Even Kids Find Him Strange

Sunday, November 28, 2004

After yesterday, I’m having trouble getting back into my story. I know where it’s going since it’s based loosely on something that happened to me when I was much younger. I just need to suck it up and start writing. I’m waiting for my mocha to kick in, and I figured I’d jot down some words before I jump in. Doolies made some sounds (I love that phrase) about me not drinking caffeine, particularly since I’ve been complaining about headaches lately. She referenced my prolific writing day yesterday as evidence that caffeine is not necessary to write—a theory that I ascribe to after comparing my caffeine-influence writing days with my caffeine-free days. I’m still a proponent of caffeine for my writing, but if my headaches start coming back without explanation (this weekend the explanations were easy: too much redeye traveling and not enough sleeping), then maybe, and that’s a big maybe, I’ll look into cutting down on the caffeine. As it is now, I’m limiting myself to one tall caffeinated drink a day.

I only have a paragraph written so far for today. I found a nice bucks of stars to ply my trade. It’s about a ten-minute drive from my house (with weekend traffic), and it might be my new weekend hangout. I tried writing at the Castle but that didn’t work. I searched on the internet for a nearby bucks and came upon this one, which is on my way to work. After talking to Doolies, I jumped in the Batmobile and punched in the address and away I went. I hoped there was something to eat around the bucks, and when I finally arrived (after taking a few wrong turns—don’t ask, but it wasn’t my little lady in the car’s fault), I discovered much to happiness a Subway restaurant (which in my mind is not fast food in the bad sense, i.e., the let’s kill tens of thousands of cows and mush them into a million hamburgers so each burger has at least the remains of 1,200 cows in it) right next to the bucks. And, this is even better, they built a second bucks across the street from this one, with a fireplace blazing inside. You can imagine my excitement. Once I left the Batmobile and patted my pockets, however, I made a terrible discovery. I left my money in the Castle: no money, no food, no coffee, no writing. I was starving, but I drove the Batmobile all the way back to the Castle and returned here. I’ve now eaten, drank my mocha, and found a comfortable chair. All I need to do is start writing and stop musing.

Here goes nothing:

Part I

The rumor around school was that Roger had started taking karate lessons, which made sense with his love of ninjas. Now, I liked the Saturday afternoon ninja movies as much as the next kid, but Roger’s fascination went beyond that. One Halloween, I think it was back in third grade or somewhere around that time, Roger dressed up as a ninja in a black costume with lots of sashes and hidden pockets. The principal would have none of that. The school officials always said that our school was a nonviolent place, a place where, now get this, I’ll quote them because it always cracks me up, “a place where you check your violence at the school door.” Me, I never believed them. I had two broken nose and was in three fights before I turned ten, and I’m not a violent guy. But when they come at you, you have to put up or bad things will happen. When the principal finished searching Roger, he found thirty different weapons, and from what I heard from Oscar, who was in the principal’s office when Roger’s mother came in for the discussion, Roger would have gotten suspended for sure if his mother didn’t start crying. From what I heard, they gave him counseling during his study hall for the rest of the year. Much good that did.

Over the last few years, many karate schools began opening in our neighborhood—after the first one popped up, they came in swarms. I think it had something to do with those Saturday afternoon martial arts flick. That’s some good shit, and I know I would have signed up in my parents could have paid for it. But that’s cool. From what I saw with the kids who went there, they did a lot of kicking, but all those fancy kicks weren’t much good in the schoolyard. With so many karate schools, it’s more than possible that Roger attended one. He didn’t talk about, but you had the feeling that something changed in him. He used to walk around all hunched over, like if he didn’t keep moving forward he’d fall over. Around the time that people started talking about him and karate school, his posture improved and his chest puffed out. That’s around the time that he started glaring at Charlie.

Now Charlie I knew went to a karate dojo. There was a Russian kid in our class, Mihail, who Charlie hung around. Mihail was the first kid to take karate and I think he got his black belt when he was nine. Mihail convinced Charlie to go to the karate class. Charlie’s parents encouraged him to do things.

There’s an attack stance in which you stand with one leg in front of the other and one fist in front of your face and the other one a bit lower. I’ve seen this stance in many movies and those specials where they show karate competitions. Charlie is a serious guy and a bit of a wimp when he’s not hiding behind his clever words. He’s also terribly afraid of dogs. I’m not talking about the scary dogs. I’m talking about all dogs, even the tiny ones with barks that sound more like little girls whining. We were walking to his house a year ago and passed a fenced garden. A small dog jumped out from behind a wall in the garden and charged at us. Charlie fell back into his karate stance and gave a loud, “Kiya!” It’s a cry that they teach you at karate school. I bent down and let the dog lick my fingers through the gray fence. I could see Charlie’s heart beating through his thin t-shirt. I told you he was skinny, and I’ve seen him with his shirt off when we went swimming, and you could make out each rib in his cheat and just about see his heart beat underneath his skin. It’s freaky to look at his almost pinkish blue skin and see bones sticking out and organs doing their thing. I never saw someone jump so high or yell so loud when such a small dog charged forward. But that’s Charlie for you.

