It happened like this. I was minding my own business when this punk started running his mouth about me. We live in the same neighborhood on the same street. I can’t just sit there and take it. I’ll lose my street cred. The problem is I can’t remember what he was saying. I was aggravated but not really mad. There were several of us sitting in a group when he started. I turned in my chair to face him. I can remember the more he talked the more I wanted to punch him in the nose. I didn’t. Instead I started running my mouth.
“Are you that stupid?” I asked him. “Do you think you can say things like that and get away with it?”
You can tell I was on a roll. I had all kinds of questions for him but no real zingers. You know the kind. The ones that make you smile every time you think about them, the little jabs that roll off your tongue and hit them right between the eyes. Those things are gold. Well, I didn’t have any. I kept asking questions and flexing my muscles. Making him squirm was definitely the goal I was trying to achieve. I wanted him to be so uncomfortable he would get up and move. He was my archenemy and I wanted to expose him, to hold him up so everyone could see him the way I did. We had a history and it wasn’t pretty. What I didn’t know was that he also had a plan.
As hard as I try; as many times as I go over it, I can’t remember what he said to make me so aggravated. Maybe he insulted my family, maybe he insulted someone I loved. I just don’t know. Does it really make a difference you ask? I guess in the long run, no. I do know is that I handed out as much sophomore justice as I could without getting tossed out of school. What happened next is emblazoned in my mind for all eternity.
The bell rang and the study hall was over. I picked up my books, fell in with my group and headed down the hall to my locker. I was talking and laughing when suddenly I found myself on my back looking at the lights on the ceiling. I tried to sit up and succeeded after several tries. A crowd had gathered round me to see the carnage that was left after a surprise attack. Several feet away I saw him. The one who had been on the receiving end of my taunts, the one I’d just spent an hour berating with silly questions and pointless threats. I staggered to my feet and he took off running the other way. My head was spinning and I hadn’t yet gained full control of all my navigation systems but I took off after him anyway. The hall of the school was wide and as I ran I bounced from one wall to another. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t run in a straight line. Far ahead of me I saw him turn the corner. I followed, determined to catch him. Every few feet I seemed to gain some speed. Ahead of me, almost twenty-five yards away, I saw my attacker enter a door. I had him now, I thought.
Without slowing down I grabbed the door and jerked it open with such force that it broke the small window in it. I was three steps into the room before I realized where I was, the principal’s office. The stinking terrorist who had launched a surprise attack on me was huddled against the counter that separated the entry area from the secretaries and the other offices. I turned quickly trying to go back out the door before anyone noticed. Broken glass strewn about the floor guaranteed that would not happen and every eye in the room seemed to be focused on me. With my back turned toward the inside of the room I heard a voice which unmistakably belonged to the principle.
“Mr. Oldfield, exactly where do you think you’re going?” he said.
“Nowhere,” I quickly answered.
“What happened to your mouth?”
“I ran into a door,” I said, proud of coming up with such an ingenious answer so quickly.
“No he didn’t,” my attacker called out. “I hit him and now he’s going to kill me.”
With those words I ended up with a tongue lashing and a stern warning. If I laid a finger on this guy I would be expelled for the remainder of the year. My cries of protest fell on ears that were not listening and I was told to get on the bus before I missed it. During the ride home several students wanted to know what had happened to my mouth. I hadn’t really thought about it so I explored the area with my tongue. I soon found my tooth was hanging almost all the way out.
After getting off the bus at home and catching hell for fighting in school I was whisked away to the dentist. With a little sleight of hand and misdirection he shoved the tooth back into my head with his thumb. When the screaming stopped I realized the tooth was back where it was supposed to be and all was right with the world. That is until last month.
That’s right, forty-one years after the tooth was nearly knocked out it began to hurt, x-rays showed the root had decayed, and one visit to the oral surgeon later the tooth was gone. I learned several lessons over the course of this incident. One is that you never ever poke at something or someone enough to make them angry and then take your eyes off them. Two, if it’s not important enough to remember the reason for the disagreement forty years after the fact it wasn’t that important to begin with. Number three, if you don’t know where you’re running you need to slow down and figure it out. Last but not least is that you can always find inspiration for a story in things that happen every day. What happened to you today that would make a great story?