Thursday, August 18, 2016

An Acre Memory- A Summer Story

"Little Rascals" Google image.
The dog is man’s best friend.  Well that’s what we’ve been told.  Scruffy.  Rover. Lassie. Rin Tin Tin.  Snoopy.  When you hear names like that you think of sweet little puppies and doggie heroes.  To some when they hear the bark of a dog it’s like hearing a voice say, “Hey I’m over here.   Let’s play fetch.”  A wagging tale means, “Gee, I like you.”  To me a barking dog has the same effect as the open jaws of a great white, or the tell-tale rattle of a rattle snake.  Why you ask?  Well, let me tell you.

Mike’s Field was the place to play when I was little.  It was the only piece of grassland in my neighborhood of close 3 story tenements.  It had tall grass and the only trees that you could climb in.  In order to get to Mike’s you had to walk up Broadway Street.  It wasn’t far, but you had to pass the Goons house.  I don’t know if anyone knew their real name so we just called them the Goon family.  There were  2 boys who were in their 20s and just sat on their porch with their old haggard mother.  If they were on the porch, you ran by their house.  And if they weren’t, you looked in the windows often to see one of them looking back at you.  Like an added incentive to get past the house as quick as you could there was a dog.  Not some sweet little pup.  Not a fancy looking poodle or a friendly retriever.  No the Goons owned the biggest, meanest, most ornery German shepherd you ever met.  Its fur was the color of coal.  Its paws were big enough to make indents in the ground where it stalked.  If you looked in its eyes you became hypnotized like a cobra does with its prey.  The one thing that separated us from the Goon dog was a six foot fence that surrounded their property.  There was no way for the Goon dog to get out.  Or so I thought.

It was July.  The locusts were making that sound they make when it gets hot.  The sun was high in the sky.  We were all playing army.  There was Ricky, Johnny, Harold, Ricky’s brother Ronny and FraFra.  FraFra was crazy and would eat anything.  He once swallowed a quarter and would proudly show it off after it made its way out.  Later that summer he ate a live hornet.  That’s another story.

As soldiers we were planning our attack on the enemy.  We were leading a charge to bomb their headquarters.  Between the yells of the attacking forces there was another sound.  It was deeper than the rest.  The others heard it too.  Time stopped.  Without turning around I knew it was behind me- the Goon Dog.  My friends saw him before I did.  I saw fear in their faces.  RUN  someone commanded.  Fear took hold of my feet I couldn’t go anywhere.  I felt his breath before I felt the pain.  Goon Dog had me on the ground and stood over me.  He outweighed me and I lay there like a opossum.  The growl came from deep with him.  His teeth were bared and drool dangled from his mouth.  

The next thing I remembered was the sound of the locusts and staring into the sun.  I was still there lying on my back.  My friends had deserted me.  I looked around and Goon Dog was gone.  I looked to my left and there was one of the Goon Boys standing by the 6 foot fence.  All I could see was his outline with his hands leaning on the fence but I knew he was looking at me.

Did he unleash the dog on us?  Or had he saved me from the beast.  I’d never know.  But when I hear a barking dog once again I’m a little kid in Mike’s Field with  the hot breath of killer beast breathing down my neck.


  1. A great story! I felt the terror... and I'm so glad you survived to adulthood to share it ;->

  2. Dave, I love to read your stories they always bring me home. Whatever happened to the goons and where is Mike's Field. I grew up on Marsh Street! No place like our Acre!

    1. Mike's field is now the parking lot for UMass on Wilder Street. The Goon brothers live on in my nightmares.

  3. I am one of eight Dillons who lived
    At 324 Suffolk Street, just across from st. Patrick's Church and School.
    I shall never forget Christmas Eve service at st. Patrick's Church in the late 1960s. Of the six Dillon children, we oldest four sung in the choir. I was the youngest of the four: Tim. One of my older siblings who will remain nameless thought that they'd see what it's like to drink booze. I think no expense was spared. The nameless older sibling bought a bottle of Boone's Farm Strawberry Wine. I'm pretty sure the entire thing had been consumed. Anyway, Christmas was here and it was time for the st. Patrick's School choir to sing the Midnight Mass. In those days, it was customary to hire two professional singers to sing the lead parts. Mr. McGuire, who was an incredible organist, let the choir and the two singers that night. For some reason when the guy started singing in an operatic tone, my nameless older sibling started laughing hysterically. Despite his best efforts to scare us down, mr. Maguire quickly grew frustrated. Before long, most everyone in the choir was laughing uncontrollably or at least tittering. I was laughing mostly because my older sibling at that point was trying desperately not to throw up. What a holy mass that would have been.