Torn Apart By Ken Griffey Jr.

Sometimes when I'm not thinking straight, I remember my friend Danny. We met in 1st grade. We both had shaggy 1986 bowl cuts, wore wool sweaters, and couldn't say our Rs.

In 2nd grade, our teacher endowed us with nicknames: "Danny the Dictionary" and "Joey the Walking Encyclopedia." You might think from my nickname that I was smart, but then you'd be wrong and I'd laugh at you and never call you a walking encyclopedia.

Speaking of laughing at you, one day in 2nd grade we were lined up to go to recess. I was wearing my favorite outfit: a Chicago Cubs jersey with matching Chicago Cubs shorts. And when I say shorts, I'm not just throwing that word around. I take shorts very seriously, and you should too.

So I bent over to tie my shoe and someone caught a glimpse of my Chicago Cubs briefs peeking out from beneath my Chicago Cubs shorts, and everyone laughed at me. I paid them no heed, however, because me, Danny, and Mrs. Colosuanno knew I was a frickin' walking encyclopedia.

Following 3rd grade, my family moved from Oregon to Utah. Me and Danny wrote letters back and forth all the time. He mailed me his Swatch set to Pacific time so I'd always know what time it was in Oregon. I wore it on my left wrist. I wore a watch set to Mountain time on my right wrist, just in case I ever needed to know what time it was where I actually lived.

When we moved back to Oregon in 5th grade, mine and Danny's friendship showed its first chinks. We pooled our money one day and bought a pack of Upper Deck baseball cards, within which was nestled the prize of all prizes in the eyes of pre-pubescent boys in 1989: a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card. But our good fortune created an obvious problem: who did the card actually belong to?

Danny had a big chest which he insisted was the best place to store the card because the chest had a lock on it. I pointed out that my bathroom at home had a lock on it too, so we could keep the card there. Even then my mad logic skills cut like a hot butter knife. He knew how to swear though and I didn't, so he eventually won out, and the card rested inside the chest in Danny's bedroom. I deemed this unfair and tried to steal it one morning during a sleepover. He always slept until noon, and I was always up at 8 a.m. with nothing to do, so I went ahead and attempted the heist. Well, he woke up while I unlocked the chest, and an uncomfortable stand-off ensued.

Danny: Dude, what are you doing?
Me: Nothing.
Danny: Why are you trying to be all quiet?
Me: I don't know what you're talking about.
Danny: You're unlocking the chest all quiet and stuff.
Me: Nuh-uh.
Danny: Dude... are you trying to steal the Griffey card?
Me: No. Maybe. So?
Danny: I can't believe you're trying to steal my Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card.
Me: I can't believe you like Stacy Sawyer.
Danny: I do not like Stacy Sawyer!
Me: Do too. I saw you kissing the Valentine she gave you.
Danny: Nuh-uh.
Me: Uh-huh.

We kind of nominally hung out for the rest of the year, but then in 6th grade he kicked me in the crotch on recess while we were playing tetherball. I lost, as you might suspect. I think that was pretty much the end of our friendship.

In case there was any doubt, one day in 7th grade Danny and some of his fat punk buddies beckoned me out in the hall outside the cafeteria after lunch. I didn't have a lot of friends, and I naively thought maybe Danny felt bad for roundhousing me in the jimmy the year before and wanted to bury the hatchet, so I went along with it.

Well, while Danny chatted me up, making like we was still compadres, one of his portly, slobbery sidekicks circled around behind me and thoroughly de-pantsed me. All the way to my ankles. The lunchtime crowds flowed down the corridor all around us, and, naturally, the guy standing there in his whitey-tighties got a lot of attention. I, for my part, was shocked. I stood there motionless for a moment, staring at my Levis bunched atop my fake Converse I'd got at Payless Shoes.

It's all slow-motion now in my memory. Waves of laughter echoing off the lockers. Pointing fingers. Tall bangs. Bugle Boy t-shirts. I vowed right then and there I'd become a WWF wrestler and throw chairs at the offspring of my classmates someday. I ended up giving up on that goal because I couldn't think of a catchy WWF name for myself. The Pulverizer was the best I could do, but that name was already copyrighted by an obscure George Foreman cooking tool that turns steakbones into protein shakes.

I'm not sure what became of Danny. His dad was a successful school custodian, so I have hopes that he reformed himself and is whistling a cheerful tune at this very moment as he wipes 3rd-grader vomit off a faux-wooden desk.