A while back I wrote a story about a guy running into a bully from his past. Then I wrote another story about slut shaming. Today is the third story about a bad dog. You might have seen the first two already but they are worth reading again. The dog story is new. All three stories are about individuals we just don’t want to be around because it is NEVER a winning situation.
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.
College is starting soon. One of the big things everyone is talking about is sexual assault on campus or in college towns. I’ve talked about it with my two kids who are in college. Everyone has, at least everyone who is a decent parent.
So I get this call from Hodge Williams. Yes, that Hodge Williams. Everyone remembers him.
“Bart, how are you?” As soon as he spoke I wondered what he wanted.
“Hodge. Fine. Great. Life is good. What’s up?”
“I’m writing a story on the history of sexual harassment and violence at universities in the US. I tried to contact your sister but she wouldn’t return my calls.”
“Yes, Beth. She kind of got around so I was thinking she might have experienced first hand, you know, she was at risk.”
“What do you mean by at risk?”
“Oh come on, your sister was a slut. Everyone knew it.”
I sat there with the phone a bit stunned. He just called my sister a slut.
“Hodge, you’re an asshole. In fact you’ve always been an asshole.” I hung up the phone. What an asshole.
After sitting for a few minutes and collecting my thoughts I called my sister and told her about the conversation.
“What an asshole,” she said. “Sure I was sleeping with his best friend without the benefit of being his best friend’s official girlfriend. OK I also slept with another one of his friends but we were in college. We were young.”
“Did you ever sleep with Hodge?”
“No. Hell no. He was always making passes at me and grabbing me. Hodges had that Madonna/Whore things going on in his head. A girl was either a virgin until marriage or a whore. Plus we’re not like him, you know the religion thing, so he just assumed I was a whore.”
“But you didn’t have sex with him.”
“I know. That makes me a whore. He called any girl who wouldn’t have sex with him a whore.”
“What an asshole.”
“I know. Believe me, I know. I mean, if the guy had asked me to go see a movie or go for a walk or just spent time talking that would have been different but he was just all over me like…yuck. He really called you? I can’t believe he’d have the gall to do that. Asshole.”
After we got off the phone with the promise of a lunch date later in the week I got to thinking about my own kids.
I’d spoken with both my daughter and son about sexual predators. I’ve done the best to teach them not to be bully bait. I’ve taught them to stand up for themselves and for others.
From experience I knew that bullies never grow up and most don’t change.
Hodge never got the answer he wanted. Over the years Beth had a few close calls with sexual predators but she always ended up safe either by being with friends or using physical force to get out of it (exactly twice as she told me.) That didn’t include unwanted advances by guys like Hodge. And even though Hodge didn’t use force it still hurt emotionally that he’d think so little of her or of any girl.
I wanted to pound the crap out of him. Then I thought about how many other women out there who thought the guy was an asshole. That made me smile. Spread the word ladies, spread the word.
That evening after work I talked to my wife about it. She shook her head and said she’d had similar experiences. More anger surged through my brain, then sadness deep in my soul.
We all judge others. We all make assumptions. We all call names even if it isn’t out loud. We all talk behind the backs of others. Maybe we need to stop. It isn’t easy. It isn’t even practical.
Anyway, if you see Hodge Williams call him and an asshole and tell him that Beth and Bart say hello.
When Uncle Bill passed away he left a dog.
Bill wasn’t really my uncle, just a close family friend, but we were like family, sort of. You know, the kind of family you aren’t born into – the kind of family that just happens.
Buddy the dog was going to the pound and more than likely straight to death row.
He was an obnoxious black and white bastard – half Lab and half Satan’s spawn.
So stupid me. Of course I volunteered to bring the dog home, to my family no less. I love my family. I don’t know what I was thinking.
The first thing Buddy did when we arrived home was growl at my wife, pee on the living room chair, try to attack my dog Rosie and then eat our two cats. Putting Buddy outside didn’t help. He started to bark nonstop then proceeded to dig holes and destroy the outdoor furniture, sprinkler system and knocked down the gate to the vegetable garden.
“He has to go,” said my wife.
I asked for another chance. Lucky me. The next morning he grabbed my trousers and ripped them half off of my leg. Hugo Boss no less. It was one of my favorite suits.
My son had a the bright idea of taking him to dog school with the park and recreation. Buddy attacked every dog there then tried to bite the class leader.
My sister called me and asked about Buddy. “Remember the time he killed Bill’s cats? Why the crap did you take him in.”
That night I looked at Buddy straight in the eyes. “What the crap is wrong with you Buddy?”
He growled at me then tucked his tail and scratched at the door to go out.
“That dog is too miserable to live,” said my wife.
“I agree with mom,” said our teenage son.
Buddy stood outside watching us through the sliding glass door and barking as if he wanted to kill us.
The next day I got a call from Uncle Bill’s girlfriend Vera. She’d been in Alaska when Bill died and just got home. She said she’d take Buddy. I was glad to see Vera leaving in her truck with Buddy crated and barking in the back. Off they went to her ranch outside of Reno. Buddy would have room to run and with any luck be eaten by coyotes.
A couple of months later I received an email from Vera. Attached were photos of Buddy being the almost perfect dog. Vera said Buddy was like Uncle Bill. He needed his solitude and room to run. After being kicked by a cow the dog calmed down a bit. Vera said Buddy was almost normal now, then she laughed and said the cow had kicked some sense into him.
I still hate that dog and don’t plan on visiting Vera anytime soon. I guess Buddy makes her think of Bill, though Bill was a sweetheart. I’m sure he took in the damaged dog due to his soft heart. My heart isn’t that soft. But I wonder what sort of abuse that poor dog endured to make him that way. Or maybe he was just born mean. Buddy isn’t going to tell me so I guess I’ll never know.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman