At eight years of age, Erik was severely beaten by two boys in the town he lived in. One boy was named Franco. He was the largest and the leader. The other was Pete Jr. who was more of a follower. While Erik had the superior mind, they were both much older and larger, so they eventually overpowered him.
Erik’s eyes were swollen shut and his hands were damaged; also swollen and wrapped with bandages. Therefore, Erik spent nearly a week in a silent and dark world, without comfort from his music. The result? His anger grew for the two bullies, and he mercilessly plotted his revenge against them.
Almost a year later, when he is nine, Erik is working with his father on a construction site. He’s on scaffolding on one side of the building, and his father is working on the roof on the other side of the building. Read more to see what happens when Erik's revenge comes to fruition.
I stayed motionless and silent on the scaffolding as I watched my intended victims approach. By then, my cold and calculating mind was in complete control and prepared to finish what they’d started. I perceived clearly in my mind’s eye the entire scenario to its climatic completion. Therefore, I waited until they were the precise distance away before I swung down.
At first, my sudden appearance startled them; however, within moments they began jeering and moving closer to me. I focused intently on Franco’s eyes, while I placed my index finger to my lips in a gesture for them to be quiet, since I didn’t want Papa to hear what was about to happen. Next, I smiled slowly and pointed to the roof where Papa was hammering. My actions truly confused them, causing them to stop and stare at me curiously. I let out a small chuckle and held both my hands out in front of me, curling my fingers and motioning for them to keep walking.
They looked at each other again in bewilderment before they began walking toward me with overly confident smirks on their oblivious faces. Again, Franco was in front with Pete lagging behind; exactly as I’d pictured. I once more waited, like a cat at a mouse hole, for them to reach the exact spot I wanted them to be. Once they were in their assigned places, I positioned a warning behind Pete in the lowest tone I could produce.
He stopped instantly and turned around, searching for the voice, but, when he didn’t see anyone, he started for me again.
I could feel my eyes narrow once more as I sounded another warning. “Pete, beware!”
That time, he stopped and looked quickly behind him and then at the roof before he looked back at me. Next, he began to walk slowly backwards and spoke Franco’s name several times. Without turning and looking at Pete, Franco waved his hand as if he was dismissing a servant. Two more steps and Franco was right where I wanted him. Therefore, I began, allowing my threatening voice to reverberate from behind him.
He turned quickly to look for the strange voice, and his careless moment of distraction was all I needed. I sprung on his back like that cat on that unsuspecting and defenseless mouse. I had my left arm wrapped tightly around his neck before he could even think of responding. Next, I grabbed my left wrist with my right hand and wedged my right arm between our bodies, holding it tightly while my legs wrapped around him. I held our bodies together so tightly that no one was going to break that hold I had on him—no one. One of us would have to be unconscious before I would release my artfully designed hold.
He began to turn in circles and grasped at my head and arms. He clawed at my face and removed my mask, along with several layers of skin from my cheek, but that was the least of my concerns. I tried to keep a watch on Pete as he came into view with every turn Franco made. At first, Pete stopped his backward movement and started to move slowly toward us, as if he was trying to decide what to do. At the next turn, I gave him another warning.
“You’re next, Pete!” I bellowed, without trying to conceal my voice.
With my words, he stopped again and screamed Franco’s name one last time. By that time, Franco had stopped turning and was gurgling from his throat. He stopped clawing at my face and wrapped all his fingers around my left arm, and then, with all the strength he had, he pulled on it. My left wrist burned and felt as if it was being severed from my hand, but that didn’t matter to me in the least. My control over Franco is what mattered, and I wasn’t going to give it up. I looked beyond him to Pete who was in a fast retreat.
I laughed and roared at him. “Coward!”
Franco fell to his knees at the same time I heard Papa scream from above me, “Erik!—Stop!”
I heard something hit the scaffolding and then the ground behind me, but my only interest was in Franco and my complete control over him. I wanted him to experience what I’d felt, so, with a sinister tone that even surprised me, I taunted him.
“Do you wonder if you’ll ever get up, Franco? Do you?” I questioned with a jerk to his throat. “Are you now afraid you’ll never take another breath?—I hope so,” I hissed.
I wanted him to fear as I did; not knowing if I would see again or play my music again. I wanted him to be in morbid fear.
I encouraged his fear with my mouth at his ear as I growled, “Do you fear me now? Am I now more than a circus oddity to poke fun at? Things aren’t always what they seem—are they, Franco? Do you give up yet, Franco?—Give up!” I demanded as I gave an extra jerk at his throat.
