Frontier Psychiatrist

Bullies – Fiction by Jim Knable

Posted on: December 9, 2010

Roger and Deacon were bullies. Roger was big, too big for his age, which was older anyway than the other kids in school. Deacon was scrawny with patchy blond hair and flappy ears and would have been a target of bullying himself were he not Roger’s henchman. Together they patrolled the blacktop looking for easy targets: younger kids, kids who seemed too smart or too dumb, kids who looked lonely. Sometimes Roger and Deacon would swoop down as one and badger a kid with relentless taunts, cruel questions, menacing shoves and trips and pokes. Sometimes Roger sent Deacon ahead to start the process; then he would come in and finish the job, leaving the child a crying quivering demoralized mess on the tar-gooey asphalt.

I was not their first choice of target, but I knew eventually they would get around to me. Roger had Deacon hold me against the chain-link fence behind the big oak tree. I had seen this from a distance done to other kids. It was a shakedown. If I had any marbles, loose change, things I seemed to want, however useless, Roger would claim them as his, violently rifling through my pockets as he would a dead man’s. I didn’t have much of anything on me and that upset him.

”Don’t you own anything? Are you poor?”

Poor was like dumb or smart or red-haired. It would be the focus of the bullying session from here on.

“Not really,” I said.

I found, now in the situation, a situation I had imagined myself in frequently, I was actually quite calm. Having observed their tactics on others, I was well-prepared, even to the extent of not keeping things I cared about in my pockets but in my school desk.

“Then where’s all your stuff?” pressed Roger.

“I don’t have any stuff.”

“Liar!” Deacon gave me an ineffectual punch in the shoulder.

The search for stuff became more invasive. They turned me around and looked through my back pockets, they reached under my shirt to see if I had any secret pouches; they did not go so far as to check my underwear, the last sacred ground even for bullies to broach.

“You’re poor and you’ll always be poor,” said Roger.

“If I’m poor, then why are you the one who takes other people’s stuff?” I said, like a psychiatrist on TV.
Roger momentarily looked confused, first just by the tone one his victims was taking with him, then by the question itself.

“He means that you must need stuff because you take it,” Deacon explained.

Roger shoved Deacon hard and Deacon landed with a splatter on the ground among the wet leaves.
Roger looked at me coldly. I could tell he wanted to say something, to do something, to make me cry, to break me. I was unmoved and unaffected by him and he could see that.

“Get out of here,” he muttered.

I walked away. They never bothered me again. They continued harassing other kids as they had before. Nothing changed. But they never bothered me again.

Twenty years later, I was living in California with my wife and we were thinking about having children. We were having coffee one morning and I told her the story of Roger and Deacon. It was one of those stories that had been waiting insignificantly in the wings of our relationship, a memory that barely mattered to me that I was reminded of by some news headlines about bullying.

“You were very brave,” she said, “to stand up to them.”

“Maybe,” I said. “It wasn’t hard. I just saw how ridiculous they were.”

“I’m impressed,” she said and kissed me.

Later that night, I had a dream about Roger and Deacon, neither of whom I had seen since elementary school. In the dream, I was on a weekend backpacking trip with them. They were adults now, as was I. They didn’t remember that I was the same person as the kid they once tried to bully. We were walking through some kind of canyon, just the three of us and nobody else around.  That’s when I told them who I was.

I held a metal spoon to Roger’s neck and I said I had followed them, tracked them down, tricked them into being friends as adults and come with them on this trip to take revenge on them for all those kids they pushed around. Deacon stood helplessly by; he was always helpless and powerless without Roger. Roger was on his knees before me. The cliffs loomed all around us, the Western high noon cliffs where the vultures perched and readied for feasting. I could see the terror of recognition in Roger’s crow-footed eyes. That was all I wanted.

I pulled the metal spoon away from his neck, left him on his knees, left both of them in the canyon and walked right out of the dream.I lay in my bed beside my sweet-smelling wife in the soft shameful silence of our room.

Jim Knable is a Brooklyn-based writer of plays, songs, and prose. He recently reviewed Nick Cave’s Grinderman 2 for FP, and his  short story Walpurgisnacht appeared in July.  His plays have been produced at MCC Theatre, Woolly Mammoth, Soho Rep, NYC’s Summer Play Festival and other regional theaters, and have been published by Broadway Play Publishing, Smith and Kraus and Playscripts, Inc. He released his solo album Miles in 2000, Redbeard (2006) and Golden Arrow (2009) with his band The Randy Bandits. He is now shopping his novel Sons of Dionysis


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