Tag Archive: violence

The Game

The two little boys stood, staring at each other, their faces firm – stern, hard, laced with anger.  Their fists raised before them – small bald hands with knuckles staring out of them.  One had his thumb tucked in his fist – that was the wrong thing to do.

I should know.  I was one of the boy’s fighting.

Often us boys would play a game – this was back in the days of the ‘hood.  I don’t know what to call it except simply choking.

It’s been on my mind for a bit of time, so I’m going to write about it.


The two boys stood – this was another time, same place.   The teenager stood nearby, the other kids a loose ring – about seven of them, ranging in age from 3 to 12 years old.  They were my ‘audience’ – or theirs, my teenager and his friends.  My best friend and I, facing off one more time.  It seems like we were always facing off and fighting, trying to prove who was tougher than the other.  I always won, time after time.  But not in this one.  Not always.  Or at least I don’t think so.  It’s hard to remember those kinds of things sometimes . . .

I grabbed him around the neck with both hands – I can still see his sandy curly locks as he threw his head back, tightly smiling, instinctively protecting his features – broad brimmed face with wild cat green eyes – it was as if there was something feral behind them and pinpoint pupils from the bright Georgia sun.  At the same time he was opening up his neck, I grabbed him double-handed, placing both thumbs on opposite sides of the slender arching bulge of his windpipe, taking care to at least place the first joint of my thumb beyond it.  At the same time he grabbed mine in a similar grip – and I let him.  This was what the teenager told us to do.  I was about eight years old.

He started squeezing tighter and tighter as I tightened my grip.  You weren’t allowed to do it all at once – you had to do it slowly.  It was important that the thumbs remained wrapped completely around the throat – on both sides of the windpipe.  We didn’t want to take the chance of crushing someone’s windpipe – we already knew the consequences.  At least one kid had faced disaster – his windpipe crushed in.  The thumb joints, properly aligned, were where one could crush, squashing the throat below the windpipe and in the esophagus region.  This insured no one was crushing someone else’s cartilage.

How I knew that I did not know.

We would stand there stiff legged – this happened several times; not once but many through my childhood – our fingers wrapped around each other’s throats, both of us tightly grinning – an evil grin and a vicious one, but without any real malice towards our friend – squeezing tighter and tighter until someone would pass out.

The first few times I got knocked out, or at least very blank and dizzy.  There comes a time when the darkness rushes in from the edges of your vision, narrowing it down.  Outside sound becomes muted; your heart beat a dull thud in your ears . . . one that seems to grow even slower and fainter and then even it disappears, and you lose all taste and vision . . .

and you wake up on the floor.  Or the ground.  Or wherever you ended up landing.  And hope you didn’t get hurt.  (Once I fell out on a paved road . . . and woke with road rash and bruises all over my knees, elbows and hands.  At least the body had tried to catch itself . . . I don’t remember a thing.)

I won’t go into the mental aspect of knowing you are dying.  That’s a different sort of thing.

Sometimes my friend and I played with nobody watching – ‘practicing’ out in the yard.  You weren’t supposed to do that – someone could get hurt, the teenager had warned us many a time, adding that someone could die from this thing.  But on the other hand he was the one who had set the Games up . . . one of several kinds.

I learned you could hyperventilate prior to this ‘event’ to prepare – filling your body with essential oxygen until your head was swimming from the stuff – and then going right into the ‘fighting’.  I could outlast many an opponent that way – strangling him while he strangled me until someone gave up or went down.

It was a hell of a game to play.

It went on until we were about ten or eleven – by that time we were getting a bit dangerous with it.  We would hang on even though we were dying, or passed out sometimes – our hands unconsciously locked down like claw vises.  Then the teenager would have to pry them apart . . .

It was a hell of a game.  In many ways.


Never Say Quit

Never Say Quit

When I was a kid, one of the things I was taught is that you never say quit, you never cry uncle, and if you surrender, it’s just to come back and fight another day.  Nothing is ever good enough; therefore you should never stop trying, and society is going to judge you by the things you do.  And I never was one to hold a grudge, even as a kid.

A lot of folks are bewildered by that – how I can forgive someone who has wronged me, or why I can take a slight one day and shrug it off the next.  I have trouble explaining it other than to say I forgive.  I note of a person’s weaknesses and catalog their misbehaviors as something special about them.  Whether that person is a thief or a liar or given to exaggeration – I don’t mind.  It’s just human, which is something I am.  So instead of rejecting them or taking vengeance upon them, I just take steps to ensure whatever happened doesn’t happen again.  I don’t leave temptations laying about.  After all, if you find your friend is a thief, the best thing to do is make sure things are put up when they come around, and to keep an eye on them – not scream and yell and accuse, driving them away.  That’s the worst sort of thing you can do.  And if they are a liar, then take what they say with a huge grain of salt. No need to drop the friendship, in my opinion – just be aware of their failings, and remove the temptations.  You’d be surprised how loyal friends can become when you learn understanding and forgiving them like that.

But not holding a grudge has gotten me in trouble a time or two. Mostly it is with other people who don’t understand my strange way of thinking – and those who have held grudges against me. Picking back up where I left off – when I was a kid living for a brief amount of time in North Carolina – this story is about one of those times. I was nine years old.  And it’s about one of the worst fights I ever had.

It started simply enough. Some big kid, a bully around the military apartments (the same one mentioned in “Fight or Get Beaten”) – decided to pick a fight with me. No big problem; I’d taken on big kids before. But this one was different.