As I continued to pull on my wrist to tighten my arm around his neck, the one word I wished for him was fighting to break through my clenched teeth. I could feel my face distorting as I let that one word out with a taunt.
“Erik, let go!”
I heard Papa’s words, but they had absolutely no influence on me. I don’t know how many hands were on me trying to pry us apart, but it felt like a thousand; all without any results whatsoever. No one was going to break my hold on him without breaking my wrist until I was ready to let go—no one!
“Erik, let go!”
Papa’s words kept repeating while his face reeled in front of mine. Franco’s arms were losing strength, but he tried one last time to free himself from my death hold. Then, suddenly, they dropped to his side, and instantly he fell to the ground, landing partially over me.
“Erik, let go!”
Papa’s demanding words reached me along with his tormented face.
I glared directly into Papa’s eyes as I snarled, “I have him—I have him—He’s mine.”
My victory over that ignorant fool left my heart cold, and I couldn’t feel the pain I saw in Papa’s eyes or the strength of his hands prying at my arms.
The weight of Franco’s body on mine began making it difficult to take a breath, but I managed to press my lips closer to his ear as I growled, “You’re mine! Now give up and die!”
I heard Papa’s distraught voice one more time before I saw his fist come down fast and hard against the left side of my jaw, slamming my head forcefully against the ground. I released my hold on Franco’s neck out of shock—pure unadulterated shock.
Franco’s weight was lifted off me, and I staggered to my feet. Massaging my aching jaw, I looked around and found Papa on one knee beside Franco’s motionless body. My protector—my father and friend was tending to my enemy. He was rubbing Franco’s chest and gently shaking him while speaking his name repeatedly.
I stood dumbfounded, staring at them, while my shock over being hit by my father’s once loving hand was taken over by my gratification. I was unharmed, with the exception of my stinging wrist and my aching jaw. But I was on my feet, while one of my would-be tormenters was lying on the ground before me—lifeless—and the other one had run off in fear.
I took a deep breath and promised myself that no one would ever hurt me again; not physically or verbally. I refused to take their abuses any longer. As I watched Franco’s lifeless body, with his taunting voice at last silenced, my new personality filled up with satisfaction—that is, until I heard a gasp from his throat and saw his shaking hand grasp his neck.
“No!” I screamed, as I charged for him once more.
But Papa, while still on one knee beside Franco, put out his arm. Then, with a slight turn of the head, he swung his arm back with a force that sent me stumbling backwards several meters. Tripping, I was soon on the cold and hard ground once more. I sat there and watched Papa, again stunned by his out-of- character response.
Once Franco was sitting up, Papa got to his feet and turned to face me. I watched him carefully, not knowing what to expect. He took a few strides in my direction, with his arms taunt at his sides. He was breathing hard between set jaws, and he glared down at me with eyes emanating a fire that quickly extinguished mine. He looked larger than life as he towered over me, causing me to wish I had somewhere to hide.
He turned away from me long enough to watch Franco get to his feet—still rubbing his neck. He then looked back at me without a word, just staring at me with a body language that spoke a thousand words. Since there was no hole to crawl into, I remained still and quiet while watching him and waiting for him to make the first move.
He stepped to the side and picked up my mask; then he slapped it a few times across his leg, releasing a cloud of dust. He came to me, standing over me again like a silent, towering tree, and then he held my mask out to me. I cautiously took it from his hand and put it on. Then, guardedly, I looked up at him.
I never realized, until those moments, the tremendous strength he had concealed within his normally compassionate arms. All I ever knew of him was his gentle touch and embrace, but that autumn day I experienced his power in a most unpleasant way. The ache in the back of my head, jaw, and teeth was a continuous reminder of his warnings, and I feared making another move without his approval. Therefore, I remained still, watching his face and waiting for instruction.
Without a word, he reached down and wrapped his immensely strong fingers around my shoulder, and, with one move, lifted me to my feet. He held his painful grasp on my shoulder as he led me straight for the work cart, and he didn’t release me until I was sitting inside. He hitched Molly, and we left, all without one single spoken word.
Before long, I realized where we were going, and the ocean came into view not too long after that. He didn’t take me to our driftwood as I’d expected. Instead, our disturbingly silent journey ended at our ocean property. He again wrapped his long fingers around my upper arm and shoved me toward a stump, where he pushed me down forcefully. He was being physically harsh with me; however, I could definitely sense he was still only showing me a fraction of what he really wanted to do to me.
