Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Bully

Growing Up With Bullies

"All right Ridgway, you know what this means?"
"Not really. Remember I'm new to your school."
"It means you are gonna meet me after school."
"Does this mean you are giving me a ride home? I usually take the bus."
"Oh yea. Your gonna get a ride all right." Scott shoved me up against my locker and the boom echoed down the hallway.
Somehow I doubted his sincerity, especially since he'd just caught me talking to his new girlfriend de jour. How was I to know? Scott was the captain of the football team, quarterback, and student body president. I knew that. But keeping up with the identity of his current girlfriend was not something I did as a rule.
Mr. Jewels our science teacher pretended not to know what transpired as our eyes met upon entering his class. No doubt he had been the recipient of a few ass whoop-ins himself when he was a kid in high school. It was like a rite of passage, or something. You had to take the punishment or you never grew up. You had to fear the alpha male, especially if you were the new guy. I had just transferred from out of state. The only thing these Texan born and raised kids knew about Californians was that we were either a punker or a queer.
I hated my life. I hated my parents for splitting up. I missed my friends. Mom? No I cant really blame her. She did what she had to do. Dad had left her for someone half her age and she was forced to move back home to Texas and stay with grandpa until the divorce was settled.
I actually did like living out here with grandpa. He had a farm with horses and cows. I previously had spent my summers out here, but had never interacted with any kids. His farm was huge and the nearest neighbor was childless. So I spent my time following him around. I drove his tractor. I milked cows, I learned how to drive that 57 chevy. It wasn't even my idea really. Grandpa needed to get to the next county where they sold alcohol. In Texas there were dry counties and it was illegal to sell alcohol anywhere within the county limits. The nearest place was Mingus, about sixty miles away. Grandpa would let me drive home as he needed to rest after hitting some of his favorite spots after acquiring some libations from the liquor store. I liked those places. They were dark and neon lit, and noisy. They had shuffle board and pin ball machines. Grandpa gave me quarters. Life was great then. Now grandpa wasn't here to protect me. Dad wasn't here. I was on my own.
I don't remember what was taught in class that day. It seems like I was in a nightmare. The air was abuzz with excitement for most of the student body. I wasn't scared really, just lonely and feeling like an alien from another planet. I wasn't a punker or a queer. Before moving here I had worked on a dairy farm before and after school. Not unlike the life these rural kids had in Texas. It was hard work but that was all we had in the northern california town I grew up in. We lived in a forest with giant redwoods. There was a statue of Paul Bunyan greeting tourists when they drove through. I had never seen a punker or a queer. We did have hippies. They lived in communes and traveled around in colorful busses. Their kids didn't go to our school. In some ways I guess those kids were our outcasts.
I wasn't sure where I was supposed to have this whoop-ass-meet-and-greet. But my way was laid out for me as kids lined the way. The girls and other geeks stood in silence for the most part, carrying their books, or walking their bicycles towards an empty field. As I drew close there could be no mistake I had arrived at the meeting place as a cry arose. Fight Fight Fight. The rest of the class bullies were assembled in a circle and Scott was in the center. His football jersey announced he was number twelve. I grinned to myself thinking that must be his IQ.
"What are you grinning at Ridgway? I was glad he wasn't referring to me by my first name. Reggie. It made me even more of a target having a name that rhymed with Pedgy. As in there goes Reggie the Pedgy Or lets go give Reggie a Wedgie. Being short and slight didn't help. Even some of the other target geeks would pick on me. They would if they could have joined in with shoving me into my own locker and slamming the door shut, trapping me inside until my cries for help brought a janitor or teacher. My hair was usually wet from the occasional swirly. For those readers who haven't had the privilege, a swirly was dunking someones head in the toilet and then flushing it. I was late to class sometimes attempting to dry it with those hand dryer machines that blew hot air.
I set my books down in the dirt, One of the big kids kicked them and my homework papers blew away in a dust devil. I watched them fly away. My mind was blank. My plan was to simply fall down, roll into a defensive ball and hope for the best. I had never been in a fight before. My dad had been too busy to teach me how to defend myself.
Suddenly Scott roared like a bear and he flung his almost adult body towards me from the center of the ring. I raised my hands to protect myself and that is when the miracle happened. We went down in a heap but Scott jumped up. His face was bleeding. Their was blood all down his jersey. I don't think the stain ever really came out.
"You broke my nose.", he said almost as if asking a question. I laid still and watched in horror thinking, what have I done? He is really gonna pound me now. But the fight was over. Someone offered Scott a towel and he shuffled off with his gang. They were all attending to him. After all he was their quarterback and captain of the football team and they were playing Friday.
From then on things were slightly different for me. It was imperceptible but I noticed I was being treated differently. The bullies left me alone. No more locker shoves. No swirly sessions. I even got to ask one of the pretty girls out for prom that year. And she said yes. Somehow I was building up some confidence and people noticed. My self esteem was returning and I even had made a few friends. Lets not kid ourselves. They were the outcast kids but friends nonetheless.
I got a job at the local twirly top which was the hang out and turn-around spot for our town. The kids with access to cars would stop at the drive through on the way down the main drag on saturday nights. Now I wont say I got my revenge but the idea did go through my mind when one of the football players would drive up to my window and ask for take out. Especially the one who kicked my books and lost my homework that day. It would have been so easy to add a little something extra to his secret sauce.


