Shall we fight or flee?

lonely playground (ii)

This afternoon, as the Son and I patiently waited to get on the bus, we witnessed two women almost come to blows over who got on first.

I know I should have taken advantage of the situation and turned it into a teaching moment (forget the fact that the Son turns 23 this year) but instead, the words that came out of my mouth were: I was in a fight once.

The year was 1970 something.

It was a time when Mary Jane platforms and bell bottoms were all the rage.

It was also a time when fighting after school was a way of life.

Every day, my sister and I would go to school fearing it would be “our turn.”

Like candidates coming of age in the Hunger Games, we would fearfully approach the playground, all the while praying no one would “call us out.”

Calling out: The act of being singled out to fight.

Tentatively, we would walk toward the monkey bars, careful not to make eye contact with any of the bullies, and climb the metal bars that also filled us with dread.

Nevertheless, the fear of being a “callee,” far exceeded the fear of breaking a limb.

Day after day, a fight would take place after school; the result of someone having been “called out.”

And day after day, we’d quickly walk past the sanguine crowd that gathered to witness the fight.

Like Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, two contenders would duke it out until a victor was crowned.

Participation didn’t involve bravery, skill, or cunning.
It simply involved the will and determination to be the last one standing.

Not an easy feat for a nine-year old, but these were the 70s, a time when these “clandestine” activities were ignored by the administration.

One afternoon, as I made my way to my sister’s classroom, I heard the whispering.

Seeing my sister’s face, I knew she had won the lottery of being called out.

“Who?” I asked her.
“Russell,” she whispered.
I couldn’t stifle my horrified gasp.

Russell was one of the meanest kids in school and his winning record was attributed to his considerable girth.

We slowly made our way to the playground, unable to escape the murmurs of “It’s her. Russell called her out.”

I thought of going to the Principal’s office to alert him of the carnage that would soon take place. But my sister wouldn’t allow it.

“If I don’t do this, I’ll have a target on my back until we finish elementary school.”

Sadly, I knew she spoke the truth.

Timidly approaching the playground, my sister was unprepared for Russell’s formidable pounce.

Like an overweight panther, he leaped out and circled her.
Preparing to come in for the kill, he cracked his knuckles.

His side kick, a scrawny boy with greasy hair named Tim Finch, egged the crowd on.

“Fight, fight, fight!”

As the crowd got larger, I became more nervous.

Russell, unperturbed by the noise, lunged again.

Artfully dodging his punch, my sister ran.

And that’s when I saw Tim Finch do something I’m sure he’s regretted to this day–he pulled my sister’s hair.

I saw her delicate features flinch in pain.

Throwing my book bag on the ground, I rolled up my sleeves.

I quickly approached the fight circle.

Russell and Tim were about to discover the power of team work.

Giving me a “thumbs up,” my sister threw her small body against Russell’s belly.

He quickly recovered and grabbed her head.

She kicked him in the shin.

I kneed Tim Finch in the stomach, and like a rabid monkey, jumped on Russell’s back.

Russell spun wildly, attempting to dislodge my arms which were tightly wound around his thick neck.

In the meantime, my sister took hold of his shirt collar and gave it a hard yank.

Within seconds, Russell’s shirt had ripped top to bottom, leaving him exposed to the crowd of instigators.

Silence filled the playground.

Russell, looking down at his bare torso, attempted to hold his shirt together.

Everyone started to laugh.

Running, he exited the playground, never once looking back.

Amidst the cheering, my sister and I picked up our backpacks and started for home.

We weren’t overjoyed.
We didn’t feel triumphant.
We didn’t feel like winners.

We were just two individuals who had exposed a mean kid for what he was–a bully.

Many decades have passed since the Russell incident, yet now and then, my sister and I will remeniss over what transpired that day and laugh.

Not at what happened to Russell, but at how we successfully pulled off a “David and Goliath.”

Yes, we could have walked away.
We could have tattled.

But at the time, faced with what we believed were life or death circumstances, we had exercised self preservation.

While it is not my intention to condone bullying or fighting, I am still a firm believer that there are times you have to do whatever it takes to survive.

Fighting over who gets on the bus first?
Not one of them.

Happy Thursday, friends!



