Fiction: Schoolyard Bully
By C. Mel Stewart
To somebody with an eye for architecture, the school was beautiful. It's high brick walls, strategically placed windows, and stonework gave it a commanding presence on the street. To Timmy, however, it had a foreboding appearance. It held no beauty. It represented everything he feared.
The front yard of the school had stately, mature elm trees strategically placed to enhance the appearance of the building. All along the front street were more of the same Elm trees, giving the street itself a tunnel-like appearance. With the yard taking up the entire city block, the building was offset. Years ago, the larger yard on the south was where the boys played, and the smaller yard to the north, that wrapped around to include some of the west side, was where the girls played. Today, boys and girls played together, with the upper grades on the south side, and lower grades to the north.
Timmy hesitated at the far gate on the front side of the south yard. Every fiber of his body told him to turn around and go home. He wanted to be anywhere but at school. Somewhere in the yard, John was waiting for him. The two boys had been at odds since Timmy, a shy child at the time, had started at the school in grade one. Sometimes, John just used words as a weapon. Other times, his hands, with a rough shove, pushing Timmy out of his way. To understand the dynamic between the two boys, one must understand that Timmy was small for his age, and had what, in those days, was called a lazy eye, with his good eye turned out and down, causing him to look up and to the side. Four years ago, Timmy had gotten glasses. The entire class made fun of him from that day on. Breathe, he told himself. Maybe John won’t be waiting today. Maybe today he’ll leave me alone. No matter what he tried to tell himself, he couldn’t calm his fears. He couldn’t say how he knew, he just knew John was waiting for him.
Teachers were aware of what was going on. They’d constantly tell Timmy that “boys will be boys”, and “you need to grow a thicker skin. Get used to it, boy!” He couldn’t take it anymore. He tried to hold himself up. Teachers also knew that home wasn’t safe either. His father had died years ago, and his mother remarried. His relationship with his stepfather was complex. On the one hand, he was a father to Timmy in every way except biology. On the other hand, he beat Timmy regularly, for the slightest little thing. Timmy had a love/hate relationship with him. On the good days, he loved him and looked up to him. On the bad days, he was terrified of him. To make matters worse, his mother always took his stepfather’s side.
One step at a time, he told himself. He took a breath. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me, he repeated in his head. He knew it was a lie. He’d lived that lie since his first day at the school. Words spoken to him, particularly by John, were cruel and biting. They cut to the core of his very being. And the words spoken by his stepfather? Even worse. Useless. Worthless. No-account-kid. You’ll never amount to anything! That was what his stepdad said all the time. He’d been saying it for years, and Timmy believed it. Four-eyes. Retard. Wimp. Gimpy. Crybaby. That’s what the kids at school called him.
As he took a step forward, every muscle in his body tensed. Fear held him back. He pushed the fear aside, just enough to take another step. An inner battle between fear, and knowledge that he had to keep moving, waged. Another step. He was through the gate, now. There was a crowd in the center of the yard. His gut clenched as he looked to see if it included John. He thought about skirting around the edge of the yard, but he knew he would have to face John sooner or later. It's better to just get it over with. If I don't face him now, if I avoid him now, he'll just come after me later, he told himself. He squared his shoulders and headed towards the crowd. As he approached, he didn't see John. He'd been so focused on the crowd, on his fear, that he hadn't seen John leave the crowd and skirt around behind him. Nobody moved as Timmy kept walking, John behind him. Silence descended as John moved closer...
POW! John’s fist connected with Timmy’s face. Before Timmy could react, to fight back or defend himself, another blow slammed into his jaw. Timmy spit out blood and fragments of teeth as John’s leg connected, driving Timmy’s leg out from under him. As he fell to the ground in a heap, John jumped on top of him. By now, a crowd had gathered, all cheering for John. A fist to Timmy’s gut winded him, made worse by the fact that John was sitting on his chest. A kick to his hip signaled that another boy had joined the fight. As Timmy cried out in pain, Johnny held his open palm over his mouth to silence him.
Out on the street, a passing police car screeched to a halt. A female officer jumped out of the car, running into the fray, her partner hot on her heels. Another officer ran in off the street, and while the two men pulled the boys off Timmy, the woman knelt beside him. “Bring me the first aid kit!” she yelled to the men as they dragged the boys to the waiting cruiser.
By supper time, word of the fight had spread throughout the entire town, including to Timmy’s parents. He’d gotten home after school and snuck upstairs to his room. A few minutes before supper, the back door banged. “Timmy! Get down here!” his stepfather roared with rage. Every bone in Timmy’s body shook as his father continued to roar. As he made his way to the stairs, his father intercepted him.
“The entire town is talking about the fight you started at school today, you brat!” he shouted. Timmy couldn’t get out of the way before his dad’s open palm connected with the side of his head. He flinched and tried to duck out of the way, but he wasn’t fast enough. His dad grabbed him by the shoulder, shook him, and then threw him down the stairs. “No good for nothing kid of mine is gonna start fights at school!” he bellowed.
Before his dad could reach the bottom of the stairs, Timmy struggled to his feet, dashed out the door and ran down the street. Two blocks from home, he looked over his shoulder relieved that his dad wasn’t following him, so he slowed down to a walk. It didn’t matter where he went, all that mattered was getting away from that horrible place. He dug in the dirt under a nearby bush and found the knife that he’d taken two days ago from his mother’s kitchen. He tucked it under his shirt, then kept walking.
It seemed like a long time before he walked into his favourite park. Lately he’d spent hours, alone with his thoughts, in this beautiful place with wide open spaces, lush green grass, and the same mature Elm trees that grew in the school yard. The sun was just beginning to set, painting reds and oranges across the sky as Timmy sat down on his favourite bench, where he could see the sunset, and pulled out the knife. He hesitated for a moment, considering how his mother would cope, living the rest of her life without him, but he knew there was no other way out. He couldn’t face another day of his life.
As he aimed the knife, and prepared to take his last breath, the female officer entered the park. Watching Timmy, her gut churned as she broke into a wild run towards him.
C. Mel Stewart grew up in Saskatchewan, Canada. An avid reader, Mel writes semi-autobiographical short stories. He started writing in 2022 because his family history had an untold story that he wanted to share. From then on, he decided to use his platform to tell people who struggle with mental health issues that they are not alone.