When i was 5, there was a neighborhood boy who lived a few houses down from us, who was appropriately dubbed, "Fat Gary."
Gary was 2 years older than me, but was held back a grade. He was a very-very big kid. The rumors were; he had a refrigerator in his bedroom at 7 years old. I've often looked back on the legend of "Fat Gary" and wondered if maybe he wasn't as large as we remembered. When you're 5, everything seems big. To answer mine and your question, and after much thought, yes, he was.
One day, with an orange bath towel draped and pinned over my shoulders like a cape, I peddled my "Big Wheel" up the street in the direction of "Fat Gary"s house, where a small crowd was gathered on his front lawn. My plan was to go as fast and as far as I could, passing "Fat Gary's" house, turn into a vacant driveway, then return home, then repeat until I got tired - or until my parents called me home.
As i was passing Fat Gary and his small posse of unruly 2nd and 3rd graders who were held back a year, "Fat Gary" himself stepped out in from of me, blocking my path. Laughing. There was no going around Gary, he dwarfed the sidewalk and my front wheel was lodged in his gelatinous log-like stumps, he called legs. The laughing continued.
"Where you going?" he asked. "You're Mike's little brother, aren't you?"
The answer was, yes. Yes I was. But I either refused to answer or was too scared. The other kids laughed too. I remember looking over at the laughing crowd, not saying a word, worried what would happen next. One of the other boys, who looked like a 5th grader asked me if I had money to pay as a toll.
"Got a dollar? You can't pass without a dollar."
"Fat Gary" continued to laugh. I just looked up at them, unresponsive, too afraid to say anything.
Prior to this "Fat Gary" encounter, I hadn't talked or played with him ever. But a presence like Gary's was hard to miss. - Everyone knew of "fat Gary." I recall hearing my older brother, Mike beat him up at school once, but I didnt get to see it. Until this moment, he was a bit of a myth. And he was much bigger, up close and in person.
Gary, then released my front wheel from his gelatinous grip of his knee-less legs, then, bent over and pushed my Big wheel backwards, away from his yard.
Still, no words were exchanged, I said nothing. I was too scared to say or do anything. I was a deer in headlights.
The small gang of kids drew closer gathering behind Fat Gary as they laughed along with him.
"Go on, go home - and dont come back unless you've got a dollar."
With my feet walking backwards, still seated, I attempted to back my Big Wheel up until it was safe to turn it around. My towel-cape then got caught in the rear, right wheel as i was attempting manual reverse. I couldn't move.
The boys seemed to enjoy that, laughing louder and walking towards me.
I began to cry. I didnt know what else to do. I wanted so bad to get out of there. I had to dismount from my BigWheel to untangle the cape-towel that was caught. I frantically tugged and tugged at it, the laughing grew louder.
"His towel is caught!" exclaimed "Fat Gary." laughing
Still crying and still panicked, I finally freed my not-so-super Hero towel from the back wheel and I ran home, leaving my BigWheel behind.
"Oh, can i keep it? you're letting me have it? Thank you!" shouted "Fat Gary."
I just ran. We lived about 10 houses away. For those skinny and short, 5 year old legs, it seemed like a mile away. And the more I ran, the more I cried.
Our garage door was open, and I ran up the driveway to find my dad working in the garage. I was in tears.
Seemingly unsympathicaly, my dad asked why I was crying.
"What happened? Why are you crying?" he asked.
I was caught in one of those cries where I was short of breath and it was hard to speak. blubbering.
"Calm down, what happened?" he asked again.
I couldn't get it out.
Just then, Mike, my older brother, came into the garage from the house with his buddy Greg.
"Whats HIS problem?" - Mike Asked.
Finally i managed to catch my breath and explain by pointing and saying two words. . . ."FAT GARY!"
"What did he do?," Mike asked. "Did he hit you?"
Wiping wetness from my tear drenched face and eyes, I realized Gary really hadn't done anything. He hadn't touched me. He just scared me and bullied me. He and his friends laughed at me. I couldn't put into words what had happened. i tried to explain while still caught in a sniffling sob.
"I was riding my big wheel..... and Fat Gary wouldn't let me pass....he told me I had to pay him a dollar."
