Danny and Tommy were walking quickly to the back side of the rural school house followed by at least a dozen of their classmates. It was Tuesday evening and teachers and parents were inside occupied with their own drama in a scheduled Parents and Teachers Association meeting. The meeting presented a perfect time for the ‘feud’ to finally be settled.
There actually was not a real feud. It was more like the ongoing torment of a young bully, Tommy, taunting his unwilling, fearful victim, Danny. The more Danny had tried to negotiate peace and friendliness with Tommy, the more ‘the bully’ came out of his tormentor. The other classmates didn’t help, but only aggravated matters by chanting together like a young schoolboys’ choir. They would chant things like, “Danny is a sissy, Danny is a sissy. If he had girl clothes then he’d be prissy.” This only served to embolden the bully and torment the victim.
Finally, Danny could take no more and had agreed to face his biggest fear. They would fight it out on Tuesday night during the PTA meeting while parents and teachers were occupied inside. All the boys, mostly 5th graders, had purchased hot dogs and sodas at the vendors so that no one would be concerned when they headed outside to enjoy their snacks. Danny had marched along with the group feeling like he was being carried along like a small log in a river stream.
The group of rowdy boys finally reached the open area behind the school that had been designated for ‘the rumble.’ They all took time to eat their hot dogs, however, before forming their ‘circle of doom.’ Tommy seemed to wolf his food down in his normal huffy, puffy manner. Danny, the smallest boy in the crowd, took his time slowly eating as though it was his ‘final meal’ before execution.
Something happened inside young Danny as he slowly and intentionally stretched out the eating of his hot dog. He suddenly remembered the characters he had played over the last few years in school plays and church drama skits. As he finished the last few bites of his hot dog, Danny began starring down his bigger than life opponent. As he starred, Danny began slowly pacing around Tommy as though he was sizing him up and choosing his moment. Danny was suddenly in character as one of the gladiators from eras past.
Feeling now like a young gladiator, little Danny threw the last bit of his food down and balled his fists. Knowing he would most likely lose this fight he had determined within himself to at least redeem his reputation with the other boys. Yes, he would wear his ‘whipping’ with pride. As he circled the bully with his fists raised and the best look of a fighter he could muster from memories of television and movies, Danny decided he would attempt the first punch.
With the circle of boys chanting, “Hit him, pop him good!” Danny made his move. Just before he could land the ‘first lick’ as the boys called it, Tommy suddenly ‘chickened out’ and stepped back. Now, the bully was the fearful one and began backing up and whining like a little wimp about fighting not being necessary to settle their differences. “We can just shake hands and agree to not cross each other’s path. I’ll be happy with that,” the bully now whined. Danny realizing that he was in a winning position without having to throw a single punch took a step back and lifted his chin. He magnanimously agreed while extending his open hand in friendliness to his past tormentor.
“Ah, man!” the young chorus cried as they watched the disagreement being settled without fisticuffs and wrestling on the ground. Someone cried that the concession stand was still open and the entourage headed back to the front of the school building to buy candy and gum. On this return trip, Danny, the smallest of the group, now felt larger than all the rest. Several slapped him on the back and congratulated him as the winner while the bully sullenly brought up the rear looking sad and dejected. Tommy’s reign of terror was over; not only with Danny, but with the rest of the boys as well.
-Donald R. Sansbury, 2013