Striking Out

“Well, well, well.” said Biff, smirking. The small group of his admirers looked to see what he was talking about and their eyes landed on Peter Clemson. Peter was what the jocks at school called a geek. He hair was long, greasy and unkempt, his pimpled skin had a greasy sheen to it. He wore rumpled clothing that was so mismatched it was almost like he planned it that way. In his breast pocket was the iconic pocket protector filled with pens and mechanical pencils. He peered through his horn rimmed glasses at the collection of jocks and then looked away, back to watching where he was going. Sadly, he walked face first into an open locker door. Biff and his entourage descended on Peter like a plague of locusts –or maybe just the plague.

Peter was, as usual, carrying a load of books in his arms, most with pages of lined school paper poking from between the pages to mark his place in the books. Biff slammed a hand down on the pile of books, driving them from the skinny geek’s hands. They hit the floor, scattering papers. “Oops! Looks like the geek had himself an accident.” chortled Biff to his audience. They all crowded around the football player and laughed at Peter’s expense.

“That’s wasn’t very polite, you know.” said Peter, leaning down to retrieve his books. Biff took advantage of Peter’s position to swat him on the back of his head. Peter snapped upright.

“Jeez, geek-boy, you might want to change the oil in your hair. I think you gone over the ten thousand mile mark.” Biff said, sneering. Peter looked at him and didn’t say anything. “Hey, butt snake. I’m talkin’ to you.”  Peter leaned back down and started to collect his books up. “What’s this?” said Biff. “You too good to talk to me, is that it?”

“No matter what I say you’ll make some stupid comment about it.”  replied Peter. “What’s the point?”

“Stupid? Did you just call me stupid you bicycle seat sniffing pervert?” shouted Biff. The beefy jock cocked back his arm and threw a stunning punch just as Peter began to lean down to continue picking up his books. Biff’s clenched fist collided with Peter’s skull hard enough to cause Peter to step backwards two steps. On impact, a loud cracking noise echoed in the school hallway.

Biff stood still, a look of absolute shock on his face, turned white as the blood drained from it. Then he began to shake his hand and make a mewling keening noise while his eyes began to water. Peter stood looking at Biff, none the worse for wear. He felt a little soreness atop his head, but it really wasn’t bad. Biff sank to his knees, holding his hand and still making whining noises. “Oh God,” said Biff. “I think I broke it. I think my hand is broken. Oh man, it hurts. It hurts so bad.”

Books and papers in hand, Peter moved on to class and the small clique of Biff admirer’s guided him to the school nurse’s office. Biff’s football season was over, later at the hospital the x-rays showed that Biff had broken no less than six bones in his hand. Biff’s popularity suffered with his medical removal from the team, and siffered even more when their team was trounced royally in the rest of the season’s games.

Biff had learned the hard way that the punches we all see so consistently in movies and television aren’t real. Only those who have spent years at painful practice and conditioning can pull it off.

The human hand is a wondrous machine. The opposable  thumb, the multiple joints, crosshatch of muscles and tendons are a miracle of engineering. Even the fingerprints which so individually identify us have purpose, adding to the ability to grip. The strength of the hand is also amazing. But the hand had a number of fragilities and one of them is the way that the muscles and tendons can conspire with blunt force trauma to bring catastrophic consequences. People who use their hands to perform labor condition their hands over time. The bones increase in mass and while becoming tougher, they also become more tolerant of impact. Workers who continually use their hands to hammer, lift and grip will produce hands almost five times stronger than the average person. Martial artists who condition their hands by punching sand tables for countless years of conditioning can produce hands ten times as strong.  Those with strong hands constitute about one in fifty people, the other forty-nine had better think twice about throwing punches. As a young man I was told of an expression; one of the truisms we learn on the path of life. It said: God created man big and small, hard and soft. Realizing his mistake, he then created baseball bats and two-by-fours.