Gordon Bunker~ AKA Gorilla Face
It was an accident. The foil on my pudding cup hung on like it was attached with Super Glue. Plus, my fingers were orange and kinda greasy from the Cheetos I ate with my sandwich. But, there was no explaining my situation to a boy everyone calls Gorilla Face. He’d been held back a couple of years, so next to him, I looked like a first grader. Did I forget to mention his wide, flat nose that flared when he was angry, or the way his arms never touched his sides as he swayed through the hallways? Yeah, I was in a tight spot.
It all started, like I said, while trying to open my pudding. I gave up on using my orange fingers and tore into it with my teeth like a dog. The only problem, the cup slipped out of my hand and flew back behind me, hitting Gorilla Face on the head. A large glob of chocolate pudding rolled down his face like a slinky and ended up on his white tee shirt.
He turned to me and his nose holes flared. “You and me at four o’clock. I’ll be waiting by the tire swing at the park to kick your skinny butt.” He rose up from his chair and began to walk away.
“Wait, Goril…Um, I mean Gordon. I-It was an accident.” My voice raised two octaves. He glared at me as I spoke. I tried to flare my nostrils too, but it irritated my nose. I sneezed. Snot shot out without warning. The spatters hit Gorilla Face on his hairy arm.
“Th…That was an accident too.”
Gorilla Face’s thick finger poked my forehead as he spoke. “Boy, you better bring a first aid kit, or better yet, a doctor. ‘Cause I’m gonna’ give you the worst beaten you’ve ever had. Guar-UN-teed.” He stomped out of the cafeteria.
I felt my lunch inching its way back up my throat. I hadn’t been this scared since the time my older brother hid a watermelon seed in my lemonade. Then after I swallowed it, he told me it would grow inside my stomach.
I couldn’t concentrate the rest of the day. I closed my eyes envisioning Gorilla Face’s wide knuckles coming at my face and knocking me down—dead.
At two forty-five, the last bell rang. I ran all the way home. I had about an hour to come up with a plan to stay alive. I couldn’t miss supper. Tonight was Sloppy Joe night, my favorite. The picture of Grandma in the hall gave me an idea. I scurried to my room, dug through my closet until I found it, the puffy orange vest she gave me for Christmas. It still fit. I decided to add some extra protection by sliding some books in between me and the vest. I used duct tape to secure the bottom so they wouldn’t fall through. But, what about my head? I had to protect it too. I went into the garage and found the bubble wrap from the box Mom got in yesterday’s mail. I wrapped it around my head and ears and then stretched my stocking cap over it. Still, I wasn’t ready. There were two more vulnerable places – my face and my crotch.
I tip-toed into the kitchen to see what I could find.
My Mom tapped me on the shoulder. “Nick, why are you dressed like that?”
“Um, I’m going to the park to play space aliens with Tom. Can I borrow that thingy you drain the spaghetti in, and maybe a small platter?”
She sighed, shaking her head. “Just make sure you bring them back.”
I slid the platter down the front of my pants and used some string to tie the spaghetti thingy on like a mask. It was ten minutes until four. I ran outside and hopped on my bicycle. The neighborhood kids pointed and laughed at me as my front tire swerved back and forth. It was hard to see through all those tiny holes and the platter shifted in my pants as I pedaled.
I made it to the park. Gorilla Face was leaning against the slide next to the tire swing. I threw my bike down and strutted up to him. A crowd of kids gathered chattering and laughing.
“Let’s do this.” I stood in front of him in a Superman stance.
“You think that silly outfit is going to protect you?” He hit his left palm with his right fist.
“Go for it.” My heart felt like it was trying to escape by beating its way out of my chest.
He hit me in stomach and then rubbed his knuckles. I laughed. “What’s the matter? Did that hurt?
“He released his fist and tightened it up again. This time he went for my head.
I stumbled and almost lost my balance. “That didn’t even hurt.”
The crowd laughed wildly.
Gorilla Face’s nostrils continued to flare. He kicked my crotch and began hopping around holding his toes.
The crowd began to chant, “Nick, Nick.”
“This is stupid.” Gorilla Face turned to walk away.
“Maybe you’re stupid, Gorilla Face.” I held up my hands to collect my high fives as the crowd cheered.
That was my mistake.
Gorilla Face ran over and punched my underarm, an unprotected area. I hit the ground with a thud crying like a kindergartener.
He looked down at me with watery eyes. “Don’t ever call me stupid.” He got on his bike and rode away.
I felt sorry for Gordon after that day. The other kids would torment him if they knew he had feelings, so I never told anyone about the tears in his eyes. Besides, if I told, he’d probably kill me.
I became the most popular kid in school for the rest of my sixth-grade year, and a legend at Carnesville Elementary School because I was the only boy who had the guts to stand up to Gordon, Gorilla Face, Bunker.