Circus Maximus

Coming of Age in the Age of Aquarius

Fighting was always done after school. Whenever anybody got into it with each other during school, they would agree to meet in the woods behind the school to fight it out after the last class but before the buses took everyone home. There was a large grassy clearing that was like a natural boxing ring, and there was always a large crowd of watchers and cheerleaders. This was a very civilized way of having fights because it avoided anybody getting in trouble. With so many people watching, it also kept the dirty fighting to a minimum. Weapons were not allowed. Most days, there was at least a fight or two.

One time, when there was only one fight that was over too fast, the crowd got hungry for more, so they started pushing people into each other to try and goad them into fighting. Somebody pushed me into Sean, and he got all huffy about it. The weird thing is that Sean wasn’t a fighter, so I don’t know why he went along with it. Sean was skinny and dorky, and him fighting didn’t make any sense. But I guess maybe he felt the same way about me. When people saw both us starting to get pissed at each other, they jeered and yelled at us both, calling us cowards and shit. It worked.

Since neither of us was really into fighting, it was more like wrestling than boxing. The best fights had lots of punches, and the worst was just two people rolling around without really hurting each other. That was us.

Sean and I were friends. My parents were friends with his parents, who worked at Dean Junior College. His family was from somewhere else, and they didn’t really fit in with the town. Sean’s older brother was a hippie who wore a top hat. My older brother, MX, had long hair and an army jacket, but he still wasn’t a hippie. Woodcocklin was too tough for hippies. We were more like greasers. Even the hippies.

Sean’s parents convinced my parents to join them in an anti-war march through town. My whole family went, and we all held candles and marched down Main Street. I didn’t really know enough about the war to understand why we were marching but I thought holding the candle was cool. It was fun to let the wax drip onto my hands. It hurt but at the same time, it felt good. While we marched there were a bunch of people on the side of the road yelling at us, “Love it or Leave it, USA!” I had no idea what they were so angry about.

Back to the fight. Somehow, Sean got me pinned down on my back with him on top of me. I couldn’t believe it. Up til now I wasn’t really fighting him hard but him on top of me like that got me really pissed. I said to him, “If you don’t get off of me, I’m going to kill you.” I said it real quiet and mean and it worked. He got off of me. I responded by jumping up and wailing on him. I was so humiliated that he pinned me that I ended up beating the crap out of him, giving him a bloody nose. The crowd loved it. When I finally stopped I was surprised at myself. Number one, for being so good at fighting, and number two, for the fact that I beat up somebody who was my friend for no real reason.

Later that afternoon, I ran into Sean at the penny candy store. He hadn’t cleaned himself up at all. His pants were covered in dirt from all the rolling around and he had dried blood on his face and a black eye. I felt pretty bad, so I apologized, and he said it was no big deal. It didn’t come between us. It was just something about being in this town that you had to be like that so we didn’t take it personally.

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