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Remember Johnny Kline?

by Gail Eisenhart

  • He lived on my street, bullied the pre-pubescent pack.
  • I don’t remember why he taunted me
  • but I remember the stick’s sting, running
  • home, expecting my father to tongue lash
  • the smirk from his seven-year-old face.
  • I can still see Dad’s lip curl, teeth clench.
  • Wordless, he walked to the door,
  • down the steps,
  • crossed the yard,
  • stopped at the apple tree,
  • snapped open his pocket knife.
  • With a death grip, he grabbed a green
  • branch, sliced it free, plopped it in my palm,
  • and said “Don’t come home
  • until you teach Johnny Kline a lesson.
  • Like a metronome, the twig in my hand bounced,
  • kept time with my racing heart.
  • Tears and snot ran down my face as I made my way
  • up the street. Johnny saw me, started to laugh.
  • Blood flushed my cheeks. I bit my lip, starched my spine.
  • All forty-eight inches of me bristled.
  • One giant-step later we stood toe-to-toe.
  • I raised that switch, smacked Mr. Smarty-pants
  • square across his rump; lassoed him
  • with a steely stare and spit out,
  • Don’t you ever hit me again!”
  • Johnny’s face lumped like mashed potatoes.
  • Pivoting on my new confidence,
  • I turned toward home.

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