John Thompson and Mary Snelling were married on one of those beautiful summer days that come to central Florida occasionally. They had met at a Fourth of July dance put on by the city as part of the day’s celebrations. It was a case of love at first sight on both sides. By the end of July, they were living together in John’s apartment in Silver Creek. It took them seven months to decide that they had stalled around long enough and made plans for the wedding. Well, actually, it was Mary’s mother Joan who had made most of the plans.
That was okay with Mary because she was busy with her job as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and tax season was her busiest time. Joan jumped in and took over, and neither Mary nor John complained. Both of John’s parents had died in an automobile accident five years before, so his mother was not around to voice an opinion.
Anyway, John joined the Army as soon as he graduated from high school, and, in the course of events, spent two tours in Korea. There he fell in love with martial arts, especially Shaolin Kung Fu. The most interesting part for John was the stick fighting. After eight years in the Army, he resigned and started his own dojo in Silver Creek.
One would think that a dojo in a central Florida small city was bound to be a losing proposition, but he happened to get caught up in the craze for the Kung Fu movies. Therefore, he had students from miles around and built a solid reputation of teaching Kung Fu as a useful bit of self defense. By the time he had been in business for a little over two years, he had four employees who were doing the actual teaching while John was visiting the various schools to promote martial arts and Kung Fu.
He had hired Mary to look after the dojo’s books shortly after meeting her at the dance, and things had progressed from there. Within a week after the wedding, Mary discovered that she was pregnant, and it turned out that she was carrying fraternal twins. A normal pregnancy came and went, and Mary gave birth to Jack and Nelly Thompson.
Joan and Alvin Snelling, the grandparents, were overjoyed with the twins and would have taken over raising them if Mary had not figuratively beaten them away with a stick. Nevertheless, Joan and Alvin were very close to the kids. Alvin had been a “strong man” in a circus act, nothing fake there, and insisted that he wanted to do what he could to build up Jack’s muscles.
It only took one day for Jack to have Grandpa’s undivided attention for Nelly to scream that she wanted in on the program. Nobody could find anything wrong with that idea, and Alvin was highly amused and flattered, so Nelly was welcomed into the class to build up her muscles. Both kids were only three years old, so much of the training was really calisthenics to improve the muscular coordination of the kids, but the kids loved what they considered to be nothing but an extended play time with a favorite relative.
By the time the kids were five years old, Alvin’s efforts had turned the kids into two powerhouses of coordinated action. They never wanted to come back to Earth, and they were driving their mother nuts. She screamed for help to John, and he decided on an experiment. He took them on as special students in his dojo, and both kids were in hog heaven. Fortunately, the discipline of martial arts was what the kids needed, and even their 1st Grade teacher was impressed at how well they performed in school.
Dad and Grandpa emphasized how important it was to learn everything possible, and this rang a bell with both kids when it came from their most respected elders. The upshot was that Jack and Nelly easily moved to the top of their class, and were reading, printing, and doing simple math as well as most of the second graders by the end of the school year.
By this time, Alvin had them moved on to simple exercises with light dumbbells. This was doing exactly what he had in mind for their strength. Even though the kids had just turned six years old, they were as strong as most of the kids in the 4th Grade.
Of course, every school had its bullies, and this school was no exception. The first meeting with bullies fell to Jack. One day at recess, he was wandering around the playground, and Nelly was there with him. She tended to let Jack set the pace for their social progress in that she simply followed along with what he wanted to do unless it was simply too boring. So far, she had not reached that stage because 1st Grade was too much of an adventure to be bored at anything.
They happened to approach some 4th Grade boys who immediately noticed the fresh meat which they identified as easy pickings. One of the boys said, “Hey, you two. What are you doing in our territory? This section of the playground is reserved for the upper classes. You’re not supposed to be here.”
Jack answered, “Oops, sorry. We didn’t know that there was such a division.”
“What, are you calling me a liar? No snot-nosed 1st Grader can get away with that! Come on, Boys, let’s show them who is the boss of this playground.”
