Sometimes you win a fight by not being there
| ONE DAY WINNER|
By T. Gray
"I'm gonna pound you into hamburger!" Teddy snarled in my ear. He raised his fist and smiled as though my spattered blood would be a happy sight.
I was never so glad to see a teacher striding into view. As the group around us broke and ran, Teddy let go of my shirt and whispered, "I'll see you after school, wimp. Four o'clock sharp. In the parking lot behind the drugstore. Bring bandages."
"Yeah, right," I hissed back, "to tie up your head so what few brains you have don't leak out! I'll be there." I was real brave with a teacher close by....
Teddy Katz was the meanest kid in fourth grade at Crestview Elementary. He was little, but he was mean. Even grade six guys would cross the playground to avoid him.
Me, I was a wimp. Teddy made me mad, but I was afraid of him. So far all he had hit me with were taunts and insults, which had hurt plenty. As much as I could, I stayed out of his way. I absolutely, definitely, always stayed out of punching distance.
So I haven't a clue how I had wound up with my fists clenched and my face shoved into Teddy's and guys standing around urging us on. I mean, insanity doesn't run in my family. Until me, anyway. That's the only reason I can think of for agreeing to be pounded into dog meat behind Driscoll's Drug Mart after school.
Of course, I had no intention of keeping that appointment, so maybe my sanity was not entirely lost. Four o'clock came and went...
The next day, knowing I had wimped out and dodged the fight, I slunk into class with my head down and my eyes on the floor. Teddy was in another class, so at least I could avoid him if I had to...for a while. But meantime, he'd be telling everybody what a yellow-belly I was. Sooner or later, he'd catch up with me. All I had done was delay being pulped for a few more hours.
When I reached my desk, a guy in the next row leaned across and punched me friendly-like on the shoulder. "Way to go, dude" he said. A group of girls smiled at me. Astonished, I pinched myself. It hurt. The girls were still smiling. What the heck?
All morning, guys were giving me thumbs-up and grinning, and girls were smiling behind their hands. I just couldn't figure it. It was nice, but it didn't quite make up for what I knew was coming.
By first recess, I was ready to face the music and take my lumps. I cornered Teddy at the back of the playground to apologize for being a coward and not turning up for the fight. "Hey, Teddy, about yesterday--"
"Well, uh, my mom had some stuff for me to do," he mumbled. He wouldn't even look me in the eye. Suddenly, I caught on. Teddy hadn't showed up either!
"Yeah, well," I drawled, "I guess you couldn't help it. What do you say we call it quits, then. You cool with that?" He was.
Now, in some sappy kid's story, we'd become the best of buddies and lifelong friends, but we didn't. What really happened was that Teddy left me alone for the rest of grade four.
Hey, I was cool with that.
* * *
Gray, Thomas Alan, "One Day Winner". Frontier: A Collection of New Canadian Short Stories. Rachelle McCallum, editor. Polar Expressions Press, 2008, p. 36