When he was a kid, he was constantly picked on. Being the youngest, the smallest, and the smartest in his class made him a target for the older kids. The first tie he was beaten up after school, the lead bully gave him a black eye. When the teacher saw the mark on Wilson’s face, she asked him what happened. Wilson refused to say who hat hit him, knowing that telling on the bullies would only make life for him more miserable.

For a week, the older kids left him alone. Part of the truce was out of respect for Wilson, for keeping his mouth shut. Part of it was to give his face time to heal. After some time passed, the beatings began anew. This time they were more frequent. This time they avoided his face. It was then that Wilson discovered that, at the very least, these moronic neanderthals could learn from their mistakes. Any cuts or bruises that Wilson suffered were well hidden by clothing.

Eventually, Wilson had had enough. As small as he was, he knew there was nothing he could do physically to gain the upper hand. He knew he couldn’t say anything to anyone of authority. That would be counter-productive. So Wilson decided that his best bet would be a weapon. Something that he could use against just one of his tormentors, showing the rest that he was no longer to be trifled with.

One morning, toward the end of his 4th grade year, Wilson carried a baseball bat with him to the neighborhood bus stop. He generally expected to receive his beatings at that spot after being dropped off in the afternoons. Wilson hid the bat under some nearby bushes, counting down the hours until it would be needed.

Most school days, Wilson tried to avoid his traditional group of bullies. He never wanted to provoke them into dishing out more pain than was the norm. But on that day, he took every opportunity to do just that. He made clever jokes at the expense of their leader. He “accidentally” bumped into them as they stood in the cafeteria line. The dirty looks he received let him know that he was in for the thrashing of a lifetime. That’s just what he wanted.

He was first off the bus when they arrived at his neighborhood. He quickly made for his hiding spot. As soon as he grabbed his aluminum baseball bat, he turned around and saw five huge kids ready to pounce. He watched as the biggest one’s face changed from an angry expression to a smirk. “Whatcha gonna do with that? You actually thinkin’ ’bout fightin’ back for once? I thought you were smarter than that, dummy!”

That was all Wilson needed. He didn’t wait for them to make the first move. He charged forward and aimed for the biggest one’s knees. Two of the bullies took off immediately. The other two lackeys were crowding around their wounded leader. Wilson looked down on his would-be attacker, a look of horror frozen on his face. He dropped the bat and ran for his house.

He couldn’t believe what he had just done. When Wilson finally found himself in his bedroom, he threw himself down on his bed and began to cry. He had never cried that much before, even after the countless scrapes and bruises he had received throughout the school year.

Wilson was never blamed for what happened that day. His enemy never pointed a finger at him. But he also never walked without a limp again. For the rest of his school days, Wilson was reminded of the horrible thing he had done as a child. The feeling of shame that followed him through the years caused him to become even more withdrawn from his classmates.

Eventually, he apologized to the bully that had caused him so much agony. The kid who now had a bum knee accepted Wilson’s apology, but it still wasn’t enough to remove that shame from his life. Some regrets never completely go away.

Feature Photo by Akshar Dave on Unsplash


3 thoughts on “Shame

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