Bullethead's  Quest

 
 by

Gary Beck
                                                   

                                                     
Bullethead was the most beautifully built scapegoat
in the neighborhood.  He had lifted weights until his
short body was massive and proportioned.  But he

could not find an exercise system that would make him
likeable.  Even the little kids recognized his vulner-

ability. When he passed them, they would interrupt

their games to scream taunts and throw things at him. 

Everyone picked on him except his mother, who was

completely indifferent. So friendless and loveless he

went to school, to work in his father's carpenter shop,

then to bed, hoping that tomorrow would bring a friend.

But tomorrow was never compassionate.

Bullethead's parents came from a small village in
Poland to mythological America, as millions had come,
seeking the dreamer's refuge, freedom, dignity and
opportunity. In the little village in which their
families had endured for generations, the local lord,
a throwback to the middle ages, would often descend
upon them with his servants, relieving them of
whatever food and money the peasants had managed to
accumulate. Periodically, the Germans would come, and
more frequently, the Russians. When they weren't
afflicted by their lord, the Germans or the Russians,
there was always a drought, blizzard, plague, or
blight that would test their will to survive.

So finally, Kosta the carpenter and his wife, Magda,
a big- armed, moustached woman, took the money they
were saving for their funerals, said a prayer before
the Icon, and went to the town-clerk and booked
passage to America. From the moment the money,

 wrapped in a greasy, red bandanna, left their hands, a
protective fog settled  around them, cushioning them from

the shock of leaving their own land and crossing the sea

to a new land; distant, alien, terrifying. 

 

Kosta was a skinny, callow, swordblade of a man, in

contrast to his wife who was huge and red-fleshed.

Together they were a peculiar looking, unlover-like couple.

On the train to the seaport and then on the smelly, crowded

ship, they were like a truck and a pushcart traveling in the same
direction, akin, but different.

The first few months in New York City did to Kosta
what years of depredation couldn't do to him in
Poland. The colossal indifference of the city almost
made him yearn for the communicable touch of the
lord's boot, the arrogant sneers of the Germans and
the acquiring hands of the Russians. He had never been
distinguished in his village in Poland, but at least
he had been talked to and was considered part of the
village life. But in the new world no one talked to
him, not even 'landsmen', who shunned an obvious
greenhorn. The complete isolation almost succeeded in
blotting him out, but he was saved by the birth of
hatred, followed a few months later by the birth of
his son.

Kosta was much too puny and weak to take vengeance on
the harsh world, so he turned all his hatred on his
son, translating it into punishments that began at an
early age. Kosta's wife, outraged at the abuse of her
baby and ready to squash her twig of a husband between
irate, reddened slabs of hand, gradually accepted that
age is right and youth is wrong and let her husband
correct her son without further complaint.

Kosta and his family moved to Brooklyn during World
War II, the year after Poland was overrun by the
Germans. He opened a carpenter shop and his life
became a secure routine; work and trying to teach
Stanislaw, his five year- old son, how to be a proper
man.

Stanislaw, Stanny, for short, was constantly abused.
Whatever intelligence he might have had was not bold
enough to make an appearance before his father's fists
and curses, so he subsided into dull idiocy. He had a
braying, staccato laugh like an agitated donkey that
everyone jeered at. Everything about Stanny either
irritated people, or made them mock him. He was either
an obnoxious pest clamoring for attention, or a
buffoon performing for a kindless audience. He
pitifully wanted affection, but neither found anyone
compassionate enough to give, nor developed the
intelligence, personality or character to get what he
wanted. 

Life was lonely and unpleasant for Stanny. He went to
school, then came straight home and stayed in the
house. He tried to go out after school and play with
the other kids, but someone always sent him home
crying. Then his father would invariably say:
"A man don't cry," and his father's contempt was worse
than his fists or curses.

 

So spring changed to summer,autumn to winter and

time passed and Stanny was quietly miserable, until he

was in the seventh grade, when he was twelve years old.
Stanny was very short, but he was husky and strong,
so the boys in school never picked on him when they
were alone.

