I was the youngest in my house. I was the little brother too and the one, always trying to tag along, and always poking the bear, so to speak, and always crying after I took the beating, which I probably instigated.
It is true, I was the little one and yes, it is also true that being the little one led to certain unfortunate things.
This led me to things like dead-arms or dead-legs, which is literally when someone punches you in the arm or leg.
Yes, this is true. My brother did this to me. He did things like this to me and more. He used to pick me up by ears. In the summertime, he and his friends would see how high they could throw me in the air, which was fine because I usually landed in the mainly above ground pool in the backyard.
And I say mainly above ground because The Old Man designed the pool himself. At the time, an in-ground pool raised the property taxes; however, there was no change in property tax as long as the pool remained at least 3’ above ground.
Our house was humble. I was not overly big or small —it was just like any other house on the block, which was a busy street in our suburban town. I’ve told you about this place before —I know I have, and I try not to repeat myself; however, for now, I want to set the stage a little differently to give you a different flavor for my story.
The world was a different place back then. Cars were different and so was fashion. We had Atari back then. Technology was still a new thing. Hell, I remember The Old Man bringing home a VCR, which was a big thing back then.
Kids used to go outside and play back then. No one stayed indoors. Everything happened outside. We used to build forts and clubhouses. We used to cause our fair share of trouble too, but that’s for another story
My brother was the town athlete. He was known. He was popular and well-liked by pretty girls. Safe to say that after The Old Man, my brother was my second hero. He was a football player. He was on the lacrosse team. And more to this; my brother was also equally crazy and did crazy things the same as any other crazy high school kid would do.
He took out The Old Man’s car a few times. He came home drunk a few times. He did his share of trouble, that’s for true, which perhaps was something I wanted to live up to
I ever tell you about the time I thought my brother was gonna kill me? Well, in fairness, this is less serious than it sounds but still, the truth is boys will be boys and older brothers will be older brothers.
And Dave, well, he was my older brother alright—and in his infinite wisdom, one day after a snowstorm, Dave asked me if I wanted to go skitching.
Skitching is when someone crouches down with their feet beneath them and hangs on the bumper of the car as it drives down the icy, snowy street. This was partly dangerous and partly crazy, partly fun, and partly painful sometimes. Usually, most drivers will not stand for this.
Usually, kids stand on the snowy streets near stop signs and try to grab on to a passing car. Sometimes the driver stops and shouts and screams; sometimes the driver just takes off and the ride would go like this for a while, at least until the next stop sign.
My brother, on the other hand, knew about skitching. He was in the 12th grade at this time, which puts me somewhere at the age of 12.
He asked if I wanted to go skitching. Naturally, I said yes because I was just excited to know my big brother wanted to hang out with me.
Besides, what little kid wouldn’t want to hang around their older brother.
He had a rope in his car. The idea was to tie the rope to the rear bumper of his brown, beat-up old Duster.
His car smoked a lot. His engine rumbled loudly too. This was his first car, so, this meant this was a car that saw damage from wild rides, accidents, and all the high-school hi-jinks one could think of.
I was admittedly nervous. I was scared that I wouldn’t know what to do because, after all, I was only 12. I never went skitching before. I knew what it was and I knew what I had to do, but, well, the truth is I was never dragged around on the ice by a car before, so yes, safe to say I had a little bit of performance anxiety building up within me.
Dave took me up to the park, which was over on Hempstead Turnpike. We pulled into the Merrick Avenue entrance of Eisenhower Park.
This is where the cars parked for sleigh riding. But we were not here to sleigh riding. No, sleigh riding was for little kids—and me, I was about to go skitching with my big brother.
Dave pulled into the circular parking lot, which was certainly icy and covered with snow. There were speed-bumps that would certainly make this ride interesting too.
He was excited for me.
“This will be fun,” he said.
“You’re gonna love it,” he told me.
I remember swallowing my own throat like a cartoon character would when facing danger and instead of using my better judgement, I placed my trust in my brother’s hands.
Dave pulled into the parking lot. His big brown shit-box of a car was rumbling and smoking from the exhaust. He opened the trunk of his car and pulled out a length of rope, approximately 6’ in length. He tied one end to the middle if his bumper. Then Dave looked at me, and this is when the idea turned different.
I could see the light bulb above my brother’s head and the look of excitement came over his face.
Next, my big, dear old, sweet brother decided to tie the other end around my waist —this was so I wouldn’t fall; only, Dave’s knot tying ability was not at the typical Boys Scout level. He only knew how to tie a slip knot, which means, you guessed it, the knot tightens when pulled.
The parking lot is pretty big. The year, I suppose was somewhere around 1983 or 84, maybe? The cars were parked in their perspective places. Kids were screaming joyously on the hill nearby, safely sleigh riding, and Dave, well—his car was in the middle of the parking lot—cars were parked, head-in, on either side of us. Dave tied me up and then ran into his car, which was waiting for him with the driver’s side door open. He leaned his head out from the rolled-down window and shouted, “Are you ready?”
