It is 1944 in Ontario, Canada, and Scotty is fifteen. World War II is coming to an end, although the war has left countless scars on Canadian families and the world at large. Scotty has his own problems at home, including an alcoholic father and the fear of being stuck as a small-town nobody his whole life. He can't wait to turn sixteen.
Once he's sixteen, he'll be able to go his own way. Maybe he'll drop out of high school. Maybe he'll get a job at General Motors, since the Canadian headquarters are located in his hometown. He has friends to back him up-guys like Neil-the-Wheel, Georgie-boy, Joey, and Rick-the-dick. Together, these guys find their ways into adulthood.
Scotty grows up. He soon finds himself involved with the local United Auto Workers union. He still looks over his shoulder in remembrance of the past, but as a young man, his life is open before him. Will he grow up to be better than his Old Man? Will he find success in his job and his relationships? It's a long road to adulthood, and Scotty will soon find that the road is his making.
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By R. H. Morrison
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 R. H. Morrison
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Friends or Enemies
Oshawa, Ontario 1944
Growing up in war-time ain't easy. Specially if you're a German or a Japanese kid. Even English kids in London have it rough with bombs falling all around and people dying and stuff ...
Growing up ain't even easy for a Scotch-Irish-Canadian kid like me, who only has to dodge whacks-to-my-head, and boots-to-my-ass as the Old Man yells, "Grow up!"
But really, I'd rather be a Scotch-Irish-Yankee kid. They got a lot more good stuff in the USA. We don't have no famous Movie Stars like Betty Grable, Humphrey Bogart or James Cagney, a tough little-guy, he's one of my favorites. And we don't have Big Bands like Glenn Miller or Dorsey with singers like Frank Sinatra who makes chicks swoon ...
If you want to hear anything good on the radio in Oshawa, you got to go to WBEN, Buffalo. Toronto's CFRB or CBL has nothing but "The Happy Gang", and they don't make no one swoon ...
Anyway, in them other countries kids know who their enemies are. Here it ain't always so easy to figure that out. A lot of enemies seem to be disguised as friends. Anyone who makes you feel shitty can hardly be your friend. Sometimes I feel surrounded by enemies. You know what I mean?
Specially, it ain't easy growing up when you don't even know what way's up. If up is where my Old Man wants me to go, it sure ain't where he is. Whenever I act like him I get whacked, or a boot in the ass. Especially, when he's into the booze he gets me steamed up. You know what I mean?
So I learned pretty young, if I don't want to get whacked, or the boot, don't act like him. Like he says, "Don't do as I do! Do as I say!"
But that ain't always easy so I still get whacked. Like the Old Lady does too; mostly for nothing, 'cause she's as good as Old Ladies come. I wish the Old Man was over-seas, in the Army. But with his bum leg, they don't want him. They ain't the only ones. Sometimes a family ain't such a great place, with all of its whacking and yacking going on. "Do this Dummy! Don't do that Stupid! Wha'd I tell ya?" WHACK!
So, I takes my whacks. But, I gives my whacks too. Whenever I can, to whoever I can. But not to little kids I ain't no bully. It never feels good getting whacks. But sometimes it feels really good giving them. You know what I mean?
School ain't much better than home. Sometimes it's even worse. Some teachers are really mean and whack you with their pointer or yard stick, for nothing. Like for not knowing the answers to their dumb questions. I hate looking stupid with everyone laughing. Which don't happen to me too often, but often enough to know how it feels. Not good ...
Some poor guys, and even some girls, get a lot of whacks that don't do no-one no good, except maybe the teacher. Seems whacking is a sport for some of them. I seen more than one ruler break over some poor bugger's back. Someday them teachers will get theirs. But sometimes I laugh too when girls turn red and sometimes they even cry. That's pretty funny. Crying usually happens at certain times of the month. Some lady teachers are real bitches at those times too.
But not all teachers are bad. Miss Goode that's really her name, whose making us write our own stories, she's really nice. She says everyone has a book inside them. So this is going to be mine. She said she won't read them to the class because she don't want to embarrass no one. She wants them to be true-to-life, and sometimes true stuff ain't always so nice. I think she might be right about that, for sure. But I hope you won't find my book too bad, because it'll be real and the way I want to write it. I might do some things that an English teacher won't like, so please don't be too picky. OK? Who knows maybe I'll just keep on writing, like Shakespeare or Zane Grey? Yeah, right ...
Anyway, I don't see how School is helping me grow-up to be good, or even smart. Like, they try to make you smart by telling you, "you're stupid!" And they try to make you good by saying you're bad. That don't make much sense to me.
