Tag Archive: fighting

Prince – Part Two

Very shortly after we’d moved back to the ‘hood, I was out walking my dog on a leash.  He was a “Cockapoo” – a mixture of Cockerspanial and Poodle.  A black dog with curly silken fur, he weighed about thirty-five pounds.  I know because that’s the amount of weight I was required to lose in order to keep him. It was part of my parent’s requirement to ship him home.  He’d been trained in apartments, was good, though nervous or anxious sometimes.  I’d read a few books on animal psychology, including – and specializing in dogs.  (To this day some in the family call me “the dog whisperer”, and dogs and I tend to get along.)

Anyway, as I am walking along, here comes my old Nemesis.


German Sheppard

Prince had been the big dog that had torn me up in my youth.  He’d clawed me from face to navel while the grownups had stood around – feeding us kids to him one-by-one.  They were intending on us making ‘friends’ with him.  Instead he had clawed us all to pieces.  He’d been restrained on a chain around a great big old pine tree – but there was no escaping. If you hung back they’d push you into that circle, swept clean of pinestraw and debrie’ by his constant running . . .

It had hurt.

This time, though, Prince was loose.  He lived with the neighbors across the road – good friends of mine.  Usually he ignored me and I him.  But this time he’d seen my dog.

Prince was a German Sheppard.  He probably weighed upwards of fifty pounds, if not more.  I greatly outweighed him – but he was as long as my body –

I didn’t have time to react as my dog, sensing immediate attack, immediately began to mount me, climbing towards my head.  I could almost read the thoughts in his eyes:  “Master! Save me!” –

and as he’s climbing, Prince, drawing closer, increases his speed.  He knows me.  I’m the puny human he’s dealt with before . . .

But here’s the thing.

I’m older now, by three and a half years.  I’m heavier, too.  And I’ve been trained. During my time “over there” I’d been trained to take on – and/or take out – dogs like him.  Yeah, I’m only thirteen – but he doesn’t scare me now.  Not a bit.

As I help my dog hoist himself over my shoulder, claws scratching as he tries to climb on my head and perch there, Prince launches himself up, full height, his paws going for my shoulders.

As I stood there, I took the weight of him awhile – about a millisecond – and then I stepped into him, throwing him back and down with my forearm in his now surprised mouth. Then I dropped down on him, throwing my own dog aside, embracing his body with my own, wrapping my legs around him, one arm levering his mouth and head back as the other cleared his throat of front paws.

And then I bit him.  And I bit him hard.  Not hard enough to break the skin, but hard enough to let him know who’s boss.  I had him outstretched in my arms, his body under me, his fur in my mouth.  It was thick and dusty.  I clamped down harder, on his larynx now – I had shifted from the jugular, where I had taken my first clamp.  He was whining now, and struggling to be let go.  I bore my weight down even harder, shaking my head and growling, pulling and grinding the double lapped thick skin in my teeth.  He whined, then cried out.  I held him there for several moments – huffing through my cheeks, teeth white gripped in his downy fur and hair – shaking him.  Letting him know who’s boss.

When I got up and let go of him – wow!  He took off out of there, looking behind out over his shoulder as if I was a demon standing there.  My own dog stood shaking and shivering beside me, pressing his body against my calf.  I looked down and smiled.

“Come on buddy,” I said.  “I just saved your ass.”

The End




This was written and produced by one of my ‘alters’, #13.  He is rather proud of it.  One of the things he kept wanting stated as a ‘fact’ he learned about dogs (for it is true: I am somewhat of a “dog whisperer” – and a lazy dog trainer, too).  “Dogs,” he sez, “is different.  Some of them got fur; some of them got hair.  The ones with hair hate the ones with fur and viz versa.  Same goes with cats & some kinds of other animals.  So you always gotta be careful when you introduce a dog with fur to one with hair.  Dogs, them gonna hate one another.  Unless you’ve raised one with pup, that’s the way.  Otherwise you might tend to have a little trouble.”
And by the way?  That German Sheppard never bothered us again.  In fact, if he saw me on the road, he’d take off for his house, and we’d find him cowering and slinking away out back.  He was scared of me . . . (grin)


The Game

The two little boys stood, staring at each other, their faces firm – stern, hard, laced with anger.  Their fists raised before them – small bald hands with knuckles staring out of them.  One had his thumb tucked in his fist – that was the wrong thing to do.

I should know.  I was one of the boy’s fighting.

Often us boys would play a game – this was back in the days of the ‘hood.  I don’t know what to call it except simply choking.

It’s been on my mind for a bit of time, so I’m going to write about it.


The two boys stood – this was another time, same place.   The teenager stood nearby, the other kids a loose ring – about seven of them, ranging in age from 3 to 12 years old.  They were my ‘audience’ – or theirs, my teenager and his friends.  My best friend and I, facing off one more time.  It seems like we were always facing off and fighting, trying to prove who was tougher than the other.  I always won, time after time.  But not in this one.  Not always.  Or at least I don’t think so.  It’s hard to remember those kinds of things sometimes . . .

I grabbed him around the neck with both hands – I can still see his sandy curly locks as he threw his head back, tightly smiling, instinctively protecting his features – broad brimmed face with wild cat green eyes – it was as if there was something feral behind them and pinpoint pupils from the bright Georgia sun.  At the same time he was opening up his neck, I grabbed him double-handed, placing both thumbs on opposite sides of the slender arching bulge of his windpipe, taking care to at least place the first joint of my thumb beyond it.  At the same time he grabbed mine in a similar grip – and I let him.  This was what the teenager told us to do.  I was about eight years old.

