This is a work of fiction, a short story in 1550 words.
At the back of the park, just before you got to the trees at the edge, there was a big grass-covered depression in the ground. It was a long way from most things people went to the park to enjoy, like the swings and the slides, the boating lake, or the rose garden. Deep in the middle, with steep sides, it had been formed by a stray bomb, dropped by the Germans during the war. Nobody had ever bothered to fill it in, and the years since had shaped it; first filling some of it with mud, and allowing grass and weeds to line it later. If you sat inside it, you were out of sight of anyone looking across from the main path.
That made it very attractive to some people. Young lovers, smooching unseen, solitary readers with their sandwiches and flasks of tea, and many of the older children who lived nearby. The local kids called it the Big Dip, so that was what Terry called it too. In the summer holidays, they would play in and around it, rolling down the sides, then clambering back up to roll again and again, until they were too hot to roll anymore. And they invented a game based around the dip, a game that was very popular, one hot summer, a long time ago. Some of them would stand around the edge at the top, and others would roll down to the bottom. They would then have to try to get out of the dip, without being grabbed and pushed back in by those chosen to ‘catch’.
When it wasn’t raining, the game could last most of the day, with teams changing places constantly. Shoes would be scuffed, clothing ripped or pulled out of shape, and hot, sweaty children heading home worn out, after exerting themselves in the heat.
Secondary school had been a shock for Terry. Most of his old friends had gone to schools elsewhere, and he found himself in an unfamiliar place, with many other kids he hardly knew. Having to wear glasses made him stand out from most of the other eleven year-olds. The bigger boys called him four-eyes, and the unwanted nickname soon stuck. The girls teased him too, as his small frame made him look younger than everyone else. He stuck to his studies, and tried to ignore the jibes, but school days were unhappy for him, something that worried his parents a lot. Things got worse for him when Big Tony arrived at the school. His family had recently moved to the area, and he started in the class late that year. There were so many other boys called Tony, he soon became known as Big Tony. And he was big. Tall and heavy, looking years older than the others. He soon took advantage of his size, and became the leader of those boys who liked to think they were the bad boys; giving trouble to the teachers, stealing pocket-money from the weaker kids, and generally causing havoc around the school.
Once Big Tony noticed Terry, life got a lot harder. He would take his glasses, only giving them back in return for a chocolate bar, or what little money Terry had to buy a drink. Then he would get the others to circle around him in the playground, chanting “FOUR EYES” constantly. If the teachers noticed, they didn’t intervene. Things like that were all-too common at the time. Mum and Dad asked him how he was getting on, and said they were pleased with his school reports, and how well he was doing. But he never told them about the name-calling, or Big Tony. Deep down inside, Terry knew he would have to deal with that himself, or life would be unbearable. He had at least six more years at that school, and if it carried on, he knew he wouldn’t make it.
It wasn’t a conscious decision. Not as if he had said to himself, ‘Today’s the day’. It was just another day at school, that happened to be a Friday. During the lunchtime break, Big Tony sought Terry out. He was hiding close to the bin store, sitting eating a sandwich Mum had made. The shadow gave Tony away as he approached. “Hey, four-eyes, what you got in that sandwich?” He sounded unusually friendly. Terry looked up. “Corned Beef”. The paw-like hand reached down. “Give it here. I like corned beef”. The rest of the gang had arrived, standing behind Tony, smiling. Terry didn’t know why he said what he did. It just came out. “No”. The big hand grabbed the half of sandwich anyway, and Tony stuffed it into his mouth, swirled it around, and spat it back out onto the tarmac. “Here, you can have it back. It tasted like crap anyway”. The gang roared with laughter, and Tony turned to walk away, grinning like an ape.
Terry was up on his feet in a flash, running hard after the big boy. Extending both arms, he crashed into Tony, who fell forward heavily, hitting the surface hard. The rest of the gang stepped back, unsure what had just happened. Terry was breathing hard, looking down at the heavy frame of Tony, wondering what would happen next. But he just rolled over, smiling. “So you want to fight, do you? Well, not here, not with teachers around. I will meet you in the Big Dip after school. Make sure you turn up, or I will come after you and find you”. The afternoon classes were a blur. All he could think about was having to go to the Big Dip, and knowing inside his heart that he would have to do it. Not going was not an option, not if he ever wanted to go back to school on Monday.
By the time he got to the other side of the park after school, a crowd had already gathered on the edge of the Big Dip. All of Tony’s gang, and some stupid giggly girls who had nothing better to do. Terry put down his school bag, and took off his glasses, ignoring the shouts and jeers of the others. He looked down into the space below, where Tony was standing. He had taken off his jacket, and was exchanging nonsense comments with some of the kids up around the edge. Catching sight of Terry, the bigger boy called up to him. “Right, take off your coat. It’s a fair fight, no kicking. OK?” As he slipped off his blazer, Terry nodded. He walked sideways down the slope, to avoid falling. That few feet felt like the longest walk he had ever taken. Standing opposite Tony, he got a foreboding sense of their size difference, but copied the stance that the other boy took, raising his fists like a boxer.
He never even saw the first punch, but it knocked him on his back, and brought unexpected tears to his eyes. Scrabbling back up quickly, the laughter of the others loud in his ears, he rushed forward and landed a punch in Tony’s belly. It seemed to have no effect, and a second punch hit the side of Terry’s head, easily knocking him to the ground once more. The cheering from the kids made him angry, so he jumped up and went in again, fists flailing with no direction, most punches finding only thin air. The next blow that landed hit him squarely on the nose, making him dizzy, and causing his eyes to fill with more tears. He was on his back again, but this time he was unable to get back up. as his head was refusing to lift off the grass, and his vision would not focus at all. And something was running down his face, into his mouth. He could taste it. Blood.
Tony loomed over him, and he expected a battering, with the big boy eager to finish him off. Instead, he felt his hands grasped inside larger ones, and was pulled to his feet. Tony looked him in the eye, and slowly extended a hand. “That was a fair fight, four-eyes, and you lost. That’s enough now. Let’s shake on it, OK?” Terry put his hand inside the one offered, and it was shaken vigorously and theatrically. The other kids were quiet now, and as Tony helped him up out of the Big Dip, one handed him his blazer. Another picked up his glasses and school bag, and passed them over.
Back home, he told Mum he had fallen over in the playground. Dad got home from work later, and smiled when he heard Mum tell him what had happened. He winked at his son, and placed a finger on his lips.
After that Friday at the Big Dip. Nobody ever bothered him at school again.
The sound of rumbling shook Terry from his thoughts. Three boys were going past the bench on skateboards, heading for the new skate-boarding park over his shoulder. He hadn’t known that they had made that in the park, when he had come back to relive that childhood memory. As the clattering and crashing up and down the slopes began in earnest, he got up from the bench and started to walk back to the car park.
Nobody would ever call it the Big Dip again.