The Nitty Gritty

But more than all of those I am an entertainer. I carry around a ukulele with me for the same reason a gangster carries a gun; better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Stage or sidewalk, Your Pal Pete shows are just where they happen.
Currently, I'm working on a musical, RagnaPOP(or she's got the bomb), set to premiere at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. I'm also working on music, comedy, and musical comedy; for kids and/or adults.
The fruit of these projects will be available on this site, so check back regularly!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Warts Week-I Punched A Little Kid!

Circa early 1981:a school bus in Delaware during the morning pick-up.
“Your mom’s CHEESY!”
“Take it back, Tommy!”
“No, she is!”
A little background is in order, where I grew up, ”Cheesy” was the negative slang adjective that was as big an insult as a non curse word could be. Tommy was my 6 year old next door neighbor and, with his brother Shawn, was one side of a rather contentious “friendship” of sorts. There weren’t a lot of kids in our neighborhood-in fact there was only my brother and Eric down the street and Tommy and Shawn’s fellowship was often a port in a storm of pre-teen boredom even though we couldn‘t stand each other.
Tommy was a tow-headed hellraiser with language filthier than a subway bathroom. Even though he a father and his grandmother lived nearby, he seemed to have his own code of behavior, like throwing rocks at the back of a neighbor's house that he excused with, "It's OK I know these people."

But him calling my mom cheesy was a step beyond. Even excluding the umbrage taken when someone insults your mother when you’re too young to start doing it yourself, my mom had been nothing but gold to him; including, but not limited to, fixing the neighbor’s back window that Tommy had broken by throwing rocks at it and always telling us, ”You better be nice to those boys!”

I went to my bus driver for guidance (or as we called it then, tattling).
“Mr. Fisher, Tommy called my mom cheesy.”
As he guided the bus he gave me some sage advice, “If somebody said something like about my mother, I’d meet him behind the school,” he raised a beefy fist with hair so thick you can lose your keys in it for emphasis, “if you know what I mean.”

I did, in fact and so did Shawn. I was going to punch him, just once to register my disproval.
We used to joke that if Tommy shot the President, Shawn would stand between Tommy and the police and say, “Your not gonna arrest MY brother!” and he certainly didn’t like the idea of me hitting his brother.

As we got off the bus at the elementary school, I got off first and waited for Tommy to get off. Shawn stood in front of Tommy, waving his arms around to shield him, but I still got one good shot to the face, underneath Shawn’s flailing right arm.

As Tommy ran wailing to the nearest authority figure, Shawn charged towards me in retaliation. I pushed him away and walked the block to my school, since I was in a higher grade.

This was where the polarization occurred, because the age difference between Tommy and I: I was about 11 while he was about 6.

As the news got out two distinct groups emerged in reaction: people who knew Tommy and his pain-in-the-ass way and were happy that he got a sock in the eye and those who just knew that I hit a kid much younger than me.

Everyone in the neighborhood had punched Tommy at one point or the other. Eric(who was my age) punched him when Tommy threw a dirt clod that hit him in the face, my brother had punched him on many occasions, even Shawn ran him over with his bike and then gloated about it because he didn’t get in trouble. But my punch was in front of everybody on the bus instead of us, so I got the attention.

People that knew him came up to me and said things like,” I’m so glad you hit him, he’s such a brat. He‘s had it coming.”
The approval reached farther than I could have expected, he was in same class with my brother and when the teacher asked if Tommy was present, he said, ”My brother punched him.” My brother reported that the teacher tried to stifle a grin and said, ”Oh, really…”

However, people unaware of his charms threatened me with physical violence, ”You like to hit little kids? How would you like it if I hit you?” One girl, April, who sat on another part of the bus offered to sic her brothers-who were huge for their age- on me.
In my defense, I said, ”But he called my mom cheesy!”
“You should have just taken it.”

What I did was wrong, no doubt, but let’s not fool ourselves: at that age no one can tolerate a disparaging word against our mother. Lord knows I would have never said one against April’s.

Stay tuned for the next episode: I Hate Teachers!

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