Short Story Sunday: The Bully

The Bully

Sunday mornings on the deck with coffee, a cat purring in my lap, a dog at my feet and my beautiful family still asleep upstairs equals something good. It is all good.

Of course it wasn’t always that way. I think of my kids. I’ve done a lot to make sure they’re strong and secure. I make sure they’re not open to con artists and bullies. I made sure that they learned to stand up for the weak and those who are different.

So why am I musing on such lofty parenting goals? It is because their witty, confident, successful and good looking dad was once the kid who went to school in fear each day because of bullies. Nobody thought anything of bullies back then, when I was a kid. It was part of the school culture. But you know, even as a kid I knew it was wrong and one day it would be over.

It was over for me by the time I was 13. I went to high school and reinvented myself into a funny smart semi-popular kid.

My mind went back to fifth grade – in particular to one kid. Ronnie Martin was the personification of a bully. He was Goofus in Highlights Magazine. He was a sadistic little shit who never let down on reminding me that I was smaller and weaker than he was. Ronnie amassed an army of schoolyard thugs up against me. I was taunted, tripped, lied about, and shunned by other kids. I never knew why his one goal in life was to make my life a living Hell.

Once we got to high school nobody would put us with his bullshit. He faded into the background of kids nobody sees. I was free.

So what brought these memories back on a beautiful Sunday morning?

Last Friday on the way home my 15 year old son and I stopped by the hardware store to pick up some supplies for a leaking faucet. I still had on my suit (important meeting at the Capitol that day) sans the jacket. My son had on a band shirt and skinny jeans (no sagging mind you.) We were a typical father and son – only my son was an inch taller than me. When did that tiny six pound baby grow to be six feet tall?

I’d sent Tristan off to find a new front doormat while I went through the thirty thousand small bins of washers.

Standing in isle 34 I heard a voice that made me go cold.

“Here kitty kitty.”

In fronting of me was Ronnie Martin. He was older and larger than I remembered. The last time I remember seeing him was 45 years ago in Freshman English class when a couple of popular kids told him nobody put up with bullies in our high school and that they liked me. Now here Ronnie was a big slob with a gray ponytail, bad ink on his arms and a shit eating grin on his face.

I had the misfortune to be named Bartholomew. My mother called me by my full name. I went by Bart. Ronnie picked up on the mew.

Back in elementary school Ronnie and his minions would follow me making pathetic mewing noises and yelling “here kitty kitty.” Someone once filled my desk with cat litter. Ronnie told the teacher I’d done it to get out of work. She believed him. I had to clean it up and was sent to the office where the principal lectured me on my bad behavior. Such was my life for the next three years.

Ronnie made sure I was always picked last on teams and that I never had a place to sit on the bus. Now I look back on it I realize that I was his obsession. It just seems so sick and twisted now.

The bully looked me up and down in isle 34 like some creeper looking at a pretty girl in short skirt. “So I hear you’re some sort of big shot. What are you the gay secretary?”

He knew I owned a successful advertising and PR agency. He must have known.

Tristan came up with a doormat looking curious at the big rough looking Buba blocking my way.

I tried to pass and Ronnie blocked me. I looked him in the eye. “The fact that you bullied me does not define me. The fact that you are a bully defines you and will always define you.”

“You’re still a pussy Bart. You’ll always be a pussy.”

I said nothing but I knew he’d always be an asshole.

Putting my arm around Tristan I headed for the check out.

“What was that about Dad?” My son gave me one of those amused WTF looks.

“Just some loser I knew in elementary school.”

Tristan started to laugh in that way teen boys laugh. I had to laugh too.


  1. I was teased and bullied a lot when I was a kid because I was tall and skinny and considered weird for many things, including I stood up to the kids who teased and bullied because they were small, shy or handicapped or mentally retarded. The school system I went to always integrated kids with disabilities, including severe disabilities, into regular classrooms. Those kids were so often targeted for bullying and I knew it wasn’t right. I could fight back both verbally and physically. Many of those kids could not. Of course, I got teased and bullied for being friends with those kids, taking sides, and trying to get everyone to get along. Since I was mostly a loner, gangs of kids going after me was a real anxiety in those days. Things did not get much better in HS as I continued to hang out with the wrong people like the few Blacks in school and other social misfits like myself. I never really tried to fit into groups or cliques, but by HS, I gave up altogether on trying to fit into anything. Between 9th and 10th grade I put on lot of muscle, so the bullies with any sense of self preservation started leaving me alone. I eventually dropped out of HS because I could not fit into public school culture. I don’t worry about running into any of those bullies from days gone by. They are either dead or managed to turn themselves around.

    1. This is Marla speaking now. I had no idea you were bullied. I would have never guessed. I was also bullied in elementary school without mercy. I was small, quiet, painfully shy and oddly artistic, and not good at much of anything else. Despite the attacks (mentally and physically) I never cried or said a word. I had a few friends who stood up for me but life was hell. It was part of the school’s culture. In Jr. High a kid attacked me on the bus and I asked him if he got any satisfaction calling me names and asked why he had to act like that. Every kid on the bus cheered for me. It was great. When I stood up for myself all the kids cheered. From then on nobody bothered me. By the time I got into high school I’d reinvented myself, become fairly popular, and kept my past as a bullied kid secret even from my best friends. It was only at my 40th high school reunion that I spoke with other kids who were bullied at my school. The term “Success is the Best Revenge” was true. The bullies had vanished. The one kid who was bullied because he was gay (and this was in the 70’s) showed up with a handsome husband and a success story. Girls who were soooooo mean to me flocked to see me and say nice things. I don’t know if it was guilt or they thought I was cool now. It was kind of weird. I am so sorry you had to deal with that. I know we both worked with our own kids to make sure they didn’t have to deal with assholes. It took me 40 years to finally deal with it and realize that I am fine. But I keep writing about the subject because no child or adult deserves to be bullied. Thanks for being brave and sharing Tim. Hugs.

      1. Thanks, for sharing. I’m sorry you had to deal with being bullied for being different. I think most anyone who was artistic and weird in our cohort were bullied to some extent, because there was such a false sense of what normal was supposed to be back then. But then the idea of normal is always shifting, and there are people who are jerks and it’s sad we have to deal with jerks.

    1. I’m glad you caught that. Goofus was such a Goofus. Or at least that is all we could call him because all of the other words (stupid head, asshole, butt boy, shit head, and assorted other names) were off limits for anyone under 18.

  2. Oh, I hate bullies… I was bullied for years in elementary and high school… it took me a long time to freak out – but one day I exploded and placed my fist into the leader girl’s face – in class. She flew backward over her desk and ended up with a black eye. It had taken me years to understand how weak and scared these losers really are.
    She has never dared to address me again with one wrong word, as long as I went to school with her.

    1. This is from Marla: I was bullied in elementary school. It was horrible. Some of the inspiration for this story came from that. I reinvented myself in high school, made friends, and luckily went to a school where bullying was looked down upon. I’m sorry you had to go through that. In the end most of them end up as losers. They’re immature as kids and even more so as adults.

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