Taking On The Bullies In The Hood

There was a family of bullies on our street. They lived in the fourth house up the dirt road from us – I can see their white single story house plainly, set behind a chain link fence. In it lived a group of teenagers ranging from about sixteen to nineteen (I was eight or so), and they didn’t get along with anyone except (perhaps), themselves. They wouldn’t hesitate to stop a little kid walking along the road and beat them up. Even the teenager next door didn’t get along with them, and he was a favorite among both us little kids and the grownups. They had parents, I’m sure, but we rarely saw the parents – and no one ventured into their yard. It was certain death – or at least a good thrashing if one of them even saw you looking at them too hard.

Now we had a game we’d play when I was a little kid – “Hockey on a Stick” – which had absolutely nothing to do with hockey. Instead, a kid (usually one of us littler ones) would get a stick, and finding a pile of dog poo, would load up the end of the stick and begin chasing the others with it – all the while yelling “Hockey on a stick! Hockey on a stick!”. I haven’t a clue where that term came from, but I do know this: whoever had that stick was someone to run away from – for if they got too close, down would come the stick, and the next thing you knew, it would be ‘hockey on ME!” Fortunately, I was fast on my feet, and agile, too. That was a skill that was to come in handy for a long time in my life. Especially in this next part.

One hot summer day I was walking up the road going to visit a friend when I noticed the teenagers busily waxing their nice white hotrod (okay, maybe not a hotrod, but definitely their car) – in their driveway. To this day I don’t know what compelled me to do what I did, I only know that I did it – and loved every minute of it.

Finding a stick, I loaded it up – “hockey on a stick” – and loaded it up GOOD. And then I waited until they began putting up their rags. Walking casually ‘past’ their driveway gate – I’d of been whistling if I knew how – I suddenly rushed in, brandishing my poo-loaded stick over my head, and with a loud Indian cry, yelled: “Hockey on a stick!”

And with that I dropped that big load of smelly doggy poo right there on the car’s shiny white hood. I can still see it now: a nicely curled poo, thick and fecal.

I’ll never forget the look of disbelief that came across those teenage faces as I spun and bolted out of the drive, kicking sand up at my heels. After that I wasn’t looking anymore – I was headed for the only safe place I knew: the safety of ‘home’. And like I said: I was fast. I didn’t waste any time hoofing it through the door – and instinctively knowing I’d done something ‘bad’ – I bee-lined it to my bedroom, threw a couple stuffed animals down, and began to ‘play’ as if I’d been there all along.

It didn’t take but a moment, and my heart sunk as I heard the doorbell ring. I could hear angry teenage voices, and my mom’s voice, and I knew I was in for it – big-time. And big-time with my mom – well, read some of my other stories, and you’ll know it was something to be feared. Really. It could be downright life threatening. Literally.

Anyway, I hear the back door shut, and a few minutes later my mom comes to my room. I look up, trying to portray the perfect picture of innocence (still seeing my hands paused over my bears), deathly afraid I’m about to be beaten. I remember looking to see if there was a belt or spoon in her hand – that I remember real clear. Checking to see is she was cocked and loaded, ready to go off.

“I heard what you did,” she said, scolding. But there was an amused glint in her eye and a smile twitching at the corners of her thin lipped mouth. “You know that was wrong.”

Gulping, I answer her all meek and mild, as I’ve been taught to do: “Yes ma’am.”

“Well, I don’t want you to do that again. You leave those boys alone.”

“Yes ma’am.”

And with that my mom turns and walks out of the room. As she goes down the hallway I can hear her chuckling.

Why? Because she knows me: her stupid and daring son. And she knows those teenagers: rough boys who pick on anyone smaller than them. And I guess she figured I’d dished them up something that was not only something they deserved – but exactly what the whole neighborhood thought of them. To this day my mom says she went into the other room and laughed so hard it brought tears to her eyes.

Of course, that led to one of them trying to get revenge.

About a month later I’m sitting in the sandy ditch – we called it a ditch though it was no deeper than the road – playing with my nice new metal Tonka dump truck. You know the kind – big steel thing with plastic wheels and a bed that actually ‘dumps’. It was my pride and joy – we got toys so rarely back then – and I was busily filling it with sand and dumping it, amazed at the smallest details – the yellow cab with the open windows, the smoothly working hinges, when . . .

Along comes one of the teenager bullies – a boy of about sixteen, seventeen or so. He is nonchalantly walking along the road, on my side, in the ditch – and probably would’ve been whistling if he’d thought about it. He stops just across from me and stands there for a moment, looking. I, being a trusting kid who never holds a grudge, look up at him and smile.

And with that he snatches my truck up by the cab, and with a big backhanded swing, bashes me in the face with it.

Normally I guess a kid my age would of jumped up and ran shrieking in the house. But – hell, I was anything but normal. Pain was rarely a factor for me.  I didn’t waste one second – not even a microsecond. I had taken teenagers on before; I wasn’t afraid of them – or him. So I did the first thing that came to mind.

I jumped on him like a vicious little monkey, grasping him with clawing hands around his shoulders, wrapped my legs around his waist – and burying my face in his chest, I bit. And I bit HARD and DEEP, shaking my head like a dog and savagely growling like the animal I had become – the animal he had made me.  He started screaming and yelling and trying to push me off, but no – I shake my head like a shark wanting a piece of the kill and come away with a ragged chunk of flesh big enough to fill my already bloody mouth. Turning my head, I spit it out – I can still see that little crimson crescent moon with skin on one side rolling across the sand, getting covered in grit – and then I dropped from him like a rock, arms still raised with clawed hands to jump back on him and go another round.

He didn’t even pause to look. Grabbing his bloody chest – the blood was just pouring down – he took off up the hill, racing for home and safety – away from the angry little beast I’d become.  I think they actually had to take him to the hospital to get some stitches . . . SOB.

As for me: After he left I sat right down with my truck and started playing again, perfectly calm and happy, as though nothing had happened at all. (In this day and age I know what happened: I’d ‘switched’ to one of my more vicious DID selves – and then switched right back after the threat was gone.)

It was only later when my mom called me in for supper that she noticed the dried caked blood on my face, and how my gums had gotten cut back above my front teeth, making them seem even longer than before. She asked; I told, end of story.

Except for one thing.

Those teenagers never – NEVER – messed with me again.  Me giving them the ol’ stink-eye was often enough to give them pause; you could SEE the fear in their eyes . . . it was well known all about the neighborhood:

You don’t mess with Mikie.  No matter how much he seems at peace and play; no matter that he’s just a small boy – because once I started there was no ‘quit’.  I would keep on going until either I was dead or you left me and my friends alone.  Unfair fights didn’t matter to me; they just made me fight all the harder, mad me even more mad.  I had already fought bullies against tall odds many and many a time.  I guess that one learned it too.  At the expense of a scar he probably carries on his chest to this very day, reminding him: you don’t go bullying the children of the ‘hood.  One of them might “get” you.  The way I did that day.  By biting hunks outta your chest – and out of your heart and courage as well . . .