Poor Stevie. He didn’t know what hit him.
Matthew was a freaky little guy with a weird, loud-mouthed mother, and no one knows more about weird, loud-mouthed mothers than me, and a reclusive and overweight father, another topic of which I know much. So we had a lot in common. You could say we were peas in a very messed up pod.
He lived on one corner of Olympia Drive and Olympia Circle, and I lived on the other. We knew each other for a long time, and our friendship sort of waxed and waned depending on who we were hanging out with that week/month/school year, and who was available to hang out with. I guess we were hanging out together that time.
We fumbled around in the patches of yellow clay and weeds between the sidewalks and the curb, where nothing seemed to grow successfully no matter how many times you tried. Eventually, folks gave up and tried sodding it like the rest of their lawn, but the hot, dry summers usually got the best of it.
The parched Earth would break into huge cracks and form large, dehydrated clods. This particular day, Matthew and I pulled up a particularly huge hunk of dirt. It was flat on the top, and formed a dome on the underside, and the weight hefted in our hands sound and sturdy.
We stared at it, and turned it over and over in our hands, passing it back and forth between us. In those days, we didn’t notice how hot it was. We’re kids, we don’t get hot. Besides, the dirt clod was interesting enough to keep us distracted. But what to do with it? We can’t just let it go to waste.
Matthew said we should drop it on some army men. You know, those little plastic soldiers and their molded guns and bases you got in packages of 100 from the grocery store. I said that wouldn’t be much fun. No, we should break it over someone’s head! Yeah, Matthew agreed, it’s so perfect for that!
Enter Stevie. He lived at the bottom of Olympia circle with his brother Bill. Their dad used to put boxing gloves on them and let them go at it in their front yard, coaching each of them. Yes, he encouraged his sons to beat the crap out of each other. He also got them into Scouts, and taught them other stuff I’d later envy.
Stevie, the younger of the two, had a ready smile, a flat head, and a funny speech impediment. He sounded like a foreign national. Just a fun loving kid, minding his own business, on his way who knows where to do who knows what.
So Matthew and I hatched a plan. A genius plan.
As Stevie came up the sidewalk, we called him over. A streetlamp offered us a convenient place to have him stand, his back to the wooden pole under the sodium vapor lamp and the draped electrical wires, while I hid on the other side of it. In those days, I could hide behind a lamp post with a dirt clod the size of a jigsaw puzzle in my hands.
Matthew waved his hands, Svengali on Olympia Drive, and crooned something stupid to Stevie, who of course closed his eyes, playing along.
And then, I came out of hiding and brought the dirt clod down over the top of his flat head.
The dirt clod was supposed to snap in two. In our minds, it snapped in two, every time we did it. And we did it more than once, let me tell you.
But the dirt clod didn’t snap in two. It exploded into tiny grains of yellow sand and grit, and showered everywhere. I felt Stevie’s head snap down from the force of the blow. The sickening thump rang with a hollow cantaloupe sound, and his face went slack first, then twisted into a mask of pain as the crumbs of dirt rained down his nose and cheeks.
I ran. I ran as only cowards can run. It wasn’t supposed to be like this! It wasn’t supposed to hurt! It was only supposed to break in half!
My weird, loud-mouthed mother asked me why I wasn’t playing outside that day. I stared out the window at the bright day as it waned and waited for Stevie’s old man to come up and yell at me. Or to go to Matthew’s house, where I’d hear his mother screaming and whining at him, and then I’d know I was next.
He never came though.
A few days later, I saw Stevie again. I wasn’t with Matthew this time. I told him I was sorry for what I did, and I hoped he wasn’t hurt too much. He shrugged it off with his ready smile and said it was just a tender bump on his head.
I don’t know whatever became of Stevie. But I hope he really did forgive me and has no memory of this horrible thing I did.
For some reason, I can’t ever forget.
Copyright DarcKnyt 2012, All Rights Reserved