No introduction necessary. I was finishing up September's column as of the morning of 9/11.

I elected to rewrite it.

A last, last minute note to our readers. Needless to say, the column that was going to appear this month is gone. Trashed. Kaput. I don't even remember what it was.

Instead, I offer the following little fable . . .

The Biggest Kid on the Block


Once upon a time, there was a kid who was the biggest kid on the block. It hadn't always been that way, of course - the Kid used to be just one of the many littler kids who lived there in days gone by, always looking over their shoulder in case one of the meaner big kids happened to be passing by.

There were lots of big kids in those days, and some of them were downright nasty. Our Kid and many other little kids were often in terror for their lives.

Fortunately, the biggest kid on the block at the time was a nice chap - we'll call him "Winston". Winston was a good hearted kid, had a rather far sighted sense of fair play, and didn't like to see other big kids bullying the little ones. Winston protected our Kid, and many others.

The only problem was that Winston had an enormous appetite - he was always hungry, and the littler kids would have to give him their lunch money every day so he could keep his strength up and fight the other, meaner big kids.

One day, our Kid, not so big yet but with big ideas, decided he wanted to keep his lunch money, and he and Winston got into a fight. To everyone's surprise, our Kid won. Winston was still the biggest kid on the block, but our Kid had shown that he could take care of himself pretty good.

Fortunately, our Kid and Winston soon made up, and became the best of friends, forming an alliance that made all the meaner big kids a little more hesitant to start any trouble.

Of course, bullies will be bullies, and every once in a while all the mean kids would get together and start a big fight. They would start by picking on the littler kids, and sooner or later Winston and our Kid would show up, knowing that, as the good big kids (for our own Kid was growing rapidly), it was their responsibility to protect the littler ones.

Now, our Kid had a little problem. He loved to sleep. He would go out with Winston and take care of the mean kids, only to trot home happy, flop on his bed, and sink into a content and comfortable sleep. He was often hard to wake on such occasions.

Winston at such times just shook his head. He knew the mean kids would never give up as long as there were littler kids to pick on, but the Kid had always been there when he needed him (and was getting pretty big himself, as I've said), and so Winston decided that if the Kid needed to sleep once in awhile, so be it. Winston would continue patrolling the block himself, still the biggest kid on the block, of course, and keep a solitary eye out for signs of trouble.

One day, trouble came.

A bunch of the biggest mean kids on the block got together, and started beating up every little kid they could find. By the time Winston realized what was happening, it was almost too late, and he found himself alone, surrounded by every bully in the world. Frantically he called out to our Kid - who unfortunately was in bed, sound asleep.

Alone and severely outnumbered, Winston fought bravely, keeping the bullies just at bay, but he knew he couldn't hold out by himself. Then, as luck would have it, one of the bullies tiptoed over to our Kid's house, and saw him sleeping.

"He's asleep," the bully thought. "Now's my chance!" And with that the bully attacked our Kid.

This was, of course, a fatal mistake, for all he had done was to wake our Kid up. As soon as he was alert enough to hear Winston yelling for help, he jumped right out of bed and flew out of doors and down the street to where Winston was, and together they pulverized the mean kids as mean kids had never been pulverized before.

And then, in the heat of victory, they looked at each other, and were amazed.

For Winston seemed a little smaller than before, while our Kid had grown and grown, and it was clear that our Kid was now the Biggest Kid on the block!

Well, our Kid and Winston remained friends, though our Kid made Winston stop taking lunch money from others. They had a new problem now. One of the mean kids (we'll call him "Nikita") had had a falling out with the other bullies, and had come over to help our Kid and Winston win the fight. As it would turn out, Nikita wasn't such a bad sort, really - he'd just been reading the wrong books.

At this time, though, he was pretty big, and had different ideas about how things should go on the block. He didn't trust Winston or our Kid, and they certainly didn't trust him. Funnily enough, though, there never was a fight. Mostly our Kid and Nikita would yell things at each other, or just stand and stare, waiting for the other one to blink. For Nikita was nearly as big as our Kid.

Anyway, as the Biggest Kid on the block, our Kid was now very busy. Every time someone tried to beat someone else up our Kid was there, breaking it up. Every time flood or famine occurred, our Kid was there, helping. It got to the point where our Kid was everywhere, and some of the other kids started complaining. To make matters worse, our Kid sometimes got into fights he shouldn't have, and some kids started complaining even more, forgetting all the times he'd helped them.

But kids will be kids, and you can't blame our Kid for not being perfect. He was always trying to help, and hadn't learned yet that sometimes there are problems that don't have a Biggest Kid on the Block solution.

As time went by, of course, our Kid learned all that, and was more careful about what he got himself into. And then, one day, Nikita got very sick, and when it was over he was no longer nearly as big as he'd been.

And now there was no longer anyone on the block remotely as big as our Kid.

And so ten years went by, and - yep, you guessed it - our Kid went back to sleep.

And a very mean kid, who had been bullying other kids when no one was watching, and who had been waiting for such an opportunity, launched an attack on our Kid.

This very mean kid had obviously not been reading his history books. He only managed to wake our Kid up, and now our Kid was angry. Very angry. Foolish mean kid.

You can guess what happened next . . .

A note to mean kids everywhere: it is never, ever, ever a good idea to wake a Sleeping Giant.

In honor of the many victims, their families, and freedom lovers everywhere.

Joe Nolte

September, 2001

(and yes - there will be a Halloween column! See you then . . .)