Poor Little Rich Kid – by Skip Sams
“The next time somebody throws a fist at you, you go for blood!” I was completely and utterly awe stricken. This was coming from the austere lips of my mom. My sweet mother, the same person who taught me to turn the other cheek, to kill them with kindness, and to pray not punch, was now not only giving me permission, but demanding that I fight the good fight. She didn’t mean it in the spiritual sense, which was evident. Principal Downer was desperately looking for his bottom jaw on the checker tiled floor when my mother viciously reached across his desk, clawing at the Notice of Suspension letter with her long red nails, the same gentle nails that used to caress my scalp when I’d lay my small head in her cozy lap while Daddy preached his sermons on Sunday morning. Her digits sliced threw the crumpled letter as though she were making cole-slaw out of cabbage. I sat squeamishly in my chair not knowing if I should cry or cheer, but I didn’t have to sit for long. With one swift move she grabbed me by the arm while throwing the shredded particles of paper directly into Frowner Downers fear stricken face.
My soft spoken mother was extricating me from the den of doom as though we were the stars in a James Bond flick. As she reached for the door knob our eyes met. She looked at me with a pleased smirk and her lips parted slightly as if she were to say to me “now watch this” before she made her grand exit by getting the classic last punch of her own by slamming the door. I was anticipating the sound of the wooden door crashing through the frame and caprioled prematurely and tottered into the hall, my mother’s grip wrenching tightly to the blue and green plaid shirt we had bought at J C Penney’s the weekend before. The vibrations of the seams snapping apart were much louder than the sound of the rip causing all three of us to tremble with great trepidation. Realizing that she was going to lose the battle to the awkward silence, Mother extracted me off the floor while waving the sleeve of the lacerated garment in the air as if claiming her victory. “Look here, Mr. Downer! Is this what you would say is appropriately dressed for school?”
I’ve never been a morning person. I loved my room in the basement because the only windows in my room lead to the back porch which was covered by a roof that extended eight feet from the house. Even on the sunniest of mornings my room was a dark cave which sheltered my eyes from obnoxious beams of light that used to pierce through my eyelids when my room was next to my parents upstairs. But this day was different. I had new bell-bottom corduroys, shoes, and a shirt I had unpinned the night before. My mom instructed me to wash the shirt before I wore it, but I didn’t want to lose the department store scent. I couldn’t remember the last time I wore something that smelled so new, and I knew that it would be a very long time before I would be able to inhale the aroma again, so I didn’t dare let it soak in the suds.
I was running up the stairs to the kitchen when my mother opened the basement door to perform her morning ritual of banging on the paneling to awaken me. What my eyes had missed, my ears paid for dearly. “Wow! You are not only up and at ’em, but are very handsome too.” I tried to hide my smile as though I was not affected by her words of kindness, but I could tell by how hot my face was that I was blushing as brilliantly as I was dressed. I grabbed two napkins at the breakfast table; one for my lap and tucked the around my collar to make sure my shirt would be unblemished before arriving to school. At lunch, I did the same.
Ronnie Langley took the opportunity to point out that only a mommy’s boy would be wearing a napkin around his neck, unless he was just a plain ol’ sissy boy. I had heard only a few curse words in my life. I heard “damn” while watching “Gone With The Wind” and though I wasn’t sure what it meant, I knew it was only said by adults who weren’t real Christians when they got real mad. I had read “shit” on the men’s room stall at the mall and figured out that it was just a bad way to say poop. “Tits And Ass” was a song in A Chorus Line which my parents took me to see for my twelfth birthday, when I was old enough to understand that it was okay for characters on stage to say such things if it is for the good of the show, but it was to never be repeated by me inside or outside of the theater. It was at the last swim meet that my parents allowed me to participate in that I heard the “f” word from one of the high school divers yelling across the pool at a group of guys with hooded sweatshirts on the other side of the fence. I had no idea what it meant, but I knew the instant Ronnie’s opinion drizzled over my ego, this word described Ronnie better than any other. I had often got in trouble for talking too much in class, but at least then I was consciously speaking. Though said as a gentle exhale that came out no louder than the quietest whisper, the word echoed above the yips and yaps of all the lunchroom youngsters as loud as Wolf-man howling at a full moon on Halloween. “Fucker.”
Even when I performed in the talent show in front of the whole school I didn’t have as much attention as I did at this second, and this wasn’t even a third of the student body.
In unison, the spectators all cheered. “Fight!”
