Friday, July 6, 2012

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Fort

I spent most of my summer when I was age ten in an area near my house known as The Weeds.  This eyesore was poison sumac, thorny grasses, and dirt clumps spread across four undeveloped home sites that bordered two sets of Erie Lackawanna railroad tracks.  This was a no man’s land that served as a dividing line between my group of friends and the strange kids from strange lands (which were actually a backyard away, but at that age might as well as been another country).

 We spent a great deal of time building forts, and creating defenses for these outposts in case of the expected offensive assault from the untrustworthy boys from the other neighborhood.  Great piles of dirt bombs were assembled.  Lean twos were constructed.  Sticks sharpened.  Once in awhile a dirt bomb was lobbed at our defenses, or we tossed one at theirs.  It was a low rent Maginot line and we the hapless French. 

During the late 1970s, one of the major concerns was Bigfoot.  It seems really crazy now, but Bigfoot sightings were hotly debated on news programming and turned into exploitative Saturday matinee movies.  There was no greater fear than hearing your friend yell “Bigfoot!” and shove you out of the way on the path as he double timed it to the safety of the fort and pile of dirt bombs.  While these Bigfoot sightings were almost always a neighborhood dog, one could never be sure.  The pulse always quickened.  Danger was everywhere in The Weeds.

 As we became more comfortable with The Weeds, we pushed further into unexplored territory.  At the time it seemed like we were miles from our fort, but a spin through the neighborhood in my adult years confirmed that we had foraged ahead roughly 500 yards.  On one of these particular adventures we discovered an amazing wigwam that was built with such precision and attention to detail, we were amazed.  It was like a Chickasaw Indian was living in our neighborhood.  We crawled inside to discover treasures of such value, we almost wept at our good fortune.  Secured inside a zip lock plastic bag were three pornographic magazines, two Playboys and one off brand magazine like Swank or Oui.

 Inside the luxurious accommodations of the wigwam, maybe the only place a boy of ten could enjoy any privacy whatsoever, we delved into the mysteries of 1970s muff and even more hardcore gynecological shots in Oui.  This turn of events would be akin to today discovering an unused beachfront condo in Turks and Caicos filled with aged first growth Bordeaux, willing swimsuit models, and Porsche 911 GTs filled with a mountain of pharmaceutical grade cocaine.  It was too much good fortune too soon.  We made a pact among ourselves that we would tell no one else of our incredible find.  Richard, Paul and I agreed.  It was our secret.

 The next afternoon, I saw Richard sheepishly walking outside of his house with Joey Kemet.  Joey was a year older than us, and was more feared than Stalin.  He was the youngest of four boys that received no visible adult supervision of any kind.  Those boys were like wolves.  As far as any of us could tell, they lived by themselves in the shabby colonial house on the corner.  Zeppelin was always cranked out of the windows.  The tall muscular brother was always working on his piece of shit Nova while smoking cigarettes.  The pecking order was clear.  The eldest ones routinely kicked the shit out of Joey, and he exacted his revenge on the terrified young male population of the neighborhood.  I think Joey later grew up to be Snake Bliskin in Escape From New York, but I can’t confirm that at this time.

 Joey called me over the Richard’s front yard.  I could tell immediately this was not a good situation.  The only reason Joey called you over was to burn you with a cigarette or do something else terrible to you.  Richard must have spilled his guts to Joey about our find, and now Joey was going to worm in on our find.  The truth turned out to be much worse.  It was actually Joey's fort.  Holy shit...  This was bad news.

 “Hey…  Did you go in a fort yesterday?” Joey demanded.

 Me:  “Huh?”  (Fort?  What’s a fort?)

 Joey:  “Richard already told me you and Komorowski were in there.  Now you’re going to have to get a punch in the stomach.”

 This seemed a bit drastic.  Here I was, a young explorer, and I discovered a ten year old boy version of The Great Pyramids.  I left the site undisturbed, and made a vow to tell no one.  Now, just because I found it, I would have to be punched in the stomach by Manny Pacquiao while I stood there defenselessly?  This was total bullshit.  In a mix of indignation and fear I began to bargain with Joey Kemet.

 Me:  “How could we have known that was your fort?  We just stumbled into it and checked it out.  We didn’t even go in it!”  (Honesty was clearly not the best policy here)

 Joey:  “That doesn’t matter.  You found it, so now you have to be punched in the stomach.  Richard already took his, so now you have to get yours.”  (This sounds absolutely crazy, but in our world this line of reasoning actually had some traction.)

 With that Richard looked at me with hound dog eyes, nodding assent.  What a pussy.

 Me:  “I don’t care what Richard did.  He was stupid for letting you punch him in the stomach.  I'm not getting punched in the stomach.  I didn’t do anything wrong.”

 This led to a lengthy debate about fault, compensatory damages, and the like.  I began to get more confidence in my position when I realized that Joey Kemet, mean as a snake, was also as bright as a Dalmatian.  I would not admit to being inside the fort, while Richard had completely spilled his guts.  This appeared to be the turning point.  In a stunning turn of events, I got Joey to agree that since Richard had gone into the fort and had opened up his private porn stash, which was two (2) separate offenses and deserved two separate punishments.  I was actually to be commended as I indentified a fort of such solid and professional construction to be none of our business, and left it untouched.  Joey agreed to this, and soon had Richard standing with his arms to his sides to receive another punch to the stomach.  Tears streamed down his face as he struggled to understand exactly what had happened.

Later that afternoon I slunk off to The Weeds.  In a breathless mission Paul and I removed the porno stash from Joey’s wigwam, and secured it in our own hiding place by the water tower by the railroad tracks.  We never told Richard any of this.  He could not be trusted.  That was the summer we began to dissolve our friendship with Richard, and hiding from an enraged Joey.

 A few months ago I received a Facebook message from Richard totally out of the blue.  He was married with three kids doing some boring fucking job in Middle America.  Just another guy.  Despite the passage of thirty plus years, one thought immediately leapt into my mind.

 Fucking squealer. 


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