WToT5 Preview Pages and Death Says "Hi"

Friday, April 29, 2005

Got some previews for my readers but you have to keep these to yourself. It’s a little Western Tales of Terror #5 action, the first three are from my story (sans letters) illustrated by Marco Magallanes (I’ll be making Marco a new website starting next week since he's been so good to us). Marco was also in WToT #3; he collaborated with Greg Thompson of Image’s Hero Camp (art by Robbi Rodriguez). And, he’ll also be lending his talents to a brand-spanking new H&B project (the second I've hinted at in three days - somebody's growing). I’m also sharing the cover to WToT #5, so plop your peepers on that and awe at the genius that is Kieron Dwyer.
Six Shots Page 1Six Shots Page 2Six Shots Page 3Western Tales of Terror #5 Cover

And now onto the stuff you really came for.

I learned to cut class at a very early age. Our elementary school, P.S.58 (or simply 58s for the locals) had a required music class from Kindergarten straight through to the sixth grade. Some people got cellos, a few got violas; one lucky bastard got the xylophone. The rest of us, the ones that had no grasp of music and no rhythm whatsoever, we got violins.

I know it sounds all fancy shmancy but these violins were about a hundred years old and not a hundred years old as in antique and classical but a hundred years old as in falling apart and sounding like shit.

The people that were really good got to be in a separate orchestra class and performed at assemblies. The rest of us, we played “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” up until the second grade, watched “Peter and the Wolf” everyday during the third grade and then learned a new song in the fourth that we played up until the 5th grade. Why not the sixth grade? Because they sixth grade they offered an opera class and I was happy to sign up.

In the second grade we discovered that, instead of going to music, it was a lot more fun to cut class and play hide-and-go-seek in the hallways. Second graders generally don’t cut classes, so no one really thought to defend against it. When our class went from our standard classroom to the music room, we’d simply duck out. No one thought to look for us. I mean, sure, we got caught occasionally but we just say something like, “No, I was in the bathroom. I had diarrhea.” And the whole thing basically goes away. Because second graders don’t cut class.

The cutting music tradition continued through the years. In the fourth grade we started skipping out at lunch as well, going to Mola’s Pizza on Court Street and getting cardboard inspired slices and processed mozzarella sticks. Again, playing football or basketball in Carroll Park was a lot more fun then sitting next to a flagpole and making fun of Torpedo Tits, the school-yard Gestapo.

Now Ross, whom I’ve mentioned in the past, was always sort of the tragic friend. Everything bad that could happen to any of us, happened to Ross. Guess which of my friends accidentally got Lysol sprayed in his eyes: Ross. Guess which of my friends got flipped 180-degrees in a wrestling demonstration and dropped on his head on the hard concrete: Ross. It goes on like that.

So when I tell you that during one of our lunch skips in the fifth grade, some kid decided he wanted our nerf ball, grabbed one of my friends and put a gun to his head and demanded we give him the ball, you can probably guess who the kid was with the gun to his head.

For bonus points, can you guess which one of us pissed his pants?

That’s right, all of us.

There’s something amazing about seeing your first gun, about dealing with the whole issue of mortality for the first time in such a blatant matter. This was the 5th grade; we were probably ten years old. Maybe we were eleven. And here’s one of our friends with an arm around his neck and a pistol to his temple and what the fuck are you supposed to do but stand there, freeze and say, “Holy fuck. Ross is going to die.”

I’ve dealt with two deaths before that. The first one was in Kindergarten, this kid Martin died, but we were told that he moved back to Morocco. It wasn’t until later on we discovered the truth. It was done in such a way that, honestly, I can’t even remember how he died anymore; I think it had something to do with stomach, a disease or something. We were shielded. And I remember when we graduated and this kid Frank got up and read something he wrote about Martin, Frank always knew the truth, they were good friends, and some people in the audience didn’t even know Martin died. Most of us didn’t even remember him.

The second time was my Uncle Joe and he was in bad shape from as long as I could remember. It was my mother’s uncle, he lived upstate, and the only memory I really have of him is this old man, dying, wearing bunny slippers. I remember his house, everything about the layout. I remember his property, I remember sledding there. The only image I have of him is on his couch, hooked up to machines, and wearing those slippers. After that, all I got is his funeral and I wasn’t allowed into the viewing room.

But this. This is like death slapping you in the face and telling you to wake the fuck up. There’s a reason 10 years old aren’t allowed to roam the streets of New York unsupervised, especially not in neighborhoods where shit like this could happen. This is why they keep us in a schoolyard and Torpedo Tits guards the exit and makes sure no-one sneaks out.

Ross didn’t die. Eventually one of us managed to shake off the shock and toss the kid the football. Ross was crying, we didn’t know what to do. I don’t even know what we did, I can’t remember. We didn’t tell anybody, I don’t know why, the whole thing just sort of got dropped. Eventually we even started cutting out for lunch again but we were a lot wearier of our surroundings and a lot more vigilant. Maybe we didn’t learn the complete lesson, but we toughened up a bit, that’s for sure.

I think that’s the first lesson in street smarts we received: If a kid in a hood is walking towards you, by himself, hands in his pocket, start walking away. If he speeds up, fucking run.

turn off the metallica, fanboy: Psychoanalysis: What is it?


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