I never did understand how I got into this mess; of where they all came from; of how the fight started.
Albert was one of the 'in' crowd, everyone knew him, who he was, and those he despised steered clear. Unkempt, scruffy, he lived somewhere on the council estate. The estate I had to walk through on the way home from school. I wasn't part of his clique; I most definitely wasn't.
All the other kids in the playground seemed to surround us; forming a tight circle; a barrier through which there was no escape. No teacher came to the rescue; they never did.
Really it was no contest. Albert was tougher; he knew it; he was known for being a bully, took pride in his fighting prowess; and, most of all, enjoyed it. I was there to be beaten; the weak unpopular one who deserved it. All the other kids where there to watch the inevitable. This circus show could have only one conclusion; all were rooting for Albert.
One kid, I little knew, held my blazer with embarrassment; folding it tightly over his arm. A pack swarmed around Albert's blazer, cheering and laughing; their blazer the victors prize. Much as I wanted to run there was no option but to fight. As best I could I kept aiming to the side of his face.
We circled each other, shirt sleeves rolled up, fists up, and a few of my lucky punches got through; on the cheek, on the ear. The more I persevered the more of those punches made it; on the cheek, on the ear. Albert seemed to be weakening and against my better nature I continued. These punches were getting through; on the cheek, on the ear.
Suddenly Albert dropped his fists and went to the gaggle of his immediate supporters. I gave up also; why? Albert wouldn't have; he'd have made good use of the opportunity. The kid holding Albert's blazer looked at him in disgust.
“Why give up?” he spat out.
“He kept hitting my ear.”
The kid threw the blazer at Albert's feet; that appeared to explain nothing.
“I was feeling dizzy,” Albert pleaded, as the crowd dispersed, his gaggle departing, ashamed.
Not that anyone gave me any credit as the victor. Far from it; you could feel the disappointment as the kids dispersed. The spectacle they'd come to witness was a dismal failure; like a firework that spluttered few sparks. There could have been only one possible victor.
You see, I knew one thing about Albert; he'd been in and out of hospital; and most of that had been something to do with his ear. So, appalling combatant as I was, I kept aiming for his ears; and I'd gotten in enough lucky shots to make a difference, to make him give up.
Looking back I shall always regret what I did. And wonder: did I do any permanent damage? I hated him but I didn't want to hurt him. At the same time there's a certain pride; in exploiting a weakness; even if for my own defence.