Not one word had been spoken by either of us, and there continued to be none as I watched him walk to the cliff ’s edge. He stood with his back to me, leaning with one hand on the trunk of a tree and the other on his hip. Occasionally, he looked down at his feet and tapped the toe of his boot on the large stone in front of him. He remained there almost motionless, staring out over the ocean for what seemed like an eternity.
I hated for him to be quiet, but under the circumstances, I didn’t think I should be the first one to speak. I sensed the time he was taking wasn’t merely his way of trying to find proper words, but also perhaps his trying to calm his own anger before he spoke to me.
I could still feel the ache in my jaw from his powerful blow, and I didn’t want a repeat. Consequently, I remained silent. That was the only time he’d touched me in a harsh way, or if he ever had, I couldn’t remember. But, in either case, I presumed I’d found the precise nerve to strike, and I surely didn’t want to chance striking it again.
Finally, he turned and faced me, looking me straight in the eyes. Then he spoke with a voice hardly more than a controlled whisper.
“Erik, what were you thinking?”
I came back at him quickly and not in the most respectful tone. “Am I not to protect myself, Father?”
His voice was determined and no longer in a whisper. “Is that what you were doing, Erik?”
I didn’t answer as I lowered my head and searched my mind for the proper words. I focused on my left wrist, red and hurting, as evidence of the death grip I’d had on it.
Without waiting long, he continued, “I didn’t think so. That was premeditated, Erik. I know it and you know it.”
I looked up and opened my mouth to speak in my defense, but his next words, along with one long finger pointing at me, silenced my intended defense.
“Choose your words wisely, my son, and don’t try to play mind games with me, because they won’t work—not any longer.”
I looked down again, removing my eyes from him and from his burning anger. He was right, and I could tell he wasn’t frightened of me at that time. I believe his contempt for what I’d done eliminated any fear he might have had previously.
So, with my eyes far away from his angered glare, I said softly, “I can’t let them win, Papa.”
“But you are, Erik! Don’t you see that?” His words were pleading as he moved closer to me. “Erik, look at me.” I reluctantly looked up, and he fixed his sight deeply into my eyes as his own narrowed. “You’re letting them win.”
I clamped down hard on my jaws, trying to prevent what I was thinking from escaping and adding fuel to the fire he was obviously trying hard to smother. He took a deep breath, and with a raised voice, he turned abruptly from me.
“You’re becoming just like them! You don’t care about other people or their feelings! But more importantly, you don’t care about their right to live and breathe and exist!” Quickly, he turned back to face me in a fury. His face again distorted in disbelief, and he raised his fist in my direction, causing me to flinch. “You almost took a life today, Erik! Don’t you feel any shame or regret over that fact?—You almost took his life!”
Then, I failed, because I wanted to take his life; is what I wanted to say, but, thankfully, I managed to stop my lips from making that horrendous mistake. Especially since he was still pacing back and forth in front of me and waving his fist that occasionally became the only thing in my sight, making me expect another blow at any moment. His voice was low and yet so loud and full of powerful indignation that the birds fled from their roost in the treetops above us.
I heard their wings flapping as he demanded, “Remember, Erik, hot heads and cold hearts never solve anything; they only create problems for others to solve.”
He stopped in front of me again with both fists clenching at his side, and his voice took on a tone of frustration mixed with exasperation. “Do you want to become a Franco in this world? Is that what you want, Erik? I thought you wanted to play your music, and sing, and teach. I thought that’s what you wanted. I didn’t realize you wanted to be labeled a bully, or worse yet a murderer!
“Do you realize that right now you could be sitting behind bars in jail and kept there for a very long time? You would then never be able to accomplish all the wonderful things you once saw yourself doing. What were you thinking, Erik?—What were you thinking?”
My heart quickened at those words, and I glanced out over the ocean, visualizing what they meant. Then, in an undertone, I answered, “I can’t be locked up behind bars, Papa, I can’t. I can’t be separated from my music. I will die.”
“Your music?” He came back at me loud and strong. “Your music? Is that all you can think about—your music, Erik? What about the life you almost took? Does that mean nothing to you? And what about the impact your actions will have on your mother and Gigi and me? What about our reputations? Have you given any thought to any of that? And what about your future and your reputation, Erik?”
That question brought me out of my solemn moment, and I rose to my feet with loud indignation. “My reputation? That’s a laugh, Papa! My reputation! Ha! Now at least people will treat me with respect. No more will anyone laugh at me—not anymore, Papa. Now they’ll respect me and not cross me!”
