Growing up, I lived on a suburban dead end street. It had a golf course which bordered the houses on the west side and a creek bordered the east side homes. Until middle school, most of the kids on that street remained relatively isolated from the other neighborhood kids. We often all played together. People sometimes referred to the kids on our street as the dead end kids. We often played pick up games of touch football and softball. We created various rules applicable to our relative ages. When we were 10, hitting the ball over the fence was an automatic grand slam home run. When we were 12 and bigger, that same hit was an automatic three outs. You had to improvise when each side had two to three players.
One day while playing on a neighbor’s tire swing, the rope broke and I landed on my shoulder and broke my collar bone. That was easy enough to fix because nothing was really done for it, but my shoulder ached and ached for many months afterward. For several years it was sensitive if knocked.
One, afternoon the next fall, we played one of our pick up games of touch football. That day a boy who usually never played with us joined our game. I was 11 at the time and he was a grade younger. Ricky was a relative newcomer to our dead end street and generally wasn’t well liked. However, I did not particularly like nor dislike him nor had I had any run ins with him. A minor altercation arose between this boy and Jerry, the biggest and oldest boy from our group. It ended with a couple of shoves and an accusation that Ricky was in fact a “baby.” Ricky left the game in sniffles and went home.
A short time later, a car pulled up and Ricky and his father got out. His father angrily demanded to know who shoved his son. Jerry who was 12 and even at that time taller than this man said that he’d pushed Ricky. He claimed that it was just a little altercation and Jerry claimed it was not a big deal.
Ricky’s father said that this was going to be settled right now. He looked around and turned squarely in front of me and said, “you’re going to fight Ricky.”
“But I wasn’t fighting with Ricky,” I replied.
The many fiercely commanded me to fight and I told him no. The next thing I knew, Ricky leaped toward me from behind and punched my in my face. Blood tricked from my upper lip and again this man commanded me to fight. Ricky began to pummel me with punches while his father screamed “hit him.”
Finally, a punch landed squarely onto my left shoulder directly in the sensitive spot from my swing accident. I cried out from the pain, but I finally reacted by tackling Ricky and before I could hit him his father pulled me off him and declared that our fight was over.
The colossal ***** of a father pulled out a handkerchief and pressed it against my lip as if he were magnanimous and he told the group that now that the fight was over we should all shake hands and be friends.
I felt embarrassed and ashamed over what had happened. I was angry that this man ended the fight not surprisingly when I’d finally reacted to Ricky’s punches. I refused to tell my parents what happened.
Almost forty five years later, after my father was gone, I told my mom about that afternoon. She’d remembered me coming home bloodied and she said she’d wished I’d told them what had happened. She said that she and many of the neighbors always detested that man and he was abusive toward his wife. I’d imagine he was abusive toward many.