Yeah . . . I felt like I was thrown away . . . tossed to the hyenas. When I experienced my first bout of mental illness, at age 13, I lived in a place where mental health treatment wasn’t looked upon with favor . . . better to not look at it at all. There certainly weren’t any school counselors . . . not like today . . . bitter? Damn right I am! You betcha. These candy assed kids today . . . don’t know how good they got it . . . blithering simps . . . nothing like that when and where I was growing up. Where I grew up, they put the likes of me, with the misery on my brain, in the Special Education department . . . down there at the dark end of the hallway . . . with the retards . . . the spazz cases . . . the kids wearing hockey helmets . . . because of their teeter totter existence . . . always falling down . . . bonking their noggins . . . smasharoni!
They might as well have put the Mark of Cain on me . . . doing that . . . sealed my doom. You get put into Special Ed., you are an instant pariah . . . not worth touching with a walloping stick. The mean kids bully you . . . .the nice kids don’t want to be pegged as a retard-lover . . . you approach them and they hotfoot it along . . . like it’s contagious. Can’t really blame them . . . no . . . you are a ball and chain . . . no little Jesus Christ’s among those peckerwoods . . . no consorting with the lepers . . . I could understand that . . . look what they did to Jesus.
Yes . . . you go into sped school and you are a marked individual . . . easy pickings for the bullies . . . “Let’s go down and beat us up a retard!” . . . It’s never a fair fight. I was small to begin with . . . it’s always three or four on one . . . little me . . . getting a shellacking all the time . . . getting your ass whooped by a gang of athletes . . . oh joy! The delight of living! Children! There’s no creature on earth as vicious! You’ll never get me to buy this golly-whopping tripe that children are beautiful creatures . . . I saw their viciousness first hand . . . front row seat! I learned how to scrap though. Other than that, I mostly creeped about . . . trying to make myself as invisible as possible . . . always on edge . . . wondering from which direction my tormenters would arrive. It usually started with a shout out . . . “Hey faggot!” or “Look here boys; we got us a tard.” A marked soul . . . surely. It wouldn’t have been a fair fight one on one! I was so little . . . but three on one? How about four on one! Shut up and take your shellacking! Good golly miss molly! Not a chance in hell.
Yet, fortune favors the brave. My fortune came along . . . a very large hoodlum kid . . . Frank was his name . . . a complete gorilla . . . absolute thug. The authorities didn’t know what to do with the mentally ill louts
. . . certainly . . . they also didn’t know what to do with the hoodlums . . . tossed them into the Special Education department too. It was the catch-all department for societies rejects. We were down there . . . in all sizes, shapes and forms . . . and some of them speds had some really twisted forms . . . a strange circus world.
Everyone was frightened of Frank. His father beat the hell out of him, and he came to school to return the favor . . . hefty doses of violence on the other kids. “Throw that vile peckerwood in Special Ed!” There were three teachers down there . . . the misery laden section of the school. It said “sped” right there on our door! Sp. Ed.! Those teachers were certainly occupied! Even with three of them they were entirely outmatched . . . running around swabbing drool off the spazz cases . . . the idiots . . . the hydro encephalitic cretins. Either that, or wiping the shit off their asses. Oh boy! The rooms always smelled like feces . . . retards shitting in their trousers . . . a pungent place that department.
Them teachers weren’t the sharpest set of educators. You had to be pretty doltish to wind up down there . . . nobody with an ounce of spirit, a dram of intelligence, would put up with that kind of horror-show. We were a regular freak show . . . the teachers were about as intelligent as carnies. This was a job for the desperate . . . the teacher that couldn’t make it anywhere else.
Cretins, misfits, and hoodlums! Frank and his shenanigans! I was terrified of Frank too. I’d seen him fight . . . behind the sporting fields. He didn’t fight fair. His idee fixe was to make others suffer . . . suffer they did if they diddled with Frank.
