Mending Battles

by Diane Payne


After eating lunch, I walk up the hill and return to school. see Bully pushing the little kids, shoving them by their shoulders and banging them on the side of the school wall. The kids are huddled beneath the porch avoiding the rain, waiting for the bell to ring, waiting to be free from Bully.

I can't help it that I live with my family and I'm not actually Pippi Longstocking; but when I see Bully beating on those kids, I become Pippi Longstocking. I look just like my heroine. I wear my hair in long braids. I'm skinny, but strong. And I'm always dirty.

"Why don't you pick on someone your own size. Fatso," I shout, watching the little kids disperse, glad to have a reprieve from their beating.

"And who is my own size?" he screams.

"Me,"I yell back.

Next thing I know, Bully picks me up and throws me through the window of the school's front door. I go sliding across that waxed floor and don't stop until my head bangs into the principal's office.

Unharmed, I leap up as if nothing has happened, amazed to still be alive. The janitor grabs me by my neck and escorts me to the principal while Bully stands by the broken window, gloating.

The janitor hauls Bully to the office, roughing him up physically and verbally, screaming, "How could you do that to a girl."

In my head, I hear my voice shouting to them: "I'm not just a girl. I'm Pippi Longstocking."

The secretary lifts my shirt, examines me, and is surprised discover that I am not hurt. Obviously, she doesn't know who I really am. The principal tells me that she's not going to call my mother. I need to tell her what happened and bring five dollars to school to pay for my portion of the broken window. Bully has to pay twenty bucks and they call his folks to let them know.

When my day is finished at school, I take the long way home. knowing my brother and sister will inform my mother of what has happened before I arrive. Slowly I walk down each alley, kicking up gravel, angry that all the money I've earned raking lawns and walking the neighbor's dog during my lunch break is going to be used to pay for that window.

I visit all the dogs stuck in their pens and tell them about the window. They don't think it's fair either. I tell them how angry my mother will be, and they nod their heads, unable to offer any comforting words or clever advice.

When I finally reach my street, I notice how quiet it looks. I've taken my time getting home. The winter sun is already setting and I see the mothers look at me through their windows, shaking their heads in disgust. I'm disgusted too. Pippi would have hauled Bully's butt through that window in one move. Maybe those mothers are disappointed because I let them down also.

My house is quiet. My brother, sister, and mother are acting like they're watching, but I know they're just waiting for me to say something. She doesn't want to hear about my ruined pride, about another dream that just flew out the window, not even slowing down enough for me to see how it should have worked, or how it could have ended.

But I have to say something. They're just staring at me, silent. "Ma, it ain't like you heard. He was pushing the little kids into the wall. Don't worry, I got the money saved already.

"Why do you do this to me? First everyone makes fun of me because I'm married to a drunk, and now I've got a daughter who fights big bullies and ends up getting thrown through windows. You know what kind of mother those people think I am?"

I had never thought about other people passing judgment on my mother. No wonder Pippi lived with a horse and monkey. Animals don't make you feel guilty. "But, Ma, I did it to stop him."

"Why didn't you just ignore him7"

"How could I?"

"Girls don't fight. If I had money, I'd send you to charm school." "Well, then it's good we ain't got no money, seeing how you'd be wasting it like that." "Go up to your room!" she screams, tired of reasoning with me, sick of looking at me.

Sitting in my room, I start wishing I had been hurt. Then she would have been on my side. She would be taking care of my wounds, angry that the Bully did this to her daughter. I take out my Pippi Longstocking book and start reading it again from page one, hoping to find answers, yet knowing that I won't find these answers any more than I'll have my chance to live with a horse and monkey.

A few weeks later, Isee Bully on his sled, riding the little kids over, laughing with each slaughter. I watch Bully make his road kill while he racesdown the icy hill. But he doesn't see me. And when he walks back up the hill, out of breath, yet ready to go for one more round, I pounce on his back and rip his fancy hood off his new expensive parka. I cram his head in the snow while we race down the hill, me on his back, his face in the snow.

And then I run all the way home. It isn't until the nextday that his mother walks up our driveway with Bully's fancy coat and pounds on our door. Hiding behind the living room drapes, I listen to her tell my mother that she expects to be reimbursed.

My mother drags me from behind the drapes and sets me on the couch. She walks to the closet and fetches her sewing kit, threads a needle, and tells me to start sewing. Bully’s mother knows she’ll never get money for a new coat, but my mother has offered her a fair deal. Mom’s showing her she’s trying to make a young lady out of me and feels like she has won this battle.

Each stitch I sew, I see my battles grow.