the trigger

I heard the whistling of the air, a high screaming sound of something small and fast careening towards my head, the instant before the rock struck with a dull thud.  I’d flinched, frightened by the sudden rushing noise, but the instinctive movement hadn’t been enough to remove me from the missiles path.

A ringing echo thundered between my ears and I stayed hunched down, to avoid further attacks, as I turned to see who had thrown the rock at me.  A sheepish grin and a raised apologetic hand alerted me to the assailant.  “Sorry,” he said from halfway across the playground, “I wasn’t aiming for you.”

I mumbled “No worries,” and waved him off while rubbing at my skull as though the circular motion might somehow ease away the pain and keep the growing welt from forming.  Sure he hadn’t meant to hit me.  Sure he’d been just having a bit of fun.  Sure his incessant “joking” at my expense wasn’t supposed to be harmful or damaging.  It was all in good fun…

I was tired of that lie.

The school day ended and I sat in silence, ignoring the earnest imploring to share about my day, when my mom picked me up and drove me home.  We’d had all the circular arguments about bullies before.  The school had been notified.  The prime offenders had been suspended, only to return after their sentence and resume their offenses.  There was nothing more to be said.  There was no solution that could be achieved through words.

There was, however, plenty that could be achieved through anger, and violence, and destruction, and the guns I’d be taught to care for and fire accurately from a young age.  When the blood red haze of rage lifted and I was asked why I had done it, I wouldn’t lie.  I aimed.  I pulled the trigger.  It was not in good fun.

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28 thoughts on “the trigger

  1. On Bullies:

    I was standing on the playground, breath coming shallow and fast. I had reached my breaking point, and I had a plan. Isn’t that is what is called premeditation? It is the worst kind of violence.

    My neck and scalp ached from a morning of confinement. My fourth grade teacher had absolutely no imagination, and for months I sat Cathy Blackburn -B in front of Alan Caplan -C. This morning he had once again eased my ponytail into the hinge of his desk and trapped me with my head pulled back in such a way that I could only see the blackboard to copy my seat work if I painfully strained against the tension. What was worse is that this was our cursive writing lesson, and I could hardly see my paper to form those flowing curves.

    Allan loved to run. He was the fasted boy on the playground, and had the arrogance to flaunt it, even in third grade. But I had noticed that in his pride he lifted his head, nostrils upward (Much like our current president, in fact). This was my chance. I eased from my line in the game of hopscotch where we girls segregated ourselves and waited. As he streaked past, I quickly thrust out my leg, shin high, and he flew. I watched with fascination, as he glided like a paper airplane, first through the air, and then belly down on the blacktop to a full stop. He had not even had time to throw out his arms to catch himself.

    It was totally silent for a moment, as if time stood still. Slowly he sat up and then let out a blood curdling wail. I was horrified when I saw the bloody grit covering his chin and one cheek. The burn must have been tremendous, since it had been less than a week since they had salt treated the playground after a late spring ice storm. At that moment I learned true repentance. I ran and got the teacher whose back was turned to the crime scene. I watched as she lead the wounded bully from the field.

    When Alan calmed enough to speak I waited for him to tell the teacher. I was ready to take my punishment. I deserved it. But he had not even seen me. When I planned my revenge I thought I would feel vindicated, or at least justified. I felt neither. What I felt was shame. I realized that I was also capable of being a bully.

    This is a true story of me in 4th grade.

    • Thank you for sharing this.
      In the pain that bullied kids deal with they don’t often have the proper reasoning to see that revenge will likely make them feel worse.
      I never got revenge on any of my bullies. I was too busy hoping they would end up liking me, accepting me into their fold, and then when I realized that would never happen I was too worried that I’d be in worse trouble for any retribution I sought. My brother had a knack for getting caught in such situations and I had no desire to follow in his footsteps.
      It wasn’t until much later in life that I begun to understand that I had walked the correct path by never fighting back. Still, even that knowledge can’t assuage the pain that has remained all these years. I know I’m supposed to forgive and forget… Maybe one day I will.

  2. I was standing on the playground, breath coming shallow and fast. I had reached my breaking point, and I had a plan. Isn’t that is what is called premeditation? It is the worst kind of violence.

    My neck and scalp ached from a morning of confinement. My fourth grade teacher had absolutely no imagination, and for months I sat Cathy Blackburn -B in front of Alan Caplan -C. This morning he had once again eased my ponytail into the hinge of his desk and trapped me with my head pulled back in such a way that I could only see the blackboard to copy my seat work if I painfully strained against the tension. What was worse is that this was our cursive writing lesson, and I could hardly see my paper to form those flowing curves.

    Allan loved to run. He was the fasted boy on the playground, and had the arrogance to flaunt it, even in third grade. But I had noticed that in his pride he lifted his head, nostrils upward (Much like our current president, in fact). This was my chance. I eased from my line in the game of hopscotch where we girls segregated ourselves and waited. As he streaked past, I quickly thrust out my leg, shin high, and he flew. I watched with fascination, as he glided like a paper airplane, first through the air, and then belly down on the blacktop to a full stop. He had not even had time to throw out his arms to catch himself.

    It was totally silent for a moment, as if time stood still. Slowly he sat up and then let out a blood curdling wail. I was horrified when I saw the bloody grit covering his chin and one cheek. The burn must have been tremendous, since it had been less than a week since they had salt treated the playground after a late spring ice storm. At that moment I learned true repentance. I ran and got the teacher whose back was turned to the crime scene. I watched as she lead the wounded bully from the field.

