The Wall

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By the time I was around 12 years old, I was pretty much known in school as the kid who could draw.

Other guys were always asking me to draw stuff for them–like sports cars or jet planes–or monsters or aliens. I liked the attention it gave me and I savored it for every one of the ten seconds or so that it lasted.

But aside from Hughie, I still didn’t have any friends. And half the time, I wasn’t even sure about him. I don’t blame him, really. After all, he didn’t really need me to pal around with, he had five brothers. And then, as if the deck wasn’t stacked against me enough already, along came “Richard”. He was a kid our age who moved in right next door to Hughie. If Hughie felt like doing something with someone outside of his own family, all he had to do was walk outside and go next door to Richard’s house. His new friend even had my name!

Hank and Harry, the two juvenile delinquents who lived on either side of me, were around 16 years old by then, and way too old for me to be palling around with. I also knew there was zero chance that Hughie would ever call me up and ask me to do anything, especially now that he had Richard. So most of the time, even though it made me feel like a loser, I still went over to Hughie’s, every time I wanted someone to hang out with.

But so did Richard. He was usually already there when I arrived. I started to get the feeling that Hughie couldn’t have cared less one way or the other whether I was over there or not. And I’m sure I was right.

One day, when I was in a pre-emptive mood regarding Richard, I called Hughie up on the telephone and asked him if he wanted to go to the movies. His answer was vague—and left me intellectually and emotionally stymied. He merely said, “I don’t know”. “I don’t know……” It was a simple enough answer, but somehow, I just couldn’t handle it. What could I say? I didn’t know how to respond to him.

So I hung up. 

So most of the time, I just stayed home after school and drew pictures in my room. Mostly on the cardboard “shirt-backs” that came with my father’s freshly-laundered and folded shirts.

Horror movies and science fiction movies were all the rage in those days and both scared and fascinated me.

I had also become somewhat obsessed with a magazine called “Famous Monsters of Filmland”, by Forest J Ackerman. It was mostly reprints of movie stills with pictures of Frankenstein, The Werewolf, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Robbie The Robot from “Forbidden Planet” and others. 

My father worked as a telegrapher for the railroad, and voluminous information concerning the identity of various passenger trains, as well as the arrival, departure and contents of thousands of freight cars would be printed out constantly onto big rolls of yellow paper. When the rolls began to run out the color of the paper would change to pink. That way, the operators knew to change the roll, so all of the information which was being transmitted would be printed by the Teletype machines and the machines would not be tapping away on an empty roll. My father had grown up in a family that had seen hard times come and go and he was not raised to be wasteful. So instead of throwing away perfectly good rolls of pink paper that he had removed from the machines, he’d bring them home to me to draw on. He even showed me how to use a ruler to tear off pieces of paper from the rolls, so that each sheet would have a nice straight edge. Consequently, there was never any shortage of art supplies around the Parker household.

By the time I was 12, all the walls in my room were completely covered with my drawings of monsters on pink paper. It was my first art exhibit. 

One day there was a knock at the door.

Nina, the “maid”, a wonderful woman, whom I loved very much, and who worked for us, and took care of my grandmother, answered the door. Thirty seconds later, she appeared at the door of my bedroom with a somewhat strange look on her face. “Ricky, there are some boys here and they want to see you.” This was the best news I had ever heard up to this point in my life. Finally, not just one boy had come over to play with me, but a whole army of boys were at the door. They marched right in.
I was ecstatic.
My heart was racing. At long last, I would have my own friends. My excitement was somewhat diminished when I realized that they hadn’t exactly come to see me, what they had really come to see was my room and all the drawings on the wall. For a few happy minutes, seven or eight boys from my class were crowded into my bedroom and admiring my drawings of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein and the Mummy, and Lon Chaney as the Wolfman. Then, as the last set of eyes turned from looking at an eyeball dangling from a skull or a stitched up cranium, and turned instead toward the door, I knew it was all over. I realized that not only was I not the subject of their interest, but even my exhibit was only a brief stop along the way to their real destination.
They were headed to Daffin Park to the Kiddie Fair. Someone mentioned, almost as an afterthought, that I was “welcome to join them” and so I excitedly tagged along trying hard to keep up with the leaders up near the front of the pack. I had been to the fair before. It was a small amusement park with rides and cotton candy. Lots of fun, but not nearly as big as the one on the outskirts of town, The Coastal Empire Fair, which was held every October and even had dead babies in jars. No sooner had we arrived at the small fair than our leader, spotted several attractive teenage girls and made a lewd hand gesture in their direction and addressed them in a most shocking and direct way in what I thought was a highly inappropriate manner. I immediately got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Who were these people?
What had I gotten myself into?
I wasn’t ready for this.
As the other boys drifted toward the girls or blended into the big crowd of people at the fair I slowly dropped out, turned around and walked home all by myself, only too happy to return to the comfortable solitude of my lonely room.
And there I stayed– happy, safe and quite secure in my own little world.

 

 

 

One thought on “The Wall”

  1. This is one of my favorite of your stories, if not *the* favorite, even tho it’s so sad. Or perhaps because it’s so sad. I really feel for this lonely kid whose art was his most reliable friend.

    Like

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