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Saturday, December 08, 2007

"Fight! Fight!"

I saw him last night. And let me tell you what is meant within that small, subtle sentence. I was sitting at a restaurant telling some very detailed story that required all of my concentration powers to the people at my dinner table, when he walks by. And all of Dothan, Northview High School, that teenage wasteland flashes by. For this person was the same person that I got sent to the local slammer for because of a sort of a skirmish we had back in our glory-dipped high school days. I immediately whisper to the girl next to me, “You see that man, right there? I got in a fist fight with him back in high school.”
She was skeptical, “Nah-ahh”.
“Yes, I tell you. I was arrested because of it.” My voice becoming audible to the other two ladies for whom I just met, that evening and whom it probably wasn’t the most impressionable thing to introduce yourself as…an arrested brawler in high school. Maybe amongst guys, but amongst women, it isn’t as impressive. Our conversation was an interesting glide, ranging from Church, to Voodoo, to Russia, to authors, and right in the middle of our delightful conversation about midgets, when I’m completely side-tracked by this large apparition from my past. Words slur and I cannot tell them about my summer’s visit to this fabled midget community up in Cincinnati.
I regain focus shutting this shadow that lurked among the hallways of Northview High School out and I finish with my anecdote before my confused audience.

But now that I am alone, the shadow drifts back and I sit and contemplate this nemesis from those locker-slamming, square pizza days. His name was Kip. He was tall. He was large. He was a complete duschbag. He was one of those fellows that was always in the main crowd, but never a prime component. If you catch my drift, the in-crowd was always his sense of identity, but the in-crowd never sensed his identity. But it was high school, most crowds are like that. The crowd exists on its own. The individuals who make up the crowd haven’t really found themselves. In Alabama, the in-crowd, is composed primarily of five criteria…A) You must drive a pick-up, or a nice sedan. B) You must wear ray-bans dangling backwards from around your neck. C) You must wear either Bass Pro T shirts or Polo. D) You must be able to carry a conversation about absolutely nothing. F) You must look down on and ridicule those that don’t fit the above criteria. It’s a simple formula and you find similar versions scattered throughout the high schools of this nation where wealth abounds on the same level as ignorance.

Well, I don’t have to announce to you that, I, for one, fell through these cracks of this criteria, and could care less about falling through them. I got sick of the senseless pressure, of the faceless boredom, the cow-like conformity, the blatant stupidity, that I would carry a likewise belligerent chip on my shoulder for these greek-hungy folks. At the time I didn’t see it. But I was very much like them in my own nonconformist defiance. It was all acknowledging the social pressure. Whether baaing along like these following sheep, or going intentionally against the herd, it was all very similar. -An acknowledgement of some trivial power that set ratings on your personal value. I railed against it so proudly, probably because I was more sensitive to it than all these drones put together.

At this time, I believed that there are a few things that a man should never suffer. These are an insult, contempt, arrogance, ridicule. If asked for a fight, then fight. If shown mockery, then mock back. When standing up for one’s self make sure you stand on the toes of the one is challenging. There was no worse sin than a coward. That was a chivalric age. It meant nothing for me to jeer back. To defy to the face anybody telling me how I should dress, or talk, or act. Let no man breathe a word against you. Repay it with a sharper reproof. Fear the threat of no one. (Unless, of course, they were black…and that’s a whole different ball game than the contention between silly white boys.)

I had come to clashes many times with this group, sometimes leading to almost a fist-flinging encounter, why only the week before I was in a fistfight with one of Kip’s best friend, Scott. I fought him outside the school. The only fight I’ve ever worn a leisure suit in, and cowboy boots. And poor Scott got to know the heel of one of those cowboy boots really intimately. The fight was pretty much a draw. He got more licks in (he threw the first punch); I got the best licks in thanks to the cowboy boots. Fortunately, the fight was hidden and we didn’t get caught in our violent disagreement. If the fight had been discovered it warranted an immediate arrest. Our school had a funny procedure about school fights. If punches were thrown, then the police showed up, handcuffed the participants, and sent them downtown.

A week later, I get into another scuffle this time with Kip. The prelude to this contention occurred at lunchtime. I was sitting outside with a group of my friends. He was standing the opposite corner outside with his friends. Not too much time passed before the lurching idiot starting picking up pebbles and rocks, and generally throwing them in our area. Now, my crowd was not an athletic, testy bunch. I guess it will do the story justice by admitting that at high school I hung out with the upper academic strata. In other words, the nerds. Why I hung out with them when I couldn’t ever remember where my textbooks were, nor recall what was talked about in classes do to my frequent inclination of skipping (I think I hold the record for the most skips while still passing), is a great mystery. -Though I probably read just as much if not more of the things that I found interesting. But nevertheless, I liked these nerds.

