Soon after, I redeemed myself for myself. Twin brothers—not identical by any means—were among my new friends. One was quite big, the other, not much bigger than me. Toward the end of the day, there was talk all over the school about the big fight that was going to take place at Cobb’s Lake after school. It was silly to me then, but the story going around was that the two brothers had some disagreement and honor was at stake and, further, that the fight was not merely between the brothers, but between their friends.
After school, I saw the small brother, K____, in the hall and heard a couple of guys taunt him on their way out as they were excitedly heading to the old stock pond we called Cobb’s Lake. He just shook his head, and kept walking toward his locker.
“So, I guess the stuff I heard I true?”
“I am going to get my ass kicked. I am not looking forward to it.” He told me what had started the disagreement, and that what hurt most was that it made their friends pick sides. “Not only did I lose most of my friends, but I get to go get my as kicked as a bonus prize.”
“Whose with you?”
“No one, that I know.”
“Eh—let me put my books in my locker, and we’ll go get our asses kicked together.”
“Really? My brother is pretty big you know?” He laughed. We walked to the stock pond together.
There were well over a hundred people there, and over a dozen declaring the were fighting with H____.
H____ mocked, “Looks like it is you against all of my friends, so I guess I’ll let you off easy, and beat you up all by myself.”
“No. I’m with him.” I spoke without any bravado, and feeling no bravado.
“I thought you were my friend?
“I am. I am also K____’s friend.”
“Well, then stay out of it.”
“Nope, You got a group there that are not my friends, and I would back you up if they had said to you what they said to your brother, so that is why I am here. Right is right.”
Someone I didn’t know yelled, “Giles, if you want to get your ass kicked, it alright with me.”
“I think most of you are here because you think H____ is big enough to take care of you. No one is taking care of me, so I am up for seeing what happens—and I bet I’m right—most of you are tough only when you feel safe.”
K____ put his hand on my shoulder, turning our backs to the mocking gang, and said, “Man, you really are a friend. Let this be between my brother and me. I only want your help if anyone else tries to pile on. Dig?”
“I’m not starting anything, but I am mad as Hell and I want someone to try me. But I will stay cool, and back you up.”
A few others nearby overheard our private conversation and a couple walked up and said, “If it is more than one on one, we’ll step in, too.”
Some that had not stepped up threw in their support in a well.
K____ turned and said, “I’m ready, brother. But you should not have brought anyone else into this. Just you and me. Let’s go.”
K____ got his ass kicked in a seventh-grade sort of way-- a black eye. It was over in about a minute. No one else got involved. But I was ready to step in and get busted up for doing the right thing, and while others may have doubted my sincerity (and I don’t think any did), I sure didn’t. Nor did I doubt myself in that regard again. I found my gut and knew it. I got my own ass kicked a few times over my teenage years because of it. In every case, I won the moral victory.
What I learned in that year before becoming a teenager, was that despite the opinions of others, I did what I thought was right and offered my best whether I would be rebuffed, falsely accused, slandered, punished.... or showered with unexpected praise.
I also learned that a few—a very small few-- thought that was an important part of who I was, and those few, I called friends.