    When Alan calmed enough to speak I waited for him to tell the teacher. I was ready to take my punishment. I deserved it. But he had not even seen me. When I planned my revenge I thought I would feel vindicated, or at least justified. I felt neither. What I felt was shame. I realized that I was also capable of being a bully.

    This is a true story of me in 4th grade.

  3. Wow! I’m struggling hard not to applaud. sighs…. I’m sure that says nothing good, except that like the person in the writing.. I too was bullied. The fact that bullies are allowed to go on with their behavior and in some instances even encouraged makes me not feel surprised that in some instances it comes to this. I taught my daughter to fight back. Not with guns…but with her body. I wish wish wish someone had given me the same advice when I was young. When you fight back…even if you do not win… they most often look for an easier target. I taught my daughter to defend herself. She got suspended once in grade school for doing so….but I suspect for her it was worth it because those brats didn’t bother her after that. 🙂

    • But then did they bother somebody else? Just passing the torture down the line…
      There’s no easy solution here, that’s for sure. For a long time I wished I’d been brave enough to fight back… But then what? They pick in someone else and instead of daily pain I have daily guilt? Or I continue stand against them and then my years are scarred by fights…
      There needs to be a cultural shift… and not just laws and rules that can easily be ignored and broken.

      • I totally agree….but there should be no guilt in defending one’s self. If they pick on someone else it’s up to that person to defend themselves. But you are right, things need to change in general. I was astounded, and I don’t really know why, the first time I realized that many parents condone bullying behavior because they themselves are bullies. I am not sure how to change that. Obviously talking, education, does not change it. It should but it doesn’t. Bullies young or old appear to feel justified in their behavior. I think if rules were better enforced that would help, not eliminate but help. We watched a documentary (Bully) that really brought into focus how much the adults involved allow this, and sometimes encourage through direct action, or simple inaction, the behavior to continue. I think if adults in schools handled it differently and the punishments were harsher it could in theory put a stop to it. I think if children are caught bullying more than a couple of times maybe they should be expelled. It could end up that all the bullies end up at a school of their own where they only have each other to pick on. I don’t have the long answer, but the short answer is to fight back and not be a victim.

      • Would you want to teach at that school?

        It’s an interesting study of our culture. Don’t be a bully, but fight for what is right. Violence is never the answer, but stand up for yourself. Embrace our differences but hang on to your heritage.
        It’s a wonder any of us survive childhood with our sanity in tact….

      • No, of course not. But what’s the answer? You know I had further thoughts… maybe if you or I, had fought back..we could have lead others to do so as well, then no one would have had to be bullied. At least not on our watch. 🙂

  4. Well done, sir. To your comment in about fighting for what’s right; there are times when those fighting for what’s right are seen as the bully. As a second grader, I was once on the bus with a kindergartener who felt the need to call those of African lineage the ‘n’ word. I took it for about two minutes, then jumped up, enraged. I read her the riot act, pointing out that not only was our principal (who was at the time, in my estimation, one of the scariest female authority figures I’d ever met) and our superintendent (who I adored … he always smelled good, was kind, and had the shiniest shoes …) were in the group of people she called stupid and other offensive things. And so was I. As the bus continued moving, I shoved her to the floor, hard. I was hauled off to the principal’s office, my parents were called, and I was punished. A day’s suspension, I believe. It’s lost to the annals of time now. However, my parents did not punish me because they knew the impetus behind my action. They reprimanded me for how I reacted but celebrated that I reacted at all. Had it happened today in the same community with all the continued unrest in this nation, I dare imagine what sort of repercussions would have been levied at my family and me for my actions. However, the girl never spoke that way in my presence again …

    • Hurrah for the gumption to stand up! I do applaud that.
      I think it just depresses me sometimes that we would ask our children to do that. We are failures for not making it so they live in a world where they would never be faced with that situation.

  5. All too sad this is current reality. Where we need change is having the resources necessary to council those bullied and giving them a safe haven to report such bullying instead of the kids taking it into their own hands when they’ve had too much. It seems all too often even the parents or school doesn’t realize how hurt they are. But that’s a whole other wasp’s nest.

    • Yes, the inattentiveness of parents and school personnel is part of the problem, speaking to a larger cultural issue where we don’t put enough time and care to our kids because we are too busy trying to better ourselves… and, yes, that is a whole other wasp nest.

  6. Hard for me to like that… feels too real and just too horrible. And I know it’s possible, and that this happens, and I cannot fathom how we haven’t been able to curb the bullying and the gun retaliation that sometimes occurs. I think the newer generations are getting better. Or maybe I just hope it, I don’t know.

    • Ah, there’s that word: hope. I too hope some good comes of all of this. In a way these characters are real, and I hope that means when I figure out what to do with them, the good they do will be real too.

  7. I wonder if there’s a link between all the school shootings in the US and the shooters having been bullied when they were at school.

    It’s a huge problem, and I honestly think part of the problem is that it gets called “bullying” which makes it seem less important, more trivial, and somewhat infantile. If it were properly named, and always referred to as “abuse” – which is exactly what it is – then maybe people would be more likely to take action.

    Good writing, as always, Sir Jester.

    • It’s a good question about the correlation. I’m not sure of the answer though. Sadly, I’m not sure changing the label to abuse would help much. Parents are too busy with their own lives to take an active interest in their child’s life, no matter what their problems are called.

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