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Spy Kid

An over-sized t-shirt with colors faded. Baggy, scuffed up jeans with holes in the wrong places. Shoes with parts literally hanging off. Plus he had a cold. First day of school waiting for the bus to arrive, Eric was doing a terrible job of projecting any sort of strength. “You should have stayed home today,” said Samantha as she handed Eric some paper napkins. Eric blew his nose then put all of the napkin into the pocket he knew didn’t have holes in it, “Thanks, Sam.”

The bus doors opened and Eric quickly found an open seat. Samantha and Eric were actually moving at the same pace, but Elliot, being younger and shorter, looked more hurried in his movements. Put succinctly, she walked, he shuffled. Before the bus began moving, Eric already had his gaze fixed outside his window, not really focused on anything. It was his standby mode, the way he got when he waiting for the next thing to do.

“Hey!”
-_
“Hey!”

An open milk carton whipped across the aisle and hit Eric in the head knocking him out of his tranquil state. It only had a little bit of milk, and just a few drops landed on his shirt. The laughter coming from the other side of the bus caught his attention. He made eye contact with one of the giggling boys who gave Eric the finger in response. Eric took note and refocused his gaze outside of his window. “Sam,” Eric whispered, “Stop looking sorry for me.” Samantha went back to staring at her nails.

Sam recalled Eric’s words the weekend before, “If I get picked on, I get picked on, but you don’t need to get picked on sticking up for me. Just makes things harder for both of us. When we’re at school, I’m just another kid, okay?”

The 10-minute bell rang, as they got off the bus and began finding their way towards homeroom. “Hey!” It was the same voice as before. Eric didn’t stop to find the source. He didn’t speed up either. “Hey!” The voice grew closer. “Hey!” Then a shove. Eric lost his balance and fell onto the asphalt covered in loose, almost sand-like gravel. “What kind of black kid wears a NASCAR t-shirt?”

Those were the kind of questions Eric’s dad used to ask. The kind that serves as a set up for an insult. “Leave me alone.” Eric was upright now, but still on the ground. He knew he had an advantage there. The kid mimicked Eric mockingly and laughed at himself. A crowd of kids had began to form. “If you’re going to hit me, hit me.” Eric said.

Samantha winced when she noticed Eric’s hands on the ground curl into fists full of loose sand.

Feeling the crowd gather around him, his friends, and Eric, the kid smiled. “Well since you’re asking for it.” He took two quick steps towards Eric and punched. Eric tilted his head letting the punch hit him in the forehead and fell backwards. As the kid began to kneel down and raise his fist up to strike again, Eric tossed the gravel he had collected into the kid’s face then, using the kid’s shirt collar to pull, Eric drove his forehead into the kid’s mouth.

The kid yowled and would have spun off cursing if Eric didn’t roll him over onto his back and began punching. The fight was over as soon as the headbutt landed, and Eric knew it. A bloody mouth and sand in the eyes is usually enough to debilitate most men, but Eric knew neither the guy on the ground nor the kids watching fully understood that.

In order to get peace for the school year, Eric knew he needed to send a clear message. So he punched, and he punched, and he punched. He punched in spite of his runny nose dripping onto his former bully, he punched in spite of his hands throbbing more with each blow, he punched until the sounds of excitement coming from the crowd of kids turned into quiet, scared concern.

It had been less than a minute since the first punch thrown by the child now lying on the asphalt. Eric was on his feet now, backpack back on, notebook and pencils secured inside. He took a breath which reminded him of his runny nose. Standing not more than three feet from the mess he made, he carefully took out the napkin he had used before and began to blow his nose.

The first teacher on the scene, seeing Eric standing there with a bloody forehead blowing his nose, was relieved to see the scrawny kid with the over-sized shirt relatively unhurt, but nearly cursed when he saw the battered child on the floor behind him.

The teacher had been told by the student who fetched him that Dustin was beating someone up again. The student, more uncomfortable with violence than most of her peers, didn’t stand around long enough to see the scuffle unfold so she was as shocked as the teacher who was now crouched next to Dustin .

Another teacher arrived before an ambulance was called. A third began herding the children towards class. A fourth escorted Eric to wait outside the principal’s office. Eric held off on telling them his name and home telephone number until about 10 in spite of assurances he would not be punished because it was his mother’s day off. Depriving her of the opportunity to sleep-in would have made him feel bad.

His mom arrived with a worried look on her face. Upon seeing Eric, she smiled and kissed the bandage on his forehead before entering the principal’s office to discuss Eric’s behavior. She lied a bit by telling the principal that Eric didn’t get into fights often.

He fought regularly until the 6th grade where he learned his first lessons in non-verbal communication. Only one fight similarly ending with an assailant in need of bed rest. He got all A’s that year, the 2nd year since the family had gotten away from Eric’s father, the man responsible for Eric’s proficiency at the martial arts. He was a violent alcoholic and a generally unpleasant person whose name they never uttered.

Eric’s mom and the principal shook hands and finished up their conversation right outside the door next to Eric.

“Eric,” the principal began, “I’m sorry all that happened out there today. There should have been someone watching you kids. I’d hate for you to feel unsafe here. Like we said before, from everything we could tell, it was self defense.You’re not in trouble, but we think it’ll be less distracting for everybody if you just take the day off today.” Eric nodded.

When they got home, his mom gave him some cold medicine and he slept away most of the day until Samantha came back with his homework and told him about her day. She had a made a friend who said she’d save Samantha a seat on the bus tomorrow. Overall, a good day.

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