The T-Shirt Incident

Richie White, the kid everybody beat up on the Boy Scout camping trips, was the kid nearest to me on the hill that was my own age.  So sometimes I would go down to his house, and we would go to his garage that was filled up from one end to the other with this giant Lionel Train layout.

Actually I had never quite grasped the attraction of the Lionel train; once you set it up and run it a couple of times to see if you could get it to run it got old pretty fast.  But Richie would insist on running hi setup a couple of times; it was pretty amazing. Trains cris-crossed all over the place, and Mr. White had made little houses and stores and trees. After that we would do some Boy Scout shit together.  Richie wasn’t so bad as long as you weren’t trying to beat him up and didn’t mind the snot running out of his nose all the time.

One time we were doing some sort of Boy Scout shit that involved pocket knives because I was hacking at something, slipped, and stuck the blade right into the fatty ball of my thumb.  For a split second I can see all the layers of different types of skin and muscle all laid out in nice, neat rows, and then the thing fills up with blood and then the blood overflows into the cup of my hand.  So I walk up the stairs and kick the screen door to the kitchen a couple of times, all the time for some reason holding my hands together to cup the blood, though at about this point the blood was overflowing.  Mrs. White opens the door, grasps the situation, says not to worry about dripping blood, drags me over to the sink, turns roaring hot water into the wound, followed by something that makes me want to scream, wipes the wound and then lashes the sides of it together with a butterfly bandage.  That should do it, she says, and you won’t need stitches either.

I got to hand it to the woman, but she did a good job.  Straight forward, absolutely sure of what she was doing, and quick about it.  And she was right about not needing the stitches.  But I was maybe the only person on the whole hill who had anything good to say about her.  Her little Richie, she let everybody know, was a genius.  He had crawled early and walked early and talked early and read early and then they tested him and he came out Genius.  He was going to be a Genius scientist, so they bought him all sorts of science stuff, like chemistry sets, and microscopes, and a real nice telescope for examining the stars.  Her life’s purpose was to defend and protect her little genius.

One day she hears this screaming and yelling and knows, because she has heard it a number of times before, that somebody is beating up on little Richie.  She comes out just as Mr. Hammet, who lived in the house a little down the hill and across the street from hers, was trying to pull the boys apart.  He has little Richie by the scruff of the neck, and she, screaming don’t you dare lay a hand on my boy, leaps right onto Mr. Hemmet’s back. He jumps and she slides off but not before getting a grip on his t-shirt and, as she fell to her butt, nearly ripped it clean off of him.

Such behavior did not endear Mrs. White to her neighbors.  They all thought she was loony tunes.  And this wasn’t the only time.  Another time a father had been trying to pull his son off of Richie and she bit him in the thumb.  He said she had actually broke the skin and that he was going to sue her or something for assault with a deadly weapon.  But he never did.

lionel train

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