Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Youthful Adventures - Of Fisticuffs and loose teeth

     You can probably tell just by looking at me, that I am not much of a fighter.  That is not to say, however, that I have not gotten into fights, and even won one. If I could recall them all, I daresay my record would look something like the Buffalo Bill's record this year, but I have to call one of mine a tie, so the comparison has to end there (for now).  Like most kids, all of my early fights were with my siblings.  I never really fought with my younger sisters, I did unmercifully tease and torment them, but we never duked it out.  With my older siblings, sisters and brothers alike, that was not true. 

I should remember more of these fights, but the brain has a way of letting you forget the ones you lost, and of keeping those few glorious victories intact in the gray cells. The biggest fight I remember losing to a sibling, was actually to my sister, Meter Maid.  Dad had thought it was a good idea to purchase boxing gloves for us one year to cut down on the trips to the doctor.  Meter Maid and I gloved up one day and I think it was the first punch she threw that knocked me out.  That's right, she hit me in the nose, and I toppled like a house of cards, and had to be revived by my brothers. In my defense she was 4 years older than me, and heavier.  I can say that because it is the truth, and she lives in Ithaca, so she can't hit me for it.  OK, it was only a few lbs heavier, but it's still pertinent.  She worked at Burger King at the time, so it was probably a Whopper fist that got me, but nevertheless, she put me to the ground with one punch.   She still brags about it to this day, the bully.

     I fought most, naturally, with the brother that was closest in age to me, and whom I shared a room with.  I haven't introduced him yet in the blog, but I am going to call him Brother Redface. He had a funny way of blushing or reddening when he was mad, frustrated, embarrassed, hot, or even cold, so my memories of him as a kid, always include red cheeks.  He won every fight we ever had, and there were many, except for the last one.  I was 13 or 14 at the time, and we both belonged to the junior organization of the Knights of Columbus, called the Squires.  The 2nd year I was in, I ran against my brother Redface for an office in the organization, and won.  He did not take it well.  He spent the rest of the meeting deliberately defying my authority and his actions eventually resulted in a pool stick, that belonged to the Knights, being broken.  I was unhappy, but not as unhappy as Redface, as I told him that he would have to pay to replace it.  It all boiled over on the way home.  We exited the building and headed into the alley beside it, me, my brother Ace, and Redface.  I was over-exerting my new found authority, Redface was getting in my face, and Ace was egging us both on.  I think Redface threw the first punch, but this time I was not rolling over.  Heretofore, his expectation of easily besting me would have been reasonable, as he had done it every time prior.  I wouldn't hit in the face or below the belt or even act too aggressively, but he would, guaranteeing my submission every time.  That night, however, was drastically different.  I was livid, and very quickly he found himself the recipient of several uppercut punches into his face, as I held his head down with one arm.  I'd heard talk of "blind rage" before, but I hadn't experienced it until that very moment.  Neither had my brother.  This went on for a while until by brother Ace broke it up, fearing the police would be coming.  We headed for home intending on finishing the fight in a more discreet location.  My hands were shaking both with excess adrenaline and with the fear of what Redface would do to me.  I didn't know how bad I had hurt him until we passed under a streetlight, and I saw his face.  It was bruised, swollen, and both eyes were blackened.
He wasn't coming out for round 2, not then, and interestingly enough, not ever again.  I seemingly punched the fight right out of him.  That single incident forever changed our relationship.  He would get mad, but after that night, would never raise his fist to me.  To this day I wonder how we both would have turned out if the fight had never happened, or gone his way.  I'll never know.  My brother Redface is deceased.  His story is one of tragedy, pain, a broken family and the loss of a promising life. It is also a story for another day.

 The next fight I had was just as one-sided as my previous one, unfortunately I was on the receiving end of the fists this time.  It all started innocently enough, on the soccer field at school.  Gym class had finished, and we were headed into the building, and I had yelled an obscenity at a friend of mine quite a ways ahead of me.  A bulky long haired Stoner in front of me, turned and inquired "What did you call me"?  Now, it was a simple misunderstanding, and I certainly had the verbal skills to talk my way out of this, but for some reason, I didn't.  I was just coming off from a big win, so I was a little cocky.  As I assessed him, I recognized him as one of the notorious "Fence Gang" a group of chain smoking thugs who skipped class, smoked cigarettes and more, and harassed kids who passed by them, like me, twice a day on my way to and from school.  (One of my High School English teachers regularly reads this blog, I'll bet sentences like that one, kill him).  I didn't deny the accusation and I accepted the fight, figuring I'd make quick work of his out of shape, lung blackened,  wheezing body.  That's when I learned that they lie to you in Health Class. He may have smoked but he had a lot of muscle, and within a few punches, he had me on the ground. He sat atop of me and leisurely landed punches to my face.  One of them knocked my two front teeth loose. After a few minutes, the gym teacher came and broke it up, and Bob the Fence Ganger, offered to meet me after school to finish the fight. I considered my options, including how I would look without front teeth and I declined, saying that I was fine declaring him the winner and better man.  We actually became a little closer because of the fight, I now could see him as something other than the stereotype, and he could see me as a punching bag.  We never became fast friends, but always acknowledged each other in the hall or on the street when we saw each other.  Weird, isn't it?

