Tuesday, October 4, 2011

To Be Brave

When I was in the 6th grade and began having trouble keeping up with my school work in public school, my parents sent me to a private Christian school. The kids were nice at the new school and the classes were small. I didn’t have any trouble making friends. David was one of them. He didn't look like the other kids. His hair was short, cut close to the scalp. He wore flannel shirts with the sleeves rolled up past his elbows, tight jeans and tan suede combat boots. Hanging out of his back pocket was a red bandanna that swayed like a horse's tail when he walked.
On my first day, he came right up to me and put his fist close to my face. I thought he was threatening to beat me up.
"Do you know how I got these marks?" He pointed with his other hand to the back part of his fist. I had to look closely, but then I saw what he was referring to, four tiny holes lined up in a row and evenly spaced.
"No." I replied, relieved he wasn't going to hit me.
"A high school kid stabbed me with a fork." He explained.
Sure enough that's what the little holes looked like.
"Why did he do that?" He had definitely gotten my interest.
"I squirted him with catsup."
I could tell he was enjoying telling me about this, but he kept becoming quiet, waiting for me to ask him questions.
"Why did you squirt him with catsup?"
He continued. "I was sitting on a stool at the counter in the drug store right next to this guy. He was eating a piece of apple pie and Frank, the guy that worked the counter, had just brought me my hot dog.  I asked the guy if he could pass me the catsup, which was sitting right there in front of him. But he just kept on eating his pie like he hadn't heard me. I know he had, so I asked him again. I said, ‘Hey buddy pass me that catsup would you?’"
There was another long pause, which was my cue to ask another question. "Did he?"
"Nope, he just kept shoving pie in his mouth. So I said, ‘What’s the matter, are you deaf?’ and this got his attention. He looked over at me and said 'Get it yourself jerk'. But the catsup was all the way on the other side of him where I couldn't reach." Again David stopped and waited.
"What did you do next?"
"I got up, walked all the way behind him, grabbed the catsup and then around again to where I was sitting."
"Is that when you squirted him?" I asked this time without waiting for him to pause.
"No, not yet, first I slowly put catsup on my hot dog. Then I turned to him and in my nicest voice said, 'Hey buddy, here's some catsup for you,' and I squirted it all over his shirt." He smiled and kept looking right at me, I guess to see my reaction.
"Is that when he stabbed you with his fork?"
"Yep.He grabbed my arm while I was squirting him, slammed it down on the counter and jabbed the fork right there." He again pointed to the tiny holes on the back of his hand. I must have made a face because he laughed.
"Then what happened?"
It took him a while to answer. He was admiring his battle wound, moving his hand around until the light captured it at just the right angle. "I pushed him hard and he fell backwards off the stool and I ran like hell out of the drug store. By the time he picked his butt up off the floor, I was long gone."
I liked his story. I was amazed that after being stabbed by this big high school guy, he still had enough presence of mind to push him off the stool.
"Have you ever been in a fight?” David asked me.
I could only think of one incident. It wasn't really a fight. "One time, a kid at public school had a jar crammed full of grasshoppers. He was taking it around, showing it to everybody. I felt sorry for the grasshoppers. They could barely move in there. I asked him to let them go, but he refused, so I pushed him down, grabbed the jar, opened it and let the grasshoppers out."
David liked my story and told me that like him, I too was a warrior. But I didn’t really believe I was a warrior. I didn't mention that the kid was small and in the grade below me. I also didn’t tell him about the time a bigger kid punched me in the face at the public swimming pool and I was scared and spent the rest of the day hiding out to avoid him.
David said he was excited about a book he was reading. It was all about Vikings. They sailed around conquering other lands, fighting their enemies with axes and swords. “Can you imagine fighting some guy with a razor sharp axe or a sword?”
He looked at me as if I should respond, but then quickly added. “Now that is brave.”
David and I became good friends. We hung out together during recess for the rest of the school year. I loved listening to his exploits. When I was around him, I felt I could be brave too.

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