Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I awoke this day with a common place sharp pain between my shoulders as the muscles complained blithely from being stretched the wrong way during the night. I remembered the orthopedic surgeon asking me, how and when I was injured. At the time I couldn't remember which he found suspect because an injury that severe should also be memorable. This day, in the cool darkness of my bed, I remembered and I believe I should be excused for forgetting something that happened in the 5th grade as I am 61 and it was a long time ago. The wound on my back is as fresh this day as I find it hard to raise my arms as it is in many minds for the wounds they suffered.

When I grew up there were three classes. There were the Mittens living in the world of privilege, whose parents carefully extricated them from any trouble they got into with a fat check if it was ever reported, the middle group who played see no evil, get hit with no evil, forget what you know and my group: the poor, the weak, the not so white and in particular, the female. I was poor, small and female. I also committed the sin of being pretty so I could expect no help, not even from my teachers who were charged with protecting us but in fact knew their continued employment depended on the favors of the progeny of rich and famous in the school. Poor pretty white girls were playthings to be abused and used up, then thrown away.

It was after school and like most of the poor, I had no parents in a car to pick me up as they had to work to put food on the table and no bike as it cost money to buy. We were shuttled out one side of the elementary school and just to enforce our position on our little minds, it was on the opposite side from where all of us would be heading home. That way we got to walk by our superiors getting into their cars or getting on their bikes for the leisurely ride home while we walked in 90 degree F temperatures across 4 lane highways in the dirt less than 2 miles, because that magic mark got you a ride on a school bus and we weren't worth it, home. You have to understand the school board was populated by rich men's politicians on the way up, bought and paid for, and bored society ladies coveting a picture on the society page for their 'charity' work as long as it didn't interfere with their bi-weekly beauty parlor appointment. That two mile radius was measured by taking a ruler and drawing a circle with the school as the center. We all walked way over two miles because we couldn't get home "as the crow flies". My father actually measured the walk that day at 2.5 miles. It didn't matter in social order or to the school board.

On a bet or just out of not wanting their view spoiled by kids who only had two dresses and one pair of shoes to their name, one of the rich little spoiled bullies waited for me to pass and then took a swing at me with a 3 pound book. Simply because my instinct was to survive, abused children are that way, I nodded my head a split second before the book hit with the full force of his much larger body holding it in two hands and it caught me not in the back of my head as intended but between my shoulders. I made it up the front steps before I passed out in front of the Principal's office door.

When he brought me around in his office, I told him what had happened although it was completely against the "rules" and I would be ostracized from any company for the rest of my school career. You didn't tattle on the rich kids even when they almost killed you. Had he caught me in the back of the head with the book, he would have probably snapped my neck. He out weighed me by at least 30 pounds. and 8 inches. The Principal, a gentleman, asked to see my back and when I lowered the back of my dress, we wore dresses up to our necks back then, the imprint of the book was on my back along with the embossing allowing him to clearly read the title. He quickly called my parents at work as he didn't trust me to walk home without passing out and went outside and grabbed the offender.

By the time I regained consciousness again the little bully and his parents were in the outer office where the Principal was explaining that they would not be disciplining their son as he had already been thrown out of three schools including a military academy for violence against children smaller than him. That was when my parents walked in the door. I could always tell my mother high heels clicking on the terrazzo floors. My father wore crepe soles so he would sneak up on you. The Principal turned to them and told them they had better take me to the hospital as I had passed out twice now.

That would have meant a police report and the bully's smug parents knew that wasn't happening. There was no money for a hospital and there was no insurance back then. You paid cash for medical treatment or you didn't get it. The Principal continued that the bully's father wouldn't be disciplining him as that hadn't worked the past three times; he would. The little demon spawn would show up at 8 sharp to his office where he would spend the rest of day doing his lessons until one of his parents picked him up at 3 PM  or later. He didn't care, he had to work to 5 PM. The bully would not be allowed to talk, to see or eat with the other students. He was on indoor suspension.  One false move and the paddle (which was a wooden board) would be used and the Principal was not a small man.

However, my father was a bigger man and when he found the little bully had hit me with a 3 pound book, now laying on the secretary's desk, he turned to the father and popped him in the jaw so fast no one even saw anything but but Mr. two hundred dollar suit hit the wall 8 feet away. He carefully warned him not to get up and that if I so much as reported I saw his son anywhere, he was coming to find the father and that time, he would not get up. I remember the little Barbie Doll wife wailing about her husband, i.e. meal ticket, being hit and my father informed her he had never hit a woman in his life, but his wife had. Now, my mother was 5 foot 6 inches and in 5 inch heels. She was not a small woman though fashionably skinny. She also had a stare that could freeze water at 10 paces. She was also beautiful and the Principal and her both hailed from West Virginia. One day a week she volunteered in the library and had lunch with Principal discussing their poor childhoods and flirting. When the words lawsuit came out of someone's mouth the Principal carefully explained, he who was now bleeding on a 50 dollar shirt must have tripped in his haste to get to his son and wives can't testify in court for or against their husbands. It seemed everyone in the room but her and the kid who was now properly scared saw her husband trip. My father assured him the next time no one would see him trip, picked me up and carried me out the door.

As I was being roughly carried out the door I heard the Principal comment that my father was Irish and had been a boxer. Being Irish meant you were subhuman, a drunk and violent. Being an Irish boxer meant you were lethal because when my father boxed, they did it bare knuckle. It was how he made enough money to pay for pilot's school after he completed the WPA aircraft mechanic's courses. He was also a mean SOB who didn't mind killing someone because humans ought to have better sense than to get in his way. He had a particular dislike for men who beat women and had broke more than one of the habit.

There was of course no hospital as there was no money. My mother spent an hour on the phone the apartment house owner provided in exchange for her management and my father's repair skills finding a doctor we could afford and finally around 6 PM she found one. When we arrived with the twenty dollars hoping he wasn't going to suggest an Xray because twenty dollars was all we had, the nurse explained to my mother something I would understand when I was much, much older. The reason the doctor was so cheap was he could only by law examine me if she and one of my parents was present in the room. He could never be allowed to see me alone. That is the kind of doctor poor kids got to see. Luckily, he was a really good pediatrician as he kept me alive for two more years through pneumonia and asthma. He did the Xray for free and said the hairline fracture would heal but I needed to stay still for a couple of months, the muscles were torn and would heal but give me trouble later in life so I should avoid manual labor and for now, the nurse had to tape my back as he wasn't allowed to touch me and hence, wrap tape around me. He also wasn't allowed to dispense pain medication so he recommended they give me a stiff shot of whiskey to put me to sleep the next couple of days. I still hate the taste of whiskey.

I also hate bullies but that is their problem because I will make it their problem.  I may be a girl, but in a couple of months when I could move my shoulders again without pain, my father taught me to box and spent every penny he had saved to buy me a bike. Two years before, he had taught me basic martial arts, now he taught me not to defend myself but to take the offensive. You see, only his mother was Irish and she was beaten, used and thrown away, not even divorced, while his father married a more socially acceptable woman after three kids were born. He even gave his first born of the new family the same name as his real first born. My father was left to die in a out building because he had auburn hair and looked like his mother, by his father's mother. I have been told I am the spitting image of my grandmother but there are no pictures and I do have red hair. It doesn't matter my color comes from the Scottish Highlanders, we are all subhuman Irish in the world of privilege.

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