The fighting worm
Last night as we were celebrating Hattie’s birthday the conversation got to telling stories about fights we had been in. It had began as Scott and Roxanne were describing their experience as they were exiting Hattie’s party. They walked past some 15 year olds and the kids were drunk and tried to provoke Scott by telling him “I shit in your mother’s mouth”. At the time Scott didn’t have a good response to this invitation to fight but it was good enough to get us all thinking about great fights in our history.
Kate had experienced a fight at the practice session for her debutante ball. Her friend was in the lobby of a hotel with a Frisbee. A mean looking drunk walked up to him, took the Frisbee away from him and said something about him being a faggot. The drunk then proceeded to attack him and punch him in the face to break his nose then took the Frisbee and left.
I had wanted to tell a fight story and was going to tell the story of the worm. I’ll get to that later, but with six people at the table it was hard to break in with a story in time that was relevant and the angry drunk story seemed to fit better at the time. So I told the story about Olenick being an angry drunk and how he had wanted to fight me in my room after he had played the trumpet throughout the night to announce to everyone that he was an angry drunk. I was a wrestler in high school and still bulky from trying to stay in shape so Olenick must have thought that it would be fun to fight recreationally. I wasn’t in the mood for it at the time and I had already experienced my room getting totally trashed one night when he came into my room to shower me and Yuval as was custom on special occasions like birthdays and Yom Kippur. So to avoid the Godzilla style destruction of lamps, computers, and thermodynamics textbooks I hatched a plan to get rid of Olenick.
Since he was very drunk he didn’t have a great sense of logic. I told him I would be happy to fight with him but not in my room or inside since I didn’t want to knock anything over. I would fight him if we did it outside. Since this made sense to him I walked down the stairs with him and walked him politely out the door. When he reached the outside of the door I slammed it shut and held it shut such that he couldn’t get back inside. He ranted outside for about half an hour and as he became more sober and tired the drunken adrenaline ride of anger inside of him wore out like the incredible hulk coming down from a green day and returning in tattered rags sitting on a street corner wondering what had happened to him.
This was a separate incident from the time Yuval and I saved up burned out light bulbs for eight months. When we finally had about fifteen of them while Olenick was out drinking one night we replaced every light bulb in his room with a burned out bulb. This gave the illusion that the circuit had blown a fuse. So when he got home to his room at midnight we listened to him as he tried turning on his lights in a drunken green hulk stupor and then started hitting his lamps in anger that the fuse had gone bad. He then tried to fix the fuse but it didn’t work so he moaned and paced the halls shouting at the electrical system and cursing Yahweh his supreme being of choice before finally resigning to sleep off the horrible night to awaken to learn about the burned out light bulbs.
The prank was actually inspired by a black market practice by people in Russia who would always keep burned out light bulbs and then go into apartment buildings with them to replace working light bulbs with the burned out ones. They would then sell the working light bulbs on the black market.
But the unfortunate challenge of being in a group of people drinking and enjoying telling stories is that you can’t get all of your stories into the conversation without becoming a major story hog. Scott had some great stories to tell about his deck hockey league where some of the players are not allowed to play against other teams because there are restraining orders that they would be breaking if they came into too close of a proximity to the people on opposing teams. Deck hockey is apparently just like real hockey except that you don’t wear skates. You do wear pads, can check each other and it often becomes very violent. During one match one of Scott’s teammates had been decked hard and was bleeding from an illegal hit. He had wanted to start a fight during the game but hadn’t managed to get the fight properly instigated so he was fuming mad during the game. So after the game in the parking lot when both teams were near their cars this disgruntled deck hockey player wanted to start a full brawl between the two teams initated by the player who had hit him. Scott is not the typical player at 5’ 10” because the other players are generally more in the 6’ 2” 220 lb with lots of scars on them class. So he was likely to become the punching bag for anyone choosing him as an opponent in the parking lot brawl. Luckily the whole fight diffused before anything further occurred.
Hattie had gotten kicked out of her fair share of softball games for fighting with the umpire and other players over whether she had been safe or not. I used this to tell my story about S. Eliot when he had been in a line-up where everyone was supposed to shake hands and he cold cocked the opposing pitcher in the face breaking his nose instead of shaking his hand. He had some criminal genes in him or something. I think he may have had an extra Y chromosome or something.
The story that I had wanted to relay but never could fit into the dialog was the story of the worm. I had been playing during recess in fifth grade in the Newton Center Playground behind the Mason Rice elementary school. We had been playing kickball but the game had ended and I had told Chu, an asian boy the same size as me that he was a dummy. He had not been amused by this and had gotten more angry than I had expected. The result was that he pulled a worm out of the ground and told me that because I had offended him that I was going to be forced to eat the worm. Now I was a fairly tough kid but the one thing that I both didn’t understand and feared was the martial arts. Chu happened to have a very valid threat in that he was a black belt in karate and intended to use his karate skills to force me to eat this worm. Nothing quite gets the fight or flight juices pumping in a young chubby Jewish boy in a school yard like the combined threat of having to eat a worm and a black belt kick from a young Asian boy. Since eating a worm was about the worst fate I could imagine I decided to face the karate challenge by raising my fists.
Now I was no ingénue. I grew up in Watertown where you learned to fight by getting used by older kids as a punching bag. They would ask me to push my stomach out so that it was swollen and then would punch me as hard as they could. Expecting that I might double over in pain they were always surprised that I never let out a peep or complained. This was some protection for being the only Jewish kid in eight square miles amongst a highly organized set of Irish Catholic families each filled with seven to twelve be freckled and often evil sons and daughters of police officers. Strangely the only time they managed to make me cry was when they stole an apple from me and threw it back and forth to taunt me. It wasn’t that I cared about the apple. I just hated having something stolen and not being able to get it back from them.
But the stomach punching had trained me well for defending myself from worm eating. As Chu warmed-up for a roundhouse kick that would kill the average fifth grader I swung a strong upper-cut right into Chu’s lip. The result of this was quite predictable. I had a large tooth gauge cut into my palm and Chu’s lip began to swell like a small water balloon. At roughly the same moment the recess had reached near an end and the teachers were looking to Chu and me for an explanation for our injuries. I hadn’t been to the principal’s office often because in general, when not threatened by eating annelids I don’t do crazy things like punch other students in the face, but the initial arbiter of the situation believed that there was sufficient reason to believe that the accident that both Chu and myself had claimed was responsible for each of our injuries was a fabrication that we were using to protect ourselves from a permanent blight on our elementary school transcripts that would be used by any college admissions officer to eliminate us as deviants with extra Y chromosomes when considering our carefully authored essays and high SAT scores.
Chu and I stayed in the waiting area in front of the principal’s office for over thirty minutes waiting and synchronizing our story for the chief. We managed to create an elaborate lie where he had been running behind me and had tripped, causing his face to fall into my hand, during which his teeth had cut into my hand and his lip was cut. The principal actually bought the story and we lived the rest of our lives without the major scarlet letter of having been violent youths.
The dinner to celebrate Hattie’s birthday ended without any incidents of fighting over the bill and then I drove back to pick-up Leelin the pug dog for a fun pugsitting weekend.