I thought I was Frank’s mark . . . when he hit me up . . . for my fifty five cents. It was my lunch money . . . fifty cents for the grub . . . five cents for the little carton of milk. My mama doled it out to me each morning. I didn’t eat . . . no loss for me when Frank took that money . . . too depressed to eat. I figured Frank was humbugging me . . . taking my lunch money . . . I wanted him to scat . . . get lost . . . amscray . . . he scared me! Frank was the only kid I knew that had long hair . . . hair down to his shoulders. I’d seen “Helter Skelter!” . . . watched it on my grandma’s television. I was fully aware of how long-hairs treated people . . . Charlie’s gals . . . and Tex too . . . a hundred and some stabs of the knife . . . Roman Polanski’s wife carved up something fierce! She was pregnant too! Carved that tot right out of her! Wrote “pig” in its blood on old Roman’s door! Well . . . it was her place . . . Roman just popped in to diddle the kiddies. But I certainly knew how long haired folk treated people!
I was certain Frank was going to carve my entrails out . . . eat them raw! Misery was no stranger to me . . . “Just take my fifty-five cents and leave me be.” That was my plea . . . “Go away Frank . . . I have nightmares in my head to chase.”
Certainly it was a shakedown. Wasn’t it? I didn’t care . . . as long as Frank left me alone . . . no skin off my ass losing that spare change . . . I had plenty more at home . . . too depressed to consume food. It didn’t help that the atmosphere was so grim . . . all those snot-nosed weasels with the shorts full of dilberries . . . the stench was nearly unbearable.
But that filthy pillock came back! Mooked on up to me . . . Beelzebub in the shower! My portion of dread and fear! Absolutely unfair! I was scared . . . what did this cretin want now? And looking so sheepish? But still with that evil grin he constantly flashed. Sheepish and mean! That was the mug Frank sported when he came on back to yours truly.
He sure was acting strange . . . he had a bottle under his coat . . . something purple . . . he called it Maddog. My heart sunk . . . my people had always warned me about such things . . . alcohol was absolutely taboo! Temperance was the name of the game in my Baptist family. “Christ!” I moaned, “Couldn’t the world just leave me alone!”
Frank wanted to share it with me. He told me the score . . . this vino . . . cost him one dollar and ten cents . . . his fifty five lunch pennies added with mine. His older brother . . . another vicious imp! Hoodlum through and through! He’d bought it. It was technically half mine . . . Frank’s generosity! I loathed Frank. The dipso was only friendly when he wanted something . . . sure hadn’t lost that evil grin of his. The fear and loathing that overcame me were indescribable. I not only knew for certain that long hairs gutted people, but also that liquor led straight to the infernal regions . . . straight into Satan’s maw. My family! The damned Baptists! Never even sniffed the stuff! Satan adored the tippler! I’d seen the old howlers down at the courthouse . . . the benches there . . . the hobos and the vets that didn’t adjust well . . . passing the bottle in their piss stained trousers . . . vile people. Wretches! And when they howled from them heebie jeebies! It was the hounds of hell speaking through ‘em . . . sure as shit! I heard demons in those howls.
But images of Tex’s (and the gals! Let us not forget Charlie’s little cuties . . . as handy with the butcher’s knife as Tex!) work . . . the LaBiancas . . . . it was a touch spicier than my fears of hell. I had one chance . . . I figured. Take the sip . . . get that hebephrenic cretin happy! Then maybe he’d let me off with a small thrashing. I could take a thrashing . . . had many a time so by now . . . I didn’t want the 156 flashes of the blade! Tex on Sharon Tate! No! Just a sip, and I might be relinquished.
I took a pull from the bottle . . . Frank grinned like the evil simp he was . . . dizzard! Fool! But wow! What was this? Something electric spizzled me as that wine went down! Vibrations hit every cell! Yowza! It was fantastic! Paradise opened its gates to me right there . . . right then. I was saved! This juice was the elixir of the gods. For the very first time in my life, I felt safe in my hide . . . my dipshit noodle was placated. My misery evaporated. I knew now what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Drink liquor! Other kids wanted to be doctors, lawyers, or senators . . . not me . . . I wanted to be a sot!
I looked at Frank with love . . . my best pal! I decided this right there and then. I’d follow this dude to the ends of the earth . . . as long as he kept supplying me with this wonderful elixir. We became inseparable. Frank was wise in my eyes. He knew how to get liquor . . . enough wisdom to satisfy me. Frank’s father was a mean drunk, and a cheap fucker.
