Serves Him Right

by Regis Boff

He pulled me by the collar of my coat while I cried and begged for him to stop to our neighbor’s door. My father screamed, “come out and fight him.” The boy inside was three years older than me. I was already his size. I have always been bigger than everyone.
After the walk home from grade school, he had been knocking me down and taking my hat that winter. My dad worked at night, so he was always there to see me come home in tears. The boy would throw my hat onto our patio later to shame us both. I settled gloomily into that lost regard that fathers and sons often quietly endure.
My dad was afraid of this boy’s father. I can’t be sure if I knew that then.
The man would drink and beat his wife. She would run and hide in our kitchen with my mother until the man sobered up. Sometimes he would come and drag her back home by her arm or by her hair.
The boy did not come out. He shouted from his closed-door that I was “too chicken to fight.” The hat stealing stopped.
Over the next few years, I grew even more. That boy did not. One afternoon we got into a fight. I picked him up and tossed him down a hillside, breaking his leg.
Afterward, I was sick about what I had done and terrified to tell my dad.
He was sitting in his chair reading the newspaper when I told him. He lowered the paper and looked at me. “Serves him right,” he said and returned to his article.
Years later, I returned home to visit my mother, my father, now long dead. I ran into that boy on the patio between our houses. We both now men.
We sat talking about the neighborhood and how we grew up.
He was friendly though still none too bright.
As we said goodbye, I grabbed his gloves. I hope he let me leave with them because he was afraid.