I'm not good at fighting. Just ask The Primordial Slacker. She was going to give me lessons on how to fight but we disagreed on the price and instead of fighting her over it I waited until she went to the fridge to get a bottle of beer and I crept away.
When I was a kid my brother and I fought, all the time. Like brothers do. Nyah-nyahing, if you were. We could fight over anything and everything, and we did. We railed, we screamed, we picked and punched and did everything that brothers who are diametrically unalike will do.
Well, my mother finally got tired of it one day. Now, before we get too much further, let me tell you about my mom.
My mom is pure Old South Woman. She's about five foot four, goes to the hairdresser regularly, makes most of her own clothes, and is as genteel and elegant a person as you could ever want to meet. She cooks, she cleans, and she does windows. She keeps her house neat as a pin and her pins as neat as...er...something very neat indeed. She rarely raises her voice even when arguing, and I can't remember a time when I EVER saw her and my father argue. As far as I know, like sex, it simply never happened between them. Hearing her curse is as rare as hearing the Pope utter an explicative, and when you do manage to wring a foul word out of her mouth you know you've done something truly, exquisitely horrible. She didn't even curse the night she found my brother, myself, and three of our high-school friends stone cold drunk in the den on drug-store whiskey.
So there my brother and I were, ages 6 and 8 or so, fighting. Probably spent all of that long summer day at it, slowly driving my genteel, quiet, Old Southern mother right up an oak tree. Mad as a wet hen? Far worse. We dickered and snarked and fought and finally she had enough. That's the day I saw my mother genuinely, supremely furious. She dragged both of us out to the driveway and, spit flying from her mouth, shouted "You want to fight? Well then, fight damnit!"
She crossed her arms and waited.
My brother and I deflated like a pair of burst balloons, unsure of what to do. Fight? She WANTED us to fight? Wanted us to hit each other? I couldn't hit him, he's my brother, I'm much bigger than him and I'd never heard the end of the time as a toddler I tried to pull him head-first through the bars of his crib, what would THIS produce? I'd go to my grave being reminded that I struck my defenseless brother in anger that summer day.
So we stood there, sheepish expressions on our faces until Mom finally screamed at us to get back inside and go to our rooms.
I don't know that I've ever been so relieved to be punished in my life.