A Normal Night

September 14, 2011
By Anonymous

My muscles ached and my knuckles bled. “Keep going.” I was told. Frustrated, I punched the bag one last time before sitting on the damp basement floor. “You gotta get up and keep at it.” He told me, but I just scowled.

“Why?” I demanded.

“Because.” He said, like I had asked the strangest question in the world. “You’re tiny. You gotta weigh seventy pounds soaking wet. You have an older sister who’s twice your size, and loves to beat on ya’. You’re a pretty little blond, who’s bound to have some problems with bullies next year in school. And because it’s good for you.” I stared at my cousin. He was only fourteen, but at the time he seemed so much older. I didn’t want to learn how to fight, I wanted to play Mario Cart while the grown ups were upstairs getting s*** faced off wine, and the teenagers were on the roof getting s*** faced off beer. Why wasn’t he on the roof? He didn’t like that stuff, he was more content with hanging around people who made him laugh. Like a little girl. He was small to, it runs in the family. We’re all average height, maybe a little taller, but so thin, our bones stick out of our pale skin. His face was round making him look younger, but his eyes were clever and made him look older. Irish eyes is what they’re called. My dad told me I had a bad case of Irish eyes to, he said that I always looked like I knew more then I did. But my cousin didn’t care. He told me my dad was stupid, and that it didn’t matter, because his dad was stupid to, and look how he turned out. He had a shock of thin blond hair that was very dense and never listened, just like mine. So by sixth grade, tired of his afro, he shaved his head, and that’s the style he kept for the rest of his short life. “It’s alright, get up.” He told me. I listened for once, he was my favorite cousin. “Now when you punch the bag, punch right through, don’t just snap it. Pretend it’s not even there, and pivot your foot.” He guided me through the punch, and when I did it the right way, my knuckles didn’t hurt as much. After a half hour, we were done. He went to the fridge and got a beer and sat on the beat up couch. The basement of the apartment complex was turned into a room for kids. There was a black and white TV, a color TV without an antennae, so it was used for the playstation, and a few bean bag chairs, lawn chairs, and a couch. There was also a pistol under the couch, but only Jake and Josh knew about that. I only knew because I walked in on them when they hid it there. Josh knew I wouldn’t tell anyone, but his brother pinned me against the wall and said I better keep my mouth shut. I asked him why he even needed a gun, and he said he dealt with some undesirable people. I told him if he dealt with undesirable people, then he was liable to get shot in the first place. He thought it was funny, because “liable to get shot” is a way the adults describe some kids in the neighborhood. I sat next to Josh and turned on the playstation. Every time I used it, I had to blow into the cartridges because it was very dusty in the basement. I played a round by myself, and a round with Josh, then we went upstairs. We passed a bunch of kids my age, but I didn’t want to play baseball outside with them. The adults were upstairs, but I didn’t want to sit with my mom either. We went to the roof instead. The kids were allowed to play with the big kids whenever they wanted, except for roof time. Roof time was when the fights, drugs, heavy drinking, and gangs went on. Me and my sister were the only little kids excepted, because we didn’t squeal, and I guess we made them laugh. Tony, the downstairs neighbor picked me up and put me on his shoulders so I could see all of Boston. Soon Josh made him put me down though, because he didn’t want a drunk man to hold his baby cousin over the edge of a building. It was an uneventful night. The teenagers talked about things I couldn’t understand, the kids were heard yelling in the street, and the adults were silent. But I bet if they said anything, we wouldn’t listen anyways. No one could control the neighborhood kids. It was getting dark, and surprisingly, my parents hadn’t come to collect me. “It’s time to go home, Lu.” Josh told me. I protested, making sure not to whine, because I knew the big kids hated that. He prevailed though, and sent me downstairs. I hated that he made me leave at the time, and made such a big fuss, but now I understand. He knew he was a role model for me, and he didn’t want me to see him do bad things. He had to do bad things, being older now, I have to do bad things. It’s a way of life. The kids were finishing up their ball game, they went into extra innings. I waved to them and tried to find my mom, but I couldn’t find her anywhere, so I sat and watched the game. Casey was at bat and he winked at me. He was thirteen, but he still preferred the street baseball game over the roof time. I really admired that kid for his sacrifice. He hit it down the street, and proceeded to run. As he was nearing third base however, he fell spontaneously. I knew right away it was Marky. He never liked to lose. Casey couldn’t do anything though. Marky was ten and Casey was thirteen, he wasn’t allowed to hit him. That didn’t stop me. I ran over to third base and called Marky out. He was bigger then me, a good half a foot, but he was hardly big in the first place. He was the only italian in the neighborhood, and his parents were from sicily. This made the poor kid stand out more, with his dark hair and skin, in a sea of blondes and gingers. He told me to mind my own business, I told him to screw himself. He raised a hand to hit me, and so I punched him in the face. I did what Josh had taught me, punch though, pretend Marky’s face wasn’t even there. I smiled at the thought. But the result was less then satisfactory. I knocked out one of his teeth, because I wasn’t tall enough to hit him in the nose, and my hand bled profusely for twenty minutes. Casey fell on the ground laughing and it took him a whole five minutes to recover. “Ok, psychos. Let me walk you home.” He said to us. And so we went home with no hard feelings. Because a street fight made everything even again, we may have been little, but we knew the rules. And I knew how to fight.

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