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The Silent Swing

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January 20th 2013  |  2  |  Category: Moral , Satire  |  Author: geedda  |  1422 views

The Silent Swing… George E Davis aka geedda 

I waited in Miss Shaw’s math class room on the second floor; staring out the window onto the playground, focusing on the swing where Eric Green, the school’s most notorious bully had threatened to meet me after school and take off my head, “with one blow” as he put it.

I didn’t see Eric anywhere. Was he hiding behind the brick wall at the end of the playground, biding his time? looking out the window, I devised a plan. If Eric was there waiting for me, I would run as fast as my legs would carry me.

Eric’s excessive bulk kept him from running fast, or far for that matter, without huffing and puffing. I, on the other hand, was skinny and as fast as a cheetah… ah, maybe a slow cheetah.

“George, don’t you think you should be going home now? The time is getting late, and your mother will be worried.” Miss Shaw said.

I didn’t want to tell her, I was too scared to move right now, but I knew I had to face up to that big bully some day… might as well be today.

“I’m going, Miss Shaw… just catching up on some of my work.” I lied.

I walked out of the front door, looking to my right and then to my left praying the bully had gone home, or had an accident… anything to save my neck. Thank God he was gone. He hadn’t waited for me today; I was free for another twenty four hours. I wiped the sweat from my forehead; I knew what it must feel like to obtain a reprieve from the Governor at the last minute; like in one of those Jimmy Cagney movies I was so fond of watching.

I stopped at Joe’s Market on the way home and bought a Mars Bar with the nickel I had saved. My Dad gave me twenty five cents a week allowance for helping Mother around the house. I must admit; I was more of a shirker than a worker; exercising my rite as a teenager to eat, sleep, and throw my dirty clothes on my bedroom floor, much to my mother’s chagrin, and constant reminders of the importance of good hygiene.

Three twenty; already a half hour late. Mother would have probably called the FBI by now. She was a worrier of the first magnitude. She worried when she didn’t have anything to worry about… I mean while she was having a good day; she proverbially waited for the other shoe to drop.

“Where have you been?” She said when I arrived home late. “I was worried sick… thought something happened to you.”

“I stayed… helped Miss Shaw clean the blackboard.” I lied again.

“The next time you do that, let me know ahead of time so I won’t worry.” Mother you would worry if I told you. You’d be afraid I would inhale chalk dust and get pneumonia or something worse.

I felt so happy to be home… in one piece, having escaped Eric Green’s beating that surely would have transpired had he waited for me at school today. I felt so lucky; I went to my room whistling a non tune from a non existent musical.

“George, come down to supper now… wash up first.” That is the most stupid rule I know. Why wash up, I’m only going to get dirty again?

I went downstairs and sat at the table waiting for Mother to say; “Did you wash up, Dear?” She didn’t disappoint me.

My Father came home from work, scrubbed his hands with Flash soap and wiped his hands on a clean dish towel. I waited for the bomb to explode. Again I was not disappointed.

“Arthur, what’s the matter with you? Don’t you know, that towel is for dishes… use a bath towel to wipe your hands. Now I will have to try and get that grease out of my dish towel… blah, blah.” Dad, when Mother’s back was turned to the stove, winked at me, an impish grin on his leathery face.

My Father had his own oil burner cleaning business, hard at work every day. He was on call night and day during the winter when customers called at all hours without regard to time; their complaints running from, “my furnace is making a funny noise” to “I’m cold, the furnace isn’t working.” Often all it took was turning on the switch his customer’s kid had turned off while playing hide and seek on the cellar stairs.

“How’d school go today, Georgie?” He asked.

“Good.”

“He was forty minutes late,” Mother chimed. “I thought something had happened to him… a car could have run over him or something.”

“Mother you worry too much. Georgie is old enough to take care of himself, after all he’s twelve.”

“Thirteen,” I corrected him.

“Thirteen then. He isn’t in kindergarten for crying out loud.” Dad reached over and ruffled my hair.

“I can’t help it. I was born to worry.” Mother said.