 

One day his class was playing soft-ball in the yard

during physical training. Stanny was playing
left, left field (fat, myopic Milton, of the varicose
ankles had advanced to left field), when an easy fly
ball was hit to him. He only had to open his hands and
fold them closed around the ball, but he dropped it.
By the time he recovered the ball and threw it into
the infield, two runs had scored. The pitcher, hands
on hips, turned to him in disgust and yelled, "Jesus,
you're dumb."

The demolishing words echoed around the field until
one wit screamed, "He's a Dum-Dum, just like the
bullet. You know, the one that they file the head down
for the .45 caliber automatic pistol." But another
tormentor yelled, "No, no, not Dum-Dum, he's a
Bullethead. That's what he is, a Bullethead." He fled
the schoolyard, pursued by the chanting of,
"Bullethead, Bullethead."

And from that day on he was Bullethead to everyone
but his family. Even the girls in the neighborhood
called him Bullethead. If his father had spoken enough
English to understand what the nickname meant, he
would have called his son Bullethead.

Stanny graduated from public school without making a
friend. (Even fat, four-eyed, varicose-ankled Milton
had a firm friend in Harry, the snot-nose factory.
Though everyone called them the double-ugly alliance).

Without academic or athletic triumph and without
admission to the earthly paradise of fumbles in the
cloakroom with budding maidens, Stanny didn't learn
anything that would help him to be liked in later
life.

The expanded universe of High School was bewildering
at first to the boys of his graduating class, a class
of only ninety-six, who had all been called by first
names by their teachers and known everyone since the
1st grade. The girls adapted much faster.  The shock
of obscurity was indeed serious and they desperately
searched for a solution. The less aggressive boys
melted into the High School torrent and then found
their places. The hard core of ten or twelve who had
been the school leaders refused to accept anonymity
and formed a gang.

They selected their own table in the cafeteria, known
from then on as the Falcons' table, where no one else
dared sit, except by invitation. The Falcons went
unnoticed by the vast majority of their fellow
students, except for petty hoods looking for a nest, a
rival gang called the Bopping Lords, (Bops for short),
or the various unlucky students who came into conflict
with them. And Bullethead.

Some dormant instinct awakened in Bullethead at the
right moment. He well knew the state of obscurity and
rejection, but hadn't learned anything from it, except
that he didn't like it.  And when he saw the Falcons
adrift on the vast ocean of indifference, an ancestral
herd impulse drove him to them with perfect timing.
The girls in their graduating class had made the
transition to High School relatively smoothly. When
they saw their old classmates putting on black leather
jackets instead of school jackets, they began to
ignore them, except for Patsy Scagliano, who started
wearing a black leather jacket.

 

Patsy, nicknamed Push, had been straddled by everyone

except Bullethead, (even fat, four-eyed, varicose-ankled

Milton, once) as far back as the sixth grade. Due to the

shortage of appreciative girls, she was warmly welcomed

at  the Falcons' table.

 

Some of the Falcons were in Bullethead's classes and
he sat near them, without letting them know that he
had gone a-courting. They talked to him, using him as
an audience, since they had known him for years and no
one else responded to their wisecracks and horseplay.
In a daring moment, he appeared at their cafeteria
table and sat down next to Tom-Tom, who constantly
talked to him during home room period and geometry.

The Falcons, uncertain how to treat this bold
intrusion, looked at Tom-Tom, who quickly weighed the
need of an audience in his classes and nodded in favor
of acceptance. The rest of the Falcons settled back
when Pony nodded final approval. Although he had won
the privilege of sitting with them, the Falcons treated

Bullethead no differently than before, as a jerk.

Until the incident with the Bops.

The Bops' table was not too far from the Falcons' and
they would frequently eye each other, challenging, but
not confronting. Nothing more provocative then staring
hard had happened yet, because Pony, leader of the
Falcons, was on the gym team with the Mouse, leader of
the Bops. The Mouse specialized in the high-bar
apparatus and was really good. Broad-shouldered and
thin-hipped, he was the epitome of grace when he
elegantly soared around and around the bar, doing
giant swings. Pony specialized in the parallel-bars
and was heavier and stronger than the Mouse.  They
never talked to each other, but they always nodded in
greeting, which kept their gangs at peace. But tensions

were growing and the rivals passed each other
often enough, making a clash inevitable.

