Skip to comments.Cooties
Posted on 05/14/2006 2:30:21 PM PDT by pickrell
Of course it didn't start back then, but it was only then that we were old enough to begin to absorb. What Kennedy and Krushev were angry about meant about as much as particle physics to us; meaningless when compared to exploring what you could do with a roll of caps after your cap gun broke.
Hammers evoked a satisfactory bang that startled the girls and delighted us to no end. Ideas were incubated that if such a tiny little spot of that gunpowder made such a great noise... then what would lots of powder do? This lasted forever, until, of course, Buzzie finally returned, having located the missing baseball, and we reconstituted the game.
We were learning what things were and how the world worked. And the only way to shape our minds was to work with what we saw and could reason out.
Buzzie's shirt was torn when he got back, and he was white as a glass of milk. The tale he had to relate chilled us, that hot summer day.
"You know that crippled guy with the face? He nearly got me!"
We inhaled in our awe and stood riveted as the near-death encounter was related. The ball, tipped in a pop-foul, had indeed went onto the roof of the decrepit garage, but had studied a science unknown to us, that of inertia, and had obediently continued on into forbidden territory. It had fallen into...the jungle. Unfortunately, the drum roll of thunder is never there when you need it- it being a bright summer day- and we were left with merely our imaginations. They were more than adequate.
The jungle was the final resting place of bums and unlucky travelers. It was a stark place of unfamiliar plants, menacingly foreign and unnatural. It was a front yard of tremendous promise and unknown horrors. And it was owned by the crippled guy.
While being crippled and disfigured was nowhere near as contageous, perhaps, as cooties... in our imaginations we recognized the dangers. That the police could let such hazards go uncorrected was a grave scandle to us. The word "foreign" had only been mentioned previously once, when Dubee solemnly explained that French Foreign Lesions were some kind of sores that made you want to forget stuff and route-march in deserts and suchlike. He'd seen it in some movie, and that was definitive for us. At any rate, it was unarguably distasteful and should be sorted out harshly.
"I crawled in under the weeds and had just found it, when I looked up and- there he was- he was lookin' straight at me with his good eye! I was nearly a goner, but I jumped up and ran to the fence and jumped over. He must not 'a been able to follow on account of it being his sacred garden or something, but he nearly got me!"
We were relieved that our friend had lived and determined that this attempted murder or white-slaving was the last straw. Something had to be done, and we were the gang to do it. It was Defcon One, and we went straight to the silos.
We told my dad.
You can actually see fury build if you know the signs. Instinctively we stepped back as retribution was about to be dealt. Laying the evidence before your Dad was somewhat like appealing to the Supreme Court. It was something to be reserved for only the most desparate of situations. Yet it dropped many a mouth open when a word we knew adults normally bit off when children were around suddenly burst forth.
He inhaled deeply, and started again. "Mr. Brodenski and I were just talking a few minutes ago, and he was concerned that your buddy, here, might have injured himself as he tumbled over the fence. He found some blood along with a scrap of shirt sleeve, and showed me."
We looked at each other, and realized that somehow, inexplicably, our triumph was fading faster than our excitement.
"He asked if I could request that you use the gate, when your ball next gets lost in his garden, rather than vaulting the fence." I watched darkness passing over my Dad's features like a cloud. "Mr. Brodenski realizes that the five of you are way too small to understand war wounds, and that his face might unnerve you, so he talked to me. You can't know the price he paid, fighting with the Free Polish against the Nazis, back in the war. And you can't know how much of his heart was left shattered in the Katyn Forest when thousands of his comrades, the cream of the Polish military corps, the only brothers he had, were murdered there by the Soviets. You're kids. And I can't thump you all just for being stupid, though Lord knows it is sore tempting, right about now.."
He swallowed something unpleasant and continued, "If it is anyone's fault, it's mine and the other adults around here. We're spending so much time working to put food on the table, and prevent the same sort of thing happening here in this country, that we haven't taken enough time to set you youngsters straight. Maybe we're trusting the schools a little too much. While I know that no teacher would conceive putting such ideas in your heads, I don't wonder where they come from. We were all your age at one time." Then... the thunder came, "Siddown and listen up!"
