As a youngster, I was a pipsqueak, a wee little dude, about two feet tall till I hit 18, when something I ate expanded me to a state resembling average human proportion. (What I would now give to shed some of that proportion without having to go on a killer diet.) The torment I sometimes suffered they'd nowadays call bullying, but back then—early-to-mid 1960s—it was just another day of getting on by. That day in first grade, when I first stepped aboard the school bus to make the one-mile truck to Druid Hills Elementary, all the big kids—everyone from second grade on up—took notice of my diminutive stature, swatted me around a bit, and admonished me to walk to school from then on, for the simple reason I lived close enough to walk, and if I didn't, they'd throw me into the nearby creek. (I suspect that, despite my small size, the amount of oxygen I consumed deprived them of their required daily dosage.) Now, I never actually got thrown into the creek, but over time, things did get worse, especially when it became clear I'd been reading books full of real words since my kindergarten days, and I possessed all kinds of esoteric knowledge, such as how to pronounce "Ichthyosaurus," "Pleiades," and "catastrophe."
Mind you, I'm not complaining. As it became clear I was never going to be a physical titan, these episodes of being walloped, threatened, and/or derided goaded me to seek other means of leveling the playing field—which, on the good side, is why I ended up on the higher side of the academic scoreboard (eventually becoming a writer of things mortifying and horrific, a result I'd never trade for the world); on the bad side, I did occasionally damn near off myself attempting to expand the world's scientific boundaries—something those cretins would never accomplish—using materials like gasoline, hydrochloric acid, gunpowder, and Colgate toothpaste. On the odd side, I suspect these early episodes may explain why I sometimes adopted a strange way of interacting with others (see "So F'ing Suave" for a reasonable example).
And then there were those incidents for which I was responsible but simply cannot explain. The one foremost in mind is Delp. Delp was a fellow from my hometown, now a respected doctor, I'm led to understand, the older brother of a friendly acquaintance since elementary school days. He had five years or so on me, and I rarely actually saw him around—mainly on Sundays when I went to church with Mum and Dad. Delp had never picked on me. As far as I can recall, barely a word had even passed between us.
But I didn't like Delp. I don't know why. I seem to recall he was personable and polite; an admirable enough young man. But I didn't like him. What else should matter but that?
I was around eight years old, hanging out with my buddy Todd on his front porch. We were carrying on about whatever young chaps like us carried on about, when up the sidewalk comes Delp and some friend of his, minding their own business, paying us two younger kids not the first ounce of attention.
Oh, Christ, it's DELP!
There was only one thing to do: take some kind of prohibitive action to save the world from Delp's insidious evil. I noticed, beside the front steps, an old board that might have come from a table or some piece of furniture. I grabbed it up, very quietly ran up behind Delp, raised up that board, and whacked him in the head.
Then I turned around and ran for my life.
Well, Delp caught me, long before I reached the safety of the front porch. Holy cow, I had not killed him with one blow, and now he had me. I was doomed.
"What did you do that for!?" he hollered, clutching my shoulder in an iron grip. I knew my duty as a PoW: nothing more than my name, rank, and serial number. Since I had no rank or serial number and had forgotten my name, I answered with a great big nothing. I just shut my eyes and waited for the hammer to come down on my mushy little head.
It never came. Next the thing I know, Delp and his friend were wandering on up the sidewalk, muttering between themselves about weird little kids, or something to that effect.
I think Todd had expected me to die and was awestruck that I had survived the brutal encounter. We rushed inside and told my mother that some big guy had just attacked me for no reason. She asked if I was hurt, and when I said no, she said, "Well, whatever you did to bring that on, don't do it again."
As I've mentioned, Delp appears to have made something of himself, despite his inherent evil. I do have to wonder if, in quiet moments of reflection, he looks back over the years, and wonders why he ever attacked that innocent little kid for no reason.
I can only imagine it must haunt him at night.
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