THE PRESENT

I’m not going to say it was a fair fight because it

wasn’t supposed to be. You use whatever advantage you have

because you never go into a fight hoping to lose. Still, the odds

seemed even: I was about one-hundred and sixty pounds to his

one hundred and thirty, but he was taller–close to five-foot

nine and I was only five-foot five. He had youth but I had

experience. He was fifteen and I was fifty.

I waited for him on the sidewalk by the schoolyard,

wondering if he would have his buddies with him. If so this

could go either way: when kids get a whiff of blood, anything

can happen. Not that that was going to change my mind. At

3:20 P.M., the school bell rang on schedule and my heart began

to thump like the first time I took a drag from a cigarette, or

unhooked a girl’s bra, or stole something from the corner store.

To calm my nerves, I went over my plan in my head one more

time, envisioning the outcome before it happened. I even

rehearsed what I was going to say, something brief and to the

point just before I put him down to make sure he’d have

something to think about afterwards.

There he was, coming out the main doors with his

friends, some of whom had even been in my house. But today

they were hanging with the wrong kid. Just as well, maybe

they’d learn a lesson too.

Close in on him right off. Watch his feet. First shot to

the nose. Then when he goes down, put the boots to the

motherfucker.Advice that had been jangling around in my

head since childhood. I moved in from the side using the surge

of home-bound students to cover my approach. Just a few

more steps . . .

“Todd Holloway? Do you know who I am?”

“Yeah,” he answered, as if I barely mattered in his

world. That would change in about two seconds. I cocked my

right arm and drove my fist straight into his nose. I chose this

spot for two reasons: first, to cause the most amount of pain,

and second, because the first one to land a punch in a fight

generally wins. Instinctively, the kid brought his hands up to

stem the flow of blood gushing out of his nostrils, which left

his mid section unprotected. That’s when I buried my other fist

deep into his gut, knocking the wind out of him and sending

him to the ground in tears. Not such a big man now, are you?

His legs thrashed out at me, more to keep me away than to do

any damage. Then I turned to his buddies and stared each of

them in the eye to show them I wasn’t afraid. I heard one of

them call me a “fuckin’ bully,” but instead of rushing me he

knelt down to help his friend while another ran back into the

school to report the assault. When I knew for sure that young

Holloway wasn’t getting back up to fight again and the others

weren’t in the mood for a swarming, I turned and walked home

to dinner.

Two hours later I was having pasta and shrimp with

my wife, Linda, and our three children, Daniel–fifteen, Jesse–

twelve, and Amy–seven, who all took turns complaining about

how much smarter they were than their teachers, when there

was a knock on the door. I opened it to find two police

officers.

“Steven Goldman?”

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