Fight or Flight

When I was ten we had moved to a new city. I was inexplicably popular, and briefly cute,  and made friends with H. She was everything I wanted to be and knew I never would be. She was short and tiny and feminine with long dirty blonde hair that was straight and shiny and swung like a rope when she ran.


She was basically Rapunzel.


Whereas I was already taller than both my parents and have thick, dark hair that never, never, never does what I want it to. I was tomboyish and awkward and painfully thin.


This is not my hair, but may as well be.


She was an amazing artist. Everyone loved her. I was instantly drawn in. I still don’t know what she saw in me. Up till that point I was kind of a silent shadow. Never participating in class. Just reading in the back; I barely spoke to anyone. I looked through everyone and they looked through me.


H only had one sibling and her family had money. Looking back, they were probably only middle class, but comparatively, she was rich. Her family bought her junk food, she had a phone and TV in her bedroom. They went on actual vacations, like people in movies.


She was my best friend for most of that year and we spent a lot of time together. She was a very bad influence on me. My parents hated her. And no wonder.


I had gone from a tomboyish, friendless bookworm to a popular “bad” girl. Boys came over to hang out with me. Black boys, to my parent’s discomfort. I even stole a rose from our rich neighbor’s garden under H’s influence. You would have thought I had committed some kind of blood worship, ritual sacrifice when my parents found out about that one.


I literally realized just now that this experience may be why I hate roses. Plus, I think they try too hard. They are all like, “look at me, I’m gorgeous and smell like an expensive call girl.”

Her dad would pick us up from school and take us to his store. He owned a reptile and amphibian store. I think this was the reason why we became such good friends. That shop was a great place to spend a few formative years.


He’d let us feed the snakes. Some of them ate little pink newborn mice. Some would eat the adorable white mice that we’d play with before using them as food. Some of them ate crickets or silkworm larvae that we’d pull from a nightmarish wriggling mass in the back.

Silkworm larvae are not just for snakes, I hear they taste good.

And then we’d watch them eat. It was fascinating.


That snake is so happy and smiley.

He had an albino python. And the most fucking adorable caiman ever! There were all sorts of giant snakes and frogs that we weren’t allowed to touch. I can still smell that snake smell and hear the hum of lights in the aquariums.



It’s hugging him while he reads.

Caiman are the puppies of the Alligatoridae family.


One day, I went over to visit her. She had an excited look on her face and a gleam in her eyes. It was a sure sign that she was planning something that would get us into trouble.


She told me that her father had gotten some new pets that he was going to sell. He was keeping them in the backyard. Did I want to go see them?


Being friends with someone more popular than you is kind of like performing improv. To move the plot ahead, you kind of had to say ‘yes’ to everything. So I did.


The backyard at her house was tiny. Nobody ever went out there. It was ‘L’ shaped and about 600 square feet.


I opened her back door and walked out, expecting to see some cages set up. I mean, it’s not like he would keep snakes or alligators just out in the open, right?


But there were no cages. And then I realized she had closed the door behind me without following me out. I turned and looked in the window at her. “H? Aren’t you coming out?” I called in through the closed door.




I looked around. I heard running coming from around the corner. I didn’t have time to try to get away. To be honest, my brain couldn’t even register what I was seeing.


It was three giant birds. They were taller than I was. They looked kind of like ostriches, but they weren’t ostriches. I didn’t know what the hell they were. And I didn’t care.


When you are unexpectedly attacked by giant birds, you aren’t worried about semantics. That first bird came at me and I panicked. I was merely trying to keep it from pecking out my eyes, but I accidentally slapped it.


Far from deterring it, my aggression only seemed to incite it more. Fortunately, H had seen me hit her father’s birds and opened the door and let me in.

I don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t. I suspect I would have killed all three of those emus. Even back then, I was a good fighter.

Emus, much like horses and parrots, are assholes.



22 thoughts on “Fight or Flight

    • I have no idea. I guess she thought I would panic and it would be funny. We stopped being friends pretty soon after that and I moved away less than a year later to once more dissolve into my shadow existence.

      • Yea I would think doing something like that would put a damper on a friendship.

        Well if the Emu Armageddon ever comes, I know who I will want in my corner!!


      • Any Armageddon that involves physical violence, really. In retrospect it would have been way cooler to have knocked the emu out with a punch, but I was 10.

  1. “Being friends with someone more popular than you is kind of like performing improv. To move the plot ahead, you kind of had to say ‘yes’ to everything.”

    Wow. What a profound observation!

    Great post, even if I had to read it while keeping both eyes on the text and none of the pictures of wildlife being wildlife.

    • Thanks! And that observation is also why I stopped caring about having popular friends. I don’t always want to say yes. And I didn’t like their attempts at blackmailing me into it.

  2. Uh what a little biatch, that’s evil. And emus are also evil. I actually just drew one last night, on a note card. I don’t feel the need to explain that sentence.

    I also had popular friends every so often when I was younger. They always need a jester.

  3. Great story! Was that the end of your friendship with H? In 8th grade I had a similar experience but it was two popular girls that had taken a liking to me. They were all about dares. They dared me to do all this bad/mean stuff and like an idiot I obliged. I finally said no when they wanted me to steal. Luckily, I didn’t feel I needed them after all.

    • Yeah, we pretty much stopped being friends after that one. Middle school girls are the meanest creatures on the entire planet. And probably intergalactically as well.

  4. I’ve never found Emu’s to be this aggressive, but now I’ve learned something and I’m psyched about it. Sorry that H person was horrible. I like to imagine I’m popular without being a popular girl. It’s probably not true, but I still think it.

    • Thank you! Most of my stories are terrible stories, I just tell them in a way that sounds funny. I mean, if you really look at what they’re about: health problems, hospitalization, bullying, serious injuries, poverty.

      • I couldn’t agree more. You can’t let your shitty past affect your world view. It would be too crippling to go on. At least for me. So I laugh, get over it, and move on.

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