The kid outweighed me by about twenty pounds or so, maybe more, and was built like a side of beef. Like me, he could take pain and keep on fighting. And like me, he didn’t seem to know to call it quits.

Our fight started one sunny day during the latter half of the last summer I spent in NC. Like so many fights, I haven’t a clue what started it, nor what it was about; however, I gave as good as I got, and I got as good as I gave. We fought for hours, trading blows and wrestling in the dust, neither one willing to give in, give up, or go away. We fought until the other kids, tired of watching, wandered away – something unusual for kids, since they are drawn to fights like birds to corn – and then we fought some more. But it’s strange living on a military base – at about five thirty, all the kids go in, for that’s when the fathers come home and supper is served. It was almost like a rule, a regulation. And so when the sun had rolled from its zenith and was dropping towards the horizon, we both obeyed the demands of our lords and masters – our mothers – and brushing ourselves off, separated from each other’s violent embrace and walked away, casting sullen looks over our shoulders.

The next day started normally enough. I had no interest in fighting this kid; the fight was over, history, and nobody won – plus he was one tough cookie, albeit a bit chipped and frayed from the day before – just like me. And holding no grudge, I was just as happy as not when the other kids started a baseball match out in the green field between the apartments. He was on the other team; I was playing second base, and the game held my attention instead of this boy I’d fought the previous day. Little did I know I should have been watching him instead of the game.

It was when he’d gone to bat and made second base that I learned he was one of those who held a grudge. I guess not being able to whip my ass the day before had something to do with it – most of the kids he would attack would buckle down, crouching and crying while he rained blows on them, forcing them into mindless submission for no other reason than to beat them. And like any bully, he seemed to have a penchant for attacking kids who were smaller than him. I guess my standing up to him was like a sticker in his throat, for as he was behind me, dancing back and forth on the base – and I, my attention on the next batter to arise – he attacked me.

It was a total surprise; my own personal Pearl Harbor. Attacking me from behind with nary a warning nor a cry, he bore me down face first into the dirt and began having his way with me – pounding my back, and pinning me to the ground. Squirming, I managed to wriggle around and begin returning fist for fist – and the fight was on. And again it was like the previous day, with one small difference: I could not understand why this kid kept attacking me. As far as I was concern the fight was over; it had been finished the previous day; why he wanted to keep on going was beyond me. But in my wondering I was taking a licking, and because I was more upset and confused by this kid’s reaction, I wasn’t as mad as I should have been. Instead I started fighting a defensive fight, just barely keeping the large boy at bay. And as it had been the previous day, the fight went on for hours. At first the other kids gathered around – then after awhile they wandered away to go play their ballgame, leaving me and the boy scuffling in the dirt.

By four-thirty I was worn down; this kid just wouldn’t stop fighting and I wouldn’t say ‘quit’. I just didn’t know how. By five he had me on the ground, and with evil intent, was taking great joy in trying to see how many sticks he could cram into my nose and ears. I refused to cry ‘uncle’ to him. I’ll never forget that – the dirty tricks – and how angry I’d become. Angry at myself for being rendered helpless; angry at him for pushing those sticks into me. But I was wearied, pinned down, and could do nothing but thrash helplessly around. And then came the big moment which ended the fight once and for all.

As I’m laying there, twisting my head, nose and ears bleeding, the kid suddenly flies up and off me like he’s grown wings. At the same time he lets loose a fearful cry which I can still, now, forty some odd years later, hear ringing in my ears:


That cry has told me a lot over the years. While that kid might not of feared us other kids, there was one person in his life he truly feared: his father. Whether or not that is because he’d had the snot beaten out of him by his father, I don’t know – but it would explain why he was such a bully, taking out his fear and exercising his desire for control by trying to dominate the little kids he came across. I’ve found that is the case with many violent people: their parents were violent towards them, and they, as helpless kids, can not control the anger directed at them – so they take out their own anger by trying to control others, by abusing them, thus giving themselves a small sense of power, however fleeting it may be.

And so with that cry of fear, he flies from me – and I see my own father standing over me, holding the kid up by the loop of his pants and the back of his shirt. And I was so surprised! Never had my father rescued me from a fight – he had never needed to. But in this one case he was there, and setting the kid gently down on his feets, he ushered his stern words.

“Go home.”

The kid, turning, trotted away with a mixed look of meekness and relief. I truly think he thought he was in for an extreme ass-whoopin’. As for me, I look up from where I’m laying in the dust, and my father extends a hand towards me, helping me up.

“Good fight,” was all he said. Then throwing a hand across my shoulders he guides me, sore and stumbling, towards what we call home. “Let’s eat.”

That was one of the only times I really, really remember being glad – and amazed – that my father was there, and one of the very few times I remember him helping – actually helping – me without a demand or an obligation to give something in return.

Somehow I find that strange.

Fight – Or Get Beaten

While we were in North Carolina (see “Escape From the Hood”), my mom finally taught my big brother how to fight in her own inimitable way – and as far as I was concerned, it was about time.


I remember well when this happened; it was all he deserved, though not as much pain and punishment as I sometimes wished on him. But it was cruel. We were behind the apartments when Bro, true to his nature, started making some snide remarks to a stocky kid just a little bit bigger than he was. Since I was standing there watching, I guess he figured he was ‘safe’ – that I’d come barreling in to save his butt as I had done so many times before. But this time was different. After watching him eat ice cream while I danced around on some monkey bars trying to avoid getting creamed by a teenager he’d pissed off, like I was some circus entertainer put there for his own entertainment, I’d decided I’d had enough; I wasn’t going to stand up for him anymore, nor was I going to let him suck me into fighting on his behalf — no matter how much he screamed or yelled, or who he picked a fight with.


