Spit Ball

Kunk Fu Zoby Kung Fu Zu3/5/15
It is an immutable law of nature, on par with the First Law of Thermodynamics, that in fraternal relations, younger brothers come out with the short end of the stick.

My older brothers were kind enough to torture me in ways as diverse as making me lick their shoes to hog tying. These loving acts went unpunished by my parents as, in the general course of events, one does not rat out one’s brothers. One suffers in silence.

Fortunately, there are rare occasions when it seems we drift into a bizzaro world, where the laws of nature are turned on their head; where water runs uphill and light is neither a wave nor a particle. In such worlds, even little brothers have their day. One such occasion took place when I was about three and a half years old.

My brother and I were having a spit fight in our back yard. This game consisted of me running and my brother spitting. As one might imagine, I was not too keen on the idea, but having a minority vote in the enterprise I did my best to stay mobile.

After some minutes of dodging my brother’s best efforts to shower me with his sputum, I had the misfortune of zigging when I should have zagged. The result of this miscalculation was a spray of saliva in my face.

As I wiped the moisture off my mug, my brother stopped in front of me and laughed uproariously. He stood there braying like a donkey.

Whether by design or instinct, I saw my opportunity and gathered a huge amount of spit in my mouth. In nothing flat, I let it fly. I watched this projectile arc toward my brother and land in the middle of his mouth. Bingo!!!

Immediately my brother’s laughter died. The expression on his face looked as if he had just swallowed drain cleaner. His eyes grew to the size of saucers. He grasped his neck with both hands as if he were gagging and let out a sound which was something between uggh and a scream.  Jumping up and down, he started spitting all around trying to clear his mouth of my special delivery.

By this time, I knew I had best make myself scarce. Seeing me attempt to effect my escape, my brother started after me.  It was fortunate that we had a large Mimosa tree in our back yard as I positioned it between us.

Naturally, this scene was accompanied by much noise, which attracted the attentions of our mother.  She appeared at the back door and demanded to know what was going on. I do not recall exactly who said what, but the truth eventually came out and my mother expressed her disgust with both of us, but particularly at my older brother since he “should have known better.”

Mother then broke a switch off said Mimosa tree and gave us both a short sharp lesson in personal hygiene.

My legs stung as I walked away, but that was a small price to pay for the joy of besting my big brother. • (1884 views)

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26 Responses to Spit Ball

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Wonderful story, Mr. Kung. And I’m not very familiar with the Mimosa tree. But if its anything like that one, what a beauty. It’s a stately tree, as they say. You’d expect to see it a Stately Wayne Manor, for instance.

    No one’s ever asked me why I was never in the military. But if they did, I’d tell them that I’ve already been to boot camp. I have an older brother.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Yes, that is something like the one we had, but I think the flowery parts were a bit less pink.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      One thing I will say about this brother, is that around the same time he saved me from a dog.

      We had a Dobberman Pinscher who had me on the ground with his paws on my hands and legs. I couldn’t get up. I can remember looking up at his growling snout with his fangs bared.

      The same brother, who was only seven, picked up a stick and ran to me swinging it at the dog and chasing it away. That was worth a lot.

  2. Anniel says:

    Master Kung Fu, I have hesitated to enter this fray, but girls often lose out to an older brother. I was 6 when my big win left me with a long standing guilt complex.

    My brother was 3 years older than I, much bigger, and a mean kid. I avoided him as much as possible. One day he fell off a horse and broke his left elbow. In order to heal properly he had to wear a cast for 6 weeks with his arm bent completely up and his hand on his shoulder. When the doctor removed the cast he discovered that the bones of the lower arm had been reversed at the elbow, with the ulna trying to go around the radius. So he re broke the arm and put a cast back on for 6 more weeks before the kid was finally free again.

    The whole time he was, as usual, shooting lugies at me, throwing mud balls laced with cockleburs at me, the usual crap. One day I had finally had it. He reached out and grabbed my hair and was laughing while I cried. I couldn’t get away, so I finally grabbed a board from the woodpile. Well, I’m right handed so my swing connected with his left elbow, which meant, you guessed it, 6 more weeks in the cast.

    One thing I’ll give him, he never squealed on me, and I finally felt safe leaving my hiding place in the chicken coop. He also was very careful around me.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      What a story, Annie. And your older brother seems to be another example of people who are, at least at some stages of their lives, geared toward cruelty. Yes, maybe mommy or daddy didn’t love them enough. There are often extenuating circumstances. Even so (and I’m not trying to blow your incident out of proportion but to try to state a general truth), as Dennis Prager says, there are ultimately only two kinds of people in the world: the decent and the indecent.

