Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra
Photo by Katerina Holmes at Pexels.
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.
because those days were in subtropical Africa, mostly impossibly far
away from where I am writing this; and hoping.
Linderboom and Samuel Houghton.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
during playtime, Sam and Norm would order me to do their homework,
using that platform as a table.
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.
I have to admit that eventually far into the future I derived a huge
benefit from Sam and Norm's bullying.
every other student in that School, I must have had a low IQ.
have, because none of us has proven, in the long run, to be of any
significant worth in the grand scheme of things.
one, other than me, went on to High School. Tommy Davis.
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.
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."
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,
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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."
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?"
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
turned aside, bent double, and vomited. It wasn't a violent vomiting
because I had not eaten for over five hours previously.
Veronica Houghton! In the words that Humphrey Bogart made eternally
and almightily and universally romantic, "Here's looking at you,
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Story list and biography
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