Saturday, September 29, 2012
the Hemlock Block (work in progress)
We weren't much too look at, especially in the way of intimidation, but we were confident that anyone, 5th grade and below, would run the other direction at the mere mention of any one of our names or especially our collective name, the Hemlock Block. Note: It is unlikely that you would ever hear someone call us by our collective name, Hemlock Block, because those in the group were the only people who referred to us as such. The Hemlock Block, cleverly named because we all lived on the same block off of a road named Hemlock, (also the street where the elementary school was located) consisted of 4 members.
Tony was a pale, freckle-faced kid who was rarely found without his hair slicked back plastered to his head, parted on the middle, comb in pocket. He had moved to the block only a year ago, about 6 months before myself, and was probably the closest thing we had to a leader. His Boston accent made him difficult to understand at times and, we thought, made him sound like a baby, though we would never say it to his face. We saw Tony pull the wings off of a butterfly once and knew that someone who could do something like that was no one to mince words with. He even swore that had a tattoo and though I never did see it, I knew it was there. I had no reason to believe he would lie about something like that.
Brandon was the muscle of the operation and though each of our lips were often soaked in profanity, he had the dirtiest mouth of all. He was responsible for introducing us to the newest and filthiest curse words we had ever heard and he never fell short of his duty. His knees and elbows were always scraped up with tattered jeans, always torn out at the knees. His hair was short, dark, coarse, disheveled, and littered with dirt and twigs from backyard football games and climbing trees. It also wasn't uncommon for Brando to have a bruise on his face or ribs from the winning end of some schoolyard disagreement.
Junior was a lanky Mexican kid who belonged to a 12 child family. It is only significant to note the number of children in his family because we were often joined by one or more of his younger siblings. He had lived in town the longest though he was definitely not the leader of the pack. He did, however, know the best places in town to cause mischief. He was much taller than the rest of us. He had a chipped front tooth and thick, dark eyebrows, even at a young age. His solution to the cowlick on his front hairline was to bleach out the hair along his forehead and stick it straight up in the front of his head.
It wasn't until halfway though summer before middle school when we added Tim to our group. The 4 original members of Hemlock Block were at the lake, throwing stones in the water wherever we saw someone fishing when Tim walked over with a slingshot. He stretched out his hand and offered me the slingshot.
"Wanna try it?" he offered.
"Hell yes!" I replied enthusiastically. He helped me strap the sling to my forearm, demonstrated some technique pointers and suggested the best size and weight for the perfect launch. This had peaked the interest of my fellow comrades who flocked over to see the new toy and introduce themselves to the stranger who had blessed us with a new, improved way to annoy the fishermen at the lake.
It was this type of gentlemanly gesture that made it easy to fall for Tim. His bright blue eyes and blonde hair didn't make it too difficult either. Other than Junior, I'd never seen such a tall 6th grader.