"Hey. This kid looks different. He's a little pipsqueak - and you know what?"
Joey Redeyes said to his friend, Micky, "He don't look like you or me."
"Yeah," his friend said, punching my baseball cap off my hat. "And look at those eyes - it looks like he's inhaling a bad fart."
"Let's kick his ass!" Joey Redeyes said, and the two goons, kids really, but a good three years older than me, sixteen, hobbled of the bikes and motioned toward me, Joey Redeyes holding me by the collar, the other kid, Micky O'Brien, clobbering me in the face with his fists. "You want to stay alive in this neighborhood?" they told me, "stick with a gang.
Stay on your own territory. Your own people. Because," Joey warned me, "You come by here again, especially alone, next time we ain't going to use our fists--we're going to pummel you with bats!" And he gave me one last good kick in the rear-end, and I went running home.
"What the hell happened to your face, Mark?" Ma said when I returned back home, a concerned look on her face. Then she hunched down to me, looking at Pa. "Robert--" Pa was sitting on the easy-chair, watching the world series. "Robert," she said again.
Finally Pa looked over at me--Pa wasn't a very compassionate person,he had no hair except going out of the nose and ears--and said, some-what irritatedly, "Ah, it looks like our Mark has been in a fight. It's good for him. Mark. Next time those kids beat up on you, you have to stand up for yourself, you have to take charge. Be innovative."
"Oh, Robert," Ma pleaded. "I wish you wouldn't encourage our soon
to violence. There has to be some other way--maybe we could talk
to these kids parents."
Dad got up off the easy chair, and he took the belt off, and to this day,I don't know if he had threatened to use it against my Ma, or me. "You listen here Goddamn it," he sneered. "The boy needs to toughen up--to not take crap from everybody." And then, perhaps sensing he was being a little rough, his voice cooled down. He flopped back down onto the couch and took a drink from the Southern Comfort Bottle.
"Look son," he said. "I say this because I love you--you have to stand up for yourself. Be inventive."
Finally, I mustered up enough courage to talk--usually, when Pa talked, I was afraid to speak, but he had a warm sound to his voice, and so I mustered up the courage.
"But they're bigger than me--" I blurted. "And, and," I said, "They ride bikes."
Dad got up, flexed his belt and whipped it wrathfully into the air, my was screaming, pulling at her hair, "Oh God. Oh God," she
said. "I hate when he gets like this."
Then dad puked--a big geyser of green peas bursting out his
mouth, and he was collapsing to the floor. Ma continued to
cry, pulling at her hair. "Oh God. Oh God. What should I
Then I saw Pa on the floor, and the vile goo coming out of
his mouth. He had had a point. I couldn't let these Irish
Hoodlums bully me no more and so I went to bed, concocting my plan. But what could I do--how was I to be inventive?"
Next day, I was strolling home from school and it was a beautiful
Goddamn day--birds chirping, the smell of freshly cut lawn in the
air, etc. I thought about back home on the farm, and how better
it had been. There, it was sweet-smelling all the time. The cows,
the horses, the pigs the goats, all of them were my friend. Here,
I had no friends, only enemies. This time, again, Joey Redeyes
and Micky appear out of nowhere, on their bikes. Joey, the
main instigator, had grabbed my baseball cap again. "Hey you
little squirt," he antagonized, "I thought I warned you to stick
with your own people." He looked at Micky, shaking his head
sadly. "Too bad we forgot our baseball bats. Oh well. I guess
these will suffice." Joey thrust his fists out and me, I backed
away, like a pro boxer, grabbed for something I had stashed
away in my right side pants pocket--I had taken Pa's advice,
I was being innovative.
Gently, fastly--I had rehearsed a million times the night before-- I put the large Turquoise ring I'd stolen from Pa's bureau the night before and bounced up in front of Joey and then counted one, two, three.
Right in the big dumb bastards face. Then, again and again.
Finally, Joey, the big dumb brute, the leader of the stupid
Joey/Micky duo went collapsing on the floor. And then
Micky looked at me, scared. He started peddling those
big legs of his on the bike pedals fastly; furiously. I was
up behind him, chasing him, staring at his legs. No longer
did they look so big. Running as fast as I could, I got behind
him and, the over-large ring clasped against my hand hit him
in the back with it. Again and again. "You want to make fun
of me some more?!" I said, raining unmerciful blows onto
him. "Huh, huh?!" Finally, the little sniveling bastard was
crying and I left him alone--but not before stealing his
overs-sized baseball cap that had said "Woolworth's" on
Well, after that I had walked home with a lot of heavy
satisfaction in me. Here I was, Mark Burman. A kid from
The South. They had told me I had needed an army of
kids, or at least my on gang, to walk the streets. I showed
them I didn't need that.
I had stood up for myself--and it had felt damn good.
]Alan Terry, a real estate investor who has lived everywhere--The South,New York, Hollywood--is a writer currently residing in Fortworth, Texas. In addition to being a devout Christian he is also a staunch supporter of the Republican Party.