  1. This story brought a tear to my eye. Poor Scott.
    First you attempted to steal his girlfriend and then you broke his nose. Why, if this had happened today, I'm sure that your mom would have been contacted by not only the school, but also by the lawyer representing Scott's parents in the assault case they were bringing against you. Without doubt you would have to undergo some sort of psychological exam to evaluate your aggressive tendencies and thereafter attend some sort of anger management classes. Also, the parents of the girl you were talking to at the beginning of this story might get a whiff of easy money and coerce their daughter into saying that you were acting sexually aggressive towards her and that this is what prompted the now gravely injured Scott to try to defend her honor. The school, eager to avoid the scandal of a sexual harassment lawsuit, might well settle out of court with the girl's parents and expel you.
    Thank God we grew up in an earlier time, huh?

  2. True word my friend. True words. Bwahahahaha. You slay me. That was good Donald. You should be a writer. :)

  3. Love it. Yeah, the female equivalent of Scott put tacks on my seat and made me the target of her wrath on the dodgeball field in gym class. But, she let her anger get the best of her and decked the vice principal right before graduation. Sometimes, there is revenge and it is living well. Have a super week!

  4. Lol Julee. Thanks and will check out your blog :)

  5. wow great story recalling the past love how you wrote this

  6. I knew this sounded like it really happened. I started getting that feeling toward the end. At first, it sounded like a story, but it ended up being so true to your voice.

    good story. So you accidentally hit him in the nose? Crazy.

    In eighth grade, I was 4'7. You could imagine the people who picked on me. Did you have a smart mouth on you, like I did? It got me in so much trouble back then, and in the army.

    Great story here. I might break up some paragraphs and make it faster, but the story was on point. I look forward to reading more.

    Draven Ames

  7. Thanks Shalagh an Draven. Still have the smart mouth lol and still getting me in trouble. At least people throw words now instead of punches lol.

  8. You were a hero and didnt know it...great story and the backstory gives us the whole flavor. I can feel that painful scene as an awkward teen.

  9. Thank you Donna. I felt it too. Lol. Maybe with a few more bruises

  10. What an extremely power story. Very nice job here.

  11. Thanks Lisa I was inspired by a post on Dravens blog and it churned up some old memories.

  12. Thanks for inviting me to read and comment. I found the narrator's voice amazingly real. The dialog was succinct and not overdone. I enjoy the back story interwoven between the "invitation" and the actual fight, a nice time slot to give the reader precious information we need in order to cheer for the right character. See, it wasn't enough that it was just a cliched bully against the stereotypically picked-on smaller kid, so you presented him as a real guy with a real history. We get to see that in some ways he's the innocent product of adult decisions that had nothing to do with him. The reader develops feelings for him in a very short amount of time.