He started squeezing tighter and tighter as I tightened my grip.  You weren’t allowed to do it all at once – you had to do it slowly.  It was important that the thumbs remained wrapped completely around the throat – on both sides of the windpipe.  We didn’t want to take the chance of crushing someone’s windpipe – we already knew the consequences.  At least one kid had faced disaster – his windpipe crushed in.  The thumb joints, properly aligned, were where one could crush, squashing the throat below the windpipe and in the esophagus region.  This insured no one was crushing someone else’s cartilage.

How I knew that I did not know.

We would stand there stiff legged – this happened several times; not once but many through my childhood – our fingers wrapped around each other’s throats, both of us tightly grinning – an evil grin and a vicious one, but without any real malice towards our friend – squeezing tighter and tighter until someone would pass out.

The first few times I got knocked out, or at least very blank and dizzy.  There comes a time when the darkness rushes in from the edges of your vision, narrowing it down.  Outside sound becomes muted; your heart beat a dull thud in your ears . . . one that seems to grow even slower and fainter and then even it disappears, and you lose all taste and vision . . .

and you wake up on the floor.  Or the ground.  Or wherever you ended up landing.  And hope you didn’t get hurt.  (Once I fell out on a paved road . . . and woke with road rash and bruises all over my knees, elbows and hands.  At least the body had tried to catch itself . . . I don’t remember a thing.)

I won’t go into the mental aspect of knowing you are dying.  That’s a different sort of thing.

Sometimes my friend and I played with nobody watching – ‘practicing’ out in the yard.  You weren’t supposed to do that – someone could get hurt, the teenager had warned us many a time, adding that someone could die from this thing.  But on the other hand he was the one who had set the Games up . . . one of several kinds.

I learned you could hyperventilate prior to this ‘event’ to prepare – filling your body with essential oxygen until your head was swimming from the stuff – and then going right into the ‘fighting’.  I could outlast many an opponent that way – strangling him while he strangled me until someone gave up or went down.

It was a hell of a game to play.

It went on until we were about ten or eleven – by that time we were getting a bit dangerous with it.  We would hang on even though we were dying, or passed out sometimes – our hands unconsciously locked down like claw vises.  Then the teenager would have to pry them apart . . .

It was a hell of a game.  In many ways.


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 . . .

Never Say Quit

Never Say Quit

When I was a kid, one of the things I was taught is that you never say quit, you never cry uncle, and if you surrender, it’s just to come back and fight another day.  Nothing is ever good enough; therefore you should never stop trying, and society is going to judge you by the things you do.  And I never was one to hold a grudge, even as a kid.

A lot of folks are bewildered by that – how I can forgive someone who has wronged me, or why I can take a slight one day and shrug it off the next.  I have trouble explaining it other than to say I forgive.  I note of a person’s weaknesses and catalog their misbehaviors as something special about them.  Whether that person is a thief or a liar or given to exaggeration – I don’t mind.  It’s just human, which is something I am.  So instead of rejecting them or taking vengeance upon them, I just take steps to ensure whatever happened doesn’t happen again.  I don’t leave temptations laying about.  After all, if you find your friend is a thief, the best thing to do is make sure things are put up when they come around, and to keep an eye on them – not scream and yell and accuse, driving them away.  That’s the worst sort of thing you can do.  And if they are a liar, then take what they say with a huge grain of salt. No need to drop the friendship, in my opinion – just be aware of their failings, and remove the temptations.  You’d be surprised how loyal friends can become when you learn understanding and forgiving them like that.

But not holding a grudge has gotten me in trouble a time or two. Mostly it is with other people who don’t understand my strange way of thinking – and those who have held grudges against me. Picking back up where I left off – when I was a kid living for a brief amount of time in North Carolina – this story is about one of those times. I was nine years old.  And it’s about one of the worst fights I ever had.

It started simply enough. Some big kid, a bully around the military apartments (the same one mentioned in “Fight or Get Beaten”) – decided to pick a fight with me. No big problem; I’d taken on big kids before. But this one was different.

The kid outweighed me by about twenty pounds or so, maybe more, and was built like a side of beef. Like me, he could take pain and keep on fighting. And like me, he didn’t seem to know to call it quits.

Our fight started one sunny day during the latter half of the last summer I spent in NC. Like so many fights, I haven’t a clue what started it, nor what it was about; however, I gave as good as I got, and I got as good as I gave. We fought for hours, trading blows and wrestling in the dust, neither one willing to give in, give up, or go away. We fought until the other kids, tired of watching, wandered away – something unusual for kids, since they are drawn to fights like birds to corn – and then we fought some more. But it’s strange living on a military base – at about five thirty, all the kids go in, for that’s when the fathers come home and supper is served. It was almost like a rule, a regulation. And so when the sun had rolled from its zenith and was dropping towards the horizon, we both obeyed the demands of our lords and masters – our mothers – and brushing ourselves off, separated from each other’s violent embrace and walked away, casting sullen looks over our shoulders.

The next day started normally enough. I had no interest in fighting this kid; the fight was over, history, and nobody won – plus he was one tough cookie, albeit a bit chipped and frayed from the day before – just like me. And holding no grudge, I was just as happy as not when the other kids started a baseball match out in the green field between the apartments. He was on the other team; I was playing second base, and the game held my attention instead of this boy I’d fought the previous day. Little did I know I should have been watching him instead of the game.

