The last two hours of that day’s schooling dragged pitifully out, so much so that when the bell signalled school’s end, the air was electric with excitement. Nathan Johnson was to be taught a lesson he would never forget.
With school finished, David began the walk home. Usually, there were only one or two people who followed the same trek around the block as he did. With today being a Thursday, it meant that there was football training at four-thirty, and thus, a few additions to the normal could be seen fluttering about. But David wasn’t fool enough to think that all of these extra people had any personal stake in football.
A fairly large group of kids were heading in the direction of Tyson Maloney’s grandmother’s place to ready themselves for training. It was a regular stop for Tyson, whose grandmother tolerated the friends he dragged around with him. David trailed behind this first group by a few metres, for Tyson did not hold him in high regard. He walked in the middle of the group, towering like a colossus over most of his underlings because of the enormity in age difference.
These boys were tagging behind a very doomed Nathan Johnson. His walk was not the same confident march that had seen him into the schoolyard that morning, but rather the dawdle of a man about to be strung up in the gallows. Though David couldn’t see Nathan’s features clearly from the distance he was behind him, it was certain that by the way he aimlessly wandered that he expected something to happen. Nobody would be foolish enough to pick the bully out of the playground and expect to get away with it, would they?
During those last two agonising hours at school, no fear touched Nathan’s face. He was jovial, calm… and, for probably the only time in his life… friendly. David had to admit that he felt a twitch of guilt in his heart watching him in those last two hours, knowing that come school’s end, Nathan was going to get hurt. As much as he wanted to alert him of what was coming, David knew to do so would imperil himself, but something Nathan portrayed in his persona told David that he knew what was coming and he thought it was no problem at all.
So there he was, trailing with an overwhelming sense of guilt some metres behind Tyson and his thugs, who were trailing behind Nathan at a similar distance until they came to the vacant lot that had once been a park. It was here that Tyson made his first move; he ordered his hyenas, Vinnie and Damien to “grab the little motherfucker and hold him down so that I can administer some punishment.”
Always happy to serve Tyson as if he was a King rather than an over-aged primary school bully, they quickly tossed aside their school bags and made for Nathan. Vincent was first to attack. He grabbed Nathan’s left arm, and was about to wrench it around his back when the most amazing thing happened. Nathan spun around quickly, and while he was spinning, he pushed out with his right hand, which he had formed into a tight fist. There was a loud squishy explosion as Nathan’s fist connected with Vinnie’s nose. Vinnie, with a squawk of surprise, staggered back with his nose spouting blood.
All of this happened before Damien knew about it, and he unknowingly grasped Nathan in an attempt to put him in a headlock. Nathan dispatched Damien as swiftly and brutally as he did Vinnie, but instead of a fist to Damien’s nose, Nathan delivered one to his nuts. With an immense howl of pain, Damien was lying on the ground gasping for air.
By this time, David had caught up with Tyson’s group, and could see Vinnie vainly trying to stem the flow of blood with his hands while Damien lay on the ground holding his nuts, sobbing. A secret smile spread across David’s lips at their misfortune, for never before had they been given a whopping as severely as what Nathan had given them. He now stood his ground, hands by his side, his cold blue eyes firmly fixed on Tyson.
“This fight is between you and me,” he said, his voice clear, carrying well in the vacant lot. There was no sign of exertion—he had dispatched Vinnie and Damien with a minimal amount of effort, for you didn’t have to possess too much grey matter to know that neither of them were prize fighters. He continued: “If you haven’t the guts to fight me, Tyson, then go away. I haven’t got the time to waste on shitty fisticuffs with half of this fucking town.”
Though Nathan’s face was too far away for David to see, he could clearly see Tyson’s; a mixture of surprise and anguish. Never before had he seen a two on one situation reversed, with the one coming out on top. Tyson was neither intimidated by Nathan’s speed, nor by the aura of calm that surrounded that kid. He let his back pack slide off his right shoulder effortlessly, cracked his knuckles and proceeded to walk towards Nathan with a large retinue of curious kids, David included, in tow.
Nathan’s mistake was that he waited for Tyson to attack. Tyson, a veteran of the one-on-one scene, circled around and around his opponent, his eyes darting back and forth, scouring his opponent with the scrutiny of a scientist inspecting a microbe. Only when his scrutiny was complete did he move; and fast! For a boy of his size, Tyson moved swiftly, and because of his size, Nathan, despite all of his courage, was forced to back away, and he did just that. He took a step back, then another, and before he could stop himself, he stepped back again…
…into a hole in the ground. Without having to physically knock him down, Tyson had Nathan on the ground, and when he had someone on the ground, Tyson had him. With his considerable weight, he grabbed Nathan in the headlock Damien had failed to put him in, and rained blow after blow into his unprotected face until blood poured from his smashed lips and his nose.
“No motherfucker calls me dad a jailbird,” he said after one final blow. “Especially a motherfucker like you.”
When he got to his feet, the front of his shirt was stained crimson with Nathan’s blood. Disgusted, he tore the shirt off, exposing a full accompaniment of chest hair that played the vital difference between him and his cronies. Having won the battle, Tyson walked off, but not before Vinnie and Damien each kicked Nathan a good one in the guts, trailing after their King feeling a little embarrassed for their misadventure.
The tribe of kids followed in Tyson’s wake down the street; except for David, who for reasons unknown found himself helping Nathan into a sitting position. Nathan stared blandly up at him, the coldness still in his eyes, though they were barely able to remain open.
“Take my hanky,” David said, offering a neatly folded piece of checkered rag. “Boy, did he make a mess out of you.”Nathan swatted at the blood that was coming out of his nose. “I’m gonna get that bastard,” he whispered more to himself than to anyone else. “Mark my words,” he said, before getting groggily to his feet, and without as much as a sideways glance in David’s direction, ambled down the street towards his home.