Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Bullies (08/09/04)
TITLE: From nerd to bully.
By Brad Rodgers
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I, myself, never had the problem of finding friends. While I certainly had all of the physical features required of freshman boys entering the 9th grade (big ears, big feet, the legs of a chicken), somehow I was picked out by the school bullies…just as I was in 8th grade, 7th grade, 6th grade, etc. They were my crowd, in a way. Sometimes I’d even save them seats in the lunchroom. We were like soul mates. I had a fairly extensive history with bullies growing up. I even recall my second semester bully in 8th grade as he became very emotional once he realized that school was ending for the summer and that I would be moving on to high school and he would be moving on to…well he’d be back in the 8th grade. “Brad,” he said, “Your money was da best money I ever tooken off’n anyone in da wirld.” He had such a way with words.
I grew so used to being bullied and getting my lunch money taken that I honestly never realized I was a nerd until I reached my senior year, all of my bullies had dropped out of school, and the freshmen started pushing me around and mussing my hair. And at that point, I knew I had to make a major change in my life. I needed to show myself that I could be a man; that I could stand up for myself. My father had already informed me that I was making him the laughingstock of the town. And then I remembered the jailhouse.
In our small Mississippi town, the jailhouse was located downtown right next to the bank and across the street from the movie theatre. Outside the jailhouse, in the back, was the recreation area where they’d go to play basketball or lift weights during their free time. Normally, I’d avoid an area like this at all costs, but I was comforted by the fifteen-foot chain link fence that surrounded the yard. The sheer height of the fence would stop anyone with a fear of heights from climbing over to get me. The razor-wire that lined the top would stop anyone else who may have had a fear of bleeding to death. I’d often stop on my way home from school, dig my nose a little, and watch the tough guys lift weights. They gave me inspiration to think tough, even if it would never translate over into action. It’s kind of the way you feel right after you watch one of the Rocky movies. You think to yourself, “I’m gonna get up in the morning and run some miles and lift weights and turn into a piece of steel.” Then the morning comes and you realize that you barely have the motivation to brush your teeth. But this time I wasn’t here for the inspiration. It was time to prove to myself that I was not a coward. I figured I could take care of anyone who was being held back by a fifteen-foot fence with razor wire on top. So, I backed up to what I decided was a reasonably safe distance, cupped my hands over my mouth, and gave a yell.
“Hey! Which one of you guys thinks they can whip me?” I screamed at the group of fifteen or so inmates. “Who thinks they can get the best of ol’ Brad?”
No one answered. Only one of them even looked over.
“Should I take your silence to mean that you recognize my superiority over you?”
I think I heard a laugh there, but it could have been a chortle of fear. Regardless, the bullied teenager had redeemed himself. In a cowardly world where my five year-old daughter recently grounded me for a week for talking back, I was never going to be a legitimate tough guy. But I had shown myself that, with the proper fencing, I could stand up for myself when I needed to. I had shown those guys who the boss was and, for the rest of the day, nothing could wipe that smile off my face. Even as I approached my neighborhood, was accosted by my new freshman bully, and had my brand new sneakers ripped from my feet, I couldn’t help but realize that the bullied had become the bully. Even if he was still the bullied.