Break His G****** Legs – From Guest Blogger My Buddy John O’Brien

John O’Brien, a dear old friend, weighed in with this anecdote on the Old Man.

The Core Belief


Somewhere back in high school, a bunch of us were hanging around the Zola kitchen.  One of the guys, Dan, was in pretty rough shape:  arm in a tight sling, face bruised, and nose broken if I remember right, the result of a fight in the school cafeteria.  I didn’t witness it first hand, but the story went that it was pretty spectacular, blood everywhere.

Dan had caught the worst of it.  As he told it, he had a shoulder injury a few years prior.  The other guy, Mark, being an old friend (what precipitated this, I can’t recall, probably a girl), knew the weakness and attacked the shoulder. Mark yanked on the arm repeatedly and caused a dislocation.  Dan always came off as a pretty tough guy, but without the arm he was a punching bag.  Shoulder surgery might have been required.

Alex’s house was the staging point for that night’s activities, so we’re sitting around the kitchen table, and as each guy shows up, Dan runs through the story again.  After a while, Mr. Zola wanders in.  (Only Alex used “Aron,” and I think only when he wasn’t around.)  Maybe he’s in a shirt and tie; maybe he’s in a sleeveless undershirt and bathrobe.  It’s always a crapshoot.  Maybe there’s no bathrobe.  With the thick accent (Dracula meets a gravel truck) “What happened to you?”

Dan runs through the story once more.  Mr. Zola considers it.  After a moment, finger raised, “Here’s what I want you to do.”  I’m now waiting for the attorney referral.  “The next time you see this guy, I want you to break his goddamned legs.”

After a second to absorb what was said, we all let out a chuckle, Dan included.  The eyes grow large, and the brow furls.  “No!!!  I’m telling you!  You get yourself a baseball bat and you break his goddamned legs!  Both of them!  Do you understand?  It’s the only way.”

No laughter this time, silence fell.  Dan thought for a minute and agreed to the plan, if only to placate Alex’s father.  Mutterings of agreement permeated the kitchen.  Mr. Zola, satisfied, left the room.

Of course, being white upper middle class suburbia, there was no retribution, at least not without lawyers.  For a minute though, “Break his goddamned legs” was not the crazy rant of an old man from the Old Country.  No, this was a perfectly rational course of action.

The last time I saw Dan was at our 10 year High School reunion.  He didn’t make it to our 20 year last Labor Day, more’s the pity as he was one of the people I was looking forward to catching up with.  Mark, the guy that beat Dan, didn’t make either reunion.  Go figure.

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