When I was wee, around this time of year, I used to go to the YMCA with my dad a few times a week, frequently to play some basketball in their big gym.  There were two full-sized courts, divided by what I recall as a big vinyl curtain.  My dad was in an adult league, so he’d be playing a full-court game on one side, and the other side was mostly kids like me noodling around.

I was never a big proponent of playing with other kids when I was six.  I far, far preferred playing my own games.  On the basketball court, I usually acted out nightly highlight reels that unspooled spontaneously as I went along, portraying multiple players (not that I knew a ton of basketball players) from both teams, announcing under my breath the whole way.

So, picture small me, mumbling and dribbling in my school hoodie, with half the court to myself.  From the far side, a ball comes rolling my way.  Idly thinking I will be helpful to someone, I kick the ball back in the general direction whence it came and get back to the exciting conclusion of Hawks-Warriors or whatever.  Suddenly…

A yank!  A gasp!  I’m being garroted by my own sweatshirt!  Apparently some other shrimp of a kid’s been chasing after that ball for far too long to enjoy seeing me boot it all the way back where it came from, and he demands revenge.

We tussle and howl and bawl out of sheer upsetness.  The grown-ups hear what’s going on and pry us apart pretty quickly.  Now, I wasn’t a slugger by any means; my style was definitely more slappin’ and clawin’ (I was reproached about this by my dad on a couple of occasions, including this one, for not fighting more like a boy).  And I’ve never been really great at keeping my nails trimmed.  And I still remember very clearly seeing, as the other kid’s dad dragged him away, the livid streaks of blood on his neck and thinking, “I win.”

I guess that’s one way to do it.  Or there’s this:

A ball game was arranged early in winter on the plains by the river Hvita, and crowds of people came to it from all over the district…Egil [who is seven] was paired against a boy called Grim, the son of Hegg from Heggsstadir.  Grim was ten or eleven years old, and strong for his age.  When they started playing the game, Egil proved to be weaker than Grim, who showed off his strength as much as he could.  Egil lost his temper, wielded the bat and struck Grim, who seized him and dashed him to the ground roughly, warning him that he would suffer for it if he did not learn how to behave.  When Egil got back on his feet he left the game, and the boys jeered at him.

Egil went to see Thord Granason [a 15-year-old friend] and told him what had happened.  Thord said, “I’ll go with you and we’ll take our revenge.”

Thord handed Egil an axe he had been holding, a common type of weapon in those days.  They walked over to where the boys were playing their game.  Grim had caught the ball and was running with the other boys chasing him.  Egil ran up to Grim and drove the axe into his head, right through to the brain.  Then Egil and Thord walked away to their people.

This incident leads to a feud which kills seven men, including the aforementioned Hegg and his brother.  After all this mess, what’s the reaction from Egil’s folks?

Skallagrim [his dad] seemed indifferent to what had happened, but Bera [his mom] said he had the makings of a true Viking when he was old enough to be put in command of warships.





  1. mordicai said,

    December 2, 2010 at 5:38 am

    Well to be fair– when the dude in your clan is going kill-crazy, your options are “fight that guy!” or “send that kid a-viking,” where his murderous impulses will go to good use!

    • December 2, 2010 at 10:30 am

      That is fair. I suppose when the most lucrative career out there requires “Hack” and “Slash” right at the top of the resume, parents would look at this sort of thing like an aced SAT…

  2. Meggy said,

    December 2, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    I like the idea of wee you running around mumbling on a basketball court. And then scratching the hell out of some other wee person. Aces.

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