It was when he’d gone to bat and made second base that I learned he was one of those who held a grudge. I guess not being able to whip my ass the day before had something to do with it – most of the kids he would attack would buckle down, crouching and crying while he rained blows on them, forcing them into mindless submission for no other reason than to beat them. And like any bully, he seemed to have a penchant for attacking kids who were smaller than him. I guess my standing up to him was like a sticker in his throat, for as he was behind me, dancing back and forth on the base – and I, my attention on the next batter to arise – he attacked me.

It was a total surprise; my own personal Pearl Harbor. Attacking me from behind with nary a warning nor a cry, he bore me down face first into the dirt and began having his way with me – pounding my back, and pinning me to the ground. Squirming, I managed to wriggle around and begin returning fist for fist – and the fight was on. And again it was like the previous day, with one small difference: I could not understand why this kid kept attacking me. As far as I was concern the fight was over; it had been finished the previous day; why he wanted to keep on going was beyond me. But in my wondering I was taking a licking, and because I was more upset and confused by this kid’s reaction, I wasn’t as mad as I should have been. Instead I started fighting a defensive fight, just barely keeping the large boy at bay. And as it had been the previous day, the fight went on for hours. At first the other kids gathered around – then after awhile they wandered away to go play their ballgame, leaving me and the boy scuffling in the dirt.

By four-thirty I was worn down; this kid just wouldn’t stop fighting and I wouldn’t say ‘quit’. I just didn’t know how. By five he had me on the ground, and with evil intent, was taking great joy in trying to see how many sticks he could cram into my nose and ears. I refused to cry ‘uncle’ to him. I’ll never forget that – the dirty tricks – and how angry I’d become. Angry at myself for being rendered helpless; angry at him for pushing those sticks into me. But I was wearied, pinned down, and could do nothing but thrash helplessly around. And then came the big moment which ended the fight once and for all.

As I’m laying there, twisting my head, nose and ears bleeding, the kid suddenly flies up and off me like he’s grown wings. At the same time he lets loose a fearful cry which I can still, now, forty some odd years later, hear ringing in my ears:


That cry has told me a lot over the years. While that kid might not of feared us other kids, there was one person in his life he truly feared: his father. Whether or not that is because he’d had the snot beaten out of him by his father, I don’t know – but it would explain why he was such a bully, taking out his fear and exercising his desire for control by trying to dominate the little kids he came across. I’ve found that is the case with many violent people: their parents were violent towards them, and they, as helpless kids, can not control the anger directed at them – so they take out their own anger by trying to control others, by abusing them, thus giving themselves a small sense of power, however fleeting it may be.

And so with that cry of fear, he flies from me – and I see my own father standing over me, holding the kid up by the loop of his pants and the back of his shirt. And I was so surprised! Never had my father rescued me from a fight – he had never needed to. But in this one case he was there, and setting the kid gently down on his feets, he ushered his stern words.

“Go home.”

The kid, turning, trotted away with a mixed look of meekness and relief. I truly think he thought he was in for an extreme ass-whoopin’. As for me, I look up from where I’m laying in the dust, and my father extends a hand towards me, helping me up.

“Good fight,” was all he said. Then throwing a hand across my shoulders he guides me, sore and stumbling, towards what we call home. “Let’s eat.”

That was one of the only times I really, really remember being glad – and amazed – that my father was there, and one of the very few times I remember him helping – actually helping – me without a demand or an obligation to give something in return.

Somehow I find that strange.

Fight – Or Get Beaten

While we were in North Carolina (see “Escape From the Hood”), my mom finally taught my big brother how to fight in her own inimitable way – and as far as I was concerned, it was about time.


I remember well when this happened; it was all he deserved, though not as much pain and punishment as I sometimes wished on him. But it was cruel. We were behind the apartments when Bro, true to his nature, started making some snide remarks to a stocky kid just a little bit bigger than he was. Since I was standing there watching, I guess he figured he was ‘safe’ – that I’d come barreling in to save his butt as I had done so many times before. But this time was different. After watching him eat ice cream while I danced around on some monkey bars trying to avoid getting creamed by a teenager he’d pissed off, like I was some circus entertainer put there for his own entertainment, I’d decided I’d had enough; I wasn’t going to stand up for him anymore, nor was I going to let him suck me into fighting on his behalf — no matter how much he screamed or yelled, or who he picked a fight with.


The kids started throwing punches at him, and again, true to his past pattern of behavior, my brother just stood there like an idiot, screaming and crying and futilely holding his forearms up in front of his face in defense. He wouldn’t even try to throw a punch; he just stood there, screaming and wailing and occasionally glancing over at me. But I just watched him, cold and numb inside. I don’t know why I felt that way – just a cold nothing, but I guess it was my way of not feeling what I usually felt when I’d see him getting beat up – anger, sorrow, and pity. I had a nifty knack of ‘shifting’ my emotions, ‘switching’ into another state of calm numbness. It helped a LOT when my dad would come to beat me, though sometimes now I think because of that — because I didn’t cry easily — I got beaten much harder and longer than I would of otherwise. My dad got off on seeing our pain; he still has that mean sadistic trait. So perhaps in that my brother was smarter. He’d start crying right away.


