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Today's Story by Joseph Lisowski

"My momma said never to give in to bullies!" he whined on the verge of tears.

Bullied to Bully

“Hey! Where the hell ya think ya goin’?” a voice shouted from the open door of Tessie’s Pinball, a shotgun “candy” store that had a counter, four cracked plastic booths, three  inballs, and a big juke that was now blaring “Young Blood,” by The Diamonds.

I stopped, looked inside to see Billy Kupek coming fast toward me. “Ya got the money? He  demanded, close enough now that his spittle sprayed by face.

“No, not yet,” I looked down the block where kids were straggling into my elementary school, the second attendance bell having already rung.

“You better get it today,” he threatened and then slammed the heel of his hand into my shoulder hard enough to bring tears to my eyes, which I held in. “What are ya, a punk?  You ain’t never gonna be part of the gang, if you ain’t got the guts to take what you want. This is your last chance. You gotta come up with at least five bucks this morning. Smack the kid hard, so’s everybody sees. That way it’ll be easy to collect more money tomorrow.”

He took a step back out of my face but pounded my chest with a stiff finger. “I’m watchin’ you! If you don’t get it from them, I’m gettin’ it from you.” He turned and walked into the candy store where he stood by the big picture window and kept an eye on the scene.

Damn, I thought to myself, how did I ever get into this mess. I felt like a real idiot trying to be “bad,” trying to fit in with the “cool cats”, who were really nothing more than a bunch of thugs.

Lots of kids were still walking to school, and I was studying them. I had to pick on one who had money, which hardly any of them did. And it would probably be best if the kid was in my sixth grade class. My stomach started to get queasy, and I kept glancing over my shoulder at Billy, who was still in the store and giving me the death stare.

More and more kids walked past me and then up the stairs to the school. I was about to give up hope when I spotted Anthony turn the corner of 42nd Street. My salvation was at hand. He had his book bag in one hand and in the other he held a hangar with a starched, ironed white surplice, the kind altar boys wear. Anthony was an only child, and he always seemed to have money.

“Hey!” I grabbed him by the arm as he walked in front of me. “Gimme your money!” He tried to wrestle out of my grip, but I was too strong for him.

“My momma said never to give in to bullies!” he whined on the verge of tears.

“Gimme the money! Now!” I shouted louder and shook him.

“No!” he started to cry. I looked at Billy who raised a fist in my direction.

What the hell, I thought, took a deep breath, and punched him square in the mouth.

Several things then happened at once. A stream of blood shot from Anthony’s lip and sprayed his surplice. As he was falling fast to the ground I notice a tooth protruding from his lip. Billy came charging out of the store yelling at me to search his pockets for cash.

And then the crossing guard was running toward us blowing her whistle.

I dashed up the alley and tried to hide behind a telephone pole. With the indelible vision of Anthony’s bloody face before me, I leaned over and threw up.

Massive confusion reigned at the corner. Little kids were squealing, “OOOU, look at the blood!” as they pointed fingers. The crossing guard continued to blow her whistle as she tried to get Anthony to his feet.

“Make way, make way,” she ordered when she finally had him under arm.

She quickly escorted him to the school, presumably going to the nurse’s office.

Billy leaned against the street corner wall and with a smirk, lit a cigarette.

Nobody seemed to be looking up the street in my direction. I stepped from behind the pole and slowly turned away from the school. That Diamonds song was playing again–it’s refrain–“Young Blood, I can’t get you outa my mind” getting louder as I got closer to Tessies. I had enough education for one day.


Joseph Lisowski’s most recent poetry chapbook STASHU KAPINSKI LOOKS FOR LOVE was published by erbacce-press (Liverpool, UK).


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