Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Prelude to Mother’s Day

Well, Mother’s Day has snuck up on me again and, as usual I am at a loss for what to do for my wife and mother. I am usually reduced to stopping on my way home from work on the Friday before and cutting an improvised bouquet of flowers I liberated from a local cemetery, but as my wife’s due date is May 6th, I think my time is going to be spent in the hospital maternity ward instead of committing petty theft at a nearby graveyard.

Now that I have a little warning, I should be able to come up with something for my wife but my own mother is a little tougher. What do you get the woman who single-handed raised and nurtured me, installed in me my amoral disposition and seemed to always be standing by with bail money when the situation required it? I know it had better be something good since, though she usually left corporal punishment to my father (who was unusually adept in the art of inflicting pain), she is the person that delivered upon me the worst beating I had ever endured in my life. That is saying an awful lot considering I spent four years bar brawling my way across the Pacific Rim and once played a game of rugby against British Royal Marines.

If I had to guess, it was during the winter of 1982. I was twelve and my little brother was five. My mother, probably pushed past her threshold for tolerating our incessant bickering, threw us outside to play in the snow while she could enjoy some peace and quiet indoors while she tried to get things done. Before long, my little brother started getting on my nerves and I determined to scare him off so that he would leave me alone. I goaded him into a snowball fight and was on the verge of pulverizing him into submission when an opportunity presented itself to me that would virtually guarantee that he would leave me alone for the rest of the time we were outside.

We owned a German Shepherd named Duke at the time, a huge dog capable of leaving behind droppings that would have impressed a Wooly Mammoth cursed by Montezuma. As I was packing another frozen projectile to heave at my out-gunned younger sibling, I happened to glance over and notice the dog leaving behind a fresh deposit in the snow and decided to escalate the conflict by unleashing the “Duke-ulear” option. I walked over once the dog had finished and started packing the pile into a snowball, hoping that my brother was watching and would soon be running away for dear life. Unfortunately, he was busy trying to pack his own snowballs and had not seen a thing. In fact, when I looked up to see his reaction, he was nowhere to be found.

Not sure of where he was, I called out his name and saw him round the corner of the house to see what it was I wanted. I decided to throw the snowball at the house close to him so that he would see what was inside of it once it exploded against the bricks. I wound up like a major league pitcher and let the snowball fly with all of the strength I could muster and, though it possessed a frightening velocity, the loaded snowball flew wide of its intended target.

My brother saw that the snowball was heading right for him and even though he was only four, realized that if he did not do something fairly quick, he was going to take the thing full in the face. He turned his head to the side just in time to move his face out of the way but the missile nailed him about an inch above his right ear. The force of the hit blew his stocking cap right off of his head and into the air as well as lifted him right off of his feet and dumped him onto his side. It was such a vicious strike that at first I thought I had knocked him unconscious and, overcome with a near hysterical fear that I had really hurt the kid, rushed over to help him. Before I got there however he rolled back over and, apparently unhurt, futilely attempted to defiantly heave a chunk of snow right back at me. That is when I caught a full glimpse of what my “Duke”-ulear snowball had done to him.

When my brother was four, he was a toe-head blonde with straight hair that looked as if it had been styled by someone who had placed a bowl on his head and cut around it. The side of his head that had not been hit still looked like that. The other side however, was haphazardly spiked and intermittently brown, with hair flying off in all directions. He resembled a cartoon character who had survived an explosion that torched one side of his body while leaving the other pristine. I fell down upon my knees in hysterical laughter and my brother followed suit, at least until he brought his hand up to the side of his face and realized what he had been hit with. After that his expression changed, his eyes welled up with tears and as he started to cry, he picked himself up and ran inside to tell my mother.

I knew right then that I was doomed and my only chance for survival was to flee. Unfortunately, I was laughing too hard to do anything about it. I eventually made it up to all fours and, still paralyzed with hysterics, slowly started making my way to the front gate, which I considered the first obstacle on my way the Marine Corps recruiting office where I planned to lie about my age, jump on the first bus to Paris Island and spend the rest of my life in the relative safety of close quarter combat in remote and exotic locations. It was a lousy plan but my intellect was far too conflicted to effectively deal with the situation. On one hand, I was certain that I was mere seconds away from meeting a grisly end to my short existence in this world. On the other hand, the event that prompted that situation was probably the most singularly hilarious thing I had ever seen in my brief life up until that point. When you are a twelve-year-old boy who is confronted with that extreme of a contradiction, your survival instincts just go all to hell.

In fact, my fight-or-flee instincts did not return until my mother exploded out of the back door. She was in her slippers and without a coat, sweating profusely even though the outside temperature was certainly below freezing. Her fists were clenched, her teeth were bared and her complexion had turned redder than Chairman Mao. A foam had collected around her lips that was suggestive of advanced-stage hydrophobia and was no mistaking that she had infanticide in her eyes. My hysterical laughter came to an abrupt end as I bolted upright and, with an adrenaline surge born of sheer terror, made a desperate break for it.

Though I initiated the race with a good ten-foot head start, it just was not enough. I was clearing the neighbor’s fence when she plucked me out of mid-air and threw me face down into the snow. I don’t remember much after that.

When my memory picks back up, I was bent over the couch with a burning backside that would have looked more at home on the posterior of a baboon in heat than on an adolescent human who had just assaulted his little brother with a sizeable chunk of canine waste. The carpet was littered with the splintered remnants of wooden spoons, strewn leather belts and broken yardsticks. My mother was crushed, having realized she had come completely unhinged and I believe my brother was in the bathroom staring in horror at his new protein enriched scalp treatment. I was in serious pain, my brother was thoroughly traumatized and my mother was probably questioning her fitness to be a parent after losing her self control so completely. Now, when I think back about that incident and recall all the mayhem that I had caused by throwing that snowball, I truly believe that I had received the punishment that I thoroughly deserved. Then I remember that look on my brother’s face once he realized what he had been hit with and decide that it was definitely worth it.


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