So Bro just stands there and screams while this kid, pleased at his easy prey, pounds on him. Then my mom comes out. In her hand she has a thick leather belt. She, too, has had enough. She had heard about my tussle on the playground; she knows my brother is always running his mouth without anything to back it, and she knows that I’ve been standing up for him for years – fighting his fights, saving his butt, and coming home with nothing but bruises and scratches to show for it.


Going up behind my brother, she begins whacking him with the belt – HARD whacks, across the back and shoulders.


“FIGHT, damn you, FIGHT!” she yells – no, shrieks – as the kid who was beating on my brother backs off in frightened confusion. My brother just screams. The kid looks at my mom, then at my brother. My mom looks at the kid. I can just imagine how confused he must of been. I know I would of been terrified.


“Fight him, damnit,” she hisses, swinging the belt at my brother. “I’m not going to hit you. I’m going to hit HIM until he fights BACK.”


And the kid – hesitant now, begins to swing again. Encouraged by my mom’s lack of reaction (except to whip my brother some more), he starts to strike in earnst.


My brother, caught between my enraged mom and this punk kid, finally concedes. At first he tries to sink to the ground – but my mom beats him even harder.


“Get UP, damn you! FIGHT!” she yells.


I’m just watching, sort of upset, sort of not. I don’t dare step in, not now, not with my momma involved. That belt is just as likely to strike me for interfering as it is my brother for being stupid. And I guess something finally snapped in my brother – some kind of realization, or perhaps he’d been beaten animal. At any rate, he gets back up, crying and rushes at the boy, wildly throwing punches as my mom’s belt rapidly follows him. And to my surprise (as much as Bro’s, I think) — the kid finally breaks and runs away (probably more terrified by the weird, strange outcome of the fight than any actual pain.)


And that’s how my brother learned to fight for himself instead of relying on me to win his battles for him. For better or worse, that’s how it went.


And I never had to fight his battles anymore.



Fight Your Own Fight

My brother had a nasty tendency to pick fights, then count on me to save him. Despite being my older brother, he was thin and scrawny, and to make matters worse, he’d pick a fight – and wouldn’t fight back. Instead he’d just lay there, letting some other kid pound on him, screaming until I’d step in and take his opponent on. Lucky for him, I was a tough, scrappy kid with a fearless heart, one who didn’t know the word “quit” or “uncle” – or at least I’d refuse to say it, fighting until I’d won. No amount of pain seemed to get in the way of my determination, and when I’d get angry, I get determined. Pain would just anger me further, thus bolstering my determination. For some reason I’d become immune to pain in a fight; not caring anymore, just going at it, sucking up my opponent’s blows and delivering plenty of my own. And my brother – he would pick a fight with anyone, mostly through his smart mouth and smarmy answers. And he wasn’t above picking fights with kids – sometimes teenagers – who were almost twice my age and size. Not that I’d let that bother me; I’d just be more cautious, more vicious, and hitting them a lot harder. But I’d never beat up a kid just to beat him up; instead I preferred getting along peacefully, and even when I’d find myself in a fight as soon as the other kid would start crying it was my cue that he’d had enough and it was time to let him go home.

But while the teens in the ‘hood had learned to respect my fighting skills and leave me alone, the ones in North Carolina at Fort Bragg when I was nine didn’t know me. Which was fine by me – I wasn’t out to impress anyone with my fighting skills, preferring instead to just play with my peers. But my brother wasn’t going to let it stay that way – and I had my last big fight with a teenager courtesy of his aggravating one on the playground late one afternoon.

It started simply – and usually enough. My brother and I were at the playground, not far from the military quarters, and it was late afternoon early in the summer. It was late afternoon; most of the other kids had gone home, and we are just aimlessly tooling around, staying away from each other while wishing we had someone to play with. We had only been in this place a month or two, and didn’t have any friends, but my brother and I weren’t friends, either. We were more like two convicts reluctantly stuck in the same prison; neither one able to stand each other for long, but bound together by the ties of family and familiarity. My brother is casually licking at an ice cream cone, one he’d gotten from the ice cream truck that came around sometimes.

This teenage guy comes walking up – tall, lean, black haired and narrow faced, and my brother starts talking to him. He’s about fifteen or so, and I don’t pay much attention, but what is coming from my brother’s mouth catches my attention.

“He can beat you up,” my brother says, nodding at me. “He beats up teenagers.”

I inwardly cringe. I don’t want to fight anyone. But the teenager looks over at me with this look – one of scorn and disdain. I don’t like his look. It’s like he’s looking for someone to pick on, and my brother and I are alone.

“Your brother thinks you can beat me up,” he tells me. I size him up. He’s lean and wiry looking, a third taller than me. But I’m not going to lie.

“I’ve beat up older kids,” I grudgingly admit – and yeah, with a bit of pride.

“I don’t think you can beat me up,” he states it as a matter-of-fact. I shrug. I don’t care. I’m not looking for a fight – especially not a tough one.

“He can, you know,” my brother eggs him on. “I’ve seen him take on BIG kids and beat them. You ain’t nuthin’.”

The teenager eyes me speculatively, then turns to my brother.

“You’re lying,” he says, shoving my brother. My brother stumbled back a step, then the teenager came over to me and stands there defiantly, his hands on his hips.

“You think you can beat me up?” he demands.

I stop – I was on my way over to the monkey bars – and look at him again.

