{ Back in the Eighties }
Seth Perkovich
illustration by Sharon "Mama" Spell

AtariWhen Dungeons and Dragons and spear fishing grew tiresome, we had Mitchell's Betamax movie camera to work with. Actually, it was his Dad's, and if he saw the perverse shit that we recorded on it, our filmmaking days were over.
   Even more gruesome than Mitchell and I being massacred by garden tools was the Faces of Death episode where I played a utility pole repair man. As my connection to the pole failed, I plummeted to my death in the flailing form of a crudely fashioned stunt dummy. We thought they looked incredibly realistic. Upon landing, my balloon skull, filled with cherry Kool-Aid and egg noodles, splattered in front of the camera with explosive reality. Or so we thought at the time.
   As darkness etched its overbearing design into the sky above our heads, we responded by disintegrating into the individual paths that led to our supper. Onto our dirt bikes and skateboards to embrace the warm suburban comforts that we were constantly seeking escape from. As I ollied my board over the curb in front of my house, I then made it leap into my hands by stomping on the tail of it with my canvas Chuck Taylor shoes. Converse was the bomb back then. I saw Marty McFly perfect this move in Back to the Future.
   "Where were you?" inquired my mother.
   "Just hanging out at Mitchell's, making a movie," I mumbled.
   "Oh how neat. What about?"
   Hesitation. "Umm... it was... umm... like an action... umm... movie... kind of."
   I slipped downstairs to the basement before she realized that she was talking to herself. My brothers, one older and one younger, were watching Death Wish 2 with Charles Bronson. We taped a lot of movies off late night television and had the entire Death Wish collection from USA's "Up All Night". The basement was my real home. Darker, and a little more ghetto than the flowered wallpaper and potpourri that plagued the upstairs with fake, scented charm. Foreign and interesting. Dank and musty. Inhabited by millipedes, old couches and Atari, it was a beautiful dungeon. Sometimes in the TV movies, they either forgot or failed to notice some swear words and nudity. We paused the scene where the bad guys were raping the housekeeper Rosario. You could see her butt pretty good. My dad worked at a TV station, but I never asked him how they missed these things. I didn't want him to start finding them.
   School was retarded. Me, Mitchell, Bird and Will spent our mornings with the principal, the school psychologist, and some other punk-assed kids. The principal pulled each of us into his office for an individual session. He resembled Magnum P.I., but I learned at an early age that only Tom Selleck could truly justify that moustache. Anyone else seemed too be trying too hard. The fake, monotone Tom Selleck delivered the same speech over and over again:
   "Danny Kersey. Now you can choose to be a follower, or you can choose to be a leader. What's it gonna' be?" Not a bad message, but the seeds of my cynicism towards elderly wisdom had already been planted. Besides, the robot spit this same shit out to all of us. I tried hard to suppress my laughter as my three friends flipped their birds and grabbed their crotches like obscene clowns through the window behind him. Like I said, sixth grade was a retarded circus. And yet I still couldn't answer the principal's question with any certainty. It would have to wait, as I had no time to think about these things on a Friday.
   After school, I followed my friends to the candy store. We bumped into Malik, the first black kid that I remember being friends with. He tagged along as we headed towards the "Bird House". Bird's parents were never home, and they had crazy junk food that would maintain our sugar and fat fixes for a few more hours: frozen sausage and cheese biscuits, micro-burgers, yogurt-covered raisins, open-ended pastries with cream in the middle, Fruit Roll-ups, and liters of brightly colored pop to wash it down. Malik was from the South and said it was called soda. We said he full of shit, and brown.
   With our newly discovered energy and freedom, we decided to play one of our all-time favorite games, Roof-Ball-Piss, not to be confused with Dick-Catch-Leg. The game demands that one must leap into the air, catch a ball as it bounces or rolls off the roof, and in the same motion throw it back onto the roof for the next player in line. Much like the backyard basketball game of H-O-R-S-E, if you fuck up a specified number of times and attain all of the letters, you are shit out of luck. You have "diarrhea fingers." You should be shit upon, but alas, the game was not called Roof-Ball-Shit. Also, we usually ditched H-O-R-S-E and went with G-O-R-I-L-L-A-D-I-C-K or P-E-N-I-S-M-A-N-I-A-C in order to extend the length of the game as well as the amount of ridicule bestowed upon the loser.
   "Diarrhea Fingers" then had five seconds to retrieve the ball that was condemned to the depths of the damp cement stairs leading down to Bird's basement door. After five seconds, the "survivors" were permitted to unleash a torrent of individual piss streams through the cold steel railings that hugged the sides of the stairwell.
   On this particular day, like most days before it, Mitchell had lost. "Diarrhea Fingers" had been pissed on more than most fire hydrants. He also died first in all of our movies and was routinely pelted in the head by stray rocks that fell mysteriously from the clouds. I'm pretty sure I've heard animals talk shit on him as well. As was customary, Mitchell fumbled the ball on his way up the stairs and was thus sent back into the dungeon to retrieve it, virtually ensuring the golden shower. This time it was different. He seemed to have reached his breaking point. After looking down the barrel of three small white pistols and one black one, he started screaming as if bullets had replaced our urine. It seemed to be burning and stinging his flesh. I figured it was either the carbonation from the pop we had consumed or the acidic content of Malik's southern soda-piss.
   He raced up the stairs, tearing off his shirt and rolling around in the grass like the cartoon figures in the fire safety videos we watched in class. We stared at him in disbelief, as if it was not unusual to have been pissed on. He had never reacted this way before.
   "I'm sick of this shit!" cried Mitchell as he fought off tears. "You guys are so biased!" Our disbelief remained intact. None of us knew what biased meant. Did he mean were like Len Bias, the college basketball star that later overdosed on cocaine at his Boston Celtic draft party? Certainly our ball handling skills were more Bias-like than his were. Then, as he raised his arms in awkward defiance, Mitchell was dealt a final and crushing blow for the day. Noticing the evident collection of oily black hair that had sprouted underneath his arms, Bird chirped wildly.
   "Damn, you got Malik's hair under there!" A chorus of maniacal, prepubescent laughter ensued until Mitchell ran away, mixing the still-moist residue of foreign piss on his body with a shower of tears that he could no longer keep to himself. It would be years until I realized Mitchell was often punished for a development in body and speech that we did not yet possess. That day, all I knew was young boys could produce urine on command by simply poking and prodding in their belly buttons.

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