Nervously, I gave the thumbs up and at first, Dave took off somewhat slowly—and I was going. I was going, bouncing a little, crouched downward with my snow boots on, a big blue puffy coat on me, a wool hat pulled down over my hears, mittens to keep my hands warm and snow pants to keep me dry. (At least he had me dress warm, right?)
I was going and going until I hit the first speed bump, which is simultaneously when Dave decided to speed up. I slipped to the side and let go over the rope, but wait, no —I was tied, so there was no letting go of the rope.
The car pulled me. The car also pulled the knot tightly around my waist, which lifted around my stomach, which essentially made this impossible for me to breathe. And Dave kept going.
He was flying all over the place. I was bouncing along across the next two speed bumps —I remember the snow covering my face and the sight of heaven’s light peeking through the snowy flakes covering my face.
More accurately, I recall thinking, “My brother didn’t do this because he wanted to hang out with me.”
No, at this point, I came to the conclusion that my brother was trying to kill me!
Fortunately for me, your narrator, the ride stopped in time. I had the wind knocked out of me. To this day, my brother has a different version of this story, which is fine. He swore he looked in the rearview mirror and it looked like I was having fun—but no, this was not too much fun. I was bouncing along and flying all over the place and you know what? Thank God we didn’t have the technology of today back then because aside from the bumps and bruises I received, if this were to happen today it means we would probably have videos of this on our cell phones.
(AKA: proof of how stupid we were.)
Still though, in fairness and in all honesty, this is a memory that I cherish. This and the time when I was somewhere around 7 or maybe 8 and my brother told me he would do my homework for me if I drank a cupful of something.
I agreed to this because first, I hate math, and secondly, I had no idea what Vermouth was.
And ain’t this a bitch! I drank that whole damned cup, threw up all over the house. Mom and The Old Man were out somewhere and Dave was supposedly “Babysitting” me.
I was so sick. I threw up more than I can describe —and the bitch of it was the next day. The bitch wasn’t the hangover. No, the bitch of it was that I turned in my math homework and every answer was wrong!
What a gyp!
There was a big benefit to being Dave’s kid brother. No one else was allowed to beat me up. Dave defended me a few times.
In fact, he defended me when I had one of my first real fist fights with a kid named Joey O.
Joey and me, both had a newspaper route. Joey and I also had a quick fist fight in the hallway at school. Naturally, I feel that I won this fight but there were others that saw this differently. Needless to say, I had to redeem myself. See, neither Joey nor I were tough. We were both the weaklings of the school but the same as the two toughest need to fight to see who was tougher, Joey and I had to fight to see who was the weakest.
Joey was in front of the door at the newspaper depot. I didn’t bother talking about this and going back and forth with words. I just ran up, arms flailing around, swinging as hard as I could, probably like a windmill of punches with nothing landing too successfully —but hey, I was winning.
Joey was against the wall and I was doing good until Joey’s dad came out from the depot to break up the fight.
I stood still because there was an adult there and I was still young enough to be heeled by that.
Joey’s dad believed it was in his son’s best interest to stiff arm me in the face to keep us separated, which was completely unnecessary.
He yelled at me because, of course, it wasn’t possible his son had anything to do with this fight, which he did, because the truth is Joey was an asshole to me.
In the interim, Joey’s dad gave me a fat lip. Fortunately for me, my paper route was near my home. Dave was home and so was his shit-box of a car. He was working out at the time and punching the wall with 40lbs. dumbbells.
I told him what happened and showed my brother my fat lip, which had blown-up quite considerably since Joey’s dad palmed me in the face.
Next, Dave went to the depot. Next, Dave went into the depot to demand Joey’s home address from the manager.
Next, the manager informed my brother it was against policy to give out personal information. And next, my brother offered to give the manager a beating instead.
Naturally, the manager saw no reason for this and gave my brother the address, including the information as to which doorbell to ring.
There is more to this story, like my Dave’s friend Lenny that just so happened to pass by when we were pulling out from the depot’s parking lot.
Lenny was a strong kid, somewhat of a body builder, and like my brother—he was always looking for a reason to mix it up.
The two went to Joey’s house with me. Safe to say, Joey and his dad had no idea what hit them. I remember Joey’s dad nearly weeping in fear with my brother hovering over him. Joey apologized the very next day. And suddenly, I felt kind of cool.
I have these stories and more like them, which I cherish with reason.
Life moves on and we grow up. We all have our own lives and our own agendas, which mean we don’t always have the time to keep in touch with family.
Also, I cherish these stories because I recall the first time I ever wrote about them
I used to have a popular blog running on a tattoo website. I received a message from a young woman from Iceland.
She liked my stories about Dave and I. she laughed. She told me about her brother and how the two of them had the same kind of relationship.
Then she explained how she missed her brother. Apparently, he committed suicide. And for her, it was a long time since she was able to laugh about any of their stories.
She thanked me—
Can you believe that?
Here it is, more than a decade later and I am still writing on a daily basis because of people like her and her story. I never forgot this and how inspired I was by the written word and its ability to take away pain (including my own.)
I wish I could thank her for the gift she gave me.
I wish I knew her name.
Unfortunately, I don’t. So I guess I’ll just keep paying it forward instead.
I think she would want me to do this. And to be honest, I think her brother would too