When I was 10 years old, I bit a man. I might have been 11 or 12, but I still felt 10. Sometimes I wonder if I ever grew up at all.
He was one my my parents’ friends. He was staying with us, and while he stayed with us, there seemed to be a lot of small parties – dinner parties, picnics with booze on the lawn near the rabbit cage. I didn’t like him much for some reason. At the time I thought it was because whenever he cooked dinner it was something like fresh picked wild mussels. They were a huge treat for my parents and I remember it was fun picking them, but they tasted creepy as shit when I was a kid. Let’s call him Jacob, although it was another biblical name. He was a small man, very intense. His wife had recently died and he was upset so we had to be nice to him. Kids don’t get that – but we tried.
It wasn’t the first time I bit a man. I once bit my primary school teacher on the leg. He was talking to my mother because I’d jumped out of the window during class and I didn’t want him to get me into trouble. I didn’t draw blood, though. I also once bit an editor on the arm during a party. I confess I don’t remember that very well, but we laughed about it the next day while cutting. It wasn’t an aggressive thing at the time I’m sure, or he would have been angry with me. I know I wasn’t angry with him. Yeah, embarrassing. I also bit my friend Sam once (she’s female though) and this is sorta why I should never drink tequila, or maybe at all.
Anyhow, back to Jacob. He liked to sleep late and didn’t like that my dogs kept him up. I had a dog and her name was Kumptie, which was a name that really embarrassed my father, cause it sounded EXACTLY like “Cuntie”, and I used to call her a lot, in parks. She had puppies. And they made a lot of noise. She wasn’t a great mother really – she sorta ignored them. I filled in where I could.
The day I bit Jacob, he and my parents were having a picnic or something in the garden. My puppies were playing nearby and he started playing with them. I kept a protective eye on this. I didn’t trust him.
Then one of them gave him a playful bite.
And he SLAPPED the puppy, so hard it squawked. I went for him but my parents stopped me. Kumptie, nearby, went for him too.
“They’ll never learn if you don’t!” He protested as I was dragged off him, together with the puppy’s birth mother.
Shortly afterwards and next thing I remember, I found Kumptie chained up in the back yard, where we hung our laundry. Who had done this? I needed to know. Before I even unchained her. I demanded to know. Turns out it was Jacob. I found him outside by the Braai, and I ran up to him and bit him as hard as I could. If she couldn’t defend her pups, I would do it for her.
This time, I drew blood. I remember the feeling of shame and power mixed up there. I wasn’t the kind of kid who hurt or bullied others, and I’m still not. I get angry but I don’t hit. But this huge adult who had hurt my puppy and abused my dog screamed and ran away and that was amazing.
Oddly, my parents weren’t nearly as pissed at me as I assumed they’d be. They did send me to my room while they took him to the hospital. They did tell me that human teeth are more toxic than animals’ teeth, and that Jacob had to get a Tetnes shot. And Jacob went away after that. I was also told not to bite anyone again. I said it would depend what they did to my puppies.
The next time I saw Jacob, he was at a hippie-style retreat for drug addicts and people who’d generally wigged out… you know, one of those late-80s South African ones where you pick strawberries, and milk cows… and supervise visiting children. My school class was there, for a farming educational. I remember that I was very sick with flu (and my parents didn’t believe in anti-biotics) and in my fever, as I lay dying on my roll-up mattress in the heat of summer, he appeared to me and I just remember screaming “Get away from me”. And passing out.
He later married a reborn Christian woman who greeted us at the airport a few years later saying “Hi, I’m Veronica*. Have you found Jesus yet?” And I’m sure she looked right at me. I wonder if she knew. And I’m still wondering what story he told her.
I’m always amazed when people accuse me of being frightening, when I count what I’ve told you as pretty much the sum total of my violent behavior in life. Maybe they are frightened of my words. Maybe they just think someone will believe their story. Maybe they are friends of Jacob. But even in my most paranoid moments, even I doubt there’s an entire network of puppy beaters out there, conspiring to ruin my life.
If a puppy slaps another puppy that’s okay.