After some cussing, the inevitable "After school!"
was pronounced by one of us and it was on! So
after a particularly distractive day at school, I
walked down the steps of Jay Neff with my
cadre of friends following me in search of Dave
Morton. We walked to where all fights are held,
an alley across the street from the ball field that
leads to Dormont Junction. Surprisingly, to me,
Dave was standing there with his friends. As I
walked past him I expected to get out of view
of the school before commencing but Dave had
other ideas and gave me a hard shove from
behind. I turned in time to see his right fist
coming at me. I ducked. He swung again.
I ducked again. I got my dukes up just in time
to receive one of his sidewinders in the ear.
At the time, I was about 5'-4" tall and pushing
about 110 lbs. Dave was 5'-10" and 155 lbs.
I started to question my judgment of "picking
on" a much bigger opponent.
I had one thing going for me, a bad temper. A
punch in the ear is one way to set it off. I knew
that if I stood there and tried to box him like a
gentlemen his long reach would do me in quick.
There was only one thing to do; I lunged into
his body, lifted his legs from behind and pile
drove him into the ground. His height had
been negated and I gave him two quick jabs
into his jaw. He rolled me over and banged
my head on the ground. I thought,"Oh, it's
going to be one of those fights!" One where
the rules of gentlemanly conduct has been toss
aside for eye gouges, head bouncing and knees
to the privates. I jammed my thumb into his
right eye and regained my advantage. Over
and over this kind of fisticuffs went on as we
matriculated our way down the alley.
Our six or seven friends each had now grown into a mob. Thirty or forty kids were now following
the fight screaming for blood, and we gave it to them. Dave cut me above the eye with a punch and
I bloodied his lip with an elbow. I connected with a straight punch to his nose and it started to flow.
The huge dog behind the cyclone fence in that alley gave everyone a start when it crashed into the
fence bellowing at the commotion. Dave kicked me in gut and on and on it went. We had now
made it to the corner of Dell Avenue and the battle raged on. We've been fighting for what
seemed like hours, neither giving in just flailing and falling. People were stopping in their cars and
watching. We traded blow after blow as we flipped and faltered our way down Dell.
Then I saw my Brother Gary! I thought, Finally! Someone who could put a stop to this madness!
Gary & Eddie Contestible were out cruising around after high school when they stumbled onto to
the melee. Then I heard Gary's voice shout, "Punch him in the eye!" Dave & I just shook our
heads and went back at it. Our limbs were so tired and we were now hanging on each other so
much it looked like we were in love! My head felt like a bursting thermometer and the numb feeling
of my whole body made me impervious to any additional pain. To his credit, Dave didn't give up
either. This Greek tragedy of will echoed the battle of Achilles & Hector at Troy.
As we breached the corner of Grandin Avenue, I gave one final push of adrenalin and gave him a
"Green Bus Ride" into the jagger bushes. Covered in jaggers, bleeding from every orifice I gave him
the ultimate choice of a no-win exit, "Ya give?" Dave looked up from the bottom of the bush,
exasperated, tired, oh so tired and resigned to his fate, "Sure." If he had asked me the same
question ten minutes earlier, he would have won. But, as they say, history is written by the victors.
I rode off on the shoulders of my friends. Dave just got up and walked home, probably thinking he
won. I don't blame him.
Jay Neff Middle School, a way station for kids between childhood and puberty. The place
where three different school districts are to coalesce into one big happy family before the rigors of
high school, grades seven & eight. A whole school dedicated to these two awkward grades filled
with teenage angst and percolating sexual awareness. This is where it all happens; your first
serious girlfriend/boyfriend, your first big dance, your first foray into civil disobedience or just
disobedience and the first realization that you are just a number. It was also the place where a fight
became a life and death struggle.
At Jay Neff there were fights almost daily. Dormont kids fought Greentree kids, Castle Shannon
kids fought Greentree kids, Castle Shannon kids fought Dormont kids, Dormont kids fought
Dormont kids. Mostly Dormont kids from one side of West Liberty fought Dormont kids from the
other side. But, occasionally, Dormont kids from the same side of West Liberty would fight. This is
where I come in.
There was this kid named Dave Morton. Dave and I went to school together at Kelton and never
had a problem. Dave was a tall, skinny kid with hair like Eraserhead. I was short with hair like a
rat's nest. They called me "Little Hurricane" because my hair always looked like I just came out
of a hurricane. Well, one day, Dave and I got into a heated argument in the school cafeteria; over...
um...I really don't know? I'm sure it was important at the time...maybe it wasn't. I'd been in a
couple of fights before but, I wasn't one to go looking for a fight. Neither was Dave. So, it had to
be over the last slice of pizza or something of equal importance.
|Jay Neff Middle School