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When I was in the seventh or eighth grade water pistols suddenly became the rage among boys my age. One day I had never heard of a water pistol, the next day I was the only kid who hadn’t yet gotten one. You’d be walking along, some kid, his face aflame with glee, would leap from hiding and hit you with a stream of water.
“Where’d ya get that?” I asked the kid who’d ambushed me. “Candy store,” he yelled over his shoulder, “Thirty-nine cents.” And off he rushed to find another ambush spot, reload, or what-have-you.
I knew he didn’t mean “my” candy store. There was a strange candy store a block or two from the highschool, which in those days was also the junior high school, and as of that year was also the seventh grade school for those of us who could no longer fit into my old Morris Avenue grade school. (“My” candy store was the one closest to my house: down the block, across the street, then down another couple of blocks. Once I was allowed to cross the street, then also to cross Lakeview Avenue, I could walk or bike to that candy story: and to the little deli in the same row of stores. Indeed, my mother would send me: to get milk, some sliced ham … or ice cream from the corner candy store.)
(Why are candy stores always on corners?) A different group of kids frequented that candy store. This candy store not far from the high school, serving people, and kids, from neighborhoods different from mine, allowed or not allowed to cross different streets, seemed dark to me, abandoned, poorly supplied. But that day it had a water pistol for sale sure enough: in bright yellow plastic. I had the change on me — rich kid, paper route, far more income than I spent, found a water faucet, and filled up. Back toward school I went, looking for a victim.
As I’ve written elsewhere combatants typically seem to know who to pick on. The guy who pulls a knife on somebody, generally, except when mugging, pulls it on somebody who then pulls his own knife right back. Gun toters, except when raping and pillaging, find that they’ve drawn on somebody who’s now pointing a pistol straight back at them. The US tried to bully the other nation state that had nuclear weapons far more than it tried nuclear bullying of countries that didn’t even have roads. It seemed natural to me that the kid who’d squirted me had found and assaulted a kid his own age and his own gender. I didn’t see him wetting any little girls as he ran off. Old ladies, each under her own cloud of godawful perfume, were safe from me, even with my pistol now dripping water down my leg from inside my pants pocket.
As I approached the school playground, the football field right there on Lakeview Avenue, I saw no kids to assault. I didn’t even see girls or stinking old ladies. Ah, there were some kids, just coming out the door. Before I’d gotten anywhere within striking distance — I’d seen the pistol’s range without even having yet taken my first shot, that strong kid, Lennie, sprang from behind a bush and squirted the kids I’d seen.
Ah, but the janitor too had been lying in ambush. He sprang from his office and confiscated Lennie’s water pistol!
A day later it had gotten worse. The janitor was forcing kids to carry their water pistols to his janitor shop and crush their water pistol in his vice. Kids cried and wailed, but did as he told them.
No bigger janitor, no janitor from the county, not just the town, no janitor from the state, and no fed janitor, sprang from Washington and made our janitor crush his vice in the junk yard’s compactor. And I have yet to see angels take US nukes and make us shove them where the sun don’t shine. But I did see that janitor take plastic toys from little boys, and coerce boys to destroy their own toys in his machine.
Where did he get that right?
How come I didn’t see a single parent descend on the school, and holding a .45 on the janitor if necessary, make him eat his vice, and perhaps all the other tools in his shop as well?
Was having a water pistol illegal? If so, how come the janitor didn’t go up the block and put the candy store in his vice?
Was the janitor acting on his own? Or was he enforcing school policy? If the later, who wrote school policy? And no matter who made school policy, shouldn’t the policy have been made known to the boys before we bought our water pistols?
I didn’t lurk around the school to see, but I would love to hear of some kid crushing his water pistol under duress from the janitor, then growing up, joining the marines, killing foreigners with his bare hands, then coming back to South Side High School, snatching that janitor from his cell, and hanging him by his suspender straps from the east goal post: better yet, hanging him by his earlobes.Side thought: Christians are taught to think of someone who teaches peace to humans as in charge of heaven: so people who obeyed the janitor and stopped buying water pistols, and who didn’t go back and bugger the janitor with the south arm of the east goal post getting into heaven easily. But what if Mars is the god?
If Mars is the god, I don’t like my chances if I show up dead without being able to tell how I’d gone back to Fort Dix and made Buck Sergeant Eton insert his M1 into his skull through his nostril.There’s something seriously wrong with a society that has on the one hand candy stores selling water pistols to boys and also has a school janitor who makes the boys crush their plastic in the vice.
Could the janitor make the boy go home and crush his LP collection in the vice? Could he make the boy crush his father’s hunting rifle in the vice?
Why didn’t the society make the janitor apologize to the boy in public: and pay him back thirty-nine cents from his own pocket, with interest. Why didn’t the society make the school janitor also then mow the father’s lawn for the boy, and deliver the papers on his paper route too?
In this context I want to remind everyone of a detail in the Abelard / Eloise story. Abelard was a priest, Eloise was a young girl. Eloise’s rich father put Abelard in charge of the girl’s ahem education: Abelard being a famous intellectual, a big deal at the university of Paris. Eloise’s father specifically ordered his daughter to obey Abelard in every detail, he gave Abelard full right to punish the girl as he saw fit.
Eloise’s father understood that to mean: Do your lessons, learn your catechism, don’t shirk. Abelard though, quite sensibly to my mind, used that authority to tell the cute little girl to lift her skirts, take her pants off, to do this, then that …
This prose is typical of pk with his shoes off. Never mind the less than meticulous style; get the point.
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