There was a period of time, just before I became a teen, that whenever I was in the den — usually enjoying John Wayne dispatch enemy soldiers, Kirk Douglas secure the West, or Errol Flynn vanquish pirates on the high seas — my brother would walk right in and immediately turn the channel. Usually to a Yankees game.
Author Eric Mondschein
Inevitably, and nearly every Sunday afternoon, this scene would play out the same way. After Jeff would turn the channel, he would simply sit down. My shock (which diminished the more frequently this occurred) would turn to anger and I would demand that he turn it back to my show. After all, I had been there first.
Having made my demands clear without moving from my chair, Jeff would just look at me and smile. Then, in a voice sure to reach the ears of our mom, he would cry out: “Rick! Stop hitting me! That hurts!”
I wish I were making this up. But alas, that is exactly what he would say. And like an avenging angel, my mom would come swooping in and demand to know why I had assaulted my helpless little brother.
When she got there, Jeff would be holding his arm and whimpering. It was quite a performance; I’ll give him that. I would be told to go to my room.
Oh, the injustice!
Now, when Mom was not there, my brother had a similar ploy, but with a twist. He would come into the room, of course, and turn the channel. But with no parental sympathy to garner, he would walk up and smack me as hard as he could on the arm . . . and then run to the hall bathroom and lock the door.
This went on for quite a while, until one day, when the tables of fortune turned. Dad was away on a business trip. Mom had to run to the store, and told me that I should let Jeff know as much when he came inside. I can still remember smiling as I realized all the possibilities this situation presented.
Leaving the Duke to fight the Confederacy with out me, I left the den and headed to the hall bathroom. I went in, closed the door, and locked it behind me. Then, I carefully climbed out the window and walked back into the house and into the den.
The house at 12 College Road.
I didn’t have to wait long. Soon enough, my brother came flying into the room and asked where my Mom was. As I told him, he looked at me and grinned a grin that only the wicked can. He walked over to the television and actually said, “See ya, Duke!” Then he switched it to the Yankees–White Sox game, smacked me in the shoulder as hard as he could, and took off for that hall bathroom.
I got up and headed after him, but this time, I did not run in hot pursuit. I walked slowly and deliberately, enjoying each step, as I got closer. As I turned the corner and entered that enclosed space with the door to the bathroom dead ahead, there was my brother. He was bent over, whimpering, trying unsuccessfully to open the locked door.
As I approached him, I realized that there was nothing I needed to say or do. I laid my hand on his shoulder, felt him cringe, and said: “I’ll leave you to unlocking the door before Mom gets home. You’ll have to go through the window.” He slowly nodded in agreement.
I returned to the den and flipped the channel back to the Duke, just as he and his men destroyed a railroad and supply depot at Newton Station. After that day, I didn’t have to worry about my brother changing the channel. Not without asking me first, of course.
Eric’s book, from which this is an excerpt, is “Life at 12 College Road.”