Roger started looking at Charlie funnily at school. We all saw it. He started talking behind Charlie’s back. At first, he told people what a jerk Charlie was, and attempted to badmouth him to anyone who would listen. After a few weeks, he went further. He said he was going to kick Charlie’s ass. Each time he saw Charlie, he would make that sudden jerking motion toward Charlie, the I-made-you-flinch motion, and each time Charlie would jerk back. He usually resisted falling into his fighting position but not always. Once, during gym, Roger jerked at him and Charlie fell over as he tried to get into his fighting position. Charlie stood up, brushing himself off, he started in on Roger. He began with the Roger nose, which everyone had seen already and we all felt was a weak comeback. But that was just his warm-up act. Looking back, we should have jumped in and stopped him, but there was something fascinating about watching Charlie work. His insults were a real art, if you know what I mean.

Things left to write:

Charlie pisses Roger off enough for Roger to tell him he’s going to get him.

The fight and flying toe stomp.

The aftermath.

Inconsistencies: Where did Eddie go? I’m confused about Charlie and the narrator’s relationship. At first, they seem to barely know each other, and then they’re writing comics together.

I wish I could write more now, but this is not going well. I seem to have lost the narrator’s voice, and I’m going to call it an afternoon. I’m hoping to find inspiration later tonight and continue. No promises, though.

I edited and changed some of the early paragraphs, but I again ran out of steam. I will rewrite this section before I finish the draft. There are a few ideas I want to get out before I move on to the fight.

Story idea upon awakening this morning: A high school boy drives his car off a cliff during a race. A high school girl becomes obsessed with the dead boy. She slowly comes to believe that he was her boyfriend and he drove off the cliff because of his love for her. Hilarity ensues.

Story idea from my memories: (1) detention for throwing snow; (2) Russian friend and prejudice


A young workman is eating. He wears jeans and brown workman boots. Kneepads cover his knees. The pads have black straps and a two-part white plastic covering, made up of two circles in a figure eight. There are rubberized lines in the middle of both circles, with the top one larger and going over his knee, and the lower one smaller and going under his knee where the other part of his leg would hit the ground. He wears sunglasses over his blond, curly hair, and has a wooden stick over his left ear. He’s wearing a gray, striped button down shirt and a pink t-shirt underneath it.

Two police officers are sitting at a table talking. The workman keeps trying to strike up a conversation with them. He starts with, “Be careful I’m armed,” pulling out his tape measure and extending it out a few feed. “It goes out to ten feet. You better be careful.”

The police officers do their best to ignore him.

“You guys get to walk around with these cool toys on your belt. I only get to wear a few tools and stuff.”

I’m not sure if he’s slow or just conversational. He’s eating a cake and taking large bites, chewing with lots of jaw motion under his pinkish skin. His boots look too large for him, they’re steel-toed, which might present this illusion. He has tiny ears and greenish eyes. He has a dimple on his chin and on both sides of his face when he smiles at his own jokes.

I’m embarrassed for him. It’s painful to watch him try to strike up conversation with the officers only for them to answer noncommittal and ignore him. He’s comfortable with it and tries a few more times to start a conversation. I can’t stop watching him, hoping that he does or says something. It’s painful like sitcoms are painful—I’m thinking of Three’s Company—where at the end the situation and misunderstanding is set up and the falls begin. I hated that part of the show. Why is that funny? Other people’s pain should not be funny.

The workman leans forward trying to listen to the conversation and waiting for an opening. He drinks from a Subway cup and eats a brownie, cookie, and cake. I’m not sure why this fascinates me, but I felt the need to put it down before it was lost to the world. I’m sick that way.

He’s definitely slow. When the police leave, he tries to say something to them, but I can’t make it out. He scrambles his words together and makes funny faces at the young children that sit around him. The first time they look, and laugh. Then he continues to try to make the faces, but they ignore him, and he tries harder, which just makes the four-year olds ignore him more.

“I can get away with making faces to kids. I can’t get away with it for other people,” he says to the children’s mother. He wants people to hear him and think he’s clever or funny.