One day Bullethead got to the cafeteria early. He sat
at the table waiting for some of the gang, so he could
push ahead of everybody else on the lunch line, which
he wouldn't dare do when he was alone. Some of the
Bops went by carrying lunch trays. One of them
accidently bumped into a girl and spilled a bowl of
tomato soup on himself and Bullethead brayed out
tremendous hee-haws of laughter, which were greatly
resented.

The Bops wiped their friend with napkins, walked over
to the still braying Bullethead and deposited the
slimy, red-gore napkins on his short, bristly hair,
the red fingers of soup clammily running down his
neck. Bullethead snatched the napkins from his head
and threw them at the Bops. They grabbed him and
started punching him in the stomach.  Just then
Tom-Tom and some of the Falcons arrived.

Tom-Tom knew that if they helped Bullethead it would
mean a gangfight, but the Bops were beating Bullethead
up at the Falcons' table. So Tom-Tom grabbed the boy
who was hitting Bullethead, spun him around by the
shoulder and punched him right in the mouth. He fell
across the table and his friends picked him up and
went back to their table, mumbling about what they'd
do later. The inevitable confrontation had come. And
like two nations breeding tension from growth and
proximity, an incident with a meaningless satellite,
reluctantly defended, would lead to conflict. 

Tension spread like an earthquake through the school.
Only a few minutes after the incident, nothing else
was being discussed by the students except the coming
fight. Some of the girls said that it was disgusting.
Some of the boys started talking about their fights.
Many students pretended that they weren't at all
concerned with what those hoodlums were doing. But as
a bolt of summer lightning flicking across a blue sky
arrests everyone's attention for a moment, several
thousand students reacted to the hint of violence with
intense interest.

Bullethead pranced to his next class in drooling
ecstasy.  Fame had suddenly kissed his brow and voices
murmured in the hall as he passed:

"That's Bullethead. He just fought three of the Bops
in the cafeteria."

"He knocked one of them unconscious."

"He's one of the Falcons."

 

The voices were glorious, golden drops of wine,
splashing down a parched throat. Bullethead soared
high above his short chunk of a body, basking in the
sunlight of notoriety and attention. Only the World
Series had seemed to arouse such excitement before and
Bullethead went to his class as talked about as one of
the starting pitchers. The daily routine of going to
class was the only thing guiding his feet, because the
rest of him was far, far away, carried aloft on the
gossamer wings of recognition.

 

He was just nearing his English class when angry

 hands abruptly pulled him out of his reverie, into the urine

and ammonia smell of the boy's bathroom. He was face to face

with Pony, Tom-Tom, Phip, Billy and Tommy and they didn't look
friendly.

"We oughta kick your ass all over the bathroom,"
Tom-Tom snarled.

"Take it easy, Tom-Tom," said Pony. "Let's hear what
he got to say."

"Whatta ya expect the moron ta say, besides duh?"

"Well give him a chance. Tell us what happened,
Bullethead."

"I didn't do nothing," he babbled, while he quickly
thought of an excuse for starting a gang war. "I was
sitting at our table, just waiting for the guys. A few
of the Bops came by carrying lunch trays.  One of them
spilled his soup, then looked at me and said; `What
the hell are you looking at punk?' I didn't say
anything to him, but he walked over with other guys
and started threatening me. One of them said: `All
these Falcons would deuce out if they saw a swingout
coming.' I got mad and said they wouldn't say that to
Pony or Tom-Tom. Then one of them said that we wasn't
Falcons, we was Sparrers. I said that all the little
rats better go back an play with the Mouse an' they
started rubbing napkins full of tomato soup on my
head. I threw'em back in one guys face an' they grabbed me
an' started punching me an' then Tom-Tom showed up.
You guys know the rest. I didn't mean to start
anything, but they was insulting the Falcons."

"I guess it's not Bullethead's fault," Pony muttered.

"Those guys were looking for trouble. They musta
figured that we wouldn't help him. Whatta you guys
think?"