One would almost think that Jack and Nelly had been waiting for such a challenge. They were immediately surrounded by the larger boys, and the jeering started as the boys built themselves up to attack. Naturally, this drew a crowd of other kids, none of whom were friends of the bullies, but who wanted to see the coming fight. Nothing was more exciting to kids that age.
Jack and Nelly recognized what had happened and stood back to back just as their father had taught them in the dojo. Finally, it happened. The loud-mouth who had started all of the trouble figured that he had all of the backing that he was going to get walked up to Jack and raised his fist to strike a blow. Jack never gave the bully a chance. He hit the boy as hard as he could in the bread basket (solar plexus). A careful listener could have heard the sound of the expelled air all across the playground.
Naturally, the bully bent over at the waist—he had no choice. This was when Jack raised his knee and caught the bully in the nose. Jack was not trying to break the boy’s nose, he just was following through with what he had learned at the dojo. Well, the nose was not broken, but blood spurted everywhere, along with the tears from the pain. The injured boy fell to the ground, and Jack did not attack him further.
Meanwhile, two of the boys from the other side of the circle rushed what had to be an even softer target: the 1st Grade girl. Nelly hit the first boy in the solar plexus just as had Jack with his attacker, but she did not have time for the followup knee in the nose because the other boy was about to kick her. She turned her attention to him and ignored the first attacker.
She waited for the boy to kick at her before she dodged. In the process of dodging, she grabbed the extended ankle and pulled. That caused the boy to fall to his left side and break a bone in his leg. Nelly didn’t know or care which bone it was, all she was concerned about was that the boy was not able to mount any more attacks.
One of the teachers supposedly monitoring the playground finally showed up and was shocked by the mayhem dished out by the two 1st Graders. Natuerally, she assumed that Jack and Nelly had started the fight simply because they were untouched, and three older kids were lying on the ground.
She pointed to Jack and Nelly and ordered, “You two, to the principal’s office.” She then called 911 for medical assistance.
Not knowing what else to do, Jack and Nelly went to the principal’s office and spoke to the receptionist. As usual, it was Jack who did the talking. “Ms Alfredson said that we should see the principal. She didn’t say why.”
About that time, the phone rang. It was Ms Alfredson. She reported, “I have sent two students to you to discipline for fighting in the playground. They seriously injured three students.”
Jack and Nelly were called into the principal’s office. Mrs. Cold said, “You two were fighting with other students in the playground. We have a zero tolerance for that. The penalty is a spanking. Both of you, drop your pants.”
For the first time, Nelly spoke before Jack had time to, “Mrs. Cold, you had better change your mind about spanking us. Our Dad said that we were never to let anyone hit us unless he was present. If you try to spank either one of us, we will attack you.”
The woman looked like she was going to explode the way she turned red and then purple. “YOU CAN’T THREATEN ME LIKE THAT! I AM CALLING THE POLICE!” She picked up the phone and dialed 911. “This is Mrs. Cold, the principal at Robert E. Lee Elementary School. Two students have threatened me with bodily harm. Send a police detail to my office immediately. Goodby.”
That was it as far as Jack was concerned. He pulled out his cellphone and dialed his dad’s number. “Dad, please come to the school. Nelly and I are about to be arrested for defending ourselves. The cops are on the way. Okay, I’ll tell her. Goodby.
“Mrs. Cold, my dad said to give you this message. ‘If those children are arrested for defending themselves, you and possibly the School Board will be sued for every penny that I can extract. I am on my way. I advise you not to do anything foolish.’”
“He can’t talk to me like that! He will go to jail, too, for issuing threats of that sort! Now, you two children sit down over there and wait until the police get here.”
There was close to a 20-minute wait, probably because that was how much credence the dispatcher gave to the call from Mrs. Cold. In fact, John came bursting through the door before the cops arrived. The receptionist was yelling at him to wait until he was announced, but that never slowed him down.
John ignored Mrs. Cold and said to the kids, “Are you both okay?”
Before the kids could answer, Mrs. Cold broke in with, “Get out of my office, you oaf! You have no right to be in here.”
John had been a platoon sergeant in Korea, and he turned to Mrs. Cold with his most threatening scowl. “Shut up, you Bitch. I’ll get to you when I know that my kids are okay.”
