When I got home last night I was so excited about my crossing guard badge and my new Fedora hat that I didn’t get much sleep. I rushed to school so early this morning that I was the first student in the school yard ready to line up for class. A lot of my classmates started to make fun of me and the new decorated Fedora cap I was wearing. I didn’t care what they said. They’re just jealous of how cool I look. My new cap just separates me from the rest of the heard of idiots on the line with me. I have to think of myself as a leader now and not worry about all the bullshit insults they’re throwing at me. I know that I will do my best to make Miss Kent proud of me. I had a good day at class today. Everything improved my math and reading assignments seemed to be a lot easier. Miss Kent gave me a hall pass so I could go to the safety course at 2PM. I don’t know why but I feel special. I passed the safety course and they gave me my sash with a AAA badge pinned on it. It’s beautiful; I kept looking at it again and again with this big smile on my face. After school a senior crossing guard stood with me on the street corner to show me the ropes.
I got the moves down pat, and you know what, I can’t believe it, the little kids listened to me. I got home about three thirty all dressed up with my white sash, AAA badge and decorated Fedora cap. When I walked into our apartment, my mother took one look at me and started crying and then she hugged me so hard that I couldn’t breathe. It took her about ten minutes to calm down. Then she turned towards the stove and plucked a hot dog out of the boiling water, put it in a bun and gave it to me. It was like she was giving me an award for a job well done. I ate the hot dog, I kissed my Mom and I went up stairs to show Roger the Professor my uniform. When I walked into his apartment I found Roger sitting at his bench as usual. He turned, looked at me and said, “Holy shit, is that you Pepino? You look so different. It must be your white sash, AAA badge and that kooky hat you’re wearing. You look like a symbol of authority. I tell you what; you better wipe that smile off your face and take off all that stuff you’re wearing before you go back on the street to hook up with your friends. Don’t ever forget that you live in Red Hook Brooklyn one of the toughest neighborhoods in the City.
If you go outside with your uniform and wearing your new hat along with that happy simile on your face, you can bet your ass that the neighborhood bullies will grab you and kick the shit out of you.” I didn’t even think about how happy I look, but Roger is right. You can’t go around the neighborhood looking happy and all because the neighborhood bullies will wipe that smile right off you face. I stopped smiling and I took off my new hat thinking about the beating I could have faced if Roger didn’t wake me up and remind about the real world we live in. I took a deep breath and said, “Thanks Roger for bringing me down to earth. I’m glad you told me what you did. I’ll go down stairs and change before I go out to find my friends. Roger, I just want you to know, that when you can downstairs yesterday my head was all full of the crossing guard stuff. When you showed me the assembled Silver Treasure Chest I was surprised that you finished it so fast and I was so happy to see how good it looks. I don’t even remember if I told you how great it looked. So now that I’m back on earth, Roger, thank you for doing such a great job.”
Roger started laughing and said, “Don’t get all mushy on me, after all, I only saved your ass.” Roger is so good to me. He’s like my big brother. Not only does he make all the stuff for our kid games, he will try to protect me from the bullies and shit heads that will kick your ass just for fun. I followed Roger’s advice. I went downstairs to take off my uniform and I went out to look for Pecker, Mike Tomato and Reno the Greek to make plans for our weekend.I left my apartment building turned the corner and I see Joanie waving at me from her stoop. Sometimes I think that Joanie sits there waiting for me to come by. Even though she’s a lot younger than me I really don’t mind because she a good friend. Sometimes she thinks I’m like a big brother to her. She forces her father Bruno to take me with them to different places in his Hot-Rod. So I walk over to her to say high. I sit next to her and she shows me her new board game, Chutes and Ladders. Then she says, “Come on play this game with me. Come on, come on, please.”
“Listen Joanie, you know that I hate to play these stupid board games. I don’t like learning all the new rules of the new board games and I’m not good at playing these stupid games.” Joanie kept at it until I said yes. Then she says, “Now listen, each player gets a charm or chip that will move on the board after you throw the dice. The dice has numbers one to six. You roll the dice and when it stops you look at the face of the dice that shows a number. That number tells you how many moves you have to make in these boxes. If you roll a three you make three moves. Okay, we first roll the dice to see who will go first. Whoever gets the higher number goes first. Here you can use this horse charm and I’ll use this red chip. I won the first roll so I go first. We start the game from the number one box. You win the game if you get to the last box on top of the board first. Here we go, I rolled a six, now I count out six boxes and I go again because the rules say if you roll a six you keep going until you roll a lower number. Are you following me so far? Okay, you have to follow this trail and if you land on a box at the bottom of a ladder you can climb the ladder to the top but if you land on the box that has the top of the ladder in it you have to go down the ladder. This game will have a lot of ups and downs but remember you have to keep trying to move into the top box to win.” Wow, I can’t remember all this shit.
We played three games and I always found the ladder that made me climb down and Joanie always found the ladder for her to climb up, so she kicked my ass in all three games we played. I was trying to leave when I hear a loud roar and I look over to the street. That’s when I see Joanie’s killer Dad Bruno with a new Harley Davidson motorcycle, wow, it’s a beauty. I love all Bruno’s toys, now he’s got a motorcycle. He must be rich. I’m so afraid of Joanie’s father, so I force myself to walk over to him and tell him how great his new Harley looks. He even smiled at me. Then I turned and walked up the block to Chickies grocery store to find my friends. As I look up the block I see a bunch of guys rolling old white wall car tires. I got to the corner and I see Pecker standing there holding one of these tires next to him and I call out to him,
“Hey Pecker what the hell are you guys doing with these old tires?” “Yeah, we made up a new game, come see. Reno found a load of old car tires in a vacant lot. It looks like somebody dumped about thirty old tires in the in the middle of the lot last night. So we took ten tires and made up a game. The first game is like war. We choose sides and the go to different ends of the street and start charging each other by rolling the tires at the enemy as fast as we can. Sometimes we hit each other with the rolling tires but most of the time the tires just bounce off each other. Nobody wins the game we’re just laughing and having fun with all the action. Then it dawned on Reno the Greek that a small guy like him could squeeze himself into one of the big old tires and that I could roll the tire with Reno in it down the hill. What a trip.” I looked at Pecker like he’s crazy. Leave it up to my friends to take bunch of old tires and use then to kill each other. So, I sat there watching them rolling and banging these tires into each other and every now and then I would see Reno come by going head over heels in the middle of the tire he climbed into. I went into the grocery store and got myself an ice cold coke and a bag of chips and I sat on the curb watching the action.