“I don’t know,” I say, nonchalantly. “Maybe.” Again, I am telling the truth. This kid is tall, strong, and I’m beginning to see he’s sort of mean, too.

That’s when he shoved me. He should of never shoved me. My temper was already starting to cook over what my brother was saying and doing – and now this guy is going to shove me.

So the fight was on.

I came in low, like I always did, and me and the teenager tangle. His reach doesn’t count since I’m already up against him – and we fight.

It was a long, drawn out fight. We tangled over the sand, then onto the monkey bars. That was the hardest, riskiest part – balancing on the bars, hanging on with one hand, and trying to strike with the other. We both got in some licks, but it was to my advantage, and I knew it. I could squeeze between the bars easier than the teenager, and I used it to my advantage. But he could dance around the outside of the cage of metal squares quicker than I, using his long arms and legs to cross over the empty spaces. We are going around and around like a pair of mismatched monkeys, trading licks – I can see his narrow face, the eyebrows pinched in concentration as he’d throw a fist at me, or try to kick down through the bars – and me, hot and sweaty, getting tired, trying to keep some distance between us. My heart really isn’t in the fight – I didn’t want it to begin with – and I am a bit confused, since I don’t know this kid, didn’t want to fight him, and really would much rather just be playing. But the guy won’t stop; he keeps on chasing me around, and we get in little tussles on the bars, wrestling, scratching, and trading punches. He gets a couple good licks in and I get mine, when I look down and what do I see?

There is my brother, standing on the ground, watching us – and licking an ice cream cone, as though he is at the circus or something. Not coming in to help me, not lifting a finger in my defense – and yet this is HIS fight, the one HE picked – and I’m having to deal with the consequences!

That just blew a fuse in my mind. I mean I went from ‘not really caring’ to ‘simply enraged’. And my rage was more at my brother – the one whom I’d rescued so many times from fights he’d caused, the one I’d beat up my best friend over – and the little SOB is standing there licking on an ice cream and watching us fight. The only thing I wanted to do was get down and kick my brother’s ass – but I couldn’t. I had to take care of this stupid bored teenager first.

I barely remember what happened then. I remember launching myself full bore into the teenager’s chest, driving him down through the bars, riding him like a cushion. I think he hit his head on a few bars on the way down; I know he ended up on the ground inside the cage, his arm hung across one of the bars. And he was groaning, not moving a whole lot. Maybe I’d knocked the wind out of him, riding him down like that. But I didn’t care. I immediately got up and went over to my brother, who was standing there agape, the ice cream melting and running down his cone.

“GD you,” I said (only I used the words, not the initials). “Why didn’t you come and help me? YOU picked the fight!” (This is just paraphrasing; I was so mad I wanted to just chew him up and spit him out.)

“I was eating ice cream!” he protested, as though that simple activity was all the excuse he needed.

I angrily stared at him for a moment. He licks his ice cream. And I guess it was then I decided: I wasn’t ever going to stand up for him again, let him suck me into another fight. Not for him. Not when he was just going to stand there eating his ice cream and watch me face some threat.

Never again, I sort of silently promised myself, more with angry feelings than words as I stalked off the playground.

And I never break my promises.

That was the last time I ever fought for him.

Violence In the Hood

Violence In the Hood
(Tokoni Posting Condensed 05/25/2009)

If you’ve been keeping up with my stories, you know by now things weren’t “normal” in my family. According to one shrink I saw, things weren’t “normal” in our neighborhood – or what we call “The Hood”.  We arrived when I was five; left at eleven – and that period of time, more than any other, represents the ‘brightest’ time of my childhood. In many ways, it WAS my childhood; the entire thing. Before then I had more of a toddler’s mind; after then – well, after then, things happened that just sorta put the finishing touches on an already cracked (warped?) mind, and broke my heart a half-dozen or so times. I ended up learning that nightmares CAN come true (four years later, when I was fourteen or so.)

But the Hood. Now that was a PLACE! Wild and crazy country young ‘uns doing wild and crazy things – not like today, where all the kids come home and sit either in front of their computers or the TV.  Since there were no ‘virtual worlds’ to play in we played in the REAL one. And our games were real, the fights were real, the play was real – there was nothing “virtual” about it. Instead it was visceral, gritty, sandy, hot or cold, wet, dry – physical sensations. When your opponent hit you – you felt it, you were rocked, you could feel blood trickling from your nose or lip – and taste its salty copper. When you got socked in the gut – you FELT it, the wind left your lungs, and you were left there gasping – and no ‘time out’, no “pause the game”. You had to get up quick and either continue or run away. And I only ran one time. (Another story.) None of that ‘virtual reality’. It was REAL reality.

I had a thing for fighting. No – I didn’t start them – but I couldn’t resist a good fight if I saw one. I’d see some kid getting pounded – it didn’t matter who it was – and I’d have to rush in and save them. I just couldn’t STAND to see another kid getting uselessly socked – once they’d start crying, my heart would go out to them, my hackles would rise – and before I knew it, I’d be in there tackling the victor. And I didn’t know when to say quit – either I was too stubborn, or just didn’t know how. And aside from one time, I never lost. (That was an amusing one, for some kid came out of nowhere while I was just walking up the road – and scrambling up me like a little monkey, brought me down with surprise – and tooth and nail as well.)