Nobody, and that means nobody, had ever talked to Mrs. Cold like that, and she kind of melted under John’s glare.
It was only a minute or two before a police officer showed up. His first words were, “Hi, John. What’s going on?”
“I don’t really know for sure, Bill, but it is my understanding that you were called because this woman was threatened by those two children sitting on the bench. Oh, Jack and Nelly, say hello to my friend, Officer Olsen.”
“What? You’ve got to be kidding!”
“These two miscreants were sent to my office to be punished for fighting in the playground. It was reported to me that they seriously injured three students so badly that they had to go to the hospital. We have a zero-tolerance policy on fighting on school grounds, so I was about to punish the children with a spanking, as is called for in the rules.
“They threatened to attack me if I spanked them. That was when and why I called for police assistance.”
At this point, Bill burst into laughter. In fact, he laughed so hard that he had to sit down. His legs would no longer support him. “You ... want me to ... arrest two children ... who are hardly six ... years old for threatening ... you? You have ... to be kidding! No way am I going to touch this one. Good day.
“So long, John. Glad to see you again away from Korea. Goodby, kids. It was a pleasure meeting you.”
Bill was still chuckling as he walked back to his car. John asked Jack, “Did this woman ask for your side of the story before she threatened to spank you?”
“No, Sir, Dad. She never gave us a chance to say much of anything.”
“Okay, in that case, you tell me your side of the story, and she had better listen if she wants to keep her job.”
Mrs. Cold looked like she was again about to explode, but John’s glare was enough to defuse her.
“Nelly and I were walking across the playground just to see what was in a different place from where we usually stayed. We didn’t mean anything; we were just curious. We were almost all the way across the playground when we were stopped by a big guy, at least a 3rd Grader. He demanded to know why we were in an area reserved for upper graders. I don’t remember my exact words, but he accused me of calling him a liar. I know I never said that.
“Before we could turn away, he had some of his friends, all bigger than us, form a ring around us. We all just stood there for a few minutes while a crowd gathered. I don’t know how long he waited, but we just stood back to back the way you had taught us and waited for something to happen. Finally, he walked up to me and raised his fist like he was going to hit me.
“Well, he was enough bigger than me that he could have done some serious damage, so I did not wait for him to hit me. Instead, I hit him in the solar plexus with my fist as hard as I could. Naturally, he bent over at the waist. When he did, I kneed him in the nose. I didn’t hit him as hard as I could because I didn’t want to break his nose. I just wanted to make it bleed a little bit.
“The boy started crying and he fell on the ground. That was when two boys from the other side of the circle attacked Nelly. She can tell her side of the story better than me.”
Nelly said, “Two of the boys on my side of the ring rushed up to me. They were moving so fast that I didn’t have time to think. All I could do was to hit one in the solar plexus just like Jack did, but that was all I had time for. The first boy fell, but the second boy was already in the process of trying to kick me in the crotch.
“I turned enough to make him miss and grabbed his ankle. I pulled as I stepped back, and that made him fall. He broke his leg when he fell. That was when the teacher ran up and sent us to Mrs. Cold’s office without asking us any questions. We came here, and we don’t know what else happened on the playground.”
“Okay, it sounds like you two did just exactly what you should have done to protect yourselves.
“Mrs. Cold, I am taking these children home with me right now. They may or may not be back in school tomorrow. It sounds to me like you are running a very sloppily administered school, and if there are any repercussions against my children, you will hear from my lawyer. Come on, kids, let’s get out of this stupid place!
The ride home was mostly a critique on the “fight.” John had nothing disparaging to say to the kids. They had done exactly what they needed to do, considering all of the factors. John was happy that the kids had moderated their blows to measure out what was appropriate, but no more than was needed. It represented a level of judgment far beyond what 1st Graders should be capable of. Yes, he was very proud of his children, and he was sure that the rest of the family would feel the same way.
Mary was given a full report and congratulated Jack and Nelly on their conduct. She was very proud of them and was sure that they would go far in this world if they could continue to exhibit the judgment that they had shown today. By the way, much was made of Nelly in her conquest of two attackers.