Once upon a time, in a land without parents or police, there lived a society of children. Most were in middle school, though a few were old enough to be in college or young enough to be in kindergarten.
In a neighborhood on the outskirts of a city there lived a kid named Jacob.
Jacob lived in a dangerous neighborhood. There were a lot of bullies on his block, and they all HATED Jacob. He was a skinny little shrimp, and it wasn’t difficult to pick on him.
At one point, one of the bullies beat him so brutally he wound up in the hospital; it was only because of the timely intervention of Jacob’s older brother, Sam, a college football player, that Jacob didn’t die.
When he got out of the hospital, Jacob spent a lot of money on a brand new, shiny metal baseball bat.
The bat was the great equalizer. The bullies on the block were a lot bigger than Jacob, but no one seriously harassed him because they knew if he ever feared for his life he could use the baseball bat.
One day, the biggest, meanest bully on the block told the other kids,
Jacob became very worried. With his baseball bat, Jacob could hold his own against much bigger kids; but if this bully got his own bat Jacob would lose any fight the bully decided to pick with him.
Jacob called his older brother again, and asked for help. He was hoping that Sam would show up at the bully’s house and do what he’d done to other bullies in the past.
Instead, to Jacob’s horror, Sam told the bully,
A lot of the other bullies on the block were nervous at that: they knew that when the big bully was done with Jacob, he’d probably come for them.
Jacob, for his part, viewed it as a betrayal. Sam insisted it was the best deal he could get, that it actually made Jacob safer and Jacob was just being paranoid. Sam went back to his distant and peaceful college dormitory, content that he’d solved the problem.
Perhaps the deal is a good one. Perhaps not. It doesn’t matter, however, because Jacob doesn’t think that it is a deal that he can live with. That, in the end, is what ensures Sam’s deal won’t last-Jacob can’t risk that the bully isn’t going to follow through on his threats. Jacob has been brutally beaten many times before. He’s nearly died. He can’t take the chance. This bully’s baseball bat doesn’t threaten Sam; but it is seen by Jacob as an existential crisis.
This leaves Jacob with three options. These options are almost universally bad, but Jacob feels backed into a corner. It doesn’t matter what Sam thinks is a good deal; if Jacob doesn’t feel safe, he will have to choose one of these three terrible options.
First, he could trust the bully, a pathological liar, and hope that he never gets a baseball bat and corners Jacob in a dark alley.
Second, he could try to steal the bully’s money, but there’s a good chance that wouldn’t work either.
He uses his baseball bat on the bully first.