The sound of the switchblade got my attention. I could see the blade in the dim light of the stairwell. It was the first time I’d ever had a knife pulled on me.
I was a 12 year old boy in the 7th grade and had been bullied by this bigger 15 year old 9th grader the whole school year. Just about everyday, in between fourth and fifth period, he found me on the same dark stairwell landing, in the oldest part of the school, that led to the boy’s athletic dressing room. I was going up the stairs, he was coming down them. It was the only way in or out of the dressing room leading to the outside.
I was the team captain of one of the 7th grade athletic teams and was responsible for the condition of the dressing room after practice. That meant that I was the last to leave on most days, making sure that the locker room wasn’t a mess.
The bully was a big black kid and I was a skinny white boy, barely 5 feet tall, waiting for both my voice to change and my “growth spurt” to kick in. I probably weighed 85 pounds wringing wet. On the stair landing, several days a week, he would shove me, verbally abuse me, and demand my lunch money. Some days I was able to get out of the stairwell quickly enough that I’d miss him all together. And sometimes I think he just waited for me there on the landing. Most of the time my friends from the team were already gone because they’d raced to the lunchroom to be one of the first in line. That left me alone most of the time cleaning up the locker room. If I was alone, I got jumped.
For all of those months, I never said anything to anyone about the bullying. Not to my friends. Not to my teachers or coach. And certainly not to my parents.
It was now near the end of the school year and I’d had enough of the abuse. I’d tried not to fight at school because both parties involved would be expelled. If I got expelled, I’d have the devil to pay at home and I’d be prohibited from any after school extra curricular activities. So I’d avoided fighting. And quite honestly I was afraid of the bigger older boy. But on this day, I was fed up.
When he demanded my money, for the first time I said no.
“GIVE ME YOUR $&*^#@ MONEY, YOU LITTLE %&(#^)@!!!” he yelled, as he shoved me against the wall on the narrow landing.
I tried to push past him and get away, but he shoved me back up against the wall, yelling the same profanities. And then I heard the unmistakable sound of the switchblade.
Was he really going to attack me with a knife over pocket change? He said he was going to “gut me” if I didn’t give him the money.
When I saw the knife and heard him say that, I snapped. It was my very first “aww HELL no!!” moment. I lunged out at him, full of the anger and fury built up over months of bullying. I grabbed his throat with my right hand and tried unsuccessfully to control the knife with my left hand as he backpedaled. I felt the blade slice across the top of my left arm, just as he started to fall backwards down the stairs.
I followed right behind him as he stumbled down the stairs, still on my feet and yelling obscenities of my own. He hit the bottom of the stairs and his knife slipped out of his hand and slid across the floor. Struggling on the floor on his hands and knees, he tried to crawl over to grab the knife. But as he reached for it I stomped on his right hand with all of my might as he let out a scream. And then I reached over and grabbed the knife.
There, for a split second … full of rage … I thought about doing the unthinkable. My own rage frightened me more than the he did. This was the first time I’d ever seen this side of myself.
Instead of the unthinkable, I unleashed every foul word I’d ever heard in a fit of anger that I didn’t know I was capable of and waved the knife in his face to make my point. I was pretty sure that my voice cracked and went up an octave or two as I yelled. I took the knife and ran up the stairs, leaving him in a heap on the floor.
I ran toward the lunchroom, my heart pounding out of my chest, faster than it ever had in my brief 12 years of life. A wave of nausea overcame me and I got sick to my stomach in the restroom. I threw up and then wrapped my arm in a paper towel to stop the bleeding. I went to my locker and got my jacket. I put on the jacket to hide the cut on my arm.
When I got to the lunchroom I just sat there with my friends. I ate nothing that day. I just sat there, in a trance, next to my buddies who laughed and clowned the way that 12 year old boys laugh and clown. I said nothing. I was in a daze. Somehow I stumbled through the fog of the next few hours.
I was more than a little scared when, near the end of 6th period, a student office worker brought a note to my class. The Dean of Students, Mr. Scott, wanted me in his office at once! My classmates said the usual “ewwwwww!! You’re in troubbbble!” as I gathered my books and headed downstairs to the office. My heart started beating fast again. Now what?
I was shocked to find the bully, sitting outside of Mr. Scott’s office, with his hand wrapped in a bandage and a band aide on his forehead. Sitting next to him was his mother. She was busy yelling at him under her breath and did not look happy. He glared at me as I walked past him. I knocked on Mr. Scott’s door.
I found out that my attacker had gone to the school nurse about his hand and a knife wound. In addition to his bumps and bruises from the fall, he’d apparently gotten cut too. The nurse had to notify Mr. Scott about it, who in turn called the bully’s mother.
Mr. Scott wanted to hear my side of the story. I thought it was going to be a classic stand off with both of us telling stories sympathetic to our cases and that we’d both be expelled. I told Mr. Scott the truth. Told him about the months and months of harassment and abuse, and gave him the switchblade, with the bully’s initials scratched into the cheep plastic handle.
