Sunday, February 24, 2013

29. Give the Bully a Snickers Bar

I never considered myself an athlete. In school games I was always the last kid chosen for a team. Usually the coach or teacher just made a team take me. I never blamed the team captains. I was such a weakling I couldn't hit the ball over the volleyball net. A team member standing near the net had to boost my serve over to the other side. I wouldn't want me on my team either if I had a choice.
     I was good, though, at running. This skill was entirely due to the training I got trying to outrun Danny, the school bully. He was only in 4th grade, like me, but legend had it that he beat up an 8th grader. For some reason he had taken a real dislike to me. Possibly because my mother made me wear Sears husky jeans. I don't think they make them anymore, for which slightly portly boys every where should thank God.
      For three years I had run home as fast I could to escape being jumped on by the red-faced menace, Danny. He never actually drew blood. But he could cause enough pain and humiliation to fire my determination to avoid him. From third grade to sixth grade, I ran like a scalded rabbit, 5 days a week. And then puberty hit. Strange things happened. I slimmed down as I grew taller, and muscles bumped out on my arms and legs.
      I started outpacing Danny. One day I was so far ahead of him I could actually stroll the last half block to my house. My mother was happy I came home without panting like a walrus. When the Danny races first started, she thought I had a heart condition and had taken me to the doctor's. He said I just needed to lose some weight. Of course, I never told her I was being chased. I may have been weak but I wasn't a wuss.
      Since he couldn't catch me anymore, Danny stopped chasing me. And I was able to walk home with my friends.
      One day Jim piped up. “I saw Danny last night at Walmart.”
      “Danny? Who was he chasing—a little old lady.” I scoffed.
      “No, I think he was being arrested for shoplifting.” Jim's eyes gleamed as he passed on this exciting bit of news.
      “He probably deserved it, the skunk.” I didn't want to feel sorry for my nemesis.
      “I don't know but his Dad was really mad. In fact, he knocked Dan to the ground and called him a “dumb shit”, when the security guard accused him.
      “Wow, my Dad's been mad at me, plenty of times, but he's never called me that.” I said.
      “Yeah, and mine's never knocked me to the ground,” agreed Jim.
      I couldn't believe it but I was beginning to feel sorry for Danny.
      That night I asked my Dad what happened if you were arrested for shoplifting.
      “What! Why do you want to know that? Are you planning something?” For the first time ever he dropped his newspaper.
      “Oh gosh no. It's not about me. It's a kid I know at school.”
      “I guess it depends on what he stole and if he's done it before. Do you know that?”
      “No. Jim just told me he saw this kid, Danny, get arrested at Walmart.”
      “Is he a friend of yours? Does he need help?” Dad's eyes searched my face.
       “He's not a friend.” I snorted a little laugh. “Although he's been a running partner for a long time.” I repeated everything Jim had told me.
      Dad thought for a while and then he said, “It's hard to know how to help. I wouldn't want to make Dan's situation at home worse. The security guard saw what happened and if it goes to court, he'll have to testify. The judge may order a family investigation. Let me know if you hear any more about this, OK?”
      I didn't spend too much time worrying about Danny. I thought he had finally gotten pay back for all the times he terrified me.
      Several days later, he was back in school. He looked like he'd been in a fight. Both his eyes were bruised and his lip was swollen.
      Jim whispered to me, “Whoa, do you think his Dad beat him up?”
      “I don't know. But if he did, no wonder Danny's a bully.” Although I was only 11, I knew about parental abuse. We always had to read 'socially relevant' books 'suitable for our age level'. I just wanted to read fun stuff, like Harry Potter. Although I guess Harry suffered from a mean uncle.
      Jim and I passed Danny's desk as we went out for noon recess. The bully looked away from me as we went by. I pulled out of my lunch sack a Snickers bar and tossed it on his desk. “If I remember correctly, you always liked these.”
                                                         The End

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