The Fate of That One Kid who Made My Lil Brother Late for ThunderCats
The fire is what I remember the most.
I never had to wonder what he was thinking.
Phil had the worst poker-face
in all the housing projects.
I could always sniff-out a lie,
but I turned a blind eye
if I knew he wasn’t hurting himself.
That day, I knew he wasn’t lying
when he shouted that he would fuck that kid up.
I was retrieving him from the playground
to watch afternoon cartoons.
ThunderCats were on the loose
and I didn’t want him to miss it.
That’s when I first saw the flames.
Phil was being picked on
for universal reasons that kids get picked on;
because sometimes kids are assholes,
and assholes leading groups are the worst assholes.
Phil is one of the sweetest kids I know;
slow to anger, easy in forgiveness.
But even he has a berserk button
and it is a catastrophically bad idea
for anyone to push it to see what happens.
That’s what I witnessed;
a bunch of tiny assholes pushing Phil’s buttons,
and with the leader physically menacing him
I knew that somehow, someway
I’d have to save that little dickhead from my brother.
Embedded in Phil’s eyes
were two four-alarm infernos.
If I didn’t somehow intervene…
I mean, it’s not like he would fight that kid
as much as he would happen to that kid
the way Kansas tornados happen to treehouses.
Don’t recall what the kid did
but he was a mouthy motherfucker
and his entourage fed his escalation like…
Ever see what happens to magnesium when ignited?
It creates its own oxygen, like most shit-talkers
showing-off to their instigating crew.
I knew I couldn’t save everyone
so I focused on my brother
who had tears streaming from his flames.
“You gonna let your big brother fight for you?”
the little shit sneered at Phil
through a shit-eating grin.
His crew erupted in laughter and high-fives
“I’m not fighting anyone,” I notified.
“But I’m not stopping anything either.
You sparked this shit with my lil bro,
and he’s gonna settle this.
I’m just here to keep things… fair.”
The laughing stopped as the implication hit home
as if all involved knew shit just got real.
Unable to save face, the little shit assumed a stance,
prancing about in front of Phil’s barely-corked wrath.
He’d clearly seen too many Sugar Ray Leonard fights.
“What chu gone do, Phil?” the hapless idiot slurred.
“You don’t want none of this!”
Misinformed, to the very end.
Phil glanced back at me once more,
wide-eyes asking final permission
to let the dogs off the porch.
I nodded grimly.
They were evenly matched in size,
but where Little Sugar Ray had built a rep
fighting guys who looked like Phil,
Phil spent his whole childhood
sparring with kids twice his size
kids like me, his older brother.
It’s not like I ever went easy on him.
The “fight” lasted five seconds,
enough time for Little Sugar Ray to flick a jab
and for Phil to easily slip that jab.
Enough time for Phil to truck that kid into the earth,
foolish pride pancaked into the dirt.
Enough time for Phil to extract respect
unfortunately-timed, along with his pound of flesh.
The entourage ooohed and ahhed at total domination.
Itching to jump Phil, they peeked at my glare,
and wisely remained rooted as spectators.
“That’s enough.” I said.
Phil released the poor kid with a resounding warning;
“That’s what you get! Now stop fucking with me!”
As we turned for home and our cartoons,
Little Not So Sugar Ray, in a face-saving measure
pushed Phil in the back.
Incredulous, Phil balled up his rage into tiny fists,
made a move towards the kid, hesitated,
and then looked again towards me for approval.
I shrugged, and Phil dropped him again.
We missed the beginning of ThunderCats,
but I don’t recall any of the neighborhood kids
pushing Phil’s buttons anymore after that.
Written for my little brother, oldest, bestest friend, and my most trusted male human on the whole muthaphuckin planet, Phillip T. Dawson. Phil turned 36 today. Happy Birthday, Old Man! Tip one back for me! Love you, man.