Where the Snowballs Once Flew (tf)

When we were kids my sister had her head split open by a snowball with a rock inside it thrown by some really weird kid with weightlifter arms who lived down the next block and seemingly never left his house. I can’t remember seeing him on our street before or since, so I can only surmise he had some secret crush on my sister and this was his one-time way of showing it. He must have realized his method backfired when he saw blood gushing from her head and my father threatened to kill him. So he went back into hibernation and lived with his Mom for the next 50 years or so. Everybody figured he was building bombs in his basement or something and kept waiting for the news to hit that he’d picked up an ax and pulled an Amityville down there. He might still be living in the house for all I know, propping his Mom up in the bedroom window.

In the aftermath it came out that he claimed he accidentally made a snowball with a nicely jagged piece of shale burrowed inside it, which if you think about it is pretty far-fetched. But difficult to disprove, especially when you live above abandoned mines. So after my sister was patched up (a few stitches as I recall, and a small permanent scar) we tried to forget that there were people in the world who would throw rocks disguised as snowballs at your cranium from close range at radar gun speed.

One of those innocence shattering moments you have as a child one might say.

The best thing ever said about my arm was that I didn’t throw like a girl. If you were tagged as someone who threw like a girl you were doomed. Your manhood was forever tarnished. When I was about 8 I’d been beaten up by a girl for cutting in front of her in line at the ice cream truck, so I didn’t need a girlie arm, believe me.

Peer pressure would force you to join in with the delinquents and toss snowballs at cars. You’d post a guard about 100 yards ahead to make sure the driver was a. a woman and b. alone. Such cowards are delinquents. But at night sometimes you’d mess up, which is how I found myself face to chest with a very large, very agitated, and very drunk man who’d just had his side door plugged by a barrage of artillery. It sounded like the scene in the Godfather when Sonny gets his car riddled at the toll booth. Everybody ran except me. I was too scared to move. But I hadn’t thrown anything, and thought maybe my explanation would save me. It didn’t. He backhanded me (rather gently, in retrospect. He could have pulled my head off otherwise) with a large gloved hand. Lesson learned. Don’t throw snowballs at this guy’s car again. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a snowball at anything since then. As my Mom (and surely your Mom too) would say, “it’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.” Moms are so dumb when we’re kids…..but acquire knowledge so quickly as we grow. Ever notice how that works?

Was there no end to these hard lessons as a child? In Norman Rockwell paintings nobody got hit with snowball-rocks or was slapped by whiskey-soaked behemoths. Looks could certainly be deceiving from a nicely framed window. Everybody sees that nice commercial with the Clydesdale horses passing through charming villages in the snow, but nobody sees the droppings they leave on the roads for some poor shlub making $5 an hour to clean up.

The world was a more complicated place than we thought. Have fun kiddies, but be wary. And as Frank Zappa once said, “don’t eat the yellow snow”.

–Tom Flannery

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~ by admin on December 28, 2010.

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