“Learn to sit back and let the world go by… smell the roses, read a good book, listen to the radio,” Dad said.

“I can’t, I have too much housework to do… washing, ironing, cleaning there is no end in sight.”

“What I am trying to tell you is… don’t waste your time worrying… live a little.”

“I wish I could stop, but then who would do the worrying for this family? Certainly wouldn’t be you Arthur. You don’t worry about a thing… nothing bothers you.”

“I don’t let it… if something I should worry about comes along; I face it, get rid of it and continue on life’s track… I’m a happy little engine on the rails of life I guess.”

“Well haven’t you ever heard of a train wreck before?”

“Yep, but I have also heard of planes crashing, and cars getting stove up, but I can’t spend my time worrying about it; and neither should you.”

The debate went on until bedtime. I had heard this same endless, inexhaustible argument too many times to stick around and listen tonight. I went upstairs to bed, read until nine and slept until Mother called me at six thirty for school the next morning.

I washed, checked my smooth facial skin for signs of a whisker or two. Though I didn’t see a whisker, I took my father’s brush and soap, lathered up my face and shaved. When I finished I looked as if I had gone three rounds with Joe Lewis. I used Dad’s styptic pencil… ouch, brushed my teeth and went downstairs to breakfast.

“Good morning Dear,” Mother said. If she noticed the nicks in my face she didn’t say anything about them., Then this wasn’t the first time I had attempted to shave.

“Morning Ma.”

“I got hot oatmeal, toast and strawberry jam for you.”

“What’s Dad having?” I asked.

“Your father has the same thing every morning; bacon and eggs.”

“Then that’s what I’ll have too.”

“I have your breakfast all laid out for you. You eat your cereal… bacon and eggs can’t be good for you.” If they were good enough for my father, then they should be good enough for me too.

I ate the oatmeal rather than argue with my mother. She was a champion at arguing; she would make a college debate look like a playground dialogue between two four year olds.

The first person I saw at school this morning was Eric Green. He snarled at me; “Davis, I had to get right home yesterday… but I’ll be waiting for you at three this afternoon, Skinny.” Fear welled up in my soul, and my heart began to beat faster than a smithy’s hammer strike. Sweat rolled; no cascaded, down my back and into my underpants. Eric’s promised threat brought the fear back I had escaped yesterday.

At noon, we broke for lunch. Eric sat with two of his football buddies, and spent the hour making fun, with his friends, of the non jocks in the school, of which I was one.

The school lunch program in the cafeteria was like eating lunch in a shooting gallery; food flying in all directions. The din was deafening, and the only person in the whole school who would sit with me was a boy smaller than me, Stanley Goodwin. Stanley wasn’t much of a conversationalist, nor was I for that matter. We sat eating with little verbalizing.

“Stanley, have you ever been in a fight?” I got up courage to ask.

“Yes, with Eric Green last September; he beat me up something fierce. I was out of school two days. He claimed I fell, and I didn’t argue with him in front of the Principal Mr Wyman… Green would have made me pay for squealing.”

I was more afraid now than before lunch. I rushed into the boys locker room and barfed up my egg salad sandwich, small container of milk and a Twinkie. I stained my undershorts and felt sick to my stomach. Fear has that effect on me.

“What you doin’ in here, Davis?” It was Eric

“Ah… going to the bathroom,” I managed to say.

“Well get outta here before I mop up the floor with you,” he said, then added; “Don’t forget our little party after school today.” He laughed; I swear the evil chortle came from the very depths of his nefarious soul.

Three o’clock; time to go home. I looked out Miss Shaw’s window and there by the swing set stood Eric Green, ready for battle. I shook visibly, my heart racing, and I could imagine my stay in the hospital; broken arm, leg and a couple of ribs.

“Time to go, George,” Miss Shaw said. “See you tomorrow.” I doubt that Miss Shaw. I won’t be here tomorrow… I’ll be dead. Then you can come to my funeral, cry, maybe even give the eulogy.

“George was such a nice boy, never bothered anyone, never asked for anything. He was always on time, never missed a day of school. He was a bright young man with a promising future in writing. We, at Bickford Grammar School, will certainly miss him.”

