Robert started to cry. It happened quicker than I thought, so I bit the inside of my cheek to stop smiling.
Cathy, Chris and I had driven to Robert’s house earlier on that beautiful August morning, a salty scent in the air thanks to the nearby Gulf and strong winds from the west. Sweet perfume blasts from trees combined to create a fragrant day and a light and happy mood among the three of us. Chris was even whistling.
I reminded Cathy several times to get her game face on. All Chris had to do was sit in the car and look menacing.
I reached behind the passenger seat and grabbed my baseball bat.
Robert, a fourteen year-old who thought buzz cuts made him look tough, had decided to target my little brother for bullying. That was a bad call. Michael was a good kid, kind and nice to damn near everyone. Plus he had an older sister with a penchant for violence and intimidation.
Robert obviously didn’t do background research.
Michael mentioned casually over dinner one night that Robert made junior high a bit of a nightmare. That’s really all I had to hear. I found Robert’s address, enlisted Chris and Cathy’s help, and we drove over that morning for a visit.
Robert’s mother was delightful. Offered us lemonade. Didn’t even wonder what I had behind my back.
She disappeared for a few moments before Robert joined us on the front porch with sleepy eyes and a lazy smile.
I backed him up against the front of his house with my bat pressed under his chin. I leaned in and spoke in a low voice, detailing all the ways we’d render him un-dateable in high school if he continued to harass my brother.
Cathy glared with an expression that combined amusement and apathy.
A work of art, really.
We motioned to Chris, still in the car, and assured Robert that next time, Chris would join us and Robert would leave the meeting with a lifelong limp. I pressed the bat harder and watched his throat close.
When Robert cried, and apologized, I tilted my head and watched him squirm. He’d remember that fear in a few weeks when school started. I was sure of it.
Cathy and I got back in the car, and I thought of my mother. She didn’t approve of these episodes, always urging me to show more compassion when defending friends and family.
“When you hurt someone, even a bad someone who deserves it, you don’t feel good afterwards. You think you will, but you won’t. Confrontations don’t bring satisfaction. You look into someone’s eyes and see pain and suffering. Where does it go? In the end, that pain gets you, too.”
Now we were all whistling.
I never had the heart to tell my mom the truth.