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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Bully No More

    We were all standing around to see what would happen next. I remember the air had a chill with light from a full moon resting on a row of cars parked on the hill. It was close to Halloween and I believe neither of the two adversaries really wanted to be there.  But the spectators had come to see a brawl. The crowd wouldn’t have to feel the pain, so they had nothing to lose. The pack of onlookers had blood in their eyes; longing to witness a hyped up high school clash between two long-time rivals. I despise violence. As a high school senior, I wondered how a group of teens could even get away with this meaningless mêlée’.  Today, we might capture it on video and post it on the internet. But this tragic night is forever locked in the crevasses’ of my mind.
    With testosterone induced frenzy accompanying the crowd, we never expected to witness a death resulting from a fight at the local fairgrounds.  My friend, Johnny Wade, was one of the fighters. He had been challenged by an idiot who was always starting trouble with “someone” at school.
    The plan was to take care of it once and for all. There would be a gathering at the fairground sanctioned by the County Sheriff, who happened to be the father of one of the more popular students on hand to watch the fight.
    You wouldn’t be able to get away with this kind of behavior today, but in a small town back in the early 80’s it was not uncommon. It was a way for students who did not get along to settle their differences once and for all.
    There was actually a safety concern among parents and the sheriff’s office. The premise was:  allow the kids to fight until it looks like one could be in serious trouble. That’s when the fight is halted. A winner is declared and the “unwritten rule” is that no further skirmishes between the two rivals will happen on campus or outside of school. If the heated hatred between the two teens continues and it comes down to more physical fights, the consequences include expulsion from school and or a trip to jail with charges of assault against the disgraced agitator.
    And believe me, our county sheriff had so many reliable sources that he would not assume the “troublemaker” was the first one to throw a punch. NO, SIR. The first negative word or words instigating a rivals’ reprise automatically made that person the guilty party. Then there was an iron fisted rebuttal from the Sheriff.  
    You may not be familiar with where I’m coming from, but this is just an unspoken code.  It’s an institution growing up in my small town. You may not understand it, but in our community this is how things were done.  This had been the “norm” since post WWII- 1950’s.
    The fights were consistent. We had between two and five fights a year. The only thing missing was a ring and boxing gloves.  However, that may have been for the best. After all, this kept fights short and usually wound up with students taking home some body bruises, a bloody nose and maybe black eyes. 

    That’s a brief history of how we did things!
    Now… back to the tragedy. 
    As you might expect, in a competition like this, a tragedy should involve two fighters and perhaps something going terribly wrong; conceivably a blow to the head that kills one of the teens or maybe sends one to the hospital.
    This did not happen.
    In fact, the fight lasted only about 3 or 4 minutes. The “proud” kid playing the role of “bully’ ended up on the hood of the car and appeared to be mumbling like a 2 year old. He was out cold without really being unconscious.—odd. The skinny kid who laid out our “bully” was crying at the beginning of the fight and his tears were still going at the end of the battle. He had won but an even more important lesson was learned. If you ever decide to fight someone who is so angry he is crying, don’t do it! If he has an empty gaze and yet focused stare, he is filled with adrenaline. When a teenager is scared out of their wits, and what I call “puffed up” ( adrenaline filled), that’s not the best time to pick a fight. It’s kind of like trying to corner a wolverine in a barn- not a good idea.
    My buddy, Johnny, was congratulated and everyone went home thinking things were over.
    Two nights later, the “bully” was found in a field outside his home. Apparently, he had been plowing in his pumpkin patch, and according to initial reports, he fell off his tractor and was split in half by the disc he was pulling while farming. His death was swift. A neighbor had located the body.
    The investigation, however, was never even considered an accident. Police skipped right to exploring possibilities of a homicide. They didn’t give any information detailing why it was considered a homicide.
    There was shocking surprise among the locals. Finger pointing immediately began. My friend Johnny Wade was the prime suspect. He couldn’t believe what people were saying about him.  I, myself, was in awe. He didn’t even want to fight this now deceased “bully” in the first place.
    Reports began to surface that there was overwhelming evidence against Johnny.  My friends began to question whether Johnny did commit the murder. Maybe he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder consumed with worry over vengeful enemies. Rumors spread that a plan had been hatched to ambush Johnny by friends of the “intimidator.” I had known this “bully” all my life and I knew he might not follow the “unwritten rule” of the community—‘the rule that says, you lost, don’t start anything.’
    A buddy of mine told me that maybe human survival instinct kicked in and Johnny could not help himself. It’s a human characteristic known as self preservation.
