Remember When I Used To Make You Laugh
“Oh, my gawd! What are you doing here? My gawd! I haven’t seen you since we were – what? 15? 16 years old? Wow! What brings you here?”
“Same thing that brought you here, I’m guessing. I heard this is where the party’s at!” I said jokingly.
Carlo Bruno. I had a crush on his younger sister. He never knew it. As a matter of fact, neither did she. I heard that he went off to the army and she left with one of the Rashid’s. They were the town Arabs. The majority of them were doctors. One or two of them owned a pharmacy and another was a night club owner. I wonder which one she hooked up with.
“Hey, Remember when we were just kids and you made Mrs. Grigsby laugh so much that she blew a booger in her coffee cup? We all cracked up! I fell off my seat and pushed Alice’s face into her desk and she busted her nose! Remember? My gawd! How long has it been?” Carlo asks. He could barely contain himself nor could he keep from interrupting himself. “How about the time that we were in…2nd grade, I think. Mr. Perez always wore his glasses really low on his nose and chewed his pencil then; he would scratch his bald head with it. Everyone saw it and would make fun of it. But, when he asked you to stand up and answer something. You walked up calmly but, when you turned around to face us, you had your glasses down low on your nose and your pencil in your mouth. We all busted out laughing! Mr. Perez didn’t have a clue. Then, you took your pencil out and gave us all a look – like Perez used to do, and started scratching your head! My gawd! What a hoot!” he said.
“Yeah. I remember.” I said.
“Hey, everyone! This is my old friend from school: Dezi Canson! He is funnier than shit! He’ll have you in stitches!” he shouted to anyone and everyone that would listen.
There were a few people that came over and said hello and sat to listen to Carlo go on about me. Some stayed where they were and nodded salutations. But, for the most part the others just kept doing what they were doing without so much as a glance or acknowledgement. I studied the ones that gathered and a couple looked like they had nothing better to do than to sit and listen to some stories of a has-been. Others were fidgety and preoccupied but, were gonna stay and listen to Carlo out of obligation or respect. I couldn’t decide which. I felt obligated to release a memory or two for their enjoyment. I just waited for a cue from Mr. Bruno.
I didn’t wait long.
“Well. We were 10 years old. Carlo and I were on the same team: The Knights of Columbus Cubs! Remember, Carlo?” I asked. He nodded in agreement with a big ‘HOOT’ and nudge to the person beside him. “Well, we were both pretty good at the plate. Carlo was our 2nd baseman and I played left field. The games are always in the afternoon and evening in the summertime so, during the morning, we have the chance to go out and pal around with one another. We were at Anita Schumacker’s birthday party and had a game that evening. Only during the party, I drank a lot of soda. We got to the field a little later than we planned and didn’t even get to throw the ball around to loosen up. The coach had already handed in the lineup.
“Coach! I have to use the bathroom!” I screamed.
“Too, late, Mr. Canson. We bat first and you’re leadoff batter. Now! Get in there and get me a base hit!” he ordered.
“But, coach. Really. I have to pee real bad! Please.”
“I’ll make you a deal, Mr. Canson. You can go piss, shit, hell, even stop and get yourself something from that pretty lil gal in the concession stand – if you get a home run! Now. What are you gonna do? How bad do you want to piss?”
“What did you do?” one of the listeners asked.
“What could I do? I grabbed a bat, took a quick warm up and walked to the plate. I didn’t care what the pitcher was going to pitch – I was gonna knock that ball out of the park. The pitcher was Kevin McMillan and he was good! He looked around the bases and I’m thinking: you arrogant bastard! Who are you looking for? I’m the first batter! Nobody on base! Pitch the damned ball! He nodded to the catcher and “hey, batter, hey batter, hey batter – swing!” commands from the pitchers’ teammates started immediately. By this time I could feel the trickle of my piss coming to my shorts! I had my balls so far up my crotch that they were gonna explode any second! Kevin winds up and releases the ball. Without even thinking, I swing! CRAX! The bat smacks the ball perfectly and goes out towards centerfield – past the fielders’ head! The centerfielder had to turn all the way around and the ball hits the very top of the fence and falls in play! My coach and teammates are screaming at me to run, the fans are standing and whirling their arms around like windmills! I get to first base before the outfielder gets a hold of the ball. I round first towards 2nd base and see the fielder throwing the ball to 2nd. It’s gonna be close – I slide and the ball makes a sound like glass breaking as it hits the 2nd baseman’s glove.
“SAFE!” was the call! My finger barely got to the bag before the ball broke the mitt. The crowd cheered, the coach jumped up and down and the game was off!
I looked at my coach. “Coach. Please. Can I get a pinch-runner?” I asked.
“No! Stay there!” he commanded. “Lewis! Get in there and clean up my bases!” Lewis was told by the coach to get a hit to allow me to advance to home plate for the games’ first run.
I looked at the coach and then, I looked at the umpire out in the field. “Time!” I hollered. The umpire looked at me and then he looked at my coach. He ignored me. “Ump! Time!” I repeated. The umpire looked at me and said only, “PLAY ON!”
Well, I wasn’t gonna wait – hell my bladder wasn’t gonna wait. Kevin pitched the ball, Lewis hits it to first base and I run! I didn’t run to 3rd base - NO! I ran to the fence out in left center and unzipped my pants, pulled out my rudy and barely – with piss on my zipper and my hand, began to power wash the paint off the planks of that old fence! The whole stadium fell laughing! The opponents’ outfielders were pointing and rolling in the grass, my teammates were cheering and the man on the PA announcing the play-by-play was heard saying, “I think he’s pissing on the fence!”
