Even though I am the older brother and she's the younger sister, Josie was always a head taller, and a good 40 pounds heavier than me when we were growing up. I hated that. I was the big brother. I was supposed to be dominant and protective. But while she was the biggest kid in school, I was nearly the smallest.
Josie's size and strength only made my lack of those two qualities more apparent. I was two years ahead of her in school, which meant that by the time she got to middle school I was already an 8th grader. Kids in middle school are not kind or accepting, and over the years they had continually made fun of my puny size and lack of athletic ability. But the teasing reached a whole new level when Josie entered middle school. Now they had a new angle for tormenting me.
They would taunt, "Hey Shrimp! Your sister still beat you up?" Or, they would chant again and again on the bus, "Paul, Paul, he's so small, but his sister's ten feet tall!" I guess that rhyme was hurtful to both of us, but I only felt my own humiliation. It still baffles me that I took no notice of my sister's feelings. The times when the jokes centered around her, like when they called her "Josie the Giant," it was such a relief not to be their target that I did nothing to stop them. Nothing seemed to bother Josie anyway. I never heard her complain or so much as saw her wince. I just assumed that her interior was a steely as her exterior.
That was until the day she snapped.
There was a new girl, Ginny, in Josie's class who wore really thick glasses, and without them, was nearly blind. She, to my relief, had temporarily become the butt of jokes and pranks. The latest chant that the kids had come up with was, "Ginny, Ginny, short and fat, squinty-eyed and blind as a bat!" In all fairness, Ginny wasn't fat at all, but the kids chanted that because it rhymed with bat.
It started as a normal lunch break, with Josie and Ginny standing together in line. Suddenly, Tommy Pederson ran up behind Ginny and snatched her glasses off her face. Everyone began the chant as they carelessly tossed her glasses down the line. I watched Josie's face as it was happening. There seemed to be an anger beyond normal 6th grade capacity brewing behind her eyes. Tommy Pederson had gotten the glasses back and was waving them around in the air. That's when it happened. With one hand Josie grabbed the glasses from him and with the other she punched him in the face. She hit him with such force that he fell over. Everyone froze in shock for a second until Tommy screamed "Get her!" There must have been 15 different students who rushed toward Josie. She held the glasses up as if to protect them and looked panicked until she made eye contact with me. "Josie! Here!" I screamed, gesturing that she throw me the glasses. She tossed the glasses to me, and miraculously, I caught them. She then faced the students who were rushing toward her. She skillfully defended herself by knocking them down one at a time as they approached her. She stopped fighting only when no one else dared move toward her.
I brought the glasses over and handed them to Tommy as he was picking himself up off the floor, humiliated. "Say you're sorry and give Ginny back her glasses," I told him. He said nothing. Josie slowly walked over and punched him in the stomach. He doubled over gasping for breath. "Say you're sorry and give her back her glasses," she repeated as she dragged him over to Ginny. "S-s-sorry," stammered Tommy as he handed her the glasses. Ginny took them, her eyes round with shock.
At that point, someone started clapping. It was quiet at first, then almost everyone joined in. Everyone except the kids that she had beat up. They sat in stunned silence, knowing that this day marked a change for us all.