Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Domestic Disturbance: My True-Life Adventure in Sibling Rivalry by John Phythyon

Domestic Disturbance: My True-Life Adventure in Sibling Rivalry by John Phythyon
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All's not quiet on the home front.
Young children adore their parents. How they feel about their siblings is another matter.

John Phythyon had an idyllic life until the day they brought him home. The arrival of a Little Brother turned his tranquil existence into a non-stop competition for their parents' attention, for control of the television on Saturday mornings, and to determine once and for all who was the superior brother.

In his third comical mini-memoir, Phythyon turns his absurdist pen to reminiscing about how he and brother Dave teamed up to dominate the neighborhood in baseball, battled over toys at home, and managed to organize an all-out playground war between the fourth and third grades at school just to establish which brother was greater. A quick read, "Domestic Disturbance" will convince you that "brotherly love" is truly a complicated phrase.


There are other advantages to having a Little Brother besides teaming up against the neighborhood. Sometimes, he can get you out of a sticky situation at school.
I was a pretty smart-mouthed, sassy kid in those days. I frequently said conceited things that irritated others, and my tongue had a tendency to write checks my butt couldn’t cash.
When I was in third grade, this behavior got me sideways with a girl named Kristen. I don’t really remember what happened. I didn’t interact with her much. She was in my class. She was also one of the smart kids. But we didn’t have a lot of contact.
Somehow, though, I’d made her really mad, and she decided she was going to teach me a lesson. She demanded to fight me. A giant gang of third-graders surrounded us, and this one was not ending until one of us was on the ground, humiliated.
I was terrified. First of all, I’d always been taught not to hit girls. Boys didn’t do that sort of thing. How could I win a fight with her if I wasn’t allowed to punch her?
Secondly, I wasn’t sure I could take her.
She was angrier than a hornet and was determined to make me pay for whatever it was I’d done. I wasn’t that good a fighter to begin with. I didn’t know what to do.
“I don’t hit girls,” I said, trying to sound confident and defuse the situation.
“Then I guess you’re gonna get beat up,” she retorted.
Now I was in a real panic. She’d called my bluff. I either had to try to fight her or let her pummel me. I didn’t like either of those options.
But sometimes, inspiration hits like lightning at just the right moment. There was no way out of this, but maybe I could prevent it from being a total disaster.
“If you’re so determined to fight,” I said, “then you need to let me get someone to fight for me. I won’t hit a girl.”
My mad plan worked. Kristen was willing to accept my proxy.
“I’ll be right back,” I said.
I was allowed out of the circle, and I dashed across the playground to where the second-graders played. I found Dave and explained the situation to him.
Understanding people is a critical skill for success in life, and I understood Dave pretty well then. Because he was smaller than a lot of the other kids in his class and our neighborhood, he had a chip on his shoulder to prove he was tougher than anyone else. I suspect my continual efforts to dominate him contributed to this Little Man’s Disease as well.
Regardless, I knew Dave was always eager to prove he was tougher than anyone else and that he scoffed at the usual rules. A frequent visitor to the principal’s office, he had a natural contempt for authority. Plus, he was always willing to defend me, despite the fact that I treated him so poorly.
So I knew when I went to find him that, while I might not be willing to hit a girl, Dave certainly was.
I returned to the ring with Dave in tow. Kristen looked him up and down dismissively.
“He’ll fight you,” I said.
She looked him over again while the crowd awaited her judgment anxiously. Kristen nodded and set up in a fighting stance. I stepped back as the circle closed around Dave.
“Okay, let’s go,” Kristen said.
Dave belted her in the nose.
Kristen went down immediately, grabbing her face. Tears streamed from her eyes, whether from crying or just from being punched in the nose, I didn’t know. A gasp went through the crowd. My mouth fell open in shock and delight.
Kristen didn’t get up. Dave turned and walked away wordlessly as though nothing of any significance had happened. I made myself scarce before Kristen’s friends could inflict any sort of revenge on me.
Nine years later, Kristen was elected homecoming queen at De Pere High School. From that point forward, the story became known as The Day Dave Punched out The Homecoming Queen.

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