Consumed

This week, we want fightin’ words.

Write a piece about a fight. What happened? Why? Who “won”? What were the repercussions?

Show us. Use emotion. Description. If it’s a fist fight, what did it feel like to hit someone – or be hit? What does it feel like to be screamed at – or get the silent treatment?

This can be fiction or non-fiction. Your choice.

Come back Friday and link up!

I come from a family that wasn’t afraid to punch someone in the face if they stepped out of line. Lest you think that we’re all a bunch of angry psychopaths, allow me to clarify. In our early years many punches were thrown at one another, along with professions of intense sibling hatred, but if someone outside of the clan threatened one of us, they picked a fight with all of us. Familial loyalty always trumped an argument if an outsider dared to threaten one of us with violence. Except for my sister…she just tended to dissolve into tears and duck.

When I was 10-years-old, my brother and I were removed from the school bus for fighting with the “Bad Kid” that lived up the road. The Bad Kid picked a fight with my brother. They were both five years older than me, but that didn’t stop me from offering my assistance. Having faithfully tuned in to The Bionic Woman each week, I felt fully empowered as I charged down the narrow aisle of the school bus and launched myself onto the Bad Kid’s back with all of the confidence and gusto of Jaimie Sommers. I was dervish of scratches and slaps but sadly lacked any of the bionics that would have aided my brother in actually disabling the Bad Kid. The only thing I accomplished was ripping Bad Kid’s glasses from his face. Next thing I knew, we were left standing on the side of the road in a cloud of dust while the bus pulled away.

Years later, my brother and I were visiting my father in Florida. I was a senior in high school and going through some pretty heavy stuff. I’d venture to say that year was one of my most troubled from an emotional standpoint. I was suffering from crippling depression, living with an evil stepfather and suffering from some serious abandonment issues as the result of my parent’s divorce. I was also dating ‘that’ boyfriend-the one and only boy I ever allowed to walk all over me.

I don’t recall much about that year’s trip to Florida, but what I recall about the night in a particular Florida parking lot is family legend. At times laughed at and, at times, a disturbing glimpse into my dark state of mind at that time.

It all began innocently enough with a family dinner at a restaurant near Fort Meyers beach. Having sufficiently gorged ourselves, we returned to the Cadillac in the parking lot while my brother stayed behind to pay the bill. My father, stepmother, stepsister and I waited in the car, illuminated by the building’s flood lights, and quietly remarked about how full we were when a man stumbled out from the bushes. He briefly paused, swaying dangerously close to the tipping over point and allowed his bleary eyes to adjust on the car. With concentrated effort he raised his middle finger at us and screamed, “You fuckin’ snowbirds!” Then with the exaggerated gait of a cartoon turtle, his neck preceding his body, he shuffled off toward the entrance of the bar, turning once more to reiterate that we were, in fact, a lousy bunch of “fucking snowbirds!”

It was at that moment that my brother chose to exit the restaurant. Through my passenger window, I saw his mouth say something to the effect of, “What’s your problem?” That’s all it took for the The Drunk to begin punching. Within seconds, fists were flying and, in some rage-induced loss of consciousness, I leaped from the Cadillac. As my brother, who was doing just fine on his own, fought with the suddenly lucid and strong drunk man, I stood behind him and threw my own flailing punches. I vaguely remember my brother attempting to push me out of the way but, mostly, I saw only that man.

Never before had I been so consumed by adrenalin and rage. I was swept away and into some dark place of violence. This drunk, angry man had plucked at the final string that was holding me together in that year. No one knew what was happening in the depths of my troubled mind. Depression and abandonment weren’t topics of discussion in schools or at home. Anger, hatred and resentment boiled to the surface and spilled from my petite body. I felt my fingers connect with his shirt then I plunged in deeper to gouge at his skin with my fingernails. He pulled his arm back in surprise.

First, he became my stepfather and then everyone who had ever let me down or purposely belittled me. Mostly, he became that blackened darkness that had begun it’s ugly swirling inside of my body and robbing me of my life. I punched him in the back as my brother tried to lead him away from me. I was angry that my punch wasn’t as hard as I expected it would be and momentarily thought of the dreams I’d had when I would swing to punch with all of my might, only to deliver a feather light touch on impact.

I remember hearing my father’s voice from afar…”Goddamn it, I just wanted to go home to watch T.J. Hooker.” Then I heard his familiar and authoritative State Trooper command to stop fighting. The Drunk whirled to throw a punch at my father who efficiently stopped the punch in mid-air then twisted The Drunk’s arm behind his back and threw him to the ground. I vaguely recall being awed by how easily my father had performed that maneuver to subdue The Drunk. I momentarily wondered how many times he had performed that move in his career as a police officer. The Drunk bounced off the bumper of a car and landed on the asphalt of the parking lot. That’s were I fell upon him, still riding the wave of my rage-induced lack of consciousness.

Slowly, I began to realize that the pointy-toed boot kicking the man in the ribs was mine, as was that voice that was screaming profanities that would make a sailor blush. “You leave my brother *#$(*#*G  alone, you @($damn piece of $*(*&*%$# #***%*%*!” Each kick squarely connected with The Drunk’s body making a series of horrible solid thumping sounds.

Slowly, the veil of rage that had wrapped itself around me began to lift. My kicking slowed as the man on the ground lie there moaning. I looked up to see the horrified faces of my stepmother and stepsister looking at us from behind the windshield. I turned to see my father and brother standing side by side. My brother’s eyes were wide. My father looked only slightly shocked, then chuckled slightly before saying, “Get it in the car.”

I went to the door that I’d left hanging open and slid onto the seat, shaking and freaked out. As we pulled away, I looked at The Drunk in parking lot with blood gushing from a wound on his arm and began questioning my existence.