      People change. Brothers often grow up and grow out of their need to bully and torture. But I don’t think this “growing up” is an inevitable process. Civilization, to some extent, has to be beaten into them or else they could stay the way they are.

      For whatever reason, I wasn’t born with the propensity for pulling wings off of butterflies. And I take no credit for that. It wasn’t my doing. But some people are. And I’m not saying that our biology absolves us from our behavior. Far from it. But a dark truth about humanity is that some people seem born with darkness in them. I don’t know why this should be so.

      Libertarians do not acknowledge this reality, for instance, and thus would put us all at the mercy of the most ruthless in their anarchic schemes self-titled as “freedom.” Those on the Marxist Left would do the same, making government the Big Brother bully we can never escape from.

      God bless the Founders who understood these things. We should return to their wisdom.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      One thing I’ll give him, he never squealed on me, and I finally felt safe leaving my hiding place in the chicken coop. He also was very careful around me.

      At least he learned a lesson and you were no longer assaulted.

      It is an unfortunate fact of life that the one language everyone understands is force. For some, it is the only language they understand. Your older brother appears to have been that sort of person, at least at that time.

      I think a conservative learns the realities of life by living it. Families, both nuclear and extended, can be microcosms of the rest of the world. When one adds neighbors to that mix, it should be clear that humanity creates a fair amount of friction at any level.

      And I agree 100% with Brad that if the lunatic libertarians’ platform were enacted, the peaceful of society would be left prey to the most vicious predators among us.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Of course, that would also be the effect of liberals’ hoplophobic determination to disarm the public. At least libertarians do oppose that idiocy.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          At least libertarians do oppose that idiocy.

          In theory at least.

          I can’t help believing a fair number of these “freedom loving” people are, in fact, little monsters who believe they are superior to the general sort of person, thus would be able and willing to lord it over the rest of us were we so foolish as to accept their hare-brained “philosophy”.

          I think they are as dishonest as the inner party Left when it comes to their true beliefs.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      but girls often lose out to an older brother.


      You got me thinking about my family in this regard. While there is no doubt younger siblings of either sex can be abused by an older one, in my family, the older boys would have caught a lot more hell for bothering my sisters than they would have for bothering me. Of course, my sisters had little compunction when it came to squealing on the boys or each other for that matter. But that may have just been my family.

  3. Timothy Lane says:

    I don’t recall much physical bullying when I was young, but there was a great deal of psychological hazing, even if I don’t recall the details. (I do recall once complaining at the open-air theater at the American Club in Kifissia about “six years in a torture chamber”, which didn’t help.) My brother (the middle of 3 children) was the main source, but hardly the only one.

    This had an interesting effect a quarter-century ago when I was reading a trilogy by Mercedes Lackey. The main character suffered a great deal of emotional bullying when young, and the first volume took me about twice as long to read as a lot of unpleasant memories came flooding back. A couple of months later, my mother (who by then lived with my sister, a nurse, in Atlanta) came to visit my grandmother in Brownsville (about 2 hours away). She called to tell me she was there, but I found those memories coming back after that (even though she wasn’t the cause of any of them), so I never visited during the month she was there. (When she called to tell me she was leaving, the memories did NOT return, so evidently I had finally gotten over it sometime during that month.)

    As I said elsewhere, there’s a reason why I never use my brother’s name, so much so that when Elizabeth mentioned it once, a friend of mine who had known me for years at first didn’t know who she was talking about.

  4. GHG says:

    I think I should speak up on behalf of all the older brothers, as I am the oldest of 4 brothers (no sisters). You know, it’s not all cookies and ice cream being the oldest. We are the trail blazers and make the path easier for our younger siblings. As such, we have earned the right to torture the pip squeeks who have benefited from our blood, sweat and tears. We had to sneak around, get caught and get punished for things that didn’t seem so important to our parents when the younger ones pulled the same shenanigans.

