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A Flurry of Hadoukens and Shoryukens

By: onipar

A Flurry of Hadoukens and Shoryukens 

By Anthony J. Rapino 

 

            Every town has its bullies, but Brooklyn in the 80’s was something special.  I sometimes imagined there had been some kind of toxic waste spill that engulfed the outer edges of the bay area, transforming otherwise normal children in to mini-mobsters of a staggering variety.    

            One such pair of hoodlums haunted my neighborhood for the better part of one summer in 1991.  Legend has it that they were the sons of a high ranking soldier in one of the local mob families, but this tale was never verified.  And perhaps it didn’t matter, because mob family or not, my friends and I did our very best to avoid the heinous duo. 

            The older brother was the smaller of the two.  He had something of an Al Capone swagger, yet couldn’t have been more than 14.  To us pre-teens, he might as well have been 40.  He was always seen with a cigarette hanging from his mouth, and rarely without his super-sized younger brother, who far exceeded him in height and girth.  He also had a distinct aura about him: he stank like week-old clams. 

            Given little reason to ever engage with the gruesome twosome, my friends and I went about our summer in the standard way.  A lot of time was spent at the park, riding bikes, and playing basketball.  But when we grew tired of these varied activities, there was always the bright and shiny arcade machines that were littered around the neighborhood like golden coins.  It was the heyday of the arcade, and nearly every shop--pizzerias, delis, bagel stores--all had at least one machine.

            Due to proximity and atmosphere, we nearly always opted to stop in the video store across the street for a few games of Street Fighter II.  There was just something about the video store that spoke to us, even then.  The box art, the dingy carpets, the secret adult section.  It was like walking into another world.

            On this day, however, the other world we walked into was a hell-scape from which we wanted only to escape. 

            It started innocently enough.  My brother Mike, my friend Yury, and myself decided to go grab a Slush Puppy and a few games on Street Fighter, so we headed across the street.  As soon as we began to cross, we spotted the two mini-mobsters heading in the same direction. 

            We didn’t really know them.  We only knew of them, so we did our very best to ignore their approach.  But these two, they weren’t the types to eschew a possible confrontation, and in this way, they headed us off even as we veered away in the direction of the video store. 

            The older brother, Joey, took a long drag on his cigarette and grimaced as he began walking with us.  I slowed and he hung back with me as Yury and my brother sped up a bit.

            Joey stared for a while, sizing me up.  Finally, he said, “What you doin’?”

            His brother, perhaps a little slow, simply smiled in our faces.

            I said, “Going to the video store.”

            “Oh yeah?” he said, starting to smile an evil toothy grin.

            I didn’t reply, and when my silence began to bore him, he walked ahead of me and made to put his cigarette out on my friend’s back.  I jumped forward and yelled Yury’s name.  He spun around and instinctively swatted the cigarette away.  It flew from Joey’s hand.  Rather than become angry, his evil grin grew ten-fold, and it was then I realized, he had wanted things to play out this way. 

            Joey said, “You just wasted my smoke.”

            Yury looked at me, knowing we had been backed into a corner. 

            “You gonna buy me a new pack?”

            His brother, Eddie, laughed a little too loud.  His stench permeated the whole area. 

            Logically of course, we all knew it wasn’t Yury’s fault.  The psycho was going to put a cigarette out on his back.  But we also knew that logic didn’t matter.  It was a game like any other, and Joey was winning. 

            Finally, Yury said, “I only have fifty cents.”

            Joey nodded, seemed to consider this.  “So what were you gonna do at the video store?”

            My brother--younger and perhaps not aware of the dire spot we were in--blurted, “Play video games!”

            “Street Fighter II?” Joey asked.

            I nodded.

            Eddie clapped and laughed.

            Joey said, “I can eff you up in that game.  I’m the best.”

            I nodded as if to say.  Yes, yes of course you are!  Now please leave us alone.

            Joey said, “Okay.  Your fifty cents.  That’ll pay for my game and yours.  If I beat you, I want my pack of cigarettes.  If you beat me, we’re square.”

            It was the best deal we were going to get, so we all agreed and headed in to the shop.  Yury happily paid the fifty cents for the two games and chose his favorite character, which happened to also be mine: Guile.  Joey went old school and chose Ryu.  The familiar music started to play, and despite the circumstances we all smiled.  This was what it was all about, after all.  A hot summer day, an air conditioned video store, and video games.  No matter how often we played them, they always had the ability to elicit a smile and warm glow of happiness.

            Then: Round 1.  FIGHT!

            In a flurry of Hadoukens and Shoryukens it was over.  Yury never even threw a single sonic boom.  To rub salt in the wound, the arcade taunted, “Perfect!” 

            The second round went the same way.  In a matter of seconds, Guile was no more, and Yury set his jaw for what was to come.  Only, it never did.

            Joey turned, still smiling, and said, “Told ya I’d eff you up.”  He looked at his watch and said, “You can have my game.” 

            His brother ensnared Yury in a cosmic bear hug, lifting him off the ground and encasing him in clam-stank, then left with his brother.  Nothing more was ever said about the cigarettes, and even though it had been Yury’s quarter that bought the game in the first place, we were all flummoxed by the bully’s sudden generosity.

            I’d like to think that on that fine summer day, video games and camaraderie helped to thaw the heart of a malicious and violent brute, causing him to look generously upon us.  But really, he was probably just late for a midday stabbing at the park and couldn’t be bothered to finish his game. 

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onipar Posted on Sep 01, 2015 at 07:14 PM

Thanks so much, I really appreciate that! :-)

shakin steak Posted on Aug 27, 2015 at 04:23 PM

Man, what a well-deserved win. Great setup, great plot, great writing.

onipar Posted on Aug 17, 2015 at 02:26 PM

Thanks, Hoju! Yeah, the arcade bullies were the worst. I have probably a couple more stories about that sort of thing.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Aug 16, 2015 at 03:51 PM

Epic and great narrative structure. Video game bullies were something I encountered as well, growing up. They always approach you as if you did something to offend them, when all you were doing was playing a game alone. In my case, the guy brought 5 of his buddies back to intimidate me and I got out of that skating rink in a hurry. I wish the magic of Street Fighter II could have melted my bully's heart as well.

onipar Posted on Aug 10, 2015 at 05:28 PM

So glad you enjoyed this! I've been wanting to write some stories about childhood events in Brooklyn, and I was excited to have a bit of motivation to finally do so.

Vaporman87 Posted on Aug 10, 2015 at 04:58 PM

Beautifully written story, onipar (though one would expect it to be so; you being an author).

The plight of a childhood spent someplace like Brooklyn is about as unfamiliar to me as such a thing could be. But the fear of a local bully is pretty universal, so I can relate to this story.

I love these lines -

"...lifting him off the ground and encasing him in clam-stank..."
"...he was probably just late for a midday stabbing at the park..."

Thanks for sharing!

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