Posts Tagged ‘Childhood stories’

grease

Yeah. Like this.

Growing up in a small southern Ohio town in the 60s was pretty idyllic, really. Sure, a lot of the country was being torn apart by civil unrest, whether it was caused by race, the war in Vietnam or the Battle of the Sexes, but here in Bourneville we were relatively untouched by all that upheaval. Sure, my older sister Karen, rabble-rouser that she was, eventually turned me onto what was going on on our country (man, did Dad hate that peace sign she taught me to exchange with her), but that was towards the end of the decade. For a large part of the 60s I was just an innocent kid enjoying life.

I have a ton of stories from those days, the most famous being Harold, Max & Me, a story that folks seem to enjoy because of its sheer insanity. I also told a story of a kid named Grungy who, although we teased him mercilessly, turned out to have a good heart. That story was called Grungy’s Revenge. Max was the central figure in another childhood escapade as well, in the story entitled The Bicycle Wagon Train Was A Bad Idea. And believe me, it was.

The story I’m about to tell involves both Max and Grungy, and I’ll steal fro my own writing to describe each. Let’s start with Grungy:

We had a kid in our neighborhood when I was growing up that was, shall we say, lacking in the looks department. Ah, what the hell, he was the ugliest SOB I’ve ever seen. He had a bulbous nose, elephantine ears, beady eyes, and his complexion was so bad it looked as if his face had caught on fire on somebody’d put it out with a rake.

God, I can be mean. But seriously, this dude’s parents had to tie a steak around his neck to get the dog to play with him.  I swear he had to sneak up on a glass of water to get a drink. Hey-O! I could go on forever.

In addition, he was really big for his class at school. Alright, so he’d been held back a couple of times. But he was still big for his age, and not just big-big. Humongously fat-big. Add some long greasy hair to the mix and I think you get the visual. Oh, and when Grungy got mad you best run for your life. Dude was a badass.

Next, my description of Max:

Max? Max was my age, small for his age and a Bourneville badass. I can never remember him not smoking, he always had a cig in his mouth from the day I met him, which was when we were probably around 6-years old. Max could whip any kid’s ass and was a con-artist deluxe. He’d have his friend’s mothers eating out of his hand, then turn around and cuss like a sailor around the rest of the kids in Bourneville.

So there’s your visuals for two of the principal subjects of my story. There were others, including yours truly, which you’re about to hear about . . .

One hot summer day a few of us Bourneville rapscallions and ne’re-do-wells were hanging around Max’s family garage, just shooting the breeze and probably planning our next hijinks.

The cast of characters included myself, Max, Grungy, Scratch, Fred, Ted, and a new kid in town we’d inexplicably christened with the name Drano.

Like I said, we were all sitting around the perimeter inside the garage, talking about God-knows-what. Max was sitting beside one of those big fish fryers that his family owned, and it had about 6-inches of nasty grease at the bottom. Max’s older brother said they never cleaned it because it made the fish taste better.

Anyway, sitting between Max and Fred was the new kid Drano, and I was sitting across the garage with Grungy, Ted, and Scratch. At some point Max, the ultimate instigator, decided it would be a good idea to reach in the fryer, grab a big glop of grease on his finger, and casually flipped it across the room toward us.

I think I was the only one who actually saw him do it, and as I recall the dollop of goo seemed to fly in slow motion through the air, directly toward its intended target . . . the prodigious cranium of Grungy.

As I watched in horror, the grease-ball made a soft plop, directly on the bridge of Grungy’s humongous schnozz. Everyone looked up, and for a few seconds there was silence as we contemplated the terror to ensue.

Grungy just sat there, and it would have been hilarious had we not been aware of the big man’s penchant for anger when tormented.

Slowly, he reached up and wiped the offending lard from his nose, flicked it away, and glared across the room, trying to figure out who committed the deed. Of course, the first guy he looked at was young Max, who silently pointed at the new kid sitting beside him.

Drano.

Poor Drano. He’d been in town for maybe a week and made the fateful mistake of sitting next to Max.