We all lived in the suburbs. Them suburban broads had their little battles . . . to best each other in each and every way . . . or at least race for even. Somehow this silly fad caught on . . . to plunk a tree in a whisky barrel that had been halved . . . slap it on the patio . . . or the deck . . . or both. How these crazes start I’ll never know. It spread like wildfire. Frank’s mama was almost as vicious as his father. She wanted one too. Hell! Mrs. Tippy Tullipshorts next door had two! One for the front porch, and one for the back deck!
Frank’s dad was mean . . . but he wasn’t stupid. He wanted that bitch to leave him alone . . . to get drunk and wail on the kids. He’d placate her foul mouthed shrewing shrilling . . . he’d do it his own way . . . cheaply. He got that crazy wop Angelo (who owned the nursery) to sell him a whole whisky barrel . . . at half the price. Angelo was cheaper and meaner than Frank’s father. Angelo, in fact, was loony tunes!
Angelo bought the barrels whole . . . for pennies . . . from the whiskey manufacturer . . . cut ‘em in half himself . . . sold them to the housewives . . . frantic to keep up with each other . . . didn’t sell ‘em cheap either. Frank’s father got Angelo to sell him the whole barrel . . . brought it home . . . whipped the shit out of Frank, and set him to the task of cutting the barrel in half.
The following day Frank came up to me . . . sitting there amongst the sped shenanigans . . . holding my nose. He said, “We’re going to see Angelo after school.” “Why?” I asked. “To get jobs,” he answered. Frank had learned something very valuable cutting that barrel in half for his mean old papa . . . there was still whiskey left in those barrels. Frank was going to go right to the source.
Angelo was a man who worshipped his god more fervently than any man I’ve met. That god was moolah. Angelo was vicious. He hired us alright! We were far too young to work legally. Angelo have qualms? Angelo feel a prick of the conscience? Good god no! He not only hired us for spare change, he abused us . . . hollered at us . . . called us every name in the book . . . mostly in Italian. I was flumdiddled as to why we were taking such abuse for such scanty scratch. Frank told me to be patient . . . I trusted Frank implicitly.
The barrel craze was phenomenal! Those whacky housewives! Mrs. Petunia Pollybloomers took to the inside and passed up the pack! Three half-barrels! Good lord! The broads were shaking Angelo’s timbers! He’d scream anathema at Frank and I . . . to get the lead out of our shorts . . . get those barrel’s halved! I was perfectly miserable . . . cutting those hefty halves. Frank? Must’ve been! Yet he did it all with a twinkle in his eye. Why he didn’t clue me in on what he had in mind, I can’t tell you. Frank had an unfathomable evil depth . . . part of which entailed being the master of a scheme . . . keeping his gob shut . . . letting it unfold.
He was right . . . there was plenty of whisky in those barrels . . . but it was the dregs! They’d charred the innards . . . the whiskey was a black muck. When I pointed this out to frank, he smiled and said, “Coffee filters.” I may not have been exactly retarded, but I certainly wasn’t very bright . . . I wasn’t sure what he was getting at. I trusted Frank though. Since he’d become my pal, the beatings had stopped . . . the bullies had scrammed.
The half barrel craze compounded . . . every housewife in the city now wanted four, five, even six barrels . . . they were planting everything short of their very children in those damned things.
Angelo had given us a key . . . not to the shop . . . not to the greenhouses . . . it was a key to the yard . . . that was enough for us. It was so he could take his fat ass on home when the nursery closed. Not us! Hell no! We had to stay and cut barrels in half! The yard was where the barrels were kept.
I was getting thirsty for liquor. Our Maddog buyer, Frank’s brother, had disappeared. After a fist fight with Frank’s father, he’d scrammed. Frank was getting tired of my whining. I needed my soporific . . . the dogs of doom were chewing on my ass. Frank was getting tired of my mosquito act . . . “buzz . . . buzz” . . . pestering him . . . thirsty and miserable. He chose the night in which to put his grand scheme into action . . . what scheme? He just looked at me with that insipid grin.
It was well past midnight when we raided the tool shed . . . Frank’s papa’s shed. We took an old hand-crank drill and a good sized bit. I was good in woodshop, but we had all mod cons there . . . Frank had to show me how to use it. Frank had somehow gotten a ten gallon water tank . . . the kind that people stand around . . . you know . . . in offices . . . the chit chat . . . stuff of jokes and legends.
