“Show your father your face,” Katherine said. “Show him your face, Aaron.”Aaron stood before me. I couldn’t help but smile at first—until I saw the welt beneath hiseye. “Oh no,” I said, lifting a finger to touch it. He wouldn’t let me. “Was the kid who hit youwearing a ring?”He popped the wet cotton from his lips. “Duh,” he said.I’d spent half my life dreaming about things that never happen. But this? I grabbed my boyand squeezed—his spindly body, smooth arms, elementary-school aroma—and just like that gotcaught up in something. No doubt there’s a name for it somewhere in some parenting textbook Inever read, a name that captures the notion that there’s a reservoir filled with everything we’veever held back, and that it can rise up and splash without warning.“Let go of me,” he said.I didn’t want to. Cross-examination time. “Do you know these boys?”“No.”“Are they from your school?”He nodded.“Did you run into them on the playground or bump them or say something or…”No, no, and no. He’d done
. I believed him. They’d followed him home from schooland pounced.“Man,” I muttered, flashing back decades to the angry face of Danny Murphy, the kid whochased me around a parked car screaming that he wanted to pound my face in. What had I done? Nothing! Not a
! “We’re going to do something about this, Aaron.
going to dosomething,” I told him. “What they did was
.”He looked at me and nodded.“I’m going to stand up for you,” I said.Why didn’t my old man ever say that for me?Aaron provided a thin description of the perpetrators—shirt and hair colors, tennis shoes— and we set off on a bully hunt. It didn’t take long to spot one, and when I pulled up to the curb, just a block from our house, he took off. I threw the car in park and opened my door. A man in anearby driveway stood hosing his cement. I went to him and asked if he knew where that boylived.