So, getting out of School is number one. Getting a job is number two. Getting out of the house is number three. And, number four, the real biggy, is getting a car!
When you're sixteen everything good starts to happen, it's like maybe growing-up is getting out of the frying pan and into the pot—of gold, that is.
But I ain't there yet. I'm fifteen now so I don't have to suffer this whacking and yacking too much longer. And, it's getting easier because I'm getting bigger and the Old Man's getting weaker and stupider, so he don't whack me as much. But he's drinking more, which means he's making life more miserable for the Old Lady. Someday he'll get his.
But anyway, "The Guys" make life better. There are five of us that stick together through everything. Nasty or nice, it don't matter, we got each other. So we call ourselves, "Five of a Kind". But that don't mean we're all the same.
We got our name from poker, sort of. In poker you got four of a kind that are all the same number; and a five card straight where they're all different. But sometimes we bend things a bit out of straight, so we're five-of-kind, all different. Makes sense, right?
In the gang we can be ourselves. Swear, smoke, tell dirty jokes, talk about chicks and do stuff that we can't do at home or in school, where someone's always on your back. In The Five, no one makes you feel shitty. That's how you know when you're with friends. You always feel good, well usually.
It's hard to say who of The Five is the smartest. We all have our moments. But it's easy to see who ain't the smartest. That's Georgie-Boy. He's the biggest and strongest. That makes up for a lot. He's sometimes funny and easy-going. Until he gets mad and goes nuts. Like the time he really zonked his old-man, who used to whack and boot Georgie around all the time. This day Georgie had enough of his old man's shit and turned on him. If his old-lady hadn't of whacked him with a pot, or something, Georgie would probably be doing life for murder. But he don't get whacked no more, at home or at school ...
He's sixteen now, but only in grade seven. He could quit school, but his old-lady won't let him quit until he finishes his education, which for him is getting out of grade eight. You can't help but like Georgie. He's a really great guy! When he ain't mad ...
Rick-the-Dick lives up to his name. A living example of: "Big man little dick. Little man all dick." So Richard, we never call him that, is, dick by name and nature. That gives him a great sense of pride, being the guy with the biggest stick. What guy doesn't want a big-stick? There ain't no such guy! The Dick is also Mister Music in the gang. That gives him an edge with the Chicks too, that I don't have. Maybe I got to develop a talent ... or a bigger stick?
Neil-the-Wheel is exactly that, a Wheeler-dealer. On the skinny side, but all the chicks think he's cute. That's what big blue eyes and black-curls can do for you. Wheel might be the smartest, but more likely his fast and slippery tongue gets him his edge. Like my Old Man says, "Bull shit baffles brains."
Wheel has no brothers or sisters, so he could be a Mama's boy, but he don't want to be. When they first moved here his old-lady used to send him to school dressed like for Sunday school. But Neil would ditch the tie and scuff himself up to look more like the other kids. If he hadn't have, guys like Ratsy and Stinky would have. So the Wheel beat them to it and made himself some points with them other guys.
Neil's old-man is over-seas, like my big brother, Al. If what we hear from Lorne Green on the news is true, they'll be home soon. I sure hope so.
Joey's the nicest one of the gang, and really is the smartest. His old-lady took off with his little sister and ran out on Joey and his old-man years ago. I can't really blame her. His old-man is strange, even when sober. But he don't whack Joey around. That too is kind of strange. We call Joey, "The Professor," because he wears glasses and reads a lot. Specially when his old-man is gone on a binge for days. Once, Joey got this really hot book from the library. Even hotter than the horny paper-backs we get. He says there's lots of sexy stuff there. Maybe I'll get me a library card?
Everyone calls me Scotty. From my last name Scott. I like that better than being called Mervin or Delbert. My Old Man tells me, "what's bred in the bone, is hard to get out of the meat." Which means, I must be one mean, ugly, fighting, S.O.B. I guess there are times when that's true. But mostly I'm really nice—when no one's bugging me. You know what I mean?
We hang out in a couple of places. At The Store where it's warm and dry inside and where we can check street action outside when the weather's good. Big John, the owner, says it's OK to hang-out there, if we behave. Like, don't crowd the door and buy the odd pack of weeds and bottles of pop. And don't boost nothin. If we do he says he'll, "bust your fiddle-finger! You don't want to lose that finger boys!" He laughs. Whatever Big John says goes.
The Store is a good place to check-out the Chicks too. They're always coming in for cigarettes, pop, bread, magazines and stuff.
