Chapter 4 – Booger-Smearing Denial
My first order of business upon landing at Incheon International Airport had been finding a bathroom and pushing out a loaf of nut-laden pumpernickel. Whilst I sat on the crapper, my eyes happened upon a familiar sight which, to a degree, had resembled the back of the nightstand adjacent my bed at home in Chicago. Smeared on the inside of the stall door had been several boogers, a few of which were bloody and resembled the fiery basketball that burns through the hoop of the Miami Heat logo. For the most part, the rest had been your typical green monster with the glossy, light-reflecting streak trailing right behind from the smear-off and, oddly enough, had reminded me of somebody I used to know.
Back in grade school, I had a friend named Jonas, or “The Breadboy,” whose basement wall had so many boogers on it that it could’ve been used as a giant connect-the-dots mural. Although it had obviously been his doing, Jonas never claimed the work of art as his own. No matter how much hard evidence we had against him, he proved to be a master of deflecting blame and coldly denied all accusations sent his way.
Of course, the last time I’d seen him, he seemed much different from when we were twelve. It’d been on Christmas 2010. We were partying together at a neighborhood bar called The Snuggery when he offered to buy a round of “St. Juliana shots” for me and some other assholes with whom we graduated Catholic grammar school. Unable to turn down a free drink, I accepted and Jonas posted up near the bar to put in his order. While standing there, my man whipped out his lob and did his number on the legs of some other patrons who’d also been awaiting the retrieval of their beverages. As far as taking full responsibility goes, Jone-Bone laughed in the victim’s faces to let them know exactly whose stinky drunken piss was being sprayed all over and drenching the lower half of their bodies.
Way back in the day however, before he became so bold, The Big Blueberry was notorious for coming up with outrageously unbelievable lies that were often combined with other equally ridiculous fibs to form awesomely powerful compound fabrications so potent they could’ve potentially set the pants of everyone in the room on fire. Throughout our childhood, this master of deception kept his skills sharper than the old man in The Mighty Ducks kept the blades on his ice skates. His flawless deliveries were impeccable – Oscar winning. Jonas could be so convincing that you were made to feel crazy for not believing every word of bullshit being spewed out of his mouth. My favorite of these untruths had been when he casually mentioned to my buddy Kutasi that, “My dad (who’s whiter than a fresh glob of bird shit) was on an episode of Soul Train and I have a panda bear at my house right now that was sent to me by my Chinese cousin.”
Whenever Big Jonas would call my house to see if I wanted to come over and play, he’d always use my last name even when talking to my parents.
“Hi Mrs. Lally, is Lally home?”
“Yo Johnson,” I’d say once I got on the phone, “what’s up?”
“Hey man, wanna come over and hang in the basement?”
“Mayyyyybe,” I hesitated, unsure of my other options for the beautiful summer day. “Who’s all over?”
“Well, right now it’s just me, Cahill and O’Shea. But Pete’s coming over in a bit.”
“Hmm, yeah, alright,” it sounded like a good enough line-up. “I guess I’ll come over.”
As per usual, I went over to this kid’s house and walked right into the perpetually unlocked basement door. Even when the family was on out-of-state vacations and would for some reason leave all their TVs on with the volume turned all the way up, this portal always remained open. I then made my way through the downstairs kitchen and into the main room. There, I navigated through the cat-shit landmines that’d been mashed into the white area rug which laid between Jone’s throne and the TV before finally approaching the totally vacant couch that should’ve been housing the asses of Cahill, O’Shea and McInerney.
“Yo,” I looked around the dark stinky basement where the warm, life-giving rays of the July sun never reached, “what happened to Cahill and O’Shea? Where’s Pete?”
“Ha!” he shouted then started laughing the way some sort of sicko who gets off from burning children with cigarettes would. “I tricked you! You actually fell for it, I can’t believe it! What an idiot!” And then he continued chuckling until his face was beat red and he was panting for breath just before inviting me to sit down.
This, although one-hundred-percent socially retarded, had not been an isolated incident by any means. Back in grade school, the homey JD would actually trick people into hanging out with him so often that we’d all have to call each other for confirmation before inadvertently heading to the dungeon for some one-on-one time at the lair which was known to get pretty weird. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the times it was a blast. We’d spend the afternoons pretending we could ollie on our overpriced skateboards, printing out porn from his computer to add to the community collection stored in a mutual friend’s treehouse, harassing British bitches in “Mum’s Chatroom” on AOL or peeping some no-insertion, dick-taped-to-the-leg, softcore porn on Skinemax which had been enough to get my twelve-year-old love-pump all sorts of jacked up. But other times, without a wingman to share the burden, shit could get really uncomfortable, especially if his older sister’s friends were there. These degenerates would take pride in showing us bags of hard drugs and brag about how they’d blasted a random cow in the face with a shotgun from point blank during a weekend getaway to Wisconsin. Most of the time, those losers weren’t there, but that didn’t mean that Jonas alone didn’t hold the power to make any given guest feel like they’d been trapped in an episode of the Twilight Zone.
In addition to showing me a box of his parents’ multi-colored, flavored condoms in the hallway closet, the personal tours of the Jonas residence would sometimes include a stop in the new upstairs addition where his parents’ bedroom was located. In my mind, that bedroom is a place where Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy are perpetually jarring at each other on a big-screen television in the movie Bowfinger. But for my buddy Cahill, during one of his one-on-one sessions, it had been a place where he’d heard one of the most outlandish things of his young, inexperienced life.
“You like that bed?” asked the twelve-year-old Breadboy, referring to the place where Century 21’s “Spouses Selling Houses” seal the deal.