Meanwhile, the pebbles being thrown by Kip would skip and bounce across the pavement. And I, feeling that it was a great injustice for this jerk to think that it is perfectly acceptable to throw rocks at people who are different than him. I look over at my friend Brandon Beeson who was about to be finished munching on an apple. The apple core gleamed notoriously in the crux of the moment. Perhaps, I felt like an irate Adam asking for the chance to be a god in the form of an apple in that one moment. But probably not a thought for theology was thrumming inside my head; only the vexed pulsed beat of vengeance. I asked gently if he would let me have that apple core after he was finished with it, and after the last bite, he handed it to me. And so my great trespass began with a reach for this fruit. Then I reached back and hurled it with all the gusto and righteous indignation that had been swelling in my arm ever since I entered school. I was never a star pitcher in baseball, and I had never intended a direct hit with this throw. The throwing of the apple was meant as a gesture of defiance, not as a real missile. But wouldn’t it be something that my launch was a bull’s eye. Kip was not looking when the apple core made its introduction and meaning clear by smacking his shoulder and then flying up spinning in a wild ricochet and slapping him right in the face. It is a law of physics which Newton can very well attest to, with apples, that that which hangs in weighty balance will one day fall. And with that apple falling the entire pent-up gravity of anger and annoyance had likewise dropped.

He began to rush at me in rage, and I seeing the challenge before me, rushed towards him. We met half way, chest to chest. And several pushes were instigated. But then the bell rung for lunch to be over, and we both knew that in the back of our minds that if one of us swung then it was the handcuffs and a backseat ride in a blue car. So we both stood there waiting for the other. No movement was made on either side. The lunch area began to disperse. My friends all began to go back to their classrooms in a different direction. My direction back to my class lay in the same direction that Kip and his friends lay. The halls were nearly empty, and all the while Kip with two of his buddies were taunting me, every now and then a push was made. My temper level was meeting its threshold.

One of these pushes, I tried to counter by tripping the big oaf, but Kip was taller with longer legs. So he just stepped out of the counter and then in an act of bullying, had the notion of grabbing my collar while pushing me against a wall and then holding me there. But the wall he wanted to pin me against was no wall of brick, it was made out of glass. The glass immediately shattered and in that instant both of us froze. Oh uh, we broke something. We were probably going to get into trouble. He still had a hold of my collar but was staring at me like a deer in headlights. In a split second, I knew that trouble was already coming, so why not make the best of it. So I swung the first punch landing it firmly on his jaw, though not planting it powerfully, not being at the correct angle to really deliver a powerhouse.

He let go of my collar and he next swung at me, but I saw it coming and ducked. I, then, grabbed a hold his collar and gave him 2 swift kicks in the crotch. Next, I pushed him across to the lockers on the other side of the broken window, and then jumped up (and I can’t believe I did this) and kicked him in the chest. By this time, the hall was crowded with half the school. Someone had yelled “Fight! Fight!” and the barren halls were now filled with people. One of Kip’s friends pulled me off of him. And then teachers came and we were escorted to the office. We each were separated and given a sheet of paper to write down our account of what happened. And I had a hay day writing this long elaborate story, staring me as this wronged underdog usurping these corrupt bullying powers. The police showed up, handcuffed me, read me my rights. And then gave me that ride downtown. In the back of his car, I looked down at the shirt that I was wearing, the back of which had several tears from broken glass, and I read the word “Jesus”. It was a youth group T-shirt. “Lovely,” I thought as I made my way down to the headquarters for a photo shoot and an hours stay, until my Dad came and bailed me out.

That was the fight. The account of the whole incident spread like wildfire and when it finally came back to me, it had been improved quite a bit for dramatic effect. Namely, that Kip picked me up and hurled me through the glass window. I get up bleeding from jagged pieces of glass that had cut up all my skin and then run and perform this acrobatic flying Karate kick back through the broken window and strike Kip right in the chest. He flies back and hits the lockers and falls down completely knocked out. Oh, I miss high school and all the embellishment.

So, last night, I’m sitting there. And all of this story runs by as I glance up and I see Kip. He was working at the restaurant I was at. And later, I discovered that he was the bartender on the other side of the place. He never saw me. But what’s a guy to do? I guess to be absolutely honest, I felt like going up to him and saying “Let me buy the bartender a drink and let us drink to Northview, to days gone by, to a good fight every now and then, and let us hope with the clinking of our glasses, that this time the glass doesn’t break.”


Anonymous Colonel Sartoris said...

Hey, I just got your message from when you were in Tallahassee. I was in Arkansas at the time. Too bad, man. JKE

10:49 AM  
Anonymous the ruskie said...

The Colonel,
That's alright. There just may be other times. And who knows whose weddings we'll both just happen to show up at.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Will said...

The embellishment makes you sound kinda like Chuck Norris. Flying karate kick in boots. Only Chuck would have deftly moved out of the way as the bully crashed through the glass.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous the author said...

Well, a young, inexperienced Chuck Norris probably would have gotten some broken glass on him. You have to begin somewhere.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Damien said...

Chuck Norris was crippelingly shy & got into martial arts because he had a equally crippeling stuttering problem. He did start somewhere.

12:38 PM  
Anonymous the author said...

Yes, but then there's Mr. Rogers who started out Navy Seals....but ended up wearing sweaters and slippers and talking to puppets on a children's show.

2:44 PM  

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