Thursday, December 25, 2008

Spalding Head

Len Klein
Memory Sketch # 03,
January 2001

The sidewalk in front of 241 Bristol Street was much wider than sidewalks elsewhere, and to us it was like having a play area right in front of your own house. We were always running, jumping, and playing games, my friends and I, right there in front of the house.

My mother had gone to the Grocery Store on Blake Avenue, just around the corner, and I was playing an exciting game of tag with Davie, Lenny, and Danny. I was known to be the fastest kid on the block, especially since I had gotten my new pair of Keds sneakers. I could race with the wind and win. In the games I could usually tag whoever I went for. Yeah, I was fast all right, but my speed was best when going straight ahead. I have to admit that Lenny Strauss was quickest at darting and dodging from right to left. I’m saying that to you now, but in those days I would never admit that Lenny was faster than me, no matter what.

That day, in the game I was ‘IT’ having gotten tagged by Davie who was the slowest of us all. In my overconfident, super speed mode I had stayed tauntingly close to him, too close as it turned out, and he got me before I could get away. With lightening speed I turned around and saw that laughing Lenny had his back to the building wall. In one motion I dashed toward him in full flight. I’d show him who was the fastest on Bristol Street. With unbreakable momentum I extended my body and reached for Lenny, but he wasn’t there. Instead, there was the red brick wall of my own house, and I smashed into it, first with my hand and then with my forehead. Needless to say, I was stunned in more ways than one. How had Lenny gotten away from me, me, the fastest guy on the block, and why was I so stupid as to smash into the brick wall, which really hurt. Moving away from the wall, holding my head I saw my mother walking toward me, and the guys in a semicircle looking wide eyed and scared, except for Lenny who was still laughing.

By the time my mother reached me I could feel the bulge growing on my forehead and it didn’t stop. When it was the size of half a spalding ball, I thought I was growing a second head, and my mother’s upset was starting to scare me. There were other faces around me now and someone said that it was ‘a bile’ and it had to be pressed down with a knife. That really scared me!

Upstairs in our apartment my mother tried to press down the bile with a cold butter knife, and it seemed to respond a little, but not enough to make me stop wondering how I was going to look the next day with half a ball coming out of my head. When my Dad got home, our cousin, Dr. Lutsky was called and he came to the house after dinner. He checked me out and then pressed on my bile even more with a cold metal thing. He said, “Lenny boy, you’ll be all right. Don’t worry. You’re a good boy, Lenny boy.” Dr. Lutsky always said that, "Good boy ..." or "Good girl ...," to everyone he saw. At the very end of the day, in my own bed, I still believed I was really fast, but I was no longer sure I was so smart.

Based on later stories and conversations, I believe the family lived at 243 Bristol Street, not 241.

See map for Betsy Head Playground, P.S. 175, and 243 Bristol St
See picture of 243 Bristol St circa 1940-1941

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