"Yeah," Tom-Tom agreed.

"You're right, Pony," Phip chimed in.

"So it wasn't his fault, Pony," Tom-Tom said. "Whatta
we do now?"

"Bullethead officially joins the Falcons an' fights
the guy who hit him. I'll go talk to the Mouse an' set
it up." 

Just then, Steve, a more timid member of the gang,
rushed up to them:

"Hey, you guys, where's Phip?"

"Here. What is it Steve?"

"Some of the Bops pulled your cousin Nunzio into room
426 an' they're beating him up."

"My cousin Nunzio! Come on, you guys. Let's help
'im."

They rushed to the classroom where they found Nunzio,
more upset about his torn and dirty clothes, than the
bruises on his face.

"Nunzio, Nunzio. Ya all right?" Phip asked.

"I'm okay, Phip. They didn't have time ta work me
over, but look at my new pants. Jeez. They use ta be
powder blue. An' look at my shirt. Wait'll I get those
punks."

"I'll go down ta my locker an' get my blade an' we'll
cut the mother-jumpers good," Phip threatened.
But Pony immediately took control of the situation.

"Take it easy Phip an' you too, Nunzio. We're not
doing nothing inside the school. The resta you guys
pass the word to the boys ta meet on the front steps,
after the eighth period.  We'll grab the Bops as they
come out an' beat the shit out of them."

"I ain't gonna wait, Pony," Phip said impatiently. "I
wanna get them now."

"Do as I say, Phip," Pony ordered. "We'll get them
outside.  I gotta go ta class now an' you guys better
go ta yours. I'll see ya after the eighth period on
the steps and we'll take care of them. Now get going."
The Falcons gathered in front of the school at the
end of the period and Bullethead was in all his glory.
At last he was accepted and he babbled away to all the
gang about how he'd get the guy who hit him, until
they told him to shut up. Phip and Nunzio were
ominously quiet, standing apart from the rest of the
gang. Pony took Phip's switchblade from him, to make
sure he didn't stab anyone. This was the gang's first
rumble and they were all nervous, except for Phip and
Nunzio, who were too angry, and Bullethead, who was
too stupid.

By the end of the ninth period, large groups of
students had gathered in front of the school to see
the fight. The bell rang three times, piercingly loud
and a few moments later hordes of students came
pouring through the doors. They widely circled the
waiting Falcons and melted into the crowd. The
watching students formed an amphitheatre, as in
ancient Greek tragedy and awaited catharsis. But as
spectators they were more suitable for teen-age day at
Madison Square Garden, rather than the barbarous
cruelty of the Roman Arena. 

The Falcons fell silent as the doors opened and the
Bops came out, ready for battle. Pony's idea was to
beat up a few of the Bops to even the score for Nunzio
and to plan an all-out rumble later, if necessary. But
there they were, about fifteen Falcons facing almost
as many Bops, with an eager audience of hundreds of
students. Teachers were beginning to look out the
windows and ask what was happening outside.... Pony
made a quick decision to postpone the fight and
started walking towards the Bops alone. The Mouse met
him halfway.

"Whadda ya say, Mouse?"

"Nothing much, Pony."

"Look, if we have it out here, the cops'll come an'
we'll get thrown outta school."

"Yeah. Where da ya wanta meet then?"

"How about Prospect Park, near the boathouse, at nine
o'clock tonight? Twenty guys each."

"Awright Pony. No knives or zip-guns, okay?"

"Yeah. I'll see ya later, Mouse."

The gangs left, cutting narrow separate channels
through the crowd. Loud sighs of unsatisfied tension
arose behind them and many voices, shrill and
unconvincing, repeated over and over:
"Gee, I'm glad they didn't fight."

Bullethead went home delirious with joy. The sudden
wave of attention splashed over his dullness like a
torrent. The after-school horde of maniacal students
avalanched onto the buses, screaming, laughing,
falling all over the other passengers and squirting
water-guns at everyone but the tough hoods. Bullethead
would usually sit by himself, either ignored, or
squirted until he was soaked. Today he swaggered onto
the bus like Atilla the Hun, even yanking a boy out of
a seat with his newly-found power. He babbled, boasted
and brayed with laughter, until he made everyone on
the bus sick.

