Most everyone in the whole wide world has experienced the wrath of a bully. I will never understand why bullies decide to be bullies. Is there some kind of membership or secret society to join? Is there a handshake or signal to greet other bullies? You can stand up to them, tell a parent or adult or ignore them. I tried all three and none of them stopped this one particular bully. In my case, the bully tormented me for years, but on some occasions I was able to stop him. This is the story of one time when he got more than he expected.
Richard Mahoney was the one kid on the block that I thought was raised by a pack of wolves. The kid was unpredictable like an animal. He was bigger and would torment all those who were smaller and weaker. Unfortunately, I was one of his victims. He lived with his mother, stepfather and his grandma. The way the other neighbor kids viewed it, Richard could do no wrong as long as the grandma was around. Richard and I would be playing just fine, then he would lose his temper and he would proceed to physically and mentally torment me. My arm would get pummeled by punches for not playing GI Joes according to his plan. If GI Joe didn't obey orders, I would get lambasted and beaten by Richard the drill sergeant. I would yelp in pain then the grandma would tell me to be keep the noise down.
I don't know why I took so much abuse from this mean dude; I even tried getting other kids to knock some sense into him. I often asked my brother Mark to perform this duty. Mark was the self-proclaimed king of wrestling on the block. Every kid feared him because he lived for wrestling and to take on all challengers all at one time. It was a regular occurrence for him to throw down mattresses and pads and take on as many kids as possible.
Mark studied the dubious art of professional wrestling, and not the boring kind you learn in school. We're talking about the entertaining and borderline real style on television every night. He knew all the wrestler's moves and their status of either being a "good guy" or a "bad guy." A wrestling match with Mark usually involved getting punched and choked with an assortment of submission holds. Mark's specialty move was to spin you into a dizzy stupor then body slam you to the ground. This signified the end of the match and a warning to stay down on the ground. Mark body slammed Richard many of time, but I started to think that this only made things worse for me. If Richard got body slammed I was sure to get bullied next he got me alone. I was safe if Richard was playing in a group situation because he would be ganged up on if he pulled any dirty tricks.
A group of us would often play with toy squirt guns. It was a one hot summer day and we gathered to have a squirt gun fight. Steve Shawn, the neighborhood toy gun collector, had brought an assortment of artillery. Richard and I had our eyes on the same weapon, a pistol with a very large water compartment. We both strongly insisted on having that weapon. I couldn't back down to Richard in front of the neighborhood army. Richard tried to strong-arm the weapon from me. We struggled to the ground and rolled on the grass and I momentarily got Richard's grubby hands off of the gun. Then the unexpected happened; the gun came down on Richard's head. His head was hard like a watermelon. I guess I really smacked him good because he immediately loosened his grip and stopped wrestling. He was holding his head and squirming on the ground. We all stared in silence. Richard got up and ran home, leaving drips of blood on the sidewalk. I was horrified. Steve Shawn immediately announced,
"It was Richard's fault and he deserved it."
Others agreed. I guess he did deserve some sense knocked into him, but I wish I didn't split his head open.
I got a sick feeling in my stomach. even if it was Richard's fault, you just don't pistol-whip your neighbor. I panicked and ran home and I couldn't help but notice the blood drops leading to his house. I ran inside my house to the bedroom knowing this wasn't over. I actually felt bad for Richard, I hoped his brains didn't spill out. I expected the worse. Not only was I probably going to get punished by my parents, but also the wrath of Richard was lurking into my future. Even worse, his Grandma was going to lose her mind.
If the Grandma was going to come over and lecture my parents, then I was going to have to apologize to Richard. It was only a matter of time before I was going to have to take my medicine. Richard was going to go ballistic on me when he got me alone. It took about an hour before Grandma came over and gave my parents the lowdown. I stayed in my room while the conference was going on. I tried to read their lips but the words were undetectable. The meeting took about five minutes with both sides departing on what looked like peaceful terms. This put me at some ease. Eventually my Dad came into my room to give me the verdict. One year of hard labor and to be Richard's best friend was probably the worst I could imagine.
My Dad was reasonably calm with no sense of anger in his face. Now I was completely confused. I crack the neighborhood bully over the head with a toy pistol and I don't get punished. This sounded perfectly logical in my mind, but did it to my Dad? He diplomatically told me to go apologize to Richard and then left the room, no yelling and no solitary confinement.
I momentarily thought I was home free, a quick apology and I was out of there. Then a warm nervous feeling engulfed my stomach. I have to go face to face with Richard, cracked-open-watermelon head Richard. I should have asked for solitary confinement. I thought my death was certain; he would go berserk if he saw my face. I guess my Dad knew what he was doing when laid down this punishment.
I decided to wait until another day when Richard's blood stopped boiling. I would stay in my room until this episode passed away. I had enough toys in my room to keep me entertained for t least a week. Just as I began digging out some Hot Wheels to play with, I hear my Dad's voice, "Come out and apologize to Richard, right now!" My Dad's voice of reason suddenly disappeared to be replaced by voice of the unsympathetic.
