View current page
...more recent posts
When Carl Fell Down
There was this kid named Carl in my junior high school in Dallas and this other kid named Keith. Carl was extremely fat and people made fun of him. Keith was an outsider, from a single parent home (said he had sex with a friend of his mother's), but was popular, as an athlete, and also had popular hair, thin and blond and straight, it hung down in his face when he dribbled the basketball downcourt. After he would cross the mid-court line he would slow down, turn his whole body sideways, raise a finger or two in signal to his teammates, and then he would crack-snap that head on his shoulders like a whip and the hair would fly in centrifugal fashion until it stuck momentarily to his sweaty skull, before coming loose again, one sweat-clumped strand at a time.
Carl went out of his way to be neither nice nor mean and was just there, tall, and slightly dull, with bad skin, and dirty hair, and fatter than you could ignore.
One day out of sheer mean-spiritedness Keith decided to beat up Carl. He said, I'm going to beat up that fat fuck today. I remember being among a group of people to whom he was bragging this and not a one of us asked, why are you going to beat up Carl? It was junior high school in the early seventies and integration had finally made its way to North Dallas and a fight between two white kids was perhaps for us a pleasant break from the occasional small scale race riots occurring in the hallways, outside the viewing range of the security cameras the school system had installed as preparation for racial tension.
It was after lunch and we were all milling around outside the lunchroom on that little patch of grass surrounded by chain link. Keith was amazing us with his ability to jump over the four foot fence without touching it, but when he got tired of amazing us he decided to beat up Carl.
Those were tense moments of unrealized potential those moments between Keith saying he was going to do it, and the doing of it. I liked Keith but I think I was looking forward to him getting his ass whooped by Carl, who was four inches taller, and 170 pounds heavier.
What happened though was that Keith, apparently having thought out the disadvantage of his size, and knowing that he would need to stay away from a potential bear hug, or being sat on, kept his distance and after one very typical school yard shove, just began punching Carl in his face, with all he had, while his thin, straight, blond hair flapped wildly.
What I was thinking of this morning, 32 years and 1,200 miles away, was the look of shock and hurt on Carl's face when he took the first fist to his chubby jowls, and the plaintiveness of his questioning between the blows, when he would ask Keith to explain the reasoning behind the brutality. But Keith was talking with his fists and kept on punching until Carl fell down.