One day in the summer of 1991, when I was eight years-old, I was hanging out with my friends Mark and Steven.
Mark was a little more than a month older than I was. He was friendly and he pretty much stayed out of trouble. Mark had a special interest in fossils, reptiles, and other things like that. Mark had a hoarse cough at the beginning of his laugh. I’m not sure why that happened, but after you heard him laugh, you had to think to yourself, “Does that hurt?”
Steven, Mark’s best friend at the time, was around mine and Mark’s age. He was a short, chubby, freckle-faced, blonde kid with a squeaky voice. Steven often reminded me of Joe Pesci preparing for a role in a movie about life in the hood.
For example, when we played basketball, Steven would shout:
“Stop tryin’ to be Hero Jones! Pass the ball, dawg!
“Dang, dawg! Why you foulin’ so hard?!”
JOEY MAN, ARE YOU SURE THAT STEVEN DIDN’T SAY SOMETHING A LITTLE MORE SPICY?
Absolutely not, but this is a Christian autobiography, so I think you could give me a break.
But Steven had some cousins that lived in the neighborhood, so maybe he ran on cousin credit.
Mark, Steven and I got a little hungry, so we decided that we were going to have a picnic. We each ran home and got some munchies, then we met at the basketball court in the back, left corner of our apartment complex. I think I brought a bag of Mike Sells potato chips and some kind of sandwiches that Maw Maw had made. Mark and Steven nearly cleaned out their moms’ kitchen cabinets.
After we set up, Steven popped open a container that had some berries in it and offered me some. I took a few and popped them into my mouth. Mark and Steven started telling me that the berries in the container were blackberries, and Steven warned us of the havoc they’ll wreak in your lower abdomen if you eat too many of them. I shrugged off Steven’s warning and kept popping these blackberries into my mouth like they were aspirins. I was probably even thinking to myself, “We’ll see…”
As I write the remaining portion of this particular incident, the saying “It’s good advice, only if you take it” is banging around inside of my head.
After our food settled, Mark, Steven and I decided to take a walk in the woods behind the chain-linked fence. Actually, we went around them. I kid you not, at the peak of our journey, AAAOOOGAAA! AAAOOOGAAA! The WWII submarine sirens went off. Now, I could have dropped everything off where we were with no worries and used some of nature’s toilet paper, but my mean-spirited friends just laughed at my plight and continued walking. I didn’t stop to do any business, because I was afraid of being bitten on the rear by a rat snake, or something.
Mark, Steven and I walked the rest of the way around the woods to the basketball court down the street from our picnic venue. I think that I may have been a little bit ahead, because I was doing more of a run like the Mario Bros. The trip around the woods was at least a half-mile. We were still behind the fence, and the only way that we could get to the other side, at the time, was to climb the fence or walk down the field to the baseball field, past the apartment that I currently reside, and go out the gate.
That’s when Maw Maw pulled up in her grey Ford Tempo on the other side of the fence, and yelled out of the passenger side window, “Get in this car!” Wow! Time flies when you have an emergency! Just like that, my options were whittled down to climbing the chain-linked fence on a wing and a prayer. People, as soon as I lifted my leg up to put the toe of my grey Air Jordans into the first link…
It was a long and hard-fought battle. Some people say, “You can’t win ‘em all.” Why not? Well, this is one of the ones that I would like to have put in the “W” column.
Almost as soon as I got into the car, my mild-mannered Great-Grandma Margaret looked at me as if I had just handed her a month-old tuna sandwich, and asked–WAIT! Never mind what she asked.
When we arrived back at my great-grandparents’ apartment, Maw Maw hosed me down in the backyard, and then she made me go take a bath.
After I took a bath, Papaw Bill, being from the mountains in eastern Kentucky, told me to go outside and pick a switch off of the bush next to their front porch. For some reason, I never had the sense to look for the flimsiest switch that I could find. No, no, I always ended up picking off what turned out to be a good, quality, mac-daddy-of-the-daddy-macs, “you-did-wrong-and-you-deserve-a-good-switchin’” switch.
And do you know why they call it a “switch?” Because whatever you did wrong, you’ll more than likely switch from doing that wrong to not doing that wrong after you receive a switchin’!