Some really nice looking old-stuff, married to some lucky guy who has it ready, warm and waiting for him when he gets home from work. Some of the young stuff ain't that bad neither, most of it just to look at. Except for Betty-Bang-Bang, but you'd never want to be seen with her. Her cherry was picked by her brothers when it was still green. She's kind of fat, pimply-face, straight mousey-hair, and hardly never says nothing. Teachers are always telling her to "speak-up". She'll be lucky to get out of school with-out being knocked-up.
Loose-Legs-Lucy is another story. She's out of school and working in War-work like most chicks. A real Rosie, the Riveter. But not like most chicks, Lucy has everything right, in the right places, and she never got knocked-up, yet. The older guys say she's a real party-chick. We wouldn't mind partying with her neither. She always gives us a big smile and a wink, and kids us about when we grow-up. We can't wait.
Truth be told, we're still riding the hand-car. Except maybe for Georgie-Boy, his stories sound better than most of ours. Anyway, dreams, wet or dry, are better than nothing. Right?
It used to be Cowboys and Indians, or Cops and Robbers, even Baseball or Hockey ... Now it's sex, Sex, SEX! It's like that for guys anyways. Geezuz, if girls had sex on their minds like us ... Holy sheeeit! Nothing would never get done!!
The Old Man, and even the Old Lady, must have some idea about sex being a big thing, because they're always saying stuff like, "... respect women ... you wouldn't want nobody hurting your sister ... don't take advantage of girls ..." So maybe sex ain't always good to be thinking about? But how can you help it? Every place you look, every place you go there's chicks and pictures of chicks.
You'd have a hard time getting my big brother Al, to not think about sex. Like I said before, he's overseas in the Army now. But he used to always be talking about "ass" as he called it. But, he learned me a lot about sex and Chicks. Specially that you can't believe bitches. That's what he called chicks. They'll say "No," when they really mean "Yes." So you have to put pressure on them. That's when a car comes in real handy. You take them out in the country to see if they believe in the here-after.
"If they ain't here-after, what I'm here-after, they'll be here-after I'm gone." Then he'd laugh like that's a big joke. Sometimes I wondered about Al. But, I sure do hope that he don't get killed and that he gets home soon.
The other place we hang out is the Old House, around the corner from Big-John's store. It's like our real home; on a dead-end street going to the Tannery. It's not quite hanging over the Oshawa Creek bank, but close to it.
The Creek gets all the Tannery guck and dumps it into Lake Ontario. Luckily, the Old-House is upstream, so we don't usually get the pukey-shit stink that comes when the wind blows wrong. Men who work there, you can smell them walking down the street. Yuk! That'd be the worse place ever to work.
So, in summer's sun we nude it on old blankets behind the fence of the House, and we're in our own world. There, no one's yelling and screaming at you like they hate you. No one's on your back for nothing.
Sun-bathing times always give the Dick a chance to display his claim to fame, and to raze the rest of us for our short sticks. It's fun just horsing around. Talking about life's problems, like pimples and growing whiskers. Learning to dance is hard enough but getting a bone-on when you get so close to a girl is a major problem. Which was solved by the Dick's older brother who told him, "... all ya got to do is tense your muscles, like you was lifting a heavy weight, and WHAMO! Da bone goes to jelly!"
He said that trick would come in handy in all kinds of places. Like even in church, if you ever go, and sit beside some sweet smelling chick. Geez, I'm glad to know that. Because my Peter seems to be on a spring attached to my eyes and imagination. Looking at pictures of chicks, especially in the undies section of Sears and up Peter pops! That can be very embarrassing at times. You know what I mean?
Singing the latest Johnny Mercer songs, like "Chatanooga Choo Choo", gives the Dick another time to shine. He's got a really good voice. Lots of guys are good at things, but don't have the nerve to push it. They're afraid someone will laugh at them. No one likes to be laughed at, so most guys don't go public. You know what I mean?
Not Rick's problem. He don't even make excuses for his piano lessons. He just eats the attention he gets from playing stuff in assemblies. Bumble-Boogey is one of his piano best. When he sings like Frank Sinatra, the Chicks really lay it on.
Something about music that's hard to explain. But it makes you feel good when you feel kind of down. Like there ain't no music that makes me feel bad. Judy Garland singing "Over The Rainbow", even if it is kind of sissy-like, says a lot about getting out of life's shit, that sometimes there seems to be a lot of, with people pushing you around and stuff. It's hard to know who you can trust. It's kind of a trick sorting out friends from enemies. The song, "Don't Fence Me In" is the way I feel. I can't stand people on my back all the time. Like in school, "Sit-up, shut-up, and face the front!" How much of that shit is a guy supposed to take?
