My big brother the big brother who is my so-called brother Jack thinks he’s an expert marksman. He tells everybody that he is, and he’s going to join the Army next year to be a weapons maintenance man, but expert marksman? He’s definitely not that, unless he shot into a crowd.
He’s definitely not my brother, either. Halfway is as far as it goes, in all ways.
We have guns, which are mostly his, and he’s a good enough shot, but he’s never been in a real competition. I’ve gone shooting with him and he’s shown me videos of himself shooting, but he doesn’t shoot very far. He’s a marksman, I guess, if he’s close enough to his man to see his bloodshot eyes.
He knows how to handle guns, take them apart, and clean them. He can clean them better than anybody I know, although he won’t spend a second glance of half a minute cleaning our house, which means I have to do his part. My stepmom thinks it’s a privilege he’s her natural-born son. He just beams in his sulky way about that.
If you’re his girlfriend and want to know how he’ll treat you if you ever get married, just listen to him talking to me sometime. Fee fi fo, here comes Jack.
I don’t know how he got started with guns. He has always liked the military, and uniforms, and the superior straight back look. When he was a kid, he got a BB gun, but then, so did everybody else. He knows a butt load about guns and thinks they’re awesome. They’re awesome because of how they work, how they can kill people, that’s all. Just because ou buff up the bullets diesn’t mean you know what to do with them.
There are a couple of guys I wouldn’t mind shooting.
There’s Patrick, for one, whose dad works for the Cleveland Browns. He’s a total d-bag, on the tall side, and wears his hair puffed up and blonde. He’s the quarterback on the freshman team. He’s always depressed, though. Every day at his locker he’s just kind of unhappy, like he’s stuck in midair.
He’s a mean spiteful guy, though, and a jerk. Most guys are jerks once in a while, but Patrick burns that fire day in and day out. When I see him walking to school, he always looks mad. He’s not awkward in any way, and dresses fine, but he slumps when he walks. It’s noticeable even across the street from the front door of the Red Door Deli. I always wait until he’s gone his way.
Another one in the boat load of mean and spite is Martinelli. We call him Matty, although not for any reason. He’s in my math class and he’s a stripe. He’s a crap basket full of annoying, too. I’m fine with annoying people because everyone rubs you the wrong way sometimes, but he’s a weirdo. I heard he’s been one since he was a kid. He’s sour and strange.
Maybe God was having a bad day when he made Matty, because he’s a stalker and a creeper, too.
He’s been creeping on one of my friends from Lakewood Catholic Academy. He sneaks around her house and neighborhood looking for her. He creeps her on Facebook, which isn’t unusual. Lots of guys do that. It would be super if he were stalking me. I could pick him off bit by bit with air pellets. But stalking a girl isn’t right just because you can’t get a real date.
I don’t know what he wants, although whatever it is he isn’t going to get it. My friend just hates it. At one of our dances it turned into a thing in the middle of the gym, a thing everybody stopped what they were doing and watched. I was dancing with her when he came up to us, tried to cut in, and she started yelling at him.
“Matty, you’re such a CREEPER, get out of here!”
“Are you kidding me?” he asked, his mouth all twisted, and just walked away.
He’s a freshman, like all of us are, and it doesn’t seem like he should be so weird. He’s a tad taller than me, but totally vampire pale, with a narrow face and slanky brown hair. Even if I just threw bullets at Patrick and Matty it might get me a little happiness.
I would also definitely shoot Spoons.
He’s on my cross-country team and he’s a JERK all the time. Everybody’s annoyed with him so no one would miss him, at all. It’s because of how he acts most of the time that no one likes him anymore. He always tries to talk big man on you. He comes right up to you for no reason and calls you an idiot.
“Just shut up, dude,” I say.
“No, you shut up. What are you going to do about it, anyway?” he says.
It’s always hard to take crap like that. Other people want to shoot him besides me. There’s a line and he cross’s that line. There’s no going back once you’ve crossed the zoolock line.
