I had been thinking about bullying  since I saw that http://talinorfali.wordpress.com/ cared deeply about it.  Here is the first of three  true stories about bullies from 35 years ago in a small town sixty miles east of Cleveland, Ohio.  We would have been ninth graders, king’s of the junior high, about 14 years old.


She had rich black hair that hung down to her shoulders.  Farm raised and bred, she was a big girl, a fully mature woman amongst the children we were, but never admitted to be.  Different, she dressed modestly with long dresses, which I almost always remember as blue,  sometimes with a knitted  shawl draped over her shoulders, a spider web of blue yarn.   Her eyes were gentle and kind, and I don’t recall I ever heard her speak.

There were sixty of us in the band, and she was brass like us, but not like us.  We were the coronets and trumpets the spark and spunk of the room and we surrounded her.   Chris, the star of the football team, Michael and I footballers of less glory but equally as cocky, and Bob the first chair sat behind looking down on her, the others flanked her, like destroyers escorting a harmless merchant in a flotilla.   Mr H_ the instructor was out and like a tornado arising without reason or warning, it began.

Bob with his stutter sent the first dagger, “You p-p-p-pig”, loud enough for us all to hear, but quiet enough so that the other fifty chattering kids would never notice.   Chris was next in with his buzz saw laugh, as he threw taunt after taunt at her.   The others jumped in and began pelting her with wads of paper, spitballs, and more taunts and names.

Debra just bowed her head and began to shrink, her shoulders rounding, her arms closer in, as if each word took more and more of her away, leaving less.   I sat and did nothing.   I could have stopped it, but had not the courage.  Her kind eyes searched for a defender, and found none.  I heard Chris gather his spittle and launch a huge hawker on her back, and the white slime hung over the weave of her shawl.  My eyes were transfixed by the motion of the spit as it moved down the woven web of the shawl as if it were alive, when I heard Bob spit.

Then it was over.  Mr H was back and with a wave of his hand the warmup scales began in their precise beauty and order.

Many years have passed, and in them I have occasionally been able assist or stop something before it gets out of hand.   But it never atones for the time I failed to act.

5 Comments on “bullies”

  1. Powerful. I have a story like that too. 😦
    Diana xo

  2. Amy Reese says:

    I hope you don’t beat yourself up, Bill. It is a difficult thing to jump into that. I hope that with more awareness around bullying, a few people will jump into that one and say, “Stop.” I hope you weren’t upset by any of my responses today. I’ve witnessed harassment in small doses. You recognize that it is wrong and before you can do something, it’s over, and it passes and you hope doesn’t happen again. When I think back about my softball PE experiences, you know that teacher should have stepped up. He never did! Where was he? Sometimes an adult needs to intervene. I’m over it now, but that happened all the time to me and it did affect me. Thanks for sharing this.

    • billgncs says:

      Thanks Amy, I’m glad I wrote it – I learned through time that strength and conviction are often related.

      I’ve also learned that kindness has its own power. As a very young boy I was powerless because I didn’t understand power.

      Yes, controlling that is what teachers should do, it’s moments like this when they are called to be leaders.

  3. They should teach kids how to intervene. My mum taught me after a bad experience in my first year in High School. Name calling to my face I could always deal with, it was and is campaigns behind my back that cause the most trouble.

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