“So I flirt with disaster once or twice. Who doesn’t?”
He snorted. “You don’t just flirt with disaster, you have intercourse with it.”
― Dannika Dark, Impulse
This is the story of my friend, Jerry, who was fucking nuts, by the way, and had an impulse problem. All the events described here occurred just prior to middle school and are absolutely and completely true. I couldn’t play with him after school on Wednesdays because he always had these “appointments” his mother took him to that I subsequently found out were with a nut doctor for kid’s brains. Doctor whoever he was had talked my friend, Jerry, into thinking he could become an architect. Had that poor kid drawing pictures of buildings with a ruler that Jerry made me look at all the time. To Jerry, everything was office buildings because that doctor worked in one and I guess Jerry was trying in his own, odd way to patronize him. Conversely, Jerry was always better at vandalizing buildings than he was at drawing them. I will get to that in good measure.
Just to set the stage, as it were, I will start out when Jerry, having grown bored making prank phone calls with me using the kitchen phone. His mother was grocery shopping. He must have decided the old hag had not enough work to occupy her household time, and moved to remedy this situation with a dozen grade A Kroger eggs. And then, when he realized what a stupid fucking thing that was to do in the first place, he tried cleaning it up with the dish sprayer on that little hose in the sink. That is the exact moment in time his mother pulled in the driveway probably harboring thoughts of the help she would receive carting in all those groceries into the house by her son and his best and only friend. On that, she was wrong. I waited until her car passed by the side of the house to the garage, and then lit out the front door and was probably home before Jerry’s mother witnessed yet again an act of her own son’s insanity.
Now, I never asked my friend Jerry why he did the things that he did because I just didn’t care. When you are a young boy, destruction and rampage is your second best friend and who was I to look that gift horse in the mouth? I am not a choir boy, by any means, but I have never egged the inside of my house or failed to carry in groceries for an otherwise encumbered mother—except that one time, of course.
One night, because I did not take out the garbage, I did not go to jail. Mom did not play that game. Garbage done, or nothing, was like a motto to Mom. So, I was grounded on the very night we usually camped out on so we could terrorize our neighborhood with petty crimes and hijinks. On that very night, Jerry and our other friends pushed Jerry’s mother’s car out onto the street, and fired that mother up. It stayed fired up until it was abandoned, in motion, on Plymouth Road at four AM, after an exceptionally short police chase. Stick a needle in my eye, Jerry walks in the door an hour later and says, “Hey Mom, where’s the car?” Equal parts gall and stupidity by any measure, most would say. You got to remember, there was a county sheriff sitting right there at the kitchen table when Jerry glibly raised that question, and then proved no, Jerry could not out run any cop in the world when he was scared. He dropped dime on everybody and that is why he had no more friends, except me, who for once was actually dubbed the good kid—all for getting in trouble in the first place.
The Detroit City riots were no fucking joke, let me tell you. There was palpable fear from every white person within fifty miles of that city and lots of talk on how to quell that riot best. It was my first experience with widespread, televised street violence and I cannot say it did not influence me. When I saw people throwing Molotov Cocktails at police cars I was like, oh shit! Jerry had the same exact thought only fifteen minutes earlier and was in his garage when I arrived. He already filled a seven ounce 7 Up bottle (I shit you not.) with gasoline and was looking for a rag. Ten minutes later we’re staring at the elementary school, and then God must have intervened because we flat chickened out. God also made it rain a bit earlier, which not only temporarily calmed the rioting, but prevented a large grass fire, as well. I lit it, Jerry threw it, and the big ass rock next to the footpath by the bushes, broke the glass. Childhood proportion rule and embellishment factor aside, it was still the biggest fire I had ever caused in my short life. And, it was the only time I ever beat Jerry in a foot race. I knew all along we couldn’t out run the neighbors eye sight, but I was all elbows and assholes that day. Getting away with stuff is actually worse than getting caught. Consequences change behavior, and if they don’t there isn’t shit you can do about it. Jerry was living proof. But, my point is, it was a rush.
Jerry proved you can hit a telephone wire with an arrow at sixty feet. Jerry proved you can break your bedroom window with a hockey puck no matter how softly you flip it. Jerry proved a ping pong paddle will fly on a flat trajectory if accelerated to the correct speed and adjusted for windows, or Ronnie’s jib, as it were. Jerry proved his jacket could not safely transport one half dozen eggs over varied terrain and a distance of approximate seven hundred yards, in darkness. Jerry proved his arm will break from a fall from the Davenport, and his cast will destroy things. Jerry proved school is for losers and, tipped at the right angle a sixteen ounce beer could be poured down one’s throat. But, the best one was when Jerry proved a crazy German in a Volvo does not appreciate being hit with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while driving on the expressway at a high rate of speed. That caught even me by surprise.
This guy caught us with our pants down. The bikes were a hundred yards away, and that Kraut guy already had Jerry by the collar and was shaking him like his brains were on fire. And stupid Jerry, he’s leaning over the guard rail to get away from this guy’s breath or something, and his narrow ass could be falling. That is exactly when I arrive on the scene. We’d got separated doing something or another, and then I hear this scream. Help! I thought Jerry was a goner, for sure. I was already making up the lies I would tell his mother of why her son died such a terrible and tragic death. So, finally the Kraut guy lets go of Jerry, who actually stands there and does not run away, and ambles his crooked ass back to that Volvo. That’s when I got the whole story from Jerry. What the fuck were you thinking, I asked? Nothing, says Jerry. You got to tell me before you do that dumb shit, I say. You about gave me a heart attack!
Now, think about this for a second: Jerry’s parents gave this kid a Daisy air rifle for his birthday. My parents were never that stupid. Air guns, back then, were just BB guns that shot dirt clods, at least in our grubby little hands they were. We actually had unsupervised use of a projectile launching weapon and an endless supply of ammo. We mostly hunted girls with that Daisy air rifle, and pets and ourselves when the girls were all run off. My memory isn’t exactly clear on this story, but Jerry swung that Daisy air rifle at his brother, missed, and tore up the wall in the room where you could not help but pass to get to any other room. That rifle was grounded forever.
One day Jerry got into a fight with his dad and ran outside to the garage and grabbed a gas can. He was going to burn the house down apparently. His dad grabbed his silly ass and restrained him while his mother called the cops. They locked Jerry in a cage after that. He told me he counted the holes in his window screen for entertainment.
Later on in life I worked with Jerry at some stupid company and every day for lunch he’d drink thirty-two ounces of beer, and then smoke a cigar to disguise his breath. He married a single mother, adopted her son, and then divorced her. He then went on to live with his mother until she died. He showed up at my mother’s funeral reception with a twelve pack of tall boys and commenced to pounding them things down like his mouth was on fire. I could see him clearly from where I was sitting. It disgusted me.
Did you grow up with anyone like Jerry?