I stood behind the front door contemplating my fate, before going out into the arena as a gladiator facing a fierce, hungry lion. I thought of all the people who would miss me after today. There was, of course, my parents, my Aunt Jeanette, Uncle Tom, cousins Timmy and Alice… maybe Mr Carlton, the mailman. He always stopped and talked with me whenever I was outside. I know Miss Concannon my history teacher, Mr Bogdanovich the Phys Ed teacher would mourn my passing.

While I stood and thought about those who would miss me, confidence began to built inside me. Suddenly I realized I couldn’t let fear take over my body, soul and spirit. I would go out there and face that bully; maybe he would beat me, even put me in the hospital, but I am not going down without a fight.

I threw open the door, stormed down over the stairs, my face set on the bully as he moved toward me. I grew more confident with every step I took toward the enemy. The closer I got to my foe, the smaller he became. I felt like David… sans the slingshot of course.

Without saying a word, we finally came toe to toe. Was I crazy or what? This foe I now faced has the reputation of winning every fight he has ever fought. Determined to overcome my fears, I waited, staring him down to the point I made him nervous.

“Well?” He said.

“Well what?” I replied without blinking an eye, and courage building in my heart. My mother’s words rang in my ears; “when you have a problem that appears to be insurmountable; face it head on, and then move on son.” Could this be the same mother who worried about worrying? The one who thrived on anxiety and what could have been rather than what good could come of any situation.

“Well…ah…” he began to slur his words, back away from me. “I could… take you if I… wanted to… but I’m gonna give you a break… I’m not gonna hurt you today.”

“Why?” I asked. What is the matter with me? I have a chance to walk away from being maimed for life, and I call his bluff?

“Cause… I don’t wanna that’s why. Now go home and get outta my sight.”

“Maybe I don’t want to move. You wanted a fight… so here I am. If you are a man, take the first shot, but let me warn you. You better make it count.” What is the matter with me? When did I grow a backbone? Full self-confidence overtook my anxiety and reluctance to fight the giant who, if split down the middle, would make two of me.

His face turned white; the red was gone. He backed off some more. “I don’t feel like fightin’ today. Can’t… we… call a truce or… somethin’?”

To tell the truth I didn’t want to fight either, but I didn’t want this nonsense to go on forever. “Okay, truce, but if you ever bother me or… Stanley again, you’ll answer to me. Got it?”

“Yes sir… I got it all right. Davis, I… I… I am sorry.” Eric Green went from a giant bully to a meek, mild boy of thirteen. That day Eric didn’t become smaller for his actions; he grew larger in stature, in my eyes.

“Apology accepted.” I extended my hand.

Time heals all wounds, and time passed quickly. It seems like yesterday I stood in defiance of the school’s most feared bully, staring him down. Inside Eric Green had proved to be nothing more than a scared little boy.

School ended and I went off to college in New Hampshire earning a degree in business.

Coming home I became a partner in an insurance company. I got married and have a lovely wife, two children and a large Cape with double dormers. It’s not a mansion, by any means, but it is in a good middle class neighborhood where my lawn is larger than a postage stamp but smaller than a football field. I belong to the Bickford-Cumberland Falls Country Club, the Kiwanis, Rotary and Bickford Baptist Church.

Not a day goes by my son doesn’t ask why he has to wash before coming to the table. His excuse is the same as mine was thirty years ago, and like my mother, I make sure he washes before he eats.

My business partner and I have been hugely successful in our company. He is also married and has one daughter; owns a large ranch home over in Cumberland Falls, and is a member of the country club, as well.

The name of our company is Davis and Green. Eric Green and I are partners in business. We often reminisce about our playground rendezvous in eighth grade, and how we became good friends, and now business partners.

I am reminded of a scripture; “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Everybody has, or will, face an Eric Green if he lives long enough. My advice; face the enemy and stare him down, if he doesn’t blink… run for your life.

 

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2 Responses to The Silent Swing

  1. geedda says:

    Thank you, Priyanka. It is encouraging to me… George

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