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The Bully

I walked into the Huddle House restaurant in Brunswick, Georgia and sat down at the counter as all of the booths were taken. I picked up a menu and began to look at the various items trying to decide if I wanted to order breakfast or just go ahead and eat lunch.

     "Excuse me," said someone, as they touched me on the shoulder.

     I looked up and turned to the side to see a rather nice looking woman standing before me.

     "Is your name Roger by any chance?" she asked me.

     "Yes." I responded, looking rather confused as I had never seen the woman before.

     "My name is Barbara and my husband is Tony," she said, pointing to a distant table near the door leading into the bathrooms.

     I looked in the direction that she was pointing but I did not recognize the man who was sitting, alone at the table.

     "I'm sorry. I'm, ah. I'm ah, confused. I don't think that I know you guys. But my name is Roger. Roger Kiser," I told her.

     "Tony Claxton. Tony from Landon High School in Jacksonville, Florida?" she asked me.

     "I'm really sorry. The name doesn't ring a bell." I said.

     She turned and walked back to her table and sat down. She and her husband immediately began talking and once in a while I would see her turn around in her seat and look directly at me.

     I finally decided to order breakfast and a cup of decaffeinated coffee. I sat there continually racking my brain trying to remember who this Tony guy was.

     "I must know him," I though to myself. "He recognizes me for some reason." I picked up my coffee up and took a sip. All of a sudden it came to me like a flash of lighting.

<  2  >

     "Tony. TONY THE BULL." I mumbled, as I swung myself around on my stool and faced in his direction.

     "The bully of my seventh grade geography class," I thought.

     How many times that sorry guy had made fun of my big ears in front of the girls in my class? How many times this sorry son-of-a-gun had laughed at me because I had no parents and had to live in an orphanage? How many times this big bully slammed me up against the lockers in the hallway just to make himself look like a big man to all the other students?

     He raised his hand and waved at me. I smiled, returned the wave and turned back around and began to eat my breakfast.

     "Jesus. He's so thin now. Not the big burley guy that I remember from back in 1957," I thought to myself.

     All of a sudden I heard the sound of dishes breaking so I spun around to see what had happened. Tony had accidentally hit several plates knocking them off the table as he was trying to get into his wheelchair which had been parked in the bathroom hallway while they were eating. The waitress ran over and started picking up the broken dishes and I listened as Tony and his wife tried to apologize.

     As Tony rolled by me, being pushed by his wife, I looked up and I smiled.

     "Roger" he said, as he nodded his head forward.

     "Tony" I responded, as I nodded my head, in return.

     I watched as they went out of the door and slowly made their way to a large van which had a wheelchair loader located in the side door of the vehicle.

     I sat and watched as his wife tried, over and over, to get the ramp to come down. But it just would not work. Finally I got up, paid for my meal, and I walked up to the van.

<  3  >

     "What's the problem?" I asked.

     "Darn thing sticks once in a while," said Tony. "Could you help me get him in the van?" asked his wife.

     "I think I can do that," I said as I grabbed the wheelchair and rolled Tony over to the passenger door.

     I opened the door and locked the brakes on the wheelchair.

     "OK. Arms around the neck Dude," I said as I reached down and grabbed him around the waist and carefully raised him up into the passenger seat of the van.

     As Tony let go of my neck I reached over and swung his limp, lifeless legs, one at a time, into the van so that they would be stationed directly in front of him.

     "You remember. Don't you?" he said, looking directly into my eyes.

     "I remember, Tony," I said.

     "I guess you're thinking 'What goes around comes around'," he said, softly.

     "I would never think like that, Tony," I said, with a stern look on my face.

     He reached over and grabbed both of my hands and squeezed them tightly.

     "Is how I feel in this wheelchair how you felt way back then when you lived in the orphan home?" he asked me.

     "Almost, Tony. You are very lucky. You have someone to push you around who loves you. I didn't have anyone." I responded.

     I reached in my pocket and pulled out one of my cards that had my home telephone number written on it and I handed it to him.

     "Give me a call sometimes. We'll do lunch," I told him. We both laughed.

<  4  >

     I stood there watching as they drove toward the interstate and finally disappeared onto the southbound ramp. I hope he calls me sometime. He will be the only friend that I have from my high school days.

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