By this time, everyone in the room was laughing hysterically. I just smiled at them and then at Carlo. He was slapping the back of everyone near him and leading the hysteria!
A lot of time has passed since I last saw Carlo Bruno. 25 years, I believe. He didn’t know that the coach was molesting me during that year. He had no idea. Why should he? We were kids having fun. He didn’t know that my older brothers had to take my dad hunting one day and point the rifles at him and beg him to stop hitting mom and us or they were going to kill him. Nobody knew. The town didn’t know that their own police chief – my dad, was taking his job out on his family. Nobody knew. Fr. Tony didn’t know that the large, seemingly beautiful family sitting up front was falling apart from the inside out. How could he know? Nobody knew. How could they? Carlo was one of the guys that was with me and my brothers when we broke into the liquor store and took cases of beer, wine and whiskey. He went with us when we went to my uncles’ house by the tracks and drank so much that I was throwing up on the couch and the living room carpet. I remember being pulled out by the arms and thrown outside onto the snow-covered sidewalk and patio. A couple minutes – or hours later, I woke up to the taste of my own vomit and the snow melted about two feet around me. But, Carlo was inside. He didn’t know. I remember making everyone laugh at my impersonation of the police chief when he came around asking if we knew anything about the break in. All the girls at that party were smiling coyly at me. I think Marcy wanted to hook up with me. But, then, I blacked out and woke up outside in the freezing snow and ice. But, nobody knew I had started early that day after waking up to a beating from my loving dad and smoking all those joints with Jesse in his garage. Jesse burned ¾ of his body while playing with gas and smoking out in his garage when we were nine or ten years old. Jesse was the one that got me high first. He saw me walking down the alley at a determined pace with blood on my lip and tears in my eyes. I told him that I had gotten spanked by dad for leaving the dog unchained after I got done feeding him and it got into the neighbors’ yard and tore up the garden chasing their cat. So, Jesse said that smoking that funny cigarette would make it all go away. It did. Nobody knew I had smoked nearly every day of my childhood since then. Nobody knew. Even in school. My grades were average. The teachers didn’t seem to care that I was seldom there. I turned in my homework – sloppy and half done, but, they always graded on a curve so, I was fine. They didn’t know. They didn’t know that we snuck out for lunch and had a six-pack and a couple joints to smoke. Nobody knew.
“One time, I was with Dez and that bully…what was his name?” Carlo asks.
“Zachary Dilks”, I say.
“Yeah, Zack Dilks!” he continues, “Zack was picking on everyone that day, more than usual. We were in 6th grade and at gym class. I’ll remember this til the day I die!” he inserts the anecdote. “Zack and his posse were just notorious for throwing balls at everyone no matter what we were doing that day: footballs, soccer balls, dodge balls – anything. We all had to be on our toes as soon as we got on the floor. Zack never changed into gym clothes or shorts for gym class but, for some reason he did that day. He had on a pair of shorts and the white of his legs blinded us all!” Carlo continued to entertain the gathering with his humor. Everyone was at the edge of his seat.
“So, Mr. Boyle was running late and popped his head in and told us all to warm up playing some dodge ball and pick teams. Zack waited for Mr. Boyle to leave and he grabbed a ball and his buddies and said, “All of you against us!” We’ll take you all. ‘Wait, Zack’ Dezi, interrupted. ‘let me be on your team, I want to crush these losers, too!’” Carlo continued.
“So, Zack agreed and as soon as Dez had him in his confidence, he goes behind Zack and pulls his shorts down around his ankles! Man! We all lost it!” The audience laughed hard and slapped their tabletops in front of them. I noticed a nice looking lady had walked in as Carlo was telling his fable. She had dishwater blonde, wavy hair down to her shoulders with a pencil stuck in it. She wore a denim jacket with a nice bodice and soft blue flowing skirt, ankle length. She took a seat directly behind the crowd of listeners. Her smile towards me was warm and gentle. She didn’t know how sad I was inside. How could she know? She didn’t know that they were laughing at something I did that to this day I am so embarrassed having done. They didn’t know that I saw the bruises and welts I saw on the back of Zack’s legs as I de-panted him. They didn’t notice his underwear was filled with holes from being worn way too long and the stains of feces and blood on the back side. How could they know? Everyone was too busy laughing. Everyone is always laughing! That way, they don’t notice the pain.
As soon as the small crowd notices the beautiful lady behind them, they begin to stand up and turn their attention towards her. She continues smiling and acknowledges each one of them by name. One by one, they say hello to her and take a seat with a proper routine “
“Ms. Alvarez. This is my buddy from my hometown: Dezi Canson! Man, he’s gonna crack you up! I’d be careful with this one. He’s a hoot!” Carlo dictated as he took his seat.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Canson.” She said with the nicest, most sincere smile I had seen in a long time. “Now. If you could all help me – we can get started.”
“Lord: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.” They all recited.
“Mr. Canson. Can you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about what brought you here?”
“Sure. Thank You. My name is Desi Canson and I am a recovering addict and an alcoholic.”
“Hi, Dezi. Welcome!” They all say.
“Well. I’m here because I heard this is where all the cool partiers go!”
And they all laughed.
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