Monday, March 14, 2011

The Fight

For my writing class, we had an assignment to write about a significant childhood moment that changed or impacted us immensely. This is what I wrote. It is true, but is very much a story, so artistic license was taken with the descriptions and dialogue. No offense to Aaron, wherever he might be today.

In the third grade, Aaron Blomberg was not cute. Maybe now he's a very handsome man whose married to a supermodel with whom he has two perfect children and a two-car garage. But in third grade, Aaron Blomberg had cooties. He would scavenge his nasal cavities for boogers to eat. His hair was always sticking up and he had scabby knees that he picked incessantly. After he picked the scabs, the blood would form two little crimson streams that coursed down his scrawny legs, guided my what seemed, even then, like an abnormal amount of leg-hair. As if the cooties and the boogers were not enough, Aaron was in the habit of teasing me as incessantly as he picked his scabs. He teased me enough to make me cry, which is saying a lot because I wasn't much of a crier back then. My older brother had taught me to tough it out, but when Aaron put bunny ears on me right as the photographer took our class picture, I lost it. They re-took the picture after they figured out what he had done, but even so, my eyes were already red and puffy. A perfectly good third grade class picture ruined by Aaron Blomberg. But even something as significant as the class picture incident does not hold a candle to what happened with the Guiness Book of World Records.

Aaron brought the book for show and tell, which was, I reluctantly admit, a pretty impressive find. Just before recess, he had everyone in class huddled around looking at pictures of the longest fingernails in the world. They looked like ultra-long corkscrews attached to someone's hand. It was all very exciting and disgusting, but then Aaron, true to form, took a perfectly pleasant third grade moment and made it personal. “Look!” he said, as he pointed to the picture of the 'World's Fattest Woman', “it's Meredith!” Somehow I managed to keep my mouth shut, but inside I was seething. Enough was enough. “This will get settled on the playground,” I thought to myself. When the bell rang, our class spilled down the wooden steps to our building like water coming out of a faucet. But I had my sight set on Aaron's back. He didn't get too far from the building before I jumped him from behind, causing him to fall into the reddish dirt. He didn't put up much of a fight, way less than I was used to with my older brother, so soon enough I had him pinned underneath me, my knees pressing into his shoulders, my hands pummeling into his face, his head, his chest. Someone must have gone to get a teacher, because before I had a chance to dribble a mucus-spit concoction from my mouth onto his face, I got pulled off. My parents were called. I was in huge trouble.

That evening, I got sent to my father's study. My father, a lawyer, had a study full of leather-bound books that lined the walls from floor to ceiling. My father was not a harsh man, but when he spent time playing with me and my brother, it was outside or in the kitchen or the den. Nothing fun ever happened in my father's study. It was a place reserved for serious business. After dinner, I sat there alone, waiting for my father to come in. I tried to calculate the number of lashings I could expect to receive from his leather belt. My stomach was sick just thinking about it. When my father entered the room, I thought to myself, “So this is what injustice feels like. Aaron Blomberg teases me all year, ruins my class photo, calls me the fattest woman in the world, and I am about to get punished.” Of course, I kept those thoughts to myself. I had no nerve to share those feelings with my dad. He sat down in his chair, the one with the duck-head arm rests, and he looked me over. I hung my head in defeat. Aaron Blomberg had won again. “You know, back when I was at Massey Hill, when we would get into a fight, some of the guys would break Coke bottles and...” I looked up at my father in amazement. He wasn't lecturing me. He was telling me a story. A story about when he used to get into fights? I listened attentively. I knew enough, even in the third grade, about my dad's poverty-stricken childhood to know that he had run with some characters back in high school. His childhood neighborhood was still one of the roughest in our town, and his alma mater was a breeding ground for crooks and criminals who my dad sometimes told wild stories about with a certain comedic, yet sad, affection. But he'd never said anything about fights. His stories were mostly about athletic events, but here he was telling me about the trouble he'd witnessed back in those days. He finished his stories, and we left the study together. The school made me sit out of recess for a couple of weeks after the day I tackled Aaron Blomberg, but while I sat there, I can't say that I felt too much shame. My dad never told me that it was okay to fight, but he never told me not to, either. Today, when faced with injustice, I still want nothing more than a good fight. By God's grace, I learned not to just tackle folks anymore. But sometimes I wonder if I would have it in me to fight in the face of injustice, if my dad had taken his belt to me that night in his study. Because sometimes there are boys with cooties, and sometimes there are people who take advantage of others, and sometimes those people need to be fought, even if it costs you recess.

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