Modesto, California. 1991.
My name is Nick Pullen.
My last name used to be Sucksdorf until I changed it when I was eight years old.
This is why, if you really would like to know.
When I was eight years old, my brother Jason and I- who is a year younger,
were playing ‘baseball’ with our friend Dan in the ‘front yard’ of
of our house. By ‘front yard’ I mean in the street and by ‘baseball’
I mean tapeball.
Let me explain ‘tapeball’. My mom wouldn’t let us play with a real baseball on account that we might break somebodies window, so she taught us how to wrap duct tape around a huge wad of toilet paper to form our own makeshift baseball. After several years of tapeball we went through much toilet paper.
Now back to my last name. My mom and dad divorced when I was too young to remember and she remarried a man named Michael, Michael Pullen. At first I hated him on account that my eight year old mind believed that he was going to try to replace my biological father; and so I always gave him a hard time. Not Jason though, who welcomed Michael with open arms, and for that I hated my brother. Not all of the time, though, because whenever our mutual friend Dan came over I was forced to get along with my brother to keep good with Dan.
Even though Dan was my age, he was also friends with my brother.
Let me return to the subject of my stepfather later.
One day Dan, Jason and I were all playing tape ball in the street, between Dan’s house and my own, when I hit a home run. It was glorious. A home run was qualified by anything that went all the way across the street; and this one did. All the way across the street and slightly to the left.
Unfortunately I hit it all the way to Dan’s next door neighbor’s house.
I had hit many similar home runs before; but today it was very early in the morning and Dan’s neighbor had not yet left for work.
Anyway, the grumpy man that lived there was coincidentally just walking out his front door when our tape ball hit his front window and bounced off onto his porch.
He picked up the ball, shook it in the air, and yelled at us saying “You little sons of bitches!”
I froze at home plate.
“Oh crap!” I heard Dan say from the pitcher’s mound, which was a line marked
in white chalk near the center of the street.
Now the disgruntled neighbor was cursing up even more of a storm as he approached us. At the same time, from behind us and behind our front gate, my step dad Michael was picking up the Modesto Bee. Needless to say, he overheard the commotion and went back into our house. By the time he came out, my little brother was in tears while Dan’s neighbor was shaking the tape ball angrily just inches from his face.
Now I heard a thunderous voice from behind us, “What the hell do you think you’re doing, pal!”
I turned around to see my stepdad yelling and walking quickly toward the scene.
“These are my boys!” he said.
“Your boys just hit my window, pal!” he yelled back at Michael,
who had just gotten to where we stood.
“I don’t appreciate the way you’re talking to them, either.” Michael growled furiously.
Dan’s neighbor tossed the ball at Michael and it bounced off of his large chest and landed in the road.
“You ever heard of the first amendment…’freedom of speech’, motherfucker?!” the man yelled at Michael, getting up into his face.
” I have,” he answered with cool calm. Michael then opened up his bathrobe, revealing a hand gun- a .50 Action Express, to be sure-
and pointed at it, continuing, “and have you ever heard of the second
amendment… the ‘right to bear arms’?”
Suddenly Dan’s neighbor went white in the face and his crotch went wet.
I kid you not, this grown man actually pissed his pants. He then stammered as he said, “Listen, sir…I’m… suh-suh-suh-sorry to upset you.”
Michael closed his bathrobe and took a mighty step towards the man, who backed up a foot or so.
“Don’t apologize to me. Apologize to my boys.”
The man looked at us with fear leaking from his eyes as he apologized with fearful haste.
Michael took another step towards the man, who retreated further and said,
“Now get the hell out of here.” The man did not hesitate for a second as he ran back to his house.
“Wow, Michael. You didn’t have to do that!” my friend Dan said in awestruck wonder and disbelief.
“I felt that I needed to,” he replied.
“Why?” asked Dan.
“To teach you boys a valuable lesson,” he paused before adding, “That lesson is this, boys: sometimes two wrongs equal a right.”
The next week I asked my mother if I could change my last name to Pullen, like my stepfather.