Screaming every day in pain is a poor way to spend your time and Kyle was hurt everyway he could be hurt, anyway that the teachers really didn’t see. The asshole who punched, jabbed, grabbed, tripped an shoved Kyle was Ronnie Lester. Ronnie was this huge, mean boy who his mother probably didn’t, I imagine, love. Girls didn’t like him because of his face, it was a face with eyes, nose, mouth but his mouth was too big, like a wolf that you shouldn’t turn your back on or ‘it’ will eat you up.
Ronnie when he showed his teeth seemed to have too many. He was a freak, but my mother said, “Your not supposed to laugh at freekie people Andrew.” Ronnie didn’t pick on everybody for the whole half of the 7th grade, just Kyle.
Then I think Kyle came home with too many bruises, cuts and scrapes. I’m sure he must have been a walking example of ‘black an blue’, under all his clothes. Maybe the doctor would diagnosis him as a ‘Walking blood clot’. The only reason Kyle stayed alive half that year was that most of the time we were sitting in class and the teacher was trying to teach us while seeing, an Kyle sat on the 1st row. A few times when Kyle asked, “Mrs. Vandermier can I stand in the back of the class an take notes.” Well Ronnie would snicker. The guy couldn’t sit down because his butt had been kicked too much in PE. Kyle got all the football injuries without football.
Kyle was not in school for several days and I became Kyle. I mean I was still Andrew Grain, loveable, nice to everybody, friendly an nice looking, but Ronnie Lester decided that his punching bag was out of service, and I became his whore. I know at church they say to not call people bad names, like ‘whore’ but that’s what I became. In one day Ronnie the barbarian moved from Kyle to Andrew. Not that I had anyone on my side. The class, people who had liked me before, laughed when Ronnie tripped me, or when the teacher couldn’t see smacked me on the back of my head, or stuck a pencil in my arm. I think my classmates laughed because out of fear, they knew, that someone, anyone, could be the next Kyle. It might me, small, frail Andy Grain, or maybe them.
I already had the example of Kyle that I remembered and when Kyle screamed in class, then Lester would say, “I’m sorry Kyle my big feet were just too far out in the aisle. Please forgive me.”
Vandermier would say, “OK Kyle, go on to your seat and back to our lesson on Bunker Hill.”
Ronnie beat up Kyle every day, but Kyle didn’t tell the teachers. Tattle tales were looked down upon, an Kyle was an honorable piece of beaten shit. Teachers saw Kyle’s bloody shirt, soiled clothes, heard his yelps. Everyone was afraid of the big strutting dog Lester. I was afraid of Lester, Lester was a neighborhood bully that was forced to go to school every day by his parents, who probably kept him in the yard most of the time, and if they were smart would encourage him to run away. He was a rabid pit bull, who would be on a leash if his parents had a brain. Lester was the best argument I might think of for abortion.
I told my father why my clothes were torn, clothes were money to my father and my father took money seriously. We were a family bent to the breaking point with conserving dollars, dimes –eating more bread and less donuts. I told him the story of Lester and Kyle, thinking being a big guy he might be my buddy and go to 7th grade and get things safe for me.
“I should be able to study and learn in school without animals attacking me!” Dad’s reply was, “So STUPID be a man smack him back harder than he is whacking you!”
“But dad,” I told him, “Ronnie is a brute barbarian, I weigh 87 pounds, he is a beasty demon of maybe 175 pounds and he lives to fight. He probably beats his mother. He probably smacked her around to get out of her at birth, he’s primitive, smells bad, and everyone is afraid of him.”
“This happens to every boy, there were bigger kids when I went to school son, I had to get them before they got me. It’s the law of the jungle, and the 7th grade is your jungle. Swing from the trees and do him in! You are not a Mary Jane or Linda Sue, and if I had one of those I might go to school and complain to the teachers, but you might grow up to be in the Army, to face an enemy you have to bring down, maybe your enemy is bigger and stronger than you? What will you do? The answer is use your brain. Big brutes are typically not smart. If he is smarter than you, then it’s your last farewell, but if you have guts and smarts, well then you’ll beat the shit out of him. Figure it out and if a few clothes get torn, well we’ll have to manage more. If you have bones broken then I’ll get the doctor. If the 7th grade is your battlefield, then fight a good fight.”
It sounded to me like I was to kill him, an that would have been fun, but I didn’t care to get the electric chair in Nashville, or where ever they fried boys.
The next morning in history class the beast tripped me, then when I got up he blocked the teachers view with his monster body, an hit me hard in the back of the head.. The whole class laughed.
The whole school got an hour for lunch. You could either eat the school lunch for 25 cents, or walk downtown and eat. For the same 25 cents I could buy two chili hotdogs, ten cents each and have a large Royal Crown Cola or a Nehi Orange Soda for 5 Cents. I usually walked down town, and ate at the hot dog stand, because if you carried off the bottle you had to pay an extra 2 cent deposit. Two cants in 1952 was really money.