The kids started throwing punches at him, and again, true to his past pattern of behavior, my brother just stood there like an idiot, screaming and crying and futilely holding his forearms up in front of his face in defense. He wouldn’t even try to throw a punch; he just stood there, screaming and wailing and occasionally glancing over at me. But I just watched him, cold and numb inside. I don’t know why I felt that way – just a cold nothing, but I guess it was my way of not feeling what I usually felt when I’d see him getting beat up – anger, sorrow, and pity. I had a nifty knack of ‘shifting’ my emotions, ‘switching’ into another state of calm numbness. It helped a LOT when my dad would come to beat me, though sometimes now I think because of that — because I didn’t cry easily — I got beaten much harder and longer than I would of otherwise. My dad got off on seeing our pain; he still has that mean sadistic trait. So perhaps in that my brother was smarter. He’d start crying right away.


So Bro just stands there and screams while this kid, pleased at his easy prey, pounds on him. Then my mom comes out. In her hand she has a thick leather belt. She, too, has had enough. She had heard about my tussle on the playground; she knows my brother is always running his mouth without anything to back it, and she knows that I’ve been standing up for him for years – fighting his fights, saving his butt, and coming home with nothing but bruises and scratches to show for it.


Going up behind my brother, she begins whacking him with the belt – HARD whacks, across the back and shoulders.


“FIGHT, damn you, FIGHT!” she yells – no, shrieks – as the kid who was beating on my brother backs off in frightened confusion. My brother just screams. The kid looks at my mom, then at my brother. My mom looks at the kid. I can just imagine how confused he must of been. I know I would of been terrified.


“Fight him, damnit,” she hisses, swinging the belt at my brother. “I’m not going to hit you. I’m going to hit HIM until he fights BACK.”


And the kid – hesitant now, begins to swing again. Encouraged by my mom’s lack of reaction (except to whip my brother some more), he starts to strike in earnst.


My brother, caught between my enraged mom and this punk kid, finally concedes. At first he tries to sink to the ground – but my mom beats him even harder.


“Get UP, damn you! FIGHT!” she yells.


I’m just watching, sort of upset, sort of not. I don’t dare step in, not now, not with my momma involved. That belt is just as likely to strike me for interfering as it is my brother for being stupid. And I guess something finally snapped in my brother – some kind of realization, or perhaps he’d been beaten animal. At any rate, he gets back up, crying and rushes at the boy, wildly throwing punches as my mom’s belt rapidly follows him. And to my surprise (as much as Bro’s, I think) — the kid finally breaks and runs away (probably more terrified by the weird, strange outcome of the fight than any actual pain.)


And that’s how my brother learned to fight for himself instead of relying on me to win his battles for him. For better or worse, that’s how it went.


And I never had to fight his battles anymore.



Fight Your Own Fight

My brother had a nasty tendency to pick fights, then count on me to save him. Despite being my older brother, he was thin and scrawny, and to make matters worse, he’d pick a fight – and wouldn’t fight back. Instead he’d just lay there, letting some other kid pound on him, screaming until I’d step in and take his opponent on. Lucky for him, I was a tough, scrappy kid with a fearless heart, one who didn’t know the word “quit” or “uncle” – or at least I’d refuse to say it, fighting until I’d won. No amount of pain seemed to get in the way of my determination, and when I’d get angry, I get determined. Pain would just anger me further, thus bolstering my determination. For some reason I’d become immune to pain in a fight; not caring anymore, just going at it, sucking up my opponent’s blows and delivering plenty of my own. And my brother – he would pick a fight with anyone, mostly through his smart mouth and smarmy answers. And he wasn’t above picking fights with kids – sometimes teenagers – who were almost twice my age and size. Not that I’d let that bother me; I’d just be more cautious, more vicious, and hitting them a lot harder. But I’d never beat up a kid just to beat him up; instead I preferred getting along peacefully, and even when I’d find myself in a fight as soon as the other kid would start crying it was my cue that he’d had enough and it was time to let him go home.

But while the teens in the ‘hood had learned to respect my fighting skills and leave me alone, the ones in North Carolina at Fort Bragg when I was nine didn’t know me. Which was fine by me – I wasn’t out to impress anyone with my fighting skills, preferring instead to just play with my peers. But my brother wasn’t going to let it stay that way – and I had my last big fight with a teenager courtesy of his aggravating one on the playground late one afternoon.

It started simply – and usually enough. My brother and I were at the playground, not far from the military quarters, and it was late afternoon early in the summer. It was late afternoon; most of the other kids had gone home, and we are just aimlessly tooling around, staying away from each other while wishing we had someone to play with. We had only been in this place a month or two, and didn’t have any friends, but my brother and I weren’t friends, either. We were more like two convicts reluctantly stuck in the same prison; neither one able to stand each other for long, but bound together by the ties of family and familiarity. My brother is casually licking at an ice cream cone, one he’d gotten from the ice cream truck that came around sometimes.

This teenage guy comes walking up – tall, lean, black haired and narrow faced, and my brother starts talking to him. He’s about fifteen or so, and I don’t pay much attention, but what is coming from my brother’s mouth catches my attention.

