Jerry From Over On 13th Street

There was the perpetual
Pall Mall cigarette
hanging from his mouth.
And he was always
picking on kids
smaller and younger
than him.
His wooden leg and
foot clanged and
rattled as
he walked. It had happened
when he was twelve,
trying to jump
into a boxcar
of a moving train. Two of
his friends had
made it, one chickened
out. Jerry miscalculated
his run and came up
short, reaching for the edge
of the boxcar’s
open door, and the motion
of the train pulled
him under. Somehow he was
able to keep one leg
free, with the rest of his body,
from slipping under the
steel wheels. Every kid
in the neighborhood
was afraid
of him, every kid but me.
To me he was just a pimpled-face
fat kid with a wooden leg.
One day he was coming
down the alley
with a  couple of his friends. I was
fifteen, but already well over
6 feet and a solid 175 pounds.
He and his friends were
maybe sixteen, overweight,
and a couple of inches shorter.
They were all three smoking
as they passed.

Jerry sneered, flipping his Pall Mall
at me. It hit my t-shirt and
bounced to the ground. They
stopped and were laughing,
calling me a
dumb-ass and a son-of-abitch.
I didn’t say a word, I just
quickly walked right up
into their faces. They were
startled and
took a step backwards.
My uncle had lost a leg in WW2
and I knew what the
weakest part
of a wooden leg was. I was an
arm’s distance away
from Jerry, who was
lighting another cigarette,
still sneering. I turned my body
slightly and kicked
his wooden knee.
He seemed to fall instantaneously,
tumbling over
to his left,
in a barrage of yelling and
clanging. His friend, who was
standing to the right
of him, took a step forward,
as if he was going
to take a punch at me. I swung
wildly, hitting him
somewhere around the
collarbone, and I was winding up
another, when he turned
and ran down the alley. The other
kid was faster,
passing his friend easily.
I watched them run
out of the alley to the sidewalk.
Jerry was still yelling and crying
on the ground, begging me
to help him up. I told him I wouldn’t
help him, but that I would
call his parents
when I got home. I left him laying
there crying, as I jumped
over the next door neighbor’s fence,
I walked across
their backyard into mine, went into
my house,
called Jerry’s parents and
told his mother that
he had had an accident and
was in the alley. My dad
overheard the conversation
and asked
what was going on.
I told him I had just kicked
the ass of Jerry from over
on 13th street. He laughed
and said it was
about time someone
cleaned that bastard’s plow.
That was the first time
I got drunk
with my old man,
but far from
the last.