It must be a Saturday. Or a Sunday. But more likely a Saturday because otherwise there would be chapel.
There must be twenty or thirty of us, all boys, milling around in the commons—a large, wood-paneled room, with tables where some of the boys are sitting and reading, or maybe catching up with some homework, despite the general hubbub. Everyone wears the school uniform: grey shorts and grey knee-length socks, with black and white trim at the top; black lace-up shoes; grey woolen sweaters (no jackets today!) with the same black and white trim; grey shirts and black and white wool-knit ties.
A billiards table in the middle of the room.
Boys, ages probably seven to ten. I must be around eight. No more than eight. And for some reason I get into an argument with Fitch. Fitch is bigger than me, maybe a year or so older. He has freckles. Anyway, we get into this argument and for some reason the argument turns into a tussle. I lose my temper, and Fitch loses his. My face is burning hot, I start shouting, I start charging at Fitch, head down, fists flying. He wrestles me to the floor. We’re both kicking and flailing.
That’s when the other boys start to gather round; and that’s when the master who’s in charge of afternoon activities in the commons gets wind of something untoward going on.
“Boys! Boys!” shouts the master. He comes over to where Fitch and I are having our tussle. “That’s not how gentlemen settle a dispute.”
He calls for boxing gloves, makes us put them on. The other boys gather round, making a ring. There’s excitement in the air. I’m wishing now this would end. I’m wishing it had never started. But Fitch is still burning with rage as the master makes us touch gloves.
Fitch is faster than me. He’s taller than me and stronger than me. He smashes me once hard in the face, then again. I put up my fists to protect myself from his blows. They keep coming. My fists seem to offer little protection, though, and the blows keep coming. They come hard and fast. I flail about uselessly, trying vainly to hit back, but my fists don’t connect. His keep coming. My head is reeling, and now I can feel the blood pouring down from my nose. I taste the blood in my mouth.
I can’t cry. I know I can’t cry. I know if I cry it will only get worse. I know that tears only inflame the spectators. They’re yelling for blood, yelling for Fitch. They are yelling and jeering. The jeers are for me.
Then the master stops the fight. He declares Fitch the winner. “Let that be a lesson to you,” he tells me. “No fighting in the commons.”