Friday, June 6, 2008

Appointment for an ass whoopin'

Time: 1974
Place: Chattanooga, TN

There was this redneck in my high school who decided he wanted to kick my ass. I’m going to call him Chip. Well, Chip was not an imposing figure. He was scrawny and I was taller than him, but he scared the hell out of me. Chip was always getting into fights and most of the guys he fought were black guys who were much larger and more muscular than he was. Chip won all of his fights. I had never been in a fight and even if I wanted to start a career in brawling, I didn’t want my first fight to be with Chip.

I don’t know why Chip decided he wanted to kick my ass. We had never any interaction before the day he told me he wanted to kick my ass. My guess is that Chip was determined to fight every guy in school in alphabetical order, and just happened to get to my name.

I let Chip know that I wasn’t interested in fighting him, but he didn’t care what I wanted. He wanted a fight with me no matter what. He tried taunting me, which only caused confusion.

“You’re a damn nigger lover,” Chip shouted at me one day.

“I’ll love whoever I want,” I responded.

That floored Chip.

“You mean you really do love niggers?” Chip asked.

“I like them better than you,” I explained.

Chip kept up the pressure on me for weeks. I don’t know if he realized how much he terrified me. I was a big guy, but I was coward when it came to violence. I just knew if I fought Chip, he would kill me. I probably could have avoided him until he finally moved onto to the next guy on his list, but we were in the same gym class. He had a chance to pick on me every day.

One day during gym class, I was sitting on the bleachers, waiting my turn to attempt gymnastics, when Chip sat on the bleacher behind me and started kicking my back. Not hard, but enough to be really annoying. I made a snap decision, though I’m not sure what possessed me to respond the way I did.

I spun around and said to Chip, “Do you want to fight?”

Chip smiled. Finally, I had given in.

“Yeah,” Chip said. “I want to fight.”

“Okay,” I said. “What’s a good time for you?”

“What?” Chip asked.

“How does this Saturday sound?” I said. “Are you available?”

I wish I could say that I came up with the idea of scheduling the fight as a delaying tactic, but the truth is, I had no clue what the etiquette for a fight was. I think most people just start throwing punches wherever they happen to be, but when you ask someone if they want to fight, shouldn’t that mean that first you agree on a time and place?

I had floored Chip again. To my surprise, and probably his too, he played along.

“Yeah,” Chip said. “We could fight this Saturday.”

I was trying to come up with a good time and place to have the fight when I remembered that I had a basketball game on Saturday. I played center for the Jewish Community Center’s team. We were in a church league. As I recall, we were playing a Baptist church at six. I was supposed to be at the Jewish Community Center (which we called the JCC) at four for practice. Luckily, the JCC was close to Eastgate Mall, the place where all the teens hung out on Saturday.

“What do say we meet at Eastgate at two?” I said. “We could meet at Games a la Mode.”

Games a la Mode was a combination arcade and ice cream store that was popular with the rednecks.

“I like Games a la Mode,” Chip said.

“Great.” I said. “Two o’clock Saturday at Games a la Mode. See you there.”

For the rest of the week, I worried about what was going to happen to me on Saturday. I imagined trying to get a lucky punch in before Chip pummeled me to death. I worried about him being late and then missing my game. Mainly, I worried about the pain.

I also spent the week going over the schedule. Be at the JCC at 1:30, be at Games a la Mode at 2:00, get my ass beat at 2:30, get back to the JCC by 3:30, practice at 4:00, game at 6:00. Saturday was going to be a busy day.

On Saturday, I got to Games a la Mode at fifteen minutes to two. I expected to find Chip already there, playing pinball or air hockey. Maybe he could beat my ass early and I could be on my way. No such luck. Chip wasn’t there. An hour passed and still no sign of Chip. I had to get going or I was going to miss practice.

I had mixed feelings as I walked back to the JCC. If Chip showed up shortly after I left, I could honestly tell him that I had been there on time, but didn’t see him. I felt good about that. I felt bad knowing that I had to reschedule the fight.