The other kids knew I was tough, and for the most part didn’t bother me. My best friend and I fought – it seemed like every other day! – but we never harbored a grudge, and I reckon we did it more for entertainment than anything. Now, I wasn’t a skilled fighter – I’d go windmilling in, head down, and storm my opponent – and no amount of pain would stop me. I ‘ate’ pain.  I was pretty much immune to it by then, especially when I was in a rage. Still am. (Which explains some of the self-inflicted cuts and scars on my arms.) And it didn’t matter how big or old you were (unless you were a grownup – they were inviolate, and could do as they pleased.) I’d take you down anyway – if by nothing else than by never stopping, never letting go, and never giving up.

My favorite trick was to get my opponent down on the ground face first – and then sit on their back and pound their kidneys. I wasn’t one to go for the face – no, teeth and bones can hurt your hands – however, a kid, belly-down, can’t fight back – and with my weight and constant pounding until they were crying and begging soon enough. They really had no choice. As soon as they’d start to cry – I was done. I’d had enough. I don’t know why it is that crying kids affected me just as badly back then as they do now – perhaps it was because I’d heard too much of it at home. And a kid screaming – well, that really bothers me. I always have to check to see what is going on. Every time. It really mucks with me inside and emotionally.

My brother – now there was a problem child (in my early opinion) if I ever saw one. The boy wouldn’t fight (except with me, because he knew I wouldn’t pound him) – but he’d pick a fight with just about anyone else. Again: didn’t matter what size or age – he’d say something, do something, piss them off just enough to take him down – and then just he’d lay there shrieking, not even trying to defend himself. Knowing I’d come and save him. Which I always did if I was around.

There were several fights I remember that went that way. One was the talk of the neighborhood for years – they still talk about it – how me and my best friend got into it when I was eight or nine.

My brother had done his usual thing – picking a fight – only this time it was with my best friend, and in our back yard, with the other kids standing around, including the teenager and his teenage friend. My best friend does what he usually does – he socks my brother a few times, knocks him down, gets on top of him, and proceeds to ‘go to town’. Me, I’m standing there watching – it’s okay with me – up until my brother starts crying. As far as I’m concerned, my friend should stop now. But he doesn’t. I go up to my best friend and roughly rocking his shoulder, tell him to let my brother up. My friend ignores me – he’s tired of my brother’s constant picking and snide remarks. (And I don’t blame him.) But after a few moments I’ve had enough. And this is the part that everyone remembers and talks about to this day.

I pick my best friend up bodily – even though he’s the same size as me – lift him up in one clean sweep over my head like superman raising a barbell — then dash him to the ground. (I did mention I was a strong little SOB, didn’t I? See “Cat Scratch Fever” for more on that.) Then I jump on him, and the fight is on. (My brother, meanwhile, still whimpering, stands to the side to watch. Even though he’s the older one.) This fight was one of the toughest I’d ever been in – my friend is desperate, knows I’m pissed – REALLY pissed – and we spin and wrestle, knocking each other a bloody nose, lips – anything. And every time I can, I’m socking him in the stomach – short little strokes, but with everything I’ve got. My friend, on the other hand, is aiming for the face. Fine by me. I don’t care. We fight and tussle, getting more and more vicious by the second. My friend, meanwhile, is starting to resort to dirty tricks, which I don’t like. Eye-gouging, hair pulling – anything in desperation to win this one. But I don’t care. It just infuriates me more, and I tear into him like he’s a wet bag of tissue paper. Oh, I’m still fighting ‘fair’ – punches only – but he’s gone beyond that. He’s trying to rip my eyes out, scratching my face. And I – I’ve gone beyond the mere issue of rescuing my brother. I’m now dealing with someone who wants to hurt me. And I’m not going to allow that – even if he IS hurting me. So I hurt him – socking him over and over again. Badly.

The teenagers finally decide that we are going too far – both of us are bloody, and I am far beyond rage. So is my friend. So his big brother (the teenager next door) holds him back, the other teenager holds ME back – pinning our arms behind us and separating us by a few feet – and my best friend and I are snarling like rabid dogs as we struggle to launch ourselves at the other’s throat. Finally I figure out what I have to do. Twisting around in his grip, I attack the teenager who is holding me back. And I must have been pretty vicious about it, because when I wheel in his grip and begin socking him and kicking him like a beast gone wild, he lets me go. BIG mistake. I immediately turn and there’s my friend, his arms pinned back by his wide-eyed brother. Driving my fists forward, I get two tremendous blows into my best friend’s gut, and he doubles over before the other teenager tackles me and pins me to the ground, holding me down with everything he’s got.

And that’s where that fight ended. My friend – he’s beyond crying now, and is puking, throwing up over and over again – they take him to the water faucet and wash some of the blood off his face and try to wash the puke from his mouth – but he won’t stop puking and I’m still shaking with emotion. I hate what I’ve done, but justify it in that he wouldn’t stop beating up my brother – and I can’t take another kid crying. But this time I see what I’ve done: I’ve beat my best friend up BAD. And I mean bad.

How bad, you may ask?

Well, he was out of school for three days. I’d knocked his guts around so hard that he was sick, couldn’t even eat. And all the kids knew it – and after that even the teenagers left me alone. They knew: there’s something just not right about Mikie. And you don’t want to tangle with him.

