The classmate pushed me again. His shouts got the attention of a small crowd that began to grow. He stood no taller than me, but probably outweighed me by fifty pounds. His dark eyes glared with hatred.
“What did I do?” I asked.
“Shut up and let’s finish this.”
The over-sized hands pushed me again, so that I stumbled backwards colliding into a small group of boys watching. Their hands met my back, caught me, and sprung me back across the blacktop. The boy grinned or grimaced with pleasure. I began to sweat too much and my arms became thick, heavy.
“It’s a new school,” my mother had said. “A new beginning!”
Hope, I thought, can work as much against you as for you. In my imagination I fell to the ground in spasms or some sort of seizure, foaming at the mouth and pissing myself, so that the school nurse and eventually an ambulance came. But my physical self stood motionless.
The lips of the boy’s face contorted into a war mask of sorts showing sharp incisor teeth and red gums. I looked beyond him to the blank, hard wall. My mind flashed pictures at me, memories: Jim Rockford’s calm, silent stare; Uncle Bill and grandpa mixed up in a tangle of fists and flailing arms; James West’s wide haymaker; rows after rows of a hundred thousand uniformed soldiers marching into war; the Hardy boys with flashlights in hand entering a dark cave; Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson traversing the foggy moor; Rocky’s beaten, swollen face; James Dean; Kris Kristofferson in Convoy; Bruce Lee; Captain Kirk’s jumping front kick; Batman; Samuel Tate looming up behind my dying father.
The crowd grew. The sun burned down hotter. The boy pushed me again. And I ran. I sprinted to the fence that bordered the Junior High, climbed over it, and ran away.