Our legs were knocked out from under us by some unknown force and the lecture started.
"You won't remember a tenth of what I say here, but by damned you'll at least hear it. There are terrible people in the world. But you won't know it by how nice they look. That wonderful man who sells you the magic beans and takes all of your paper route money will be pretty enough to package. While that "crippled guy" as you call him, who "lurks" next door, growing an enchanting little garden of exotic plants, with what little money he has, nearly died in the fight to keep some wonderful looking men in uniforms from savaging this country just like they did at Warsaw. You aren't seeing horror when you look at his face. You are seeing love.
"You are all maybe being conditioned by what you see on Saturday television that the athletic handsome guy is always the hero, and that the villains all stand out in their mean frowns and rough appearance. That the hero never needs to kill the bad guys because he and Tonto can always just beat them up a bit and then hand them over to the jailhouse. That the only ones to die are always the unheralded "victims" at the beginning of the show, and as such are not worth mentioning in the credits afterwards.
"Son, sometimes a lot of very good guys end up dying, and a lot more end up like, well, like Mr. Brodenski, because they stood and held when quite a few others ran away from the approaching tanks. If they hadn't stopped the attack, then a great many more soldiers would have died in that sector, and a great many of your friends might have permanent bunks at the orphanage. Being badly scarred isn't something he explains or feels depressed over. His depression is that so many other cadets lay buried in a forest that our State Department finds inconvenient to bring up at Summit Meetings. His pain from the shattered leg and the mangled face is nothing compared to the apparent obliviousness of Americans to the cost of their safe childhoods."
Dad looked somewhere that we couldn't see, and continued.
"He gets by on a tiny retirement income, and no one would know because the idea of complaining is... foreign.. to him. Get used to that word, because it can mean great good or great bad. But especially, get used to a man who fought for his right to call himself a citizen, learned to speak better English than I damnsure ever will speak Polish, and would, and nearly did, lay his life down to stop the real monsters."
He came back from where he was, and speared us all with his eyes. "Now I don't expect any of you to impress me with your maturity by apologizing to him for what you've thought and said about him- we don't live in a country with thought police...at least not yet-, but if I ever again hear anything about 'cooties' or 'cripples' in this neighborhood..."
We all backed up a bit and sucked in some breath.
"... then someone is going to learn the meaning of the word 'wrath'. Look it up tonight in the dictionary. Study it. Perhaps then you'll learn to avoid it."
"As long as we have men like Mr. Brodenski immigrating to this country, the bad men will fear us and leave us alone. We'll know fear only when the price of admission falls, and the truth is no longer something we bother to pound into our kid's heads. A lot of people have died, and a whole lot more will die, before men like Mr. Brodenski are no longer needed, and can grow gardens and grandkids in peace.
"He's not a foreigner. If he hadn't applied and worked for citizenship... then we would have insane not to beg him to accept it. He didn't demand it, you see, he paid for it. And as long as citizenship in this country is held in such esteem, by such men, then your errant baseballs are safe."
"He's an American..."
Sadly it seems those days are drawing rapidly to a close.
A question I've never answered to my own satisfaction even unto this day.
Nice.. thanks...you made my day better.
Do you remember what a "barnburner" match would do when you put the head into an empty 22 cartridge and hit it. It seemed louder than shooting the cartridge
And again, following the "more is beter" logic, do you remember what a BUNCH of match-heads would do if you put them into a toilet paper tube and dropped a cement block on them???
There's something fulminating in every boy's constitution, I suspect.
There is also nothing that will quite get your attention like accidentally dropping the match that you thought was out, into the mason's jar completely full of your homemade gunpowder on your patio.
Somewhere in Topeka, Kansas, near Gage Park, hidden under a desparately re-positioned concrete planter, on a pavement patio, is a hole that may just extend all the way down to the earth's crust.
But I didn't have nuthin ta do with it. I wasn't even there at the time. In fact, I'm someone else entirely.
Odd. There's a similar mysterious crater at an undisclosed location in northwest Iowa. Must have been a meteor shower ...
URL not found.
HAHAHA! NOW we're gettin' 'er done!