I’ve shot plenty of people with air soft guns and BB guns, so I know what it’s like to shoot somebody, although so far, they’ve all been my friends.
Air soft guns shoot plastic fliers. They go fast so they can hurt, but they’re only pellets. They leave a smallish bruise. Bullets are better, but I’ve never shot a person with a bullet. In fact, the only thing I’ve ever killed is a frog, although it was really a toad. It was at summer camp in Wasaga Beach. One of my friends was trying to stab it behind our cabin, where there were always a lot of them. I don’t know why. They never did anything to us, even though they were gross. He hit it a few times, but mostly kept missing.
“Give it to me,” I said. I grabbed it and stabbed it in one try and then slammed it on a tree so it would die quickly. It was a mercy killing. My friend threw it into the bushes.
There would be no mercy for Spoons, though.
Spoons is Spoons because we say so. When you’re a freshman at St. Mel’s on any of the teams, you get a nickname. No one’s allowed to give himself a nickname, like Super Nova, or anything like that. The upperclassmen give us tags on the cross-country team. I’m Blue, and there are Squints, Puma, Barney, Elmo, Coin, Rondo, and Spoons.
Squints doesn’t squint, and he’s not even a chinkster, so none of us know how he got the tag. Puma is Puma because he’s fast, fast like a cat. Spoon’s nose and mouth are bad, like his features were spooned like soup onto his head. He’s mostly ugly and has long brown furry hair that’s matted like a monkey. At the beginning of the year, he started off being a nice guy, but got worse and worse all winter long.
Every once in a while, he would try to be nicer.
“Ahh, OK,” I would say, but that was usually a mistake, because before the end of practice he would be the same mean old wrong way Spoons. He’s a better runner than me, so as the year went on I couldn’t and didn’t have to be near him during practice.
We train on trails in the Metropark, on the Towpath, and at Edgewater Park. They’re hard to run over because they’re rutted and bumpy, winding up and down, and you have to watch where you’re putting your feet. We get wet and muddy. We trained five days a week, running six miles here and there, and there were sprints on top of that. There were some distances that went seven or eight, but we’ve never gone past eight miles, thank goodness.
At first, you’re dying, but after a while, you start feeling less bad. Then you have to go harder, and faster, so you start feeling bad again. It’s a rat race. But we’re a good team. We took second in the Districts and we’re going to the Regionals. If we make it out of there we’ll go to States.
I’ve played baseball, basketball, and soccer. I wish I would have stuck with soccer, but I didn’t. Not enough action, honestly. I played football for five years, until I went into eighth grade. It was FUN until the coaches RUINED it. I always wanted to play football, though, so I did. My dad wanted me to play soccer. He said it was safer, but he signed me up for football when I said soccer sucked. He bought all the stuff I needed, and I was ready to go!
He took me to a store to get me my own pants with built-in pads. Otherwise, the team gave you baggy pants from a long time ago. They were the kind where you have to stick the skanky pads in and they never stay. The new ones have things on a little belt that you tie on. It was a big deal to have all my own brand new out of the box stuff.
I got my own chinstrap, too, because the team chinstraps were nasty sweaty stained things that hardly worked at all. I got my own strong one with padding. I take it smart, so I have to protect my head. Who want to be a doughnut?
My dad bought me special Hex pads. They’re hexagons spread out over a skintight muscle shirt. You have pads all over so when you get hit rammed smashed knocked down run over it won’t hurt as much. There’s something in them that cushions the blow. Oh, my God, thank God they work! You get hit HARD playing football. Sometimes, even when you have ROCKED the other guy, you totally get CRACKED, too.
I played on the defensive side, and when you are the defense, you are a CRASH TEST DUMMY.
