Mar 22, 2015

Summer 1969: The Face of Pure Evil

This is the Face of Pure Evil.  And the House Where Evil Dwells.

When I was a kid, it was painted grey, and that attic window had bars on it.

I lived on the the north side of Denkmann Elementary School, on 41st Street.  My boyfriend Bill lived two blocks north.

East past 42nd Street was Darry's house and eventually Country Style Ice Cream.

South, on the other side of 22nd Avenue, was Dewey's Candy Store, Gary's house, and eventually the Nazarene church.

West past 40th Street was Greg's house, and eventually Schneider's Drug Store, where you could buy comic books.

But we never went that way.  We walked all the way up to 18th Avenue and around to the back, to avoid The Killer and his house.

There were lots of Mean Boys at Denkmann who would steal your lunch money, call you names, or pound you for infractions of the rules of grade school behavior. Like Dick, who hung out by Dewey's Candy Store and pounded you for being a "girl."  But The Killer was by far the worst.

He interpreted the most innocent statement or gesture, even standing too close to him, even looking at him, as an insult that must be redressed: "Now we have to fight!"

If you refused, he attacked on the spot, or if you were in school, ambushed you on the way home.

If you agreed, you met your doom later, on the west side of the school yard, a desolate space of dead trees and yellow grass across the street from his house.

Snarling like a rabid dog, The Killer fought by punching and kicking you everywhere, in the face, the chest, the belly, the balls.  When you collapsed, bloody and sobbing, he poured dirt on you, spat in your face, and moved on.

Teachers simply said "No one likes a tattle-tale."

Parents simply said "You have to learn to fight your own battles."

The only escape was to avoid the Killer: don't sit near him in the cafeteria, don't stand near him at recess, and at all costs stay away from the House of Evil.

But one day during the summer after third grade,  I was stupid.  Mom asked me to return a cake-decorating kit that she borrowed from the Old Lady Schoolteachers, who lived two houses south of the House of Evil.  I should have walked all the way around Denkmann School, but it was hot, Cartoon Showboat was coming on soon, and besides, the Killer might not even be home.  So I cut diagonally across the parking lot and the schoolyard and came to 40th Street exactly parallel to the Old Lady Schoolteachers' house.

I peered at the House of Evil -- it looked deserted -- took a deep breath, and crossed the street.  I was in the yard -- almost up to the screen porch.  Almost safe.

"Hey, Fairy!"

The Killer!  He must have been lurking in the shadows, waiting for a victim to appear!  And now he was standing right next to me, fists clenched, a snake ready to strike....

My heart was racing.  "I'm not by your house!  The Old Lady Schoolteachers..."

"You sissy, making girly cakes!"  He knocked the cake decorating kit out of my hand.  "Now we have to fight!"

"No, it's my Mom's...." I began, before he punched me hard in the face.  Moaning, I dropped to my knees.  He kicked me in the stomach.

Then I heard someone yelling from a long distance: "Hey, what are you doing to that kid!"

I looked up to see a husky, muscular guy with shaggy red hair and freckles on his chest, wearing only short pants and tennis shoes with no socks.  He was holding the Killer's arm. "You apologize!"  he snarled.  "Now!"

Glaring, the Killer muttered "Yeah, sorry, fairy...I mean, Boomer."

The Redhead drew me to my feet and put his arm around my shoulders.   "Now listen up: if I ever hear about you touching this kid again, or calling him names, or even looking at him the wrong way, I will personally see to it that you spend the rest of your life at Joliet State Penitentiary.  I'm in law school -- I know how!"

The Killer paled, but managed one more act of defiance.  "You don't even live here!"

"My Grandma does.  She sees everything you do from that porch.  She'll call me, and I can be here in 45 minutes.  Got it?"

The Killer nodded and scurried off, and the Redhead helped me pick up the cake decorating kit and walked me to the house.

"I'm Nick," he said.  "If that bully bothers you again, just tell my Grandma, and I'll come running.  Ok?"

"The Old Lady Schoolteachers are your Grandmas?" I asked in surprise.

Nick ruffled my hair.  "You know what -- I was just about to go down to Country Style for a malted.  You get your Mom and Dad's permission, you can come with."

I grinned.  It was almost worth getting pummelled to be asked out on a date by a cute guy!

After that I loved hanging out on the West Side.  The Killer never came near me, and every few weeks my "boyfriend" Nick came to visit.

See also: My Grade School Bully Grows Up; My Boyfriend's Lesbian Grandmother.