A Fraction of Sense The bully lived in the large house directly behind Tim's. Tim was my best friend in Iowa City; he lived two doors down, and had a huge backyard that bled into Toby's huge backyard. Tim and I played war around the neighborhood, running around shooting each other with toy guns, but Tim and Toby's backyards together were big enough that we could also play baseball in--hitting tennis balls as hard as we could and still not be in any danger of breaking a window.
Toby's house had a huge TV in the downstairs facing the backyard--one time, while running down a fly ball, I saw boobs on the TV. I don't think it was my first time seeing boobs, but it was definitely the first I remember--a brief flash of boobs thrown into the opening scenes of Die Hard. While watching Die Hard earlier this week, I was shocked how brief that scene was: from my youth in Toby's backyard, I remember it as momentous.
Toby the Bully was a couple years older than Tim and I--he was friends with Tim's older brother, which is how we intersected every once in awhile. As far as bullies go, it was about as pleasant an expierence as you can hope. He didn't constantly torment me, or hunt me down or anything. He just didn't like me, and was a shit whenever he remembered to pay attention to me at all. He probably doesn't even really count as a bully at all--just an older kid, stronger than me, who didn't like me or feel he had to pretend otherwise. It was from him that I learned that babies came out of the vagina rather than the belly button, which didn't make much more sense, but he seemed very sure of himself.
As far as I remember, he only hit me on one occasion. We were in Tim's garage. Tim and I had been playing with our G.I. Joe's, my crappy looking X-30 chasing down his F-14, with me constantly wishing he would trade with me. Toby came into the garage, and for some reason started calling me stupid. I was in the third grae, and he was in the fifth, and to demonstrate how he was smarter than me, he started questioning me about fractions.
"How many times does 1/4th go into one?" He asked. I didn't know. We hadn't made it to fractions yet. It wasn't a fair question. But Toby was apparently stupid enough to think that, just because I hadn't been taught something yet, I was stupid for not knowing it. "1/4th goes into one four times," he told me mockingly. "You're stupid for not knowing that."
"Oh! It's like that! So then 1/6th goes into one six times? That's easy." The bully quickly taught me fractions a year early. "That's how you were going to prove you were smarter than me? You've just been taught more so far. I'll catch up, and you'll be the stupid one." And then, for what ever reason, I flicked him off.
That's when he hit me--he punched me in the stomach as he yelled, "Don't do that!"
I straightened up--still at that point more surprised than hurt. "Don't flick me off again, dickhead!" It was back when we loved to call people dickhead. And we hated to be called that. So I flicked him off again. And he hit me again.
And I flicked him off again. It was a cycle. He'd challenge me, I'd flick him off, get him angrier, he'd demand I'd stop, and hit me again.
My dad used to tell me that you just had to stand up to bullies by fighting back--he loved to tell a story about how he'd fought back against a childhood bully and the guy never bothered him again and they became good friends eventually. I assume that my dad was just remembering an old episode of The Andy Griffith Show rather than his own life. In my day, if you fought back against a bully, they'd break your arms.
As it was, Toby just kept hitting me. He'd demand I stop, I'd continue, he'd hit me. By the third punch, I was weeping from the pain, which only made me more resolved to keep giving him the bird.