“He can beat you up,” my brother says, nodding at me. “He beats up teenagers.”

I inwardly cringe. I don’t want to fight anyone. But the teenager looks over at me with this look – one of scorn and disdain. I don’t like his look. It’s like he’s looking for someone to pick on, and my brother and I are alone.

“Your brother thinks you can beat me up,” he tells me. I size him up. He’s lean and wiry looking, a third taller than me. But I’m not going to lie.

“I’ve beat up older kids,” I grudgingly admit – and yeah, with a bit of pride.

“I don’t think you can beat me up,” he states it as a matter-of-fact. I shrug. I don’t care. I’m not looking for a fight – especially not a tough one.

“He can, you know,” my brother eggs him on. “I’ve seen him take on BIG kids and beat them. You ain’t nuthin’.”

The teenager eyes me speculatively, then turns to my brother.

“You’re lying,” he says, shoving my brother. My brother stumbled back a step, then the teenager came over to me and stands there defiantly, his hands on his hips.

“You think you can beat me up?” he demands.

I stop – I was on my way over to the monkey bars – and look at him again.

“I don’t know,” I say, nonchalantly. “Maybe.” Again, I am telling the truth. This kid is tall, strong, and I’m beginning to see he’s sort of mean, too.

That’s when he shoved me. He should of never shoved me. My temper was already starting to cook over what my brother was saying and doing – and now this guy is going to shove me.

So the fight was on.

I came in low, like I always did, and me and the teenager tangle. His reach doesn’t count since I’m already up against him – and we fight.

It was a long, drawn out fight. We tangled over the sand, then onto the monkey bars. That was the hardest, riskiest part – balancing on the bars, hanging on with one hand, and trying to strike with the other. We both got in some licks, but it was to my advantage, and I knew it. I could squeeze between the bars easier than the teenager, and I used it to my advantage. But he could dance around the outside of the cage of metal squares quicker than I, using his long arms and legs to cross over the empty spaces. We are going around and around like a pair of mismatched monkeys, trading licks – I can see his narrow face, the eyebrows pinched in concentration as he’d throw a fist at me, or try to kick down through the bars – and me, hot and sweaty, getting tired, trying to keep some distance between us. My heart really isn’t in the fight – I didn’t want it to begin with – and I am a bit confused, since I don’t know this kid, didn’t want to fight him, and really would much rather just be playing. But the guy won’t stop; he keeps on chasing me around, and we get in little tussles on the bars, wrestling, scratching, and trading punches. He gets a couple good licks in and I get mine, when I look down and what do I see?

There is my brother, standing on the ground, watching us – and licking an ice cream cone, as though he is at the circus or something. Not coming in to help me, not lifting a finger in my defense – and yet this is HIS fight, the one HE picked – and I’m having to deal with the consequences!

That just blew a fuse in my mind. I mean I went from ‘not really caring’ to ‘simply enraged’. And my rage was more at my brother – the one whom I’d rescued so many times from fights he’d caused, the one I’d beat up my best friend over – and the little SOB is standing there licking on an ice cream and watching us fight. The only thing I wanted to do was get down and kick my brother’s ass – but I couldn’t. I had to take care of this stupid bored teenager first.

I barely remember what happened then. I remember launching myself full bore into the teenager’s chest, driving him down through the bars, riding him like a cushion. I think he hit his head on a few bars on the way down; I know he ended up on the ground inside the cage, his arm hung across one of the bars. And he was groaning, not moving a whole lot. Maybe I’d knocked the wind out of him, riding him down like that. But I didn’t care. I immediately got up and went over to my brother, who was standing there agape, the ice cream melting and running down his cone.

“GD you,” I said (only I used the words, not the initials). “Why didn’t you come and help me? YOU picked the fight!” (This is just paraphrasing; I was so mad I wanted to just chew him up and spit him out.)

“I was eating ice cream!” he protested, as though that simple activity was all the excuse he needed.

I angrily stared at him for a moment. He licks his ice cream. And I guess it was then I decided: I wasn’t ever going to stand up for him again, let him suck me into another fight. Not for him. Not when he was just going to stand there eating his ice cream and watch me face some threat.

Never again, I sort of silently promised myself, more with angry feelings than words as I stalked off the playground.

And I never break my promises.

That was the last time I ever fought for him.

Flying Saucers
(Tokoni, 04/28/2011)

When I was a kid, my mom would get really mad at us sometimes. I don’t know why, but it seemed that it would often happen in the kitchen. Or maybe it was just a coincidence – maybe I just remember the things that went on in the kitchen better. Or . . . well, I can sit here guessing all day. All I know is that it was, in a way, good training at “duck and dodge” for us kids – and perhaps a way for my mom to justify getting new dishware. After all, a woman gets tired of washing the same old dishes day in, day out after a time.

But these things would always start out the same – my brother and I on one side of the table, my mom in the kitchen area (we never really lived in a place with a formal dining room, so this makes sense.) Mom would be yelling about something we’d done or left undone – working herself into a feverish rage, screaming and shouting and calling us the names she so often used – one of her most popular was “you damn brats”. That one was so popular with me that a friend left from childhood (the only friend I know – and not a best friend anymore, but rather more of an acquaintance) – recalls her introducing me to anyone and everyone as “Here’s my son. Damn brat.” Oh well, I knew by the age of ten I was ‘bad’ and given to making many mistakes. I still struggle with that sometimes.