    But seriously, only one of my brothers was close enough in age to me (2 years) to have that type of relationship, and he got his shots in on me over the years too. In fact he’s leading 2-1 on the big stuff like broken bones and stitches. He broke my nose when I was 10 by hitting me with a wooden driver golf club. The following summer I gave him 6 stitches over his left eye with a baseball bat. And finally, he broke my collarbone by tackling me in a football game played in the winter on frozen ground. All of that happened before we hit our teen years and none of the stuff was done maliciously or on purpose – rather a lack of caution and safety led to the damages. Eh – it’s all part of being brothers. I am happy to have been the older one though … he he he.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      You make a most excellent point, Mr. Lesser. There’s little doubt that older brothers blaze the trail. In modern parenting they may be especially susceptible to the Dr. Spock syndrome. The world is full of bookstores with bookshelves on how to care for your baby. And this is good. Considering what infant mortality rates used to be, I’d rather have parents stuffing their heads with too much information rather than not enough.

      But this plethora of information aimed at the most minute aspects of child-reading tends to combine with the desire of first-time parents to get everything right to create a web of unrealistic expectations and just being a bit anal about things. That first child gets more attention, which as any kid knows, can be a good thing or a bad thing. A kid, especially a boy, needs a little flexibility to chart his own path, to discover things for himself, even to discover the truth of daddy’s warning, “If you fall off that thing and break an arm, don’t come running to me.”

      Fathers will still be there when their sons come running. But the point is that you can’t put a kid inside a plastic bubble. Imagine having Nancy Pelosi as a parent. Either you’ll be micro-managed to death or shunted over to some minimum-wage nanny so that you have time to go out into the world to tell other people how to live their lives.

      Well, even the best of plans meet the forces of inertia, chaos, and reality. My younger brother sometimes regales me with hilarious stories about how his oldest was raised compared to his youngest. Both boys have a fine mother. In this day of shunted responsibility, this mother would make numerous unannounced calls on the day care center to check up on them. She pulled her kids out of more than one. Although one can debate the merits or demerits of daycare, this woman was not a passive nincompoop. She wanted to get things right which is typical of first-time mothers in particular.

      And she was also a neat-freak at home. Again, an admirable trait if you see the abject filth some people live in…and they do so not because they are materially poor but because they are materially poor in spirit (or never had a mother who was a neat freak). Anyway, she spent an inordinate amount of time trying to maintain a certain amount of order and living-room decorum even though there was a toddler running about. Entropy would not be allowed to rule.

      But as my brother tells me, by the time the second son had come, she’d sort of given up that fight. They even now joke at the fact that they’ll often wake up in the morning and it looks as if their youngest son had exploded in the living room. The littlest one (not quite so little anymore) would tend to just cast off his clothes where he stood in an instant and leave the fossilized remains of what looked to be an individual who had exploded or been vaporized but left his clothes behind.

      And I think this principle of loosening up tends to hold regarding many other things as well. Still, eldest sons have always been special in families and societies. They were to inherent the property. They were to carry on the honor of the family name. They were to be married into the right families. And so I don’t think eldest sons ever escape the special responsibilities they have. The will most likely, at some point, be the patriarch of the family, although with feminism having thoroughly confused these issues, one wonders if there is anything left to lead, or worth leading.

      So these days my younger brother’s household is a retreat of “managed chaos.” Certain areas are to be kept relatively tidy. And there’s a whole big area now of “What the hell.” What this portends for brotherly relationships, I’m not sure. But I can’t help thinking that the eldest dominating the younger resembles those species of birds where the largest chick will try to push the smallest one out of the nest so that he (or possibly she) gets all the food and attention.

  5. Rosalys says:

    As a kid I had a temper (still do, but I have learned to control it, or at least learned to try to control it over the years.) My brother is a year and a half older than me and would tease me unmercifully. He just loved to see me fly off the handle and of course I would oblige him every time! My mother used to tell me, “If you wouldn’t react so beautifully, he wouldn’t do it.” Very true! But at the age of three I wasn’t listening very well. There are a few incidents which happened when I was too young to remember them, but I had heard about many, many times. I was about three, three and a half. My brother had been teasing me again and as usual I was reacting beautifully, but we were in the dining room at the time. My mother came in just in time to find me with one of the dining room chairs lifted high over my head ready to hurl it at my brother! Another. Apparently my brother would routinely convince me to trade my dimes for his nickels, because since the nickels were bigger they must be worth more. One day Grampy John pulled me aside and put me wise to what was going on; the next time my brother tried to make a deal I punched him good! So it is possible to fight back against a superior force!

