Authors: Tom Spanbauer
Maybe that's why Abe Martin hated me.
Summer in Idaho in the 1950s, our Thursday night 4-H club meetings all pretty much went the same. After we had pledged our heads to clearer thinking, our hearts to greater loyalty, our hands to larger service, our health to better living, after we'd eaten all the cookies, cake, pie, brownies, candy, and drunk all the Kool-Aid, Cokes, Pepsis, 7-Ups, RC Colas, Shastas, and everyone ran outside jamming on sugar into the hot dry dark night
and the crickets and the frogs and the mosquitoes and the stars and the crazy moon. The always-present hundred-watt lightbulb way up on top there on the yard light pole, the mess of flying bugs under the tin umbrella lampshade.
It never failed, it wasn't long and one of the boys got pantsed.
means that your pants and your underwear were forcibly taken off you and sometimes away from you altogether. For some reason, more often than not, it was me who got pantsed. There must have been a sign on my forehead that said:
hurt me then humiliate me I'm Catholic
. Besides my sis, Margaret, and me, everyone was Mormon.
Those last couple years I went to 4-H, the summers of my seventh and eighth grades, Abe Martin was always the one leading the troops. One time after getting pantsed, my bare ass lying on the gravel of Peter Johnson's gravel yard, Abe Martin reached down and did a quick, firm, cupping of my cock and balls. Later, when I had my pants back on, I called Abe on it. He said he was just curious to see what I was packing.
He must have liked it. During junior high and high school, Abe often drove over to my house after school. I was always out back doing the chores, feeding hay to the cows, slopping the pigs, or feeding the chickens. Abe always wanted the same thing: to jerk off with me.
It's not that I wasn't interested. Back in the 1950s on the Tyhee Flats, anything or anybody that could be construed in any way as sexual had interest. But with Abe Martin â there was just something about him. He was so desperate. Plus his sweat was sour and smelled like piss. It's always been that way for me. Sweat is what tells the tale true. If you see sweat on someone and your first impulse is to lick it off, it's a go. For example, the sweat on Hank that night at Schacht's delicatessen. If you see sweat on someone and you want to be in the next county, it's not. If they pass the sweat test, they usually pass on the other body fluids.
For example, the first time I ever saw cum, it was overflowing Abe Martin's left palm. Abe and I were sleeping out in our
sleeping bags in the front yard and I'd just told Abe what Dan Rivers's father had told Dan â that pretty soon Dan was going to have a White Dream. Then I told Abe that whenever Dan and I slept out, we always tried to get to sleep as fast as we could so we could have the White Dream. Abe Martin started to laugh and pretty soon there was a bunch of commotion under Abe's sleeping bag, then a loud groan out of Abe, and then Abe was shining his flashlight onto the load of cum dripping out through his fingers.
“It ain't a
Dream, you dumb ass,” Abe said.
, let's just say that what was dripping off of Abe's palm was making me wish I wasn't in Bannock County.
THE LAST YEAR,
the last day, the last class of high school ever, Abe Martin had it all planned. After the bell, he and Phil Rousse and Marty Clark were going to jump me. Maybe Abe was jealous that he had to take his senior year over, maybe it was because he wanted to touch my dick, maybe he hated my guts because I was living proof that there was a time that I was the sex that he wanted. Maybe it was just his sweet way of saying goodbye. Whatever the case, Abe Martin's plan was to take me down, strip away my pants and my drawers, and leave me standing there balls out butt naked in the crowded hallways of Pocatello High School.
May 1964, the last bell of the last class on my last day in high school rang. There I was, free at last. My future ahead of me. With a college deferment, Vietnam still four years away. Four years was an eternity.
I'd just stepped out into the hallway. I could say I didn't see it coming, but I did. Propinquity, that hyperactivated sense I have. How male bodies are around me. I could feel the bullies before I saw them.
Big Ben, Little Ben. I've told you about them.
But I haven't told you about the Running Boy.
