Ten year Olds (as a rule) are not eye for an eye
aficionados. Yet within an acceptable framework they
would, I believe, make fine special operations troops.
Especially when the generally accepted rules of
engagement governing traditional parent/child conflicts
have been arrogantly abrogated by those in positions of
power. In such cases, rebellion and sabotage become the
only civilized means of exacting retribution.
I had received a few undeserved slaps in the face by Mr. Harold Lamm, an incestuous (yet upstanding) member of the church who shall remain nameless. One of the more bombastic of the called and chosen, he took umbrage at the fact that I refused to admit guilt for something I hadn't done, namely peeing on the toilet seat in the men's can. If I had given the matter any thought and had been assured that he or any other future member of the God family had been about to plant their butt on that particular throne, I would have pissed all over it as a matter of principle; that was a given. But I was innocent and said so every time this moron alternately slapped my face, then asked me why I'd done it.
Mom finally rescued me after about the sixth or
seventh slap but I was mad. There were rules to this
game, after all, and this latter day nimrod wasn't
following them. The rules went like this.
1) If you get caught in the f__king act and can't
plead innocence, plead ignorance! Hell, give it a shot.
You've got nothing to lose. If it doesn't skate, take
your licks and solemnly resolve never to be so stupid as
to get caught again.
2) If you are accused of an infraction you really are
guilty of, but were not caught committing, deny it. And
do so just as vehemently as if you really were innocent.
For if they have no witnesses, and are relying merely on
conjecture or hear say, the odds are in your favor. If
they can't break you by interrogation, that should be
the end of it. But if it isn't (and the rules are quite
specific on this point), while you are allowed to be
justifiably outraged at being assigned punishment by
guess and inference, acts of sabotage and vandalism are
3) If you truly are innocent, proclaim your integrity
till hell freezes and the heavens melt. Never give in to
vague promises of amnesty if you'll only confess; it
sets a bad precedent in one's future life. And as far as
retribution goes, it's yours for the taking.
Since this bastard had refused to abide by those
unwritten rules, which for centuries had made semi
civilized coexistence between adults and children
possible, I felt righteously absolved of all strictures.
The big dog may get the meat, as children and other
victims of these self professed sons of bitches are so
often reminded, but there is no telling where that meat
might have been, or what nontraditional additives might
have been incorporated into it before the big dog gets
Impartial and inscrutable, as always, fate grinned
down upon me only a week later. My mother had
tentatively accepted an invitation to share the next
Sabbath day's dinner with the Lamms. I had a whole week
to devise and perfect a fiendish plan with which to
exact a just and fitting reparation. It was a demanding
job, requiring courage, and no small amount of financial
sacrifice on my part, but good Christians do not shrink
from such duties I reminded myself, they persevere.
As the great day drew inexorably nearer, all
preparations were, at last, completed. I had a single
task to perform upon arrival at my adversary's home, but
that was the easy part. As I climbed into the back seat
of our '53 Chevy for the long and dreary after-services
ride to the dear brother's house, I whispered to myself
as I had so many times in the week past, "F__k you,
We arrived at his ramshackle dwelling at about six
p.m. Sabbath day dinner consisted of a fat drenched,
precooked pot roast, a limp assortment of squalid
vegetables, and thick slices of cold and clammy homemade
whole wheat bread. It would be a memorable feast, the
Mr. Lamm was a macho man who went to strange lengths
to maintain his facade. In an unguarded refrigerator on
his back porch he kept, along with his mail order male
enhancement pills and (God and his wife knew why) his
lubricated prophylactics, a quart jar of peppers which,
to hear him tell it, came straight from the nether
When impressionable children and adults supped at his
table, he would produce this hellish container, munch
down a few of those fiery beasts without so much as
batting an eye, and then offer some to his children who
would dutifully roll their eyes and screw up their faces
as if they'd taken a sip from the lake of fire itself,
while they fawningly intoned, "Oh no, Daddy, not
me, Daddy. They're way too hot for kids!" Most
adults, unsure of what to do at this juncture, usually
murmured polite no-thank-you's, and that was the end of
I'd had some first hand experience with that jar
however, the last time I was marooned there for dinner.
He'd plunked those peppers down on the table, asked the
usual, and the kids said no, and the adults said no, and
I said sure; so he forked one over on my plate and I
picked it up, crunched it down, and waited for Satan,
his demons, and the fires of hell to issue forth and
there was...nothing, zero.
That should have been the end of it, but I suddenly
realized that I had become the center of attention.
Every eye at that table was fixed on me as if I were
some kind of ticking bomb about to go off, but no one
knew when. Finally, old man Lamm had cleared his throat
with a "harumph" and asked, "Well, how
was it, boy?" I didn't know what else to say, so I
had just said, "Not bad." Obviously that had
not been the right answer, and he had found several
reasons that blessed Sabbath evening to cuff and, on one
occasion, kick me.
As we sat down to eat that evening, I could only reflect that, this time, things would be different. About half way through the meal, Lamm told his wife of too many years to fetch his pepper jar, which she did. He went through the same bullshine routine as always by offering his children some which, thank God, they still refused. Then he stared at me with a somewhat danger-ous glint in his eye and barked, "You want some, boy?" But I had learned my lesson. I knew the right answer at last. "No, Mr. Lamm," I said. "They're way too hot for me, too," and I meant it. Immensely gratified, he stuffed two rather large ones in his mouth and began to chew briskly.
There's a definite lag between the time one begins to
masticate a bona fide hot pepper and the time one
actually begins to feel the heat, and by then it's too
late; and Harold had long since passed the point of no
return. Being a macho man, he couldn't do the prudent
thing, which was to spit it out and either piss down his
own throat or run for the nearest fire hydrant so, for
the first ninety seconds or so, he just sat there, tears
streaming down his beet red face, afraid to spit,
terrified to swallow and with the possible exception of
a providential coronary, no good way out.
In the end, it must have become unbearable, however,
for he rose from the table with surprising abruptness,
disappeared into the nearby bathroom, and closed the
door. For the next ten minutes all that could be heard
was the sound of water, running.
It had cost me the equivalent of two packs of Camels to fry Lamm's tonsils. Seventy cents for a tall, narrow bottle of Green Jalapeno's, so hot they glowed in the dark. Few self respecting Mexicans would even handle those babies without welders gloves on. That's what Gabriel Sanchez, the school mate who appropriated them for me from his father, had said. And after the demonstration I had just witnessed, I had to admit it. Gabe was shoveling gospel.
Two packs of Camels had represented ninety percent of
my worldly wealth in those horridly expensive days, and
I had a lot of time on my hands on the way home to
meditate upon the curious concept of sacrifice. Was it
worth it? Was it not? But as I ran the replays of old
man Lamm, heading for the can with his mouth on fire and
a barbecued tongue, sacrifice won hands down. I'd have
quit smoking for another two weeks just to watch that