"Where is your big wheel?" my dad interrupted, almost more concerned with the Big wheel than his sobbing son wearing a towel as a cape.
"Fat Gary has it." I replied, pointing in the direction of Fat Gary's house.
"Well, go get it!" he demanded.
What? go back there? no way. I'm not going back there, i thought. He could keep the bigwheel for all i care. He'll break it if he tried to ride it anyway.
Mike and his buddy, Greg decided to help. "come on, lets go get your big wheel back. " Towing me by my towel, I reluctantly followed.
The dramatic run back home, moments ago seemed a mile away, this time Fat Gary's house couldn't be further away. I was dreading my embarrassing walk back to reclaim my Big Wheel. I could still see those evil kids in his driveway. One of them took over my BigWheel and made it his own doing donuts in Gary's driveway. - From 8 houses away, it was clearly not Fat Gary. Not even if they made a "HUGE WHEEL, would it fit him.
There was a noticeable disturbance in the group as we drew closer. They saw us coming. The boy riding my Bigwheel stopped his donuts and just watched as we approached. "Fat Gary" perhaps still sore about getting an early butt whoopin' at school by my brother, seemed unafraid. He wanted revenge and this was his turf, his house. He dwarfed my brother who was a year older and 2 grades above Gary. Mike's friend Greg, just stood by and I behind Greg.
"Give my brother back his Big Wheel!" demanded Mike. I still didnt say a word.
Fat Gary's friend didnt move. He just remained seated.
"This is my Bigwheel. Your brother drove his home. See? its got my name on it." replied the boy.
Mike walked over to the boy stubbornly seated in my BigWheel, grabbed the plastic handlebars and insisted he get up.
I was very familiar with Mike's aggressive nature first hand as he assaulted me for fun on a daily basis, but I had never seen anything like what I was about to witness. It happened so fast, yet it seemed to go down like an old western in slow motion. Sure, i was 5, and it was a long time ago, but the scene what was about to go down is still very vivid.
First, Mike removed the kid from my Big Wheel by forcibly tipping it over and spilling him out the side. He then grabbed the Bigwheel and rolled it over to me. At that very moment, "Fat Gary" shoved Mike to the ground when he wasn't looking. How you don't see a 500 pound 7 year old, I have no idea, but Fat Gary blind sided him. Fat Gary, then dropepd to the ground over Mike and began to fling his massive arms like an elephant flings his trunk. Gary's posse regrouped in excitement over the scuffle that just started.
I reclaimed my BigWheel and climbed into it. Mike's Buddy, Greg began pushing the posse away to keep them from helping out.
Just then, Mike seemed to squirt out from under one of Gary's fat folds, rolling away then springing back up on two legs all in one movement. Gary was still on the ground, looking up at Mike, who was now letting Gary get back up.
"Fat Gary" lost his advantage and he knew it. The once confident Gary was now worried. Mike was not at all scared or phased by Gary's large presence.
The Posse was still gathered. Gary, now up on two stumps clinched his fist, ready to fight.
"We're not done." Gary says in his best tough guy voice.
MIke, angered over the cheap shot, then confidently walks over to the much larger "Fat Gary" and struck him quickly 3 times to the face in an upward swing. A left, a right and a left again.
Gary went down like Frazier. He just dropped to the ground.
Gary's posse quieted.
"Gary! Get up!" one of them shouted.
Mike then walks over to Gary lying on the sidewalk and stuck his finger in Gary' s jelly chest and threatened him.
"Dont you ever mess with my brother again. He can ride infront of your house any time he wants. got that!?"
Gary just laid there. Began to cry. Then, he got up slowly and sheepishly ran inside his house, but not before exclaiming, "Get off my property!! Get out of here!"
It was dusk, time for dinner. After Mike's friend, Greg went home, and the "Fat Gary's" hoodlum posse grabbed their bikes and scattered, Mike and I found ourselves alone headed for home. Side by side, Mike walked, and I peddled my BigWheel with my towel-cape fluttering in the wind.
As we approached the driveway, our dad was waiting inside the garage to greet us.
"You got the Bigwheel, i see"
"Mike, beat up Fat Gary. He was Batman." I announced proudly.
My dad just laughed.
- m a r k