Ezra Azra

Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra
Photo by Katerina Holmes at Pexels.
Photo by Katerina Holmes at Pexels.

I dare to write this story because I am fairly certain that the two bullies in school who drove me to the brink of suicide more than once, are long dead; and, wishfully, not from natural causes.

Also, because those days were in subtropical Africa, mostly impossibly far away from where I am writing this; and hoping.

Norman Linderboom and Samuel Houghton.

Their bullying occurred in the late 1940s. Since they were older than I was then, and since nowadays my health status has me continually, daily, with "one foot in the grave," so to speak, I can be fairly certain both are, as Charles Dickens says of Marley every Christmastide, "as dead as a doornail." Good!

Sam carried a knife. That's how he enforced his bullying. Norman had the height and body of a future Sumo wrestler. By himself he was weapon enough; he did not need other kinds.

Our Primary School was in a poor neighbourhood. This meant Sam and Norm could not expect their bullying to bring in money. Mostly, their victims ran errands for them.

Mostly, we victims resorted to not attending school. Absence from school in those days was a safer and easier defensive move against playground bullies because, officially, nobody checked attendance.

At the end of the day, not even anybody in my family checked for evidence I had attended school that day. It seemed to me, everybody could not care less. Why should I care at all? Heck, I was just a kid!

I have two scars on my body from Sam's knife. He had a beautiful sister, Victoria. Sam said I was looking at Victoria too much. He could have been right. Victoria was the most beautiful girl in the school in all the years we attended. And, to my eternal discomfort, she was in the same class and classroom as Sam and I, all those years.

Seating in classrooms was by random choice every day. After I was cut and stabbed by Sam, I always tried to sit somewhere far away from and in front of Victoria, where Sam could keep an eye on me and see clearly I was not looking at his sister; because I could not; not even sneakily. How I wished, and wished.

Since I was of tiny build and sickly health, coughing and sneezing frequently, I was of no use running errands or carrying things for Sam and Norman.

Instead, I was terrorized into doing all of Sam's and Norm's homework; most of the time alone at my home, and sometimes at school at playtime.

At School, there was a wide space between the fence and the lavatories for boys. In that space, overgrown with weeds and plagued with every kind of stinging insect, was jerry-rigged a wood-and-stone platform.
Often, during playtime, Sam and Norm would order me to do their homework, using that platform as a table.

That stone platform had been set up, originally, for Sam and Norm to dice-gamble on it with adult stranger non-students, who came from beyond School premises. I especially remember when the platform had been erected by Sam's and Norm's slaves, because both of them loudly, for all to hear, specifically exempted me from the slave heavy labour because of my poor health.

Reluctantly, I have to admit that eventually far into the future I derived a huge benefit from Sam and Norm's bullying.

Like every other student in that School, I must have had a low IQ.

Must have, because none of us has proven, in the long run, to be of any significant worth in the grand scheme of things.

Only one, other than me, went on to High School. Tommy Davis.

But Tommy does not count because in the dozens and dozens of children in the School, he was among the only six I remember who came to School in clothes that did not have a patch or tear, and wearing socks and shoes. Sam and Norm were not among the six.

And, too, Thomas Davis does not count because this reminiscing is not about the privileged-born crowd; it is about the rest us bare-foot riff-raff. Ragamuffins, like that Paris street mob of whom Napoleon is reputed to have said, before and after he scattered them with his cannon grape-shot, "born only to be cannon fodder."

My IQ could not but increase since most of the time the homework was about Arithmetic sums involving such ancient mysteries as long division, square roots, multiplication of negative quantities, zero being a quantity in itself and not always meaning nothing, et cetera, et cetera.

Many years later in High School, which neither Sam nor Norm attended, I won money awards in Algebra and Trigonometry. There is no doubt in me that my incredibly high IQ at present evolved directly out of the inordinate amount of arithmetic sums I was forced to calculate in terror, for Sam and Norm. In me, imminent fear, daily for years and years, had transmuted Arithmetic into Quantum Mathematics. Surely, my IQ at present must be like Pi; never ending, progressing onward infinitely.

Many more years later, I was waiting at a bus stop at a City Market. Sam across the street saw me. He waved and called out. Because of all the market bustle and the hectic vehicle traffic, I did not see or hear him, until a stranger next to me spoke to me. I looked.

The person did not look like the Sam of my past, but years and years of fear imprinted Sam so deeply in my DNA, I instantly knew it was Sam Houghton; even though he was in a three-piece suit, and wearing socks and shoes!

In that moment of sheer terror, I wished a bus would come along. Any bus. None came. My brain went numb so that the thought of running away did not make it lower than my mouth, which was suddenly and totally so dry that my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth.

Sam crossed the street and hugged me and laughed and greeted me. My terror was skyrocketed by the thought that Sam was going to demand money. I had only bus fare. I would not have hesitated to give it all to him, and walked the ten miles home.

He did not look like Sam; he did not speak like Sam. Had I changed as much over the years, he would not have recognized me at that fateful bus stop. He seemed so ecstatically happy to see me. I was frightfully suspicious.

I stammered, "Uh, Sam, you need bus fare? I can give you bus fare." He put his arm around my shoulders and gently ushered me away from the bus stop. "Come," he said, "I want to show you something." I feared he would show me a bigger knife, and use it on me. I was hoarse with terror when I said, "Sam, there are a lot of people around."

He had unbuttoned his coat, and had opened it slightly to reveal the hand gun tucked in his belt. He grinned in smug pride, "Want to know how many I have killed?"

Before I spoke, I saw the look on his face turn to worry as his eyes showed he had seen something of concern in the distance far beyond me at my back. He hastily whispered, "See you later!" He scurried away.

I turned aside, bent double, and vomited. It wasn't a violent vomiting because I had not eaten for over five hours previously.

Hey, Veronica Houghton! In the words that Humphrey Bogart made eternally and almightily and universally romantic, "Here's looking at you, kid."

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