He reached his father's carpenter shop still swollen
with self-importance, threw open the door and strutted
in to the tinkle of the door bell.

"You late, you dumb kid. Grab broom an' sweep store."

"No, papa. I don't feel like it."

"What you mean, don't feel like it? You feel like I
break dumb, fresh head?"

"Lemme alone, papa. You ain't gonna hit me no more,"
he said and picked up a piece of wood. "And if you
try, I'll let you have it with one of these
two-by-fours."

"Don't wave that stick at father. You hit father?"

"If you try to hit me again, I will. So keep your
hands to yourself."

His father stood there dumbstruck. Slowly his son
began to look like the German officers who would steal
his bread and kick him. He stared at his son until the
high, black boots blinded him with their bright,
arrogant authority. Then he turned back to his
workbench. He watched his son from the corner of his
eye and the black boots were gone, but his last hold
on life, his contempt and abuse of Stanny, was buried
deep inside him, never to come out again.

Bullethead walked out and closed the shop door behind
him, the tiny tinkling bells saying final farewell to
his father. He headed for the Falcons' hangout,
Short-arm Louie's candy store.  He walked in and with
new-found daring, greeted the proprietor by his
nickname:

"Hi ya, Short-arm.  How ya doin'?"

He went to the last booth where Pony, Tom-Tom, Phip,
Billy, Tommy and Patsy Scagliano were sitting.

"Hi ya guys. Whadda ya say Push?" Calling Patsy by
her nickname for the first time.

"Siddown, Bullethead," Pony ordered. "Me an' the boys
has been doin' some thinkin'. The Falcons never been
in a real swingout before an' we don't want the
younger guys ta have their first one with the Bops. So
we decided that you'd swing it out alone with the guy
that hit you an' we'll be there to make sure it's a
fair fight."

"Wait a minute, Pony," Phip complained. "I wanna get
the punks who beat up my cousin Nunzio."

"Relax, Phip. We'll take care of them."

"I don't wanna wait. Let me take on one of the guys
who got Nunzio."

"Whatta ya think, boys?"

"If Phip wants ta go, let 'im," Tom-Tom said.

"Sure. Why not?" Tommy agreed.

"Awright, it's settled. When we go tonight, I'll set
it up with the Mouse. Push, you're goin' with us
tonight an' you're carrying my zip-gun, just in case
them punks bring artillery.  Take off now. I wanna
talk ta Tom-Tom. I'll see ya later, on the parkway.
And act like it's any other night when we're just
hanging around."

Billy and Tommy left with Push, planning to go to her
house and fool around there, until it was time to meet
that evening.  Phip and Bullethead started walking
towards the parkway, trying to think of something to
say to each other.

"Man, tonight I'm gonna slice one of them mothers
like he was a salami," Phip mumbled. "I'll spread him
all over the park."

"Ya really gonna cut'im, Phip?"

"Shit, yeah. His own mother won't know him when I get
through. You ain't never seen my blade, have ya?"

"No. Ya got it with ya?"

 

"I always got my girl with me. She sleeps with me
every night.  Doncha, baby?"

Phip held the long, black, shiny tube, naveled with a
gleaming silver button, in crooning, erotic fingers.
With a soft caress, he brought the bright fang out of
its den. It sat in his hand like a blind snake,
searching for prey.

"Awright, Phip. Put it away. There's people all
around and a cop could come along."

"Whatsa matter? You don't like my baby? She just come
out.  She don't like it in the dark, just like you an
me. Maybe I should tell her that you want her to go
away. Maybe I'll tell her you don't like her."

Bullethead was terrified of the menacing knife.

"Don't do that, Phip. Don't tell her that. I like her
fine. I just don't want a cop ta see her an' take her
away from ya, that's all. You know I like her."

"No cop takes baby from me, not as long as she can
talk for me, like this." Phip made a quick slash and
then stabbed the air. Then he closed the knife with a
snap and put it back in his pocket. Bullethead finally
realized why Phip always had his right hand in his
pocket and what it always held.

