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6:11 a.m. - 2003-10-09


My family moved a total of three times during my seventh grade school year.

The first three months were spent in Tennessee. The next three months in Peoria, Illinois and the last three months in Germany.

I made the conscious decision in Illinois to make as few friends as possible since we were only there for three months as a transition between homes. It was hard enough leaving my friends in Tennessee behind, I didn't want to have to do it again in three months.

So that's where I became a loner of sorts.

I remember very little about the school I went to. I have no idea what the name of the school was and could never find it if I were to drive to Peoria today.

After a week or two of keeping to myself, people started labelling me as weird.

It didn't bother me. I was pissed off at my parents for making me move to Europe and leave my first schoolboy crush behind in Tennessee.

Eventually, I fell into what could only be described as the handicapped gang at school.

The only kid I remember really well was a kid named Gilbert who wore extremely thick glasses and had an even more extreme lazy eye.

There was another kid who had those metal crutches with metal braces on his legs.

And about three other guys whose afflictions escape me at the moment.

I would eat lunch with these guys every day and then we'd go out on the playground until it was time for the next class.

The biggest kid in the seventh grade there took a shine to me.

Actually, he wanted to kick my ass because I was apparently the only one in the handicapped gang who he could actually beat up without looking like an asshole.

I had no idea how to fight. None whatsoever.

This kid...who we'll call Mark because I've completely forgotten his name ... would spend a few minutes each day literally pushing me around on the playground, daring me to fight.

I would have been more than happy to accommodate him had I known the first thing about throwing a punch. Unfortunately, I was lacking in that department and would have probably resorted to the "Windmill Effect" that my sister used when she would start hitting us, spinning my arms in circles and aiming haphazardly at the kid.

One day, Mark followed me home on my walk from school, pushing me in the back the entire way. I remember dropping my books on several occasions while he and his buddies laughed.

I got home and Dad was in the garage. The kids quit pushing me and took off.

Dad asked what the deal was and while hesitant, I explained to him that his only son was a complete and utter wuss.

Dad had a solution.

He suggested that I grab Mark by the collar and say something along the lines of "You wanna piece of me? You wanna piece of ME!?!?" and act all crazy like I'm about to snap.

Sounded good to me. I couldn't fight, but I felt I could muster up the acting chops it took to act like a complete psycho.

The next morning as I got ready for school, I thought I'd take some reinforcement to school in case the collar-grabbing didn't work.

I took a knife to school.

I could picture it now...

"Say hello to my leetle friend!"


...And no more problems.

I ate lunch with the handicapped gang, with butterflies in my stomach, trying to decide where I would slash this kid first.

The face? The arm? The neck? That tendon in the ankle?

We finish lunch and go outside to play.

It doesn't take Mark long to stroll over to us and begin pushing me around for his daily exercise.

And I snap.

I reach into my pocket and pull out my knife.

...A dull butter knife.

Having never been in a knife fight before, I didn't really know the legalities involved. I figured a knife used to spread margarine at the dinner table could do some damage if I sawed long enough on one spot to break the skin.

Mark laughed and knocked the knife I was wielding out of my hand.

Desperate, I went with Plan B.

I lunged at Mark, grabbing his collar and completely LOST IT.

"You wanna piece of me?!?" I screamed. "YOU WANNA PIECE OF ME?!?"

And with one well-connected punch to my eye, Mark answered my question without saying a word.

I stumbled backwards, trying to bat away the cuckoo birds that were flying around my head, and made a mental note to tell Dad the whole "collar grabbing" thing doesn't work as well in an actual situation as it does in theory.

This took place a few days before my family boarded a plane to Germany.

The next day, Mark wanted some more pieces of me.

In my infinite wisdom, I scheduled an appointment with him to have a barbed wire death match on the golf course adjacent to the school.

We'd have this battle on Saturday morning.

10 a.m.

My family left for Germany at 9:45 a.m. that Saturday morning.

I like to think as I looked out the window of the airplane, I saw Mark standing on the golf course with his hands on his hips, looking around for me and my butter knife.

At least ... that's how I usually end this story.

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