"There's going to be a fight at recess over near the 8th grade class under the oak!" R--- yelled at me as he ran along the breezeway.
"Who's fightin'?" I yelled back picking up my pace in the direction of the crowd of students mulling around under the oak.
"You know, D--- and J---. He went too far this time and J--- swung at him." I heard a voice in the crowd say.
Another voice popped up, "Ole Droopy Drawers caught 'em and told 'em they could finish it out here with the gloves." Ole Droopy Drawers was the moniker we students had given the phys ed teacher whose actual name sounded much like it.
"When does it start?"
"Any minute now..."
"Hey, there they are. Droopy's got the gloves and the guys are dressed out."
"All right you kids," shouted Droopy, "form a circle big enough for these two bucks to pelt it out."
He threw the gloves to J--- and D---. "Put 'em on boys. You’ve been wantin' to have it out for a long time. Now's your chance, with official sanction. I want a clean fight with no dirty punches. You keep it up til one of you gives up or one of you is down. I will declare the winner unless I feel it is a tie." He helped the slower one with the glove's laces.
I turned to one of my classmates and asked, "What is this all about?"
"Oh, you know. Her." He pointed to the slim brunette standing at the back of the crowd. She slipped behind the oak tree. She was red faced and crying. I noticed after the first punch was thrown that she had disappeared.
I remember the first day. We were brand new 8th graders and scared out of our minds. The stories we had heard about the initiation of grammar school kids entering these higher grades were frightful. Paint and mud and other noxious substances were smeared on the new kids the year before at the moment they stepped on the bus. Not one of us was looking forward to our turn. However, this year those antics were dispensed with. I guess the parents and teachers put a stop to it somehow because it didn't happen to one of us that year nor to any other new student from then on. That was one of the experiences that made me realize that nothing is really as bad as one imagines, no matter how scary the stories of a new unknown territory.
Well, J---'s first reaction to the petite brunette was totally unlike him. His eyes went, oh,
so big and drool emerged from the corner of his mouth. He looked like the aftermath of a skillet/skull encounter. This goofy smile crept over his face. He stepped an inch above the ground and floated over to her. I lost track of him as I made my way to my class. She was looking at him with fluttering eyes and he was gasping out words of no relation one to another. I shook my head as I left him behind.
This girl was from a different area and had attended a different grammar school. She was new to us. She was a real eye opener for J---. He'd never met anyone who had such an affect on him. He was a totally different boy, uh, man. First love truly does alter one. He was definitely altered and never the same again. They saw each other between classes and everything was hunky dory until D--- stepped into the breezeway.
He had gone to the same grammar school as this young girl and had always considered her his. This he made known to my friend after she walked off to class. D--- waited until she was gone, then came over to voice his thoughts on this budding romance.
"You stay the hell away from my girl!"
"Your girl? She doesn't seem to know that. She's been very friendly with me."
"Maybe, but you better keep your distance or I'll make you."
"Oh yeah?" J--- said leaning towards him.
"Yeah!" said D--- leaning into J---.
They pushed one another double handed in the chest as boys are want to do until their friends made the effort to pull them apart. "Stop it guys. You'll get into trouble."
"You better keep your distance, buddy."
"I'll do what I want, BUDDY."
Yup, I remember how it all began. A feast for the intellect. And, now, it had finally made it to the "ring" of shouting students. They each had their gloves on. Droopy blew the whistle and stepped back into the crowd. The roar of this growing crowd lifted and the two boys began to circle each other. Did I denote a touch of fear in each of them?
"Come on, boys, quit dancin' in there and lets see some punching. You've been threatening each other for a long time. Get on with it!" The coach was really getting into the spirit of this thing. He wanted to see some boxing.
Wait, I did detect a touch of fear in D---'s eyes. He was big and had never really had anyone accept a challenge. This was out of the ordinary and it could be seen that he was not happy about it. J--- was smaller, but wiry, and had been hitting the weights for a couple of months so he was a taut spring ready to lash out. His face showed no fear only determination to end this.
The first punch was finally thrown to the yells of "kill 'im" "murder 'im" "come on J---" "come on D---" "fight, fight, fight"
Nothing original in the crowd's encouragement. J--- landed a punch and D--- staggered back. He'd tasted his own blood now. He stepped back to the middle and threw his first punch, a lucky one, which glanced across J---'s flattop causing him to fall to the right. Thinking he'd hurt him D--- stepped in to land another but was caught with an uppercut that laid him out. Droopy's whistle blew and he edged J--- away stepping to D---. "You all right, son?"
"Yeah, he didn't hurt me."
"You fellas ready to call it quits?"
"NO!" They yelled in unison and the crowd of students cheered them on with renewed vigor.
"All right. Rest a minute and collect your thoughts. Wait for the whistle and come out punching."
They stared at each other with renewed anger. The whistle sounded.
They jumped at each other and threw punches non stop for almost a minute. Neither landed a blow of significance, each warding off the other's lethal swing. They backed off and waded back in with spirit. Punches flew and punches were blocked for another minute and the whistle blasted.
"Once again, you boys had enough?"
"NO," said J---. "I want to end this here."
"No," said D--- with reluctance in his voice.
"All right, one more round. Then you have to shake hands and let this go."
The whistle blew. D--- stepped into a left hook. He dropped. Droopy ran in to separate them. "How do you feel?"
"I'm OK. Lucky punch."
"Ready to stop?"
"Get up then. One more minute."
D--- got up lifted his guard and began swinging. J--- blocked and countered. They were a whir of gloves zipping here and there with sounds of leather on leather buffeting the air. Body punches popped grunts of pain from both of them. The sweat poured off them like a fountain. With each new punch the jolt splattered the first row students. Some were pelted with sweat mingled with blood that flowed from both boxers’ noses. It's true that blood does set of the crowd's frenzy to see more fleshly destruction. This group was no different.
The boxers were beginning to show their exhaustion as the punches came slower. The weight of the gloves began to show. Their movements had lost the spring and velocity. Sweat mingled with the dust they churned up plastering patches of dry grey dirt amid thin layers of mud. Their chests were heaving to capture air as the whistle blew. Droopy stepped between them. They lowered their arms and smiled with relief.
They looked at one another and broke out in grins.
"OK, boys, you did all right by yourselves. I declare it a draw. Now, you need to hit the showers before your next class." Looking at us, he said' "All right, boys and girls, the show is over. You can go to your classes now."
We separated to go to our individual classrooms. The excitement was high amongst the spectators. I looked back at J--- and D--- who had provided the moment's entertainment. They were headed to the showers each with his arm over the shoulder of the other. Their ordeal was over. They had a new respect for one another. I'd like to say they became best friends but they didn't. They never fought again, though.
That fight was the only one under the supervision of a teacher I witnessed. If a student had a beef with another, it was handled after school. I don't know if Ole Droopy Drawers got into trouble for that little exhibition but it was never repeated at school again. It has become legend with the students of our graduating class. Each reunion year that fight is discussed.
The girl? She gained notoriety as the girl two students fought over. J--- met someone else who eventually took him down the church's aisle. D---? He never claimed this girl as his again and met another a few months later.
What did it all mean? Nothing really. It was one of life's lessons for the participants and for the spectators. No moral, or lesson, learned other than life is really....uh, life is...well, life…
Yeah, it is isn't it?