Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Muggers Are Bullies All Grown Up

I have been mugged at least twice in my life, and that's enough. Knock on wood. Never thought of becoming a mugger myself though, mainly because it's one of the most puerile crimes imaginable. For one thing, it's a stupid and impatient young man's game, wherein brute force wins out over subtlety and skill. At the same time, it seems like a survival into young adulthood of that vile species known as the Schoolyard Bully. I remember once when I was a kid - a real kid, I mean, a little dude about ten or eleven. I was coming up from the five-and-dime one dreary Saturday afternoon in March 19__, walking up by the playground fence of the school I went to. Two slightly older kids cornered me against the rock wall at the base of the fence. I can't for the life of me remember what the little fuckers said, only that they were hassling me, harassing me for harassment's sake alone. Hey, kid, where ya live? Ya live in ahh neighborhood? Dis is ahh neighborhood, kid. And like that. Total furrow-browed inanity with no purpose in mind. I didn't know them, and they didn't know me - which is never the case with actual bullies, as bullies are among the most intimate enemies you'll ever have, the ones you see every freakin' day... They weren't quite muggers yet either, since they were too obtuse to even ask me for money. There were ornery little in-betweens caught in their evolution from Bully to Mugger the same way that some fuzzy cocoon in a tree crotch is halfway between bein' a caterpillar and bein' a butterfly. When I ran into my first actual mugger, I was comin' home drunk down Mass. Ave. in North Cambridge, and this pudgy dude - a veritable poster boy for The Non-Athletic, in fact - confronts me. More of that silly territorial palaver about "Dis is my neighborhood...Duh..." Despite my inebriation, I catch his drift, smile at him and say, with as much insulting disbelief as I can muster, "You're... you're trying mug me, aren't you?" If the guy were a dog, his ears would have been drooping just then. "Yeah..." he says. "Oh, that's touching," I mutter. "You got any change on ya?" "Well," I reach into my pocket at a leisurely pace, dredge up some coins, and tell him, "About 47 cents." "I'll take it," he says. I hand it over, more grinning than trembling. He grunts again, "Dis is Nawrth Cambritch... You watch your ass aroun' here, you got that?" I nod, and he stuffs his tiny prize into the front pocket of his overstuffed Levi's, then turns and flabbily waddles away. Funny. He didn't seem like a natural bully, and - having survived junior high and senior high - I knew bullies. He wasn't big enough to scare a guy by bigness alone, nor small enough to have the Napoleonic nastiness of those pint-sized contenders, and he sure wasn't one of those proto-alpha male bullies that the mean girls always like. He seemed more like a ex-victim of bullies than a bully. Sort of reminded me that even Mike Tyson, who first earned his street-fighting chops as a mugger, had a high voice and a lisp. Maybe, for some, becoming a mugger means having a second chance to be a bully more than anything else.

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