The Return of Balboa

Old School Circus20 Comments

When I was in elementary school, I was teased and bullied because of the car my parents drove, and because we didn’t have much money. I tried telling the teachers about it, but putting my trust in the authorities was wasted time and effort since they didn’t seem to care. And I went to a CATHOLIC school, which you’d think would mean something. (Hello, God, are you there? I’m taking heat off a lot of uniformed assholes over here. Ok, I get it, God, you’re busy. But maybe one of your minions, like Father Frank or Sister Sarah could help me get this dipshidiot off my back? No? Well, what’re your freaking holy minions good for)?!

Anywho. I had to take matters into my own hands one day when I just couldn’t take it anymore. Brute force was the answer, I decided, so I threw the bully up against the school cafeteria snack machine, thus ending his reign of terror and earning myself the nickname “Balboa” for the remainder of elementary school. After that bit of success, I fancied myself something of a hard-ass, and it didn’t hurt that other kids did too. I wasn’t in actuality someone who’d ever been in a REAL physical altercation, and call me crazy, but I had no desire whatsoever to get in any kind of tousle that could end in me getting punched in the face (a.k.a., my money maker). That being said, I wasn’t afraid of puffing myself up like a feral cat whenever Trouble looked my way, and most of the time, that was enough to make Trouble back down and run the other direction.

Dog wearing boxing gloves

I really hope I never looked like this.

This bravado ended up benefiting all of my younger siblings, since whenever some little punk from the neighborhood was messing with one of them, they’d come find me and I would march myself right down to the perpetrator’s front door. I didn’t care if the kid’s parents were there or not – I would get in that bully’s face, wag my finger, and tell him if he ever messed with my family again, I would tie his little nuts in a knot.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I didn’t BECOME a bully as a result. I was a defender of justice, a vigilante, if you will. If you weren’t someone who was poking the Big Dog or any of the Big Dog’s friends or family, the Big Dog would slobber all over you, anxious for your approval and love, and never dream of biting your face off. (Not sure how I became a big dog in this scenario. Can we forget I called myself a big dog? This conversation never happened).

So all of this was very well and good until I got to high school. There I was just another face in a huge crowd, and I decided the best way to build my popularity in this exotic new world was to keep a low profile.  Start small, make a few friendships, be fruitful and multiply. Big-mouth, rough-around-the-edges Balboa had no part in this equation, so I packed her and all my elementary school swagger away in the past. One fateful day, though, I unwittingly caught the attention of a junior, Jeff Franklin, when I tripped over the door jamb in the cafeteria, causing him to practically run me over. We both laughed, and he gave me a backward glance as he walked by. It was then I noticed his football letterman jacket.

bullying - letterman

Jeff Franklin was no where near this good looking.

In the Ohio town I grew up in, football was everything. If a guy wanted to BE somebody, he played football, and even if he really sucked at football and never got to play, he was still going to be popular because he got to wear that blue and gold jersey. So Jeff was a good-looking, better-than-average football-playing junior, which put him at the height of popularity, and he in his godliness decided to start following around a decent-looking, unpopular freshman, with no club-memberships, cheerleading or sports aspirations whatsoever.  His notice of me would have been extremely flattering, except for the unfortunate byproduct: the junior girls noticed me too.

It started in the Junior Hallway, with a shoulder-bump so hard it sent my books flying out of my arms. While I scrambled to pick them up, a beastly basketball player by the name of Gina Palmeri, along with her sidekick, Jennifer DeLuca, towered over me, demanding I apologize.

“For what? You bumped into me!” I exclaimed, incredulously, my shoulder aching and my face burning from the sudden attention from the gathering circle of juniors and seniors. Even a few freshman and sophomore faces peeked in through the gaps.

“I don’t THINK so,” sneered Gina. “You weren’t looking where you were going, skank. Now apologize to me.”

I looked around at all the kids staring at me expectantly, some of the older ones with smirks on their faces. Even Jeff Franklin, who watched the scene while leaning on his locker several feet away, looked amused. No one was going to help me, I realized. I had a critical decision to make. Was I going to resuscitate Balboa and sacrifice my popularity plan, or was I going to swallow my pride and let Balboa fade away into oblivion, along with my self-respect?

“NO. I. DON’T. THINK. SO,” I said, straightening to my full height, a good 3 inches taller than Gina. I stepped so close to her, I knew she could smell my breakfast on her face. “If anyone’s owed an apology around here, it’s ME. Now get out of my way, SASQUATCH, before I’m late to class.”

The crowd gasped collectively. Gina’s mouth dropped wide open, and her momentary confusion allowed me to break past her and skip off to class. Balboa was back, BITCHES.


Check out Part 2: The Demise of Balboa


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The Return of Balboa

20 Comments on “The Return of Balboa”

  1. Drew Clarke

    I had no idea that below the surface of that sweet girl I met on the tennis courts at Kings Charter lied a battle-hardened crusader for Justice. I hated bullies and dealt with them from elementary school through high school and even college. I grew up in a rough section of Henrico. I never wanted to fight but I did on numerous occasions. Three thoughts always guided me. 1. The ones who talk the most are usually cowards. 2. Try to avoid fighting by acting insane, like you have nothing to lose 3. Once you realize a fight is unavoidable try to incapacitate them with chokes, wrist locks, an open palm shot to the throat, etc. If those don’t work out then you know you may be in a fight for your life so there is no such thing as fighting dirty.

