“My dad hates your dad's guts. He told me he's gonna bash his head in.”
“What? Why? Our dads don't even know each other.”
My friend was the kind of kid that parents don't let their kids play with. The kind of kid who eats doggy biscuits to make his wiener dogs jealous, then laughs when the beasts take a bite out of your little sister. The kind of kid who yells the n word at the apartments down the hill just to see if anything happens. He was Sid from Toy Story except with dirty magazines and access to cigarettes. In other words, he was the kind of kid that you believe when he says his dad is going to bash your dad's head in.
Terrified, I told my dad about the threat. I had to warn him.
My dad's response shocked me. He said he was going to confront our angry neighbor. I didn't understand why my dad would walk toward conflict.
I was terrified when he crossed the street. My dad wasn't a fighter and I doubted he could defend himself.
Shaking behind the curtains in our living room I watched him walk up the driveway and ring the door bell. I prayed that nobody was home. To my horror the door opened.
I waited for the fight to start. I imagined what a bashed in head looked like and practiced the story I would tell the 911 operator.
Words were being exchanged, but I couldn't hear anything. Then their hands made contact and the confrontation ended… in a handshake.
Dad came home and told me everything was fine and I had nothing to worry about. He was never threatened again.
Now I am an adult with boys of my own and I am still impressed by my dad's courage. Maybe it was a different time, a more civilized era when disagreements could be settled with good will and a handshake. A time before a sign in your front yard could justify violence, before bumper stickers signaled allegiance to warring tribes. A time before terrorism, protests, and screens filled with hatred. A time of boring presidents and dull news at 9. But what if it is the same? What if the bullies can still be silenced with old-fashioned neighborly kindness? What if all it takes to disarm the tension is the courage to cross the street? Perhaps the conflict can still end in a handshake. I may never know because I am still just a child hiding behind the curtains watching the struggle from a distance, hoping my people don't get their heads bashed in.
Thanks for reading. For my own safety, I avoid writing about religion and politics every week. You should follow me so you don’t miss my next story. Stay creative.