    However, it was easy for me to put those crazy thoughts out of my mind. I knew Johnny didn’t do this. I went to see him and he was distraught. He told me he did not have an alibi and he was alone in his car just riding around on the evening of the murder.
    He said, “I just wanted to clear my head.”
    He admitted to me that during the fight, he thought his final punch was a death blow.  He was still anxious and nervous about all that had gone down in the last couple of days.
     I was trying to console him and told him that I knew our school’s famous “bully’ was OK after the fight.  There was a reason for my confidence in his good health. When his eyes rolled back in his head, but he was still mumbling incoherently I knew he was fading and about to go unconscious. But I could NOT see him “knocking” on death’s door.
    My father was a paramedic and I had a chance to see him at work in an emergency situation. We drove right into a traffic jam where a brutal auto accident had taken numerous lives. I helped Dad work on the dazed and confused. I knew how a patient’s eyes tell a story. I remembered that experience.  From that point forward, I had a knack for gauging how significant an injury was in terms of “Life & Death” situations.
    I’m no medic, but I am a good listener. I have an uncanny photographic memory. I can still perform a tracheotomy, and I can perform the “eye test” to do quick checks of brain function. It has to do with lethargy, eye discoloration, & pupil dilation. That gives a doctor a general overview before using proper  computer assessments to gauge how close your diagnosis is to solving the problem.
    Once I was pulled aside by an emergency room doctor who told me, “Your mind soaks up everything. You could easily become a doctor. You would be a great asset in helping others. If you ever decide you want to go to med school, I will help pay your tuition. You have a letter of recommendation anytime you ask.”  
     I was humbled. I know that if a subject peaks my interest I tend to remember it much better. Like an elephant, I never forget.

    That’s why I never forgot the things that Kelson Frost did to me. Kelson was the name of our school’s most notorious “bully.” I was so proud of how my friend Johnny stood up to Kelson. Johnny was still in a panic thinking he might be charged with the murder. The police were nowhere near having enough evidence to convict Johnny.  But they were determined to attach him to it. They wanted him bad on murder but they would take him down with manslaughter if necessary. 
    Johnny and I went back a long way. In fact, Johnny Wade was the first person I met in kindergarten and we were always hanging out together. We looked out for one another.
    It had been over a month, but police now theorized that Kelson, our malevolent bully friend, had definitely been murdered. I still didn’t think they had enough evidence against Johnny. It was all hearsay.
    But one morning they called Johnny down to the police station. I went along telling them that I too had something to share about Johnny and his whereabouts. I coached him, telling him not to give any information. 
    I said just keep saying, “I didn’t do this. I had no reason to do this. After I won the fight, I wasn’t afraid of Kelson. Why are you blaming me?  He (Kelson) had a lot of enemies.”
    And if they asked where he was when Kelson was murdered, I told Johnny to just say,
“I have a witness who can verify where I was.”
    And if they persisted, I told him to immediately ask for a lawyer.  They sat me in the next room, but my hearing is superb.  Maybe they didn’t realize “air vents” echo the conversation in the interrogation room. I could hear everything being said.
    Had Johnny listened to my advice, things would have turned out great. But he didn’t. 
It’s par for the course. Johnny is as honest as the day is long. He began telling them how he took a ride to clear his mind. This puts him nowhere except where the officers say he is. And they proceed to tell him he murdered Kelson.  They even explain how he murdered the bully.  The officers explained that Johnny was still scared and that he would have to kill Kelson to ever be free from his grasp.
    Then, from the other room, I could hear detectives getting louder and louder, saying things like, “If you just cooperate, we can get you a lighter sentence.”
     I knew then they were going to keep him overnight or at least until they procured a confession. Johnny would break.  Something had to give! He would not be able to hold out and he obviously did not do as I had advised him.  He should have asked for a lawyer.
    If I had known the torment Johnny was going to be subjected to, I never would have killed Kelson.
    Looking back, I should have made sure no one would have found his body, but they did.  I guess it’s true what they say: “Hindsight is twenty-twenty.” 
   I had a moral dilemma. I knew they couldn’t pin the crime on me, but I couldn’t let them pin it on Johnny.  I thought about giving investigators some “false leads.” I had already planned for this and had my ticket out of this mess. But that would also be wrong.
   Here was my original game plan. I had studied Kelson’s father and had his schedule down. I could have easily blamed him for the murder of his own son. After all, I killed Kelson with his father’s own pocket knife. I picked-pocketed the knife from his father in a parking lot.
