Mrs. O’Shea was an Irish matron who was somewhat distant yet far more approachable than most of the other faculty members. It was in her class that I struck up a friendship with John Yodels, the third of five brothers who lived down the street. His Dad, Nick, was a brawny longshoreman who was crippled in an accident on the docks and took his frustrations out on his family for years, unbeknownst to anyone until wife Ginny ran off with the kids and sued for divorce. John was the firebrand of the family and was a hellraiser even while under his father’s iron fist.
John shared the same birthday (May 7th) as my Dad and my eventual neighbor, Jonathan Osborn. Like my Dad, he was a born politician and did enjoy being glorified. Unlike my Dad, however, he was a schemer and had a mean streak that didn’t go away until decades later when he got married and became the father of two beautiful daughters. We hit it off greatly, and he provided a comfort zone when Vincent forbade Kenny and Georgie from hanging with me after one of our pranks was discovered. It resulted in a rivalry between John and Kenny that continued until both finally moved from the neighborhood.
John’s younger brother Harold was also one of his biggest rivals. Harold wore glasses when I first met him and appeared quite the geek. When he got older he ditched the glasses, giving him a stare reminiscent of “Old Creepy”, Alvin Karpis. It was a weird pecking order between us. John would dump all over Harold, who took it out on me, but I was best able to get back at John because he was lighter on me than he was on Harold. Harold was far more vicious than I was, and it wasn’t until I developed as a teenager that he stopped trying to get the upper hand on me.
John’s other big rival was the star pupil of our class at St. Paul’s, David Moon. David was the youngest of three boys in an Italian-Lebanese household which was goal-oriented and highly competitive. As I was an underachiever and David an overachiever, we ended up fairly close grade-wise, and John was always trying to catch us. Physically, David and John were more of a match, and John called David out a few times but could never beat him.
I was still closer to the Reyes brothers at the time, though that would change after their parents split up. Both of the brothers would develop major insecurity problems and grew hostile and violent as a result. At the time, they were more like Romulus and Remus, and I managed to co-exist between them as their playmate and best friend. Eventually, however, the cold cruel world closed in on us, and our lives would take us in completely different directions in a few short years.
(To be continued...)