"I gotta go help my old man for a while, Phip. I'll
see ya later."

"Awright, Bullethead. Remember ta wear light, pointy
shoes, so it's easy ta kick somebody in the nuts, or
run fast if ya gotta take off. Them boots that most a
the guys wear is no good. Ya can't run in them an' ya
can't kick with them. All they're good for is ta stomp
a guy, once ya got him down."

"Thanks for tellin' me. Play it cool."

"Play it cool. Jeez. Where did ya get that from?

You're real dumb."

Phip walked off, right hand in pocket, fingers
restlessly stirring, mumbling about what a jerk
Bullethead was. Bullethead went back to his father's
store, into the apartment in back and lay down on his
bed, hands clasped behind his bristly head, thinking
about the coming fight. The brief concentration of
thinking gradually started to fade, along with the
rhythmic, urgent hammering from the next room and
sleep came on tiny, shy feet.

Bullethead woke up at six o'clock, ate some of the
stew his mother had made for dinner and left the
house. He headed for the Parkway to meet the gang. It
was a warm, quiet evening, with night arching its back
over Brooklyn like an indolent cat, stretching with
pleasure. He saw the guys and hurried to join them.

"Whadda ya say, guys?"

"Well look who's here. It's Bullethead," announced
Phip.

"It's Bulletbrains," quipped Nunzio.

"It's Bulletnose," Phip added.

"No. It's Bulletballs," Tom-Tom cackled.

"Awright, you guys. Knock it off," Pony ordered.

"We was only kiddin', Pony," said Tom-Tom.

"Yeah. We didn't mean nothin' by it," Nunzio said.

"Well just save it for the Bops."

"Everyone's here now, except Steve an' Tommy," Billy
reported.

"Why isn't Tommy here?" Tom-Tom demanded.

"You know that Tommy'd never go to a gang fight,

Tom-Tom," Pony answered, "but tomorrow we take care of
Steve for chickening out."

"He's the lousy punk that does all the big talkin',
too," Tom-Tom muttered.

"Forget him now," Pony snapped. "Listen, you guys.
Here's the action. We go down to the park in four
groups of five an' meet at the boat-house. After we
meet, I'll talk to the Mouse an' set it up for Phip.
Now if it's a fair fight, nobody interferes, but if
they try ta help their boy, get ta Phip in a hurry.
Tom-Tom, Billy, Phip and Patsy go with me. The rest of
you guys give each group five minutes before you
leave. An' make sure you all get there."

Bullethead found himself in the last group, because
no one else wanted him with them. The boys he was with
didn't speak to him directly and all the way to the
park they kept talking about the guys they knew who
got hurt in gang fights. By the time they got to the
boathouse, Bullethead was tense and twitching. He
tried to stay close to Pony, but Pony kept shoving him
out of the way. He desperately had to go to the
bathroom, but was too self-conscious to go against the
boathouse wall like the other boys.  Then they saw the
Bops.

The Bops quietly appeared out of the dark shadows
between the trees and stopped about fifty feet from
the Falcons. Pony walked toward them by himself and
the Mouse came out to meet him.

"Whadda ya say, Pony? How do we do it?"

"One of my boys wants ta have it out alone with one
of the guys who beat up his cousin."

"Who is it? Phip Manelli?"

"Yeah."

"Wait'll I talk it over with my boys."

The Mouse went back to his gang, while Pony stood
there waiting like a patient farmer gazing over his
fields in the evening. The Falcons waited like hungry
birds of prey, eager to strike their enemies. Pony
just stood there casual and relaxed, until the Mouse
came back.

"One of my boys, Charlie Carter, says he'll fight
Phip."

"Awright, bring him out here an' I'll get Phip."

"Okay."

"Now it's gonna be a fair fight an' the first guy who
says 'I give', loses. Okay?"

"That's fine with me."

The four boys stood in the dim field like ancient
champions before their armies. Some of the tension
left both gangs as it began to look as if there
wouldn't be an all out battle. Nervous laughter flew
back and forth, as the rivals yelled how their fighter
would win.  It started slowly.  Phip and Charlie
circled each other, while the watchers became silent.
Phip swung at Charlie with all his might, but missed
and fell on the grass.