    And... the timing was great, too.

    A real pleasure to read. Thank you for the invitation. :) Writers of Kern holds a summer writing contest each year... I daresay that this would have won the money last August.


  13. This was such a well written post. I am sort of caught up in "Bully" issues these days. Have a book coming out this summer about 8 of them.
    I had a terrible time in high school because I moved several times (divorced parents ugghh).

  14. Wow Dana and Doreen. You have both managed to launch my ego into the stratosphere. Have to come down a bit and admit that I wrote this on the fly from my own experiences. Most of this narrative actually happened so it was easy to just reminise. I have a proclivity for writing like I am telling a story to a bunch of freinds at a bar or something. So far this is working for me in my first novel and two short stories. I'm writing another novel now and your comments strengthen me. Thank you so much and will always remember your kind words and encouragement from others as well on this writing journey I am on. Good luck Doreen with your WIP about bullies. I will definitely want to read it so keep in touch. Thanks again Donna for telling me about the contest and such. I want to be involved any way I can. :)

  15. Yes, I got from your other comments that the story comes from a real life experience, but that doesn't make it any easier to write and/or to convey with such creativity and timing. Well done.

  16. My friend Dana commented on your writing. I'm too busy dealing with the oogy feeling you just dredged up from my school days. I'd call that effective writing.

  17. Yep, as Jerry said... very powerful stuff.

  18. Hello Reggie, it's Leanne here from the writer's circle, here to welcome you to your first writer's circle and give you some comments on your work. :)

    I thought this was a great piece; you have a clear sense of character and the use of first person, coupled with the conversational style and informal language really does give the impression that we are reading the diary, or memories of a teenage boy. It's often very difficult to write with a clear voice, but you have accomplished it with this piece.

    There is also a strong sense of place in this piece. As well as referencing places in Texas and California, there are also a lot of more subtle allusions, the mentions of redwoods, 57 chevys and quarterbacks mean that I can instantly place the action in an American high school. Having said this, there are certain words that I (as a Brit) had to look-up (pedgy? That was certainly an eye-opener!) so if you're writing for a more international audience you might want to tailor your vocabulary accordingly.

    Another thing I like is the way you begin the story with direct speech, which means that the reader is thrust into the action from the off. The ace of the narrative is spot on and reflects the mood of the piece very well.

    If I had to criticise anything I would say that, a couple occasion, your sentence structure is a little clumsy. These are as follows:
    In paragraph four, the phrase 'I previously had spent my summers out here...' might scan better if it read 'I had previously spent my summers out here...'
    and in the tenth paragraph, the phrase 'I even had made a few friends..' might work better as 'I had even made a few friends...'.

    Other than that I thought it was a great piece of writing.

  19. Great comments and critique. As a beginning writer it is like going back to school. Imam constanty learning from other writers and am very grateful for their time. Thanks Crimson and can't wait to read you words. Reggie

  20. Hello, it’s Carla from the Writers Circle.

    I really enjoyed this story. I thought it was well written; the narrative has good direction and the characters voice stays consistent throughout. I agree with Leanne (Crimson) about the use of the word “pedgy” (had to look it up. Kind of wish I hadn‘t.) and using vocabulary that international audiences would recognise, although I don’t know what other word you could’ve used in it‘s place. So perhaps a short explanation of the word would have been best? (Like the explanation for ’Swirly’.) Especially when you’re writing from a teenagers point of view, they are notorious for using words that no one has ever heard of (it’s like they belong to a special club.).

  21. Truth be known I had never looked up pedgy until now. In my innocence I didn't realize it was a word only something my peers made up to rhyme with Reggie. But know that I know what it means, I feel a whole new host of shame. Thanks reviewers. But I really do thank all of those who commented. This is the first time I have had many of them for a little story. It fills me with pride and appreciation for my new found friends in the writing community. And encourages me to continue writing. So it is your fault. He he.