Teddy and Julia Toddlers

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There are events in your life that never leave you. To this day I can still see it all happening in slow motion, in 16 mm flickering color. I can still taste the copper from the blood that had spattered onto my face and the salt from the sweat as it trickled down my temples. Most of all, I felt the combination of rage fueled by fear and responsibility. I was older; therefore responsible for the protection of my brother. I was also slightly bigger, heavier and could take my brother down. I was stronger. Stronger meant protector.

It was a rare warm summer’s morning in the city. My brother and I decided to go up the block to our Uncle Joe’s house. Our Uncle’s house was nestled into the palm of a hill, just where the hill began to rise. The path up to the house opened into a flat dirt courtyard. On one side: the L shaped house. On the other side: the oak tree and ancient blackberry bush. Behind the house was a small grove of trees where our split-level tree house was located. The tree house was our destination that morning.

“Come on Julie, hurry up!”

Always running late, which I attribute to my being born nine days late, I responded with, “Hold your horses, sheesh! I’m coming!” Grabbing my jacket, I followed my brother down the hall and out the door. We flew down the steps, taking them two at a time, jumping the last three.

We began arguing the minute our feet hit the ground.

“I want to go on the swing first!” yelled Teddy.

“No! You already said we were going up to the tree house first!” I shouted back.

The arguing continued as we walked along the long dirt and gravel driveway that formed our front yard, but immediately died the moment we hit the street. Once on the sidewalk we both, instantly, became quiet and watchful.

On our street lived a small gang of bullies, all boys, who were all much bigger than my brother and me. We were small for our ages. At age 7, Teddy could still wear size 5 and looked more like a kindergartener than a soon to be third grader. A year older, I was only slighter bigger; an inch taller and 5 pounds heavier. Every time we were outside without adults around to watch, this gang of bullies would push, hit, kick, rob, or just plain bully us! The biggest problem was that half of them lived up the block and the other half lived down the block which made it difficult to relax and just play. Today we both breathed a sigh of relief when we saw no one in sight. We began walking up the hill to our Uncle’s place. We were talking and arguing once again.

Just as we reached the border between the paved street and the hill, which in the summer was covered with tall grasses, they jumped out. The leader, Bruno, who at 10 looked 18, standing 5’8’ and a beefy 180, was waiting with his gang. Next to Bruno, his young brother, Segundo, who at 8 was already 5 feet tall and good 150; he mimicked his brother’s every mannerism and move. Next to Bruno and his brother were the twins, Larry and Gary. Red headed, freckle faced, bucktooth nightmares. Both had been held back one grade. They were in the same class as Bruno, though he stood a good half a foot taller. This foursome formed the lower end of the street gang.  Then there was Nino, a whiny little brat, the only son in a family of girls who could do no wrong.  Next to him Frankie and his cousins Remo and Ricky, all 9 years old, all first cousins, all of them big, mean and slow.

Initially my brother and I were stunned and immobile, upon seeing the entire gang before us. But that only lasted until the first fist struck. Then we both began to run. They locked in on my brother and were pummeling him in the back. A couple of them poked at me with sticks or darted in to pull one of my braids. But when I saw my brother getting attacked by five kids, something inside me snapped!

My eyes rapidly scanned the hillside searching for something to help us. Then in my peripheral vision I saw something shiny in the grass, all my attention and focus was now on that object.

I quickly reached down and grabbed it. It was a metal bar from some old piece of machinery. I lifted it over my head and went screaming at the guys who had my brother. He was now on the ground, being pounded to a pulp.

“Get off my brother! Leave him alone!” I screamed at the top of my lungs.

The leader turned to me with a smirk and asked, “What are you gonna do about it? Stop us?”

I looked him right in the eye and coldly replied in measured words, “Leave. Him. Alone.”

He looked me up and down, and then laughed.

That was when I swung the pipe at him.

Crack!

Connecting with his shoulder, the leader looked at me stunned. Then anger hit. He and his buddies let my brother alone, they had a new target, me.

Crack! Crack! Crack!

As each of his minions came at me I swung my pipe and connected with some part of their body. Then I went on the attack. I focused all of my energy on the leader. I needed to take him out.

He was running towards me when everything slowed way down. I judged the distance between the leader and myself, watched as he began to lower his head during the charge, counting the seconds in my mind until he would be in the perfect position for a hit. A hit that would take him down! I saw my opportunity and then swung the pipe directly at his head.