Charlie jumped on top of him and they started to roll
back and forth, punching and kicking at each other.
They fell apart, got to their feet and started circling again.

 Suddenly the bright gleam of a knife
flashed in the night.

"Hey, Mousie," Charlie yelled. "He pulled a blade on
me.  It's supposed ta be a fair fight."

"Was it fair when four of you punks beat up my
cousin?" Phip demanded. "This is gonna be for him."

Pony rushed at Phip and knocked the knife out of his
hand, but the Bops thought that he was going to help
Phip, so they charged. The rest of the Falcons ran to
meet them, swinging their garrison belts.  Four or
five Bops were knocked down by the Falcons charge,
while the rest of the fighters moved back and forth,
wildly punching and kicking. Bullethead kept kicking
the Bops who had already been knocked down.

 

One of the Bops got to his feet and pushed him.

Bullethead tried to get away, but he ran after him,

 knocked him down, then kicked him in the stomach. 

Bullethead lay there gasping for breath, tears coming

from his eyes and a trickle of blood running down his mouth.

By the time he got up again the fight was over.

The Bops had lost and were in full flight. But the
Falcons were much too battered to chase them. They
picked up whoever was still on the grass and headed
for the Parkway. By the time they got out of the park
most of them were feeling a lot better and they walked
along singing 'Barnacle Bill, the Sailor', as loud as
they could.

"Hey, let's go ta Short-arms an' tell the girls about
the fight," one of the boys suggested.

Most of them enthusiastically agreed and started
teasing each other.

"Were you there, Joey?" Tom-Tom taunted. "I didn't
see ya."

"That's 'cause you was too busy running, Tom-Tom.
Who da ya think knocked the Mouse down?"

"It sure as hell wasn't you. You was on your back all
the time."

"Ya know, guys, I never knew Bobby could run so
fast," Joey said, trying to divert attention from him.

"That's all right, Joey. He never knew you could lay
on your back so good," Tom-Tom responded.

"Did you guys see the big guy I knocked down?"
Bullethead boasted.

"Hey. It's Bullethead," Phip yelled. "He's still with
us."

"Did ya hit him with your pocketbook, Bullethead?"
Tom-Tom asked.

"Let's pull his pants off," Joey proposed.

"Ah, come on guys. You're supposed to be my pals,"
Bullethead pleaded.

"Hold his legs, Joey," Pony commanded.

"Hey, look at that. He's wearin' polka-dot drawers,"
Tom-Tom yelled.

"Cut it out, guys. Don't take my pants off."

"You gotta show those drawers to the neighborhood,"
Joey insisted, as he helped them remove Bullethead's
pants.

"Throw them in a tree, Joey," Tom-Tom directed.

"Awright, there they go. Should we take his drawers,
Pony?"

"Leave him his drawers, or he'll scrape his balls off
when he climbs after his pants."

"Awright. Let's go ta Short-arms now," Tom-Tom
suggested.

"Yeah," Phip agreed. "Have fun, Bullethead."

"Don't catch cold," Joey called as they left.

The Falcons walked off, heading for Short-arm Louie's
to celebrate their victory, leaving Bullethead
standing there in his polka-dot drawers. He waited
until they were gone, then he climbed the tree and got
his pants. Nobody saw him and he pulled his pants on
and went home. Even though the guys had left him like
that, the words kept running through his head like
scurrying mice, over and over:

"I'm one of the Falcons now. I'm one of the Falcons."



Bio: Gary Beck's recent fiction has appeared in 3AM
Magazine, Fullosia Press, EWG Presents, Nuvein
Magazine, Vincent Brothers Review, The Journal, Short
Stories Monthly, L'Intrigue Magazine, Babel Magazine
and Bibliophilos. His poetry has appeared in dozens of
literary magazines. His plays and translations of
Moliere, Aristophanes, and Sophocles have been
produced Off Broadway. He is a writer/director of
award-winning social issue video documentaries.