AN OLD FRIEND SORELY MISSED
I’m remembering a great friend of mine from my youth named Inka Dinka Jones. Seriously, his last name was really Jones. Okay I’m being kind of cute here obviously its Inka Dinka you’re curious about but that was not a nickname. His parents named him Inka Dinka on account of their having been in show business. Beyond that I don’t know no details. Whenever Inka Dinka told the story he breezed through it real fast with this weird maybe French-like accent and we couldn’t be sure what he was sayin’. But suffice to say it was his real name. Conroy even asked Inka Dinka’s folks once when he was over to the house for a sleepover and they confirmed it.
You’d a thought with a moniker like Inka Dinka a nickname would be superfluous but you know kids. Some called him Inky for short. I can see it actually cause Inka and Dinka are two words. I hadda friend named John Henry and everyone just called him Johnny. But this is about Inka Dinka the person and not his name. Its just that you can hardly talk about a fella called Inka Dinka without talking about his name a little.
So I guess I was Inka Dinka’s best friend even though Conroy -- like I mentioned -- had a sleepover at his house. I didn’t cause we had a big place so it made more sense for Inka Dinka to sleep over at our joint. Maybe someone would say they were a better friend to Inka Dinka and maybe they’re right but I knew him better than anyone cause we had some really long talks like at sleepovers and walking through the woods and fishing when we would just chew the rag all day long. He even told me he never talked so much about hisself to anyone but me. So there’s that.
Ole Inka Dinka would talk a mile a minute or what they used to call a blue streak but it was mostly in slang and vernacular and with put on accents and about silly stuff. He would lotsa times talk like a sideshow barker or radio disk jockey. People useta just bust a gut listenin’ to Inka Dinka. Even times when they couldn’t make out what he was sayin.’ It was the way he said things that would get ya every time. Like I said his family had been in show biz and I’m guessing maybe vaudeville though I’m not sure cause like I said when Inka Dinka talked about such things it was hard as hell to make him out. So I guess the acting was in his blood. Actually he was a good athlete and maybe coulda been an acrobat. He wasn’t tough enough to excel in playing ball like I was. I lettered three sports in high school not that this is about me I’m just sayin.’ Inka Dinka always told me he had big plans for his life but never said exactly what. I know he wanted to go to college and study and I know he liked to entertain so who knows. Coulda been anything.
Inka Dinka was pretty good in school which you wouldn’t think given what a clown he could be but credit where its due he knew to buckle down and do homework and study for tests and I guess was just naturally intelligent. The teachers always liked him but were annoyed by him at the same time. ‘Specially Ole Miss Watkins the spinster 5th grade teacher who would pucker like she just bit into a grapefruit every time Inka Dinka would clown in class. She’d bang that old ruler on her big wooden desk and say: “Mr. Jones stop this instant.” It was kinda funny she called him Mr. Jones cause I just don’t think she was comfortable calling a pupil Inka Dinka. Same with Hortense McGillicuddy who she just called Ms. McGillicuddy though if you ask me that sounds sillier than Hortense.
Well there was a group of us who were all pals and Inka Dinka was one of the group and usually the center of attention. He clearly liked his part because he was always smiling specially when we were talkin’ about him or to him while he was right there. It always made everyone feel good to see him and it was never as much fun the -- gang bein’ together, I mean -- if Inka Dinka was home sick or outta town or if he was really knucklin’ down with the books so to get a good grade on somethin.’
You can imagine than what a huge blow it was Inka Dinka announced that his family was moving away. Right around the 9th grade this was. Conroy made a remark about how at least the main competition for getting girls was gone cause Inka Dinka had no trouble with the ladies at a time we were all trying to get over being so shy and awkward. That was true what Conroy said but it didn’t make it no easier. Inka Dinka told us all to buck up that we’d be fine without him and lives were changing all the time anyhow so get used to it. But that was easy for him to say he was the one doin’ the leaving. We were stuck there without him.
It was rough the first few days after Inka Dinka and his family moved but we were young and had other things going on. Like me with sports and girls and well sports and girls. Inka Dinka had promised to write but never did. We had no address for him and he’d moved outta state too far away to try and find him. We never really forgot him but what could you do? Then the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor in our senior year and pretty soon we’d all enlisted in the service me in the Air Force. I saw plenty of action dropping bombs on the Nazis.
When I got back from the war a few months after VE Day Conroy told me that he heard Inka Dinka had been killed at Anzio Beach in Italy. He said how he heard but I was too shocked and all to pay attention let alone remember what he said other than the part about Inka Dinka being dead. Whenever we talked about Inka Dinka it was about how he was gonna be a radio star or in movies or a big important scholar or something. It just didn’t seem right that Inka Dinka would die in the war. Guys like Inka Dinka were supposed to live long happy lives making other people happy. But he was dead in the war. Just didn’t seem right. Ya know what I mean?