Crack!

Blood immediately began spurting out. Everyone stopped as he screamed in pain and then began crying. In the momentary confusion I grabbed my brother’s hand and ran toward our Uncle Joe’s house. As I looked back over my shoulder I saw the boys taking their injured leader down the hill towards the street.

My brother and I stumbled into the yard and up the steps calling for our Aunt and Uncle. To our horror, they were not home. So, we hid in the tall grasses waiting for them to come back or for a chance to walk home when more people were on the street. But after two hours (and in desperate need of a bathroom) we were forced to go back to our own house.

We began walking down the dirt road from the driveway to the street and lying near the road was the piece of metal I had used in our defense. Blood spattered and dirt smeared I bent down to pick it up. Turning it over slowly in my hand I shuddered and flung it out into the sea of tall grasses. We continued walking, noticing the drops of blood that first began in a small pool and then continued in a steady stream of droplets all the way down the street. My heart began to race. The march of the soldiers filling my ears, as my pulse began rising.

As we walked down the street we could see some of the boys from the gang walking up the hill towards us. Our arms were tightly intertwined, our bodies stuck with invisible super glue from shoulder to hip as we walked.

“You killed him!” The smallest one, Nino, in the group screeched at me while keeping a healthy distance from my brother and I.

“The police are coming to get you!” Chanted the other four. It was then my brother and I broke into a run. We ran as one person with one thought: home.

Flying up the stairs we willed the front door to open as we practically fell into the hallway, frantically calling for our mother.

“Mom, the police are coming to get me. I killed Bruno!” I managed to gasp out.

“What are you talking about? Calm down and tell me exactly what happened.”

“Teddy and I were going to Uncle Joe’s and they jumped us! They started to beat Teddy up really bad. I just got so mad and scared. I picked up something and I hit Bruno with it. I hit him hard on the head and they stopped. Mom there was so much blood all the way down the street. The police are coming to get me. I murdered him. That’s what Remo, Ricky and the twins said!”

My mother held me for a moment at arm’s length, just staring into my eyes as if she could see through them and recreate what had happened. Then she told me to stop crying and no one was going to arrest me. She was sure I hadn’t killed anyone. She got up and stormed out of the house, grabbing my arm and dragging me behind her.

In a few minutes, we were at the top of the stairs leading to Bruno’s house and my mother was pounding on the door. While I stared at the blood drops on the stairs I knew with certainty that the police were on their way.

Bruno’s mom opened the door, took one look at my mother and began yelling.

“I am going to sue you! Do you see what your daughter did to my son? He had to have 8 stitches! You are going to pay his doctor’s bills too!”

My mother allowed her to rant. Then, in the calmest and coldest voice I have ever heard her utter, she answered to the charges laid out.

“If your son ever lays a hand on or in any way abuses my son or daughter again I will be dealing with HIM!!”

Bruno’s mom blanched, then began to sputter a response, which was cut off by the rest of my mother’s laser-like diatribe.

“Furthermore, it is who will sue YOU for traumatizing my children if you should decide to take any action. Your son, who is twice the size of my children, has been terrorizing them with his buddies for months. You and I both know this is true. Do we understand one another?”

The last sentence was really more of a declarative, allowing my mother to have the last word.

My mother, who had not let go of my arm the entire time, once again dragged me back down the stairs and home.

She sat me and my wide-eyed brother down at the table, gave us each a scoop of ice cream and told us both about how her brother had been bullied when she was my age. As she spoke I saw her running through the tall sea of grasses into the hills where her childhood secrets had been stored.

©Marna Blanchard, 2013

Marna Blanchard is a native of San Francisco and proud product of a public education. She is currently teaching 8th grade Humanities and Media at Francisco Middle School in San Francisco. Marna has loved storytelling since her Uncle Joe first sat with her on the front poor and told the story of the stars.  She also shares a passion for photography and film-making with her daughters. Marna was a BAWP fellow in 2006.

3 Responses to “Murderous Intent by Marna Blanchard”

  1. loramoysard Says:

    a wonderful story, beautifully told

  2. Suzie Says:

    Love this story so much!!

  3. Lori Williamson Says:

    As I was reading…..I was so hoping that the Mom would know, and understand, and support…..was glad it is so! I only wish the other Mom could help her son and his bruisers to see a better way…..maybe Julie took care of that on her own! I’m sure she grew up to be a knowing Mom…

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