Boys Will Be Boys
by Kevin Mason

My father abhorred violence (not to say he didn't have his share of childhood scuffles), but at the same time, he didn't want his sons to become doormats for people to walk all over. So when my brother Adam came home on a fall afternoon in 1995 bearing the news that he had been challenged to a fight, my father decided to allow it. However, he was clear that violence was a last resort. "We'll try diplomacy first," he explained. "When all else fails, I want you to lay him out."

"What's diplomacy?" I asked.

"It means we argue with them first," my older brother explained.

My father chuckled. "It means we try to work it out with words, in a calm, rational manner."

I was about to ask what rational meant, but then I realized how much I didn't care at all.

"So when's this kid coming up here?" my father asked.

"At six o'clock," Adam replied. "He's pretty tough, Dad. He plays football on a real team that goes to tournaments and stuff."

"I bet he's tough, but you're smarter," Dad answered. "Just never act afraid. Bullies are like dogs, son: if they don't see fear, all they'll do is sit there and snarl at you."

"Why's this kid want to fight you?" I chimed in.

"Well," Adam began, "he always likes picking on me, which doesn't bug me. But the other day, he punched some girl and made her cry. I walked up and pushed him and knocked him over. Everyone laughed and he got mad and challenged me to a fight."

Dad grinned. "That's my boy, defending the honor of women. I'm proud of you, son."

Six o'clock found my father, my brother, and I sitting at the picnic table we had in the backyard. The evening sun hung low in the sky: its orange light creating sprawling, dark shadows that stretched across the lawn. It was one of those rare warm fall days you find clinging to a little bit of summer, despite the fact that it's surrounded by autumn's harshest. There was no sign of the bully.

Finally, at about quarter after, three figures wandered up the long, winding driveway. I saw a kid about Adam's height with short, painfully blonde hair and messed up teeth leading the group. I assumed he was the notorious Brian Timm, the challenger. Behind him and to his right shuffled a hulking mass of flesh, nearly my father's height and at least twice his weight. He waddled with little finesse, clumsily stumbling up the driveway, clearly out of breath from the short trek. A third kid stood behind and to the left of Mr. Timm: he was short and thin, with red hair, a freckled complexion, and a skeletal body. The three approached the table and invited themselves to sit across from us.

"What are all you doin' here?" Brian queried through his crooked teeth. "This is between me and Adam."

"Then why'd you bring these two guys?" I asked.

"Shut up you little snot," Brian snapped. "I wasn't speakin' to you."

"Be careful," my father cautioned.

Brian laughed nervously. His chums remained silent.

"Anyway," Dad said, "I was promised a fight. I'm gonna go get my camcorder."

Brian and his friends weren't smiling anymore.

There was silence until Dad returned and set up his camera on his tripod. "Ready boys?"

Adam got up stood in view of the camera. Brian, after much silent reassurance from his buddies, joined him. The rest of us went and stood to watch. As I moved, I noticed that the red power indicator on top of the camera was not illuminated. It wouldn't be until later that night that I understood my father's clever ruse.

"Action!" Dad exclaimed.

Adam assumed a fighting stance as Brian charged, swinging blindly like a maniac. Adam sidestepped and watched as Brian spun, nearly falling, and charged once more. It was then that all hell broke loose.

The red-head, being the moron that he is, dived for Adam's feet, only to have Adam step on him as he got out of Brian's way once more. Enraged, I jumped on top of red and proceeded to pummel him in the gut until he curled up, whimpering. "Don't touch my brother!" I shouted as I got off of him.

I turned to my brother and saw that Adam had Brian on the ground and was currently dealing with the fat kid. However, Brian was returning to his feet and he didn't look happy. I charged into battle once more.

As Brian grabbed Adam in a headlock from behind, I leapt onto the fat kid's back and clung to his neck for dear life. Adam dropped to his knee and rolled forward, flipping Brian to the ground face first.

Meanwhile, I had the big guy bucking like a bronco. Adam ran up and punched him in the gut, as I jumped down. The kid wasn't hurt very badly and he very well could have kept on fighting, but there was really no point in continuing any farther. We had won, and he was outnumbered.

Brian and his lackeys gathered themselves up tearfully and began to stumble away, whimpering quietly.

"Go help them get home, boys," my dad said.

"But Dad--" I began to protest, but I was cut short by one of his razor sharp glances. "Yes sir," I said.

Not much later, we arrived at Brian's house, and after we had walked him to his doorstep, he did something that truly struck me harder than any of his punches ever could have. He turned and extended his hand toward my brother.

Without a moment's hesitation, Adam shook it.

Wordlessly, Brian stepped inside, shutting the door behind him.

The next day, Brian Timm joined us for dinner.