Leaves gently floating down from massive oak trees now covered the lawn of the first house on the right at the beginning of Flamingo, making a stealthy approach almost impossible. It was the first sign that perhaps we should call our mission off.
With daylight dying from the sky, the cool of night began to descend around us. Its arrival beckoned forth a thick mist from the swamp just down the street from where we lay in the tall weeds.
Fighting its way through massive pine trees, the mist descended upon us seven kids just before nine that night like a blanket covering babies.
And babies we all were, naive of worldly things and frightened of what this night might bring — a night that would transport us to a place none of us had ever thought about before.
We welcomed the additional cover of the mist and felt we would undoubtedly need it. Suddenly, slipping from behind a cloud, a thumbnail moon threatened to expose us. It was the second warning sign the mission should be postponed, if not totally abandoned.
Spotted trespassing, there would be no understanding from the Bully of Flamingo. No apologies would be accepted. And forgiveness? None would be given. There would only be pain, lots and lots of pain. But none of us really knew just how right we were soon to be. Pain was a part of everyday life for one of us living on Flamingo.
Bradley McAllister, a.k.a. Down the Street Bully Brad, lived in the house. He was the occupant of the third bedroom at the end of the hallway. For years he bullied every kid who lived on Flamingo. But tonight … tonight was payback.
Our parents had told us all when facing a bully, “There was strength in numbers,” and “Good wins over evil.” There were seven of us, we were right and we were all good. There was only one Bully Brad, and he wasn’t good so we should win.
But we didn’t win that night. The Bully of Flamingo Street did. His brutal attack left such damage in its wake it made us all speechless … unable to move … and not really knowing what to do.
Bully Brad spent most evenings on his front porch. We’d all seen him there before while riding with our parents as we went out for the evening to a nice dinner or movie.
Each time he seemed to be doing the same thing, rocking in an oversized rocking chair and looking towards the sky, which was perfect for us now hiding in the tall weeds. Looking up, he’d never see the ambush coming from below.
We crept ever so closer to the house stopping just beyond the yellow light spilling off the empty porch onto the un-mowed grass. With water balloons in hand, it was almost time. That’s when the unthinkable happened, profoundly changing each of us forever.
In the distance, the night storm had started to build as the wind swayed the mighty pines. Tagging a ride along with the breeze came noise from within the house. As the storm grew in intensity so did the wind, and the noise from within grew louder still.
It was voices. We heard a deep voice arguing, dinner plates shattering against walls, and then two other voices, one softer than the next, crying … pleading for the onslaught to stop.
A lightning bolt tore open the blackening sky and a hot rain began to fall. That’s when Bully Brad slowly shuffled out of the house. Sitting in the same chair he occupied for hours each night, he started to rock, gazing up at the sky as if asking for help.
Then the unthinkable happened. Down the Street Bully Brad, the bully that had terrorized everyone on Flamingo for the last seven years, started to cry. We’d all seen him on the porch before, but until this night none of us had truly seen him.
Dropping our water balloons, we walked home without saying a word. A long, long time ago on that old familiar street not so far away, none of us kids had known what went on behind those closed doors. None of us except Down the Street Bully Brad.
If we had, maybe we would have been more understanding. And we would have realized Bradley McAllister wasn’t the true Bully of Flamingo after all.
We learned an important lesson that night. There was a reason why Down the Street Bully Brad became a bully. All we had to do was to have the insight to look beneath the surface before making any judgments.
You never know what another person is going through when you encounter them in your everyday life. Or as you’re driving by a neighbor’s house and find them rocking on the front porch gazing up at the heavens.
Sadly, Bully Brad’s door isn’t the only closed door out there.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]