The Bully

By Joshua Friend | Posted: Thursday August 20, 2020

A chilling silence hugs the playground. He watches over us like a hawk scoping its prey. Students scurry quickly from building to building, heads down, hands in pockets desperately seeking a place to shelter.

What was once a place of ebullience and freedom, wrapped in a blanket of laughter, is now a place of fear. The playground is his hunting ground. Fear his best friend. Some say he's been principal since dinosaurs roamed the earth; others say he was sent here from another planet with the sole purpose of crushing the dreams of young men. A sinister smirk stretches from one side of his face to the other, while his hand grips tightly onto the handle of an umbrella, sheltering him from the grey spiritless sky.

Thinking ahead, I decide to fill my drink bottle to avoid being late to my next class. God forbid I’m late. Avoiding eye contact, I swiftly move towards the fountain and proceed to top up my bottle. The water level makes painfully slow progress as it creeps up the bottle. A sense of panic unravels in my gut as the abrupt ring of the school bell cuts the eerie silence in half. I move quickly. I cannot be late. Flinging my bag on, I turn and begin to sprint, oblivious to the scooter lying discarded on the ground behind me. I trip and hear a loud splash… then look up. His pants, once as flat as a sheet of paper, are now wrinkled. An undignified patch of water spreads across the crutch. Before I have time to apologise, his booming voice erupts, “My office. Now!” Bile fills the back of my throat. This is not going to end well.

Hesitantly, I enter the dark, gloomy room. Haunted stares of former students, now ghosts in the same corridors my friends and I tread, gaze down in sympathy. The door slams shut behind me, forcing me into his lair, with no escape in sight. My best option is to keep my head down, mouth shut, in the hopes that deep down there may be a forgiving heart under the dull, starched blazer. I try to keep calm, but rows of self-portraits covering the walls from top to bottom glare down at me condescendingly. I have been judged and found wanting. Sweat gathers under my bottom lip. Then I hear him. The echoing thumps of his chunky dress shoes fill the room, becoming louder and louder with every step. Steadily, the door creaks open. The principal strides in, his evil smirk still glued on his face like the Grinch that stole Christmas.

Slowly he lowers his massive frame into an enormous leather chair behind the oak desk. The silence is now deafening. Sweat is now streaming down my face. Without speaking a word, he slides open a draw and searches intently. Out comes a belt. My body’s numb. My heart beats dangerously fast. Can he hear it? Thoughts of the inevitable discomfort and agony that will soon follow race around my head. “Place out your palm,” he commands in a quiet yet demanding tone. I do as I'm told, my hand beginning to quiver like a newborn puppy. With my eyes shut tightly, I tense every muscle in my body, bracing for impact. In one swift stroke my body is set on fire from finger tip to toe. Before processing the pain, two quick strokes follow. The bright red imprint throbbing on my hand begins to spurt blood like a backyard sprinkler. Both my ears ring violently, but the intense ringing is interrupted by his now satisfied voice. “They were new pants. You are dismissed.”

Tears run down my face as I sprint towards the classroom. Quietly, like a snake on the jungle floor, I take a seat at the back of the class. My knees shake and blood trickles down my arm. The fiery sensation which filled my body has been replaced with a deathlike cold. Everything is cold. I stare glumly at a bright green and sunshine yellow anti-bullying poster on the wall. It is crooked and a drawing pin is missing. Tommy turns and half-smiles, half-grimaces in my direction while avoiding eye contact. Some of the other boys fidget awkwardly in their seats. None of them can bear to look at me as if fearful that my bad luck might be contagious. The teacher shuffles some papers at his desk then turns to write on the board. As the lesson continues, I carefully pull the poster from the wall and watch as it falls quietly to the scuffed floor. “Pick that up!” the teacher glares at me from the safety of his pulpit. I meet his gaze. The other boys are looking at the floor. Slowly, I push my chair back, grab my bag and without looking back, slam the door shut.