That Little So and So!

I grew up in a family that got into a whole lot of tussles. Most of those tussles were handled on a individual basis but some were a group effort. Sometimes we even tried to kill each other, but if anyone who was not a card-carrying member of the family picked a fight with one of us…they picked a fight with all of us. At home and on the school bus, on the train tracks behind the school, in a restaurant parking lot in Fort Myers, at an outdoor concert at Saratoga Performing Arts Center…we were more apt to fight than we were to run. Generally, flight was never even an option.
It’s somewhat shameful to admit, but in at least part of our family you learned to fight back when someone got aggressive. If you were small, like me, you stood behind your big brother’s back and hurled a slew of filthy insults mixed with a lot of scratching, kicking and flailing punches. For the most part, any fight I was involved in was one where I felt the need to stick up for my brother, who didn’t require my assistance at all.

Thankfully, I’ve outgrown the need to engage in retaliatory violence. Sure, sometimes I get mad at people for their rude and inconsiderate behavior, but there are better ways to approach aggressive situations. Mostly, it involves the use of one’s brain.

I am thrilled that my little boy has not yet exhibited the trait that leads to violent retaliation. He has inherited his father’s peaceful, above-it-all demeanor. He’s a lover, not a fighter. He’s smart and pretty darn cute if I do say so. I’m proud of him, but at the same time saddened that he has quietly endured the confusion, anxiety and stress that comes with daily exposure to a bully.

Yeah, yeah..I know. Bully has become the buzzword of the moment. Yet, there really is  a dyed-in-the-wool bully in my son’s first grade class. It first came to our attention on the day before Thanksgiving break. It was a Thursday afternoon when the school called to inform me that Joe had been punched in the stomach (read here). Over the past few months, my little guy has grown increasingly anxious and emotional before bed. He unwillingly drags himself out of bed each morning and goes to school where he has (mostly) silently suffered more punching, pushing, kicking, poking, slapping, intimidation, being tripped and striking his head on the floor and most recently, a hold that I can only describe as one that law enforcement uses to subdue people.

How do I know this happened? Well, my kind, polite, smart little boy came home last week and dissolved into tears. For the first time in ages, he crawled into my lap and just wanted to be hugged. Though he was afraid, he finally spilled the beans about his bully. Later, when he had calmed down he said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you… so-and-so also grabbed my wrist like this and twisted up and then pulled my shoulder back really super far…like this.” I was horrified. My father is a retired New York State Trooper. I’ve seen the move before. (Specifically, in our Fort Myers parking lot tussle.) I shudder to think that a seven-year-old child would know how to do this and practice on my six-year-old boy. On some level, I am sorry for the bully. I hate to jump to conclusions, but I can’t help but wonder what is going on at this boy’s house.

Another far less evolved part of me fantasizes about having a Freaky Friday. One that would enable me to spend just one day in my son’s body. Oh, the revenge I could deliver! Yes, I know it’s wrong, but I can fantasize, right?

I want to get off the school bus with my Batman backpack slung over my shoulder and enter the school with  Darth Vader’s music loudly announcing my arrival. The Imperial March would follow me down the hall, causing a sea of K-3 children to part in shock and awe. I’d mess with that bully’s head so bad, he’d have no idea what hit him. Of course I wouldn’t use violence. Instead, I would come prepared with an arsenal of advanced weaponry in my backpack. Some Super Glue, cayenne pepper, Ex lax, various booby-traps, dog poo, fake vomit. I could go on and on here. Gradually, my imagination conjures scenes that resemble hilarious Disney-type pranks. There might even be a fake studio audience emitting gasping ‘oohs‘ and laughter when the bully’s pants get stuck to his seat with that Super Glue. Alas, reality doesn’t provide Disney-esque Freaky Friday body exchanges and, since they remain physically impossible, I am limited to my fantasy acts of innocent, G-rated revenge.

I once had a big ol’ bully. His name was Billy Madison. Really, it was.

He would chase me down on the playground and kick me or throw me to the ground. He had a list of swear words that would make a sailor blush. I tried to avoid him, but he was inexplicably drawn to my long braids. I came to dread morning when my mother braided my hair. Braids guaranteed that I’d suffer some good, sharp hair pulling at the hands of Billy Madison.

I don’t recall how it was that Billy Madison happened to be at the end of my driveway, but he was. I couldn’t have been more than eight of nine years old when Billy stood at the end of my driveway doing the dance of a bully. His dance came complete with tongue gestures and name calling. With my feet firmly planted at the bottom of the porch and my German Shepard, Sasha at my side I watched his ridiculous chubby undulations. His belly kept moving even after he had stopped.
“Just leave me alone!” I yelled. He continued writhing around and laughing at me. I heard a low growl rise from Sasha as she stood at attention. Billy made the mistake of hurling a mean insult back in my direction. “YOU BETTER LEAVE ME ALONE, BILLY MADISON!” He took my demand as his cue to turn and shake his considerable rear-end at me. Unfortunately, his timing was rather poor as Sasha sprang to the end of the driveway and sank her teeth into Billy’s meaty rump. Billy never bothered me again. Not ever. To this day I owe Sasha a debt of gratitude, but she’s long gone and buried in a meadow at our old farm.

Maybe Joe’s bully bothers me so much because he bears a striking resemblance to Billy Madison. Maybe his bully bothers me because I wish I could tell Joe to fight back. Maybe a small part of me wishes Joe inherited that trait that only allows people to push ‘so far’ before a tussle ensues. Maybe part of me is frustrated that we can’t afford to pay for private school. Maybe our meeting with the school’s administrative staff on Monday afternoon will help…

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