WHEN I WAS
kid in the workshop with my father and my uncle Bob, I cut my index finger and the blood started pouring out.
Even though my father was standing right there, and my uncle, I started running. I felt something in my chest and I started running.
All I could do was look at the blood coming out of my finger and run. And there was no place to run to. Not to my mother, to my sister, not even to a room that was mine where I could close the door. My uncle chased me all over that farm. Really the way Uncle Bob told it, I must have run two miles here and there before he caught up to me.
At the sternum, in the middle of my chest, a lightbulb that you can see the filament flashing.
The Running Boy.
THE FILAMENT WAS
flashing when Abe hit me from the side and knocked me down. I still had my books held close to my chest. Then the two other guys, Phil and Marty, landed on me. I could feel fingers down at my belt and my zipper.
That's when Big Ben stepped up. I didn't know he was Big Ben yet because that's the first time I'd ever run into him. Whoever or whatever he was, though, the message was clear. I was in a battle for my life and I'd better get my ass in gear.
The sound that came out of me was what got them off my body. Eighteen years of taking shit and sick to death of it â the sound of that â came out of my mouth. One moment I had three motherfuckers on me, then I started yelling, and the next thing I know, they're all standing around looking down at me, their mouths hanging open as if I was having some kind of fit.
It was a fit all right. A Big Ben fit. Fight or flight. Up to that day it had always been flight.
The next thing I know I'm up and standing free. Phil Rousse was the closest. His beady eyes and those glasses. The books in my hand slammed his head so hard his glasses went flying. Knocked him all the way across the hall. I guess I was still yelling because nobody â not Abe or Marty or anybody else in the hallway was moving. Just standing there stuck in place as if a horror show was happening in front of their eyes.
It wasn't long and Abe and I squared off. Phil was down and who knows where Marty went. Abe was calling me a pussy, a queer, a fag â all the while beating his chest like a gorilla. But that day, squaring off didn't scare me. Nothing could have scared me. Even though my whole body was trembling so bad, from out my mouth came such a surprise â a deep voice from way down in my toes speaking out, loud and clear.
“Abe Martin,” I said. “Always trying to get my pants off me. What's that about?”
Our bodies weren't apart for long. Abe wasn't going to let his ambush get out of control. He jumped and we were body to body. Over the years, one on one, Abe and I had been evenly matched, so our bodies knew what to expect. But this time it was different. And it was startling. The way we went at each other. Both of us wanted to kill.
What came next was one of those long moments. Heaving breath, yelling, cussing â fists and elbows, body slammed against body. One of my punches was straight out of John Wayne and right into Abe Martin's nose. Immediately there was blood. Then a blow to my right ear that after I've never heard out of quite right.
Just Abe and me. It was just us two swinging, lunging, falling down, and rolling. One point, Abe and I were on our knees, Abe behind. Abe had my head in an arm lock and I couldn't breathe and I fucking hate it when I can't breathe. My whole life somebody'd had that choke hold on me one way or another. It was rage, deep rage, and Big Ben that doubled over and threw Abe's body clean over my head. His back hit the hard cement floor. Sounded like everything was breaking. But he stood back up.
That's the way we were, two killers, barely standing, trying to get breath. Abe's shirt was torn. My belt was hanging loose. My fists were bleeding. Abe's nose was bleeding. My right ear gone haywire.
Slow and weird, the rest of the world started coming into focus. Just about then Mr. Sloat, the mechanical drawing teacher,
showed up. He was a Mormon bishop and never liked me much. The moment, just as Mr. Sloat stepped in between, what I'd managed to say just then Mr. Sloat didn't take kindly at all.
“You're the one who's the queer,” I said.
Abe Martin was a Mormon, too, so he didn't get sent to the principal. The principal, Mr. Bagley, who was also a Mormon, was filled with indignation and all sorts of authoritarian outrage. He threatened to call my parents, not to let me be in the graduation ceremony, and a bunch of other stuff. But I could give a shit. I'd finally stood up for myself. And I was higher than a kite. And for a few brief moments in my life there was nobody in the world who could hurt me.
