In the fourth grade, I had a crush on a boy named Brandon Volchek. My friend, Karen, had a crush on Brandon’s brother, Brendan. Karen and I would walk half a mile to Brandon and Brendan’s house, and once we were there, the brothers took turns punching us in the arm.

Not soft punches either. Hard, 10-year-old boy punches, and even though we always left with sore arms and bruises, time and again, Karen and I walked a mile round trip to see the Volchek brothers.

My cousin Connie and I would build a tent in the living room with chairs and old blankets. We ate Jiffy-Pop popcorn and made up horror stories, holding flashlights under our chins. Once our repertoire of headless bride and vanishing hitchhiker tales had been exhausted, Connie always said:

You hear that? That’s Sivad. And he’s coming for you.

Sivad was our hometown horror movie host, our “Monster of Ceremonies.” Every Saturday night, Connie and I waited for Fantastic Features to begin, with its grainy opening footage of a horse-drawn hearse and Sivad with a whip in hand.

He’s coming for you at midnight, she would say, and it scared the bejesus out of me. Still, time and again, I helped her make a tent in the living room.

Sivad was Watson Davis, a local movie promoter; “Sivad” is really “Davis”, in reverse. He was a kindly man who had a way with children, and pugilistic tendencies aside, I’m sure the Volchek brothers are somewhere leading ordinary lives with children of their own.

But time and again, Karen and I made the mile-long trek for a sock in the arm. Time and again, I spent the weekend with my cousin. 

The other day I found a pale, ghost-green insect crawling up my arm. I brushed it off then felt compelled to step on it.

You flex your muscle. You find your power there in some child’s widened eyes.

Pain, and fear, and punishment perhaps—what is it, when you return time and again.


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