In the autumn of 1979, I was in 7th grade (middle school). One day I was sitting in the front seat of our school bus, on the door side, play fighting with my friend. We weren’t being especially rowdy — we were just being silly on our bus ride home in the afternoon.
For some reason, an older guy in the other front seat, behind the driver, took exception to our playing. I was sitting on the aisle side of our seat, across from this guy. He told us to stop. I don’t remember exactly what I said back, but it must have been something smart, because the guy leaned over and slapped me on the cheek. He didn’t hit me real hard (not as hard as he could’ve), but he did slap me. I leaned over and slapped him back. I didn’t hit him hard — it was just a touch, really.
I was a scrawny little 12-year-old geek, maybe 90 pounds, soaking wet. He was a hulking 25-year-old line backer, maybe 300 pounds, hungry. OK, maybe he wasn’t. But he was older than me, taller than me, and considerably heavier than me. He looked like a kid who had failed a couple grades and should have been in high school, on the football team.
When I popped him on the cheek, his face changed from an annoyed frown to an enraged roar. In a flash, he reached out and grabbed me with both hands, picked me up out of the seat, shook me in the air, and hurled me down the aisle toward the back of the bus.
I landed on the floor of the walkway, surprisingly unhurt. It’d happened so fast, I was just then thinking, uh-oh. The bus was stopped and silent. I slowly got up off the floor, scared of what might happen next. This guy could tear me apart, I thought.
No one was looking at me — all faces were forward. Even the hulking monster wasn’t looking at me. The bus driver, a high school senior girl, had her head leaned back over her seat, and she had her hand up to her face. When I stood up, I saw her hand and face were covered with blood. What happened to the bus driver? For a moment I thought she might be dead.
Well, here’s what happened: I was wearing my Dingo boots that day, and when the hulk twirled me in the air, my legs and feet whipped around and hit the bus driver straight on the nose. Her nose broke and blood sprayed everywhere.
A couple kids helped her off the bus and across the street to the nearest house to use a phone. I sat down in the back of the bus, out of sight of the mountain of mean, while we all waited for a replacement bus driver to come and take us home.
* * *
The next morning, I was called to the principal’s office. The hulk was there, too. The principal asked us what happened, and I said he picked me up and threw me across the bus. He said I hit him and busted his lip. The principal looked at his unmarked lip, then at the whole mountain, then at little mole hill me. He gave us a stern talking to, and then dismissed us. We both walked out quietly, and to my knowledge, neither of us received any kind of punishment.
The big kid rarely road the bus, before or after that incident, and I never ended up near him again when he did. I saw him occasionally , at a distance, around school, but we never had any direct contact. He just ignored me, and I pretty much forgot about him, too, after a few weeks.
That girl never drove our bus again, but some time later I heard she was “OK.”