There is a scene in “The Messenger” when Ben Foster learns the love of his life is engaged to another man.  He proceeds to punch a hole in the wall.  To which my wife asked, “What is it with guys punching walls?”  Then she asked me if I had ever punched a wall.

Surely I would not be that prone to an outburst, right?  Surely I would not be that stupid.  But alas, I was.

I broke my fourth metacarpal when I was in high school.  I missed a layup and punched the padded part of the wall that’s underneath most basketball goals.  You know, to show everyone I was really, really mad about it.  My knuckle disappeared as the bone broke, raising a huge lump int the top part of my hand as the split bone threatened to pop right out of the top.  I ended up having it surgically repaired with pins.  Recovery time, 3 months.

It never occurred to me, until my wife mentioned it, just how often I have seen a guy hit a wall.  My ballpark guess?  Ten times.  The wall is 10-0 in these bouts.  In an informal poll, it seems that any solid wall is indeed difficult to defeat.  I know one fella who figured he would harmlessly punch through some drywall, which is cardboard-ish and prone to breaking, only to hit a stud and blow out two metacarpals.

My friend Bucky has a sort-of victory worth mentioning.  He hit a 4×4 that helped hold up the overhang at the local IGA store with his forearm.  The wood split in two.  Even he was surprised.  Who was more surprised?  The guys that were threatening to whip his ass (or, more specifically, our asses).  Turns out they reconsidered after seeing this, and left.  The next week, I noticed the wood was replaced with a reflector on it, as if the owner assumed a car had hit it.  But that was forearm versus board.  Doesn’t count in the standings.

Why do guys hit walls?  I have decided it is because there are two choices when we are angry or frustrated or ready to pop–keep it in, or let it out.  And hitting the wall is the most selfless form of release.  It is a choice to risk injuring ourselves instead of the alternatives.  The goal is actually to break through the wall, I’m sure.  Men are trying to say “Look, I’m so angry I want to hit things.”  But logic is saying, “Look, I’m going to give myself a recovery timeframe of 3 months from this idiotic outburst.”

Why hit the wall?  Is it inside of our genetics?  Did cavemen break their hands on cave walls after missing the mammoth with their spear, or after an argument with a cavewoman?

But it’s more rampant than you can ever imagine.  Your assignment is to ask some guy if he’s hit a wall or knows someone who does.  I will say with 100 percent certainty that you will get a story about hitting a wall for what they believe to be a very, very good reason.

I also guarantee that at the end of the story, the wall will win.

About the Author

Fred Venturini is an author and freelance business consultant.

He grew up in Patoka, Illinois. In 2014, his story "Gasoline" was featured in Chuck Palahniuk's Burnt Tongues anthology. His short fiction has been published in the Booked Anthology, Noir at the Bar 2, and Surreal South. The Heart Does Not Grow Back, published by Picador in 2014, is his first novel. He lives in Southern Illinois with his wife and daughter.

  1. My method of choice is yelling “serenity now” while in the fetal position in a dark corner of a room. Recover time: years of therapy

  2. Fred, best i can remeber, here are my stats:wooden doors- 3-0 interior walls- 2-1(including permanent scar 2nd knuckle right hand) cement dugout wall—what do u think!(that thing was relentless it took 4 of my best shots!) car windshield….i would like to call a tie..broken windshield and boxers fracture…no pins no surgery just six long weeks to end ball season!!

  3. Fred, I’m a friend of Jamey Stegmaier’s visiting through his blog. I’d say I have about a 1-4-4 record vs. objects that don’t fight back, most of which were walls. I escaped with a few ties (luckily), injured my hand a few times, and had a surprisingly gratifying victory over a large bookshelf once. (I was just as surprised as your friend Bucky.) I must have nailed it just right because the entire thing jumped a few inches and settled down again. I can honestly say it’s the only gratifying punch I’ve ever thrown.

  4. I love this, although the missing a layup blows what I’ve been told all to hell.

    Half my life later, I’ve never forgotten the first time I watched a guy punch a hole in the wall, can still summon every aspect of it — the the purple face, the blanched fist, the way the lamp lit the hair on his forearms, the punch itself, the opaque cloud of dust kicked up by who knows how many layers of plaster crumbling, dust so thick I couldn’t see until a few seconds later that his fist had splintered the lathe, although not the external wall, which was actually visible through the hole, and shreds of newspaper put there as insulation in 1912 tumbling to the floor, a magnificent punch, magnificent bleeding following shortly thereafter — all of it, burned into the backs of my eyelids even now.

    A boyfriend who was far too old for me and I were arguing, stupidly, about my being far too young for him, stupidly because it was, and would continue to be, an insoluble problem till I turned seventeen, but that night we were each sufficently frustrated, not with each other, but the situation — sneaking around was becoming excruciatingly tiresome; sneaking around was incredibly hot — that the only way to end it was with a good wall punch.

    Punching a wall was so trite a trope I couldn’t believe it ever actually happened — I’m not any good at suspending disbelief; when I was seven,and already wise to the fact that movies bear absolutely no relationship to real life, I deliberately slipped on a banana peel, certain I couldn’t fall; I did — until I saw for myself that it could, and, however else I felt, I couldn’t help but be impressed by a man overcome with an urge to punch a wall, impressed that he had done so so beautifully.

    But it wasn’t until I was told why boys punched walls that I became an unabashed fan of the wall punch, a lover of the wall punch, a staunch defender of the wall punch — whenever another woman derides it as dumb, I instruct her very gently in its real meaning — and I have, ever after, been simultaneously charmed and moved by the wall punch, have never, not once since then, had anything to do with any man who hasn’t split his knuckles that way at least once.

    “Why do boys punch walls?” I asked a guy friend.

    “Fewer consequences to punching a wall than punching the girl who pissed you off that much.”

    “It’s always a girl?”


    “No other reason?”


    I’m a writer. I traffic in words. All the descriptive powers in the world, though, are as nothing compared with a good wall punch, nothing beats it for either richness and economy.

    I’m a tiny little girl. I envy the ability to obliterate a wall, all the more so because I could never do it — I’ve tried, and the results were always pitiful. I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t say that I derive more than a little consolation from being able to make a man sufficiently mad to beat up a wall.

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