At the Northwest corner of Terry Street and Old 41 is a building that used to be a Standard Oil gas station. It was my and my buddy’s favorite place to hang out after elementary school. We would each scrape up enough money to buy an ice cold coke and a package of peanuts, then sit together on the raised concrete stoop in front of the station and watch the world drift by while we goofed on each other, laughed and prepared ourselves for home. We just thought we were having fun, but our experiences there changed who we would become… in ways we could never imagine.
It was the fall of 63 and as I plopped down next to my friends it seemed like just another typical day after school. I ripped a corner off a package of peanuts, dumped a dose of salty deliciousness into my mouth and closed my eyes as I quickly crunched them up, chasing them down with the ice-cold tangy sweetness of a King Sized Coke. I swallowed, savoring the fizzy combination of flavors. “Ahhhhh…” I said looking over at my buddy Paul Fisher. As usual, he had immediately gulped down half of his coke, tore open his bag of peanuts and haphazardly poured them into the bottle, like he was loading a BB gun. I shook my head and wrinkled up my nose. “Man… are you strange!” Billy, sitting on the other side of him agreed. “Yeah, what the heck’s wrong with you Fisher?” Paul put his thumb over the end of the bottle, frowned and began shaking it vigorously. “Shut up!” Paul said without looking up. He held on tight as the coke went through a controlled explosion, spewing some of the soda and peanuts all over him. As soon as it stopped fizzing he tilted the bottle up, poured whatever the heck it had become into his mouth and then chewed calmly while he sat there staring straight ahead. “You guys just don’t know what’s good.”
Although the station was owned and operated by Mack Alverez, a fellow named Ted seemed to be there all the time. He occasionally pumped gas for people, but we couldn’t tell if he actually worked there. He mostly sat around telling bad jokes and attempting to freak us out by saying weird stuff.
This particular day, Ted, who was the oldest looking person I had ever seen, hobbled over and then just stood there hunched over looking down at us. We all stopped talking and stared at him. He had about three teeth, so it was always difficult to tell if he was grinning or sneering. (I think he was sneering this time.) As he looked back and forth at us, his freaky little fishing hat pulled too far forward on his head, he pulled out a tiny little pocket knife, opened it and made what were evidently meant to be threatening gestures at us. Then he turned towards me. “You want me to slice your tongue and run your leg through it?” Because he wore old bent up wire rimmed glasses that were about an inch thick and you couldn’t see his eyes, I really wasn’t all that sure he was talking to me, so I swallowed my last sip of soda and pointed my thumb at my chest. “What…You mean me?” He made a little lunge towards me and swiped the 2″ long blade in the air. “YEAH, I mean you!” I stared at him for a moment with a puzzled look on my face then shook my head. “Nope!” Then I turned towards Billy and casually motioned towards him with my empty bottle. “But I bet Billy would like that!” “WHAT???” yelled Billy, immediately jumping up. Paul started to laugh, which would have been fine except he had a mouth full of his special snack mixture and as Ted began making his way towards Billy a stream of coke and peanuts suddenly began “fire hosing” out of his nose.
Apparently, this took the old man by surprise, because he began stumbling backwards… A look of horror on his face that even his hat, glasses and lack of discernible teeth, couldn’t hide. Neither Paul nor Billy got to see Teds reaction, because Billy was already half way home and Paul was in a panic… frantically trying to dislodge the jet propelled peanuts that had lodged themselves in his nose.
I don’t doubt that Paul and Billy remember this story differently, but Paul has had sinus and migraine problems his entire adult life. I’m betting they are peanut related.