I knew and they knew that a skinny kid could not
By Mammad Aidani
June 3, 2003
I looked back and saw them walking behind me, at a
very close distance. They were bullying us in the backyard of our
school. That was their normal behaviour and it was frightening most
of us. They looked extremely rough. They seemed to have a great
time beating Amir, which happened often. Amir and I came from the
same Abadan neighborhood and he was the only one who would bother
talking to me.
Somehow on this particular day, I knew it was going
to be my turn. I don’t know why I felt like this. But it became
quite obvious to me that they were in the mood. The way they were
looking at me and making faces all day, indicated that my turn had
finally arrived. That was how they were. My only alternative was
to ignore them and try my best to disappear into the crowded school’s
After school I was walking home and knew that they
were still following me. I had this sensation that I was going to
be beaten up any second. I squeezed my books under my arms and pretended
that they were my protectors.
I could hear their steps near me and that increased
my fear. I hastened my steps and felt scared, as if they were already
bashing me. They were older and bigger and I knew and they knew
that a skinny kid could not fight back. So I quickened my steps
whilst hoping they would go away.
I got to a konar tree and picked one of its ripe golden
fruits from a low branch, quickly swallowed it and kept walking.
When I reached the next konar tree I jumped up. But this time I
couldn't reach the branches. I began to walk faster. My fear grew
deeper. I was within their grasp. I could hear their approach. I
was preparing my body for a good beating. But for some strange reason
my stubborn mind did not want to give up.
I slowed down and surrendered myself to fate. I waited
for them to make their move. I was totally disarmed. What can a
skinny kid do in this situation? I could run, but where to? I kept
the pace. The main street was long and the chase was going to take
a while. I was lucky that from time to time someone would appear
and this forced them to delay their attack.
I didn’t know what to do. I kept walking. Frightening
thoughts crossed my poor mind. I felt as if I had to give up. ‘No,’
I said to myself. I decided to turn right where a small lane led
me to the back of the school. As I returned my body began to shake.
I was extremely frightened. I saw a tree. I recall that it was a
date tree; there were so many of them.
When the British established control over the oil
fields in Khuzestan, they built bungalows, and used them as their
offices in many cities throughout the region, to manage the production
of oil. There was also one in the best part of our city near the
river. It was a very nice place that I liked it very much, without
knowing why it was there. I just liked it, simply because it was
called ‘bungalow’. I loved the sound of the word and
the location of the place.
Here I was facing my fate with these big boys and
hoping to find a way out of the abyss. I bent my knees and pretended
that something was inside my Vienna plastic shoes in order to look
between my legs and see how far the bullies were. They were approaching
me. I turned and leaned against a date tree, as if I were glued
to it. I looked around my skinny shoulders and felt deeply sorry
I was waiting for an attack. I clung to my books as
if they were the only things in the world that could save me. I
found myself in a position of not being able to think. I checked
the space around me. No one was around. The bullies stopped and
began to talk amongst themselves for a while. I was mortified. They
were standing there chatting away about what to do next. I could
Suddenly a thought crossed my mind to read the book
under my arm. I pulled it out and began to read it out loud. In
my naive and hopeless way I wanted to give the impression that I
was not scared or aware of their intention.
As I reached the middle of the first paragraph they
were in front of me, all three of them. They were full of contempt.
I smiled with fear and slowly closed the book and put it in my pocket.
I waited for what was coming my way. There was this resistance in
my poorly fed body, which was telling me not to succumb to them.
But I was weak and knew that I did not have any right to open my
I waited. The taller one was furiously inspecting
my body with an ugly barrel-chested gesture. The second one, who
I knew well and I’m sure he had some sympathy for me, suddenly
cracked up laughing, to please the others. It was a depressing scene.
All alone and under pressure by these boys with whom I went to school.
They looked merciless.
At the time I did not know what gholdor (word
bully) meant. They behaved like animals, and for this reason, in
my mind I called them "sag-haaye haar" (rabid dogs). I
did not understand why they were so mean, especially towards me
and Amir whom, as far as I was concerned, was the nicest guy in
After a while the middle one stopped laughing and
the last one who was the shortest began to whisper something in
the taller one’s ears so I could hear.
Second one: ‘He is too skinny.’
First one: ‘That’s exactly what I was
thinking. He irritates me; he's always aloof and never joins in.’
Third one: ‘He's scared. Look how skinny he
is. Who wants him anyway? What use does he have? Who can he protect?’
They laughed and I began to cry.
First one: ‘Look, he is not even a man.’
(I lowered my head and buried myself in my loneliness feeling unprotected
and hopeless.) ‘So what are you reading, Professor Skinny?’
I looked at him hesitantly and did not want to answer
the question. I knew it was not a good idea to say anything to antagonise
them. I reluctantly said that I was reading and thinking of the
homework I had to finish that night.
First to the second one: ‘You see I told you
he's our responsible professor.’ (Then he got angry and screamed
into my face.) ‘Do you understand, aadamake ahmagh (stupid
I was further shocked when I heard these words and
wanted to say something. However, I was horrified by their presence,
and of course said nothing and kept my silence.
First one: ‘Do you have anything to say?’
I said, ‘No. I don’t.’
‘Okay then, go on reading.’
He forced me to read as I was trembling. They looked
at me and the smaller one said, ‘You bastard, helpless skinny,
good for nothing. Next time if you look at us when we're bashing
someone, we'ill kill you.’
As this abusive scene was going on, I suddenly heard
an old woman’s voice from afar yelling in our direction, ‘Leave
him alone! I have been watching you since you arrived there. I have
called the police to get you!’
As soon as they heard the voice, which I’m sure
was coming from one of the balconies of the houses behind us, it
gave them a big fright. They ran away, yelling at me, ‘You
bastard! You're lucky. We'll get you.’ With a sigh of relief
I watched them disappeare into the distance.
I reflected for a few minutes in disbelief and turned
towards the direction where the voice had come from. I could not
see anybody. I’m sure she was looking at me without showing
herself from behind those leafy trees, which covered the bungalow’s
surroundings. ‘Whoever you are, thank you for saving me,’
I said in the directon of her voice and began to walk away from
the hell I had been stuck in.
As I was walking I thought of the following day and
imagined myself in the classroom. But then I returned again and
looked towards the window where the voice of the old woman had come
from. I was hoping to see some sign of her, but again couldn't.
Since then, from time to time, I think of that late
afternoon in the bungalow near the river, and my ordeal. And sometimes,
I hear echoes of the woman’s voice, telling them to leave
me alone. It still gives me that protective feeling.
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