It’s a scary place for many children
September 12, 2012
Childhood is not innocent. It’s a scary place for many children. Each age is bullied by those above them. Everyone is bigger than someone else. And it is cruel. And unjust. The bullies are punished by an adult world but bullying seems to be human nature itself. When you’re growing up. Kids want stuff. And someone else has it. Which is why values are instilled in the young. It does not come naturally.
Bicycle Thieves is a coming of age book. About boys mostly. About boys growing up.
It was high noon. Little Jimmy Higgins walked up to Brady in the schoolyard, punched him in the shoulder and informed Brady that he was going to beat the crap out of him. Jimmy swaggered around, his pants falling loosely over his hips, chewing gum, grinning out of the side of his mouth.
“I’m going to rearrange your face, punk!” Jimmy scowled. “When I’m through with you, your mother won’t be able to recognize you. You’ll need plastic surgery. You’ll have to wear a name-tag so that your family will know who you are. You are in for some serious pain.”
“What did I do?” Brady asked. Brady always felt guilty for something.
“You’re always looking at me!” Jimmy declared. “Why are you always looking at me? You some kind of homo?”
“I don’t look at you,” Brady said appealing to the kids around him for assistance.
Flannery walked over to Higgins.
“Brady wasn’t looking at you,” he said. “He’s just goofy looking.”
“I think I know when someone is gawking at me,” Higgins cried as he sneered at Flannery.
“Hey, punk,” Flannery said pushing Higgins back. “You want to rearrange my face too?”
Higgins retreated slightly holding his pants. It wasn’t Flannery he wanted to fight.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” Higgins responded, bowing his head.
“I don’t need you to fight my battles!” Brady screamed louder than was necessary.
Flannery turned and looked at Brady.
“You really want to do this?” Flannery cried.
“Well,” Brady responded hesitatingly.
“The homo is chicken,” Higgins yelled for all to hear.
Brady looked around. Everyone awaited his response.
“I ain’t no chicken,” Brady responded, spitting the words out.
“Well, hell go for it!” he said.
Messengers were sent to all corners of the schoolyard. ‘Fight!’ they cried. Kids ran across the yard headed for the sight of the match, forming a circle around the two boys. Jimmy waited for his audience to gather, then gestured to the crowd.
“This guy called me a fairy!” Jimmy cried, pointing at Brady.
Brady shook his head.
“I didn’t call you anything,” he said. There was a look of complete terror on Brady’s face. It had suddenly occurred to him that he had been too rash in accepting Higgins’ challenge. Higgins was going to beat him up.
Jimmy walked around in a circle, tugging at his trousers as he explained to everyone how Brady was looking at him queer like.
“Maybe he likes you,” Big Al said than laughed.
“Was he looking at you like this?” Penny asked then batted his eyes.
“I wasn’t looking at him!” Brady cried out in his own defense. “I wasn’t looking at anyone. I was cleaning my glasses.”
“You calling me a liar?” Jimmy responded with a look of indignation on his face. He turned back to his audience. “Now, he’s calling me a liar! The homo is calling me a liar!”
Voices muttered in the crowd. Some of the girls gathered began to giggle.
“Get it over with,” Flannery said to Higgins then glanced at Brady.
“You want to say anything?” Flannery asked Brady.
Brady said nothing. It was hopeless, he thought. Why, he wondered, did Jimmy want to beat him up. The two boys had never had words, hardly ever played together in the schoolyard. Jimmy turned from the crowd and looked at Brady. He chuckled, walked up to Brady and swung.
As Jimmy swung, Brady ducked. As Brady ducked, Jimmy spun around and his pants, which had been hanging precariously on his hips, fell. Jimmy stood there, his trousers around his ankles, his stained and stretched underwear barely covering his privacy. The gathered crowd gasped then started laughing. The bell rang and the kids started to marshal back to the school still laughing. Flannery put his arm around Brady’s shoulder and escorted him away.
“Come back here!” Higgins cried as he pulled his pants up. He waved his fist at Brady now safely amongst the other boys. Jimmy’s pants fell down again.