The Schoolyard Bully: 1

The Schoolyard Bully: 1 

When we moved out of Grandma’s house, I transferred to a new elementary school, where upon entering the third grade there was immediate trouble; beside the obvious obstacle of being a strange boy trying to fit in and avoid being picked on. 

A black boy named Vernon, the self-appointed King of the schoolyard, had stayed back so many times no one really knew how old he was. Apparently he did not study or move up the grade ladder. He just went to school. 

He was twice as big as anyone else but had suffered a congenital birth defect, which caused his left arm to be both miniaturely undeveloped as well as permanently contracted at the elbow. It reminded me of the arm on a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a giant monster lizard with disproportionately tiny dangling little arms. But the problem was that Vernon’s right arm was actually overdeveloped to compensate for the difference; making it so strong he could pick you off the ground with it. 

Most of the school kids had pocket change to go to a little store up the road, either on the way to school or at lunchtime, where they could buy penny candy and cupcakes. But Vernon would hide out to waylay everyone like a highwayman demanding part or all of everyone’s booty, a bad habit I think he relied on because he did not always have lunch money himself. 

He would use the little arm, which was permanently flexed but mobile enough to hook around your neck while the strong arm grabbed the paper bag with the goodies. Once the little arm was around your neck any active movement in a struggle to escape would be to risk suffocation. 

I told my mother about him and that he tried to choke me.

She said: “Choke him back.”

Either she did not really get the big picture, meaning how much bigger Vernon was, did not care to hear about it, or as usual just wanted me to stand up for myself. 

I was terrified of him until the day I decided not to fight back but rather to propose a deal. Instead of waiting to be accosted, I walked up to him holding two bags full of candy and gave him one. The proposition was that if he would leave me alone, I would make sure he got something every time I went to the candy store. 

We eventually became good friends, he then became my bodyguard and when it became known around the schoolyard that Vernon was my shadow, nobody ever bothered me. Since I did not like to fight anyway, the situation around the playground for anyone trying to mess with me had now become one of respectful deterrence similar to nuclear missile parity.

If ever necessary I now had someone else do the towel snapping for me, creating the serenely secure feeling of knowing I was protected. 

Unfortunately, Vernon never graduated grade school and did not come along with me to high school, where I then had to learn new survival skills.

In retrospect, instead of having to wait until the age of thirty to start practice as a physician, perhaps it would have been far more lucrative to have dropped out of school, taken up a life of crime and given Vernon the permanent job of becoming my body guard, my shooter and my enforcer.






-Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.-


If you’ll be my body guard

I can be your long lost pal

I can call you Betty

And Betty when you call me

You can call me Al


(Paul Simon)



Photo source:…/no_more_bullies.jpg



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