Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories  March 2014 | issue 459

We Did

by Brian Doyle

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Brian Doyle lives in Portland, Oregon, and is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland. He has written fourteen books, among them the novel Chicago and the collection The Thorny Grace of It: And Other Essays for Imperfect Catholics.

Did we punch and hammer and jab each other as children, thrashing and rambling, a large family in a small house filled with brothers and one older sister with bony fists and no reluctance to use them?

We did.

Did we use implements like long whippy maple branches and Mom’s bamboo garden poles and Dad’s old sagging tennis rackets and redolent pieces of oozy lumber stolen from the new house going up down the block and brick chips and sharp-edged asbestos shingles torn off the garage roof as ammunition and weaponry with which to battle and joust with brothers and occasionally the Murphy boys next door, each one burlier and angrier and Irisher than the next?

We did.

Did we occasionally use snowballs, meticulously packed as tight as possible and then placed carefully in the freezer for days, as stony ammunition despite the cold hard fact that said snowballs should have been registered with the United Nations, especially when one of us saved a few until June and hammered the Murphy boys in the most lopsided and glorious victory of all time on our street?

We did.

Did our mother actually say more than once, You’ll put your eye out! until finally we bought individual glass eyes at a yard sale from an ophthalmologist and faked a terrific raucous brawl so that our mother came running only to find her sons roaring about their lost eyes, which were bouncing and rolling freely on the linoleum floor, which caused our blessed mother to shriek, which caused our calm muscular father to come running, which caused his sons to spend many hours in penitential labor and the mastermind to go to confession?

We did.

Did we play football so hard in the yard that more than once a helmet went flying and more than once a finger was broken and one time tempers flared such that a picket from the old red fence was used for assault and battery?

We did.

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