Anyway, after working herself into a frenzy, it would happen – and we always knew when it was going to happen, because the first thing she would do would be to yank open one of the kitchen cabinets. Then the rain would begin – a ceramic rain or dishes and saucers; glasses and cups – all headed across the table our way. And my brother and I, instead of running (I don’t know WHY we never just got the heck outta there!) – would dance and dodge, ducking and rising like so many shooting gallery ducks – listening to the dishes crash and tinkle against the wall behind us, getting showered in shards of glass and brittle pieces. You didn’t watch to see where the dish or saucer – or whatever – would hit after it passed by your shoulder – because you were too busy focusing on the next one, which would be flying through the air. Duck and dodge, duck and dodge – dancing all the way. I don’t know how it looked from her end of things – but for us it was sometimes more of a game than the punishment it was supposed to be, because we got really good at that. Ducking and dodging that is. (A skill that would come in useful a lot of times in other situations – but not here at home.)

I don’t recall ever being hit by one (but I’m sure we must of – how else would we of learned to dodge so well?) but I do recall what would happen after her rage subsided – or the dishes were all gone (I don’t know which). She’d storm around the table, look at the mess she had made, and then with a firm command, tell us to get busy cleaning ‘our mess’ up. And all those broken plates and things – I remember how there would be sprays of shards as the ceramic shattered on the wall, dancing quite carefully to keep your feet from getting cut – and then her handing us the broom and the dustpan, scolding us and warning us to get up every last bit. Because you didn’t want to leave a bit of it behind – nothing to remind her of her temper, or how she’d lost control.

And then, a few days later, a new set of dishes would appear. I don’t know what she told our dad; I somehow doubt she told him the truth – but my brother and I would glance at each other over our new plates and wonder: just how long will these new ones last?

Flying cups and saucers. No wonder my childhood was such fun!

(Now here’s the thing; come 5/3/2011: Yeah, and we are still finding it grimly humorous, a sense of darkening humor; one that almost (but not quite) … embroils a part of us in rage.  Who? …. the child feels not fear; but an angry frustrated and scared rage at his mother figure just then; that and a great sense of ‘unfairness!!’ screaming and crying in his mind (all of our own minds; he shares his thoughts; what a blessing – for he knows in the end he’s gonna have to clean this up; this crap has got to come to an end … a bitterly wishing child, sometimes wishing his life would end; age 8 then 10 then 12.)

And (we don’t trust this; we have issues with something called ‘recovered memories’ – because of something we’ll mention in our next post on this blog of our (feeling very sickened … very sickened; yes, nausea instead; both in mind and soul and body – just at the thought of the thing)… but there are dim flickers of being hit; and sometimes grazed in the head . . . or it might just be my imagination.  I’m thinking: we’ll never know; and while he’s not all right with that, we are: we are filled with compassion and love for this child of ours; this lovely child we keep on a sheltered beach, in this wonderful world of ours … )

Sighing.  Yes, being DID can be sometimes wonderful.  But sometimes it can be a problem; not that ‘we’re’ the problem; none of us are.

In some ways we are like a giant and loving family; crammed way inside – and one of our own has been hurt – and we must help ‘move him on his journey to healing’.  Even if it’s by doing this thing.

The telling of our next tale in this series*; this Little Shop of Mine.

*LO soft L’ing: I, M3, and some others – all of us in the string of controllers in mine; my own family and ‘mine’have been ‘dodging the issue’ ever since ‘the others’ have ordered us to “Begin Processing”, as the system puts it (a hard firm pushing order behind them words).  So we ‘Tweet’ and we “chirp” on other people’s blogs; showing our face on Facebook; other kinds of things – all in the interest of preserving the system stability – while the ‘drive’ of the system is pushing us “TO HEAL!” – and a dangerous kinda balance in between.  So we’re gonna continue to blog on my other blog (you know the one; the Jeffery’s Song one) – and perhaps maybe mess around, while we give that little boy in us time to recuperate some – while awaiting the next ‘battle’ – our own kinda battle … the one deep down inside.)

Two Brothers
(Tokoni 05/21/2009)

My brother and I are as different as a black-eyed pea and a green pea – both come from pods, but they’re not the same. I used to be fat; he used to be thin. Now the shoe’s on the other foot – he’s turned his six-pack into a keg, while I whittled my keg down to a . . . well, not a six-pack, but my stomach doesn’t arrive before my chest does. He’s dark haired; I’m more of a sandy blond. He’s clean shaven; I’ve got a mustache and sideburns. He’s thin boned; I got thick ones. His eyes are dark, mine blue-green. Not the same at all. We didn’t fight like cats and dogs; that would have been too civilized. No, we fought like . . . vicious human beings, which goes far beyond any animal conflicts I’ve ever seen. And yes – there were times we quite literally tried to kill one another.

My mom says he takes after her side of the family. As for me? I’m the spittin’ image of my dad, only uglier. And, like my mom, my brother’s a bit on the paranoid side whereas I’m a devil-may-care go-get ’em kind of guy who laughs readily in the face of disaster. He believes in trying to control his fate with a constant sense of desperation where I just kinda wait to see what fate throws in my lap, and deal with it then.

It’s always been like that, these striking contrasts between my brother and I. Even going back to when we were little kids – I was the ‘dare-devil’, engaging in stupid stunts, while he tended to lean more towards the conservative side – the ‘safe’ side. Not that he hasn’t had his share of adventures – we both have – but I love to seek them out whereas he would just wait (and worry) over the inevitable, trying to postpone it as long as possible, living the ‘safe’ life of endless work and money-grubbing.

