A Mother Takes On Big Tony

A Mother Takes On Big Tony

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

A Mother Takes On Big Tony

When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.
~Sophia Loren

“Can you do me a favor?” asked Bobby, a seventh grade classmate at my junior high school. “Hold this extra pair of shoes for me and I’ll pick them up right after the final bell.”

Now I had a dilemma. I was new at school and Bobby was one of the first friends that I had met. But I had a dental appointment after school and my mother said that she would pick me up in front of the school building at the end of the day. What was I going to do?

My mother was always late. So I told Bobby that I would wait for him at my locker with his shoes for a few minutes after the final bell. We agreed that if he did not show up at my locker after ten minutes I would just leave his shoes in a brown bag on the floor in front of my locker. He thanked me and said, “That would be perfect.”

When the final bell rang at 3:15, I ran to my locker. I turned the corner of the hallway where my locker was located, expecting to see Bobby waiting for me. But Bobby was nowhere in sight. I opened my locker and took out Bobby’s shoes. Still no Bobby. One minute, ten minutes, twenty minutes. No Bobby. It was 3:45 and the hallways were empty. Only the school janitor remained.

I put Bobby’s shoes in a brown paper bag and put the sack down next to my locker. I then bolted to meet my mother, who told me she had been waiting for me since 3:13. Probably the first time she hadn’t been late in my entire life.

The next day, I saw Bobby at school.

“Where are my shoes?” he asked.

I explained to him that I had left the shoes in a brown paper bag on the floor next to my locker. I reminded him that he had agreed to this plan.

Bobby screamed, “THOSE SHOES—THOSE SHOES—THEY WERE NOT MY SHOES! THEY WERE TONY’S SHOES!”

I swallowed and meekly said, “You mean Big Tony?”

Bobby did not have to say one word. The look on his face told me I was right. I was your typical thirteen-year-old: Five-foot-two, voice cracking, poor complexion. But Tony, well, basically, he was a big man. He was over six feet tall, bearded, with an Afro that had a metal rake in it.

I ran all the way home, surprising my parents. “What’s the matter? Are you feeling okay?” my mother asked.

I explained the problem with Big Tony’s shoes and begged my parents for help.

My father was quick to respond: “We’ll just buy Tony some other shoes. Mike, find out what size he wears.”

But before my father could finish his sentence, my mother erupted, “We’re not buying any shoes for Tony. This is ridiculous. Mike told the boy if he wasn’t at his locker he would just leave the shoes and that’s exactly what he did. I don’t want to hear anyone saying anything more about buying shoes!”

I was shocked. My mother had always been so passive with everything, but now when her son was probably going to be murdered, she was standing up and being assertive. I did not know what to do.

My mother quickly replied, “Mike—you go back to school this instant and I don’t want to hear one more word about any kind of shoes!”

As I slowly and meekly exited from my house, I heard my mother’s remark as I closed the door: “Ridiculous!”

I was petrified at school when I returned. I pondered which would be worse: Getting punched by Big Tony or facing the wrath of my mother.

I could not concentrate on anything that day except the sounding of the final bell. At half past two, the door to my classroom creaked open. I was even more petrified as I looked to see who was on the other side.

Thankfully, it was just Mrs. Brown, the frail sixty-eight-year-old school secretary, who whispered something to Mrs. Johnson, my fifth period math teacher. Mrs. Johnson quickly told the class, “Boys and girls, it seems Mr. Watson (the school assistant principal) wants to talk to Mike.”

I walked with Mrs. Brown to Mr. Watson’s office. As I sat in the chair outside his office, I could feel my knees shaking as I wondered which was worse—being punched by Big Tony, facing the wrath of my mother, or being questioned by the assistant principal.

Mr. Watson exited from his office and motioned me to join him there. I rose from my chair, entered his office, and sat down—but my knees refused to stop knocking.

However, I was so surprised by his meek voice when he began speaking: “Mike, I understand you’re having some problems with a Tony Peterson. Ordinarily I don’t condone students fighting, however I’ll make an exception in this case. Mike, you can fight Tony.”

As he said those words, my mouth dropped open. Was he kidding? How was I going to fight Big Tony?

I left Mr. Watson’s office feeling petrified. I could not concentrate on anything, except avoiding Tony. However, as the days went by Tony did not even say anything to me. In the ensuing weeks I realized what must have happened: my parents must have called Mr. Watson and threatened dire consequences if I were hurt. In turn Mr. Watson must have persuaded Tony to leave me alone.

True, if my father would have had his way, I would have been able to sleep much easier that eventful evening when Tony lost his shoes. However, because my mother got her way, I learned many lessons, including that money cannot buy everything. For that, and for so much more, I say, “Thank you, mom.”

~Michael Jordan Segal

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