I was sittin’ in a restaurant the other day when somethin’ weird happened. I was asked for an interview. No, it was not a formal interview.
Like I said, I was there nibblin’ on some lunch when a young man approached me.
“Excuse me sir,” he said. I looked up. “Are you Rusty Mitchum?” he asked.
“That depends,” I said.
“That depends,” I repeated. “Do I owe you any money?”
“No sir,” he said.
“Then yes, I’m Rusty Mitchum.”
“Mr. Mitchum,” he said. My name is Walter Harold (I made this name up), and I’m studying psychology in college.”
I smiled and took a bite of my lunch. “That’s nice,” I said.
“Well sir. I’ve been reading your column for quite some time and I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions?”
“It’s for a paper I’m doing in one of my classes. I really hate to disturb you, but when I saw you, I figured that I might as well ask.”
Well, since I’m not too sure very many people read my junk, I figured that I’d better not take a chance of losin’ one, so I agreed to the questions. “Sure,” I said. “Sit down Wally.”
“It’s Walter,” he corrected.
“OK,” I smiled. “Walter.”
“My field of study is childhood behavior,” he informed me.
“Is that right? What does it have to do with me?”
“Well, after reading some of your columns, I’ve come to the conclusion that you had an unusual, to say the least, childhood.”
“Really?” I said.
“Yes sir,” he continued, “and a rather violent one, too.”
“Violent? I don’t think it was violent.”
“Were you ever beaten as a child?” Wally asked, gettin’ right to the point.
I smiled. “Just about every day,” I said.
“Really?” he said as he wrote somethin’ on a tablet. “By whom?”
“Well, let’s see…,” I said. “My cousin Royce use to pound on me and my cousin Coy quite regularly.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Heck man, it was his job. You see, he was an older brother to Coy and since I didn’t have an older brother, he felt that it was his duty to let me in on the fun. He didn’t want me to feel left out. After all, I was family.”
“You mean he beat you for no reason?”
“Heck no,” I said. “Royce wouldn’t do that. He was a good guy. He wouldn’t beat anyone up for no reason. Coy and I would provoke him.”
“Why?” asked Wally.
“Because,” I said. “That was our job.”
“I don’t understand,” he said. “But let’s not get bogged down. Did anyone else beat you?”
“Sure,” I said, and then swallowed some iced tea. “Royce’s twin sister Joyce had a boyfriend, who is now her husband. His name is Gary. Gary use to work Coy and me over every Saturday night.”
“Just on Saturday night?”
“Yep,” I replied. “That’s when he’d catch us watchin’ him kiss Joyce good night, after their date. We’d be hidin’ around the corner from the door step, watchin’ them. When they’d start kissin’, we’d start laughin’. Then the race was on. He’d finally catch us and start lettin’ us have it.”
“What did he beat you with?” Wally asked.
“Usually Coy,” I answered. “Then he’d beat Coy with me. And then he’d leave us piled up in a heap in the yard.”
“Obviously a definite criminal type,” said Wally. “What became of him? Prison?”
“Naw. He became a Baptist preacher,” I said.
“Yeah, and so did Royce, come to think of it. Go figure, huh.”
“Wow,” he said. “It seems that you mostly got beat by family members.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “And the worst was my sister.”
“Your own sister?” Wally had quit takin’ notes.
“Yeah. She used to carry around one of those batons. You know, the kind that majorettes twirl. And for some reason she liked to use it to see if my head was permanently attached to my neck.”
“She hit you? With the baton? Unprovoked?”
“Well,” I confessed. “I wouldn’t say unprovoked. After all she was my sister, and a girl to boot, so she was put on this earth to be teased. And I was put here to be the teaser.”
“I guess you two are estranged, now,” he said.
“Heck boy, my whole family is strange.”
“No,” he said. “Estranged. You know, you don’t see or speak to each other.”
“What?” I said. “You’ve got to be kiddin’. She’s my sister, and one of my best friends. You think a few knots on the head would cause me not to love my sister? Are you crazy?”
“Well, I don’t speak to my sister, and she’s never hit me.”
“Did you ever tease her?”
“No,” he replied.
“Were you ever beat as a child?” I asked.
“Heavens no. I never even got a spanking.”
“So,” I said. “You had a happy childhood, then.”
“Well,” he said, and then thought for a moment. “No, not really.”
“Do you want me to tell you why you did not have a happy childhood?” I asked.
“Well, I guess.”
“It’s because you never had anybody that cared enough for you to beat the snot out of you every once in awhile”
“That doesn’t make sense,” said Wally.
“I know, right?” I said. “But, let’s look at the facts. I was pummeled regularly, and I was, and still am, a happy person. You, on the other hand, led a pristine life, never havin’ a hand laid upon you, and you don’t seem to be too happy of a person.”
He sat there for a minute lookin’ confused. Then he stood up, thanked me for my time, and walked off. He looked like he was deep in thought.
As I watched him go, I said to myself, “Self, you’re pretty smart. Heck, maybe you should have been a psychologist.”
Then self said back to me, “Naw, you could never pass the background check.”