As Drano stood shaking his head no, waving his arms and basically looking like a kid staring down a charging rhinoceros, Grungy advanced across the room methodically and with a single purpose on his mind.

Revenge.

As we looked on in terror, Grungy picked up Drano like a rag doll, flipped him upside down, and unceremoniously dunked his head into the grease.

Stunned, we watched as Grungy held his head there for what seemed like forever, then slowly twisted his head in even deeper.

When he finally pulled him out and sat him back down, Drano’s hair looked like, well, like he had the first-ever mohawk, except greasier. The funny thing was, Drano just sat there, afraid to move.

Then Grungy just walked out of the garage and went home.

Of course, Max had to have the last word:

“See Drano, I told you not to make Grungy mad.”

 

PS: I distinctly recall handing Drano a dirty old rag from the corner of the garage, nice guy that I am. He proceeded to try and rub the gook out, only succeeding in making matters worse. Then his hair stood up all over, making him look like he was perpetually frightened, which incidentally he was from then on.

scared-little-boy-cartoon-7248295

 

 

 

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1Another story from my misspent youth . . .

We had a kid in our neighborhood when I was growing up that was, shall we say, lacking in the looks department. Ah, what the hell, he was the ugliest SOB I’ve ever seen. He had a bulbous nose, elephantine ears, beady eyes, and his complexion was so bad it looked as if his face had caught on fire on somebody’d put it out with a rake.

God, I can be mean. But seriously, this dude’s parents had to tie a steak around his neck to get the dog to play with him.  I swear he had to sneak up on a glass of water to get a drink. Hey-O! I could go on forever.

In addition, he was really big for his class at school. Alright, so he’d been held back a couple of times. But he was still big for his age, and not just big-big. Humongously fat-big. Add some long greasy hair to the mix and I think you get the visual.

The guy’s last name was Granderson, and for some unknown reason that only our then-addled minds could understand, we called him Grungy. Grungy Granderson. Hey, it seemed to fit.

Anyway, he hated the nickname. Hated it. If you ever called him that you best be sure that you weren’t within grabbing distance or you were in for a severe ass-whipping. However, since Grungy was lacking in the footspeed department some of us would occasionally get away with actually calling him that to his troll-like face. The fact that Grungy was such a mean and hateful guy somehow made this acceptable in our world.

Wait. Now that I think about it, it’s sort of obvious why he was so angry all the time. The world can be a cruel place, man.

I actually felt a hint of remorse there for a second. Hold on . . . OK, it passed.

That said, one day I was cruising by Twin School on my bike with my buddy Buddy (seriously, his name was Buddy) when we noticed Grungy shooting some hoops on the playground. Buddy, who could be a bit of a jackass, then suggested we ride over and torment Grungy a bit. After all, we were on our bikes and he was not. Seemed like a safe and entertaining way to kill a few minutes. Have I mentioned I was once one helluva a punk-ass kid?

Before we rode over there, though, Buddy and I had this conversation:

Buddy: “Hey, why don’t you see how close you can get to him, call him Grungy, and then take off?”

Me: “Why don’t you?”

Because I’m quick like that.

Buddy: “C’mon. I dare you.”

Me: “No way man. That dude would crush my spleen if he caught me.”

Buddy: “You’re a chicken.”

Me: “For once in your life you are correct. I am a chicken.”

Buddy: “C’mon. I double dare you.”

Now, when I was 12-years old you could dare me, you could call me chicken, you could question my manhood. But you could not double dare me. Ever. Double dare me and I would take you up on it. That was the the rule of the street in Bourneville, Ohio in the late 60s my friends. I know, it makes no sense, but anyone in my age group knows exactly what I’m talking about.

So . . .

We rode on over and I immediately began circling Grungy on my bike, saying clever things like:

“G-r-u-n-g-y . . .”

“Hey GRUNGY!”

“Grungeman!”

“What’s up Grungy?”

“G-R-U-U-U-U-U-N . . .”

