By Dave Peterson © 2008
My dad had a good job in 1971 but he drank away most of what he got paid. With limited options, we turned to family and moved in with my great grandmother. I called her Grannie. She was forbidden to speak Spanish to us but she did anyway. Grannie feared no one.
I was wearing plaid pants on both of the days in question.
At first I didn't mind living in the barrio in my Grannies tiny, one bedroom house in
Denver. There were tons of kids and during hot summer days they roamed in packs like feral dogs. On occasion, I roamed with them, the half-breed son of an Anglo dad and a Latina mom.
I remember clearly when the cops came and took Hector's mom away. He seemed rather nonplussed by the whole thing as we stood on the curb watching a bedraggled and wild-eyed woman being escorted from her home in cut-off jeans a loose fitting white tank top and handcuffs. I was shocked. We'd just moved from the suburbs and no one ever went to jail. I liked Hector. He had his own room and a spir-o-graph that he let me play with from time to time. I asked what his mom had done.
"She's smoking the weed again," Hector replied casually.
In my mind I pictured something like a farmer on Hee-Haw, chewing on a piece of hay. "Is that against the law?" I asked.
The rest of the pack howled in laughter at me. Fortunately for me, nature called and I ran home and avoided more ridicule. I unzipped my pants and took care of business. In my haste to get back outside, I zipped my penis up in my pants.
I screamed like someone was killing me. I thought for sure I was dying, I screamed for my mom and she came running and demanded that I tell her what the problem was. I just couldn't bring myself to show her what I'd done so I hid under the sink where she couldn't get at me. I continued crying in pain. Eventually, she grabbed hold of something, probably my hair, and pulled me out and figured out what the problem was. My mom was always so rational with me. She calmly told me that she'd have to see it if I wanted it to stop hurting. In what I'm now sure were seconds, but at the time seemed like hours, I let her look. She gasped, but then looked me in the eye and told me that I was going to be fine. In one fierce yank of my zipper, I was free.
The next day, I was back out with the pack. With my blonde uncombed hair, I would've always been the most noticeable member of the pack, but I was also head taller and at least a year younger than the other boys.
We were happily smashing beer bottles against a wall in the alley when Hector and another boy split off from the group and ducked into an alcove next to my Grannies house. After a moment they motioned me over. I got there thinking they wanted to share some secret or possibly candy.
As soon as I was in the alcove, Hector said, "Watch me kick this honkey's ass."
And with that, he kicked me hard, in the testicles. I doubled over and began to cry.
"See? I told you he was a pussy!" Hector yelled.
"Cabron!" the other boy said and he spit on me as they walked away, with chests puffed out, arms and shoulders back like prize-fighters before a fight.
Hector yelled to the rest of the pack, "I just fucked up that eight year old!"
Tears filled my eyes. My face and hands were dirty from roaming the alleys and playing in what passed for grass in the barrio. I saw my mom at the window as I entered the house. She was noticeably upset. She'd seen the whole thing. I could see it her eyes. I can still feel her shame and fear for me at that moment. As I entered the house bawling, I expected her to do what she always did when I hurt myself. She'd hug me, clean me up and make it better.
On this day she slapped me, hard across the face. "You have to defend yourself, you can't let them hurt you or they'll do it all the time."
And she slapped me again to drive her point home.
The next thing I remember about that day is waking up in the cool bedroom next to my soundly sleeping brother. I noticed the fading sunlight making its way through blinds that could never be closed tight enough to keep back the summer sun. I listened to my brother's peaceful breathing and then looked down at my filthy plaid pants utterly terrified at the things I'd learned that day.
David Peterson is an ex-soldier, musician, geek, degenerate, and a complete jackass hoping to one day get what's coming to him.