This is the second in a multi-part series on the subject of the various great and memorable enemies I have had the pleasure of knowing over the years, from the earnest gibbering of schoolyard bullies to the courtly dance of the merely ritualistic antagonist.
In this installment we attempt to play heroes to counterpoint our villain, only to find that the nefarious forces of schoolyard evil cannot be so easily brought to justice.
Please see also Part I.
When I was in primary school all of the big kids were playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and so pervasive was the game's influence that when my friends and I were first bullied by Paul we knew we had to give him a name suitably dungeonesque: we called him Paul Ravenblack.
During recess we would assume the barely understood roles of paladins, thieves and elves and march along invisible right-angled paths in the schoolyard grass, imagining we were navigating a dark, labirynthine dungeon riddled with sneaky and savage dragons. For reasons that were never very clear we also occasionally sat on a log and pretended it was a time machine.
Paul was an aggressive, swarthy-skinned fourth-grader who would disrupt our games by running in our midst -- just as we were cooperatively hacking the hit points off of a killer gnome -- indiscriminantly shoving members of our party to the ground while shouting, "Frenchies are gay!"
Our leader was named Tim. (This made sense for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that he wore a hat with Kermit the Frog on it, and Kermit the Frog was the leader of the Muppets.) Tim was usually the first to summon the courage to reply, "Go away, Paul!"
"Stop speaking French, Frenchy. You're gay!"
"I'm not even speaking French, dummy. You're so stupid."
Then Paul would push Tim into the dirt and run away laughing. The rest of us would help Tim to his feet, and someone would pick up his Kermit hat. We all agreed that Paul was evil. Somebody came up with the idea of integrating his performances into our fantasy world, and so he became known as Paul Ravenblack the Chaos Wizard.
When his rampages were heralded by our cries of "The evil wizard cometh!" Paul was incensed. Apparently we were Frencher and gayer than ever. He punched one of the Scotts in the shoulder and made him cry and he stomped Tim's Kermit hat into the mud with his boot. Then he tripped Skinny Nick so that he skinned his knee, kicked me in the back and ran away.
Being kicked made me cry, but luckily nobody noticed because the injured Scott was crying much more loudly. His non-injured counterpart shook his head angrily. "Enough is enough guys," Scott declared. "It's time to tell on Paul."
There was an awed hush.
"Scott T. is right," said Tim. We all nodded our assent and collectively scanned the yard for the closest bell-armed marm. We found a target and marched over the grass in a tight pack, paladin at the rear and elves scouting out front for signs of The Enemy. The Scott who had been punched cycled his tears back up as we reached our target, and Tim delivered a quick precis of the harrowing altercation.
The judgement? "Well, if it happens again you come and tell me," said the teacher. "Recess is over children." Our protests were drowned out by the clanging of her hand-bell.
And so our game changed -- we had a new mission to seek out Paul's interference, but only when we were reasonably close to the recess marm. This proved to be a challenging mission as the evil wizard had a seemingly preternatural ability to sense the proximity of authority, and lay off. Though none of us said so it was clear to all that our recess experience was enhanced by the hunt to bring Paul to justice. We were quietly disappointed on days when he harassed us not at all.
It was Skinny Nick who came up with the design of our final plan: since Nick was our fastest runner, we would turn the tables by taunting Paul into a frenzy and somehow induce him to chase Nick. Skinny Nick would then run straight toward the marm before opening himself up for a witnessed attack.
We all thought this was very brave.
When the time came we found taunting Paul easy. We called him "retarded." As he ran at us we ducked aside while crying, "Toro! Toro!" like Bugs Bunny and then showered him with derisive laughter. When he started hurling abuse at us we responded by speaking only in French, which caused his eyes to bug out of their sockets in rage. Sang the Scotts: "Comme vous etes jolie quand vous etes fachee, Paul!"
Finally, Skinny Nick tripped him, hovering as Paul peeled himself out of the grass, his face pale with surprise. "Run, Nick, run!" we chorused.
Skinny Nick took a pre-emptive blow from his asthma inhaler and took off like a bolt of lightning, pelting away across the grass in a blink. Paul raced after him wordlessly, breathing hard.
"Let's go!" decided Tim after a safe interval, and we ran to catch the climax. Tim was short and he fell behind quickly, as did Scott T. who was still finishing his sandwich. The rest of us rounded the corner by the south doors in time to see Paul chasing Skinny Nick in tight circles around the courtyard, his face pinched in an intense grimace of determination.
And then the extremely likely happened: Skinny Nick had an asthma attack. He fell out of the race and staggered against the fence around the preschool area, clutching his chest and gasping. Paul stopped up short behind him, temporarily confused by the intense wheezing.
Tim ran up beside Nick and helped him get his puffer out of his pocket. "Leave him alone, he's got asthma!" he shouted at Paul.
"What's asthma?" asked Paul, still stunned.
To which Scott D. replied, "It's when Paul is a gay dummy!"
There was a momentary silence before this statement caused the situation to crystallize in Paul's mind, whereupon he stepped up to the mouthy Scott and, with precision and zeal, kicked him squarely in the leg.
Scott howled like an ambulance. He lay on his side on the asphalt and rocked back and forth, turning red in the face. The marm descended instantly. Everyone tried to shout at her at once. She waved us into silence and demanded, "Who saw what happened?"
Tim and I put our arms up into the air. "He kicked him!" we cried, pointing from Paul to the wailing Scott.
"What about him?" she asked, visual scanning units swivelling to lock on Skinny Nick.
"Just a little asthma," said Nick. "I'm fine. I'm great."
Even Scott stopped snivelling as it dawned on him what was going on: we had our collar. It was with a feeling of unmitigated triumph that our party proceeded to the principal's office, walking five abreast down the polished and squeaky floor of the upper corridor, Paul sullenly skulking ahead of us and the recess marm bringing up the rear. We felt as if we were escorting Paul, and that the marm was there as a mere formality. We were superheroes.
Principal McCabe was less impressed. He listened to our overlapping recountings of Paul's rampages by each member of our brave squadron, but seemed fixated on when such and such an incident had actually taken place. Finally he held up one giant pink hand and interrupted to say, "But what has Paul done today?"
"He kicked Scott D. really hard."
Principal McCabe gave Paul a serious look. "Paul," he said sharply, "now you know we don't condone kicking people, do we?"
"No," agreed Paul, staring into his lap.
"I'm not going to see you in here again for kicking somebody else, am I Paul?"
"No way," said Paul.
"Okay," agreed Principal McCabe. Paul was released on his own recognizance and he sauntered out of the office. The members of our party exchanged shocked looks.
"But you don't understand!" I cried. "Paul is a bully. He's mean to us all the time."
Principal McCabe shrugged and smiled unwarmly. "I'm sorry boys, I can only address what's happened here today. So now I'd like to talk about the way you all ganged up on Paul before the kicking started."
I sighed. Tim shook his head and Skinny Nick took a puff from his inhaler. The Scotts sagged. The Enemy had won again -- but we would live to fight another day.
Posted by Cheeseburger Brown at 12:48