Pissed off

There I was, in third grade, using the urinal in the school bathroom, wearing a brand-new t-shirt emblazoned with mutant-monster football players growling and slobbering on the field (I’m not sure why; I didn’t even like football), and a kid named Tom Rainbolt stood directly behind me, yanked down his pants, and soaked my backside with a hot stream of pee. 

It was as disgusting and logic-defying (and, years later, funny) as it sounds, especially since Tom and I were cordial, practically friends. In shock, and suddenly wet and warm, I bawled and ran to the playground and flagged down a so-called yard duty — a volunteer adult supervisor with a whistle around her neck — and spewed between tears, “Tom pissed on me!” Yard duty: “He spit on you?” Me: “No, he pissed on me!”

Chaos. Kids circling around, the shaken yard duty escorting me to the principal’s office while seeking Rainbolt in the scrum of gasping, giggling children. He was easily detained, like he didn’t even try to slip out. Was I embarrassed? No. Traumatized. 

I was cleaned up and given a used, undersized kindergartener’s t-shirt to wear, which I concealed with a windbreaker zipped to the neckline. Rainbolt was busted, sent home, though I can’t recall what his full punishment was. I wish I did, that sonofabitch. 

What was he thinking? He wasn’t thinking. Kids do exceedingly stupid things, and I did my share. Frog torture, doorbell ditch, dog poop dumped on front porches, tossing shotgun shells into fires, trying to lure a friend into a subterranean booby trap and bury her alive (a very poorly thought-out ruse) — all of this was done in grade-school, and that’s only part of it. 

And yet I’ve never gotten into a physical fight with someone, ever — though I should have clocked Rainbolt. And, except for that doomed frog, I’ve never engaged in animal abuse (unless you count me boiling some Sea-Monkeys).

“Boys will be boys,” they say with a smirk and a shrug. I call bullshit. Boys will be monsters — I’m sure girls will too — peeing on each other, picking on each other, normalizing violence, torturing kittens, setting fires, stealing, vandalizing. I’m generalizing — not all kids are little bastards, and most might even be angels — but empirical evidence tells me boys are drawn to trouble, only reeled in by good breeding and good sense, and maybe a slap on the wrist by Pops or the cops.

And so my little fable ends here — all of it true — with this moral: Boys, always check behind you when you plant yourself at the urinal. You never know who’s going to hose you. I can laugh about it, and I almost forgive Tom Rainbolt his puerile shenanigan, his repellent stunt, which was probably just an experiment to see how far he could spray. The more I think about it, I almost empathize with the little jerk. Boys, after all, will be boys. Those monsters.

Boyhood bedlam

Once, when we were young and evil, my brother, a friend and I decided to dig a pitfall trap for a neighbor kid we disliked on that particular day. 

Right: Three pre-tween boys thought we could shovel a human-size hole in the hard earth, obscure it with, say, palm fronds, then lure our nemesis to the pit, where he would dutifully tumble in and, with hope, writhe in pain and cry for his mama. We might even bury him alive. 

The sheer outlandishness of our artless ruse — we’d seen way too many jungle movies and reruns of “Gilligan’s Island” — betrayed a warped sense of humor and advanced sociopathy. We were, in our way, hardened hellions, backyard scamps in Sears Toughskins and Keds sneakers who lived for the most mailbox-damaging firecracker and perfect pile of dog poop to leave on the neighbor’s porch. 

In hindsight, trapping a helpless child in a deep earthen hole was low on my brother’s list of mayhem; he was busy splatting passing cars with eggs. The high-concept stuff, like the ingenious pitfall trap and starting brush fires, had all the earmarks of a Chris and Gene production — me and my boyhood bestie Gene, a character of almost dangerous precocity, whose rascally misdeeds I chronicled in a previous post

My inner children? Probably.

Boys are bad. If I tell you Gene, who bore galaxies of freckles, threatened to stick an M-80 in a poodle’s rear-end, then I should probably fess up that I peed on a kid’s head from the strategic perch of a tree fort. 

If I describe how my pal Don smashed a huge, harmless tarantula with a rock, I guess I can admit to nicking .22 bullets from my Dad’s small stash, prying them open with pliers and lighting the black powder for a dazzling little dance. In my bedroom.

If I do all that, you either see dumb juveniles paving the way to prison or common boys-will-be-boys behavior that’s as benign as saying boys are made of “snakes and snails and puppy dogs’ tails.” (They are made of that and so much more: fire, lizards, toilet humor and horrors, nudie pin-ups, rock ’n’ roll, illicit cigarettes, contraband beer, and other primal excitements.)  

I was a boy and I can hardly explain our innate appetites for destruction. I loathed team sports but my friends did not, yet we found common ground and ample time to — name it — mutilate frogs, melt “Star Wars” action figures into gooey globs, boil alive bitty Sea-Monkeys, hurl dirt clods into traffic, shoplift rubbers and records. It was wrong, all of it, but oh-so thrilling.

Little girls are awful, too. I can elaborate but prefer a don’t ask, don’t tell stance. Rest assured, the distaff devils are not “sugar and spice and everything nice.” They are funny and cruel, vindictive and viper-tongued. But we know that. And that is why we love them.

From those early years, about ages 7 to 12, I graduated to harder middle-school mischief, the kind where you don’t inhale, cops knock on your car window beaming flashlights, and parents cancel certain privileges. (And of course girls. Don’t ask, don’t tell.) 

Those were darker years, when heedless devilry came with tougher consequences and higher expectations amounting to: Knock this shit off, now. It’s strange, but having a homeless guy purchase you beer sounds almost worse than burying a child alive in a large ditch. There’s about a four-year gap between those two impish delights, and that’s a lifetime at that age. Either way, it’s all kid’s stuff — tutorial, twisted, and so terribly, wonderfully wrong.