In the small town where I grew up there was a group of boys that caused no little bit of trouble for our neighborhood. There were three of them–Tony Brown, Tony Murphy, and Tony Lewis. Collectively, we always referred to them as the “Three Tonys.”
The Three Tonys were all the same age–my age–and went to the same school–my school. Though of different families, and spread across the neighborhood, they all arrived in town around the same time.
It was the summer of ’89 and I was in the first grade. My parents had decided to not send me to kindergarten, so I was having enough trouble adjusting to school when the Tonys started joining the class. This was weeks after the start of the school year.
Tony Brown was first to come to our school, and he started out like a normal, quiet child. He sat in the back of the room and seldom talked to the other students or the teacher unless called on. But a few weeks later, Tony Murphy arrived and it all changed. Those two became a dynamic duo of trouble. After winter break, Tony Lewis joined their miniature gang, and thus began their long reign of terror.
Their attacks started out innocent enough. In the first grade, they pulled my hair. In the second and third they moved on to verbal abuse. In the fourth grade, as I was learning how to outwit them, they began using ranged attacks–spitballs and other paper-based projectiles. It was around this time that my friends, or rather anyone else around the Tonys, quickly became targets of their impish provocations.
While a single Tony, encountered alone, was relatively tame, they seemed to grow in courage when in the presence of their comrades. Of course, nothing came of my complaints. The grown-ups simply said “boys will be boys” and that the Tonys “were just kids.” I thought different.
One day, I was talking to our school librarian–an old lady named Mrs. Cooper, who had grey grandma curls and large pink glasses–when she mentioned a specific book to me. She told me it was an old book which described how to deal with unnatural problems. I took the large, leather-bound tome from her and fled home, pouring over its mystical pages all night.
The next day when the Tonys accosted me in the playground–as I was parking my bicycle in the rack–I was ready for them.
It was a late autumn day. The trees had already dropped most of their leaves. The air was cold. It bit at my nose and became more vicious when the Tonys approached. The pointed at me, laughing and joking among themselves in an unintelligible tongue. They eyed me like a pack of wolves watching a wounded deer, but I was through being their prey.
I pulled out a piece of folded paper, on which I had rewritten the words a dozen times, to make sure they were right. I glared at the three boys–filling my eyes with fire and defiance–and recited the spell. My long brown hair danced in the air as the power of the words resounded like silent thunder.
Then the Tonys all vanished into a cloud of redish-black smoke, filling the air with the smell of sulfur and surprise.
I still don’t know why no one ever told me kids named Tony are all little demons.