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We all have them. We all know in our minds what they are, but we just don’t know how to enjoy them as much as we should. What are they?
They’re a trip, a fall, a laugh, a cry, a moment of many moments or even a second in a day. They can be so many things but they’re sticky. They’re a memory of a clearer instant within a full memory that sticks in your mind first when you’re thinking about it. Some of mine are when I was bullied as a child and some of mine are not just that but just a good moment in my life of memories. Simply put, just a moment in time that sparked a clearer memory of a story of memories. Don’t worry, you’ll get it.
So here’s some of my sticky ones even though while sitting around a campfire, hundreds of sticky ones go through my mind when I tell my stories. I hope these stir one of yours or one of someone’s who you decided to share this story with. I just picked these to write about. You decide which ones stick to you.
How does that infamous Abraham Lincoln quote, ‘I would rather be a little nobody, then to be a evil somebody’, resonate nowadays with one of today’s most hated social disease? Bullying has been around for so long no one knows about its history anymore.
Were you bullied? I was. Was I ever a bully? Maybe. Okay, if I did it was only in fun, least that is what I would hope it was.
You see, I have always had large front teeth. Chipmunk and beaver were just some of the usual tauntings. I hated cartoons on TV where Woodchucks were involved only because it would make me think of my headlights. Truthfully, nothing sticks to me as a memory of anyone at any race track ever saying something or trying to embarras me about them. The track is full of respect.
Dad had them too but he lost the pearly, with a capital ‘P’, whites early-on in his young Mafia life from disease and then the false ones prefaced his ruggedly handsome portrait. Adults, even today, still make mention of the teeth, probably in fun, not knowing how it still stings a bit.
So stupid and thoughtless they must be for them to not realize the damage they do to the damage already in place. They’re brunt is like throwing a rock through an already broken window. The rock still can hurt you.
Mom too had all her chompers removed as she had finally hit a wall with the constant pain and abscess. She threw up and spit blood into a bucket for a day and a half early in December. Remarkable or not, but this sticky memory wasn’t about her gagging the blood out of her stomach, heaving every two minutes into the pail. This one stuck because of what I saw in the darkness under her bed, partially hidden by the hanging bedspread.
She would pick up the makeshift bedpan and spew hard into it which gave me a better look into the hiding spot. My eyes focused under the bed and could finally see the darkened blur of a wrapped Christmas present. This was to be the year when Mom gummed Christmas dinner down into her gullet and is when Monopoly came into our house.
Yeah I know, it’s been out since the early 1900 but it wasn’t in the WiseGuy’s house. The Parker bros must have turned in their grave when they found out Dad had finally reached into the dark abyss of his pocket and bought the revered board game.
I remember this sticky memory, even though it wasn’t a bullying kind, because my sister and I, on a day of clandestine-clothed secrecy after Mom had recovered enough to get out of bed to go get cigarettes, looked under the bed for the neatly-wrapped Christmas present. I took on the roll of lookout as Linda, with the precision and speed of a nervous nerve surgeon, unwrapped the trees and snowflake patterned glistening vellum.
Once seeing the board game’s name, she rewrapped the gift perfectly. So perfect was the job that Dad instantly knew the treasure had been found. The day must have been a day of discovery and epifany for him as now he knew his suspicion was real that we were dumber than the thimble piece in the game. Can’t remember more than when we opened the wrappings to steal a glance at our soon to become, Christmas presents for that year. Everything about that moment is as sticky as the tape they were wrapped with.
So what, I had big front teeth. Just a trait, old Daddio left behind. I was tall at least. Imagine if I wasn’t. Trollish depictions of myself felling trees leaving stumps three feet off the ground gather through my mind of bad thoughts. Getting picked on by even the non-bullies was a daily routine. That is until around fifth grade when I discovered I had a secret and deadly weapon in my hip pocket.
Gary, a squarish bodied young man with fists the size of a human head was now and forever my best friend. He loved to tussle, he loved to fight, he loved to win and was always there by my side as my own personal hit man. “Screw with the Shu”, and you’d get the boot for sure, the boot being Gary’s right foot or left hook whatever you had chosen. North Korea had solicited him early on to protect Kim Il-sung but he stayed with me free of charge as my personal bodyguard.
By sixth grade the bullies in our school had all been taught the hard lesson of the boot and Gary had solidly become a part of my being. We grew closer during the remainder of our grade school days and then the change of life began. Gary went to a very influential Catholic school and I went to a public establishment four miles south of our two homes on 21st Avenue south of Camelback.
West, we called it Worst, High school was the primeval Petri dish of bully bacteria. Jocks, those who were given the title because, I guess they wore jock straps all the time, were the predominant species of asshole of the DNA mutations of rectums, we of the comfortable societies live in today, label them, ‘Bully. They came in all shapes and sizes. Believe it or not, the ‘Cowboys’ and the ‘Long Hairs’ were far from the idiot evolutionary circuit board of the ‘Jocks’.
When I arrived on the first day of high school, I got high. Gary had introduced me to the other type of grass, the other type, in baggies and not in the nose bags for horse feeding on the track were much better. The track reefer was old, scratchy and covered in mold. The weed in these baggies was fresh, greenish red, and pack the potency of a potato gun filled with hairspray then fired off next to your right ear without a warning with a BIC lighter.
Second period was PE, the acronym for Physical Education in the scholars realm. This class should have been called BF for Bully Frenzy. We had to strip down to nakedness, wash your privates and underarms from a push button pink soap dispenser while standing at one of several five showerhead pillars while the other, more athletic, males of the school looked on and down to what could only be described as a circumsized turtle’s neck without a head.
Laughter, snickers, taunts and even a couple of pats on your water-sprinkled ass cheeks were common place. I hated the presidential first woman’s mandated hour. Jacqueline never had to stand with these guys in the shower or if she did and survived, her main man, John F. was for sure a bully phenomenon, even greater than his Texas VP.