One thing we have in common is that we both joined the Marine Corps when we were eighteen; but where I served a very successful term, he bailed out early, going “UA” (or AWOL for you other military fans) – until they threw him out on his ear. Not that I didn’t give the Marine Corps a hard time – one of my drill instructors said I was the most ‘hard-core’ (meaning ‘bucking the system’) recruit he’d ever met. And while my brother came out of boot camp a “gung-ho” down to the core Marine – me? Not so much. I was a ‘soldier’ before I ever got there. As a lifelong friend who has always known me said: “You are the only person I know who came out of boot camp the same as he went in.” I supposed that says something about my hard-headedness at times. It also says a LOT about how tough I was before I joined; I just came out a bit tougher. That’s the “soldier” part in me, which existed long before I’d ever given any thought to joining that particular organization. I already knew more about making war and surviving; shooting guns and dodging bullets, fighting with knives or barehanded – than the Marine Corps could ever teach me. And that, my friends, tells you something about my past.

When I look at him and I look at me, I can’t help but wonder: Where DID he come from? And I’m know he’s often wondered the same thing about me. (I remember him telling me when we were kids that I was ‘adopted’.) And this goes back to when we were little kids, I’m sure – because I remember wondering just what in the heck HIS problem was – when we were about to get beaten.

It’s become apparent to me this past week after discussing this with my brother that I ‘blocked out’ most of my memories of the ‘individual’ beatings – the ones where my dad would haul one or the other of us into a room and beat the snot out of us. I’ve known since I was little my dad has a cruel and sadistic streak – almost a perversion — though now he keeps it well hidden under that ‘caring Christian’ exterior he’s built up – trying to present one face to the public while . . . well, lets just say I think a weird, sick, and perhaps perverted heart lays beneath (see “Dark Suspicions” for more on that.) With just a few words my brother conjured up a vision I had forgotten – of my dad hauling us up by one ankle, dangling in the air, and then flailing away at us by the belt – over and over again. Far past the point of any ‘pain’ or discipline. I had “forgotten” that, or perhaps just chose not to see it. What I remember are the times we were beaten together, both in the same room. And that illustrates another major difference between my brother and I.

I remember so clearly how those ‘spankings’ would begin. First, the words: “Go to your room.” Second: The wait. Dad would always keep us waiting for a half-hour or so before showing up at the door. (A form of mental torture.) Why did we always close the door immediately after entering the room? I don’t know: perhaps as a form of futile self-protection, since we were not allowed to lock it?

And the difference in how my brother and I would ‘wait’. He would immediately start crying and wailing, as soon as ‘those words’ were spoken. I, on the other hand, was much more stoic. I would just sit there on the bed, waiting, while my brother ran around the room screaming and crying. Tears before the pain? No, that was not for me. I don’t know why. I guess – and looking back, I see that perhaps it is true: I was already “zoning out”, preparing myself for the pain that lay ahead. And there was that other factor: I wasn’t going to give my father the satisfaction of seeing me cry until the pain got so bad I had no choice. And apparently cry I did, for my brother reminded me of how “I could hear you screaming and screaming and screaming in the other room” when I was beaten by myself (something I don’t have anything but the fuzziest memories of.) And it took a lot to make me cry; I was stubbornly resistant to tears; still am, and haven’t cried since I was thirteen – thirty-six years ago. Tears, to me, represented a weakness; they still do, I guess. I know I stubbornly refuse to cry even now, even when, say, writing “Cat Scratch Fever” – which is the closest I’ve been to tears in over a decade. I guess it’s not the ‘soldierly’ thing to do. Not the ‘manly’ thing. I don’t know; the shrinks said it was a bad problem, that I need / needed to learn to cry for myself. But self-pity wasn’t allowed in our family, not at all. It was a punishable offense. I still can not allow pity for myself; nor can I tolerate other’s pitying me. It just drives me crazy (or crazier) and can lead to self-injury. Punishment for the pain, or the pity for the child that once was (and still is.)

But how I remember those ‘dual’ beatings, when my dad would come in, leather belt in hand. Slapping it against his palm. Looking at us – and it gives me shivers, because NOW I can see in his face some perverse pleasure – something my brother (again) reminded me of. “He got off on it,” my brother said last week. “He loved it. I don’t know what made him stop.”

And my brother – how frantic he would become! Have you ever seen a terrified cat locked in a room with a threat right there? How it races around, blindly attempts to climb the walls, dodges in corners and holes – anything to escape the punishment it thinks is coming? That was my brother. And it drove me CRAZY, I swear! I remember begging him before my dad would come in to STOP crying STOP wailing, SHUT up and sit there quiet with me on the bed and WAIT until you are hurt until you begin crying. His crying hurt me emotionally. But he never would. I recall one time my brother diving beneath the bed – then my dad, reaching under – and yes, dragging him out by one foot, holding him in the air, and whaling away at him – with me sitting there, knowing I was going to be next. Looking back now – it reminds me of those shows where there are the prisoners of war sitting in their cells listening to the cries of their comrades being tortured – and knowing they are going to be next. I had at least ten years of this type of behavior; of being in ‘that cell’, listening — no, WATCHING — my ‘comrade’ – my brother – getting tortured while I awaited my turn. It’s no wonder I cracked and went crazy, huh? PTSD – yeah, I reckon that’ll give ya some.

