Perhaps every one is prone to it—the attempt to feel and assert that one is superior to somebody. To all appearances the low man on our local neighborhood totem pole was little Richie White, the guy everybody, except me, beat up.
Please understand I could have beaten him up. One day he was there; I had to go into the house to see a man about a horse, and told Richie to stay OFF MY BIKE. No sooner do I turn around than he jumps on it. I knock him over; he’s like a paper bag. I assume the beat the shit out of Richie White posture by jumping on his chest. And I look at the guy and see him slobbering and snorting and wincing and I haven’t even hit him yet. I got up and said, “Just go home, will you.” And he did.
But one guy might have qualified as lower than Richie because he was funny looking and kids are not kind to strange looking people. Fred Peace had been born a bit different. For one thing he had been born with terrible eye sight; he had these huge coke bottle lens glasses and you really couldn’t see his eyes swimming around in those things. And he had this very light, too fleecy hair, and skin that looked sort of leathery with little tiny bumps all over it. And he had no eyebrows to speak of. Something had gone a little tiny bit off in the genetic factory. Clearly he was human but distinctly odd and pretty small too.
He got picked on, of course. But after elementary school anyway people stopped it. There was something about him that just took the fun out of it. For one thing, he was remorselessly polite. If somebody hit him in the teeth, he was as likely to say as not, “I apologize if my teeth got in the way of your fist. I hope I did not damage your knuckles.” So if you got to beating on him, you found yourself looking at this guy who was not going to beg, or flinch, or cry out in pain, or holler for help or anything. He was just going to fucking take it because at some level he felt the situation was completely hopeless and there was just no use in whining about. It was like whatever troubles he had with his genetics had taught him that nobody is in control and that whatever happened there was no point at all in being frightened.
Fred was a Boy Scout like me, and I liked him alright. It was impossible to have a conversation with him because he really didn’t have much to say. But he was a good companion if you didn’t want to talk.
The first year we went to high school we didn’t have what would be our high school yet, so they bussed us to another one. People wore black leather jackets and such there, and there were people called “hoods.” So one afternoon coming back on the bus, Richie White, just as Fred is going to sit down, sticks up his pencil just where Fred is going to sit down, and the pencil goes right through the pants and hits Fred in the scrotum. Fred like jumps up, he doesn’t yell or anything but tears start to run out from under his glasses.
And somebody across from Richie hits him right in the side of the head and his glasses go flying and Richie says he didn’t mean to and it was an accident, and Fred you are alright aren’t you.
What a dickhead.
People said that when Mr. Peace got home and heard what had happened to Fred he had to be restrained by Mrs. Peace and Fred from going down the Whites and beating the shit out of Mr. White and little Richie. Because more was going on here than met the naked eye. Maybe because of those genetic issues only one of Fred’s testicles had descended. And that goddamn pencil had gone right into the one that had descended, though the doctor had told them that it would be all right.. Still the family jewels and the line of descent had been threatened by that errant pencil as wielded by one Richie White.