We’re driving to school and Jon is sitting in front. I figure it’s a good time to talk about man stuff.
‘When you fight,’ I say, ‘don’t rely too much on your big toe.’
Jon is soaking his big toe in a bucket of salt water. Short of having to cut his big toe off (Jon looked quite worried when I mentioned cutting his big toe off), we’re still working hard to get an infection out.
It’s the result of a fight. Jon kicked his friend. This, after Jon did a back flip. This is what he tells me. I tell him about some of my own fighting experiences.
‘Actually, we come from a long line of lovers,’ I say. ‘We’re not really fighting men. We’re Mennonite. So the best thing you can do is to get someone else to fight on your behalf.’
My pick, and the pick of anyone when I was a kid, would always be this Italian kid named Enzo Koplin. Enzo was built like a tank, squat and hard as steel. His mother – because she loved him – would apparently beat him over the head with a cast iron frying pan.
Enzo was by the far the unrivaled champion at Maple Crest School and only a fool — his name was Robin Michaud – would dare take him on. So for our entertainment, every once in a while we school kids would form a circle around tough Enzo and insecure Robin and watch Enzo clean his clock every time.
There was usually blood and, because of my pacifist lineage, I would sometimes help poor Robin stagger away.
In the school playground, Enzo even hit me once and gave me a bloody nose. I think he was just reaching up to scratch his ear or something and my nose got in the way.
But it was at the local skating rink where I got this other fighter, Chris, to help me. He had kindly offered.
So when some punks came after me, apparently because I could skate as fine as an NHL star, Chris intervened like any hockey tough guy would. After the skate, in the paper mill parking lot across from the arena, Chris smashed the head of this one punk over and over — so hard, and then the asphalt, that Chris broke his own wrist.
Some weeks later, along with his friends, that beaten punk cornered me on a road, knocked me off my bike and then beat me to a pulp. I staggered home as wobbly as my bike.
Had I been more like Jon, I could have done a back flip and kicked every one of those punks down. But then my toe would have gotten infected and I would have to soak it in salt water while driving to school. And my father would then tell me that the doctor might have to cut it off. And then he’d tell me about what fighting was like when he was a kid.
Rather than having to go through all that, I thought it would be better to simply let that punk beat me up. Besides, like I say, we’re pacifists.