We had more fights, of course – ‘friendly’ ones, if you want to call it that – and one where we fought after I returned from North Carolina just to see if I could still beat him. Bloody noses and split lips – but after that I was always careful, always tried to keep my rage under control (but not always successfully), and never hurt him like that again. I learned to take my anger out on THINGS, not people, for the most part, though there were a few times I slipped up. And to this day I have to watch myself, for I can fly into a BAD rage if I don’t. I won’t say the shrinks helped me control this rage – I did. In part by separating it off from me, assigning it to ‘someone’ else – and then I fight ‘them’ (or rather myself) rather than let ‘it’ out.

That’s one thing the shrinks did point out. Abuse survivors often have a sea of anger and rage within them – and when the wind gets to blowing and the waves get to churning – it can get as hard to control as a hurricane’s storm surge. And even the shrinks know it can be a dangerous thing – not to YOU so much as THEM. I don’t know how many times one shrink would ask me in her office: “Am I safe with you?”. She was, of course – but for her protection I could not do what she asked: tap into that sea of rage and find out what it was about. Because I KNOW what it was about. It was about being a powerless child being beaten; it was about being raised ‘wrong’, and the later emotional losses and heartbreaks — and having to silently swallow my grief and rage so often. It was both a strength and an asset sometimes – but as my Marine Corps commander pointed out: it made me too violent for war. He was afraid to turn me loose on the enemy – not because of what they might do to me – but rather, what I would do to them.

Go figure.  I’m still trying.

Two Brothers
(Tokoni 05/21/2009)

My brother and I are as different as a black-eyed pea and a green pea – both come from pods, but they’re not the same. I used to be fat; he used to be thin. Now the shoe’s on the other foot – he’s turned his six-pack into a keg, while I whittled my keg down to a . . . well, not a six-pack, but my stomach doesn’t arrive before my chest does. He’s dark haired; I’m more of a sandy blond. He’s clean shaven; I’ve got a mustache and sideburns. He’s thin boned; I got thick ones. His eyes are dark, mine blue-green. Not the same at all. We didn’t fight like cats and dogs; that would have been too civilized. No, we fought like . . . vicious human beings, which goes far beyond any animal conflicts I’ve ever seen. And yes – there were times we quite literally tried to kill one another.

My mom says he takes after her side of the family. As for me? I’m the spittin’ image of my dad, only uglier. And, like my mom, my brother’s a bit on the paranoid side whereas I’m a devil-may-care go-get ’em kind of guy who laughs readily in the face of disaster. He believes in trying to control his fate with a constant sense of desperation where I just kinda wait to see what fate throws in my lap, and deal with it then.

It’s always been like that, these striking contrasts between my brother and I. Even going back to when we were little kids – I was the ‘dare-devil’, engaging in stupid stunts, while he tended to lean more towards the conservative side – the ‘safe’ side. Not that he hasn’t had his share of adventures – we both have – but I love to seek them out whereas he would just wait (and worry) over the inevitable, trying to postpone it as long as possible, living the ‘safe’ life of endless work and money-grubbing.

One thing we have in common is that we both joined the Marine Corps when we were eighteen; but where I served a very successful term, he bailed out early, going “UA” (or AWOL for you other military fans) – until they threw him out on his ear. Not that I didn’t give the Marine Corps a hard time – one of my drill instructors said I was the most ‘hard-core’ (meaning ‘bucking the system’) recruit he’d ever met. And while my brother came out of boot camp a “gung-ho” down to the core Marine – me? Not so much. I was a ‘soldier’ before I ever got there. As a lifelong friend who has always known me said: “You are the only person I know who came out of boot camp the same as he went in.” I supposed that says something about my hard-headedness at times. It also says a LOT about how tough I was before I joined; I just came out a bit tougher. That’s the “soldier” part in me, which existed long before I’d ever given any thought to joining that particular organization. I already knew more about making war and surviving; shooting guns and dodging bullets, fighting with knives or barehanded – than the Marine Corps could ever teach me. And that, my friends, tells you something about my past.

When I look at him and I look at me, I can’t help but wonder: Where DID he come from? And I’m know he’s often wondered the same thing about me. (I remember him telling me when we were kids that I was ‘adopted’.) And this goes back to when we were little kids, I’m sure – because I remember wondering just what in the heck HIS problem was – when we were about to get beaten.

It’s become apparent to me this past week after discussing this with my brother that I ‘blocked out’ most of my memories of the ‘individual’ beatings – the ones where my dad would haul one or the other of us into a room and beat the snot out of us. I’ve known since I was little my dad has a cruel and sadistic streak – almost a perversion — though now he keeps it well hidden under that ‘caring Christian’ exterior he’s built up – trying to present one face to the public while . . . well, lets just say I think a weird, sick, and perhaps perverted heart lays beneath (see “Dark Suspicions” for more on that.) With just a few words my brother conjured up a vision I had forgotten – of my dad hauling us up by one ankle, dangling in the air, and then flailing away at us by the belt – over and over again. Far past the point of any ‘pain’ or discipline. I had “forgotten” that, or perhaps just chose not to see it. What I remember are the times we were beaten together, both in the same room. And that illustrates another major difference between my brother and I.

I remember so clearly how those ‘spankings’ would begin. First, the words: “Go to your room.” Second: The wait. Dad would always keep us waiting for a half-hour or so before showing up at the door. (A form of mental torture.) Why did we always close the door immediately after entering the room? I don’t know: perhaps as a form of futile self-protection, since we were not allowed to lock it?