JFK’s famous quote, ‘Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.’ Pete was full of creativity minus the intellect but this prank was as far from dynamic as it could get.
Our coach was named, Coach Roach. His real name was ‘Something’ Roach, probably something like ‘Harold’. I can’t remember that because his name never stuck with me. How accommodating, for a weed driven Freshman, can you get being named, Roach? Coach Roach lined us up in rows like soldiers in front of the concrete racket ball courts and took attendance like a drill sargent on speed.
That was the moment I met a kid name, Pete Price.
This ornery half-bald at the age of 14, 5 foot 8, hairy teenager, pulled my burgundy gym shorts down to the top of my sneekers just as the cheerleading squad passed by. Several blonde, mini-skirted, West High Thunderbirds, so called ‘Cheer’ leaders smirked and cheered as my private parts, without a jock strap, which today I believe should be public knowledge only because of the sheer enormity of them, became just what I mentioned, public.
Knowing this measurement of comparison today as a man, I should have been as proud as an Olympic Gold Medal winner of the Magnitude sport I genetically gained over the years, but at the time in my life, I was more on the shyful side. If I had only knew what I know now I may have been able to capitalize on the legend of them today.
I hurriedly pulled the cotton short-shorts up. Pete smirked. My eyes glared at him for doing this to me. He laughed but why wouldn’t he? He just pantsed the guy with the big teeth in front of all the important chicks. Warrants a resumé entry, does it not? He would have never known at the time but I had made a mental note on my fishing list and smiled knowing he had just become bait for my harpoon gunner fishing partner, Gary.
I spent the next three years in PE with one hand on the elastic band of my shorts at all time. Jock straps were not an option as triple X still was a bit tight. Because of this, I had only one useful hand. I was excluded from all sports except for Jarts even though most of my shots fell out of the hoop in real close to Pete’s shiny head.
I don’t remember anything about PE after that first day meeting Pete and showing my privates to the world. That’s what makes this thought stick in my larger memory. I’m going down right now to the Ace Hardware and get some really good glue remover.
Most bullying incidents are seen in person by bystanders, other students or teachers and adults without any effort intervene. Bullied persons as I was will someday finally get the chance to stand up and say “enough is enough.” As a child, a teenager and as an adult, I saw other people being bullied, embarrassed or ridiculed. Often times, I remained silent. It still pains me to this day. Then came my chance.
I was at work, a place which has years and years of memories. I was made aware of a man verbally attacking the employees in a room where they took in the money for the bills they owed to our company, by a desperate phone call of a clerk in the back room. I ran to the back door to see if the robbery alarm light was on. It was not. I made my way around the hall to a door that opened into the main lobby and peered through the blinds of the side window.
I could hear the yelling and could see all five clerks sitting still watching the man, dressed in baggy shorts and sporting a hooded sweatshirt screaming profanity at all of them. He flailed his arms with every breath and cussed his way into fame. Fifteen maybe twenty customers had backed out of the rope line and some were leaving as the words were getting more and more aggressive. The pockets of his sweatshirt looked heavy enough to hold something inside of them. Maybe a gun?
His bullying grew as he stepped forward and the center clerk backed her chair away kicking the robbery alarm with her toe. I cracked open the door and one of the women looked at me. I shushed my lips with my finger for her to stay quiet and stepped into the room. People were leaving as they anticipated violence and the noise of the shuffling concealed my steps toward him. I leaned forward as I stood only inches from his back.
I could hear him take in a breath so he could expel another round of tainted words. I leaned closer to the smallish stature of the bullying man. His pockets were flopping more than I could see from the window so I knew they were empty. My mouth was inches from his cloth-covered ear. His peripheral vision was blocked by his hood. I got a touch closer as he finished his last evil sentence and as he took in his breath, I began to speak to him. He held his breath and didn’t turn.
“Hey,” I whispered long and slow. I knew his ears pricked up. I continued in the same voice. “I’m going to embarrass you in front of all these kids and women if you don’t shut your bullying ass up now and leave.” He started to turn. “No, don’t do that.” He stopped.
“Did you understand me, asshole? I’m counting to three and then after that, you will never ever forget this moment of this day. It will stick to your skin like an ugly birth mark.”
He stood still like he was contemplating what size of a man was behind him then nodded slowly and turned away walking to the door. Outside the door, the cops were already there and waiting. The cops talked to him, placed the cuffs on and stuck him in the sticky backseat. I went to my office as the clerks answered the questions on the Police report.
The temperature outside in the car must have been terrible as the thermometer was approaching 105 degrees outside and cop cars are never left running but the windows are down and he had a sweatshirt on. They eventually left with our bully journeyman with his sweaty thighs stuck to the back seat plastic cover.
The clerks all came by and said thanks one by one. I laughed it off with them as we shared words like idiot, stupid, and asshole. The last clerk came by and said only a few words about the incident but I’ll never forget what she said.
“I’ll never ever forget today. Most of its a blur but when you leaned into his ear and whispered, ‘Hey‘, well that moment will be forever stuck in my mind,” she said while smiling.
I nodded slowly, “Yep, him too.”
I leaned back in my office chair and put both hands behind my head confidentally as I thought about the moment. I looked at Kelly’s ageless but weary eyes. She knew of the cause and was also celebrating inside.
Because of her never ending war on weight, I knew she too had been the victim of common and ruthless bullying. One sentence we shared stands out above all in the conversations before as she now knew how to win her battle.
A very sticky smirk came over both of us as she and I acknowledged the day. I looked up at the lights in the ceiling.
I asked her, “I really stuck it to that bully today, didn’t I?”
“The best part of life starts at the top of the stretch.”