If there is a common desire among all boys, it is the desire to do mischief. This desire is so prevalent that it must be an inherent part of the “Y” chromosome’s genetic makeup. I have more than once succumbed to the allure of doing mischief and there is one incident that always comes to mind when reminiscing about my now dormant mischievous urges.
The Sunday evening after Thanksgiving in 1962 was one of those warm humid nights where the fog is so thick, it is just short of a drizzle. Such nights are not rare in the New York area and there seemed to be several of these each year, as though they were summer’s last desperate grasp at life before losing out to winter. Warm weather combined with several bored teenaged boys constitutes a powerful recipe for the doing of mischief.
It was after an early dinner that my brother and I got together with a friend and two brothers (“Dumb” and “Dumber”) who lived close by. We were all bored to tears, but not yet willing to put the long weekend to bed. One of the brothers, “Dumb,” chimed up; “Let’s make a dummy out of old clothes and use it to scare people.” I figured that this would get nowhere, since the streets of Gerritsen Beach were virtually deserted. Well, we made a dummy out of old clothes stuffed with newspapers anyway
Our first victim was a neighbor in back of my house. The dummy was laid across the top of the bar in a shed in my neighbor’s yard and we waited in my garage, not twenty feet from the bar. It was not long before he came out of his back door to go to the bar and draw himself a pint of draft. He walked into the shed and a few seconds later let out with a loud “AARGH!” and followed that with a burst of laughter. He made a comment to himself and laughed about the behavior of today’s youth, and walked back into his house, with his beer was unspilled.
After that we had no idea what to do next. There was absolutely no traffic in the courts and the streets were deserted. “Dumb” suggested that we go up to Gerritsen Ave. and leave the dummy lying in the street. We walked up Everett Ave., crossed Gerritsen and went into the weeds and paralleled Gerritsen until we arrived at a spot across from Devon Ave. We were in the weeds about 500 feet across from Tagney’s on the corner of Devon and Gerritsen. Figuring that this was a good a spot as any, we sent “Dumber” down to place the “other dummy” in the middle of Gerritsen Ave.
It was about ten minutes before anything drove past, and that was an empty bus on the way to the Ave U station. The bus driver stopped, got out of the bus, looked at the dummy, kicked it a few times and picked it up and threw it over to the curb in front of Tagney’s right behind a car parked there. We sent “Dumber” back down to retrieve the dummy, but before he could get there, someone came out of the door at Tagney’s and got in the car, started it up and backed over the dummy. He slammed on the brakes after seeing what he had run over and flew out of the car, screaming “Oh my God, oh my God!” It did not take him long to discover the true nature of his victim and his horror changed to virulent anger in an instant as he loudly cursed whomever had played this joke on him. After looking around for a moment he picked up the dummy, placed it on the hood of his car and went back into Tagney’s.
figured that we would now be done with our dummy, since it probably was sitting there on the hood as bait for a trap. “Dumb” told his brother “Dumber” to go down to the car and retrieve the dummy. I protested, telling “Dumb” that his little brother “Dumber” would probably get caught since it was obviously a trap. Everyone but the “D” brothers agreed and little “D” was sent down to the avenue anyway.
No sooner than little “D” touched the dummy than the front door of Tagney’s flew open with a bang and the driver of the car came flying out of it. Little “D” dropped the dummy and came across the avenue straight towards us with the guy in swift pursuit. Our “victim” now could see us and began yelling that he was going to do terrible things to us when we were caught. At that point we all scattered, running off in all directions.
I took off running towards the point, the direction we came from. After a little while I realized that he had singled me out and was catching up. I couldn’t run as fast as I could because I was wearing some cheap slip-on tennis shoes and they were on the verge of falling off with each stride. When I came up on the PONY league baseball field across from St James church, I squeezed through an opening in the fence and hid in one of the dugouts. At this point I was so focused on escaping, I do not recall if I was alone. I seem to remember that there was someone with me, but I’m not sure whether I was with someone or who it might have been.
Sitting on the floor of the dugout, I was congratulating myself on finding such a clever hiding place until a hand reached through the dugout fence and grabbed me by the collar. I turned to see a face with horn-rimmed glasses, glistening with saliva and distorted with pure anger; staring back at me. Somehow I twisted away from his grip and started running again, across Gerritsen Ave. toward Florence Ave. He must have been caught on something from the fence, since I was able cover a lot of distance before he started running after me again.
As I turned the corner onto Florence, I spotted several cars parked in a vacant lot on the other side of Aster Court. Hoping to find another place to hide, I ran towards the cars. When I got there I dropped down behind one of them and crawled under it. Lying there I could see two girls across the street on a stoop and my protagonist was approaching them. He asked them if they had seen anyone run by and much to my relief they both denied seeing anybody come by. To be sure, he had some doubts about their answer, since he had been close enough to see me round the corner, not 50 feet from where they sat. He asked again adding, “are you sure” to his question and again received a firm denial. After looking around to see if I was lurking anywhere nearby, he probably realized that he wasn’t getting any more information from them and left. I waited for a few minutes and crawled out from under the car. Thanking the girls profusely, I went on about my way, having done enough mischief for one evening.
I have no memory now of how I spent the rest of the evening. In all probability, I walked home and watched the Ed Sullivan Show, which is what I should have done in the first place.
Last changed: Monday, March 03, 2003