Dear Jon Pack,
Sorry for using you as a moving target.
It happened pretty regularly for a while there that summer, 1981 or 1982, I’d think — when you were eight and I was ten, or you were nine and I was eleven. It was a game we invented, your older brother Chris and I.
We played in my backyard, which was just a couple backyards away from your backyard, with a Frisbee (thank god, as opposed to say, a baseball, or rocks, or lawn darts.) It was like monkey in the middle. Except that rather than try to catch the Frisbee, the person in the middle tried to dodge it, or at the very least block it, because the other two people were throwing it as hard as they could, aiming for the head. There was no way for the person in the middle to ever get out of the middle, either. And you were always the person in the middle. Because Chis and I were cruel.
Of course, for boys our age, cruelty was the natural order of things. Older kids in the neighborhood were certainly cruel to us. I can still taste the handfuls of grass that Karl Torchia used to make me eat, still feel his knees pinning my shoulders to the ground. I can still hear Ryan Mingo’s voice telling me I looked like a “queer bait” one Halloween around that time (he and Michael Peterson were trick-or-treating in normal clothes, having outgrown costumes) and the sudden embarrassment I felt about the toupees I’d glued to the top of my bedroom slippers, so as make for a more realistic Hobbit. How proud I’d been of the idea up to that moment.
Shit runs downhill, as they say. Being Chris’s little brother, all you wanted in the world was to hang out with him. And being your older brother, only a very small part of what Chris wanted in the world was to hang out with you. Chris and I were best friends, and we spent a lot of time telling you to buzz off. You were persistent, though, and had the backing of your mom, who of course wanted us to let you hang around. So we established these conditions — you being a moving target — as the only ones under which we allowed you to play with us.
You went along willingly for the most part, just happy to be included. But the Frisbee we used was one those big, heavy-test ones — a black Wham-o World Class model, I remember, with the globe print in the center, 175 grams, I think. Maybe 200. It hurt when it hit, which made the game more interesting. You had a strong incentive to try hard. And you were good, too! I remember some impressive jukes and leaps and dives. But you could only dodge for so long. Eventually, you’d tire, and we’d hit you and you’d fall down in a heap and cry. And we’d celebrate. And then sometimes one of us would get the Frisbee from where it had landed after bouncing off of you and throw it at you and hit you again while you were lying there. There’s a reason younger siblings are usually tougher people, probably better people in lots of ways, than their older brothers and sisters.
I hope you look back at the Frisbee human target game we used to play and smile rather than shudder. I hope it’s not a source of any lingering pain. If it is, again, sorry. But I doubt it’s anything too heavy. Karl Torchia just Facebook friended me a couple days ago. I don’t think I’ve spoken to him in, God, 25 years. It was nice to see his picture. He has some cute kids.