By Robert A. Vella
A long time ago in a community far, far away, I recall my junior-high school days as an adolescent. I remember this kid, to whom I’ll refer to as “Danny,” who was the prototypical bully. Danny was smart, aggressive, and incredibly sly. He came from a successful, highly competitive family. Danny was the schoolyard king during 7th and 8th grades, ruthlessly putting down all challengers to his self-appointed throne. Although not the biggest nor the strongest kid around, Danny was nevertheless the consummate fighter. His physical ability to employ his fists and feet as weapons was unsurpassed, as was his discretion in knowing when to use them. You see, Danny never picked on weaker kids because they posed no threat to his rule.
There was another kid in school whom I’ll call “Dirk.” He was a physically imposing boy even at 13-14 years old – tall, sturdily built, and exceptionally muscular. In contrast to Danny, Dirk was something of a beast – not particularly bright, extremely naive, and emotionally consumed with his inner passions. He came from a poor, broken home on the wrong side of the tracks. Dirk scared the hell out of us ordinary kids, we never knew what to expect from him.
Everyone assumed that sooner or later Danny and Dirk would confront each other, to “have it out” so to speak. When the momentous day came, excitement at the school was so thick you could cut it with a knife. That afternoon after classes, Danny and Dirk faced off in an open field adjacent to our school. Despite Dirk’s physical superiority, Danny’s skill proved decisive. He repeatedly punched and kicked the larger boy before any counterattack could be mounted. Danny was much quicker and far more precise. Dirk fell to the ground with a bloody nose. When he jumped back on his feet, Danny knocked him down again giving the defiant kid an ugly swollen eye in the process. But to everyone’s amazement, Dirk rose once more and once more he was put down. Still, he wouldn’t quit. Danny was shocked beyond belief. No one had ever defied his authority with so much stubborn disregard for their own well-being. Us other kids cheered on the hulking but battered Dirk. Danny walked away dejected, tactically victorious yet strategically defeated. His rule as school king was over.