Driscoll Street was preparing for the annual Independence Day
picnic. The different streets of the neighborhood were permitted to
reserve picnic tables to spend the day with their neighbors. Some
folks would wander around the big park known as Creedmoor Rest
for quite a period in the hopes of meeting new friends and old and
making themselves known as well. Such activities were proof
positive of a friendly, cohesive neighborhood.
Driscoll Street was a part of this active, cohesive
neighborhood. Like any other street, it predominantly consisted of
adults and children. The adults spent the majority of their time
working their jobs, doing the household chores or child-rearing.
Yes, two distinct demographic groups accordingly to age and
responsibilities constituted Driscoll Street or the neighborhood
As the adults were responsible for the children, let’s get a
quick glimpse of the second group and their backgrounds.
Some children were withdrawn. For whatever reason, they felt
ill-equipped to deal with their peers.
Some children, the library gang, spent much of their time
reading and carrying around books. They often occurred in small
The heavy thinkers were philosophical and spent much of
their time contemplating ramifications. These were the chess
Similar to the heavy thinkers, but simpler, were the chronic
board game players, to include a deck of cards, of course.
The sports kids were in a league all their own. Always full of
energy and ideas, they lived for games of active sports. Some were
very imaginative and creative. Overall, most showed little concern
for detail. During the summer months the boys would start their
play with throwing their shirts in a pile to allow breathing room for
their own sweat. At quitting time, one by one any shirt would be
grabbed and donned as they all left the park.
The mothers of Driscoll Street became very familiar with all
the boys shirts as sooner or later they would be washing and
Any of the boys could belong to the down, dirty and bloody
group, whether they desired membership or not.
There were a few that were loners. Belonging to no group,
they were often troubled in their attempts to deal with coming of
age and being in control. Oh, the taste of control!
The young girls were in their own world of dolls and sidewalk
games. Being little trouble at a younger age, most were gathering
strength to cause havoc as young ladies.
Just a few days prior to the picnic, the fellas, still yet to pull on
their chosen shirt, were having an “en-route” group conversation.
“Well, he’s stupid, just stupid,” one chimed in.
“Don’t call Joey stupid. He knows he is. He just doesn’t need to
be reminded that he is, so lay off, you scumbag!
“The problem with Jimmy is that we all know he’s a scumbag,
but the difference is we all don’t keep reminding him that he is. We
all need space to think and plan,” Darren insisted.
“Then what’s the difference?” Mark ventured to ask.
“Think about it, man. Would you rather be stupid or a
scumbag?” Jack asked Mark.
A member of the heavy thinker group might be of help right
“Neither,” Mark quipped.
“Proves my point, then. You’ll grow up to be neither. Maybe you’ll
grow up to be a milkman like your old man,” Jack said assertively.
“Yeah, a smart old milkman,” Mark nodded.
“You would do yourself better to be a gangster along with Joey.
Now that makes for a great job! There’s good money to be made . . .”
Jack bragged with the wink of his eye. “Folks need to be protected.”
Jack was a few years older than his street friends. There was a
covert reason for this. When it came to hiding or laying very low,
Jack was your young man of the street.
Mark had been practicing for two weeks for the egg toss and the
100-meter run. The various races would go on through most of the
afternoon. No charge to compete with a silver dollar going to the
Mark was scheduled for the egg toss listed early on the roster. He
and Susan came in second out of about thirty contestants. Lucky
for Mark, the egg broke as Susan attempted the catch.
Good old-fashioned fun. That is how Susan described it years
later to her fellow nuns at the convent.
The pressure was now on for Mark to win the 100-meter run.
Jack had made him a bet that he wouldn’t win either event. A very
daring bet considering that Mark was the fastest runner in the
neighborhood. Loser gives winner a silver dollar, cut and dry.
The picnic food was ready to be served by the middle of the
afternoon. The serving lines moved fast as each was handed the
same standard plate.