“Yeah, whatever dude,” Cahill said, “it’s a nice bed I guess.”
“Oh yeah?” he paused for dramatic effect. “Well, I ‘chummed’ in it.”
Upon hearing this tale, the thought of my buddy masturbating and then “chumming” under the sheets of a bed belonging to my fifth grade football coach who’d puff on cigars at practice and blow smoke into the huddle while calling plays made me feel super uncomfortable. But that type of shit was just part of the package when hangin’ with Jone.
In second grade, The Doughboy lived right across the street from our grade school, St. Juliana. During that era, the kid was perpetually in solitary confinement. Without fail, he’d act like an asshole and the teacher would make him spend the day in the corner by himself. If “dunce” caps still existed, I guarantee he would’ve been wearing one as often as little Jewboys sport Yarmulkes.
In that classroom, hanging on the chalkboard had been a poster with close to thirty pockets. Each of these pockets had been labeled with a student’s name and housed a stack of five or so pieces of different-colored laminated construction paper known as “cards.” When someone misbehaved, the teacher would make the naughty student walk to the board and “flip” his or her card, making it publicly known just how big of a prick that particular instructor thought each of us was. The cards started with warm colors like green and yellow signifying a student’s good behavior. Harsh colors like red and black indicated that you were in pretty deep shit, usually warranting a call home to parents.
I’ll have you know that in second grade, Big motherfuckin’ Johnson flipped more red and black cards than a god damn Vegas blackjack dealer. And he didn’t give a shit either. The shenanigans of Jonas never ceased and it was always hilarious. This kid’s penis-licking antics were so entertaining that I give his year-long, four-star performance two thumbs way the fuck up. Our teacher, on the other hand, hadn’t been as positively receptive.
One time, despite several card flips and the relocation of his desk to a spot as far away from other students as the setup of the room would allow, Johnson still managed to piss off our poor old teacher Mrs. Carroll. The kid just kept talking to himself and throwing shit backwards over his head while the woman tried her damndest to instill in us the basic syntax of the English language. She got so fucking frustrated that, in one huge loud disruptive scene that drew the attention of every student and teacher along the way, she dragged the problem child’s desk all the way down to the principal’s office, commencing one of the many stints in which he was relegated to “the chokey” and possibly put in a straightjacket for days on end.
Even more legendary, Jonas is the only person I’ve ever seen that managed to infuriate a teacher in the classroom on a day when he was absent. This dude would skip school all the time and naturally the teacher figured she’d have the day free of dealing with our boy. Little did she know however, that when he wasn’t officially at school, she was actually worse off because she had zero authority over his highly unlikely and most unorthodox interruptions.
“Hey! Dan!” I’d heard The Breadboy call from outside our first floor, second grade window while throwing a rock into the classroom at kid named Miller for his attention.
“What was that?” she asked, seeing something fly through the air and skip across some desks before smacking off the chalkboard.
“John threw it.”
“What!?” veins popped out of her neck and forehead. “That’s impossible! John’s not even here today!”
“Yeah he is,” Miller replied. “He’s outside in the parking lot.”
“He is!?” she spat, rushing over to the window and peering out into the sunlight.
“Oh, hey Mrs. Carroll. Can you get Dan Miller for me?”
“No John! We are not doing this! You cannot come disrupting my class like this…and why aren’t you in school?”
“Uh, well, I had a doctor’s appointment earlier this morning,” he said while standing there in his basketball shorts and bucket hat, taking a sip of his red Gatorade. “But, uh, I need to talk to Dan right now – it’s really important.”
“No John,” she coldly retorted while shutting one of the two open windows, “it’s not gonna happen.”
“But it’ll only take a second…”
“Go! Home!” she screamed then slammed the last window and drew the curtains over the cancer that had been eating away at her lesson plan.
Johnson had never been conventional in any aspect of his life and that’s what made him such an interesting character to grow up with. Nevertheless, his likable attributes didn’t make it any less frustrating when he deflected our booger-smearing accusations back towards the end of grade school.
Boogers so big they looked like smashed peas had been scattered everywhere imaginable in Jone’s basement. They were on the arms of his recliner and on the back of the remote control but mostly on the wall behind the couch that, if you were facing the TV, had been perpendicular to and off to the right of the set. In the dark of the basement, every single flickering image displayed on the television would shoot beams of different colored light that would gleam on the glossy tail of the snot-comets thus highlighting all the boogers that had been smeared on the wall. It was totally fuckin’ disgusting.
So, one day after confirming and making absolutely sure that all the other guests would be in attendance, I went to Jone’s with Cahill and O’Shea whereupon we held an intervention. Like most other filthy habits that are a bitch to break, this one had its rusty hooks wedged deeply into the subconscious of our friend. Saving him from his booger-smearing ways had been a bigger task than we thought possible. Instead of accepting responsibility for the sins that he’d committed and hopping on the road to recovery, Jonas immediately picked up the cordless phone which had served as his conveyor of lies so many times before, put it on speaker mode and called up a kid named Howe who’d previously and specifically told all parties involved that he could not hang that day because it was the day of his older sister’s graduation party.
“Hi Mrs. Howe, it’s John. Let me talk to Howe,” he demanded.
“Well John, we’re having Margaret’s graduation party at the moment and Pat,” she emphasized, “can’t come to the phone right now.”
“Well Mrs. Howe,” he spat back, “you tell Howe to get his ass over to my house right away and clean up all the boogers he left here.”
Jonas then slammed down his phone like a total fuckin’ asshole, considered the matter settled and still has not accepted responsibility for those boogers to this very day.