     The last fight I'll mention is the tie, and it goes back to the end of one of my High School years. A little background is in order.  Do we all have Arch Nemesis's in high school?  Someone that you love to put down to enhance your social position?  Circumstances and the social order of the High School had pitted me against one kid since Freshman year. His name was Flopping Phil.  I don't think his parents actually named him that, but most of my class called him that, after I made it up.  He had blond hair that was feathered and I think he had a slight lisp. I really didn't reach too high to find an Arch Nemesis, he was easy to pick on, no Lex Luthor to my Superman, more of a Mr. Mxyzptlk.  We both reveled in aggravating each other in every possible way, although our favorite way was to "burn" each others books. Now before you get all up in arms, "burning" books in this sense required no flames, you simply knocked the books out of the other person's hand when you passed them in the hall.  They then would be forced to pick them and all their contents up while you laughed and passed on by.  It was a harmless prank, but one we both practiced practically every day of high school.    Do you know the meaning of the word,  Serendipity?  For those readers of this blog that are out of the country, I apologize for it's use, as it apparently is one of the 10 hardest words to translate from English, nevertheless, it is the perfect word to describe the next scene, it was Serendipitous.  The school year was ending and I left class a little early for some reason or another and turned a corner and noticed Flopping Phil alone in the hallway in front of me.  He had every single book he owned trapped against his girlish hip, (he had cleaned out his locker that day)
and they were stuffed with papers. I found this picture
that is a nice approximation of the hallway in front of
him at that very moment.  It was long, shiny, and empty like this, but not for long.  He was a few yards down the hallway, so I accelerated quietly but quickly towards him, and just at the last minute, as he started to sense me, I hit all the books forward out of his grasp with a huge sweeping motion of my arm.  They were propelled forward with the motion and seemingly all went in different upwards trajectories.  I don't know if they really suspended in the air before they hit, but that's how I saw it at one point, each book poised in the air, yards apart from each other, crammed with papers.  Then they started to hit.  Each and every one landed like a grenade, papers were bursting and tearing from within, bindings were loosening and flapping, and it all happened in pockets before us.  As the last one hit, only I could appreciate how epic this particular "book burning" was.  The hallway was completely filled with paper, and looked like a city street after a ticker tape parade.  You could barely see the floor.  I looked over at Flopping Phil and immediately could tell that he was not as impressed.  He lunged at me, shoved me into a doorway with a class in session, and started to try and punch me.  He landed a couple, I hit back, but it was over as quick as it started as the teacher from that class pulled us both in, and made us sit through the rest of it until the bell rang.  I was fine with that, but remember Phil's possession's were strewn all over the hall, so he wasn't. By the time we were let out, the hall was full of people trampling on his books and papers.  This was the fight I call the tie, but in my mind it is a loss.  I couldn't take pleasure in watching people walk all over Phil's things, even if he was my Arch Nemesis.

     So I'll close this blog about fighting with these thoughts.  I won a couple, I lost most, I tied once, and now in retrospect, I think I lost them all.  I forever changed a relationship with a brother, I got my teeth loosened, and I humiliated a kid who was doing nothing other than walking down a hallway.  Maybe Meter Maid wasn't the bully in this story after all?  I did give up my pugilistic ways, and I'm proud to say, you can tell I'm not much of a fighter, just by looking at me. 

5 comments:

torcon said...

Great post Bill - action packed yet also filled with a range of emotion. Just out of curiosity what weight class held the toughest competition for you?? Thanks again for sharing!

Bill said...

It was the feather-haired weight class Tor, lol.

cdyarger said...

I liked the ending the best, that's the man I fell in love with and married!

Anonymous said...

Yes, correctly.

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