When I was but a lad of 5 or 6, my kindly elder brother Davis became frustrated with me playing with his action figures. So he talked our mom into allowing him to charge me $1 for every one of his toys that I touched. Why did my sweet mother allow her pre-age-of-accountability son to be extorted thus?
I. Have. No. Idea.
Maybe she had just read Lord of the Flies or Origin of Species and thought juvenile anarchy and the stong preying on the weak would work nicely in our home. I was Piggy, Davis was Jack, and protective Ralph was nothing more than a figment of my daytime wishes.
“Wasn’t Ryan Ralph?”
No, adolescent Ryan was more like Data from Star Trek.
Hey Ryan, can you protect me from Davis for a minute?
That. Is. A. Negatory. Small. Humanoid. I. Am. Presently. Exclusively. Engaged. In. Building. My. Sherlock. Holmes. Costume. For. Halloween. And. Studying. To. Take. Earth’s. Bar. Exam. At. Age. 9.
But Davis was always a smooth talker. He was 73 pounds of charm and Gotcha shirts, Girbaud jeans, and Varnet sunglasses, so I can hardly blame Mother.
So Davis started to make some decent side cash from his little scam. A buck here, a buck there. Behind the walls of a meticulously landscaped house on Farmington Hills Drive, there was a racket being operated. And I was the patsy. Unfortunately, my preschool hadn’t offered any courses in scam avoidance or lobbying for policy change, so I guess the authorities of the home figured I was on my own. Or maybe my parents didn’t live with us that year, which would make more sense. Do you know how much $1 was to a 6 year old back in 1986? When you factor in inflation and earning capacity, it’s like DDDT’s average reader being fined eight or nine hundred dollars. For touching a figurine.
We snapped this picture of Ryan with our cat, Tigger, during one of the parentally-mandated 10 minute “Emotion Sessions” he had to have daily.
One day I was walking to my bedroom, chomping Big League Chew and wondering who would win a fight between a Siberian Tiger and Kodiak Brown Bear, when I came across an interesting scene: 7 G.I. Joes seductively scattered about the entrance of my room. I scanned the area for witnesses, sat down and got to playing. I would be cautious; just a touch. Maybe a quick set piece battle between Ace and Bazooka, and Copperhead and Thrasher. After a 30 seconds or so, Davis jumped out behind the door he had been hiding behind the whole time and called for Mom. He had devised the dirty scheme, set the trap, laid in wait, held off until he had seen me touch all 7, then ran to show the judge the evidence. Do you know how much $7 was to a 6 year old back in 1986? Go pay for a used Civic or a fabulous Vera Wang gown and you’ll have an idea. I remember having to pony up. Davis might remember differently, but keep in mind that he’s a liar.
Around the same time, Davis, Ryan, and their friend convinced me and their friend’s younger brother that after considering the matter gravely, and since they cared for us and wanted us to be happy, they had agreed that it was time to let us play in their amazing game show in the friend’s basement. “The Price Is Wrong!” We paid quarters to buy our spots as contestants. When we won, we were awarded popsicle sticks.
But Davis and Ryan weren’t all thievery and manipulation. Davis had an altruistic streak too. One summer when he was 8 and I was 5 he offered to teach me and my friend karate lessons. Anyone who knows Davis knows that he’s way good at karate, and always has been. He told us he knew karate and could give us a series of free lessons. We believed him. All summer long I pestered him about beginning my apprenticeship. He had other stuff going on, lots of stuff, but promised we would get to it shortly.
I’m still waiting for those lessons.
And I want my $7 back.