Tuesday, March 1, 2011
"Hey, Mike, I dare you to eat that salamander."
"Hey, Mike, I dare you to steal a six-pack of beer from Stop N Shop."
"Hey, Mike, I dare you to jump your bike over five trash cans."
Busted his leg on that last one.
No matter. Mike may have only gotten the child's platter when it came to common sense, but he went back for seconds and thirds at the all-you-can-eat cajones buffet.
Of all the kids in our 10-12 year-old range, Mike was the one who seemed to have the most experience with girls. That is to say, it was pretty much all he talked about. He probably went through puberty when he was six. None of us really believed his ribald tales of smooch-enhanced gropery, but he did have a certain flair for the story-telling.
One Saturday morning, Mike, Robbie and I were sitting around on my front porch, killing time by throwing rocks at squirrels.
"You guys remember when I went to camp last summer?" Mike asked.
"No," said Robbie and I in unison.
"I guess that was when you guys were on vacation or somethin'. So anyway, I was at camp, and every night at dinner there was this hot twelve year-old named Michelle checkin' me out. So one time I go over to her . . . "
"Wait, Mike, since when do boys and girls go to the same camp?" I asked.
"They do at this one, shut up. So I go over to this girl Tracy and I . . . "
"I thought you said her name was Michelle."
"It was Tracy, I just remembered, shut up. Michelle was some other girl. Shit, you guys keep interrupting, where was I?"
"You were about to do the deed with either Michelle or Tracy at some camp you supposedly went to last summer that lets boys and girls hang out together." I was more than happy to get him back up to speed.
"Yeah, right, so I ask, uh, Tracy if she wants to sit with me at the campfire that night. She says yeah, so once the fire is goin' and the counselors are all wrapped up in some stupid ghost story, me and her started makin' out. I even got some boob."
"That is so much bullshit," said Robbie, as he nailed a squirrel in the head with a stone.
"Shut up, man, you're just mad because I've gotten to second base and you guys haven't even held a girl's hand yet."
We'd have been pissed at him, if he hadn't been right. When it came to the whole "first base, second base" thing, Robbie and I hadn't even made it out of the on-deck circle.
We continued shooting the shit and taking target practice on small rodents. After a while Robbie noticed Debbie Esposito walking down the street, headed our way. This could be interesting.
Debbie "Ta-tas" Esposito lived a couple blocks from us. By the age of sixteen, she was well-proportioned in the physical sense, rated a solid "seven" on the traditional scale from one-to-ten, and had a reputation for being rather friendly with the high school boys.
Okay, she was a slut.
Robbie decided that it was "put up or shut up" time for ol' Mike the Whip.
"Mike, if you're so experienced, how 'bout you take a shot at Debbie over there?"
"Yeah, Mike," I goaded. "She's just your type."
By "your type", of course, I meant "a breathing female". And that's giving Mike the benefit of the doubt on "breathing".
"C'mon, man, she's like sixteen. She's too old for me."
Robbie wouldn't settle for that one. "Come on, Mike, you're an old pro. I'll bet she's just dying for a macho guy like you."
"Nah, she's a sleazebag anyway."
"Like that's ever stopped you."
Eventually, I had to play the card . . .
"Hey, Mike, I dare you to go grab Debbie's boob."
A look of intensity gripped Mike the Whip's facial features. His eyes narrowed, his lip curled, and he took on the appearance of a pre-pubescent Gary Busey.
Debbie was dressed in her usual skankiform. Semi-permed hair, too much lip gloss, short-shorts, and a skimpy top to show off the goods. As she passed my house, Mike trotted up beside her.
"Hey, Deb, how you doin' today?" Smooth opening line, at least from where we were sitting.
"Oh, hi Mike. Don't you look cute today?" Debbie was not above the casual flirtation, even with us younger kids. Kinda sick, now that I think about it, but at the time we didn't mind one damn bit.
"Is that a new top? What's it made of?"
"Oh, this? It's just cotton."
"Yeah? Lemme feel it!"
And before anyone knew what was happening, Mike reached out and got a handful of left hooter, and gave it a quick squeeze.
"Oh shit," Robbie said, and we snuck into my house. We didn't want to be around for the aftermath.
Mike came inside a few minutes later, looking cool and collected.
“Man, Mike, I can’t believe you squeezed her boob,” said Robbie.
“What, you dared me. It’s not like I never touched a girl before.”
“Debbie didn’t smack you or anything?” I asked.
“Nah, I think she kinda liked it. Oh, she pretended to be mad for a minute, called me a dirty little pervert. But I turned on the charm and she started laughing. We're cool."
"What a slut," said Robbie.
That probably would have been the end of it, if not for one factor that the three of us had completely forgotten about.
Debbie had a brother.
Mental makeup aside, though, Vinnie did have a sense of responsibility when it came to his family. When your sister is a slut, you kinda expect guys to take advantage of her once in a while and when that happens, it’s the brother’s sworn duty to kick the living shit out of them. Vinnie took this duty seriously.
Case in point:
A few weeks prior to Mike the Whip’s courtship of Debbie’s hooter, a guy by the name of Glenn Pluchinsky made a move on her at the high school Homecoming Dance. Debbie responded to Pluchinsky’s advances in her typical manner, which is to say, she was enthusiastically consentual. Pluchinsky and Debbie took their business outside and set up shop under the baseball field bleachers. Though eyewitness accounts vary, the general consensus was that Pluchinsky cruised into third base with a stand-up triple and very likely stretched it into an inside-the-pants home run.