I am sure my stoic attitude was a problem for my dad. It probably meant he had to beat me more and harder to get me to respond – to give him his ‘thrills’ – because I would hold in my tears and screams as long as humanly possible – or at least as long as a child can. My brother, on the other hand, was an easy target – just say the words to him: “Go to your room” and he’d start the friggin’ show. I don’t know which gave my dad the most pleasure.

And the beatings: always the same. “Strip. Drop your drawers.” And you would step out of your pants or shorts because you didn’t want them tripping you up, sending you crashing to the floor. Falling to the floor wouldn’t stop a beating; it only made it worse. I don’t know that we wore shirts – we rarely wore shirts back then, clothes were too precious of a thing for everyday wear. But I do know we’d keep on our underwear most of the time – unless we lost them somewhere during the spanking and beating. And I know I learned early on: face the bed because that first lick WOULD send you flying – and it’s better to hit the bed head first than the wall. Every time.

Yeah, he and I are different – very different. I don’t fear poverty; he does. I don’t fear extreme danger (though I’ve learned to be wary – pain is pain, after all, and without medical insurance, I can’t afford to be hurt.) I can still bear a lot more physical pain than he can. (According to my wife and docs, more than most folks can.) I have literally had chunks of flesh gouged out of me (just like with a spoon) – and I looked down and laughed – and calmly went on working (my wife was like ‘whut the hell?!! Doesn’t that HURT?” But – it merely stung.) Not that I don’t feel pain. I just ignore it better.

My mom likes to tell the tale of how when I was a little child the nerves in my hands hadn’t grown properly, and sometimes she would smell something burning. Going into the kitchen she would find me, my hands on the red-hot burners – just to see what was going on, I reckon. I don’t remember those times. But I’m thinking – perhaps – there were times when I wished that numbness would extend all over my body – sinking inside, perhaps, and taking over my soul.

Becoming completely numb. That’s what it was about sometimes.

And I guess that’s why I became and did and behaved and went crazy, the way I am today. Ever since I was twenty-one, and “The Machine” part of me broke down – I’ve been working on escaping that numbness of mind, soul, spirit and emotion. And, I guess, I’m still working on it now.

Only this time I think maybe I’m trying to breath some life back into that child; that teenager – to feel their pain – the pain they’ve hidden from me – for so very, very long. In order to ‘heal’. After all, as another abuse survivor once told me: “to feel is to heal, and I want you to heal yourself so that you can feel — all the wonderful things that are you.” And, I reckon, she was right on target with that, for I wrote it down, and treasured her very much for all she did for me.

In case you are reading, “Bean” — somewhere out there — this is just to let you know: I’m still working on it, and miss you sometimes. Thanks for all you did.

(Tokoni 05/21/2009)

The BB Gun Wars

I’ll never forget the first time I got shot with a BB gun. It was in the laundry room, which was built onto the back of the carport – a separate room from the rest of the house. It was winter, I know, because I had a jacket on – and I’m glad I did.

My brother, a year and a half older than I, came in. He’d just gotten a BB gun – a Daisy “Spittin’ Image” – for Christmas. Pressing the end of it into the belly of my jacket, he backed me against the clothes washer, and then when I had nowhere left to go, pulled the trigger. Just like that. It wouldn’t be the last time he pointed a gun at me, and sometimes they were real ones. I’ll tell those stories later, and how they affected me. (Both bad and good – because I became a Marine one day, and was robbed at gunpoint once while working at a gas station. My lack of fear came in handy, then, and the robber was very lucky.)

Anyway, that first time he shot me – I was scared. I thought I’d been really ‘shot’. But those BB guns couldn’t penetrate skin; they’d just leave a little red dot on the skin, and hurt like a bee sting. No big deal. But this first time it was, at least for me. I pulled up my coat – I’m sure he’d shot me just to see what it would do – and there on my belly, about two inches above my navel (an “innie” and not one of those strange “outies” that some of the kids had) – was a bright red dot, almost glowing with pain. So I did what any normal six year old would do. I screamed and ran for my momma.

Mom, of course, was furious. She was madder than a badger in a trap. I don’t know what she did to him, only that it ended up with him getting his BB gun taken away. For about a week, I reckon, though it may have been a month. That’s how their time punishments ranged: One week, or one month. Same went for restriction, only they would restrict you to your room. A one month ‘room restriction’ was nothing to joke about, because they were serious. You didn’t come out of your room for a full month – no TV, no radio, no nuthin’. Only to go to the bathroom, eat, or go to school. Just four blank walls, your bed, and later on, my desk. Not a whole lot to do in there. After all, we didn’t have many toys, though I had my collection of stuffed animals to keep me company – animals from when I was one and two years old. We had quite a few parties in there, me and my favorite stuffed bear, Chee-chee, and Grandpa and Alley and Leo. Monk-monk, too, though he was a little bit stiff – due to his wire framed arms and legs (making him ‘posable’). Plus he was a late-comer to the game to replace one I had lost about four years earlier in some other, distant woods. He wasn’t the same.

