Monday, June 22, 2015
‘The Neighborhood Ogress’ (A Neighborhood Escaped)
‘The Neighborhood Ogress’
(A Neighborhood Escaped)
The reader has not forgotten that there are twenty-two-personages within the neighborhood which were what I consider somewhat closely netted, and this one summer day, in 1963, two new-comers they watched closely who had come into the neighborhood most recently, were about to get their initiation. Let me say one looked a little Italian, Richard Z., and in time would end up in prison for rape. The other, Patron, he was the son of a grocery store owner, whose father had runoff left him and his mother: his mother had invested in one of two of the neighborhood stores, both owned by Jews, this one being on Buffalo Street, as the original owners, having own the store for some twenty-years, migrated to Israel.
Whenever, these two fellas showed up one evening amongst the rest of us, everyone threw occasional hurried glances at them—and in time to come—never seemed to mix well with the boys, and the guys never saw them as equals. As if they didn’t belong.
Doug, who looked more like the wrestler Crusher, muscles budging out here and there, as if the skin of his body was too thin for his muscles, and was hidden beneath some slate-colored dust, was more unpredictable and a little less tolerant than the average gang member although a swell friend when in need, and a good drinking partner, that is to say, we all had our narrow mindedness, in that we were all carved from the same neighborhood, yet we were different plates of sustenance; and from too much smoking, like many of the gang members, when he smiled and showed his teeth, they were more yellow than white, perhaps infectious gums as well, with his bad odor, and had it not been for Lou, the boxer, he would have I believe tried to bully more than he bullied. With that said, us guys were called into secret talk, when they both were sitting by a bonfire in the empty lot drinking beer with us this one summer evening, assumed:
“Let’s initiate the new-comers!” said Doug.
Knowing Doug, I felt they were worse off than lambs in a slaughterhouse, and had I said a word to the contrary, I would have been overturned, and I would have been one of those folks in hell praying for ice water.
As we all observed the two, a little ways far-off from us, as not being able to hear a word Doug was saying, we nodded our heads ‘okay’. Thus the dire insinuation was in place.
Well, Doug was there, Sam, Gunner, and Mouse, Ronnie, and Lou was there, and Roger L., the Big Bopper, and myself, and John L., Lou’s cousin. Roger M., never seemed to join the guys in our escapades, always working on cars across the bridge off Mississippi Street, another of the group members, a member that was really outside the group, one that was perhaps the best mechanic of us all. He really didn’t have time for monkey-business like us—or so it appeared to me, but gave us lots of advice on car problems. Anyhow, as I was about to say, after having cautiously consulted one another, we concealed our devious plan, or so called capper Doug had suggested.
This day the Big Bopper had his teeth in his mouth, and as usual was chewing on something he had hidden in his jacket pocket, he seemingly stole cookies or whatnot, have you before he left his house every time he made a visit to his house, to nibble on throughout the day, which made him appear satisfied, with his big frame.
Now the new-comers laughed loudly at some joke that slipped out of their mouths, as we all rejoined them. Jackie, Nancy, Jennie, and Carol, Gunner’s future wife was being entertained by Richard and Patron. And before the next joke was to be shut, Doug said—as he manifested himself—by an impatient gesture for them both to rise, and us guys beside Doug, and the gals whom showed a dislike with their watchful attendance remaining seated on the log, and on the two cases of beer we had, knew something was up.
Faster than a flying cockroach, a few of the boys flung themselves onto the two, flat on the ground.
Through astonished, doubtless, rather than pity, they were allowed to stand up and walk to the place of their destination, with a sign of command. They were afraid, stammered some.
“Now, my boy,” said Doug to Richard, staring hard eyed at him, and then at Patron, whom would become in the following decade, an Air Marshal, said:
The countenance of the girls became distressed; they turned their backs somewhat, drooping their bosoms, with dark eyed.
“You, my poor girls,” said Doug mockingly, and Lou looked at Jennie, shook his head as to say, ‘go before we do what we’re going to do,’ and they all left, but only a short distance.
“You have to have our neighborhood initiation!” repeated Doug; a few of the boys holding the two now in twisted arm locks. Although prior to today, we never had one, we invented one Johnny-on-the-spot, as they say.
I’m not sure what went through their minds, it was not suffering misery or hunger, or stealing something they had to do, actually they didn’t have to do much, it was the shame of it I suppose, at least after the fact that hit their minds, but for the boys it was play, and they didn’t want to dishearten them, or take honor from them, they intended to leave them in place, but their faces turned pale.
