Odd Couple

Information is difference, any difference that makes a difference.

In a row of $100 bills a penny will stand out. Never mind the supposed value; it’s a question of information, of difference, of contrast.

I’ve been resurrecting a series of K. modules destroyed by the fed, some of them personal stories, and I think of a couple of kids from school, then a third couple, that stood out, for physical differences. One was Lenny, a very short, hard muscled Italian laborer’s kid. Two was a startlingly buxom seventh grader, lived with her mother, seemed to be fleeing from Texas, had no clothes for a Long Island winter. Third was a pair of identical twins, black girls. I thought they were adorable, I’d never seen black people before, certainly not up close.

All three got my attention, in very different chronologies.

  1. Lenny
    I remember Lenny at least as far back as the fourth grade. He was the shortest kid in the class. But his muscles had definition, his biceps articulated, were rock hard, shaped like a loaf. No other kid in grade school had muscles that you noticed!
    There was a substitute teacher who seemed to know Lenny. She swooned for his “Irish tenor” voice, begged him to sing Danny Boy. He obliged, Lenny, this Italian kid: Lenny Coletti.
    I made friends with Lenny, invited him to my house. We went down into the basement. He dared me to try to hit him in the face. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to hit him anywhere. “Come on, hit me. I betcha can’t.”
    Lenny stood with his back to the basement wall. Finally, I took aim. I struck for his face: not hard, but still. But his face wasn’t there. He dodged sideways. My fist hit the wall. Didn’t hurt, much, ’cause I wasn’t hitting hard. I didn’t know what hard meant. But it was frustrating. And I tried harder, tried harder to hit him, harder.
    Any way: I loved Lenny. And Lenny told me scandalous stories: coming upon used scum bags in the lot cross the street from him. I didn’t know what a scum bag was. He told me of coming upon the couples generating the scum bags: “Hey, quit screwin’ around.”

    Kids live in a world of magic: Lenny appeared, Lenny disappeared. I didn’t see him again till one day at the high school yard. I was marauding on my bike. Lenny was throwing a football with some of the guys from the high school team! Lenny was throwing the football half the length of the field! 50 yard throws! a kid!
    Then I didn’t see him again until one day I was tooling around the neighborhood of the new senior high school. I recognized Lenny in a road crew. He was working, as an adult, as a laborer!

    I can’t say how long it took me to form my current hypothesis: years later:
    Lenny was not a kid, he was just in the fourth grade. Lenny may have been in the fourth grade for years, and counting. No wonder the sub knew him. Lenny was just waiting to turn sixteen: so he could drop out, the school could excrete him, he could begin a real life, of sorts: working.

  2. Texas
    I’ve told some of this before, but the stories got Bowdlerized / exported to a sex blog, anonymous.
    One day I’m standing in my yard. There’s a chill in the air, I’ve put on a jacket. It’s autumn, winter is coming. Down the street, on Lakeview Avenue, an actual avenue, with traffic, even though it too was packed with residences, I see a strange girl: ridiculous over-sized boobs, in a thin cotton dress, no jacket, no sweater, no coat. Then I realize I had seen her: just placed into the seventh grade: I was in the eighth.
    She sees me, she slows. I walk in her direction. “Why don’t you wear a coat? Aren’t you cold?
    This girl said she liked it cold, cold suited her fine.

    More to tell about Tex, but I’ll jump straight to my hypothesis:
    Tex was too poor to own a coat, Tex was rationalizing, being social, getting acquainted with moi. Tex and her mom were running from something. And the school board may have put Tex into the “seventh” grade for reasons other than age. Like Lenny, Tex may actually have been years older than that group’s average. Her bosom was prodigious but may not have been wholly precocious.

    I still remember Tex: and to her mom. Her mom said to me:

    Oh, I feel so sorry for you, you’re so smart,
    you won’t stand a chance in this society.

  3. Twins
    I went to grade school. It was the only life I knew. There were other kids, boys and girls, all my own age. Some I knew from the neighborhood, some I’d never see before: they lived, oh, blocks away, places I’d never been.
    But one day something was different. There were these two little black girls: identical twins, identically dressed, little checkerboard red and white, little calico aprons.
    I stared at the twins’ dresses, and aprons, and cute little faces: their pigtails, their cornrows … How’d they get their hair all kinky like that?
    I was in love.
    One thing I can never forget: when they wrote, they pressed their forefinger on the pencil such that it double back over, like they were double jointed. Ooo, it gave me the willies.
    Anyway, suddenly they were there. Then, suddenly, they were no longer there. No explanation, just gone. Never saw them again.

Years later, in high school, there was another black kid. JD. JD is what he was called. Big kid. He sang, the music teacher made a fuss over him. The football coach made a separate fuss.
One day in gym class, we play football. We play at playing football. I’m told to guard DJ. I brace by forearms in front of me. At the hike I hit him, as hard as I can. I push and push. He doesn’t budge. JD just stands there while he scrutinizes the play, a head taller than anybody. Ah, here comes the ball, off that other tackle. Very gently, JD just picks me up, puts me carefully to the side, reaches out, and one handed, hurls the runner backwards for a loss.
Then, suddenly, JD is no longer “there.” I guess he too turned sixteen.

Yeah, I was nineteen before I got any kind of a hint where people disappeared to: Lenny, I knew where Lenny lived, the only working class neighborhood I was aware of in Rockville Centre. It ran a half a block, was toward the RR tracks, was grungy, unkempt, poor.
When I was eighteen, on my way to college, I worked for the parks department. Even then I was an odd ball, no one liked me, my own friends didn’t like me. So all were glad when I slot opened in the sanitation department, I was off like a shot: be a garbage man for the summer, build myself up, instead of a weed-whacker and fence painter.
For the most part I assist on trucks picking up routes through neighborhoods I’m familiar with: my own neighborhood, my friends’ neighborhoods: toward the tracks, away from the tracks, all over town: or so I thought. Till one day I’m assigned to help the black driver. He drives us through neighborhoods I’ve never seen before, I don’t know how he found them, I’d never been anywhere near any of those places. For lunch he goes to his house! God god, he lived in a ghetto! There were lots of black people living in Rockville Centre, they didn’t just magically materialize to scrub the floor. Maybe that’s where those twins were, and JD!

Stories by Age by Theme by Others

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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