I have learned a lot from people. Harsh truths mostly. Childhood and what we experience during it is, according to every psychologist ever, pivotal in forging who we become.
When I was in elementary school and up till the 6th grade I lived on a dead on street in West Warwick Rhode Island. At the end of my street was the Big Woods and about halfway down was the Small Woods. It was back in the day when you could walk down to your friend’s house and knock on the door and ask if so and so could hang out. I had a few friends in the neighborhood (my street and a few adjacent ones) and we’d explore and build forts in the woods.
One of the houses across from the Small Woods- which is now also a house- was finally fixed up and moved into. We called them the New Kids even years after they moved in. So we started hanging out and invited them to one of our forts. The next day it was destroyed. And thus began what could only be called a chaotic feud with ever shifting alliances.
Both sides would build forts. We’d either search them out or get a spy to tell us where they were. Rocks, eggs, acorns, flour bombs (flour wrapped in paper towels held closed by rubber bands) were all used as ammunition. Rubber band guns with stones taped on, and even a biological weapons made with rotten eggs and fermented skunk cabbage. The forts had high prickery walls, and some of them got pretty sweet with gatehouses and multiple floors. We’d scavenge the neighborhood on trash night for wood and supplies.
There were a few instances were it came down to just being bullied. One of them entered my house which resulted in my sisters arm being burned with a hot frying pan he knocked away from me. I chased him out the door and tackled him. I’m pretty sure that’s the only fight I won and made the other person cry like a bitch. It’s still a satisfying thought: I won.
Though I remember even in that rage I had compassion. When we were fighting his necklace chain became caught and he pleaded I be careful not to break it. It was from his mother whom I believe is dead. I obliged.
I had a box- maybe one of those painted ones, or a treasure chest I forget- stolen and it’s contents dumped in the brooke. Whatever they didn’t keep anyway. It contained coins, rocks, and my own keepsakes.
One last incident that sticks out in my mind occurred with me and one other person while nailing some boards up in a tree. Some of the New Kids came along and began knocking the planks down with us still on them. I had a bag of nails in my hand and they dared me to do it. But it was three versus two and they were bigger. We were also in the middle of the woods, so we made a “strategic retreat.”
In those instances it was fear that held me back. Fear of pain and what they might do if I just managed to piss them off more. So we’d retaliate later. Find their forts and knock them down; call them names and throw shit at them when they had to go past my house to get to the bus stop. They’d do the same when we’d go past their houses to get to the woods. The cops came often, but never did anything useful in the any of the situations. I eventually moved and that was the end of it.
Since then I’ve learned a lot, at least I like to think so. I had to make them fear the same thing I feared in that unfinished tree fort in the woods. I should have hit that son of a bitch in the face with a bag of nails.
~David T. Kukulkan~