Robert Berry

I am Robert's utter lack of fighting skills

I've been a smartass since day one. Teachers always loved me because I was a pretty good ass-kisser and was smarter than most of the other crayon-biters in my class, but that didn't stop me from cracking stupid jokes like Mork From Ork on crack.

I was a skinny little kid. Remember that guy "Mac" in those old Charles Atlas comics? He could have kicked my ass. Fighting was never my forte', so by being a wise guy, I was always able to save my hide when things got tough. Usually the bullies or tough kids would leave me alone, because I made them laugh. I'm not sure why that works exactly, but it's the same formula that kept Gilligan relatively safe all those years. Call him a pussy all you want, they didn't call that place "Skipper's Island", did they?

I've been in a handful of fights, and I'm proud to say that I've lost every single one of them.

The first one I can remember was with a girl. Her name was Terry and we were in the 4th grade. She was in a circle of about 3 girls that I would have relationships with. Of course these relationships usually consisted of one of us asking the other, "Would you go with me?", and breaking up a week later without much more than the faint taste of Kissing Stick Lip Gloss to remember.

This particular summer, Terry asked me to go with her, and I said "No" (I wass more focused on the lovely Rene Lazer at the time...yes, her last name was really "Lazer"). She proceeded to fight me in a 15 minute bout that consisted of me using defensive blocks to ward off her punches. She didn't really connect on any of them, but since I didn't land a blow, and my wrists were swollen blue from blocking her girl punches, she was clearly the victor to all who watched.

Not a good way to start out my reputation as a schoolyard gladiator.

In 5th and 6th grade, I was largely tormented by girls as well in the same circumstances. I wouldn't be their boyfriend, so they'd kick my ass.

This sort of hung with me even until 8th grade. Desperate to shake my image as a whipping boy for The Judy Blume Fan Club, I had to change my ways. We had this fat kid in our class that we'll call Danny Cundilini. Danny Cundilini was the absolute bottom of the food chain in school. Not only was he fat and stupid looking, but he was dumber than a bag of shit. It was like Baby Huey was transformed into a human.  He always had this big construction mixer parked outside of his house, and I swear to god I would see him chewing pieces of tar that he picked off it. Everyone beat this guy up.

One day in art class, the teacher was gone for a while so I started making fat jokes about Danny. They were pretty good as 8th grade jokes go, and soon the whole class was yukking it up. Remember that scene in The Nutty Professor where Eddie Murphy gets ridiculed by the comedian in the club? That's pretty close to what I was doing here.

It was cruel, but in a sick way I was pretty happy with myself. I humiliated the hell out of this guy, and I guess it made me feel pretty damn good.

But what goes around came around big time.

On the way home after school, he popped out from behind a fence. With amazing precision he delivered two strong punches to my face, one to each eye, and he turned me in to a raccoon.

"Still want to make some fat jokes about me?", he asked.

I refused the opportunity, and he walked home with me like he was my buddy.

Let's try to put Danny Cundilini in perspective here. When I say that everyone hated this guy, I wasn't just talking about my peers. Everyone, even the adults, thought he was the neighborhood Boo Radley. So when I came home there was no way in hell I was going to tell my Dad that Danny did it. Nope, it was a freak accident where a basketball hit my face two times!

My sister learned the truth on the way home, though, and I was the laughing stock of my house. And the next day the whole school! Even my teachers were elbowing me, "Hey I hear Danny Cundilini beat you up!"

It was worse than getting my ass kicked by girls.

A couple of years later I was walking to a class between periods, and this big guy is walking past me swinging one of those monster sized boom-boxes from the mid 80s, and whacked it right on my thigh, giving me a pretty damn good charley horse in the process.

I shouted, " where you're going!", and walked away, thinking that was it.

What a mistake that was.

As I walked away, I was suddenly grabbed by the neck from behind, strangle style, lifted off the ground, then thrown onto the cement.

I looked up, surprised, to see this guy standing above me. If he was a cartoon he'd have smoke blowing out of his nose. Apparently I had triggered a bout of roid rage with this guy and he was none too happy about it.

"You talking SHIT to me?", he asked, daring me to answer.

Knowing there was no way in hell I was even going to risk throwing a punch at this guy, I had to go back to smart ass mode, but all I could come up with was an extremely pathetic, "No...I'm talking WORDS to you."


He hit me so hard in the chest that I swear that I saw one of those Batman sound effect explosions. Things get foggy here, but he taunted me with some other challenge that I stupidly responded to with another lame comeback, so he lifted me into the air, and threw me about 4 feet into a chain link fence that covered up the soda machines.

At this point I wisely shut up until he walked away.

Luckily this guy was a total moron, because I ran into him the next day, and he said, "Hey...aren't you that guy that I beat up yesterday?" I said, "No, you must be thinking of someone else", and he actually believed me and walked away. Had he simply noticed the giant purple streaks his fingers had left on my neck, it may not have worked.

So we now fast forward to my Junior year of high school. I'm in metal shop class and this Senior named John Bueno is bullying me regularly.  Every day I'd get a shove, or he'd stand in my way daring me to fight him.

He pushed me so far that even I had my limits. "Come on, FIGHT ME!", he screamed with his buddies standing behind him. Everything I've ever done, every fight I ever had, every chain link fence I crashed in to, all boiled down to this moment. If I didn't do something, I would be an official pussy for the remainder of my life.

So I decided to punch him in the shoulder. I thought that would be safe enough not to do too much real damage, but at least send a message that I wasn't going to back down.

Unfortunately, all those years of fighting girls and fat kids did little to refine my martial arts skills so I missed his shoulder by a mile...

...and instead landed a wicked punch right on his jaw that snapped his head to the side.  He looked at me, as surprised as I was, and said, "I'm gonna get you later." But I never heard from him again.

That one punch made up for everything.

Of course, things are different now, and the biggest fights I get into these days usually involve me arguing about who was supposed to take out the recycling to the curb.

Though I have to admit there's a small part of me that wouldn't mind so much getting beat up by girls again.

EPILOGUE: Long after high school, I learned that Danny Cundilini was caught fucking a wad of pizza dough in the backroom of a pizza joint, and robbed the place about a week later. Man, even I couldn't have come up with a more fitting ending to that guy.


Dave Cooper's OVERBITE

drawings and paintings of mostly pillowy girls
Robert Berry

detail from "Pirate Girl" (c)2002 Dave Cooper

Fantagraphics never ceases to amaze me.  From Robert Crumb to Dan Clowes to Johnny Ryan, they have continually published the best graphic novels and comic books the world has ever seen.  While Marvel and DC have tried to outdo each other with their movie tie ins, crossovers, and merchandising, the Seattle based Fantagraphics has quietly become the showcase for all time classic wonderfulness.

I have to admit, I've heard little of David Cooper until I got a copy of his all new book, "OVERBITE: Drawings & Paintings of Mostly Pillowy Girls" but the vivid crazy ladies portrayed within are like nothing I've ever seen.



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Robert Berry,, or their respective copyright holders.
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