    Even with all the teasing I still followed him around, and as long as he wasn’t with one of his friends I was tolerated and we played together. Today he is a very wise fellow. I often seek his advise and I love him to pieces!

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Yes, that was one of the problems with my brother. On the other hand, I also remember that one time when he was attacking me and I ignored it, he became angry that I wasn’t reacting as he so enjoyed. I had a set of Renaissance style chess pieces out, and he took one piece and stomped on it. (My mother got a replacement, but the color didn’t match perfectly.)

      Of course, I did get revenge once. My brother had a nice set of Playboy that he kept in our house after he married (and when he had a daughter the next year, you can bet we all did some counting, but unfortunately there was nothing interesting involved), and I sold them to a friend.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Mr. Kung, as your friend and editor, I hope you will keep these kinds of stories coming. It takes great bravery to tell a personal anecdote in the face of a roaring public that tends only ever to notice what the Kardashians are doing on any given day, or the current state of Bruce Jenner’s sex change (don’t ask me how I even know of this issue).

    In such stories we find humanity. It’s akin to the saying ascribed to St. Francis: “Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.” The idea being that showing an example of something is often better than just flapping your gums.

    In this context, complaining that Obama is some Marxist, America-hating radical (he is) doesn’t quite have the impact of showing a bit of Americana through the eyes of a decent American. Thus we laugh at these incidents, perhaps drawing some moral truths from them, and don’t all in unison — as some other cultures would — wonder why this kid wasn’t caned or put in stocks or given “diversity” training.

    Americans — and this started with the Pilgrims — are not shocked that human nature has a dark side. It has to be kept down (which is why we are not Libertarians). But in true American fashion, we can also gain a little homespun humor from such incidents because our butt cheeks (unlike those on the Left) are not clenched so tightly.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Thinking of brothers, bullies, and other aspects of being, one of the best parables in the bible is that of the Lost Son. Here I reproduce it in full (NIV):

    The Parable of the Lost Son

    11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

    13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

    17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

    “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

    21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

    22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

    25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

    28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

    31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”


    I don’t think I ever rejoiced at my older brother when he stopped being a bully (which, really, was just a matter of him getting old enough to leave the house). And I never did resort to breaking his arm (not that I didn’t try). But he changed when he left the house, found Jesus, and changed his way of life. Parents are parents and mine were challenging. But that’s true of most. Whatever the dynamic was, the Older Brother had a tough time of it and he made sure I shared in it.

    I say I never rejoiced at my older brother when he stopped being a bully because, other than at the very moment when the bullying occurred, I never came to resent him. Oh, I have issues with my parents and even God, but not with my older brother for some reason. And it’s not an airy and air-headed denial. I, frankly, don’t understand it myself for I am quite capable of holding a good grudge.

    The story of the Lost Son is interesting in a number of ways. First off, it’s not a story for materialists and those who use the resources of their humanity for one-upsmanship, where the scales of justice are balanced according to making the tits-for-tats come out even. This is not the message of the Lost Son. But we see the elder son feeling aggrieved, missing entirely the joyous aspect of the return of his wayward brother back into the fold of decency.

    Still, one can understand the point of view of the son. It takes a big man to show the kind of wise decency that the father showed. Perhaps that is why these parables need to be told. Without such stories to stretch us, we’re very likely to remain shallow players in the tit-for-tat game of justice. We may think no more deeply about it than a libertarian who sees the younger brother’s liberation to the free market the only aspect of this story.

    And, really, that is the Christian paradigm in the father’s reaction. You will receive much even though you don’t deserve it. My favorite meditation on the story (and painting by Rembrandt) of the Lost Son is that by Henri Nouwen in his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son. It’s likely a little too much meditation for most, but I enjoyed it. This is the opposite vibe to “Allahu Akbar!” and then your head is chopped off. A civilized world must not forget how it came to be civilized.

    The reach of Christianity is that we are all brothers. But the dark parts of human nature will often have none of that concept. We see it playing out early in our childhood…even among brothers.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      One can understand the older brother’s resentment. After all, as conservatives, we rightly believe people need to learn from their mistakes. This is particularly the case when they take money out of our pockets.

      But one should remember that the father is the owner of the money, not the first son. And the second son is truly contrite, i.e. he has learned his lesson.

      God is the one who can bestow grace on people. No one else can do this. Even if one has been righteous all one’s life and received the gift, one should not resent it if God decides to bestow it on another who has only recently seen the light. There is enough for all.

