Back in the seventies, when a two-tone brown polyester/acrylic wool scarf was fashionable, my doting sister knitted me one for Christmas. Diligently, she repeated the knit-one-pearl-one process, in all likelihood for a week or two longer than necessary for an eight or nine year old boy, but I wore it proudly nonetheless. I’d wrap it around my neck two or three times and still have enough left over for the neighbor’s German Shepherd to chase and use to take me down, and he did so on multiple occasions.
What I really wanted was a white silk aviators scarf, just like the Red Baron, to go with the mini bike I really, REALLY, wanted, but that’s not how Christmas worked in my adolescent time slot in Coledump PA..
Back then there was some secret code that changed continually. It was invented by the Navajo Indians. The same Navajo that worked for the US government during World War II, in fact. If you asked Santa for a mini bike, he’d bring a harmonica. If you asked for a genuine Cox engine powered VW dune buggy, he brought you a plastic Snoopy trash can for your room. I’d spend all year trying to break the code, to unravel the mystery of what gift to ask for that would actually turn out to be a mini bike on Christmas morning.
I never cracked the code and the last Navajo code-talker took it to the grave with him this year.
Mark Bondi had a mini bike. It was his older brother Mike who had one first and Mark, an oversize genetic oddity with enormous earlobes, fabricated tears to his widower dad who cracked like the thin ice of November and bought him one too. It was a two stroke, 5 horsepower Go-Devil!. Fitting. It was bright red. It even folded up into itself in a little square box and came with a nerdy plastic carrying case with the Go-Devil! Logo emblazoned across the front. But who was I to judge? I’d have taken it and the nerdy plastic carrying bag in a second!
It was early January, one late gray afternoon and school had just come back into session that I was leaving late with my buddy Clyde. We had to stay late and clean the room for Mrs. Matthews because Clyde had just taught me how to fart using just my hand and armpit. The longer I practiced, the sweatier my armpit grew, the wetter and longer the fabricated farts became.
It wasn’t until our laughter elevated to the point of cyclic redundancy and was deemed out of control and disruptive that we were marched out of class for a visit with Mrs. Jones, the kindergarten teacher and principle.
Emptying trash cans and washing the chalk boards was my first introduction to an administrative vocation and in all likelihood, saved me from working my life away in the welding factory years later as I reflected on my options. The chalky water streaking down the blackboard was therapeutic and in fact the final result of that clean slate served as my introduction to the literary term metaphor.
As we left Lincoln Elementary, a stucco two story box that was built around the same time we as a nation acquired the Statue of Liberty, and entered the black dirt and rusted pipes that served as our playground we heard the sound of the Go Devil!. In a cloud of cold January black dust, an over-sized, rubber cartoon boy was speeding toward us.
“Crap”, said Clyde, his voice trailing off, “Bondi..”
Mark Bondi sped up and just dropped the little Go-Devil on its side. It lay there whimpering pathetically. My heart went out to it. “I’ll take you home, little mini bike.” I communicated to it telepathically. “I’d wash you and oil you and keep you shiny and never let you..”
Wham! I was brought back to my senses by a cuff to the side of both my head and Clyde’s by a huge wet mitten.
“Hey dingle-berry” Mark shouted inches from Clyde’s face, “Repeat after me” I….AM…A…TRIPLE…..DIPPER….FARRRT!”
He had Clyde by the lapels and was shaking him and he said this. Clyde, who grew up in horseshoe alley with his big brothers Ricky and Randy, and Newton, Dippy all the other lead-paint, mouth breathing, rabble, knew the drill. You just repeated the sentence. His voice sounded like ones might when trying to talk while riding the grocery store penny pony or when your brother is sitting on you pounding on your chest and making you sing a song.
Dutifully, he repeated the sentence and his penance was served. Then Bondi set his sights on me.
“HEY GOOGLEHEIMER, YOU FOUR-EYED ZOO FREAK. REPEAT AFTER ME! I. AM. A .TRIPLE. DIPPER. FART!"
I obliged. “You are a triple dipper fart", I said quietly. Bondi sputtered.
“What did you say you little turd? OK. Listen. Repeat after me. YOU are a triple dipper fart.”
At fourteen, he was still struggling to grasp the advanced concepts of sarcasm and satire and of the English language.
"YOU are a triple dipper fart."
That’s when he grabbed the scarf. He launched into a short diatribe of the stupidity of a scarf, and how’s it color resembled different diarrea shades of what I was made of. Time and time again, he altered between telling me to repeat the sentence I am a triple dipper fart. NO! Say.. YOU are a triple dipper fart.
Each time the alternating I am (first-person singular); you are/thou art (second-person singular); came back around like a boomerang to hit him in the side of his rubber cartoon head, he’d take a break. With both hands, he'd grab my scarf and start spinning around. He would swing me in circles, me running on my tip-toes to keep myself from auguring into the black dirt.
Each time I resisted, the circle grew a little wider as the acrylic/polyester scarf found new limits and grew longer. He’d reel me back in and ask the question and each time my answer would be the same. YOU are a triple dipper fart.
My neck was the color of the Go-Devil! when his arms finally got too tired to continue. He shoved me to the ground and picked up the little Go-Devil!, and sped off. Defeated.
The Christmas scarf had grown to fifteen feet. Clyde celebrated the victory in my honor, making me laugh with dozens of long sweaty armpit farts all the way through Horseshoe alley, which was still decorated with Christmas lights.
We kept a close watch out for the Badwack twins however.