Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Violence in a Blue Dress

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"Prodigal Dress" by Linda Hickerson Hofheinz; acrylic on gessoed wood; 12"x12"x2."  From our art collection; photo of painting by Annie.

That summer day, I was seven years old, wearing my favorite blue dress, the one with the sashes that tied in the back and with puffed sleeves.  Mama let me wear my hair down loose that day foregoing the braids she preferred.  My job that Saturday was to watch my baby brother as he crawled on his pallet on the front lawn.

The rock came out of nowhere and smashed my little brother's head.  He screamed, as blood splattered his face and my blue dress.  It was then that I heard the maniacal, nasal laugh of Billy, the much feared neighborhood bully.  I grabbed my brother and ran into the house and handed him to Mama, then dashed back outside.  I told Billy to put up his fists.  Like other children on our street, I had been terrified of Billy but not that day.  He had gone too far.

Minutes later Billy's mother was banging on our front door with her son in tow.  "Look what your son did to my boy!"  Billy had scratches over most of his body, a split lip, a bloody nose and an eye that would be the color of my blue dress in the morning.

Mama turned to look over her brood of children who were gathered behind her.  She spotted me, smiled and pulled me into view of our visitors; me in my blood splattered dress, with both sleeves ripped, hanging by threads and both sashes torn loose.  "You know," she said to Billy and his mom, "If I had let a tiny little girl beat me up, I don't think I would want it to get around the neighborhood." 

News of that fight did get around.  To hear every kid tell it, they had been there cheering me on.  Billy's reputation as a bully was ruined.  The next time he threatened another kid, they told him they would get little Annie to beat him up.  Everyone figured if I could beat him up, so could they.  Out of necessity, Billy became a good kid and learned to make friends, which included me.

Story behind the painting:  The blue dress really exists.  It's a doll's dress that Linda's mother made for one of Linda's dolls when Linda was a child.  The dress had been lost for decades when Linda found it, pressed inside a large book that had been packed away in a box.

1 comment:

  1. Great story! Reminds me of my husband and his sister :) Although he was older, she had more heft to her,and clocked the bully for him too! Yay girl power.