   The evening of  Kelson’s death, I  made it a point to “bump” into his father in the parking lot of the liquor store. It was getting dark and the store closed at 6pm.  He and I were the only ones in the parking lot. I had bought some bags of wine and whiskey a week before the scheduled fight between Kelson and Johnny. My plan was simple.  
    I was anticipating what had to be done to Kelson. I knew I would have to set up Kelson’s own father for the crime if worse came to worse.  For instance, if Kelson beat my buddy Johnny into a coma or worse, then he would have to be killed.
    The night his father and I “bumped into each other,” he was right on time. He made his usual late night stop at the liquor store where I was laying in wait.  No one could put me inside the store that night because I had bought the liquor there over a week ago. I was just hiding in the parking lot shadows.  I had three full bags (of bottles) on the back of my car. We had a brief conversation as I asked how Kelson was feeling after the fight. Then I lied and told him how much everyone likes his son. I asked his father if he would help me load “these fragile bags” (filled with bottles of liquor) into my car. He gladly obliged and smiled saying, " Aren’t you too young to drink? "
    I smiled and said, “Yes sir, but I think this will help relax Johnny. He has never been in a fight and he’s still shaking a bit, I reckin’”
    “Touché,” he said.
    As he got the last bag in the car, I strategically located the top frame of the door. As he started to stand up all I had to do was slam the door pretty hard hoping to put a gash in the side of his head, cheek, or neck (any part of the side of his face or shoulder).  Earlier that day, I had filed the top edge of the door down to the metal to make it sharper than the point on knife.
     The plan worked. I elbowed the door as Kelson’s father started to stand. There was a thump, and in pain he let out a curse word.  I dropped my bottles and they shattered. I began to apologize and claimed I accidentally bumped the door when I was picking up the last bag.  He was dazed for a minute and then told me, “I’m OK. Don’t worry. I’m just sorry you busted that bag of drinks.”
  “No, that’s OK,” I reassured him.
  “Are you sure?” He asked. “Let me give you some money…”
  “No.” I interrupted.  “It was my fault. I hope you’re OK.”
   “I’m fine.”
   And after that exchange, we both exited the parking lot.
   He had a large scratch down the side of his cheek.
   That would raise suspicion for detectives.
   You have to understand the timeline here. People in the liquor store had seen the prominent councilman without a “scar” on his cheek at 5:50pm that evening. 
    SO, Now It was time to go kill Kelson. 
    Earlier that afternoon, I had pretended to make amends in the form of sharing free whiskey. He wasn’t very friendly but he certainly drank the crap out of it.  After sneaking into his room, it was obvious he was passed out. I tossed him out the window and with a thud sound I heard him grumble. Kelson started to wake up. He was groggy.
   That’s when I grabbed the burlap sack I had left outside. I sliced his throat with his dad’s pocket knife and covered his head with the sack. He made some gurgling sounds but they didn’t last long.  I wrapped another blanket around him and dragged him out into the former pumpkin patch. They had been plowing and were setting out either greens or something to germinate of the winter months.
    I started the tractor sitting nearby.  I quickly pulled off the burlap sack and blanket.  I slowly rolled the tractor over top of the body.  I quickly ran the disc blades over the body a couple of times and shut it down.  Jumping off the tractor I ran across the field to where I left my car near the woods. I hot-footed it over to Johnny’s house and picked up beer at a drive through market along the way.  Of course Johnny wasn’t home, but I helped myself into his room and waited. I sipped beer and tried calling him a couple of time.
    Eventually, with my help Kelson’s dad became the prime suspect, but I felt guilty.
    So I went ahead and confessed. OH well!
    I did get a chance to vent a little bit.  I told investigators how Kelson had killed two of my dogs when I was a child. It was never proven, but we suspected he started the fire that killed my little sister who was sleeping in the attic while we were supposed to be on vacation. He probably thought no one was home and the little “Pyro” burned down the house. The problem was: my sister was sick and my aunt was house-sitting. My aunt would have seen what happened, but she was gone to the store to pick up chicken noodle soup.
   I guess I was planning to kill him regardless. A little over a week before I put the world out of his misery, he killed ten pet rabbits owned by Johnny’s little sister. I’ve never seen her cry like that. That is what led up to the fight between Kelson and Johnny.
   Looking back, I made a mistake taking the law into my own hands when I did-
I waited too long!
   But it sure felt good to rid the earth of the pure evil known as Kelson Frost. Good riddance- you repulsive, wicked, depraved, vile, loathsome, diabolic, sinister, cruel cast on society. Die long-- And wither!

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