AGE: 5th grade.
VENUE: Back yards in a small north east city in the hills. Open air puberty induced pugilism.
OPPONENT: Victor Something.
MEASUREMENTS: Victor was a big blond kid. With a haircut that told you his parents didn’t give a shit about haircuts. One of those Yeti-esque pre-teens. No fat, just limbs that tripled over the span of a couple years. He moved as if you assembled him out of pipes. He was also probably a genius. Like of the real, non academia variety. He etched anarchy symbols into his knee cramped desk. He plotted world domination. He was the Moses that lead us all to the fabled stack of Playboys in the up-state woods. In the hinternets of pre-inter.
I was a medium blond kid. Bowl cut and let’s go with slight physique. My best skill was drawing a picture of an ant being stepped on by a Converse sneaker. Done exactly the same since 2nd grade. It was a crowd pleaser. My dad had died a couple years prior. So people still viewed me with some level of sympathy. As opposed to later using it to explain away my strange.
Also, I was undefeated. As a first grader I successfully headbutted a fifth grader in the gut. For some completely imagined affront. And before the kid had a chance to deliver a justifiable beat down, my sister rounded the corner. 1-0, me.
And the next year when a sixth grader knocked me down, and pinned me underfoot. For telling him to stick it. Not where the sun doesn’t shine. But simply to stick it. My sister rounded the corner. 2-0.
And in the back yard brawls. My last opponent, the only kid in our break dance crew that could successfully head spin, and would later be on the wall at Harvard Law. Was disqualified after a lengthy, roaming epic of body blows. For a single glancing head shot. That purchased less than minimal damage to my nose. But stirred the audience/judges/participants/eleven year old boys senses of justice. Cheap shots had no place in the game. Unanimous decision. 3-0. I was officially on a roll.
THE TRAINING: Duration: one full afternoon. I lifted rocks. I lifted sticks. I tried to unsuccessfully combine the two with rubber-bands. I gathered my Normal Avenue crew around. They shouted lusty boasts to the hills. I sprinted 20 feet at a time. Jumped up and down from curbs. Repeatedly. The work was in. The mind was right.
THE FIGHT: Alas the boy was a machine. A ten second headlock and my whimpering tears shut it down. I was surrounded by the equally astonished crowd. Laying on hands to heal the immeasurable pain. The inconceivable return to all my investment.
And I remember Victor. Just off to the side. Saying why didn’t anyone tell me the kid was crying.
THE AFTERMATH: The fight clubs stopped, or at least that’s the last I remember. Two very different things. No injuries, except to my dreams of becoming an olympic athlete. And that the sweet sweet 1984 U.S.A. matching tracksuit, wristbands, and headbands had to be closeted.
And full disclosure- my first concussion was not from Victor. Or sliding down stairs headfirst on cafeteria trays. Or flying down tree lined hills headfirst on Tonka Trucks. Skateboards. Or any Goonies inspired alterations of broken wheeled things.But from a game of kickball. Played against older mustachio shadowed children. And one of those rubber corrugated blood red balls. Now illegal in 47 states. Half the size, and twice the momentum. Of an uncertain four stone wisp of a kid.