"What's wrong with my shirt, dummy?"
"Just look at you, man. Let's get some other opinions. Hey guys, look at him, will ya? His mommy pegged his shirt for him, and Jimmy's trying to show off his muscles. I betcha you don't even weigh seventy-five pounds; where is your muscle, anyway, Jimmy, you runt? Go on, flex it for us, tough guy. Come on, let's see it!"
Two young men, twelve years of age, are in Mr. Strong's Homeroom class, and Mr. Strong has stepped out for a minute. He does that every day at this time, and the whole class snickers when he says he'll be back in a minute, "And I had better not catch any of you out of your seats!" We all know that Miss Johnson is in the classroom right next door and that she comes out in the hallway at the designated time. No one has seen what they do; we're all too scared of Mr. Strong to sneak a peek. He has a tough guy image and no one wants to cause him to lose his temper. There are rumors from the past, of guys who refused to follow the rules. It's said that one of 'em has failed 3 years in a row, and he's fifteen, still in Manley Junior High. No one would want that kind of punishment, so when Mr. Strong says something, we listen.
"Louie, you had better shut your mouth, man, or you will see how much muscle I have. Everybody here knows you are just a rich kid, whose parents can't afford to send you to that private school any longer. So, here you are, smart mouthing a guy from a tough neighborhood. You've probably never been in a real fight in your life, pal. You are just a blowhard. Yeah, that's what everybody calls you; a damn blowhard."
"Oh yeah?" We'll see who is tough. I'm gonna kick your ass, smart mouth!"
"Well, then come on Mr. Louie Cheatum. Tough man, Cheatum, huh? Let's see your muscle, man. It's all hidden under that sloppy shirt your mommy ironed for you."
"Jimmy, if you don't shut your mouth, I'm gonna shut it for you!"
"Yeah, you and whose Army, buster? Ouch! You hit me, you Cheatum, dumb, dumb. Here's a little something you can tell your mommy about. Slap!
"Why, you SOB, you. Put 'em up. Come on over here in the open, Louie." We'll see how tough you are. Puck, puck, puck! You dumb chicken!"
The fight was really underway, now, with both of us slugging with our eyes closed. Louie caught me a good one, right on my temple, and I felt kinda dizzy, but I kept swinging until I landed a glancing blow on his lip. It wasn't a solid hit, but his lip started bleeding. That scared me, and for a minute, we both stopped and everyone, including me, was trying to find something Louie could use to stop the bleeding. I didn't want to fight anymore, but he had gotten even angrier, and he hit me right in the jaw, just as Mr. Strong returned to the classroom.
"Gentlemen, both of you come up front, please. Now, what is going on, here?"
Louie and I looked at each other and, simultaneously, shrugged our shoulders. Neither of us knew what to say because we didn't want to repeat what we had said to each other. We rather suddenly realized how embarrassing that would be, to actually tell an adult what we had said to each other. We also realized that we were in deep doo-doo. You see, Mr. Strong was the tough guy, not us. It was the nineteen-fifties, way before teachers had stopped punishing kids. We knew we were about to experience the wrath of Mr. Strong and his paddle, which he had rightly named, "Thunder."
"Young gentlemen, please assume the position, both hands on my desk, please. Okay, class, you are about to see what happens when you disobey me. Fighting is not permissible on school grounds, especially in my classroom. Each of these young men is about to receive three licks from, "Thunder." Now, for your edification, here's Thunder. He resides in the middle, side drawer of my desk. Who wishes to be first? Mr. Coles? Mr. Cheatum? Make up your mind now. Both of you are going to get it anyway. I tell you what, let's flip a coin. Jimmy, you'll be "heads," Louie, you'll be "tails."
Oh, looky here! Step up now, Mr. Coles."
It has been, many, many years since Junior High, and the great lesson both Louie and I learned that day. As I write this, I feel my rear end burning a little bit. It definitely burned the rest of the day, that fateful day. A funny thing happened, too. Louie and I became the best of friends, immediately after we both experienced the wrath of "Thunder." I used to see Louie quite often and each time we would laugh about Mr. Strong and Thunder. It was truly a
dis-ASS-her (or, "him") that day, and isn't it funny that it took a disaster for us to become such good friends? It even made us more popular around the school. We had survived the wrath of Thunder, and we did it together.
This could explain why we humans come together after a real disaster, or soldiers do not want to leave their wounded friends behind after a firefight. Respect. We learned respect for each other that fateful day. I haven't seen Louie in several years and I sure hope he's okay. Both of us have become senior, seniors, which means, we are old. It reminds me that regardless of age, you are never too old to learn. When I was young, I couldn't imagine reaching this age. By now, I should know everything there is to know, but the truth is, we know so little about almost everything. I'm gonna dream about you tonight, Louie!