65: Fighting Back

65: Fighting Back

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

Fighting Back

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

~Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m certain that psychologists have suggestions for dealing with bullies, but when I was in fifth grade, I hadn’t heard any. I was just a quiet girl with astigmatism who had to wear glasses to read the board.

In our class there was one boy who had been held back a year. His nickname was “Red” since he had a carrot top and bright freckles. However, he was not very nice. He was taller and heavier than the other boys and girls in our class and would pick a fight at recess with anyone smaller than himself. We all avoided him as much as possible, which made him all the more hostile.

One day our teacher called on Red for an answer when he wasn’t paying attention to her history lesson.

“That’s a stupid question,” Red responded in a surly tone of voice.

Our teacher ignored him and called on me for the answer. When I gave the correct response, there were snickers from some of the other boys. Red turned toward me, a person he’d ignored until now, his face flaming the color of his nickname.

“I’ll get you for that,” he threatened.

There were several gasps. I think one of them was from me.

That day, I didn’t go out for recess. I went to the nurse’s office instead. I told my teacher I had a sick stomach, and it wasn’t a lie. I couldn’t even eat my lunch. My stomach was much too nervous. I knew that Red would go after me. He’d beaten up boys much bigger and stronger than I was. He usually didn’t bother with girls, but it appeared I was going to be the exception. I really didn’t know what to do to protect myself from this vicious bully. I realized Red had problems, serious emotional and mental problems, but that didn’t help me. And there was no appealing to his better side. Trying to talk to him wasn’t going to work.

I waited a while to walk home from school that day, hoping Red would forget about me if he didn’t see me. But fate was not that kind. Red knew where I lived, since he lived half a block away. I was nearly home when he sprang out of the shrubbery and ambushed me. He grabbed me by the jacket collar and I screamed. As he brought his fist up to punch me, I swung the book bag I always carried. It was full of heavy books. The bag connected with his head with a dull thumping sound. Red groaned and released me.

I ran the rest of the way home not even looking back to see if he was following me. I was crying and breathless when I came into the house. I was also shaking violently. My mother was there and asked for an explanation. Flustered, I told her as best I could about the incident with Red. She immediately wanted to call the school, but I begged her not to do it.

“All right,” she said finally with some reluctance, “but if this boy ever bothers you again, I’m going to report the incident and ask your principal to take action.”

I agreed with my mother. However, I couldn’t help thinking that reporting Red would only make him angrier. I feared retaliation.

The next day, my mother insisted on taking me to school and I didn’t refuse. I was grateful. But I knew that wouldn’t solve the problem. I wasn’t sure what would. When I got to class, several of the kids pointed at me and then at Red. I wasn’t certain what that meant until I took a look at him. There he sat with the biggest black eye I’d ever seen.

Now I understood the buzz in our classroom.

Apparently, word had gotten around. It seemed another student had seen the attack Red had launched on me, and its aftermath. That student had spread the word. After our class settled down, our teacher turned to Red.

“That’s quite a shiner you have there. I’d give up picking on smaller kids if I were you,” she said to him. Then she turned to me with a pleased smile. “Some of them have the courage to stand up for themselves. You’re giving bullies a bad name.”

The entire class laughed and Red looked more than a little embarrassed. He was suddenly the object of scorn and ridicule. It was the best revenge anyone could have against a bully. He never bothered me again. In fact, his reign of terror had come to an abrupt end.

~Jacqueline Seewald

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