The way other people lived…

As a fundraiser for my school, many of the kids in my class went around in our neighbourhood selling chocolate almonds. I began to regret agreeing to this almost immediately, but figured I’d better just do my best. That meant that, aside from the two boxes that Dad bought from me to help get me started, I’d have to go door-to-door through the whole of the Peacock Court Motor Hotel, and maybe further on.

It was a very hot bright summer day, and I was actually kind of afraid of most of my neighbours, except for the few whom I knew.

I remember seeing a glimpse of how some people live, old, young, fat and unhealthy, stressed with too many kids, and sometimes chaotic. I think I sold most of my chocolates, but the memories that stick with me are opposites: the sour and stuffy smell of other people’s cluttered and hectic lives, and the sweet taste of some chocolates of my own after the job was done.

A terrible scene: one day, I was up around Sheldon’s unit, and I remember him getting his ass kicked hard by his older brother. Sheldon’s older brother was a real prick and a bully, I thought at the time, but also very tough. I could only watch helplessly as he hit Sheldon over and over with a brown cowboy boot.

Poor Sheldon, who to me was a big, strong and very nice kid, just lay curled on the pavement, yelping and crying out, as his brother hit him again and again. Nothing justified that level of punishment. Sheldon looked just as scared as I would have been in his place. Poor Sheldon…

Mike and Chris Kelly were two bothers whom I really liked. They lived next door to Sheldon. Their father’s name was (I think) Reg, and I cannot remember the Mother’s name, but she was a gravelly-voiced red head who sounded like Lucille Ball and looked always about four hours behind on her sleep. Even at about ten or eleven years old, Mike seemed pretty wise and always looked out for his blonde-haired younger brother. Those boys were always together, and always seemed as tight as brothers could be.

Their tough Dad, Reggie, was a black belt in some martial art, and had tattoos up and down his arms. Although he never did anything mean that I could see, I was intimidated by him. Generally though, he seemed tough but fair. I’m sure he would have killed anyone who would have messed with the boys or their mother.

One night, I think Reggie had been drinking, and he seemed adamant to prove to us boys just how tough he was. He was shirtless, lean and muscular, and he crouched down on his haunches and extended his right arm out in front of him, parallel to the floor, ad invited us to kick it with our boots.  He said that he would feel nothing, and I saw some delight in Mike and Chris’s faces, as we looked at each other, seemingly for some kind of social permission to take Reg up on his challenge.

Eventually, we all took turns kicking the hell out of Reg’s arm, which he didn’t seem to mind. It was some kind of macho pain ritual, I guess. Maybe it was Reggie demonstrating that he was the top dog, the cock of the walk,  I’ll never know. But Reggie never made a sound as his arm took our best shots.


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The memoir and family history of E. John Love