I’ll never forget those BB gun wars. Oh, I can’t remember them all; just the big ones, and the one where I got shot up pretty bad. I ended up getting a Daisy myself, a year or so later – all the kids had one, except the teenager, who also had a pellet gun. He illustrated its awesome power to us gang of little kids once, by gathering us all around and shooting it through a tree – a scrub oak, to be precise, about two inches in diameter. That chilled us, and he was very serious about it – and what he intended to do with it if any of us ever made him mad. Mad about what? I’m not sure, but I think it was what he was doing to us in secret when the parents weren’t around, or when he was babysitting us. That was a very cold time indeed – seeing the neat round hole pop in one side; the splinted and mangled wood spraying from the other. We all went and looked, running our hands in amazement over the damage. He made no bones about it. He would kill us dead with that thing, if he had a mind to, a reason to – and we weren’t to give him any reason. Were we. Of course not. We all quietly agreed to his demand. We kept our mouths shut. I don’t know what set it off, but it did, and he showed us. Maybe he was just illustrating his power over us. I don’t know. But I do remember the cold fear.

My mom’s typical response to finding that me or my brother had shot the other with a BB gun was take it away – for a week or a month, as I’ve said. Then we’d get it back – and go right back to doing what we did before. Engaging in the BB gun wars.

I’ll never forget when I was sitting in our pup tent – the one me and my brother had. It was the standard military issue – thick green canvas walls that would weep in the rain, and two-piece wood and metal poles for standing it up. Military canvas has such a familiar smell; a unique one. It still conjures up many, many memories. We’d set that pup tent up in the back yard when my brother came to the ‘door’, pulled open the tent flap, and began pumping those rounds in. Bing! Zip! Bing! Whiz! Little BB’s bouncing all around, some ricocheting off the walls, some hitting me. I was unarmed at the time, so of course – “No fair!” I cried, and then went wailing off to my momma. He got his gun taken away at the time – but I still had mine. It felt good.

The other major war I remember (aside from pieces of memory of running through the woods, firing them at each other, or hiding behind some bushes, taking potshots at someone) is when the teenager and a bunch of other kids got into the tree house we’d built in the big old pine tree in our back yard. It was a good tree house, with a thick piece of plywood for a floor, and little knee high walls all around. You didn’t lean on the walls; they’d peel off and send you tumbling far, far down to the ground, some thirty or so feet below. It was our favorite tree house, and the one all us neighborhood kids would use (we believed in sharing back then – with anyone who dared to climb that big old tree with no branches to hang onto and only loose boards haphazardly nailed on to use for a ladder.). I went up there quite often, but this time I was on the ground. Me and a friend, both of us armed to the teeth with our Daisy Spittin’ Images.

I remember this quite clearly, the day of that war. It was late afternoon; the sun is shining off to my left, away from the tree house. Me and my friend are on the west end of our wood paneled house (redwood, that is, because it never rots and never needs painted). There is a bush on that corner we can hide behind. I can see that tree house in my mind – way up there, the end of it protected by a good thick branch, so we can’t get a clear shot inside. The boys up there – the teenager and his friends – are popping up over the walls like weasels, taking potshots at us. We can’t step out from behind the bush without getting hit. I get madder and madder at this seemingly unfair situation, and finally I’ve had enough!

I step out into the yard – away from our protecting shelter – and the teenager and his friends immediately start plinking at me. Zip! Zap! Ow! I’ve been hit a half dozen times before I can even get my rifle up. My friend, behind me, cowering behind the bush, is looking at me like I’m crazy. But I don’t care. I’m MAD – and when I’m mad, I don’t feel any pain. All I feel is . . . something. Nothing. Anger and anger again. Folding back in on itself. Apparently that’s part of being DID – they say it sets in when you are a young child, by the time you are five or six. I’ve separated myself from myself, totally ignoring the pain. I don’t even FEEL the sting as the BB’s come raining in. The kids in the tree house, realizing I’m just going to stand there, are rising up and sitting there, taking potshots at me like I’m a sitting duck. Which I am. I don’t care anymore. Shoot at me if you wish. I know it’s not going to hurt, because I don’t care anymore. All I care about is getting a good shot off at these strangers, these kids who’ve taken over my tree house, and are now shooting furiously at me. I raise my rifle, take aim – BB’s whizzing past, striking me, bouncing off like rain – and I still don’t care. I hold my position. I wait. Until I see my moment. Then I fire.

I hit that teenager – I don’t know where – but it was hard enough to make him quit. He yells. He cries out – loud. I shoot again and get him with a ricochet off the branch that was shielding him. He cries out some more. They quit the game.

I learned something then. That just one small man – a single soldier – determined not to give into the pain – can take out any number of enemy, given enough determination and guts. Given a single rifle, and just the right kind of shot. And I often felt as though I was a soldier back then; was training to be, wanted to be – exactly as my old man was. Tough. Mean. And a killer. (Maybe that’s where that ‘self’ came from, huh? Weird, I’m just now thinking that for the first time in my life. I reckon that’s one of the reasons I write these stories. They are a voyage of self-discover.)

And I also learned how tough I was. That these rifles couldn’t hurt me anymore. I look back at my friend, who is slowly creeping out from the shelter of the brush, his eyes wide with amazement as the teenager and his friends come climbing down.

I was much braver about them after that. Much braver – and not a bit afraid to take on someone twice my size. Whether they had a gun or not.

I have no fear, not of guns. Caution, yes. Wary of them? Of course. I know what they can do – up close and personal. I’ve seen it, from here to you, your computer screen to your face. It’s ugly. They can kill you dead; make a really bad mess of things. But even still – no fear. Not even now, this day. Respect: yes. Fear – no. Not no way.

After all – I’d been shot enough to know – and simply not care anymore.