Herbie Schultz started to think about the first time he met Tony Barrows. He flashed back to a muggy, overcast afternoon when both Herbie and Tony were attending sixth grade at Clever Ridge Elementary School. It was about half way through the afternoon recess and two twin brothers, Hartley and Kerry Popovich were engaged in a competitive game of marbles with Herbie. Kerry accused Herbie of cheating. Both Hartley and Kerry took turns pushing Herbie in the chest rendering their opponent off-balance. Tony Barrows was hiding behind a car across the street smoking a Sportsman cigarette stolen from his dad’s pack at lunchtime. He stepped out from behind the red Ford Tempo when he heard some yelling and screaming coming from the school playground.
“You cheated, you slimy little freak. Now we’re going to kick the shit out of you unless you pay us five dollars,” Kerry said.
“I never cheated and I don’t have five dollars on me anyway,” Herbie responded with a tear starting to run down his cheek.
Hartley grabbed Herbie and pushed his face into the ground. He took a hold of Herbie’s long blond hair and scraped the victim’s forehead against the gravel. He didn’t stop until he saw blood started to stream down Herbie’s face.
Tony Barrows had seen enough. He had the reputation of being the toughest kid at Clever Bridge Elementary. Tony was older than the other kids his class as he had to repeat grade five. He was already a strong boy as he spent a lot of his free time helping his new stepdad, Phiilip, when he worked on home renovation projects that required heavy lifting. His step dad assigned all the grunt work to Herbie.
Tony ran up to Hartley and viciously struck the bully with a punishing round house right. Within seconds Hartley’s face was a mass of blood. Tony had succeeded in breaking Hartley’s nose so badly that it that only a thread of membrane kept Hartley’s nose attached to his face.
A teacher on duty was at the opposite end of the school ground when this incident took place. Tony had time to turn his head to see Mr. James, his sixth- grade teacher start to jog to the section of the playground where the altercation was going down.
Tony got right into Harley’s bloody, disfigured face.
“Listen up, Hartley you freaking scumbag. You are going to tell Mr. James you told your twin brother to stop robbing Herbie’ face in the ground. Kerry got mad and punched you in the face so hard that it shattered your ugly nose. Hartley managed to squeak out an ‘okay’ while trying to stop the bleeding with his handkerchief.
“Tell Mr. James what really happened and you and your pathetic piece of crap brother will be on my shit list for the rest of the year. You got it?”
“Loud and clear,” Hartley answered.