Frank’s house was close to Angelo’s nursery . . . ten minutes by foot. I already told you that we had a key to the yard . . . where the barrels were. We had to be quiet . . . Angelo was no pussycat. Our plan was to drain ten gallons of dregs from those whiskey barrels . . . sneaky petes! Frank clued me in as we unlocked the gate . . . super sneaky quiet. We’d run the whiskey through coffee filters. Frank guaranteed success. I wasn’t so sure . . . I had my doubts. Getting the fear . . . no . . . Angelo was a cuss! He certainly wasn’t losing any merchandise . . . he wouldn’t hesitate to press charges though. Angelo enjoyed the sufferings of others . . . gave that wilted wop a thrill . . . watching others in misery.
It was a huge chain and a huge padlock. Like I said . . . my passion for repeating myself . . . we had the key . . . we slipped right in. Frank was certainly a close relation to the ape family . . . no denying that . . . ungodly long arms . . . nearly a freak of nature . . . hairy as hell too. The strength in those arms was immense.
The barrels, though empty, were very heavy . . . he’d heave-ho and swing one of those bastards up on top of another barrel. He’d hold it steady while I put a hole in it . . . with the hand drill . . . very discreetly . . . silence you know! Angelo with his passion for the sufferings of others . . . rewrote St. Francis’s prayer . . . “where there is love, let me sew hatred . . . where there is joy let me sew sorrow” . . . and so on. Angelo, being a wop, was catholic . . . a perverted Catholicism . . . made up of meanness and lies.
After I’d get the hole drilled, I’d grab the ten gallon water tank . . . Frank would cock the barrel up at a steeper angle . . . the muck . . . whiskey and charcoal would glub glub into our water tank. We’d gotten nearly a gallon of whiskey out of that barrel . . . we moved on.
I was the opposite build of Frank’s . . . scrawny . . . arms as skinny as spaghetti. It was no joke lugging that water jug as it filled. We weren’t slouches . . . no siree . . . and I was getting the jitterbugs . . . I’d have been happy with a half filled jug . . . fearless Frank wanted it filled to the brim though. It got there too. Frank was chipper . . . whispering tid bits of elation. He reached into the pocket of his long coat and pulled out a stopper . . . he’d already tried it . . . fit just fine. It was from his father’s beer making supplies . . . a hefty rubber cork with a glass tube in it . . . making a curly cue . . . like a crazy straw . . . I don’t know how else to describe it. The two of us lugged it off . . . Frank doing most of the lugging. We didn’t take it back to his place . . . we didn’t take it far actually . . . to a patch of Salal . . . where we stashed it . . . there in the woods near the school.
The next day Frank got this goon named Brandon to come have a look-see. Brandon was as doubtful of this whole scheme as I was. Frank brought along a coffee pot and the part of the coffee maker that holds the filter . . . and filters also. To pleasure that cannot be described, I watched as those coffee filters caught the dregs . . . the whiskey that arrived in the pot was clear and beautiful. I can only say that the gates of paradise opened . . . with that much whiskey I concluded that they had opened permanently. We started passing that hooch . . . the coffee pot full . . . it was good whiskey . . . which meant it went down easy . . . I was no whiskey expert . . . I knew Maddog . . . all I longed for was that it go down easy . . . not disrupt my virgin stomach. Brandon was impressed. He was much older than us . . . he had his own place . . . he agreed to keep our ten gallons at his pad.
Johnny Paycheck had a hit . . . “Take This Job and Shove It.” It was on the soundtrack to the new movie about monster trucks. Frank, being a dunderhead, loved monster trucks. We put the movie on . . . cranked the sound up . . . called Angelo . . . let him hear it from the source . . . “Take this job and shove it.” Soon, after a royal beating at the hands of his dear pa, Frank told that peckerwood to “fuck off!” Frank moved into Brandon’s place. I was thirteen going on fourteen, and I was placating this brain (that was a misery making factory) on a daily basis . . . I sopped it in whiskey every afternoon.
Fishspit’s last story for us was “The Cutest Cat That Ever Lived.”
To order his zine send a few dollars well-wrapped cash for postage to:
Wiseblood c/o Fishspit
1304 175th Pl. NE
Bellevue WA 98008.