What? Where? A swarm of excited pre-teenagers jumped over tables and began to run toward me from all directions. It looked as though they were all going to run into each other head on with me at the center, but an invisible force field protected me by holding them all a few feet back. I was spinning in circles looking for a way out, but the there I was, imprisoned by a mob of spectators who were not leaving until they got their fight. I was reminded of the stories in Sunday school of the first Christians being thrown in the Roman coliseum to fight the lions when I saw Ronnie enter the ring. Twice my size, Ronnie was Buckeye Junior High’s
Athlete of the Year for the last 2 years, being a champion in basketball, volleyball, high diving, soccer, and of course, was captain of the softball team. The kids began to chant their pleas to fight louder and louder as Ronnie’s muscles flexed over me, casting a shadow of doubt that I would make it band practice next period, let alone make it home in one piece. Ronnie’s physique was so defined that most every heterosexual boy would kill to have it, or any boy for that matter. My puniness was of no comparison to this warrior of destruction facing me, let alone the fact that I was forbidden to fight. As I began to try to push a dent through the wall of bodies that surrounded me, I saw Ronnie’s long fingers reach around the right side of my head and clawing my face while pushing me to the floor. There I lay on the ground looking at my reflection through the long lashes of the bad guy when the siren from the bull horn sounded followed by Frowner’s squeaky voice. “Back to lunch everyone or I’ll be handing out detention slips for dessert!”
My parents had a strict rule that if any of their children were punished in school, we would get the same punishment at home. No questions asked. I was afraid for my life when I was handed the sealed envelope that contained a notice of suspension and told to head home immediately.
“The bus doesn’t come for three more hours, Mr. Downer. Can’t I just wait under the awning?”
“It is school policy that all suspended students must vacate the property at once! And don’t think that you can sneak back later to get on the bus either. I will be watching!”
It was a nice day out, so I didn’t think I would mind the long walk so much. It gave me a lot of time to think not only about what had happened, but what was going to happen when I got home. Surely I would be punished severely. I expected it would be the belt, yet that wouldn’t be fair because I hadn’t been paddled. Would they send me away and suspend me from the family? Maybe to one of those Christian homes for orphans. That would be too good to be true, living in a house full of emotionally deprived boys my age who needed a buddy to show them how to feel, and in turn they could show me how to be a boy, or at least defend me when I didn’t make the cut. I wouldn’t be in this mess if I had brothers who would have cared enough to teach me to be tough and spent less time flicking me in the back of the head, wrestling me to the ground while demanding I call “uncle”.
I went directly to my room when I arrived home. I was afraid to show my face not only in fear that the principle had called my parents, but Ronnie had left claw marks from my chin to above my right eyebrow. I pretended to be sick when Mom called us all for dinner, but my brother, Rex, narked me out and was proud to be the one to deliver the letter which I had hidden under my pillow. I was quite surprised that my father didn’t come after me with the belt when he heard the story. Rex is a grade ahead of me, and though his lunch was the period before mine, he had heard about the so-called fight of the semester in the hallways. “Everyone was saying how he ran like a girly-girl.” My father looked at me square in the eye with bewilderment. “Is this true, boy?” How was I supposed to answer that one? Was he asking if I refused to fight or if I ran like a girl? If I said yes, he might find it in his heart to be proud that I did what I learned in Sunday school and turned the other cheek, but if I said no to running like a girl, I might get in trouble for lying because maybe I did have an effeminate swing to my hustle. I knew I was in trouble when my mother came over and grabbed my by the chin, turning my head so that I was facing her. She was looking at me square in the face, yet I was doing everything I could to avoid eye contact. “Jack, have you ever heard of such a stupid thing? A boy being suspended for being involved in a fight in which he didn’t even lift a finger? It is obvious by this hand print on his face that he was taken from behind.” This was a miracle. God may not be letting me go live with the orphans, but He had answered at least part of my prayer. No one has even mentioned the “F” word. Did Rex not hear this part? Was it not in the letter? I thought to myself for a moment that maybe God didn’t hear the vulgarity. Maybe He had pity on me. Just maybe He agreed that Ronnie was the mother of all f-ers. This was definitely a God thing that taught me the power of prayer does work.
The next morning in Downer’s office, my parents and I listened to him rattle on about how most of the kids in this school were children of blue collar workers. Many were lucky if they were able to get shoes that fit. He just kept rambling on about how he himself had to overcome such cruelties of poverty in his own life. I still don’t understand why Mom felt the need to explain that even though she and Dad owned their own business that they could barely make ends meet themselves. Downer just kept on about how it was good that people were successful, they ought not to take advantage of those less fortunate. “It is unkind for your son to show off your wealth by parading himself around in new clothes.”
“That is the problem? That is how you justify some other brat beating on my son?”
It was then that she declared those divine words that will forever ring in my ear as the most heavenly song I’ve ever heard, “go for blood”. As we stumbled out of the office, I saw my enemy sitting there all alone. I dared not speak and tried to get my mother out of there before she noticed. As we were nearing the main entrance, we heard Downer’s secretary invite his next appointment into the office. “Come in Veronica. Where are your parents?”
My mother looked at me with a look of angered pity. “You never told me that Ronnie was a girl!” I looked at her straight in the eye and gave it right back to her. “You never told me that we were rich.”
copyright 2007 Skip Sams