December 10, 2010 by Manny Wordsmith
It was a drab fall day and the last recess of the week.
I was alone, but completely content on throwing my four-square ball into this awkwardly shaped, giant yellow container. It had four holes in it that spat the ball out at random times. I can’t really explain this monstrosity, but imagine a big clothes basket with 4 holes, propped on a pole high above you. Yeah I didn’t really see the use either.
But there I was, locked in my own world, enjoying the cool fall air and ignoring all the other kids that found it fun to tease and make fun of me. I was probably wearing some embarrassing combination of clothing that made me an easy target (That was the typical case). My hair was probably a rat’s nest of clipper scrapes and curly and dismal distractions. Something that I had gotten used to by then. But I was like 6 or 7 though, so to me I was fine. Only old pictures bring these awful descriptions to light. So I blame my mom. Because when it came down to it I’m really not sure if my mom understood what cool was. And I know 3rd graders can’t possibly be cool in 3rd grade, but the other kids must have had something fly. My mom dressed me like a Dr. Seuss character, which says a lot. She really took those books she read to me literally. That would also explain all the eggs and ham she fed me…
Anyway, there I was on the playground having a little solo time, probably pretending that the other three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were playing with me(I was Michelangelo of course!), when some big 5th grader came out of no where and grabbed my ball.
Now I wasn’t bothering anyone. I was just fantasizing that me Donatello, Leonardo, and Raphael were playing some aerial four-square, while April O’Neil took pics for Channel 6 news. Not a threat to anyone. But I guess a token black kid playing alone calls out to be bullied.
So this heavyset kid, who obviously lacked the proper attention in his home life, rolls up to me huffing and puffing, and snatches my ball. No words or discussion, he just takes it and grills at me. He was just some roaming bear, grabbing up pic-a-nic baskets, assuming his size would make others yield to his insatiable hunger. I didn’t like bullies. So me being the kung-fu master that I was, I chased him down to retrieve my stolen property. Of course back then I had no idea how to “size people up”. I mean Bruce Lee never did, and he defeated Kareem Abdul-Jabbar! So I felt confident and fearless like usually. But the whole ‘me against the world’ attitude went too far this day. Because time I caught up with him he decided to turn around and throw my own ball right at me.
Plastic can hurt a lot if it’s round, filled with air, and thrown at the right speed…quick note
The ball hits me in the face and I go flying back. My whole world was flipped and I was looking at the crimson cloudy sky as wood chips chaffed and poked my back. At this point you would think I was done or the situation itself was done, but it wasn’t. To add insult to injury this guy decides to mount me and slap me in the face. Light at first and accompanied by giggling, but then the hits got harder and the playful laughs faded.
All this is going on wide open for all to see, but no one screams or yells. I can’t even push out a cry because this fat son of a bitch is on top of my chest. I held back the tears even though I wanted to release the water works. Even more so because earlier that week I was called a “Tar Baby” by one of my classmates. I didn’t even know kids could be harsh at the age of 7. So it was hard holding back a weeks worth of pain. I could tell by his piercing blue eyes that he wanted me to break. But luckily I didn’t have to.
Because out of nowhere and I mean NOWHERE, my cousin, my savior, my best friend and 5th grader tackles the rotund bully off of my heaving chest. They both go flying into a tumbling mound of dirt, sand and twigs. But my cousin Jason stands first. And before the bully can even orientate himself my cousin is already on top of him, laying down a series of punches I can only describe as ‘fluid’, ‘strong’, and ‘relentless’. I slowly get up to get a better look, but the bully was already done, pleading for Jason to stop. So Jason stops, but not before he grabs my ball and throws it as hard as he can in the kid’s blubbery fat face.
He breaks and the water works flow.
Jason recovers the ball for me, hands it to me, rubs the top of my head, and says,
“It’s all good little cuz”
and walks away into the sunset like John Wayne or Shaft or something. It was the most incredible thing I had ever seen. I have yet to see a UFC fight that rivaled my cousin’s speed, accuracy, and heart. If he never shown up that day I would have been a mess. I was already half broken from the racist kids, so the beaten would of ended it. No one cared about me as much as he did that day. He even got suspended for me. And he didn’t even sweat doing the time. That’s unconditional love right there fam.
So big ups to Jason Shegog…my superhero. I miss you. Happy B-Day and RIP big cuz.