REMEMBRANCES OF CLUB DAYS PAST
Wherein Eddie Vermont late of Poughkeepsie New York now of Schenectady reminisces about his days working at a popular New York night club in the 1970s.
Remember Daniel? He was a cool guy with long dark wavy hair who wrote for some magazine. Had a slick line with the ladies but could never get it up in bed. Frustrated the hell out of him not to mention the chicks he coaxed into the sack. No use being a ladies man if you can’t finish the deal. Know what I mean? Poor guy. He got really drunk one night at the club and told all about. Sad. But then he moved to the Coast and other than an occasional byline no one ever heard from him again. I’d a maybe shot myself.
There was this other guy Sal who had the same sort of problem but he turned out to be gay and finally gave up and started sleeping with dudes. Better than nothin’ I say that and live and let live. Man those dudes what a thing to go through in bed with some hot babe and you’re soft where and when it counts. There’s worse things like havin’ it shot off in the war or by some jealous husband. I heard of that happening to some guy from a fella that used to hang out at the club but I dunno. Suppose it happens. Lotta bad shit happens to people like that deal with Markie. Remember that? Accident paralyzed him. And he was a dancer. That’d make a dude suicidal. Don’t know if he could get it up after that. Man that would be the worst. Shoot me.
Some really weird dudes came by the club those days. Some really cool ones too. Then again most people who came were pretty normal and anonymous and forgettable. That happens. Then again you can be anonymous one place and like truly respected and revered in another. Like that one guy used to hang out forget his name but it began with an N something like Norman, Nigel, no Niles that was it! Didn’t think much of the cat. Used to just sit at the bar and drink maybe occasionally chat up some broad. Turned out he was an actor on Broadway or some such shit. People found out he was like a big time guy and then everyone wanted to talk to him so he split and found another place to be nobody.
That’s what a lot of people want. To just be another spoke in the wheel. Especially if you’re really high profile in your work. It can be nice to blend in. Then again so many of the people who hung out at the club really really wanted to be somebody or thought of as somebody. They used to puff up whatever the hell they did or had done to make themselves into something special. Doesn’t work in the long run I say. People figure you out soon enough. Lot of the regulars were really good at seeing through bullshit stories like that one guy John or some other really plain name who had everyone believing he’d been a big football star at Montana University or some place like that and he had a shot at the pros but blew out his knee. He got a lot of interest from some of those gullible chicks. But then someone came along who’d known him and said he’d been like third string and that the closest he ever got to a pro football game was once when he bought a ticket to a game and sat in the stands.
But there were a certain kind of chick who fell for all kinds of lines. Anyone who’d been in a play was about to get a movie contract and anyone who’d sang in church was going to get a record contract soon. All those guys who’d done something or were going to do something those were the ones who were the grand bullshitters. I felt sorry for some of the saps. And sorrier still for the people who believed them. But what the hell its a free country you can do and say what you want and if people believe you that’s there tough luck.
I kinda miss those days though. I really do.
THE TIME I GOT PUNCHED
We heard that most opposing teams hated us two the most because of our respective skills different as they were but really annoying to other teams. We also had a really good striker Ronnie Thompson who scored most of our goals and an excellent midfielder general in Salvador Gonzales. But there was something about Mikey and me (I’m Len Purcell) that drove other teams up the wall.
Anyway this one particular day our team -- again that’s the Rovers -- was playing Creektown Crusaders which was kind of a joke because they could barely field a team being from such a small town and the few players they did have weren’t so hot. We were title contenders -- again and Creektown was near if not at the bottom of the league. Either they were or Green Valley was can’t remember which. Plus the game was on our field where we never lost not even against our fellow contenders. Everyone kind of figured this would be a cake walk even Coach O’Malley who suggested to the second stringers that they’d probably get in almost a full half of play if not more. So it’s no surprise we went into the match over confident as hell.
When we scored first like about three minutes into the match it sure seemed over already and we barely even celebrated the goal. I remember wishing we were playing a better team so it would be a challenge this was gonna be too easy and no fun. Not surprisingly the whole team was acting like the game was all but over and we would probably score a dozen goals and maybe get a shutout to boot. Wouldn’t ya know it the second of all those supposed goals didn’t come right away. We spent most of the first half missing easy goal chances or coughing up the ball. Finally just before halftime yours truly scored on a header off a corner kick. It was disappointing to go into half time only 2-0 up but what the hell we were sure to pile it on in the second half.