The short, orange shorts that Mrs. Gull had squeezed into gave
her the look of a walking card holding a croquet mallet at the mad
tea party. The mallets would often awaken during the game and
would be replaced. All Mrs. Gull needed was the nine of hearts on
her shirt. She commanded a square shape. She may have eaten the
tarts, but for certain she had eaten the big slice of watermelon
hand picked off Mark’s plate. She felt it her duty to swipe the
watermelon slice and keep walking without missing a step. She
assumed the kid to be just another nincompoop in a picnic area
ubiquitous with them.
About an hour later, the announcement for the 100-meter run
was made. The contestants lined up and most were nervous.
Donald, Mark’s training coach of two weeks, knelt down in front
of Mark for last minute words of encouragement.
Mark didn’t hear any of it. He was panicking, as the race was
about to begin with Donald still kneeling in front of him.
“You can do it,” Donald smiled and messed Mark’s hair. “It’s pizza
on me next Saturday and a silver dollar, too, if you do!”
Mark began to sense that he was being set-up.
Well great. That’s just great.
It was all that raced through Mark’s mind.
Mark placed fifth.
It was an upset!
“Jack, how could you pull that underhanded trick on me?” Mark
“Had no choice. I owed Donald fifty cents and he needed it for
tomorrow. Now you owe me a silver dollar. Just give me a buck and
I can give Donald what I owe him. I’m an honest man, always pay
The music and dancing were getting pretty close to getting
underway in the early evening.
The day had worn them out and the bored children meandered
throughout the picnic area purposely yawning to alert parents that
responsibilities were summoning them. Once parents delivered
their children back to the house where the baby-sitter awaited, the
parents were free to return to the picnic dance for a few hours of
stretching and merriment.
Mark’s older cousin, Diane, had agreed to baby-sit for them.
“Thanks, Diane.” Have them in bed by about 9:00 pm.
“Sure thing. Have a good time.”
The children had no intention of being in bed by 9:00 pm. If Mom
and Dad could stay up late, then so could they!
Jack left from the picnic dance when he could see the car return.
He would see Diane in just a few minutes.
Tradition is the soul of both family and community. Is it not? It is,
trust me. The shenanigans are a branch of tradition. The baby-
sitters would attest to that. They would also attest that both
parents and children each held their own tradition of shenanigans.
The parents were well aware of this as they had once been children
However, the children were not aware of this as it had never
occurred to them. They considered themselves to be the new
Neighborhoods usually change in small ways over time and
occasionally their personality and character do also.
As with marriage, for better or worse.
Some neighborhoods just disappear entirely, seeming to
metamorphose into something ethereal. They continue to exist, but
only as sheer memories for a select few.
Driscoll Street and the immediate neighborhood had moved
forward in time by twelve years.
We are at Mark’s house during a Sunday afternoon family
gathering. The house and neighborhood haven’t changed much, but
people and relationships had.
Sarah, Mark’s fiancee, had a question to ask Mark.
“Is that man, Jack, a relative of yours?” Sarah eagerly asked.
“Not by my blood, thank my lucky stars. Jack is married to my
cousin, Diane,” Mark said with embarrassment. “I ended up with
Jack as my cousin-in-law. Is there no justice?”
“Mark, I’m sorry. I’m sorry to say that he is a real jerk. He’s stupid,
too,” Diane insisted.
“Which first?” Mark smiled as he asked.
“A real jerk,” she laughed.
“I agree. That is the general consensus,” Mark said as he laughed.
Well great. That’s just great.
“We totally agree on something, then,” Sarah soothed.
“It could be worse,” Sarah rationalized. “My sister ended up
married to a real jerk. He had a flat tire one night and he borrowed
a tire from my mom’s car. My parents found out about it the next
day when my mom left the house to go shopping. She saw that the
car was missing a tire. She knew that she could not make it on only
three tires. Think that scored him any points?”
“No, guess not,” Mark replied. “Guess we ought to nominate him
for the “Nincompoop Club” along with Jack?”
“Why go for something fancy, Mark?” Sarah questioned slyly.
“Why not just the plain Poop Club? I collect the annual dues for
that. So, you owe me one crisp hundred-dollar bill and one silver
dollar for a tip, which doubles by the day.”
Well great. That’s just great.
“Silver dollars can be hard to find. That can be a tall order!” Mike
“Better get started right away. Might I suggest checking with Jack
for some pointers,” Sarah suggested.