my friends and i have been meeting at ray tackett's house
to discuss and practice the fine art of wrestling. most
everyone is stronger than i. few are lankier. none are
taller. eventually i discover the strength of my legs
and within a couple of matches, it is common knowledge
that one must stay away from the dreaded stookey 'scissor
dorsey is a
growing community. soon to become the bedroom of both
washington, d.c. and baltimore (lying midway between
the two cities), the 1940's population of 100 will increase
a hundred fold in the next few years and by the late
70's, during a visit with my daughter anna, i will actually
get 'lost in dorsey' and not be able to find the driveway
that leads to the the house.
of 1948 and there are six or seven of us gathering now
at reimsnider's store to catch the bus to the new junior
high school in glen burnie. though no one else suggests
upset at the change, i miss the simplicity of attending
classes in the little four room building; three classrooms
and a center meeting hall where my mom once joined the
other mothers to make soup and the lip-smacking aroma
made concentration on the lessons around lunchtime very
this new school
is quite different. cold, analytic and...well, just plain
there are also
kids from upper grades and from the other school districts
riding on this bus. out of the sea of unfamilar faces
there is one boy at least as tall as me and about twice
as wide. i think his name is chris offit. he seems to
have a special dislike for me. one afternoon descending
the school bus steps coming back from school he grabs
the red and black hunter's plaid hat from my head and
my hat?!" i want to know.
to know?", he responds. we all know this game.
scuffling begins. he knocks me down easily. i get up
and running straight at his middle, manage to get him
down on the ground where we roll around a couple of times;
me trying to avoid his hefty arm around my neck and looking
for the opportunity to...aha...there it is...my leg slips
through a space left by one of his elbows and 'arrrgh...',
i've got him now! the action straightens out and there
he is trying his best to escape from the stookey scissor...tighter
and tighter the invincible 'legs of lore' bear down and
my friends are cheering...i'm looking into my offit's
eyes...i see his expression changing now...i can see...and
oh, gee...he hurts. i can see a direct relationship between
my squeezing and his pain... what is this? wait a minute...i
don't want to hurt a soul. a hat is worth this? i can
always get my hat. forget it...i'm bailing out of here...i'm
not going to be a part of this.
my grip and begin to extricate myself from our tangle
when i discover much to my surprise that stopping is
a deal i have made with myself...chris offit has no intention
of quitting and as a matter of fact with a bit more viciousness
then previously displayed throws me face down in the
dirt with my arm twisted up behind my back. i begin to
cry from the pain.
'give up'?" he asks, his face near my left ear.
immediately gives no satisfaction and as he pushes my
arm higher and i realize that even were i to remove myself
from this immediate situation and recover my previous
advantage, the net result would be the same. i would
never have the stomach to inflict the amount of pain
upon him neccessary to be considered a winner in this
match. "...give up?", the hoarse question is
i answer with a gulp..."yeah, i give up"
he gets up haughtily
and dusts himself off. i wonder honestly if he even thinks
about that moment ago. was it all in my mind? two friends
hand him his books and they walk off together leaving
me in a circle of disappointed supporters, some of whom
are clearly puzzled.
ja let him up?", asks one. "you had him..." adds
for the words to describe all the thoughts that had passed
through my mind. it occurs to me that i'm not supposed
to tell why. that maybe it's a secret between me and...and...well,
just a secret. charlie tipton hands me my hat that he
has retrieved from the rain gutter of the store. he doesn't
look at me. we all turn and begin the walk home.
we've been walking
for about five minutes in silence. i feel ostracized.
like i let everybody down and finally i can't stand it
do it!" i blurt out.
they look at
me embarrassedly and we all keep walking. "i mean
i could've...but i just couldn't..." then i realize...it
must sound like i'm just making this up to save face.
i don't bother to finish the sentence.