Somebody forgot to tell Creektown. I don’t know what the hell their coach said to them at halftime but they came on in the second half like a team possessed. Okay so they were playing harder they still couldn’t match our skill level so it wan’t like anyone was worried. Then they scored a goal. This kid took a shot from way out that deflected off Evan Liddle into our goal. A real fluke. This kinda got us going and we started pressing to get that goal back and then some. Problem was we stopped playing our game it had all become about scoring and not passing and moving like we usually did. We lost our focus. So it shouldn’t have been a total shock when they scored on a counter attack. Caught us with our pants down so to speak. And it was a really pretty goal to be honest, not that that made any difference to me at the time.
So the scored was tied. Against Creektown. In the second half. On our field. Unbelievable. So much for our reserves getting a lot of playing time. We were in a battle and knew it. I think we settled down at the point and took the match seriously. The problem was that they had belief. You could tell they actually thought they could win.
I guess from a neutral’s point of view the rest of the game was pretty damn good. Both teams giving a 100% and each looking likely to score. The game went back and forth. I started worrying about a tie which would have felt just as bad as loss at home to Creektown. Finally about two minutes before the final whistle Mikey dribbled through what seemed like half their team. I think they kept expecting him to pass it and he just kept going towards goal. Finally it was just him and the keeper and he juked the guy and pushed the ball into the empty net. We went nuts. Who’d have thought that a late goal against Creektown would send us into such joy? But there it was. More than that there was this huge sense of relief that the worst had been averted. Or so it seemed.
Not 90 seconds later with the final whistle about to blow one of their guys sent a wild cross into our goal area. I trapped it as easy as you please but their center forward came charging at me like wild bull. Not wanting to risk him getting a foot on my clearance I passed it back to our goalie Remy Melard. Only two things: one Remy wasn’t expecting the ball and two I kicked that sucker way too hard. It went right bast Remy for an own goal and a 3-3 tie. We barely had time to kick off before the final whistle blew.
I felt like shit. First of all there was the matter of the tie and then there was my error that gave them their last goal so close to the end. A lot of players and Coach O’Malley came up to me right after the “good game” hand slapping with Creektown. They said not to worry about it or patted me on the back. I still felt like shit but not as bad as I had minutes before. I’d already played enough to know not to dwell on losses especially when there was another match coming up. Hell it wasn’t the end of the world. We still could win the title.
But as I walked off the field I noticed Mikey off by himself standing with his head down looking like he was about to cry. Mikey and I had been pretty good friends in grade school and although we weren’t close buddies anymore we got along just fine and had mad respect for each other. Pretty much everyone liked Mikey. He was a sweet kid but he could take things too hard like this match we’d just had. I went over to try to make him feel better. Forget about it, Mikey, I said while squeezing his shoulder. That’s when he just up and punched me right in the jaw. Sure it hurt like hell but the worst part was what an awful surprise it was. I stood there stunned practically ready to cry and he just sneered and cussed at me. Coach O’Malley and some of the parents -- mine and Mikey’s weren’t there -- ran over and checked on me and started giving Mikey hell.
I said it was okay and Mikey screamed, I mean really screamed, that it wasn’t okay and I blew it. It was after his saying that and as Coach O’Malley was pulling him away from me that he burst out crying like a baby. It was weird. I’d never seen Mikey cry before not even when we were little kids. I remember him falling of the Jungle Jim when he was about seven and landing real hard and he didn’t shed so much as a tear. So this was totally bizarre.
That was just the first sign we saw of some problems Mikey was having. Turned out that his parents were fighting all the time and his mom had started drinking and his dad had started hitting him and life at home was just hell. Course we didn’t find this out until much later. Poor Mikey had a lot of outbursts after that though none where he slugged anyone, let alone a teammate.
Finally his parents divorced and he stayed with his mom who got into AA and things got a lot better for Mikey. I heard he saw a psychiatrist and he started doing yoga and when he went off to college where everything was pretty good for him. He ended up getting an MBA and working in New York making a shitload of money.
But me, I was never the same after Mikey punched me. I lost interest in sports I didn’t trust people and I was afraid of getting physically close to people. I even stopped dating for awhile -- something I’d just started doing. I became withdrawn and kind of nervous. Now maybe this all would have happened eventually for one reason or another anyway maybe Mikey hitting me just kind of got it going. Or maybe not. Maybe it was a traumatic experience and it derailed me all on its own. I made it through high school well enough but once I discovered getting high I dropped out of college in my sophomore year. I messed with drugs -- which were the only thing that could make me sociable and happy -- for years and drifted from one job to the next and from one town to the next.
After getting arrested for dealing (the charges were dropped on a technicality) I finally got into rehab. My life turned around and now I work counseling addicts. I love what I do because I know it's important. I feel good about it and the money is enough and best of all I have a terrific wife and a child and lead a normal life. In fact my life is better than normal. It’s really great. I know its weird but I trace what my life is today to the day Mikey Polanski slugged me in the jaw. Life is funny.