    1. Ashley

      Ah, those fateful tennis courts. They brought all of us misfits together. I never realized you had it so rough with the bullies, Drew. I’m sorry to hear that. I do remember in very graphic detail, witnessing my first real fight ever, and I want to say you were in it. I don’t want to say the names, but it was awful to watch. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      1. Drew Clarke

        You were there in that undeveloped part of a neighborhood? He was gasping for air as I choked him and I made the mistake of letting him up. As we were getting up, he kicked me in the solar plexus, temporarily knocked me unconscious then pounded on me. My friend shattered the other guy’s arm with a 2 x 4. Sorry you witnessed that. When I lived in an area surrounded by Creighton Court, Fairfield Court and Highland Park, I found myself in a few true life or death scrapes.

        1. Ashley

          Yep, I remember. I think I happened to be catching a ride home with you guys that day! I was in hysterics. Never saw something like that before or since. Glad those days are behind you!

  2. Jess at Welcome to the Bundle

    “a good-looking, better-than-average football-playing junior” — I don’t know if you intended that description to be as hilarious as it is, Ms. Big Dog, but I snorted when I read it. You summed up the romantic standard of all teenage girls in 9 words. Looking forward to Part 2!

    1. Ashley

      Ha, thanks Jess! No I didn’t realize my sheer genius in that line – thanks for pointing it out! 😀 (All genius-sounding things are unintentional on this blog. That should be a disclaimer). But you’re right, if the guy’s good-looking, teenage girls will fall for below average, FAR below average, and no where near average … better than average is like the cream of the crop. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jess!

  3. Uncle Dubs

    Well done, M’Ash! Put ’em up, put ’em uuuuuuuup. I love ya with yer dukes up, kid! You tell ’em!!

    But I was laffing so hard at the Big Dog detour that I bit the shat out of my tongue in 3 places. At confession today I mumbled my customary “impure thoughts” and the prelate paused before inflicting my penance . . .
    “Name a Corporal Work of Mercy, son.” he whispered.
    “Um, vithiting the thick” I tried through my wounded mouf.
    “Visiting the Thick is it?!! WELL!” He clapped his hands. “There’s a vile, blasphemous Circus Lady who blogs nearby … She has a self-reported THICK back porch so commodious it could accommodate 11 porch swings, The Morman Tab Choir, 4 Korean food trucks and a Sears corner cozy. That’s THICK! You are to hie there at once, make a tracing of the offending Circus Maxima Glutea Dea Buttuba Corpus and deliver it to me. We’re building a new rectory and we’ll put that sinning arse to WORK as our NEW BACK PORCH!”

    When I asked how he knows about your assets, he of course denied reading your blog but did say your “Donkey Punch” story is the tits! xo

    1. Ashley

      You’re hilarious, U Dubs! Where’s YOUR blog? You need to start writing one, if you haven’t already. And if you have, I’m hurt that I don’t know about it. Thanks for incorporating all of my favorite posts in this one comment – a Big Top Family mash-up – and you even managed it with an overlying Catholic theme. I love it!

      1. Uncle Dubs

        O thanks Miss Ash! So glad you took it in the spirit of yer fantabulous blog. Yer such a good sport! I just stole your wunnerful exaggeration style and used it to play. Of course I believe that your lovely assets are really quite perfect (tho yer my unknown niecelette), and in fact deserve a nice brisk *spank*! There! Don’t have a blog but treasure yer bright encouragement! Will letcha know if I ever break out! Continuing admiration for your cleverness, spunk and style. You tell ’em, Champ!!!

  4. Foxy Wine Pocket

    OH HELL YEAH!! I love that Balboa came back. I can’t wait to hear the rest.

    P.S. ” Can we forget I called myself a big dog? This conversation never happened.” made me laugh so hard.

  5. Sarah

    Can’t wait for part 2! And what was the deal with the “authorities” at Catholic schools ignoring bullies? Same deal at my high school. I should have called the Big Dog on them 😉

    1. Ashley

      Thanks for reading so many of my stories, Sarah – you’re the best! I didn’t know we had so much in common. I love your comment on the Clown Car post too. A car with no reverse – that is comical. You should write a story about that!

  6. Kris

    loved this. I was the terrified small chick all thru school and would have loved to learn to stand up for my short self! One of my friends today has a daughter he taught to stand up and fight. And she will. She gives them a couple of chances and if they don’t back off, she’ll pop em one and get detention for a very good reason. (snapping bras and other misguided middle school shenanigans) The best part? everyone now knows she is the best friend to have cuz she’ll stand up for you!

    1. Ashley

      I think that’s awesome! But I’m sad for what you went through! And so many other kids don’t stand up for themselves – that’s just so hard to do, really. I worry about my own kids and what they’d do. Thanks so much for reading!!

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