“Hey, Mr. Southwick, were you a fat kid?”
Yes, one of my first hour students asked me this today. Students… sigh…
Well, I wasn’t a fat kid, as any of you who knew me as a child or teen can attest to. I’m a fat adult (well, I prefer pleasantly plump, but I’m just picking nits), but I was a skinny lil’ fella all the way through age 20. So when my student asked me if I was a fat kid, I could honestly say I was anything but. But I did get bullied by the fat kid once upon a time. I’ll share the tale, as I did with my class.
When I was in 3rd grade, there was a terrible bully in the 4th grade named Chuckie. That name is ready-made for a villain, isn’t it? Chuckie was one of those kids that was WAY bigger than the others. Now, he was given to heft, but he wasn’t just a blob – he was strong too. Moreover, he fancied himself a wrestler, and had several devastating moves he used in playground brawls. Luckily, as a puny third-grader, I was not in his stable of foes.
One spring day, Chuckie decided to leave Greenwood Elementary at recess. He tried to sneak through the park outside the back entry to the playground. Everyone could see a big kid like that trying to climb over see-saws and hide behind slides, and almost everyone was Chuckie’s enemy. It was no surprise when one of the 4th grade girls came trotting up with the lunchlady (he probably had beaten the girl up at some point). He dove behind some shrubs, but I wasn’t going to let him get away. When the lunchlady could not spot him, I gladly took her further down the chainlink fence and pointed the Chuckwagon out to her. About 4 inches of his rear glinted in the sun – just enough for her to finally see him.
Now, I have to admit to being a bit of a tattletale when I was younger. I think the most egregious incident came in third grade, when Ms. Salek substituted for Ms. Nelson. Now, Ms. Salek wasn’t a particularly bad sub, but she looked mean. Frankly, she looked like a witch. You know exactly what I am talking about. There are some women that just look like they sacrifice small children in their spare time – she was one of them. Kids said as much before school, as we were waiting to go into the room. “Oh no, it’s the witch!” That gnawed at me. I mean, I didn’t like her either, but those kids were being bad. So about an hour into the school day, I raised my little hand.
“Um… all the kids say you look like a witch.”
“Oh. Well… oh my.”
Ah, I had done my good deed for the day. I felt like a great burden had been lifted. She was so thankful she had been struck speechless, tears of joy glistening in her eyes 🙂 Who says tattling won’t get you far in life?
Anyway, the tattletale in me was happy to turn Chuckie in. He glared at me as the lunchlady marched him past, but what did I care? I was already fixated on being a hero, even at that young age. I had saved the day from the school bully!
Later that day, I was walking to my Cub Scout meeting with my friend Scott. I cut a dashing figure in my blue shirt and yellow scarf – I made that getup look GOOD. We strolled down 170th Street, discussing the upcoming Pinewood Derby and all the fine honeys at school. As we were talking, Scott turned towards me, and then looked back the way we had come from. His eyes widened just as I heard the whisking sound of a bike chain closing in. As Scott yelled, “Look out!!!” a bicycle crashed directly into me. My face rushed to meet the sidewalk as something bulky jumped onto my back.
It turns out that my Cub Scout uniform also made me easily recognizable to people I had tattled on earlier in the day. Chuckie. He had found me. He had been riding up the other side of 170th when he saw me and turned around. Once he clearly identified his target, he had rushed in full speed. Now he was on my back, and I was helplessly overmatched. As I mentioned earlier, he fancied himself a pro wrestler, and at that moment he put me into one of the most feared wrestling moves of the 1980’s – the Iron Sheik’s Camel Clutch:
His hands wrapped around my chin, my arms thrown askew, Chuckie made me beg for mercy. “Why did you tell on me, you little punk? What have I ever done to you, you little ********?”
Gasp! I had never heard such language… and I couldn’t breathe!
I prepared to meet my Maker. I was ready to give up. I knew it was all over. Scott was one of the wimpiest kids in school – he would be no help. Tattling was going to cause my ultimate demise. Chuckie’s Camel Clutch was going to do me in.
Stars bursting in my vision, I noticed a familiar silver and blue van hurtle onto the curb. Yes, it was the same van that I would later hide in to scare the very woman who bounded out of it now. Scott might have been too wimpy to fight Chuckie, but he had been waving down passing cars – and one of them happened to carry my sweet little mother. But sweetness does not apply when you attack mama bear’s cub (scout).
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GET OFF OF HIM!!!” Mama bear roared.
“$*@(*#& you, lady!” Chuckie yelled, again eliciting a gasp from me. Such language! He defiantly tightened the grip on my chin.
Mama bear charged. Literally. Moving towards him with incredible speed, I felt Chuckie grip loosen, and then give way. I rolled onto my back, greedily gulping air. Chuckie hopped on his bike and careened away, 5 inches of rear-end on display as he began his search for a new victim.
Usually I would have been embarrassed for my mom to help me, but in this situation I was okay. I was at death’s door, and she had brought me back. She helped me to my feet as I wiped tears from my cheek. She still bristled with rage – and when my mom is angry, she can put the fear of God into people. Literally. People convert before her wrath. Scott excitedly told her what had happened as I struggled to regain my breath. He told her how her tattletale son got his comeuppance. I felt disappointed in myself even as my breathing returned. I can honestly say, I was never a tattletale again (except for telling on my baby sister for swearing, and she got her revenge twenty-fold with the cigarette affair).
As her anger subsided, she carefully inspected me to ensure I wasn’t permanently damaged. She never even lectured me about being a tattletale. Sometimes, all that matters is that baby is OK. Thanks to my mama bear, I survived to tell another story…