This is a true story. Obviously, names have been changed. Details have been reconstructed and simplified somewhat, and some dramatic license has been taken in imagining inner dialogues. But it happened pretty much this way, as far as I can tell.
There are two boys. One we'll call Eric. The other, Kenny. Both are
in 7th grade at a very good suburban middle school.
Eric has a good reputation. He's a straight-A student, active in
extra-curricular activities and sports, and a popular kid. He's
funny, cool, easy-going, enjoys playing the class clown and
high-fiving people in the hallways. But he's just a little too busy,
involved in just a few too many things. It doesn't help that he's a
perfectionist. So... he has stress. Most of the time he keeps it
deep down inside.
Kenny also has a reputation. He is well-known to the school
administrators, but for all the wrong reasons. He undoubtedly has
stress, too. But he lets it out in all the wrong ways. He is failing
his classes, and proud of the fact. He enjoys vandalizing school
property and picking on other kids. He is widely disliked by the
Kenny decides that Eric is to be his new victim. He starts tripping
Eric as they pass in the hallway each day. Eric doesn't report this to an
adult - that would violate The Code. When you're 13, you're expected
to solve your social problems yourself. Eric does his best to ignore Kenny. Day
after day, he just picks himself up and goes on. Turns the other cheek. Restrains himself.
He's not giving Kenny much amusement.
So Kenny ups the ante. He posts obscene comments about Eric online,
which Eric's friends forward to him. Eric doesn't tell an adult about
this, either, despite having several caring adults in his circle who'd
hear him out on any subject. When you're 13, certain subjects are on
the uncomfortable teetering edge between really gross and quite
interesting. The only thing you're really sure of is that you don't
want to talk about them. And you sure as heck don't want some jerk
you hate spouting off about you and... certain subjects.
Eric is on a slow simmer the next day. The very last person he wants
anything to do with is Kenny. But there he is in the hallway, coming
Eric's way. Eric grits his teeth and says nothing. And as they pass,
Kenny trips Eric and saunters away, grinning.
Now, Kenny almost certainly did not know that Eric is a black belt in
karate. A state champion, in fact, with a shelf-full of trophies.
Ignorance is not always bliss.
Eric's foot lands squarely between Kenny's shoulder blades and knocks
him into the lockers. Kenny's a tough scrapper, though, and comes
back swinging. The boys grapple as the crowd backs away. Kenny
throws a haymaker punch at Eric's head and knocks him across the hall,
slamming his head into a locker. But Eric takes control of his
momentum as he bounces off the lockers and spins around, landing on
his feet in a low crouch.
His head *hurts*, dammit, and now he's mad. Really mad.
All that stress he's been carrying is about to come out.
His landing out of the spin has wound Eric like a spring. He's poised
to launch a flying roundhouse kick and plant his foot on Kenny's ear. Eric has broken boards with this kick, many times. He's knocked over the large, heavy punching bag at the dojo with this kick, many times.
Kenny weighs half of what that bag does. He's not going *into* the wall. He's going *through* the wall.
Eric is *not* thinking that he could do permanent, severe physical
damage to another human being. He's not thinking of the possibility
of his family being sued into permanent penury to pay for Kenny's lifetime nursing-home care. Eric's not thinking at all, really. He just knows that Kenny has been
begging for a first-class ass-kicking for a very long time, and the time has come to deliver it.
Kenny *is* thinking, though - about just how wrong his earlier
thinking had been. He had thought that Eric was just a short, skinny
kid that he could push around. And when Eric fought back, Kenny had
thought that he could stop him with his best shot. Head punch, right across
the hall, face-first into the lockers. Eric *should* have crumpled to
the ground. Instead, he *bounced off the wall* and came up locked and
With eyes full of flame. Kenny looks at Eric and sees his doom.
A low murmur ripples through the crowd.
In that instant, a third boy jumps between the two and stops the
action - a very brave move, all things considered.
After a long moment, Eric picks up his backpack and glares at the
white-faced Kenny as he shoves past. Later, goes to the
nurse to get an icepack, and the administration finds out
about the altercation. Eric will serve a Saturday detention. Kenny
is a repeat offender and will face harsher penalties.
Later that day, Kenny comes up to Eric and offers friendship. Eric's
not interested, but he knows that Kenny won't be bothering him again.