher who was supposed to be watching us wasn’t there and figured I could get away with it.
What I hadn’t realized, though, is that the little kid I was bullying happened to be the baby brother of the biggest guy in school. Don’t recall the guy’s name now, but I couldn’t forget his face. Or his fists, for that matter. He was a big hairy brute of a guy – one of those guys that had to start shaving before they were out of grade school – and built like a gorilla: thick-necked and broad-shouldered with long arms and fists like nine-pound hammers. He caught sight of me picking on his kid brother and rules or no rules he came charging over the fence between the yards like an enraged bull. Before I could run or duck out of the way – I was quick; it was my only defense considering what a puny runt I was – he had me flat on my back on the ground and those hammer-fists of his were coming down and coming down. I’d had the snot whupped out of me before, but I think that was the first time I actually had my life flash before me. For once I was actually sorry there wasn’t a teacher on watch. And being as how we were on the little kid side of the fence, no one else did anything but watch and snivel.
I don’t know how long the guy would have kept on. Until he busted my head in, I figure, and though I’ve got a good healthy skull, his fists were healthier. Luckily Alan risked getting in trouble himself, jumped the fence, and pulled the guy off me before he knocked the ever-loving tar out of me. Like everyone else, the big guy respected Alan – everyone did, even people who didn’t like him – so he grudgingly went back to where he belonged, glaring back over his shoulder as he climbed the fence.
Alan helped me up. I had a black eye and bloodied nose, which wasn’t so terrible considering, but I must have looked pretty bad. He said, “You OK, kid?” And I spit on his shoe. That’s the kind of ungrateful wretch I was – I spit on his shoe. He’d shown to everyone that I’d gotten myself into a mess I couldn’t get out of. He’d embarrassed me; that’s how I saw it.