All Kinds of Pain

We lived on a little one-block street that ran parallel to a bunch of other one block streets on the East Side, in Providence. And every street was different. Methyl Street, one block north, had a Mark Twain/Lord of the Flies flavor. Tons of boys. Playing in the street, all the time. My brother started hanging out over there and I did too. Which made him mad. He kept telling me to stop. But these were public streets, and, well, I just followed him; I’d always followed him. I imprinted on him like a little duckling. Where he went, I went. Whether he scowled or not. There was only one kid over there who would play with me proper. The nerdiest. His name was Moby and he let me ride his skateboard. We used to race them down the hill, sitting on them with our knees pulled up to our chests. Moby would sit some races out so I could have a go. He was a good kid. Everyone said he got straight A’s. And he lived with his mom in a neighborhood of cookie cutter nuclear families. They were poor. His dad was an alcoholic bartender who got all his teeth knocked out in a bar fight…according to local preadolescent gossip. A stray German Shepherd turned up one day and attached himself to Moby; they went everywhere together, like some kind of beloved children’s book sprung to life. He named him Scout. One afternoon, when we were all standing on the sidewalk wondering what to do next, Moby fell from the tree he was climbing and landed smack in the middle of us, with an awful thud on the hard cement. There was a stunned silence, and then he started laughing. And laughing. Exuberant, maniacal laughter. I sometimes laughed too, when I did something klutzy, but this was next level. I was pretty impressed. I thought maybe I should try laughing in a broader context. And then we all got to talking about pain, and this kid Timmy said, since I was the only girl, and scrawny at that, that he betted I couldn’t hit him hard enough to inflict any pain. I disagreed. And he dared me to hit him in the face: my best hit. I protested, and he insisted. So I pulled my arm back and gave his cheek a little tap, just a test, with my open palm. And then I did as instructed; I hit him as hard as I could. He staggered, and his whole cheek turned red. His eyes bulged. I went home and told my dad, who also seemed skeptical, and amused. He knelt down and asked me to show him the slap. So I repeated it; first the little practice tap, then the all-out full-swing zinger. He reeled back, clutching his face in his hands, and bellowed “You could break someone’s jaw like that!” I don’t think I’ve had a more macho moment.

Published by msdeer

I am an interdisciplinary artist, slightly incognito here.

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