A-n-d I never got that last part out because a basketball had just slammed into the back of my head at approximately the speed of light. I swear it felt like a cannonball had hit me from a distance of 10-feet, thrown by an angry King Kong after 17-Red Bulls and a shot of liquid adrenaline. To this day if you look closely at the back of my head I’m pretty sure you can see the faint outline of the word “Spalding” there, backwards.

Of course I flew off my bike, and when I came to my senses Grungy was towering over me like an enraged Goblin on steroids.

Man, was he pissed.

He then picked me up by the front of my t-shirt and belt of my pants, held me over his head, and threw me like a rag doll into the air. While airborne it felt like I was moving in slow motion. Everything became quiet and it was actually quite peaceful for a few seconds. While up there I believe I actually caught a glimpse of Buddy, my supposed friend, pedaling away at warp-speed while glancing over his shoulder in fear, like a hobo being chased by a guy with a job offer.

Of course all that ended when I landed on the playground blacktop.

I sat up, stunned, looking around wildly for the expected onslaught that was to come. But nothing came. All I saw was Grungy riding away on my little bike, looking like one of those bears in the circus that they’ve taught to ride a bicycle. It would have been funny if I’d had any feeling in my upper torso.

After sitting on the ground for awhile trying to catch my breath and my bearings and feeling around for missing teeth and you know, blood, I got up and walked home.

And there, leaning against a tree in my front yard, was my bike.

Grungy had left it for me.

God knows I deserved what I got and he had every right to roll my bicycle into Paint Creek or something, but for some reason he didn’t.

Grungy moved away soon after that, and I never got the chance to ask him why he left my bike for me. I guess somewhere deep inside that big, mean, ugly body there beat a good heart.

I sort of wish I’d known that sooner.

Artist’s rendering.

This was one of the stories in a series about my susceptibility to almost getting killed as a kid. I’ve alluded to this little mishap before, so stop me if you’ve heard it already.

On Halloween when I was, oh, maybe 11 or 12, my buddy Ted and I decided to climb the big willow tree in my front yard and scare the bejesus out of passing children. If you have to ask why you don’t know what fun is, folks.

I was climbing ahead of Ted, at least 20-feet up. He was probably 10-feet off the ground behind me. I reached for a branch, it broke, and next thing I knew I was hurtling downward, backwards, towards the gaping jaws of death. You ever fall from a great height backwards? A lot of stuff goes through your head as you fall all slow-motiony and whatnot through the air, like “I hope mom will be OK without me” or “I sure wish I would’ve kissed Debbie Mirkelson on the playground last Tuesday when I had the chance“, or perhaps, “Oh no, when they clean my room they’re going to find those magazines under my mattress.”

Too specific? never mind.

My point is, you actually experience great insight and retrospection on the way down. I actually think I may have understood The Grand Unification Theory for a second, but sadly it vanished from my brain upon impact. Anyhoo, as I flew past Ted, and you may find this hard to believe, but he actually yelled, “A-h-h-h-h-h-h-h . . .” imitating a man falling down a hole.

What can I say? I’ve had some really weird friends in my life.

So I hit the ground, landing on my back, and all the air went out of me. Things went black and I thought, “So this is what it’s like to be dead.”

Except I wasn’t, although for a second I’m pretty sure I saw Jesus.

Soon Ted came down and shook me, probably not the preferred method of treatment, and it was only then that I began to feel the pain. My back hurt like hell, but something was seriously wrong with my mouth. I instinctively reached in there to see what was wrong, and to my horror there was a a lot of blood and a substantial sized hole in my tongue. I ran screaming bloody murder into my house, only to be chastised by my parents for interrupting a scintillating episode of “My Three Sons” or something.

Did anyone call 911? Nah. Was I taken to the emergency room? I was not. I got a wet rag, stuck it in my mouth and got on with my life.

Bottom line? Even though I still have a lump in my tongue today, it healed. And my back is fine if you ignore the fact that, on rainy days, it feels like a honey badger is chewing on my lower lumbar vertebrae.

What can I say? ‘Twas a different, and in many ways better, time.