“I hope it rains,” he said.
“I thought you liked recess.”
“No more,” he said. “I’m always put in time out. I hate time out.”
“Why are you…”
“Everybody blames the big guy.”
And Joey is the big guy. He’s 9 years old and he weighs 125 lbs. He’s also tall. 5 feet 2 inches tall to be exact. It’s not an exaggeration to say he’s twice as big as most kids his age. Yeah, he’s the big guy on the third grade play ground.
“So,” I ask, “it’s not your fault you’re put in time out?”
“It’s my fault I get mad, I guess,” he said. “It’s my fault I get mad and argue w/ those little jerks who keep teasing me. But they start it.”
Now, I don’t know what’s actually goin’ down at the playground but, more than once, when Joey was climbin’ up and through the inside play area of the local McDonald’s, I’ve watched rowdy-wild bunches of pip-squeaks climb all over him, head to toe, like he was an amusement ride. I remember one night, I was tryin’ to finish my Southwest Salad, when Joey bolted from the plastic play area slide and ran to our table. He was mad. He said, “Those little kids won’t stop botherin’ me.”
“Sit down,” I told him. “Sit down and cool off. If you can’t calm down, we’d better go.”
Joey calmed down and went back to the play area. As soon as he entered, the pip-squeaks were on him. I heard it and saw it. The p-sqeaks’ mama sat at their table lookin’ at her smart phone like nothin’ was happenin’ around her even though Joey was shoutin’, “I asked you to stop. I asked you to stop.”
I directed him to our table and gave him a napkin to wipe his angry tears. I wanted to leave right then but he begged for one more chance. I made him wait 5 minutes then said, “Okay. Trouble starts and we’re goin’ home.”
He entered. Pip-squeaks followed. Joey made it to the top of the slide unscathed but, as soon as he started down, 4 kids jumped on his shoulders and head. By the time my boy was at the bottom of the slide, 3 pips had jumped off of him but one squeak stayed long enough to grab a handful of Joey’s hair before hoppin’ to the floor. That’s when The Big Guy planted his foot square in the middle of his last adversary’s back.
And that’s when Mama Squeak pulled herself from her cell, rose from her bench and hollered, “You better watch your boy.”
She said it one more time before I realized she was hollerin’ at me. Me. “Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you,” She shouted so close she sprayed my cheeks with her spittle.
I thought, “Where were you, Bitch, when your kids were tormenting then torturing my boy? Where were you when I was coaching my boy to be patient and walk away from your viscous brood? Don’t you tell me what I had better do with and for my boy. Kiss My Ass.”
That’s what I thought.
“C’mon, Joey. We’re goin,” is what I said.
I had to say it more than once coz Joey was tryin’ to convince me it wasn’t his “fault.” I had to say it more than once coz Mama Squeak wouldn’t shut up. I finally had to grab Joey by the arm, look that woman dead in the eye and say one more time, “We’re Goin’.”
She let us pass and, once outside, I said to Joey, “I know you tried to get away. I know they would not let up. But, son, the only kid grown ups are gonna see when they bother to look at all is you. And what ever bad you do is gonna be amplified by your size. Do you understand what I’m sayin’.”
Joey shook his head.
I said, “Your size makes you an easy target. And a lot of folks are gonna want to take a shot at you. But that doesn’t mean you have to volunteer for target practice.”
He still didn’t get it.
He started cryin’.
I started cryin’.
I hugged him and said, “I’m sorry.”
He hugged me back and said, “It’s okay.”
And that’s what I wanted to tell Joey this morning as the chance of rain evaporated and the sun beat down hard. And that’s what I was goin’ to tell him when he said, “I know, I know, I don’t have to wear the bull’s eye on my shirt.”
I don’t think the Big Guy knows how Big he really Is.