I was pretty sure that the Dean had called my parents and that I was about to be expelled. Instead he told me to go back out into the outer office and take a seat. He called for the bully and his mother to come into his office. After a little while they came out and the bully’s mother, a big imposing black lady who had him by the upper arm and was pinching him, ordered him to apologize to me. He did. She wasn’t satisfied with his contrition. She made him say it three more times before she looked at me and said, “Son, I’m so very sorry.” And then they turned and left. Judging by their body language, she increased the pressure of that pinch on the back of his upper arm as he limped out of the office area and into the hallway.
And that was the last time I ever saw him.
My mom arrived at the school and she and I went into the office with Mr. Scott. I explained everything again. Mr. Scott apologized to my mother. I didn’t understand at the time why he did. It wasn’t his fault, I thought. I didn’t understand that the school was responsible for my safety and security.
Then he told me that I was to go home with my mother.
“Sir, am I expelled?” I asked sheepishly.
“No, Tony. See you tomorrow,” he answered. And that was that.
My parents never had a talk with me about what I should do if I were bullied and we never discussed it afterwards.
That was then, and this is now. The nature of student violence, bullying, and harassment of students by their classmates has increased and become a national concern. It’s also taken on new ways of expression since I was in school.
The nightly news is full of stories about our kids being bullied. If you’re a parent, have a talk with your young scholars today if possible. Impress upon them the absolute necessity of reporting any bullying to their teacher, coach, or school administrator and of course to you. Technology has made it possible for kids to bully one another beyond the school day and without ever shoving their victim against a wall, so that has to be discussed too.
The tragedy in almost every one of those news stories is that the bullied student never told anyone. It goes unreported until things reach a crisis situation.
Good schools are addressing the issue in school assemblies and in the classrooms and encouraging students to speak out, and that’s great. But a parent’s involvement can’t be overstated. It’s a problem in private as well as public schools. Talk to your children today. Use this newsletter if you need to as a means to open a dialog.
If Sgt. Tony could be bullied … so could your child.
ANNIVERSARY PARTY OCTOBER 29th!
We’ll party tomorrow night, Thursday evening, at Old Venice (the cool Italian restaurant on Perkins, across the street from David Kidd). Party time is 5:30 to 8:00. Feel free to come and go or come and stay!
I’ll have some pizza available, and of course you are free to order other food and drink. Our party room is connected to the bar and easy to find!
This celebrates both our 10th and 11th year!
All are welcome! So if you’re reading this, you are welcome to come even if you’ve been in Turdville for a while!! Spouses and children are very welcome!
SGT. TONY’S HALF MARATHON TRAINING! VENUE CHANGE!
Training for the St. Jude Half Marathon continues this Saturday, October 30 at 7 AM!
We’re back at the University of Memphis! We’ll meet in front of the parking garage on Zach Curlin (Mt. Fuji!).
We’ll be running for 1 hr 30 min, using a modified version of Jeff Galloway’s approach to training.
ALSO, Boot Campers who aren’t running the half marathon, but want to get their one hour of continuous cardio are welcome to run with us at no charge!
I’ve got a few prime hours open during the week if you know someone looking for a trainer. I use the facilities at Christ Methodist and the hourly rates are standard for Memphis. Over-all fitness training, boot camp style workouts, strength training, sports specific conditioning and agility (tennis, soccer, basketball, etc.)
TonyLudlow@aol.com or 901-644-0145
THE RETURN OF THE 0830 CLASS AND THE CONTINUATION OF THE 0645 CLASS!!
The 0830 Class has returned to ACTIVE DUTY status on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!
Don’t forget that there is child care available at the church for this class!
The 0645 continues to march on MWF as well!
ATTENTION 0830 CLASS MEMBERS: please remember that no cell phone usage is allowed while you drive your car on the campus. So when you pull onto the campus, no cell phones please!
NEW PRICING FOR FAMILIES AND COUPLES
If you’re a part of a family (usually husband and wife) that does USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP, a new pricing plan goes into effect in August! Ask me about it! You’ll like it!
WANT TO LOSE 15 OR 20 POUNDS BY THE END OF NOVEMBER?
Take Shape For Life is the BEST weight loss program I know of. If you’d like to lose weight talk to me. This is the program I used to lose the almost 30 pounds I gained after knee surgery. Let me help you!
You can also go to www.combatchallenge.tsfl.com/
Next Tuesday, October 26 at 0530 will be the Mt. Fuji workout in the new gym. This workout will differ from your other M-16 workouts and I promise you’ll LOVE it!
TUESDAY & THURSDAY EVENING CLASS
The Tuesday and Thursday evening classes meet at St. Agnes’ track. These are cardio (walking/jogging/running) workouts and they begin at 5:45 PM.
St. Agnes is at the corner of Walnut Grove and Mendenhall.
Should the St. Agnes track be occupied or the field being used, making the track unavailable to us, we’ll go to St. Mary’s track, at Walnut Grove and Perkins.
A calendar has been added to the official USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP website.
For you visual learners, you’ll find this an easy way to glance at the week or month and see where the workouts will be, if there’s a venue change.
What would you do if money were not an issue, fear were not a factor, and failure were not an option?
To your optimum health and fitness!
SEE YOU ON THE QUARTERDECK!
Sergeant Major Tony Ludlow
USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP, Commanding
Mailing address: 4888 Southern Ave., Memphis, TN 38117
Cell Phone: 901-644-0145