There was a gang of three that roamed our neighborhood. The leader was thick and stocky, and looked like a bulldog. He had a very thick neck, a wide jaw, and big flat teeth. Everything about him was tough, with the exception of his eyes. He seemed perpetually on the verge of tears, but this only served to make him seem crazy in addition to being mean. His minions were always with him, and always encouraged their leader to fight.

My brother and I had both had run-ins with this trio, but we’d coped with bullies enough to know the fundamental rule: you don’t run, no matter what. The trick is to convince them — not that you’ll win a fight — but that you will fight, and that when you do, you’ll give it all you have. The trick is to convince them that fighting you is not worth the trouble or risk.

Scott was a friend of my brothers who spent long streches of the summer visiting his grandparents. He was a nice kid, and the three of us were close enough in age to get along just fine. However, my brother and I had no idea how different Scott’s background was from ours.

The three of us had been to the city dump — a short walk from our neighborhood, where we’d climbed mountains of trash, watched bulldozers at work, and thrown rocks into oily puddles. We were on our way back to the house when Bulldog and his two shadows intercepted us.

Diego and I knew the drill. He’d insult us, call us names, and try to get us to either cry, run, or throw a punch. I’d give smartass but non-confrontory answers. Bulldog would say, “I heard you’re a fag” and I’d say, “How nice that people care enough to speculate. Did you hear anything else?” We’d go on this way for 5 minutes or so, and then he’d get bored and wander off trailing stray insults like a robber shooting behind him as he speds away from a failed heist.

But Scott threw the whole delicate balance into disarray. Before the Bulldog had said a single word, Scott dropped to his knees and started begging. Literally begging, with his hands clutched together. He plead pathetically, “Please don’t hurt us!”, “We’ll do whatever you want!”, “Just tell us what to do and we’ll do it!”

We ware stunned. Sure, the Bulldog was scary, but Scott’s response was the worst posible thing you could do. I looked at Diego, who was staring at Scott with a mix of amazement and anger. He grabbed Scott by the arm and tried to lift him to his feet, saying, “Shut-up Scott. Shut-up.” But Scott was so scared that he seemed to think that it was the Bulldog that had grabbed his arm. He started flailing, but feebly, like someone having a bad dream.

I though about our options, and wondered if this was a situation where breaking the fundamental run would be advisable. Running away is an option that has long-term effects. If you run once, than you’ll probably run again, and the bully will expect you to run, and probably chase you. You’ll be on high-alert indefinitely. But this was a little different. Bulldog knew Diego and I would stand our ground. We had a little credibility with him. And he’d be occupied with Scott, so he probably wouldn’t give our flight much thought. It was logical enough, like sacrificing a steak to avoid being eaten by a shark.

But I didn’t consider that option for long. I wasn’t at all sure what extent the Bulldog would go, given a pliable and helpless victim who had already promised complete submission. So I stepped between Scott and the Bulldog. Our faces were inches apart, and I could smell the Doritos he’d had for lunch. Diego got Scott to his feet, moved him away, and then joined me. We fully expected a fight at this point, and Diego swung around and told Scott to run.

But it was just the usual threats and insults. In fact Bulldog seemed relieved that Scott was gone. Maybe Scott’s response hadn’t fit into his model of the world either, and he’d been unsure how to act. He didn’t accuse us of having a sissy-boy for a friend. He didn’t sneer and gloat about Scott’s reaction. He didn’t speculate about whether Scott had crapped his pants. These were all things we expected him to do, but he didn’t want to talk about Scott at all.

So we went our separate ways. Diego and I sprinted to catch Scott to stop him from calling 911 when he got back to the house.

One Thought on “Scott

  1. 9
    I’ve read this several times and enjoy it each time.

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