When Sarge told me we were going to shoot some basketball at Fern Park that day, I assumed he would have a basketball. I was wrong in my assumptions. As we strolled down the grassy field that led to the basketball courts, I felt that some thing was wrong. Sarge had a toothpick in his mouth, a tank-top shirt, and tiny speedo shorts that clung tightly to his tall, lanky frame. He spoke eagerly of the upcoming fall, when our Senior Year would bring us the long anticipated Varsity football positions that we had so badly wanted. We passed by the newly built playground, where two young girls were sharing a see-saw, apparently enjoying the warm, summer day. As we approached the black, asphalt court, I noticed two aged men already playing a spirited game. I turned to Sarge, realizing that he had neglected to bring a ball.
"So, Sarge," I said. "How did you figure we were going to be able to play without a ball?"
"Kev, you worry to much about details," he replied with a grin. "I bet we can borrow a ball off those two old coots when they get tired," he offered.
We sat down and waited. and waited. The two old coots showed no sign of stopping to accomodate us. Finally, we got tired of waiting and walked over to the lake. Some small children were throwing bread crumbs to some Canadian geese, who were making angry sounds as they fought each other viciously to get the food.
We gazed listlessly across the lake, hoping to see anyone we knew. I noticed a group of young teenage boys wearing red and gray t-shirts. They were obviously students from Conard, our hated cross-town rivals. We attended Hall High, which was located on the north side of town. Conard was on the south side. Fern Park was located almost dead center of town, a veritable no-man's land.
Suddenly, Sarge cupped his hands and shouted, "Hey you losers! Conard sucks! I should swim over there and kick you asses!" he yelled with a grin.
Now, when I said we were near a lake. I was exaggerating. Fern Park had what can only be described as a tiny pond. And there was a wooden bridge that spanned it. And within one minute, these same Conard teenagers had surrounded us. They were not very big. Not one of them could have been older than fourteen. Sarge and I were both seventeen. But there were at least ten of them. I was furious. Sarge should have kept his mouth shut. As they circled us like wild Indians around a group of settlers, I made two fists and resigned myself to the fact that I was about to get my ass kicked by freshmen!
Suddenly. Sarge yanked something out from under his speedos. It was a large, plastic machine gun. I couldn't believe it. He had forgotten the basketball, but brought that? He aimed it at the Conard kids, yelling "Make my day! Make my day." The Conard kids froze. Then a ripple of laughter went through their ranks. They were all laughing. The children who had been feeding the geese were laughing. Even the old man who had stopped jogging with his dog to watch the spectacle was laughing. They were laughing so hard, I thought they would cry with mirth.
I went red with embarrassment. I felt humiliated. I would rather have gotten my ass kicked than to have been subjected to this display of ridicule. I marched back up the hilll in the direction of Keeney Avenue. I just wanted to go home and die.
When I got to the top of the hill, I noticed that Sarge had silently followed me. I stopped, pausing a moment to examine him. He was red in the face, though I couldn't be sure if it was from embarrassment or the effort to keep up with me. He gave me a half-smile, his large hands resting on his hips, and his long blonde head tilted to one side as he looked at me.
Finally, he spoke. "Well...that was kind of humiliating," he said with an impish grin.
I pushed him with both hands. I had to keep myself from hitting him. "Ya think, Sarge?" I replied. "Ya think?!" I shouted.
We never spoke again. The fall came, and we had an absolutely atrocious football season, losing every single game. Now, I know I that I overreacted. And I know that Sarge was a great man. But the question remained in my head:
How did he hide that plastic gun under those tiny speedos?