Marty Allenburd was a mean kid. He was a biter. He was also bigger and tougher than me. Every time my family drove for a weekend trip to Uncle Chalmer’s, Marty would always be there. Did he despise me that much, or would he bite me just to get attention? From out of nowhere, Marty would always seize the opportunity to clamp his choppers on my arm or hand.
It was always such a long drive to Uncle Chalmer’s house. Their dog was mean, too. Little Pepper was a small dog, but he would always growl and must have learned how to bite people from Marty. Uncle Chalmer’s house was definitely not a safe haven for a four-year-old like myself.
The raggedy old house was built with thin wooden planks that had become warped from the treacherous cold winters and scalding summers of southern Indiana. Uncle Chalmer greeted mom and dad at the back door and led them to the pail of water on the kitchen table. Every morning, Uncle Chalmer would crank a long chain dangling with a bucket deep into the outdoor cistern, fill the pail with delicious water created from the underground caverns, and heave it to the surface. Everyone shared a gulp with a community aluminum ladle that floated permanently in the pail. I never remembered water ever tasting so good.
Mom said if Marty ever bit me again I must return the bite. Never start a fight, she always said, but if anyone ever hurts me I must knock the crap out of them.
Today I was not going to wait until Marty pretended I was lunch. Although Marty and I were playing peacefully in the back room, I never forgot the imprints of his jaws on my wrist. Now was my chance, I thought, as the adults were sipping coffee in the kitchen. I would simply do the same thing Marty did to me week after week. It was time for Marty to experience pain. Pepper must not have noticed my evil intent, for he wagged grumpily across the room.
I grabbed Marty’s hand and sunk my teeth deeply into his skin. The maneuver must have surprised him, because he didn’t start screaming until seven seconds later. In slow motion, Marty’s eyes opened wide in shock as he ran to the kitchen. I was certain everyone doubted Marty’s story. After all, Marty was the biter, not me.
The adults rushed to the back room. My face grew innocent while pointing at Pepper. Marty’s mom examined the half-moon shaped bite and said it didn’t look like a dog bite.
Then I caught the eye of mom. Other than her expressionless face, I swore I detected a wink of approval. Marty never bit anyone again.