September 4, 2011

What is that weird kid doing now?

I suspect my parents often just shook their heads in wonder. The neighbors looked out the big picture windows and muttered about the weird kid over at the Hoosierboy home. Looking back through the mist of time I am pretty sure I was a weird kid. Frequent commenter Otter, who happens to be my brother, will likely attest to this fact.

The picnic table at the end of the patio often became my poop deck. I stood on the table and sailed the seas, a pirate, an admiral, Captain Blood. Standing on the table, I directed heavy cannon fire across the yard at enemy ships plunging in the waves. I shook my tiny fist at the neighbor's house and brandished my sword in imaginary scuffles on slick, bloody decks. The sword was not a couple of pieces of garden stakes my Dad nailed together for me and half- sharpened to a rounded point, but a heavy cutlass, a fencing foil, my personal instrument of skill and death.

I tipped the benches in and climbed under the table to make a pillbox to mow down the evil Japs. It was my log cabin as I lived the life of Jim Bridger and the Mountain Men. The privacy fence was my stockade as I battled Indians and the British with my toy flintlock.

My red stingray bike was a horse, croquet mallets were battle axes. Jarts were elaborate hand grenades and softball bats served as war clubs. I walked around the block carrying my toy guns.

I jumped off the roof of our modest ranch-style house as a Green Beret, Superman, or just for the hell of it. When I went to drop school, it was no feat to learn to collapse and roll upon landing, I learned how when I was nine through trial and error. I can still hear old Mr. Berry, who lived behind us: "What are you doing jumping off the roof, Joe? Don't you know you could break your leg?  Knock it off or I will tell your Mom".  Ha, Mom already told me to stop! That is why I was now jumping off the top step of the eight foot step ladder instead.

I remember the awesome summer of 1972,  the neighborhood held our own Olympics. Neighbor girls cut and colored paper medals of gold, silver and bronze, while the multitudes that lived in the area competed in running, wrestling and gymnastic competitions on the old swing set out back. The fun ended when a bunch of crazed Arabs assaulted the real Olympic Games in Munich, killing 11 Israeli athletes and coaches. Serious, sad, and confusing stuff for a ten year old.

I am sure, if you were to track down the many neighbors that surrounded our house in that subdivision, their lasting image of me was as a small skinny kid with wavy dark hair and perpetual snotty nose.  I was the strange kid who sat on the front stoop and read, who sat at the picnic table and read.  I was the kid who put up the hammock and read. I was the weird kid standing on the wooden table gesturing and shouting at foes and adventures only I could see. The kid who hid behind trees and in the grass, pretending to be Geronimo, whom I had read could hide in plain sight by just lying still.

Oh, and I was also the kid who was smoking cigars out in the shed at eight years old and sneaking an occasional beer from the garage 'fridge. That was me who was streaking -- in 1970's fashion -- around the block on warm summer nights when my parents thought I was peacefully sleeping in the tent beside the house.

It is always the quiet ones you have to watch.


Ed Bonderenka said...

my Brother!

CnC said...

Ha ha, got a kick out of this post, reminded me of our adventures. Our favorite was dogfights on our bikes, dirt clods for ammo. 2 kids on a bike was a bomber, 1 kid on a bike was a fighter. one day in a heated air battle I took a dirt clod to the nuts. My P51 Mustang went down in flames.
What occupies kids imagination today? Xboxes and Playstations.
They don't know what they are missing. Like a good solid hit to the family jewels.

Freddie said...

This is a fantastic post Joe.

...A little sad to me though. Seems things are so very different today.

Jean said...

This is a terrific memoir/flashback.
But, I have trouble thinking of you as "quiet".

Rita said...

Didn't I drive past your house last week and see you doing the same thing? The jumping off the roof thing, not the streaking thing. That would just be creepy.

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