The year was 1984, and I went to 4th grade at McEbright Elementary School in Akron Ohio, the failed Rubber Capital of the world. It was a lovely old, inner city school around the corner from the Summit county jail. This was the third inner city grade school I had attended, so I felt fine there. I had a lot of good friends. We used to hang out in the front yard doing ninja flips, wrestling around, and playing with Transformers. We loved playing with Transformers, we would even trade them. My best friend was this stocky little black kid named Sammy, and we also had this other skinny black kid in our group that hung out all the time (sadly, I can’t remember his name anymore). It was us two skinny dudes, and Sammy hanging out all the time. Sammy was kind of the leader of our little crew. We were lal kind of weirdos and used love to sprint as fast as we could, I mean full out sprints. It was a blast when you’re a kid. I used to love hanging out with them and things were going pretty good. That is, until I had a run in with Chris Calise.
Chris Calise was kinda like the bully from the movie Christmas Story. He was a brown haired white kid who always had his side kick Marc with him. And, needless to say Chris and his side kick didn’t like me. In inner city schools like this, often it’s just a social hierarchy game. Everyone is looking to climb the social ladder with the only capital they have access to, social status. You might call it Lord of the Flies in an inner city school. Apparently, he thought I should show deference to him as king of the white kids. Well, I wasn’t really into deferring to people or submitting to them, so Chris didn’t like me.
One day, Sammy and I were running around the playground at school during lunch, playing our usual game of sprinting and running. Kids were everywhere, and we used to love running in between them, jumping up on the railroad ties, and jumping off. We were basically doing little kid missions. While running around with Sammy, I noticed Chris Calise glaring at us, especially me. Whenever I was with Sammy, I was never too worried about Chris starting a fight with me, because I knew Sammy would back me up. But, I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. We were sprinting in between a bunch of kids, and lo and behold, I felt someone trip me. I mean, we were sprinting full speed, and they tripped me good. I was airboard, face first, flying through the air like Superman. I put my arms out, but still landed on my nose, at a 45 degree angle with my legs above my head. It felt like I slid a couple of feet. There was blood everywhere, and all in my eyes. I could barely see. I had never felt a pain that bad in my life. I didn’t see it coming at all, and I had no idea who did it.
They rushed me to the school nurse, and tried to put bandages on it to stop the bleeding. It stung bad, I mean really bad. There were ven It’s of asphalt in the wound. They didn’t take me to the hospital, but by the time it stopped bleeding, I had this giant, black scab on my nose that looked like one of those Roman helmets with the piece of metal that comes down over your nose. I had that scab on my nose for a weeks. Parts would come off, and then it would bleed again, and the scab would form again. It was bad and I had scars for years. While I healed, I tried to figure out if it was Chris Calise or one of his buddies. I was pretty sure it was, but nobody admitted to doing it. They obviously would have gotten in trouble. Every single kid in the school knew who I was after that incident. Chris Calise and his friends would laugh and point at the crazy scab on my nose.
Well a few months later, I was healed up and pretty much back to normal. I was back to playing with Transformers, doing flips in the front yard, running and sprinting with Sammy and the gang. It wasn’t long until things flared up with Chris and Marc again. This time, they wanted to fight me and they had a group of three or four kids. Everyday at school it escalated, but weren’t brave enough to do it at school. They threatened to get me after school. Since they had three or four kids even Sammy was a bit worried.
Sammy offered to have me walk part of the way home with him and his brother. His brother and his brother’s friends offered impenetrable protection because they were in 6th grade and way bigger than us. Sammy and his brother’s house wasn’t exactly by me so they would only be able get me about half way home. His brother and friends didn’t feel like walking out of their way and all the way back to save a little brother’s friend’s hide.
It was better than nothing because it got us away from the school a good bit, but I still had to part with Sammy’s crew and walk down this one street alone. Sammy and I brain stormed this logistics problem up and down. Sammy thought about escorting me solo, but then they would have ganged up on Sammy on his way back. So, Sammy came up with another plan.
The next day, he shows up at school with this round metal pipe plug. He hands it to me and says “put this in your backpack, and if they corner you, just swing your bag and hit one of them in the head.” This piece of metal must have weighed 5lbs, and the idea was that it would split one of their heads open and end the fight by scaring the other three kids. Of course, I don’t want to look weak, so I took it, said “OK” and put it in my bag.
The whole day, I had that metal thing in my backpack. It was old, and looked like it had been painted red and buried at some point. I visualized hitting Chris in the head with it and realized that if I actually succeed, he might die. I hated him, but I didn’t want to murder him. But, it was the best plan that two 9 year olds in the ghetto could come up with, so we executed. After school that day, I walked about half way home with Sammy, his brother and friends. When it was time for me to leave them, Sammy and I solemnly said goodbye. I headed off by myself. I was scared as hell. I was worried I might kill the kid, I was worried they might take it away from me and kill me with it. I started my journey like a deer in the wild, knowing I could be under observation by a pack of predators. I looked around like crazy, and ran most of the way home. Luckily, Chris and his crew are nowhere to be found. Day one was a success.
Days and weeks passed. I carried that piece of metal in my backpack and I never told my mom, any teachers or anyone else really. It was Sammy and my secret weapon. I visualized hitting Chris in the head with that piece of metal hundreds of times. A few times after school and on weekends, Chris and his crew got close to catching me on the way home, but I always outsmarted them, or out ran them. During those weeks Sammy and I didn’t really ride around the neighborhood or play in my front yard. It sucked living in fear like that.
Finally, the heat died down and it returned to Chris and Marc just talking trash. We never ended up hitting anybody with that piece of metal but I was ready to. I kept it for years and years. Every time we would move, I would find it tucked away in some drawer, or some box.
I miss Sammy. He was a good dude. I think back and who the hell knows what happened to him. Could be in jail, or he could be a doctor, I have no idea. I have another great story with Sammy which I’ll share in a future cookie.
That crazy scab, and our preparedness with that piece of metal are another cookie in my cookie jar.
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