And the difference in how my brother and I would ‘wait’. He would immediately start crying and wailing, as soon as ‘those words’ were spoken. I, on the other hand, was much more stoic. I would just sit there on the bed, waiting, while my brother ran around the room screaming and crying. Tears before the pain? No, that was not for me. I don’t know why. I guess – and looking back, I see that perhaps it is true: I was already “zoning out”, preparing myself for the pain that lay ahead. And there was that other factor: I wasn’t going to give my father the satisfaction of seeing me cry until the pain got so bad I had no choice. And apparently cry I did, for my brother reminded me of how “I could hear you screaming and screaming and screaming in the other room” when I was beaten by myself (something I don’t have anything but the fuzziest memories of.) And it took a lot to make me cry; I was stubbornly resistant to tears; still am, and haven’t cried since I was thirteen – thirty-six years ago. Tears, to me, represented a weakness; they still do, I guess. I know I stubbornly refuse to cry even now, even when, say, writing “Cat Scratch Fever” – which is the closest I’ve been to tears in over a decade. I guess it’s not the ‘soldierly’ thing to do. Not the ‘manly’ thing. I don’t know; the shrinks said it was a bad problem, that I need / needed to learn to cry for myself. But self-pity wasn’t allowed in our family, not at all. It was a punishable offense. I still can not allow pity for myself; nor can I tolerate other’s pitying me. It just drives me crazy (or crazier) and can lead to self-injury. Punishment for the pain, or the pity for the child that once was (and still is.)

But how I remember those ‘dual’ beatings, when my dad would come in, leather belt in hand. Slapping it against his palm. Looking at us – and it gives me shivers, because NOW I can see in his face some perverse pleasure – something my brother (again) reminded me of. “He got off on it,” my brother said last week. “He loved it. I don’t know what made him stop.”

And my brother – how frantic he would become! Have you ever seen a terrified cat locked in a room with a threat right there? How it races around, blindly attempts to climb the walls, dodges in corners and holes – anything to escape the punishment it thinks is coming? That was my brother. And it drove me CRAZY, I swear! I remember begging him before my dad would come in to STOP crying STOP wailing, SHUT up and sit there quiet with me on the bed and WAIT until you are hurt until you begin crying. His crying hurt me emotionally. But he never would. I recall one time my brother diving beneath the bed – then my dad, reaching under – and yes, dragging him out by one foot, holding him in the air, and whaling away at him – with me sitting there, knowing I was going to be next. Looking back now – it reminds me of those shows where there are the prisoners of war sitting in their cells listening to the cries of their comrades being tortured – and knowing they are going to be next. I had at least ten years of this type of behavior; of being in ‘that cell’, listening — no, WATCHING — my ‘comrade’ – my brother – getting tortured while I awaited my turn. It’s no wonder I cracked and went crazy, huh? PTSD – yeah, I reckon that’ll give ya some.

I am sure my stoic attitude was a problem for my dad. It probably meant he had to beat me more and harder to get me to respond – to give him his ‘thrills’ – because I would hold in my tears and screams as long as humanly possible – or at least as long as a child can. My brother, on the other hand, was an easy target – just say the words to him: “Go to your room” and he’d start the friggin’ show. I don’t know which gave my dad the most pleasure.

And the beatings: always the same. “Strip. Drop your drawers.” And you would step out of your pants or shorts because you didn’t want them tripping you up, sending you crashing to the floor. Falling to the floor wouldn’t stop a beating; it only made it worse. I don’t know that we wore shirts – we rarely wore shirts back then, clothes were too precious of a thing for everyday wear. But I do know we’d keep on our underwear most of the time – unless we lost them somewhere during the spanking and beating. And I know I learned early on: face the bed because that first lick WOULD send you flying – and it’s better to hit the bed head first than the wall. Every time.

Yeah, he and I are different – very different. I don’t fear poverty; he does. I don’t fear extreme danger (though I’ve learned to be wary – pain is pain, after all, and without medical insurance, I can’t afford to be hurt.) I can still bear a lot more physical pain than he can. (According to my wife and docs, more than most folks can.) I have literally had chunks of flesh gouged out of me (just like with a spoon) – and I looked down and laughed – and calmly went on working (my wife was like ‘whut the hell?!! Doesn’t that HURT?” But – it merely stung.) Not that I don’t feel pain. I just ignore it better.

My mom likes to tell the tale of how when I was a little child the nerves in my hands hadn’t grown properly, and sometimes she would smell something burning. Going into the kitchen she would find me, my hands on the red-hot burners – just to see what was going on, I reckon. I don’t remember those times. But I’m thinking – perhaps – there were times when I wished that numbness would extend all over my body – sinking inside, perhaps, and taking over my soul.

Becoming completely numb. That’s what it was about sometimes.

And I guess that’s why I became and did and behaved and went crazy, the way I am today. Ever since I was twenty-one, and “The Machine” part of me broke down – I’ve been working on escaping that numbness of mind, soul, spirit and emotion. And, I guess, I’m still working on it now.

Only this time I think maybe I’m trying to breath some life back into that child; that teenager – to feel their pain – the pain they’ve hidden from me – for so very, very long. In order to ‘heal’. After all, as another abuse survivor once told me: “to feel is to heal, and I want you to heal yourself so that you can feel — all the wonderful things that are you.” And, I reckon, she was right on target with that, for I wrote it down, and treasured her very much for all she did for me.

In case you are reading, “Bean” — somewhere out there — this is just to let you know: I’m still working on it, and miss you sometimes. Thanks for all you did.

(Tokoni 05/21/2009)