I had several friends growing up, in retrospect I realize so many of them were total jackasses, but one in particular stands out. He was always going on about how his father was the manager of the local Sears department store, as if that entitled him to the privileges of social royalty. They didn’t have a name for people like that back then, but in these more modern times, we call them douchebags. His younger brother was a big-fat-boy—I imagine they’re both either 800 pounds or dead, by now—who would shove people to the ground, sit on them, and fart grotesquely in their faces. By the age of nine, my friend had figured out how to do multiplication by repetitively counting his fingers and toes, so that made him some sort of math genius in the eyes of his teachers. I always felt put down and somehow inferior when I was around him, and these feelings formed the basis of our imbalanced friendship. He moved away at the end of grade six, and I didn’t miss him much, so we never kept in touch.
You know how in the movies and TV shows the dorky little kid gets viciously picked on by the bigger kids? They mercilessly do cruel things to him, make him do their homework and menial chores, and then he spends the rest of his time trying to figure out an elaborate way of getting back at them. Well, that was never me. I realized pretty quickly that evolution provides two paths for survival in the wild—either be big, or be smart. The big people were surviving the only way they knew how, and I was fully prepared to take advantage of them for that. I didn’t wait for any bullying to happen, I established trade relations right up front. I’d do the big-guy’s homework as long as he’d punch that guy over there in the groin for me, should it ever become necessary. It was win-win, except for the guy curled up in a ball on the ground holding his groin and writhing in agony. Had humans and dinosaurs traveled together on the evolutionary trail, saddle-up, I would have been the one riding the T-Rex. Thanks to my penchant for the symbiotic relationship, I was never picked on, at least not for very long.
When I was in the eighth-grade, I went a bit too far with this strategy, though. There was this guy, he must have been in his early twenties, who was assigned to our class mid-year after being released from prison. The other kids in the class started crying and pooping their pants the instant this danger-to-society walked into the room. He was huge and hard looking, with threatening tattoos, jagged scars, and arms as thick as a fat chick’s thigh. He took a seat in front of me. Boldly and without fear, I politely introduced myself, asked him if he needed anything, and offered to help him get caught up in the Math assignment during the lunch break. In spite of all his outward appearances, he was actually a pretty decent guy with a crass sense of humor, and we got along quite well.
Then, one ordinary day, a dipshit who was sitting in the desk behind me decided to start mouthing-off to me in class, making rude comments, questioning my mother’s marital fidelity, and kicking the back of my chair. Just the regular annoying thirteen year-old kind of stuff. I was fully prepared to ignore him until he got bored and moved on to someone else. My new friend had other ideas. Without warning or provocation to do so, he calmly stood up, walked over and hit the guy squarely in the center of the forehead with his fist so hard I could hear brain rattling around skull. Thwunk! Coup contrecoup, and back again. The vulgar sound it made still haunts me to this day.
My former annoyer, now turned victim, immediately melted to the floor, completely unconscious; he even wet himself a little. That was bad enough, but my ‘friend’ then proceeded to try stuffing the limp body out through an open window, like an unwanted rag doll, or a dead hooker in your hotel room when there’s been a knock on the door. The police eventually came and dragged him away. When we first met, I should have thought to ask him why he had been in jail, because it must have had something to do with a frothy mix of rage and anger issues.
I never saw my would-be protector again after that incident. I feel somehow responsible for his re-incarceration, and the presumed forced acts of sodomy we so often hear about occurring in those places. Truly I had learned a big lesson: With great power comes a great power bill.