No matter what, though, pads or no pads, I got hurt. Everybody got hurt, even the big guys, got dinged got a stinger got busted up. I hit someone bursting up the middle one game one day hard and shoulder on and an awful buzz shot down my arm. It felt like when you fall asleep and your hand goes numb, but it was my arm, all at once. It hurt for two weeks, mostly in my shoulder, and I had to go see a doctor. I don’t know what he said, or did, but it got better after a while.
“Real boys love the pain of competition,” our head coach Brad Reagan and his brother Gold were always saying. Whenever they said that we knew we would be doing a butt load of Bull in the Ring drills next.
I was a cornerback, and I was good. I was a rocketman now and then. Hitting people was fun, especially people who were better than you, except if they were really good, which wasn’t the greatest. Then it was like, OH, NO! But if they were as good as you, or just a little better, you’d make each other better. You would have to make sure to try hard. If you ran them down, you’d be terrifically happy.
“Good job!” everybody would be yelling, jumping up and down.
We were like that on our team. Everybody supported each other. That’s what I liked best. But then the coaches became more total stupid grown-ups than they already were.
My friend Chad’s dad was the defensive coach. He was the best, such a nice man. We had a great head coach, too, at least for a while. He was Coach Hamm. He had played football in college and been a coach all his life. But his son started playing for Garfield High, and he went there to coach him.
We got our new coach in seventh grade, Coach Reagan, who brought his brother the angry man along. They were just total downpressers, full of themselves. They didn’t care about us one bit.
“You boys are a bunch of pansies,” is all we ever heard from them.
“Take a hit for the team,” they would say. “Just make sure the other bastard takes a bigger hit for his team.” They were always swearing, like Mr. Rote, our religion teacher at St. Ed’s, except you couldn’t laugh at them. Mr. Rote wouldn’t get spitting mad in our faces, not like our coach and his madman brother.
They called us pansies and other select names. Whenever we lost, they called us pussies. We were in the seventh grade, 12-years-old, barely teenagers. My dad got mad when I told him how the coaches were treating us. He talked to them about it, but they said he didn’t understand football, and nothing ever changed.
Many of the other guys didn’t like the new coaches, either. The brothers Rotten Reagan were a tag team. They were always on us, always yelling at us, squeezing us every chance they got. Coach Falco, who was our offensive coach, told them they shouldn’t talk to us that way, but they were complete idiots, and did whatever they wanted.
Coach Falco’s son was an amazing dude wide receiver for us. He got an award from the league for being one of the best players. Coach Reagan’s son was not so good, so he got the academic award, instead, somehow, even though he was thick in the head like his dad. A lot of guys did the same, or better, on the ACT’s, and were better players, but the coach had to give his son something, so he got the academic football player award. We had to go to the ceremony, too.
It was just a lot of nothing. What a waste of time. I try to take it smart, but sometimes grown-ups with their bad ideas get the better of you.
They gave us pep talks before games, but it was always a boat load of whatever, empty talk hot air baloney skin. I don’t remember anything they ever said, and it never made a difference. It didn’t make us play better. It made things worse. They were so wrong and negative it made you not want to play. It made all of us sad and angry.
Coach Reagan’s brother was the assistant coach. He had a “V” pasted on the side of our helmets. “It stands for victory,” he said.
“Don’t play defensively, ever!” he yelled every minute he could. “Attack and attack and attack some more!” Nobody cared what he was saying, especially when he was playing charades on the sidelines, but we ran around like nuts, anyway.
“We finally got one,” they would say whenever we won. We didn’t win many games. They spit yelled all the time about it. That’s what ruined it for me. At the end of the season in seventh grade I hung up my cleats.
“I’m DONE with it,” I said.
I’m thankful I played football when I did, but after I started running cross-country at St. Ed’s I found out how much more I liked it, even though our coach is Grumpy Gillis. That’s what we all call him, who is our Coach Krister. We make fun of him because he tries so hard to be grumpy 24/7.
He’s better than the cleat-head tards though. At least he doesn’t give us PHONY pep talks.