THE THING THAT
pisses me off most about Abe Martin, though, didn't really piss me off until years later. It wasn't until after the second time Big Ben knew that this was it and I had to stand and fight that I realized something important.
I'd spent all my life in a kind of resignation. Shit was always going to happen to me and I just had to learn how to withstand it. Bullies were going to come and go and I just had to brace myself and somehow get through it. For instance, I never once thought of getting even with Abe Martin. I mean he was a real asshole. He didn't fight me fair. He ganged up on me with his friends. With the intention of ridiculing me as I stood there in the high school hallway with my dick hanging out.
I defended myself and I succeeded in my defense. And I'd go on that way until the next time I needed to defend myself. Fucking Catholicism, man.
TWENTY YEARS LATER,
another bully. And once again he wasn't alone. Two this time instead of three. In a basement in New York City. Then, after I picked myself off the concrete floor, we were out in the street.
Didn't know for sure what I was doing. Just knew I had to do something.
But Big Ben knew. It was revenge.
I'D JUST QUIT
my job at CafÃ© Un Deus Trois and was a full-time super. The building on Seventh Street, right next to the Ukrainian Catholic church, was a pain in the ass. The sewer always backed up. As soon as I walked in the foyer, which was every morning, if the basement was full of sewerage, I could smell it. Believe me.
It was a summer morning, because the mimosa tree in front of the church was blooming. The moment I unlocked the front door, I could tell it was bad. When I turned the basement light on and looked down, I couldn't believe it. Eight to ten inches of human shit and toilet paper lapping over the bottom step. It was a weekend, too, so my boss wasn't in the office. I immediately walked back to my apartment and put on my Key West shrimper boots. I almost didn't buy the shrimper boots because they were white, mid-calf, and looked kind of sissy. But as it turned out, those white, mid-calf, solid rubber boots saved my ass with all the shit I had to wade through.
Down in the basement, the only light was at the bottom of the stairs. I pulled my red bandana over my nose and mouth. Turned on my flashlight. My first step off the bottom stair was the scariest. I had to walk real slow to the sump pump. Just a beam of flashlight in a dark, dingy basement. Sloshing shit-water lapping up against the tops of my rubber boots. Fucking wade in the water, man.
Thank God that day the sump pump was working. It took a couple hours, but when the pump sucked all the water down, solid waste and TP still covered the cement floor. I didn't know what else to do, so I went for it. Pulled the red bandana back over my nose and mouth and started scraping. Human excrement down the sewer hole with the heavy duty metal push broom. Stepping careful because that shit was slick. Then I hooked up the hose and hosed down the whole basement. Sprayed out a whole can full of aerosol
But there was another problem that day. It was when I was
hosing away the shit away from the base of the boiler that I realized. The line on the side of the boiler. Sometime in the night, the shit-water level had reached over two feet high and the boiler had quit.
Back in my apartment, I left my boots in the hallway. Next to my phone was the list of emergency numbers to call. Repairs would be expensive on the weekend and my boss would be pissed but there was no way I could fix that boiler. I ran my finger down the list.
Frank's First Call Boiler and Repair
Two things about that company that fucked me up.
The first. It took a big dick just to call up
Frank's First Call Boiler and Repair
. You had to be prepared. If you fucked up the account number or the address the guy hung up. Then you had to be specific about what you needed.
Choose one: installation, replacement of parts, maintenance and cleaning, other
. You had to speak loud and clear and get to the point fast or the guy hung up. The first time I called them it took me all day to keep the guy on the phone.
And there I was again, my index finger on the telephone number.
Frank's First Call Boiler and Repair
. The Running Boy just wanted to run. Be prepared: I wrote down on a piece of paper the account number and the street address. Then how do you say in ten words or less your boiler was drowned in a shit flood? Fuck.