Ace that is Big Bopper, kept turning round his fingers you could see his big knuckles bobbing up and down, it was as if he was Paladin, on the movie “Have Gun Will Travel,” that was on every week, ready to have a showdown with his five shot Colt Revolver; he quivered with indignation at such debasement. I think it was more to do with his father being the Chief of the Fire Department, and him being recognized.
“Well,” said Doug, “what ails you?”
As for myself, Chick Evens I was unwilling to betray my emotions, replied in a tone of calm as I could assume, that I was leaving, I wanted no part of this, and I turnabout and left and walked a distance away but could see all, as if being an amateur bully, and okay with it. I followed the gals up to and on top of Indian’s Hill, which was a distance away from Cayuga Street, and being part of the empty lot which was really, several lots in one. Perhaps four to six acres. I was about sixteen then. I did not care for anything like that, what they were about to do that is, a shameful thing at worse; I was not better than them, I was simply more fragile than they, it would be hard to live with for me. To them it was comedy, and drama in Donkeyland, no more no less. Not a big thing. On some occasions, they tied ropes onto cat tails, and hung them over clothes lines and watched them fight as they drank down their beer. On Halloween, if you didn’t give, their joke was to put dung, of some sort into a bag, light it on fire on someone’s doorstep, that was stingy, and watch them stomp it out.
Henceforward, they stripped the two lads down some, and tied them to a telephone pole, which had a fire alarm attached to it, and pulled the alarm and waited for the fire truck to come. When at twenty-minutes waiting there it came. And the boys laughed so hard and so long they had to hold their stomachs, and put out their cigarettes, lest they burn their fingers, and spit up the beer they had just drank, watching the firemen, and Ace’s father, shaking his head right to left, knowing it was a pun, not a serious event, and here the boys are trying to catch their breath in laughter, and Big Bopper trying to hid behind a tree on Indian’s Hill, so his father could not see him, peeping through a squirrel hole made from one side to the other, as a watch out for the police by one of the boys, who knows when: they were by all physical means, tuckered out as if they were in a brawl, with jollity.
As for the two who got initiated, well they were overwhelmed with weariness that they stretched themselves every-which-way, not knowing at what resolution to stop. But they never gave one name of the gang member’s out. The firemen urged them to yield a name. Save, they would never live through the night if they did, and so the firemen gave up, after none would consent, and went their way.
As for us, it was dusk, and we all blended into the little wooded area on Indian’s Hill, like a cloud of grasshoppers; all dazzled by the psychodrama played out, and I couldn’t perceive, or if so, confusedly, the sport of this.
The two fellas kneecaps were somewhat bruised. Their spirit crushed, or cracked, and as every night, this night also fell to a deep darkness. And everyone went back to delighting themselves with drink. The spectacle was over.
It kind of spoiled my night drinking, because I was more the friend to those two fellas, than the gang was, and they never were accepted into gang as equals. And to be fair, and perhaps blaming, the fire chief, which was Big Bopper’s father, was furious, he must of saw Big Bopper as he ran up Indian’s Hill as the fire trucks turned around the corner of Mississippi and Cayuga Street, then stopped to see the mischievous works of the Donkeyland Members. Big Bopper was afraid to go home that night, so he slept in a car and waited until morning when his father would be gone back to work, snuck home to get a bread-basket of sorts, food from his mother, whom always took his side. Kind of babied him, all per near seven feet of him, and 200-pounds.
As for Patron, he told me his mother told him not to hang out with me, or the guys. He did escape from his mother, now and then, and did hang out with me, but avoided the guys. And when I told the boys what his mother had told him—and that was not a wise decision on my behalf, —they called him ‘Mother’s boy’ which was a scornful term that promulgated more verbal punishment in the future. There were a few tarnished words the boys threw at Patron’s store, but never in a voice of terror to concern the old woman whom the boys named, somewhat named, ‘The Old Ogress’ whom I’m sure did not yield to any outburst of insatiable hatred toward us boys. As my mother once told me: learn how to run faster, or fight better, I guess for them they had a third choice, to avoid, and they did for the most part, as for me, that option was not open, I had to learn how to fight better.
Later on that evening, most of the gang after finishing off the two cases of beer, went up to the local bar, called “Bram’s” a regular mouse trap for trouble. And I do think we shall form an acquaintance, you and I with this mousetrap, should I venture to write another neighborhood escapade. But let me describe it from the old days, it was a den of ruffians, where often fierce struggles ensued. A tavern where some of the gang members, were weaned from their adolescence to old age. And for the readers in Donkeyland, it is quite at your service I do so, for posterity sake, if nothing else.
Copyright © 2015 Dennis L. Siluk, Dr. h.c.
Dedicated to Roger Mueller, Brian and Lorimar