I made the slow death walk to Richard's house while bugles played Taps. I tried to imagine the worst outcome, a big black eye and a fat lip. The best outcome would be that he was under heavy sedation and he was unable to perform an act of violence. I made my way up to door stoop. His porch was overgrown with shrubs and wildflowers giving it that spooky movie effect. I rang the doorbell and waited for the monster to appear. I waited a few seconds but there was no response, one more ring and I was out of there. Better yet I could just leave now and say that nobody was home. Just as I came to that decision the door opened. My body was tense as a guitar string. I looked up to see that it was Richard's mother.
Richards's mother was the extreme opposite of Richard’s Grandma. She was nice and sweet like a TV mom. She greeted me with the same warmth and pleasant manner just as before the pistol beating. I immediately felt a little safer. How could Richard beat me in front of his mom? If it were the Grandma, she would have held my arms while Richard knocked my block off.
Richard was asked to come to the door. I heard him lift his body out of a vinyl chair and rustle himself towards the door. There he stood, with a patch on his head. Richard had a flat top haircut so I could clearly see the taped on patch. His eyes met mine, they looked red and watery. I suppose he balled his eyes out and contemplated my death at the same time. I said hi, sorry and how it was an accident and how he could have the gun next time in one long breath. He said nothing; he just stared at me with a blank expression. The silence lasted a few seconds before his mom told him to respond. He looked at her and sniffled. Under the lowest voice tones I ever heard emitted from his mouth, he said, "yeah okay." Silence again grasped the moment. Mrs. Mahoney dismissed us both and we went our ways.
I knew this was just the start of a war. On the walk home I knew I had to go into hiding for at least two months, or for most of the summer. I also thought about letting Richard take his anger out on me, but deep down I knew Richard wouldn't be satisfied with only one beating. This would certainly go on all summer long.
As days passed, I stayed inside to play with all of my toys. A few visitors from the neighborhood came by to show their support for what I had done. They assured it would be okay to go outside and they would protect me from Richard. I thought about it for a few minutes and took the guys up on their offer.
For weeks things were back to normal, in fact I was a hero for a short period of time. I didn't see Richard that often in those weeks, just here and there and going on trips with his folks. The attention must have gone to my head because I was feeling fearless of Richard. Now I know how Mafia bosses feel with a group of bodyguards to protect them.
Richard began hanging out on his front porch to watch the neighborhood action. I loved the fact that he wasn't playing with us. I realized if he was asked to play that would be an end to my well being. He looked like he was thinking of ways he was going to destroy me. He was breaking me down with his cold stares. I was no longer fearless; the reality of being beaten was overtaking my thoughts.
The day finally came with Richard met me alone. I walked outside one day to the wonderful sunshine of a summer morning. I looked over at Richards' house, like I habitually did those days and didn't see him sitting on the porch. That thought always put me at ease and allowed me to play with joy and reckless abandon. I wanted to ride my bike over to a friend’s house down the street. We were going to ride our bikes through the orchards, were there was unlimited amounts of trails and hills to explore.
I was rolling down the driveway on my stingray bicycle when I felt a tug on my back seat bar. I quickly turned to find Richard hot on my tail; he had a strong hold on my bike. I knew he would throw me down if I didn't bale out. I jumped off leaving my bike with Richard, which caught him off guard. He stumbled and fell on top of the bike, but only to rise immediately to his feet. He made a quick lunge at me with his hands landing on my chest. I fell backward with great anticipation of hitting the concrete. It seemed as though he was on top of me before I even was on the concrete. He was yelling, slapping and slugging with unbridled glee, which I had no way of stopping. I just tried my best to block some of the blows. I just wanted him to ask me to beg for forgiveness, and then it would all end. I had no way escaping his power; he was in complete domination of my poor meek soul.
I wasn't saying my last prayers just yet, but they were answered when I felt the weight of Richard lifted from my body. God had intervened against Goliath. My brother had grabbed Richard by the shirt collar, lifted him up and tossed him. To Mark this was just another routine wrestling move you did to save your tag team partner. Richard was back up on his feet fast with venom spewing from his fangs. He was jabbering about how I did him wrong. Mark would not hear any of this baloney; he proceeded to put Richard in a headlock. He gave him a nuggie rub on the head and pulled his underwear so far up his that it looked like a parachute on his back.
I guess that's what it took to calm him down; it always seemed to work on me. Richard had that look again, where he had to fight back the tears. Mark warned him if he ever touched me again, he was going to really clobber him and his Grandma. I couldn't believe my ears, this was too good to be true. For the first time Richard was speechless. He retreated quickly and silently back to his home.
Later that summer, Richards's family moved across town. Unfortunately, he went to the same school as me and I no longer had the luxury of having Mark protecting me. Richard continued to harass me for a few more years until I grew a little taller. I eventually was able to not back down from him. I now look back and wonder what happened to him because all bullies eventually get a large dose of bad karma. Like in wrestling when a good guy overcomes all the dirty tricks pulled on him to manage a body slam on the bad guy that ends the match.