34 thoughts on “Shall we fight or flee?

  1. What a great story, Bella! There are those times when we need to stand up for ourselves and not back down. Today, more kids than ever, it seems, are being bullied because they are taught to tattle, not to stand up for themselves. Thank you for bringing back memories of my own childhood. :)

    1. Martha, I am delighted you liked the story! Indeed, we have to stand up for ourselves! This is true for both children and adults. Of course, it’s not always an easy thing to do, and we must tread carefully but it can be done! I’m so happy to see you here again! Blessings to you, friend! :)

  2. You’re right on all accounts. Sometimes folks gotta stand up and lay a fist into somebody. It’s unfortunate though but that’s the only way to teach some folk.
    Fighting over a bus? Well, Rosa Parks didn’t even believe in fighting. All she wanted to do was rest her weary feet. One time a man bullied me about a parking space. He swore he was there first but I figure if he was brazen enough to get outta his car and walk to mine talking foolishness, then for sure, I was dealing with a fool. I parked elsewhere and went on about my business. And what’s with these men bullying women and little girls anyhow? True wussies, I think.

    1. Totsy, you always manage to make me giggle! I have to admit that the little devil sitting on my left shoulder would have prompted me to key that man’s car, had I been in your situation! hee hee! Some folk ain’t got no manners. No manners at all! :)

  3. Bella, it’s so good to have you back!!! As I was reading this frightful story, I just kept thinking–where in the world were the teachers and principal??? Thank goodness, this “calling out” was not anything I ever witnessed on my school playgrounds…

    1. Jann, I am struggling to play catch up. The past months have been a whirlwind of one crisis after another and trust me, I’m no fun when I’m trying to deal with life’s curb balls. I thought it best to try to sort things out before coming back. I’m still in the process of getting my ducks in a row. That said, I’m so happy to read yours and all the other comments. It’s truly uplifting. The school administration figured that because these fights took place after school, they didn’t have to get involved. Those were hard times. I’m glad they’re in the past! hee hee! :)

  4. What a great story. Glad you and your sister stuck together.

    I remember those school yard fights. When my sister and I were about 7 there was a little girl who used to beat the both of us up. One day, my mom locked us out and said we had to fight. It seemed mean at the time but now I understand that we had to defend ourselves or we would continue to be a target.

    Note, those were the days when parents didn’t interfere.

    1. Daenel, thick as thieves, my sister and I. We still are! I miss the days when parents allowed children to problem solve. Kids were more resilient then than they are now. Your mother was a wise woman. My daddy would have agreed with her. He just to tell me, “Survival of the fittest, Bella. Don’t you ever forget that.” And I never have! :)

  5. I HAVE MISSED YOU SO MUCH! Amazing, amazing story! But wow, no matter where I went to school, teachers and aides were everywhere. There was very little fighting ever. I remember Alpha Son came home thinking he’d be in trouble because he stood up to a bully who was picking on a smaller kid and they all got in trouble. I told him I was so proud of him. I taught him – but he got it and applied it – to always stand up for the underdog. He still does that to this day and he’s 31.

    1. Nan, I truly value your friendship! You are one of a kind, lady, and I have missed you buckets. You have no idea, but I shall have to make time to send you and email and give you an update on the novela that my life has been in the past four months. It’s Hollywood worthy! hee hee! Good for you for raising the Alpha Son right! My sister, like him, has always fought for the underdog. She will not tolerate any type of abuse of power. Methinks Russell had something to do with this! ha! Hugs! :)

    1. Oh, Kim, I have missed your sweet words! I have! I’m so happy that you haven’t abandoned me in spite of my absence. Thank you, thank you! Hugs from Roxy and me! :)

  6. Wow. Had a super total helping my girl deal with it now. But how do you work around the fact that even teachers bully in subtle ways. My girl has lost all respect for her teacher

    1. Fiona, indeed it is sad that children are still dealing with these issues today. Sadly, like you mention, many children lose faith in the system and the educational experience is soured. Here’s hoping next school year will be better for your child! :)

  7. We didn’t have this “calling out”, but we had fights after school, too. And fights in school. A lot depended on the neighborhood, in my childhood neighborhood it wasn’t uncommon for a boy to beat up a girl, but SO tells me that around his school, if a boy attacked a girl, other boys would quickly stop him.
    Anyway, I agree, sometimes you have to do what it takes, whatever it may be — and sometimes it’s stupid and not worth it.

