Bullying has always been a serious problem. In recent decades psychologists have written hundreds of books on the subject, offering hundreds of methods for dealing with the problem. I’m almost certain that the method my mother chose is not referenced in any book anywhere.
It was my sister, Katie, who had run home and told my mother that Billy, from the bus, was picking on Ronald. “He challenged Ronald to a fight,” my sister explained excited by the drama.
Busy playing video games my brother ignored my sister as she explained what had happened on the bus that day. When my mother had heard enough she put up her hand, stopping Katie from babbling on about the details.
“Well that settles it,” mom said with finality, “you’re going to have to fight him.”
“Huh?!," my brother sputtered in disbelief. Somehow my mother's command had managed to penetrate through the video game world that Ronald was in and startle him. He paused the game and set down the controller. “What?”
Lighting a cigarette from the corner of her mouth my mother explained, “Billy is a damn bully and I’m tired of hearing the shit he puts you kids through. You’re going to kick his ass and shut him up once and for all!”
Ronald looked both shocked and excited. Parents weren’t supposed to condone fighting, let enough encourage it. We were all shocked by my mother’s response, but it was just about to get a whole lot weirder.
“What do you say, Ronald?” she asked twirling her hair in one hand.
“Ummm…sure,” he said a bit hesitantly and then apparently reading the disapproval in her face he extended his statement, “Yeah, I can do it!”
“Oh, yeah you can! You could kick his butt with one arm tied behind your back,” she encouraged.
Katie and I just looked at each other horrified, but also slightly entertained. This is about the time that it got weirder. Picking up the phone my mother flipped through her address book and dialed a number. A minute later someone must have picked up.
“Hello this is Melanie. Is this Cindy?” She nodded her head triumphantly. “Are you Billy’s mother?”
There was another nod from her as she started pacing the floor with the receiver pressed firmly to her face.
“Well your son has been threatening my children for too long. We’re tired of it and it’s time that he gets what’s coming to him.” There was silence for about ten seconds.
“Well this is what we’re going to do about it. Your son has challenged my son, Ronald, to a fight and he accepts.”
“That’s right! Well boys fight and I would rather they fight in the supervision of their parents than in a back alley somewhere. At least this way we’ll be there to intervene if it gets out of hand. Billy wants to fight Ronald and so he’ll get his chance. How does that sound?” She nodded her head, her eyes dazzling with excitement. “Yes, that sounds good. See you there!”
Setting the phone down my mom turned to Ronald with one hand on her hip, “There it’s done. You two will fight on Saturday night at the end of the road.”
I think I saw a moment of fear in Ronald’s eyes and then it disappeared. He smiled and ran off to his room to do push-ups.
The day of the fight we were all exploding with excitement. We filled up on hotdogs and tater tots before packing up the essentials we’d need for the big event. My step-father, Murray, packed an ice chest full of diet Dr. Pepper and prepackaged cheese and crackers. Katie and I had made a banner that said, “EAT GRASS, BILLY!” My mother put together a bag that included bug spray, cigarettes and a first aid kit. Ronald had the wheelbarrow, which he’d offer to Billy’s parents so that they had a proper method for dragging the beat up boy home.
When we arrived to the preset fight location, we all unfolded the chairs we brought along and set them up so that our backs were toward the sun. Ronald began doing stretches and bouncing up and down in place. Murray handed us each a cold diet Dr. Pepper and we exchanged versions of what we thought would happen.
“I bet you he won’t be able to go to school for a week,” Katie chimed.
“I hope that he never wants to ride the bus again and that maybe he begs his mother to home school him,” I said excitedly.
“Oh, don’t you guys worry,” Ronald explained anxiously, throwing punches in the air, “when I’m done with him he’ll wish he’d never been born.” My brother smacked a fist into the palm of his hand, “he won’t mess with any of us again, ever.”
We sat there sipping our cokes for an hour, sharing stories and getting excited anytime we saw someone walking in our direction. Billy never showed up. The bully proved to be a coward. He really wouldn’t ride the bus very often after that, although he wasn’t home schooled. Strangely when he did ride the bus he kept to himself, not bothering anyone. My brother never antagonized him either. I think Ronald was just glad to be left alone to read his comic books in peace without being picked on. Also my brother had his moment of glory where his entire family rallied around him, cheering him on and filling him with pride.
That night as we all walked home with our banner, first aid kit, wheelbarrow and ice chest we remarked at how disappointed we were to not have seen a good fight. However, as we strolled down the street together I think there was a moment where we felt connected as a family. It felt good to band together for a common purpose, although it was a strange one. When we rounded the bend, Ronald pulled the wheelbarrow over and offered to give me a ride. I hopped in and smiled broadly as the triumphant champion who won by default pushed me gracefully in my make-believe chariot.