January 6, 2018:

The kids were so mean!

They were intellectually competitive in ways I'd never experienced. Who could read the fastest, who could do the most complex arithmetic. I don't think kids like that existed in the County schools. Perhaps it was simply that I was so much better and faster than the kids there that I failed to notice any competitiveness. That would certainly have been regal of me. I don't think so.

I decided to excel at sports. Compared to most of my classmates I already did. There were one or two guys who could kick a kickball. More to the immediate point there was one sadistic little fuck whose Amerindian name was Sadistic Little Fuck who settled me on my particular direction. During dodgeball or teamball games he loved and I mean loved to clobber weaker kids with badass burnouts. BANG! "That was your nose? Yay!" Whatever adults were paid to supervise the playground seemed to invariably miss those childhood triumphs of his. Maybe they were preparing us for the harsh realities of adult life, who knows. I decided I would never back down no matter how dead to rights he had me in his toughguy sights. It meant becoming comfortable with a volleyball hurling at your face at supersonic velocity. So I'd stay after school to join the burnouts games with the older kids. A sixth grader trying to smash a fourth grader with a hard round ball is an intimidating thing. But I learned quickly not to be afraid of the ball. Actually it was quite easy. It was all about rapid physics calculations, a lot like watching cars on the slot car track. Just put your arms out to meet the ball, then pull them rapidly back into your chest while at the same time slowing down. Simple deceleration. Easy peasy.

There was a second technique which took more experience. You could time a catch-and-grasp perfectly so that the ball would hit your chest and the crook of your shoulder at exactly the same moment. It would stop the momentum mostly against the muscle of your arm and shoulder in a way that didn't hurt at all — and it made an exceptionally satisfying noise. BOOM! Caught it. Now it's my turn, and you're dead meat.

I got to the point where no-one could intimidate me with a thrown or kicked ball. I could catch whatever they had in them, easily, and whip it back at them better. In teamball I became adept at hitting their knees instead of their chests: that way the ball had a chance of bouncing back to me giving me a second shot at someone else. Sadistic Little Fuck couldn't scare me, so he moved on to the really frail or uncoordinated kids who stood no chance. There was not once an adult intervention.