    1. Ivana, ironically sexism didn’t seem to exist in the elementary school that my sister and I attended. If you were called out, you fought. That was all there was to it. Those who refused to do so, were bullied and teased all year long. I’m glad those days are behind us! :)

  8. You had me from the first word, Bella. You don’t say whether you or your sister was the older, but I love how you teamed up with her to teach that bully a lesson. I’ll bet that was the last time y’all were “called out,” too, huh?! Yes, those were interesting times. One dared not rock the boat and tell the authorities, yet somehow, we all managed to survive. Thankfully, kids didn’t bring guns to school back then.

    1. Debbie, my sister is younger than me by a year. We’re still thick as thieves! Indeed, it was the last time either of us was called out. That was the good part of engaging in the fight–you were relieved of having to participate again. I wonder who came up with the system? hee hee! You’re right–in spite of the childhood violence, guns weren’t an issue back then. Silver lining, eh, lady? :)

  9. Yes, to all of it. I was a bit ahead of you (60’s) but things hadn’t been much different and the fight circle still just as mean. Your words made it all rush back. Somehow we all survived, some of us even turned into decent adults.

    1. Valentine, sometimes I wonder if life experiences like that helped shape us into the adults we are now. I want to think this is the case. I don’t think that at this stage I would engage in hand to hand combat. I mean, unless it was a do or die situation! hee hee! Thanks for chiming in! :)

  10. Oh, good heavens! Fighting makes me cringe from the inside, out.

    I agree with you that self-preservation may be a clarion call for even those abjectly opposed to fighting – like me. Who gets on a bus first doesn’t count as self-preservation.

    Happy Spring, Lady Bella! xoxo

    1. Ellen, lady, hello! Aw, aren’t you glad spring is here? I wore sandals for the first time last week! I truly don’t know what those women were thinking. What is the world coming to? Sometimes I think the human condition is worse than we think. Happy Spring, sweet lady! xoxo :)

  11. I too love that you and your sister protected each other. My sister stood by and just watched on more than one occasion while I was assaulted. Sometimes it’s necessary to stand up to bullies, as your story perfectly illustrates, Bella. So happy to see this new blog post of yours! :)

    1. Joy, I have not been a good blogger as of late. Like is so difficult at this moment. I really want to sort things out so as to have more time to write and visit my favorite blogs but personal circumstances have prevented me from doing so. A visit to your blog is long overdue! I’m sorry your sister didn’t stick up for you. Sometimes big sisters have mean days! :)

  12. Nicely done, Bella (both the writing and – ahem- the fighting!). It’s amazing how some memories are still so vivid in our minds, isn’t it? <3

    1. Thank you, Astra! Oh, lady, you wouldn’t believe the memories I have of those days! Some good, some not so good, but in the end, they’re all part of the here and the now. I like to look back every now and then and see how far we’ve come, you know? :)

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Corinne. Would you believe learning which are battles is still a work in process for me? hee hee! Yes, I have matured since then, and now, I’m frankly too tired to fight! Hugs to you and Pablo from Roxy and me! :)

  13. Hey Bella, Freshman year in college I got in with a crowd that didn’t think twice about fighting. I’ll never forget this one girl, Vera, knocking me down and giving me a what for. I came from too sheltered a life to know how to deal. I tried miserably to defend myself to no avail. She won hands down. Never got into a fight again. Oh and yeah. I moved out of that dorm.

    1. Hello Monica! Vera sounds like a piece of work. Too bad we weren’t friends back then or we would have showed her not to mess with sisters! I have missed you, lady! An email to your inbox is long overdue. Please bear with me. I’m trying to hold down the forte in this series of calamities that seems to have no end! Hugs! :)

    1. Yes, sometimes the actions we take when we’re younger either provide us with a learning lesson, or serve to show us how foolish we were when we were younger. In this case, I want to think that it helped us deal with an abusive system. If all life’s problems could be solved so easily! ha! Thanks for adding to the mix, lady! :)

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