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  • 1.

    "You threw it against the wall?" my mother asked.

    "Yes. It was five o’clock and it didn’t stick," the neighborhood bullies’ mother said.

    "You threw the pasta against the wall?" my mother repeated incredulously.

    "Yes, to see if it was done," she responded.

    "And did it?"

    "What?"

    "Stick to the wall."

    "No - like I said, it wasn’t done."

    "And that’s how you know you kids were not throwing rocks at my son?"

    "Yes, because- "

    "Because my son is standing here with his head bleeding while you were throwing pasta at the wall and your kids were not throwing rocks at him, is that right?"

    "No, I mean, yes, my kids did not throw rocks at your son!"

    "You are an absurd woman. And your kids are animals."

    The neighborhood bullies’ mother, a doughy woman, seemed on the verge of tears. Mine grabbed my hand and we walked briskly the four doors down the street to our house. She did not look at me the whole way. When we got to the house she left the door opened behind her and said, as if to no one, "Nobody likes a fink".*

    * fink - a rat, a snitch, an informer, a stoolie, the very lowest form of human scum

    2.

    Was I just being stubborn that night? I can’t remember now.

    The table had been painted blue. In the kitchen where it sat (and I at it), it’s blueness stuck out.

    The timer had been set to go off. I’d come to recognize the sound of it when it was almost wound down. And still I hadn’t finished my homework. The numbers had long ago gone blurry and my attention wandered to the patterns in the wallpaper and to the curious tomato sauce stain on the ceiling.

    When the buzzer went off, my mother came down the stairs, tying her robe as she approached. She picked up the paper of unfinished problems and sighed. I don’t know where the vitamin bottle came from – one of those brown ones that are darkened to protect what's inside – but she tapped me on the head with it and told me to go to bed, I could get up early when she did for work and finish my homework then.

    When I put my hand to the place where the bottle had met my head, it felt wet. I saw my mother’s expression suddenly change.

    Peter! she called to my father.

    My father came down the stairs quickly and, twisting my hand toward his gaze, looked to find it was now covered with blood. He grabbed a towel and some numbing icy and held them painfully to my head. " Listen," he said looking directly into my eyes,"we need to take you to the emergency. You must tell them you fell off your bed? You understand? You'll say that you were playing."

    I understood.

    3.

    My older was the athletic one. He excelled in school, too. And everyone said he was cute. This left very few admirable traits for us younger siblings but we were able to bear it.

    When my parents separated, my father moved into a wonderful place called Crown Colony Apartments. They had everything there; a rec room, a swimming pool, and tennis courts. And so, my older brother and I decided to play tennis. Or more likely, my father instructed my brother to play tennis with me.

    Well, even for eleven, I was pretty lanky and my hand and eye had not yet manage to co-operate let alone coordinate. 15- love, my brother would shout. 30 –love! Or something like that.

    So, while I was winning at love, I was losing at tennis. I needed to do something. I needed to score big, if only to show my big brother that I wasn’t a complete loser. And then it struck me! I needed a home run.

    My brother stared across the net, preparing to serve. (I found out only later that both sides ought to have the opportunity to serve.) He stared and I stared back, determined. He made the motion to serve the ball and as it crossed the net, I closed my eyes and swung as hard as my body could imagine. The ball shook my racket and me with it. I had connected! As I fell to the ground with the force of my swing I opened my eyes to see that little canary yellow ball fly over the fence – a HOME RUN!

    "Shane, get the ball," my brother said annoyed.

    "But it’s a home run!"

    "There’s no home runs in tennis. Shane, get the ball," he said flatly.

    Still feeling the glow of victory, I ran to the gate to collect the ball. Which way does the gate open: out or in? I thought since people come in and out of the gate, probably both ways and so when the gate stopped, I – unprepared – did not. The skin of my forehead broke open where it met the metal. My brother dropped his racket and ran to see if I was all right. He helped me back my feet and back to my father’s apartment.

    "What the hell!" my father said.

    "He hit the tennis gate," my brother said.

    "Weren’t you watching him?! Are you stupid?"

    Before my brother could answer, my father pushed him hard against the wall and pushing his face to my brother's shouted "WHAT IS YOUR MOTHER GOING TO SAY!"

    4.

    August 16th, 1993. My birthday. San Francisco. We were crossing the park on the way to dinner. I had been lagging behind my friend and we were momentarily separated by the train. There was a group of maybe ten or so tough young men. I was in the typical queer uniform of the time; leather jacket with slogan-covered pins announcing SILENCE=DEATH and HOMO, tee-shirt with a cool graphic, jeans torn at the knees, and, of course, burgundy doc martins.

    I saw the group and I thought to myself of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr and how important it was for everyone’s dignity not to be ruled by fear. As I walked towards them, I was still thinking of Gandhi and Dr. King's example when I heard someone say "There’s one!" and a wooden object –perhaps a baseball bat – swung towards my head.
    ...

    "Do you know the date?" the man in the blue scrubs asked.

    "Ummm, no, not really."

    "The year?"

    "Ummm, no."

    "The time of year?"

    "Well, you’re wearing light blue, so I guess it must be spring."

    "Well, no. It’s not. Do you remember what happened to you?"

    "Yes, I fell off the stage. You see, the afro wig was too big and I just lost my balance."

    "You know you are not Madonna, right?"

    "Ummm, no..."



    [photo of Madonna, circa 1993 - The Girlie Show]
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