The Way Things Utilized To Be, Marble Season

A new guy by the name of Barry Bogardus had moved into the neighborhood and he and his friend Kenny Nails would come round, hands in the pockets of their camel’s hair overcoats, sneering at us and producing entertaining of the way we looked or dressed.

They had been specially critical of Cedric. “Tell your footwear to have a celebration and invite your pants down,” they’d say, or they’d contact him ‘Seedric,’ which they thought was specifically hilarious. They’d dig their hands into their overcoat pockets, press their feet with each other, bend their knees and rotate their hips side to side like windshield wipers to show how hard they had been laughing.

Cedric just stood, mouth half-open, looking stunned. But his mouth was constantly half-open he constantly looked stunned. We’d noticed that and way the expression on his face by no means changed, but figured it was since he didn’t want to make his mother more nervous about him than she already was. We by no means talked about it, but it got on Barry Bogardus’s nerves, and anything that bothered Bogardus bothered Kenny Nails.

Barry was fourteen and huge and robust and had a spike haircut on leading and lengthy hair on the sides slicked back into a ‘duck’s-ass.’ None of us had ever observed a haircut like that prior to, or teen-aged boys in camel’s hair overcoats, pegged gray flannel trousers and black loafers with shiny quarters stuck in the straps either. We believed of them as a main new encounter for the neighborhood, simply because we didn’t know the Germans were gassing Jews at Auschwitz or that their submarines have been sinking our ships off our coast or that they’d launched their attack on Stalingrad.

Kenny Nails had a hard face, spoke without having moving his lips, and often had a cigarette dangling from his mouth movie gangster-style. We weren’t afraid of him, but Barry’s father was a big bookmaker, Barry was on the football group at Horace Mann and had already beaten up two guys from Columbus Avenue. Everybody was afraid of Barry like me.

One day he and Kenny Nails had been watching Cedric pick up marbles and stick them into his side pocket and I saw Bogardus whisper one thing. Kenny Nails nodded and did his windshield wiper laugh.

Bogardus walked over to exactly where Cedric was sitting on the curb and kicked the toe of his black loafer into Cedric’s bulging marble pocket. The complete big bulge erupted forth and marbles went bouncing all across 88th Street.

“Hock scramble!” a kid named Red referred to as and the marble shooters ran more than to snatch Cedric’s marbles. If nobody called “hock scramble” you had been supposed to give them back, but when somebody referred to as it you have been permitted to hold any you picked up. It was a rule meant for when youngsters dropped a few marbles accidentally. No one had ever intentionally kicked a kid’s pocket ahead of and no prior hock scramble had ever been on anything like that scale.

Bogardus and Kenny Nails shoved their hands into their overcoat pockets, bent their knees and shook their hips to laugh at the little ones diving for Cedric’s marbles, and at the nonetheless blank expression on Cedric’s face. That created me hate Barry as significantly as I hated the Japs and Germans. A guy his size and age wasn’t supposed to kick the pocket of a kid Cedric’s size. But I was afraid to say something so I just picked up as numerous as I could and gave them back to Cedric.

He didn’t protest his blank expression did not change. From then on, he just kept his pocket zipped. He picked up marbles, held them in his tan woolen glove, looked round for Bogardus, Kenny Nails or any other possible pocket-kicker. If the coast was clear, he unzipped his pocket, put in the marbles and zipped it up again.

It reminded me of what Blue Book had said about children with cigar boxes turning into bankers. I could not see Cedric as a banker, but I could see him as the proprietor of a drug shop in a negative neighborhood. If he got held up, he wouldn’t protest the expression on his face wouldn’t modify. He’d just lock the door, and from that time on, open it only for consumers he recognized.
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