On Monday, I ran into Chip in the hallway between classes.

“Hey man,” I said, “I was at Games a la Mode on Saturday, but I didn’t see you.”

“Saturday? Oh right,” Chip said. “I couldn’t make it. Something came up.”

“That’s cool,” I said. “Maybe we could do it this coming Saturday?”

“Uh, no, I can’t make it then,” Chip said.

“Sure, you just let me know when you want to have the fight,” I said.

“I’m not sure,” Chip said. “I’ll let you know later.”

Chip never did let me know later. He never rescheduled the fight and he never bothered me again.


jessica said...

I love the kid-appointment book art! I think you freaked the bully out by making an appointment - he had no idea how to react to the concept.

And I wonder if he keeps appointments now?

Mickey Dubrow said...

That would be funny if he had become incapable of keeping appointments because he was never sure if it meant he was going to get his ass kicked if he showed up.

Sparkle Plenty said...

MICKEY! I love this post.

“Okay,” I said. “What’s a good time for you?”
“What?” Chip asked.
“How does this Saturday sound?” I said. “Are you available?”

I'm still sitting here cackling over that. I also love this moment: “I like Games a la Mode,” Chip said.

I think that marked the turning point in his desire to fight you. I'm not saying he had a mighty epiphany and disavowed his noxious, bullying ways...but it is harder to bully someone who becomes human to you.

Mickey Dubrow said...

Thank you.

His attitude towards me changed even more after I went to work for Games a la Mode. If he didn't ask nicely, then he didn't get no ice cream.

jessica said...

Huh, I think I worked with someone like that. Myabe it's the bully grown up? Or a form of grown up bullying?

Sparkle Plenty said...

Just desserts for a bully.

You could have taken a less high and rockier road to justice:
Chip: "GEEZ, Mickey! What IS this stuff? I didn't ask for mix-ins!"

Mickey Dubrow said...

Dang! It never dawned on me to do something like spit in his drink or put dirt in his ice cream. The most I ever did was once I threw ice cream at my ex-girlfriend.

Sparkle Plenty said...

Ooh. Ice cream sounds like one of the trickier things to throw--prone to post-launch malfunction. Like, the target could turn his/her head away for a moment, the cone would plop futilely beside them, and they'd look down and say, "Hey, some kid dropped their ice cream."

Beth Lilly said...

Your story reminds me of an amazingly similar event when I was in high school. Ready? This is a long story. Hope this isn't bad blog protocol. It was 9th grade and I had recently found my New Best Friend, Karen. I was in awe of Karen - to me she seemed so artistic and worldly and sophisticated. She was in the Drama Club and lots of guys wanted to date her. One day we were walking to her house after school. We walked past this vacant lot where tractor trailers sometimes parked. Right as we passed a truck, two real tough looking girls about our same age jumped out of the cab and started following us, yelling taunts. Karen whirled around and gave her most damning cut - "oh yeah? well we're the top students in our class" Great, that's like throwing gasoline on a fire. Oh shit, I thought we're dead now. Then suddenly, I found myself asking "where are you from"? "Pittsburgh" "Oh really? I was born in Pittsburgh!" I said like I'd just found long lost sisters (I'd never been out of the south in my life.) Like Chip, this really threw them. Like they couldn't beat up a fellow Pittsburghian, right? After some girlie small talk, they returned to the truck to give the driver blow jobs, I guess. after that, I didn't feel inferior to Karen any more. I definitely had superior street smarts and had saved her ass.

Mickey Dubrow said...

I don't know much about blog protocol, but I know a great story when I see one. I love how you handled the two tough girls. I also love the line about the tough girls "servicing" the truck driver.

mrtim said...

Mickey that is a classic story. You could not have told it any better either.

- tg

Mickey Dubrow said...

Thank you, MrTim. I'm glad you like it. Sadly, the same tactic probably wouldn't work today. Kids are so over scheduled that you would have to make an appointment for a fight.