By Harry Welty
I used to have a southern accent. I didn’t say
“ya’ll” or anything like that because I was from
All of the students in North Mankato Junior High had attended the same elementary school the previous year and I was the only new kid. The seventh grade’s social elite was already clearly established. One particular alpha male carried himself with an assurance that was guaranteed to keep popular girls hanging around his locker. This was John.
I happened to sit in front of John in English. A week or so after school started I turned around to collect the homework that our row was passing forward to turn in. I don’t think I did anything to provoke John while I waited for him to pass me the papers. Nonetheless, he narrowed his eyes and challenged me with cool arrogance. “You wanna fight me?”
“Sure,” I lied, hoping and praying that he was just
pulling my leg. The code of junior high bravado required the answer I had given
John. He wasn’t kidding. I took a mental gulp and asked him where and when we
should meet. “At seven tonight. Under the traffic light at Range and
After dinner I casually told my Mother that I had to go.
Puzzled, she asked me why. “Because I have to go fight a guy,” Mom didn’t
argue with me and I don’t recall her asking me a lot of questions. I knew she
felt helpless in the face of this adolescent stupidity. She couldn’t even
defer to my Father for guidance. He was still working back in
It was dusk when I rounded the corner heading for the light at the appointed intersection. A gang of nine or ten guys were chasing around under the light. I’d have to fight John with a crowd to cheer him on or maybe worse.
“Is John here?” I asked as I drew near.
“No,” one of the guys replied. “I think I saw him
down by Range and
“OK, Thanks,” I replied, and began walking the two blocks toward the neighborhood store. But John wasn’t there either. He was just taking his sweet time. I was sure that he would be back with the gang by the time I walked back.
“What do you want John for?” Wayne Schultz asked me after my return.
“John and I are supposed to have a fight.” I said as nonchalantly as I could.
“Well, you can fight me instead,”
Wayne and I began circling. In an instant the gang circled
us in turn and began cheering for
I was reluctant to throw a punch.
I’d never been in a real fight before. I knew about punch drunks whose
brains had turned to mush in the boxing ring. I had no desire to do such damage
to anybody. Fortunately, Wayne and I didn’t come to blows. Instead, Wayne and
I closed on each other and locked our arms around each other’s head. We “wrassled.”
(I was from
One of the gang, Donny, who would later be imprisoned for
attempted rape, began kicking me in the butt while my upper body was otherwise
engaged. I’m pretty sure he was aiming for something else. I did my best to
keep my balance as
At some unspoken cue, Wayne and I unclenched while we were
both still standing. Our “fight” was over. “Aw, you woulda beat John
Rarely have I felt such gratitude to anyone as I felt for
Wayne Schultz that night. Neither of us were winners. Neither of us were losers.
I pray that if we should come to blows in
Harry Welty is a
small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com