My best friend is named Bismarck. One may think that a funny name, as it evokes an old man in a pointy hat with a ridiculous moustache. But it suits him well, and he doesn’t have a pointy hat – at least that I know of! It suits him because he is ever so clever at strategy and diplomacy. Besides, he also likes to eat, much as the real Bismarck liked pate ever so much. He’s roughly my height, somewhere around six feet – the exact number is really immaterial, stocky, and with piercing blue eyes and a ready smile. Both of us shared the same middle name, along with our other friend – Senor Inteligente.
At this point, everyone – savvy or not has noted my not so clever use of pseudonyms for myself and my characters. Clearly, I have a variety of reasons for this deception – the only one I will intentionally engage in during this narrative. The most important one is that despite being my good friends, I would not wish to tar them with the same disreputable brush as I will paint myself with, and as such, will keep them anonymous.
In any case, Bismarck is always of the opinion that my troublesome past began quite early. It’s his opinion that it all began one day in the sixth grade. Now, for reasons that my lawyer knows best, I’m not going to divulge my age here, but I will assure you that I was in the sixth grade quite a long time ago. Bismarck loves this story; he never hesitates to tell it, well, just about anywhere. Me, I’m impartial to it. I think I’ve heard his version so many times; it has sort of lost its meaning. In any case, he thinks that it all began when we were in the Sixth Grade, one day when after class, I was annoyed with him, so I tried to kick him. Not using my head, I tried to kick him through the large plastic case that held his saxophone, thus spraining my foot and causing him hours of hilarity.
Several days later, I was nursing my sore foot at home under the tyrannical oppression of my parents, meaning that I was being lazy by playing computer games. Bismarck is of the opinion – even though he wasn’t there – that my mother had come in six to seven times to tell me to do some yard work, when I snapped. In reality, it was twice, but I suppose the result is the same. My mother had wanted me to trim our rosebushes down for the winter. The stems of a rosebush need to be drastically cut down for the winter season. In any case, the exact repartee that went between my mother and I being immaterial, I stomped off outside in a rage – because eleven year olds in America have so much to be angry about – and this is where Bismarck’s story and mine coincide.
I could have trimmed the stalks down; I had the loppers; it would have been quite easy – all too easy, one could say. Instead, being in a towering rage for no real reason other than parental nagging, I cut everything down. I cut the plants all the way down to the ground. And then, if you prefer Bismarck’s version of the story, I went inside, and said something like “The damn plants are trimmed” or “How’s that for yard work” or something equally snappy. In reality, I went inside and went about my business like nothing had happened – until the screams began from my mother. The result was the same, as Bismarck gleefully likes to relate: I was grounded for a very, very, long time. And that, according to him, is where I really went wrong.
Personally, I find the anecdote non-probative of anything; well, maybe a innate loathing of roses because of all the yard work I had to do with them. Where I think I went off the tracks was at a birthday party of a friend much later. I was newly sixteen, and had an invitation to a party for a friend of mine, the Gardener. I labeled him the Gardener because he later supposedly worked at the Playboy Mansion as a Gardener. But at that time, he was not nearly that cool. Bismarck and Sr. Inteligente had declined to even attend the party, which left me with one close friend there – the Doctor. The Doctor was at that time, gangly and tall, with a mop of brown hair and a light pickup truck. Even though he didn’t become a Doctor until a long time after, it was one of those career conclusions that everyone knew, even back then. It was his destiny – he couldn’t escape it even if he wanted to.
The Doctor and I went way back, to Junior High, where he and I would ride bikes, walk, and taunt each other mercilessly on the way to and from school. Once we turned sixteen, the taunting took a moronic turn, as we both would quasi-race our respective jalopies on the way to school. With crude hand-written signs pressed up against the windows, we would trash-talk back and forth at the stoplights. His assessment of the Gardener’s party, however, was the same as mine. It stunk. Unfortunately, we were there all night, and for most of the next day. As dawn rose, the conclusion had slipped into all of the revelers minds that the party was a failure, and the Gardener – as well as everyone else wracked their sleep deprived brains for a plan to do something fun.