The following Monday, Vinnie waited for Pluchinsky after school and without preamble, pounded him into a quivering pile of organic wreckage.
Since Debbie was, as we’ve established, a slut, the Pluchinsky beating was far from an isolated incident. In fact, for Vinnie, it was somewhat routine. Therefore, when Robbie and I saw him knocking on Mike’s front door that Sunday morning, we knew that Mike's number had come up.
Fortunately, and ironically, Mike was at church with his mother and sister at the time, so Vinnie’s knocks went unanswered. Not wanting to make a return trip later, he took a seat on the front steps to wait.
Robbie and I were playing catch in my front yard, trying desperately not to make eye contact with the loitering lunkhead across the street. Since we had basically goaded Mike into grabbing Debbie’s fun bag, there was a very real possibility that Vinnie would include us in the carnage if he somehow found out.
“Maybe we should go over there and talk to him,” I suggested.
“What are you, nuts?” asked Robbie, as he threw the baseball back to me. “We just need to lay low and hope he goes away.”
“Yeah, but if Mike tells him we were involved, he’ll come after us, too.”
“You think Mike would rat us out like that?”
I tossed the ball back to Robbie. “Well, not at first probably, but if Vinnie was kicking his ass and he thought it would help. Yeah.”
“Right, so we gotta get to Vinnie before Mike can tell him the whole story.”
The next time Robbie threw me the ball, I let it sail past me so it rolled into Mike’s yard. This way, I could casually strike up a conversation with Vinnie and maybe get me and Robbie off the hook.
“Nice catch, douchebag,” said Vinnie.
“Yeah, heh heh, I know. Mike’s not home, ya know. He’s at church.”
“Ya know when he’s gonna be back?”
A fair question, but if I answered, I would be guilty of aiding and abetting a known thug in the pre-meditated pummeling of my best friend. But if I dodged the question, it could set Vinnie off and, well, who knows what could happen. I did the only sensible thing under the circumstances.
“About eleven-thirty. Why?”
“’Cause he messed with my sister yesterday. You know anything about that?”
“He, um, well . . . he said, uh . . . nope. We haven't seen Mike in a few days. He's been grounded, I think.”
He got up and started walking away. “Well, if ya see him, tell him he's dead meat. I'm comin' back later.”
“Okay, sure will. See ya, Vinnie.”
"Screw off, shit brain."
I picked up the baseball and went back across the street. Robbie was waiting for me. “Sooooo, how’d it go?”
“Well, I don't think Vinnie knows you and me are involved, but Mike’s a dead man.”
“We gotta warn him, right?”
“Yeah,” I said. “But Vinnie’ll find him sooner or later.”
It turned out to be sooner.
Mike got home from church around 11:45. He went inside, got changed, probably had lunch, and at about 12:30 he was knocking at my front door. Robbie and I were inside watching TV.
“You guys gonna come out?” he asked.
“Yeah, uh, Mike, we gotta talk to you,” I said.
He sprawled out on the couch. “What’s up?”
“Well, Mike,” said Robbie. “Vinnie Esposito was at your house earlier, said he’s gonna kick your ass for messing with Debbie.”
“How’d he find out?”
“Debbie prob’ly told him, I guess.”
“I ain’t afraid of that asshole. Let him try to mess with me.”
Now, we could’ve tried to reason with Mike, explained to him that Vinnie was about four years older than we were, and about twice the size. We could’ve reminded him what Vinnie had done to Glenn Pluchinsky (who, by the way, was two years OLDER than Vinnie), or maybe we could’ve helped Mike hide out for a while.
We also thought about getting Mike's mother involved, but we almost as scared of her as we were of Vinnie. Also, Mrs. the Whip had a short fuse when it came to boys taking advantage of girls, so once she found out that Mike had groped Debbie, not only would she have condoned Vinnie's beating his ass, she probably would've helped.
But since Mike was displaying his typical bravado, and Robbie and I had cleared our consciences by warning him, we just let nature take its course.
It was a short course.
At about one-fifteen, Vinnie came back. Mike, Robbie and I were sitting on Mike’s front porch.
“Hey, Mike. Get your ass over here,” barked Vinnie.
“What do you want, asshole?”
You gotta hand it to Mike the Whip. He was going to go out on his shield.
“I heard you felt up my sister yesterday.”
“Yep, sure did. She’s got quite the pair on her, don’t she?”
Robbie and I just looked at each other. This guy really WAS crazy.
“Come off your porch and say that.”
Mike got up, jumped down the steps, and met Vinnie out on the sidewalk.
“I said, your sister has quite a pair of –“
The word “tits” was muffled significantly by Vinnie’s right fist as it crunched into Mike’s mouth, loosening a couple teeth and popping his upper lip. Mike fought valiantly, but he was simply no match for the bigger, stronger and, as impossible as it seemed, crazier Vinnie Esposito.
After inflicting what he deemed sufficient punishment, Vinnie got off of Mike the Whipped, dusted himself off, and headed home without saying another word.
“You okay, Mike?”
“Umph humph.” He felt his face, assessing the damage. “Jutht a buthted lip and a couple looth teeth. Mebbe a black eye. Nuthin’ theriouth.”
“Sorry we dared you to grab her boob,” said Robbie. “We forgot about Vinnie.”
“No thweat,” replied Mike. “It wath worth it. You guyth believe that I got to thecond bathe now?”
Robbie and I just shook our heads and laughed. Not only had Mike gotten to second base, he’d scored on a suicide squeeze.