Friday, June 22, 2012

Occam's Mighty Razor


There’s an axiom that clings to the underside of the general population, one meant to give hope to the hopeless, yet one whose hope is false and laden with complexity. It goes “God made a big man, and God made a little man, but Smith and Wesson made an equalizer.” While many would quibble with the existence of a supreme being, none can argue the fact that a bullet is not hindered by the size of its target. Still, as with many an adage , context is everything.

David Occam was neither big or small. He was about average in stature, but had spent much of his childhood tuning his body, making it far more adept than it would seem by appearance alone. He was no body builder, nor was he a sportsman. He was by no means a dummy either. David was smart enough alright, smart enough to ace a few tests regardless of their subject matter; enough that he was able to pass his classes and advance his grade in spite of the fact that he’d spent most of his adolescence in the pursuit of a criminal resume.

What David Occam was, in the main, was a bully. He was plenty tough enough to succeed at his craft, forcing those he wished to commit illegal acts toward his financial benefit. He’d beaten down more than one of the nastiest hoodlums roaming the halls of Roosevelt High, which had given him the type of reputation only a fool would ignore. But it wasn’t even his pugilistic prowess that made anyone who’d known his name to fear him, but the fact that he’d always carried with him a straight razor, and would often pull it from his pocket to leave his mark of those that might question their fealty to his wishes.

In fact over time few paid attention to David at all. “Here comes Occam’s Razor” people would say while retreating from his stride and warning those still in his path. It was the razor they’d learned to fear mostly, the whip of its opening, the shimmer of its blade, the whiz in it’s movement and the tiny sliver of pain it caused when it set upon its victim the tiny, almost imperceptible illustration that announced “Occam’s been here.”

For a year I’d avoided him and his brooding rage. I’d no reputation and had given no impression one way or another as to my abilities on the battle field. I was a transfer student, large, described by peers as “scary lookin” and obviously wholly disinterested in the workings of the soap opera called inner city education. I imagine he didn’t fear me particularly, but not even a black bear will screw with a hornet’s nest if he thinks it might be alive and ticking. In that, I was grateful; I didn’t want to get involved.

But then he made an error. I could easily have turned my head through my entire tenure had he only chosen those that might defend themselves as his marks. It’s not that I excuse behavior like his, but only that I was not the school’s policeman, it was not my job, I had more than enough drama to deal with, within my own three cubic feet of space.

We’d only called him Larry, the next canvas for the razor’s stroke. I doubt even he knew his last name. He was what we called in the day, mentally retarded; a six year old in a twenty year old body. I didn’t then nor do I now know the name or names of his true maladies, and truth be told, I don’t care. All I do know is that he was harmless, helpless, and happy as a freshwater clam in a mudpuddle.

If there was ever a person I related to in high School, it was Larry. He was alone, and just fine with that. He made his own excitement. Larry saw circus animals in the sky, and knew all the six languages of the squirrels. He could climb a tree branch and hang there, marveling in the way the world looked upside down, and in fact then question as to whether what he was seeing was actually right side up. Larry spent many an hour pushing kids on a concrete playground merry go round, not to garner thanks, or even to share in their fun, but because it seemed the right thing to do and it always made him laugh; and laughing was Larry’s favorite pastime.

Larry had to pee one day, and he knew he should run home, or so I learned from his mother at a later date, but he had to pee real bad and he knew he couldn’t make it all the way home without going in his pants and he remembered that it was bad to wet one’s pants because then it would require a bath, and baths were most unpleasant. So he found a great big ash near the manual carousel where he’d been working up a sweat making a dozen children dizzy for laughs, and he ducked behind it, pulled down his pants and peed.

It wasn’t long before Larry wasn’t allowed to come to the park anymore. Some child had been horrified and their parents were outraged and the local authorities were burdened and the community tittered. But in the interim some mean things were said about Larry, that were not only unnecessary, but untrue; and some people thought it their business to set things right.

Why I’d been notified of the impending confrontation is still a mystery to me. Perhaps someone had once seen me speaking to the man child. I did fairly regularly have words with the kid, though they were as many made up words as real ones as Larry understood that language as well as any other. But for whatever reason I was called and told of a certain bully making his way to Linden Hills park; one who’d intended to “make a mark on a stupid perv.”

I didn’t confront him really. By his demeanor I have to think he assumed I’d come to watch and take pleasure in his attack, as he ignored me for the most part, to his folly in the end. I wish I hadn’t had to wait until the razor had shown its twinkle before I stepped in, but I’m a believer in the justice system, even if it is vigilante justice, so I needed proof even though he deserved payment for so many victims.

One can buy pretty much anything one wants given enough cash and connections. Guns are the perfect example, but I’d never wanted a gun in my teen years. They were far too sexy, far too easily mistaken for a solvent, when truly they were a glue unto themselves. Yet, I was enamored by one weapon, one that would match my eccentricity, a defensive yin to my protective yang. And truly there was no better weapon that I might have used than my taser against he and his razor, as even then I was fond of Frost and Poe, and thought the truly poetic justice of the encounter too fun to pass up.

I hit him square in the chest with both probes, and the 50,000 volts brought him off his feet and onto his back within a split second. I yelled at Larry to run as I pulled the pins from their acquired skin mattress, screaming at him in a howl I doubt he’d ever heard before, and would never want to hear again. He took off for home like a rabbit on the mating trail, and once I thought he was safely out of range I turned back to the object of my reluctant attentions.

Once I’d seen Occam had recaptured his senses, I dropped one knee into his solar plexus. I wanted to extend his knowledge of helplessness while making myself a less likely target of instant revenge. And then as he finally began to sputter his disapproval as to his treatment, I slipped my fingers around his Adam’s apple and applied a light pressure.

I’d always seen my hands as a cruel celestial prank. A really large man with short skinny fingers looks odd indeed. More than one joke had been told concerning the size of my digits as a marker for the size and shape of my jewelry. Yet here I found them perfectly suitable and almost an inadvertent blessing. They slipped right into the cavity on either side of Occam’s windpipe, without crushing it before I was able to make my speech.

I kept it short. My purpose was not to force David to reconsider his entire lifestyle, nor to set up a future confrontation between us. I had no desire to face off with the king of the hill in order to steal his throne. Honestly, I wanted to vanish at that moment, pretend that previous two minutes had never happened, disavow myself of Larry, the park, the neighborhood, the city and even my life if that would stop the pounding in my head. But I didn’t take those options seriously; I did what I had to do, and explained to razor boy that if he were to ever come near my now invisible friend again within either of our lifetimes, I would tear out what I held in my skinny fingers and feed it to the crows.

Only a few people had witnessed the event, and I made it clear by my snarl I wasn’t looking to make friends or develop hangers on. For the rest of my time at the school, Occam was not to be seen. Perhaps he lay low until I was no longer a threat, maybe he spent the time plying his trade at another location. I did overhear once a group of people muttering about my having picked up a nickname; the “bully buster”. Though I have to admit to a grin upon first hearing, I didn’t encourage its use. It had a certain implication; that I would do it again. I wouldn’t, unless the nearly exact same circumstances slapped me in the face, and the odds against that were astronomical.

I do believe in “an eye for an eye”, but not for revenge, or pleasure or anything of the sort. But only to make clear to an eyeball collector that there may be a price to pay for the pounds of flesh they choose to steal, and that they may want to reconsider their choice of hobby. Still, I’ve spent plenty of hours between now and then looking over my shoulder, wasting what little time I have left to wonder when the razor, or another for all it matters, will dart from the darkness and demand its due.

Even the angels pay a price.

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