Geezuz, I can't wait to grow-up! When I turn on the radio late at night and listen to those far away stations in Buffalo, Wheeling—wherever that is—and Detroit, or even Toronto, it does something way down deep inside. You know what I mean?
When we were little kids perched on the rail-way fence watching the freight-trains go by with box-car names like Santa Fe, Atlantic Pacific, Southwest and Frontier, we'd dream we were on them going to wherever they was going. Maybe someday ...
At The House, we got control. When we get into a beef, we work it out. If we didn't want to be there, we wouldn't be. We all fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Some can piss farther than others, but we're all proud of our long-range-pisser. Especially when there's a bunch of guys swimming naked in the creek, and we get into a pissing contest. And, believe it or not, our Little-Joey wins! When one scores, we all score. There's no putting a guy down like teachers and parents do a lot of times.
The House is a good place to get into a little booze too, that we sneak from home. Or buy a bottle of cheap wine from Big-John, who boot-legs, and bookies. If we puke, or pass out, someone will look after us. No yacking and whacking, like the Old Man would lay on me.
The Store and the Old-House are two of the bases on our playing field. Some place to escape to when you're running. Which seems to be what life is pretty much about, running towards something or away from something. Getting up to bat, if you're lucky you make a hit. If you're unlucky, you're out. Geezuz, I hate being out. I'm just living for the day when I hit myself a homer, and just keep on running. You know what I mean?
The Old-House ain't exactly all our own. We share it with some Crap-Shooters on Sunday afternoons. Working guys and guys in the "Forces", shake-rattle-and-roll the bones across an old Indian blanket stretched on a table we set up in a room made bigger by knocking out a wall. We keep it cleaned up and get a couple of bucks for getting things ready for the shooters.
Excerpted from GUYS by R. H. Morrison. Copyright © 2013 R. H. Morrison. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter One Friends or Enemies.................... 1
Chapter Two Hands on the Wheel.................... 11
Chapter Three The Devil or the Angel.................... 14
Chapter Four WWII Victory.................... 18
Chapter Five High School Drag.................... 23
Chapter Six Teachers' Guff.................... 26
Chapter Seven The Old Man's Car Deal.................... 30
Chapter Eight On The Road, Legally.................... 35
Chapter Nine Mother's Prayer Answered.................... 38
Chapter Ten Happy Face Pays His Debt to Joey.................... 42
Chapter Eleven Happy Holidays.................... 45
Chapter Twelve School's Out Summer's In.................... 54
Chapter Thirteen The Hear-after.................... 59
Chapter Fourteen Old Man's Show Down.................... 63
Chapter Fifteen Dawning of Prosperity.................... 66
Chapter Sixteen Movin' On.................... 73
Chapter Seventeen Mother Embraces Feminism.................... 76
Chapter Eighteen Earning and Learning.................... 78
Chapter Nineteen Line Life.................... 84
Chapter Twenty Anonymous Friend.................... 89
Chapter Twenty-One The Mentor.................... 92
Chapter Twenty-Two Orville.................... 96
Chapter Twenty-Three Smitten.................... 99
Chapter Twenty-Four Dying On The Line.................... 102
Chapter Twenty-Five Home Owners.................... 109
Chapter Twenty-Six Strike Looms.................... 111
Chapter Twenty-Seven Picket Duty.................... 118
Chapter Twenty-Eight Back to Work.................... 121
Chapter Twenty-Nine Another Job Option.................... 125
Chapter Thirty The Future.................... 132
Chapter Thirty-One Hot-rod Spooky.................... 135
Chapter Thirty-Two The Big Wedding.................... 139
Chapter Thirty-Three Boom Into Best.................... 144
Chapter Thirty-Four New GMC Team.................... 150
Chapter Thirty-Five Profit Sharing.................... 153
Chapter Thirty-Six Cynthia On Stage.................... 160
Chapter Thirty-Seven Private and Confidential.................... 167
Chapter Thirty-Eight Strike Vote Called.................... 169
Chapter Thirty-Nine The Others.................... 174
Chapter Forty Richard.................... 179
Chapter Forty-One Desperation.................... 187
Chapter Forty-Two Resolution.................... 190
Chapter Forty-Three A New Voice.................... 196
Chapter Forty-Four Always The Professor.................... 199
Chapter Forty-Five Victims.................... 204
Chapter Forty-Six Helpless.................... 210
Chapter Forty-Seven The Question.................... 211