      On a more practical level, can you imagine how much more evil there would be in the world, if sinners didn’t see the possibility of redemption as a reality? If I could do nothing to save myself, then why the hell shouldn’t I let it really rip?

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        One can understand the older brother’s resentment. After all, as conservatives, we rightly believe people need to learn from their mistakes. This is particularly the case when they take money out of our pockets.

        Conservatives certainly do use a tit-for-tat scales of justice in the overall process of determining justice, either in the court room or in interpersonal relationships. But strict legalism (outside of a courtroom, and even then) tends to be harsh, dumb, and cold.

        There’s not a conservative alive — or there shouldn’t be — who wouldn’t welcome Obama with open arms if this Prodigal Son of the West returned and disavowed his aggrieved views which are poisonous and often racially charged — and was prepared to pay a little penance for the destruction he has caused.

        I suppose in the Lost Son parable is the idea that works alone aren’t enough. And that’s an important lesson to learn if one is to advance beyond shallowness. Should we value some rich guy more simply because he has more stuff and has possibly even worked hard for it? We should in no way condemn a system (as some Popes typically do) that gives us this freedom and opportunity. But on a metaphysical level, are we to play the role of the Older Brother in that parable and assume that the only measure of goodness and compassion is how much work you’ve put in on the plus column?

        You can see why some of the Pharisees and others didn’t like Jesus who preached a message of worth that was not contained merely in outer forms or legalism. And usually religion devolves to such things, even if those outer forms aren’t harsh but are sloppy and saccharine such as with the good-time-rock-n-roll “tolerance” social justice crowd who go to church apparently to celebrate how damn nice they all are.

        Yes, Nouwen put his money where his mouth was. He is perhaps best known for his work with L’Arche in Canada where he worked extensively with handicapped adults.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      the Lost Son is that by Henri Nouwen in his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son.

      Nouwen was a good man. See where he ended up helping others.

      • Anniel says:

        One aspect of Nouwen’s book that thrilled me was that he says we get to be all three characters in the parable at different times. Sometimes we’re the younger brother going out into the world, having fun and living it up, and sometimes we are the resentful older brother left behind with all the work and responsibility. Nouwen, by the way, says the older brother’s problem, envy, is the hardest to overcome. Then the day comes when we get to be the parent/father trying to balance the needs of both children while still having our own joy.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          In our household, we really didn’t quite have anyone in the mold of the prodigal son, though my sister Theodora (the oldest sibling) probably qualified as the prodigal daughter. (She had a lot of emotional problems back then — which Elizabeth suspects were a matter of adjusting, particularly when she went to college at Murray State University. Of course, as a Missionary Kid Elizabeth tends to think in those terms, and thinks that’s why she ended up as housemate to an Army brat.)

  8. Jerry Richardson says:

    I was the younger brother with the older sister. I always seemed to come-out on the down-side. My sister would taunt me in someway, when mom was not watching, and when I tried to retaliate, usually by throwing something, mom would have turned around and of course I was the one in trouble. What really irritated me was the way my sister would saintly smile as if she had done nothing.

    But I found an excellent way to get back. Whenever we had fried chicken, which was usually only often enough to be a treat, I would save my gnawed chicken-leg bone, hide it, and later when mom was not close I would chase my sister with that chicken-leg bone; she hated it and of course would put-up a scream, so my chases had to be fast.

    I knew it was a naughty trick, but it did let me establish a bit of equality in one-ups.

    Today my sister and I are the only members remaining in our immediate family; and we understandably, I think, are each others favorites.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I don’t remember any such shenanigans, though as a Southern family we had fried chicken frequently. I do remember that when we visited Coney Island in 1961 (on the way to Greece), I had an ice-cream cone with coffee and pistachio (I liked weird combinations, though I generally couldn’t tell the difference) — and made my brother and sister both gag at the thought.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      A girl being chased by a madman with a chicken bone. Sounds like a good Stephen King novel.

      As a middle brother, I had both ends of the stick. But my mother insists I was a very good older brother. That’s frankly not my memory. I thought I could be a royal pain much of the time. No broken bones, though (chicken or otherwise) between us.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I did have one broken bone (an arm, I think) when I was very young (no more than 2 years old), but naturally I have no memory of it, or why it happened. It probably wasn’t a result of bullying. (My brother could be considered responsible for a bad wrist cut I suffered going through a glass door in our house in Greece, but that was purely an accident.)

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