My plan worked like this, I knew Ronnie would be waiting for me at the school entrance. He was into terror, and he wanted me to know at the door that he was close around and was going to do terrible things to me. I didn’t sleep that night for planning. Also in the school entrance all the teachers stood around after lunch and gabbed. I wanted an audience of teachers for safety and survival. My plan was to whack him before he butchered me.
On my trip back from the hot dog stand I must have looked funny because I swung my arms back and forth, I clinched my fists hard, and tried to imagine how hard I could make one punch. When you know you’ll just get one punch at the greatest evil you have ever known, and then you will probably and in all likelihood you will be killed, or worse. Worse would be paralyzed, or stuck in a machine like children were stuck in with polio, called Iron Lungs. Or losing your eyesight, maybe becoming a Helen Keller. There were lots of worse, terrible and tragic. I couldn’t dwell on that, I had to get into the fight. It was the only way.
First I had to surprise Ronnie, like the Japs whacked us a Pearl Harbor. Get the big boy off guard, like on a nice Sunday morning after church an a big chicken meal, fly down from the clouds and dive bomb the bastard so that he smack Andrew Grain around any more. I would zero him out with my machine gun fists. I might only get one or two licks, but the first one would go to his face, leave scars, break a nose, put out an eye, take out all the front teeth. The second blow would be stomach, knock the wind out of his fleet of ships, his terror of the 7th grade sailing fleet. If he went down I would stomp him like the bug he is!
Mother tells me, “It’s not good to hate people Andrew.” But when the monster weighs about twice as much as you, and tortures and sadistically wants to kill you soon, well what’s a boy going to do? Kill first! If you don’t act he will wait for the teacher to leave the room and then splatter you all over the classroom. His audience is the fearful crowd of other students, and when the teacher returns and sees your dead body and blood scattered along the chalk board, and on the walls next to Abraham Lincoln’s picture, Lester will tell the teacher an police, “I was just sitting at my desk teacher and poor Andrew got up, very sick and throwing up, and he just went into a fit and splashed his innards all over my books, the walls and just everywhere. I feel awful that it happened, but he was so very sick. Everyone in the class saw it, and they will tell you exactly what I told you. I didn’t like him much, but then he’s dead.”
Kyle knew and I knew that Ronnie would get you as you walked home, he wanted to get you in school where kids could all see and talk about how scary he was, but if he really took offense, then there was always a bush he would jump out from, and beat you silly. It was not like I was Ronnie’s enemy, I was just the guy he was using to get laughs.
I walked up the steps to the school entrance after lunch. I had practiced fist bangs all the way to school. Everything was in place, all the teachers were gabbing. There were many more women teachers than men. Five men and thirty women, but some of those women could swing a mean paddle.
Ronnie was there to frighten me, near the door, but he had welcomed Kyle and now I was his prey. “Howdy Andy” he said with a big smile, like maybe he was my friend, it was Ronnie’s show for the faculty. The punches would happen down the hall. I had walked that hall before.
“Hi Ronnie,” I said in a cheery manner, like we were such close chums. Isn’t it nice for my friend to wait here for me to arrive? When you get only one smack, well you have to let fly and hope for total damage. Dad was right no one can save me but myself.
The whole group of teachers saw me do it. I was aiming at an eye, but his nose was the place my blow struck, blood gushed as from a open water main,
I think his head collided with the wall and that knocked him down. My blow alone could not have done that. I got sticky with his blood, then when he fell his arm was hurt. It was better than I ever imagined. He was even slow to get up, but the teachers were also slow except in words to rescue me and he did get up before they did anything but yell. “YOU TWO GET APART!” and “Andy you an Ronnie go directly to the Principal Hyders office! Of course I was not going anywhere in the hall without teacher protection.
Ronnie got up and got me in the head and stomach with his left hand, he was right handed, and thus no real damage to me, and I was feeling good about the whole thing when I walked to the office with Mr. Carter the gym teacher. Ronnie went to the school nurse/Liberian first and I waited in the principals office. Mrs. Clackler the school secretary said, “I heard all about it Andrew, and that boy has always been a bully.”
When I want in the Principal’s office he said, “I’ve already talked to Ronnie and I think his nose is broken, his parents won’t take him to a doctor until school is out, if at all. But everybody knows he bullies smaller boys, he got what was coming to him.”
Ronnie’s dad I guess did take him to a doctor, he had his nose bandaged and his arm in a sling. After that Ronnie didn’t hit anyone, and he wanted to be friends with me. I was not interested in the least.
Ronnie dropped out of school in the 9th grade. I guess he had trouble finding friends.