Words. Language. Throughout my life some of the most enjoyable and frustrating memories involve my good use of, or not so great use of, words. We’ve all had those times where someone is being a total pain or asshole and we think of the good comeback after it’s all over – one of my biggest frustrations. Today I’m going to recount one of the more memorable of these incidents, which occurred when I was a smart-arse high school student of thirteen.
It happened on the afternoon walk home from school. If I remember correctly, the sun was shining and kids in uniforms dawdled their way home, chatting nonsense to their friends. I was walking by myself (my friends, yes I did have some, lived in different directions). Another girl, a year above me at school, was walking ahead. I knew this girl to be very shy, quiet and nice, a perfect target for the beefy, tattooed dropout who, with her merry band of followers, was harassing the uniformed ones.
At this point I have to set the physical scene, it’s crucial to the story. We are in a cul-de-sac, which has stairs at the end. These stairs lead up to a narrowish walkway between two houses, which has a gradual incline for approximately forty metres where it joins with the street above, my street. If you turn right at the top of the path and walk past three houses, you will reach my home. Ok, back to the story.
I’m in the cul-de-sac, walking towards the stairs and just in front of me the girl, who I’m sure was destined for jail, was picking on the shy girl who’s name, I think, was Sonia. She was insulting her and trying to pick a fight, which any idiot knew would have been disastrous for Sonia. Now, something about me, I cannot stand unfairness or the stomping on of the little person. I could not have stopped this harassment with force, mean girl would have squished me into the road, so what did I do? I used words.
I approached, and whilst concerned for my safety, I naively assumed I was smart enough to help. Well it worked, when tattooed woman focused her full attention on me, Sonia made a quick getaway up the stairs. Having lost her victim she chose a new one, me. “I’ll fight ya,” such intelligent words were to be expected.
My answer, “I don’t want to fight.”
“Come on, I’ll fight ya,” maybe she hadn’t heard me. I would have to be more direct.
“I don’t want to fight. Only bushpigs fight,” she suddenly looked even more dangerous than before (bushpig is an extremely derogatory Australian term for women which was in common use when I was young, in the olden days).
I thought I’d better clarify things with logic, she wasn’t too bright, “Only bushpigs fight and since you’re not a bushpig I know you don’t want to fight.” Ahh, she was thinking about this and it actually made sense to her, for the moment.
“Oh, ok, yeah, that’s cool.” She was a little puzzled but walked away without pulping me. I hurriedly climbed the stairs and reached the top of the path and my street. I turned and looked back down to see her momentary lapse of violence was just that, momentary; she was harassing other kids. Now, this may have been my most remembered moment from high school, and no wonder because I stood triumphantly at the top of the path, cupped my hands to my mouth and yelled out, “Hey, hey,” when I had her attention I shouted, “Hey Bushpiiiig!” She heard and started running, but my head-start was such that I reached home and was safely inside before she knew where I’d gone. A friend later told me she was asking after me but no one must have known where I lived and I never saw her again, thank God!
So, choose your words carefully for they can lead to the sweetest of memories, well mine were sweet, the bushpig would not be repeating this story I would imagine.
As a footnote, and totally true – she was jailed a few years later for murdering a family member, hmm, maybe I’ll keep my mouth shut next time…