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  • armanmirhadi


When I was about 7 years old I played on the fields with my brother. 

We went into the forest and broke sticks out of small trees. From sword to rifle they served us well. We were proud of the sticks we found and we would never give them up. They were ours. 

As we walked back through the village, three of the older Smith boys came up to us on bikes. We didn’t know them too well but we knew they got bikes with 21 gears for Christmas. No kid in the village had a bike with 21 gears at that age. The youngest Smith boy was one year older than me. The oldest was twelve. He was incredibly tall and strong and many were afraid of him. He was known for taking toys from children. All three stopped their bikes right in front of us. The oldest one in the middle, looked down at me from his bike with a mean face and asked: ‘What are you doing here?’

My little brother was only five at the time and he stood behind me. 

‘Just playing.’, I said.

‘Just plaaayyinng!’, the oldest one mocked me. ‘What are you gay?’, he asked. I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant yet but I knew it wasn’t good. 

‘No. Are you?’. I responded quietly. 

‘He called you gay!’, the middle-aged Smith brother said and the mean face of the oldest face contoured into an even meaner and even uglier face.

‘Do you want to get punched?’, he asked me. 

‘No!’, my younger brother screamed and stepped from behind me in front of me and held his stick against the twelve-year-old Smith brother. I was stunned by his bravery and frightened at the same time. Before I could react the oldest Smith brother grabbed the stick away from my little brother and held it high up in the air. He grabbed it with such ferocity that my little brother stumbled backward, realizing the power difference with awe. 

‘Give it back!’, I said, well aware of the consequences that challenging him could bring. He  played with the stick in the air, ignoring me. I searched for strength and found it in anger.

‘GIVE IT BACK!’, I screamed as I saw the face of my little brother who was way more frightened at what would happen to his stick than to us. 

The oldest Smith brother just looked at me with a smile and asked: ‘Or what?’

I stared at him with hatred, as I felt the questioning eyes of my brother beside me. And I still only stared. That’s when the Smith boy smiled and broke the stick into two pieces and tossed them far off into the bushes. I felt immediately how my little brother wanted to start crying but knew he couldn’t in front of them. I had failed him. I stood there scared and didn’t act. I felt powerless. And that was when my grip around my stick tightened. That's when I felt all the anger come up. And when I saw my little brother's eyes, looking for answers from his big brother I acted in one fast movement. I stepped forward and ripped my stick as hard through the air as possible, against the forehead of the older Smith boy. A cut opened up right where I struck him and he felt screaming from his bike. 

My brother and I stepped back as he got up, rushed and tackled me, and kept punching me in the face as the blood of his forehead kept dripping on my eyes and mouth. His brothers sitting shocked on their bikes and watching. He couldn’t land more than two punches until an adult (with the help of my little brother) pulled him off me, screaming at us both. 

The adult (a friend of the Smith family, but a stranger to us) wanted to walk us home to tell our parents, but we wouldn’t tell him where we lived and then just ran away and home. 

The doorbell rang and the door opened and the always friendly smile of our mother, who expected us at that time dropped into fear, anger, shock, and everything in between when she saw my bloody and battered face. 

Me screaming: ‘It’s not my blood! It’s not my blood!’, didn’t help as much as expected. 

‘It wasn’t my fault!’, I said. ‘They attacked us!’, my little brother said. 

‘You are not leaving the house anymore! And no PlayStation! And no movies! And just wait until your father comes home and hears about this.’, our mother kept saying and screaming and mumbling as she washed my face and plastered and disinfected my wounds with great care. I just kept looking at my little brother sitting on the other end of the kitchen table holding his face with his small hand. His curly hair curled up even more from all the sweat that day brought. Thinking about his stick being lost. And I didn’t feel the wounds on my face. I only felt shame for not saving it. 

When my father came home in his nicely ironed white shirt, holding his leather briefcase he wasn’t able to relax. It was already dark outside and we had a fire burning in the fireplace. One my mother had lit instead of me. Even though I was allowed to light the fire for the first time that year. But she said I had already done enough. Even though I knew I was in trouble, my father coming home and making the family complete on this cold winter night felt right. My mother walked right up to him, gently took his briefcase, and asked: ‘Do you know what your sons did today?’

My brother and I looked at each other ashamed.

‘They got in a fight with the Smith brothers!’, she said. ‘Why?’, my father asked. ‘That older brother took Tommy’s stick and broke it in front of him.’, she answered. 

I watched as the demeanor of my father changed and got more serious. 

‘Alex then got mad and hit him with his stick in the head.’, and as she said that my father’s face lifted. He couldn’t hide a smile. 

‘He made him bleed!’, my mother argued. But as she did she couldn’t help herself but suppress a small smile as well. My brother and I couldn’t believe what we were seeing.

‘Did you?’, my father asked me. ‘Yes.’, I said and acted ashamed. ‘Good.’, my father said and started smirking. 

‘Don’t tell him this.’, my mother said, but my father didn’t listen. He came right up to me and said: ‘If somebody hurts your brother you hurt them back!’

‘Yes.’, I said and smiled. 

‘But what happened to your face?’, he asked me. And I stayed silent.

‘They hit him back.’, my mother said. My father looked at me and said: ‘We will work on that.’ Then he hugged me and it wasn’t long until my little brother joined in. I looked at my mother watching us and even though she tried to feel different about it, she was proud too.

I didn’t mind wearing that black eye to school the next day.


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