“They may not cross you, Erik, but the reason will be out of fear for their lives, not out of respect for you. Oh, Erik, you were winning, can’t you see any of that? You were winning. So many people felt horrible about what those idiots did to you. So many people were beginning to respect you and your talents. My clients were in awe of you and your abilities, along with many others in town. Can’t you see any of that? And now you’ve likely lost all the respect you’ve been working for years to gain, all because you can’t let go of your feelings for some stupid boys who aren’t worthy of your time, much less worthy of your future life.”
“As far as anyone else is concerned, Papa, I was merely defending myself from another beating. That’s all! Can anyone blame me for that?”
He looked sternly at me. “As far as anyone else is concerned, well maybe, but you and I know differently—don’t we, Erik? And that’s what concerns me the most. This encounter with Franco isn’t the first time you’ve handled, or should I say maneuvered, a situation to your liking, and this time it almost cost someone’s life. What would have happened if I hadn’t gotten to him in time? What will happen next time, Erik? What if I’m not there next time?”
He stood there, towering over me, and glared at me while waiting for a response, but I had no immediate comeback. Then his voice changed to a desperate plea as he held out one open hand to me.
“Oh, Erik, hear me—Please hear my words.”
I looked away and closed my eyes before responding, at first softly, “I’m tired of being ridiculed and being made to feel inferior, Papa. I won’t let anyone make me feel that way again, I won’t!” I finished with a stronger tone, and then, without thinking, I took a few strides toward him, almost closing the gap between us.
With his hand still open before me, his voice softened even more before he replied, “Erik, you can only be made to feel inferior if you let them make you feel that way. You know what you are, and what you’re capable of accomplishing. Think more of yourself than that. Let the world know the strength of your character. Let them know the true Erik, not what some other person wants to make you.”
I felt what little control I had left sifting through my fingers; therefore, closing the space between us, I looked directly up into his eyes. “Perhaps what you just witnessed is what I am made of, Papa. Perhaps everything else, like my music, is only what’s on the surface and what you want to see. Perhaps Mama was correct all along. Perhaps I am wicked in my heart. Perhaps she was right, Papa. Did you ever really consider she might have been right?”
I took a few deep breaths and felt my jaws tighten more as I blurted out what I could no longer keep contained. “I feel like a failure right now. Yes—a failure. But not because I almost …” I stopped my words, trying to prevent my voice from actually saying it, but I couldn’t bridle my tongue or my concealed thoughts any longer. “I feel like a failure because I didn’t succeed. I wanted to see him dead.”
I watched his expression change right before my eyes. His tan brow wrinkled, his eyes slowly closed, he lowered his gently shaking head and partially turned from me.
Then, in an almost inaudible voice, he whispered, “Erik.”
He looked back at me, and his previous angry glare completely gave way to true anguish, causing his eyes to fill with tears. That day when I fell off Molly, I saw him lose control of his temper with me, and I thought that was the worst thing I could experience—but I was wrong. The look he gave me in that moment—one of such sorrow and pain—was much worse. That expression I’d caused so many times in my life, and every single time I saw it, it tore me apart.
Thankfully, that day as we stood alone on our ocean property was no exception. That look was precisely what I needed to melt my stone-like façade and make my callused heart crack wide open, allowing it to seep tears of pure blood. I broke into tears and sobs. Turning from him, I began running, but he was up with me within a split second. Next, his powerful arms, that only a short time earlier had knocked me to the ground, were wrapped tightly around me in a compassionate embrace.
I cried against his chest, “I can’t handle them, or me, or you anymore, Papa. To keep trying is too hard. I can’t keep trying. They don’t want me, and I can’t fight them all. I can’t fight the world and myself. Oh, Papa, I’m always doing things to hurt you. I hate myself! I can’t fight any longer! I hate myself and what I do.”
I pushed hard against his chest with my fists and tried to turn and run, but he only held me closer.
“Erik, shh,” he whispered. He held me tightly for a few moments before he spoke softly in my hair. “Oh, Erik—my poor son. I love you so much.”
His once angry fist that had sent my head to the ground turned into a gentle hand that cradled the back of my head and pressed me closer against his chest. We silently cried together, allowing the air around us a respite from our voices of anguish. The only sound to be heard was the ocean breeze as it sang its way past the trees and past our tears. It was as if it was trying to erase our voices of despair from its domain, while at the same time, soothing our mutually broken hearts.
I stood there in my father’s warm and forgiving embrace, afraid to hang on, and yet afraid to let go.
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