Memories Of Ma, The Old Neighborhood, Little Billy Woodnik, Growing Up Too Fast, And The CIA Spying On Me

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* After school, during the milder months, all us kids would play stickball in the street. Each block had its own unofficial team, and we were the best. Heck, we were so good that the other kids sometimes accused us of cheating. We’d just shrug it off, win another game, then go poison their dogs. I say let our record speak for itself, you know?

I remember one time, it was me and little Billy Woodnik and Ugly Derek and some of the other guys — we called ourselves the Yankeepiratedodger Sox – and we were playing against the Thunderwild Bulldogcatbirds from two blocks over, and Billy made me set fire to old man Donahue’s sinful Buick in order to purify my Being. It was classic! The CIA Agents in the brown “delivery” van parked nearby saw it, of course, but back then they weren’t allowed to intervene without joint authorization from President Madison AND Xenothorpolis the Exacter. After the game, we all ate popsicles and laughed together. Well, except for the Agents and old man Donahue that is.

Simpler days in a smaller world.

* In the summertime, since no one on the block had air conditioning, we used to leave our windows and doors open at all hours. Naturally, this caused my mother (who was raised back in An Old Country) to howl violently whenever I played off key on the piano. And when my father inevitably started complaining about the draft, I misunderstood and joined the Army. Plus, little Billy Woodnik lost a bet and ate some dog doo and we all laughed and then we lost our innocence at that fateful Fourth of July picnic (which I think is why hot dogs have never tasted Righteous since that day).

That was the last time I saw the world through those eyes. After I went away for Basic, and Johnny married his best gal, and Ivy went off to college, and Greasy went to work at his old man’s garage, and Ugly Derek turned out to be a gorgeous woman, and little Billy Woodnik ended up being a delusion of mine controllable only by massive round-the-clock doses of glycocyclene diathylitrylenol and ritualistic arson…

Well, sir, I suppose the world just keeps on going whether you want the ride or not.

* Marla. Soft, soft Marla. She was so warm and permissive after I’d had so many weeks of being broken down in boot camp, and it was just what a scared young boy needed during what was both his first weekend pass and his last two days before shipping out to Hell. Her touch, her throaty words, her unconditional embrace for even a few blurred hours brought whatever bits of child were left in this untested soldier’s heart to a boiling manhood. I knew then that straddling both God and Country was Marla, and for just that night I could’ve won the whole war for her.

And that’s when I knew that I had a real thing for hookers. The good ones, of course; not the ones who cavort with Slickstopholes the Dark Pimptroyer and steal your carnal aura for their coven’s use. Brother, those girls are just dirty.

* There is nothing on God’s green earth as scary as the first time you’re shot at in battle. The hissing breath of a passing bullet, the burnt air it leaves behind, the distinct silence of it against the fiery bedlam, the bit of your soul it steals as it misses you and kills the next kid in line instead.

No, my friend, there is nothing so painful to a man’s peace.

Except maybe when the government plants a thought-camera in your frontal lobe in order to spy on your Essence by pumping super advanced nanobots into the air you breathe. That there is one scary bitch, huh? Just think about it.

Or actually, no — DON’T!!!

* It’s true; you really can’t go home again.

And I know it’s true, walking down the old street as a Man now, wearing three bloody medals pinned to a starched uniform and a kit bag full of horror slung over one shoulder. The trees lining the avenue had grown taller, but they’d never seemed smaller. The old candy shoppe on the corner had turned into Sid’s Liquor Storre, but then it got back into candy for a while, and then it was briefly the Albanian Embassy, then a Starbucks, until it finally just had enough and moved to the suburbs to sell pot to school teachers. Sure, I saw some kids playing stickball in traffic like we used to, but these little punks had no hustle — no Heart. Part of me wanted to jump into the game, show ’em how we used to do it way back when, but their stringent draft requirements and ridiculous salary caps made it impossible.

When I walked through the front door, my own mother didn’t recognize me. Ma, I said to her with a tear on my cheek, it’s me, your Danny Boy, home from the wars! She said that still wasn’t ringing any bells and an argument ensued. It went to blows and I won and we ate Lays potato chips and laughed and I realized I was in the wrong house. Damned MapQuest! Too embarrassed to admit it, I snuck out in the middle of the night (though we were forced to live a lie for several months until the nights finally got warmer).

Of course I went looking for my real birth house, but then Garzo the Destructovator broke into my dreams again and told me that Ma died during the New Crusades which were propagated by the CIA’s shadow government. I eventually had to move into the Men’s Shelter instead, since that really is the last place the Agents would check. Duh.

Nope. You can never go home again. Because they’re watching you.

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