I remember it clearly. It was a warm summers day.
My mom had taken me to the Ages Arcade in town. They'd just come out with the new Cruis'n UFA, and I was all about fast things, even as a kid. Heck, I even had a racecar bed for a little while. So naturally, I had to spend a few bucks in quarters in playing this game all about speed. To a kid, a few bucks to play arcade games might as well be a treasure just like a pirates boon is.
Thing is, this particular arcade racer had a special promotion set-up where you could win prizes depending on tiers you've passed. Being the natural-born speedster I was, I just had to prove I was the best. Might as well get some cool stuff along the way.
It took a few retries, and pleading my mom to give me one more dollar, but I'd finally gotten to the last stage, and won without much fuss. Satisfied with myself, I showed the attendant my new high score, and was given free range of the stuff they had for sale. It took me a moment, but I'd eventually picked a mechanical palm tree that shook and dance when you made noise near it.
Before I actually started traveling the world, my dad would tell me about places him, mom, and my uncle would visit. From ruins, to paradises and everything in between. I was enamored with the adventurer's lifestyle, but I was just a hoglet and I couldn't do much but daydream. With a little guidance from my uncle, I started building diorama's depicting various locations around the world, with a little help from tourist guides my dad had snagged from local towns near their exploration areas.
See, this palm tree I'd gotten was the final piece to the Emerald Coast diorama I'd started. The famous seaside resort in Station Square in the UFA. I'd already gotten the sand from our local crab infested beaches, and built the resort with my building blocks, inside of a miniature aquarium. It was gonna be great. I was gonna bring it to show and tell and I'd been gabbing moms ear off about it the whole time.
It was a warm summers day...
On our way back home, mom wanted to check in on dad; he had started up a business in the town as an engineer, fixing vehicles or general mechanical and electrical work. He never finished school, but he was real smart, and wanted to fast track himself on things he actually wanted to do, like fly planes and meet chicks. He succeeded in both, so I can't say he wasn't satisfied.
While mom went to go see dad at his garage, she sat me on a nearby bench, left to play and inspect my new little toy. I remember setting it down beside me, and with both of my hands, I clapped near it, getting the little tree to perform a little dance. It was so simple and it made me so happy.
Then, just as I thought nothing could go wrong... a couple of bullies showed up.
I know what you're thinking. "Oh man, you beat them up, didn't you?" Hah, well, contrary to popular belief, I wasn't alwas a rowdy kid. There was a time, for a while, I didn't like fighting. I was only six years old when this happened, but I remember it like it was yesterday, and up until then, I'd remained a peaceful, solitary kid that had a few friends and just liked watching things go really fast.
These bullies were from my school. I can't remember their names now, but I knew them. They knew me, and I knew they didn't like me much, always wanting to be friends. I guess that irritated them, because before I knew it, they had a bone to pick me with me, and I ended up flat on my butt from getting smacked in the forehead, falling right off the bench.
I remember one of them yelling to avoid everywhere but my face, because I could've pricked any one of them. A hedgehog's quills aren't anything to sniff at. They knew what they were doing, though. A few more hits in, and I ended up curling into a ball out of pure defensive instinct. Just when I thought it was over, one of them picked up my palm tree, and threw it on the ground right in front of me, breaking apart into a bunch of pieces.
I could feel my pride and hard work shatter right in front of me. Why would they do this? I couldn't fathom it. I ended up crying louder than I had before, since I was just a baby.
My mother was the first one to yell. She had a fiery temparament. She didn't take anyone's crap. But my dad? He was a different beast altogether when he was angry. I very specifically and distinctly remember him throwing a full sized trashcan at the bullies to chase them away. They took off running, while my mom tried to coax me out of my ball.
I flopped open, and I couldn't help but sniffle and cry. My nose had been bloodied... I couldn't smell anything but the sickly sweet copper tang of metallic gracing my tongue as it dribbled down my lip.
My mom was wiping my nose, and my dad, having come directly from his garage a little ways down the road, was wearing his mechanics jumpsuit, wiping his hands clean of the daily grease and oil stains. He stuffed the rag into his pocket, and slowly walked toward me, looking none too pleased.
My dad... he was complicated. He'd seen his own fair share of adventures, and looked every part of a seasoned veteran. I couldn't begin to imagine the things he'd seen in his lifetime, and if the slight dark streak in his temple fur was any indication, it had been some seriously heavy stuff.
That same air commanded a kind of respect that just came natural to him, even if he was the one being the life of the party where it mattered, you couldn't help but respect the guy.
He kneeled in front of me, arms resting on his knees, his heavy looking boots supporting his weight as he looked at me eye level.
"You little coward."
My mom gasped. She said my dads name, but he didn't argue back. He just put up a hand and then steadily lowered it. He had this.
"That's what my old man called me. And I proved him right... by running away from all of the right problems."
He looked down, as if lamenting this sad fact he'd come to admit this to his own son. My dad? A coward? Impossible.
I'll never forget what he told me on that warm summers day.
"I love you, Sonic. You can bet I'll never call you anything but your name, but you need to decide, right now; are you gonna lay there, swallow that blood in your mouth? Or are you gonna stand up, spit it back out... and go spill theirs?"