Growth & Change Are Highly Overrated
by Tom Starita
Genre: Humor, Satire
& Change Are Highly Overrated is a twist on the classic
coming-of-age story that takes a unique and comic look at what we all
fear— having to grow up and abandon our dreams.
For a charismatic man like Lucas James, life is a breeze because everyone else provides the wind. This adolescent front man for a mediocre cover band has been mooching off of his fiancée, Jackie, for years until she finally decides she's had enough. Faced with reality and having no income to support his carefree lifestyle, Lucas James abandons his principles and gets a job working in the stockroom at "That Store." How does he cope with this new found sense of responsibility?
He casually steals...
After a life spent bucking authority, how will Lucas James deal with his manager, 'Victor the Dictator'? How long can he tolerate Ralph, a starry-eyed coworker who desires nothing more than to be best friends? Will Lori, a twenty-something cashier, be like everyone else and fall for his charms? Will he ever find a place to live? And is "growing up" just another way of saying "selling out"?
My brother Eddie would never let me play with his friends. It didn’t matter if they were one short for a football game or had to use a trash can as the goalie, there was no way Eddie was letting me in with him and his gang. Some might say I chose music over sports because of the constant refusal by my older brother to let me join in on the fun. The old “I’ll show him” deal. Eddie was never the supportive, nurturing type, but we’ll get to that eventually. This is my story.
When you’re a kid, there is nothing better than summer nights, especially when you live on a raucous block like we did. This particular story took place when I was nine years old. The Fourth of July had recently passed, and there was still evidence of a celebration randomly scattered on the street and by the curbs. The residents of Stieg Road had finished their dinner, and the block was alive with nighttime activity. Neighbors were gathered on stoops, little kids were running around playing tag, Franky played with the toys of our next-door neighbor, and my older brother, Eddie, had resumed the stickball game he and his friends had been playing all afternoon.
Where was Lucas James?
I was desperate to play with my big brother and his loser friends. They didn’t feel the same, so I sat there, watching them have their fun. Like I said, this was the norm, and I decided I had to do something brash to win them over. I had to do something that would impress them, something that would earn their begrudging respect and, perhaps, result in them carrying me down the street on their shoulders in celebration while Eddie crossed his arms and cursed as dust kicked up in his face.
For weeks I thought of what I could do to win their approval, some kind of feat of strength or daredevil maneuver that would change everything. Nothing I could think of was impressive enough or unbelievable enough to make them change their minds about little Lucas James. Then, that night at dinner it came to me.
I could jump over a moving car.
Now I know how it sounds, but trust me, I worked out the physics well ahead of time. And by well ahead of time, I mean during dinner.
We lived on a residential street with stop signs on either end. If a car was doing thirty down our block he was called Mario Andretti by the neighbors. To this day I have no idea why a speeding motorist was mocked with an Italian name. Most of the time the passing traffic was made up of leisurely cars taking their leisurely time while the kids on the street waited impatiently for them to pass.
When the stickball game resumed after dinner, I made sure to get a prime seat—the green cable box protruding from our little strip of grass by the curb. The older kids called where I was sitting “the clit,” something that later on made much more sense. This spot was aligned with home plate, and when Eddie saw me sitting there his displeasure was apparent. Like I said, he didn’t want me remotely near him and his friends. The only thing that saved me from an “Eddie Special”—five rabbit punches to the shoulder and one to the stomach—was my mom, who heard Eddie yelling and told him I wasn’t hurting anyone sitting there on the box, and he should leave me be.
I knew right then and there I was dead meat. Not only had I defied Eddie, but I had inadvertently gotten Mom involved, embarrassing him in front of his friends. There were a couple of “Eddie Specials” in my future. Unless, of course, I pulled off my death-defying stunt and changed the course of history.
I let a couple of cars pass, gauging their speed. I also watched the guys as they waited for the cars to pass. Someone would spot the vehicle coming down the block and creatively yell, “Car!” Invariably, the cars came at the worst times, like base hits in the gap, runners rounding third, the kind of plays that were impeded by an automobile meandering across the infield. Once the car left the playing area, someone came up with the bright idea to yell out the phrase, “Game on,” and chaos ensued.
Finally, during the bottom of the eighth inning, it was my time to shine. Eddie roped a double into the gap, and it was now second and third with one out and Bryan Shannon waiting to hit as the tying run. In the outfield, deep down the block because Shannon could mash, Al Susto yelled “Car” and everyone moved to the side, waiting for the car to pass.
I leaned forward on the green box, planting my left foot at the edge of the curb while my right foot nervously tapped the ground, anticipating the next step. I was going to rush out to home plate and perfectly time my leap at the exact moment the car arrived. This felt like a foolproof plan, forgetting for a second the possibility that I was a bigger fool than previously considered.
When we’d finished dinner that night, I had gone in my room to practice my leaping ability. After a couple of practice jumps, I managed to hold my body in the air almost a full second. The way I figured, if I could do that in my bedroom with no pressure and, more important, no adrenaline, I could definitely hold my jump at least three or four more seconds. As I understood it, adrenaline basically gave people superpowers, like when mothers lifted up cars with their bare hands to save their babies. The way I figured, there was nothing to worry about. Not only could I jump and have access to secret superpowers—the cars cruised down the block! Although I knew people were going to say this was the greatest stunt of all time, I knew the truth: it wasn’t a big deal.
Finally it was time. My date with destiny had arrived. The car was coming down the block and unknowingly driving into immortality. The moment I took off was the moment I also realized that the driver behind the wheel of this Toyota Camry was not obeying the normal conventions of suburban driving. He was going fast, much faster than anticipated. I could already hear several adults enunciating the first syllable in the phrase “Mario Andretti,” each trying to get that cheap laugh. The way my subconscious understood science, a faster car made the whole thing not only more impressive, but easier than I originally thought. After all, if the car was going faster I wouldn’t have to stay in the air three or four seconds. My one-second jump would be plenty enough as the car whizzed on by.
I can still see Bryan mouth the words What the hell as I made my way to home plate at the exact moment the car reached the same spot. I jumped, and in my mind’s eye already envisioned this act of daredevilry being recorded in the annals of heroic events. I was going to be famous before I turned ten! I closed my eyes, jumped, and the next thing I knew…
I hit the windshield and was tossed high into the atmosphere until I hurdled horribly back down to the earth. I was a modern-day Icarus, careening off Mario Andretti’s car and plummeting to the pavement.
The next tangible thought to light up the synapses and neurons in my brain occurred sometime in the middle of the night. I woke up, in excruciating pain, unsure of my surroundings. So I did what any nine-year-old boy would do when faced with such a harrowing environment: I cried.
That was the cue my mother needed to come racing over, screaming, cursing, crying, kissing, a million different emotions all pouring forth at once. I was in the hospital. My stunt had broken my left collarbone, left wrist, sprained my left ankle and right wrist, given me a slight concussion, and there were lacerations all over my face. I was lucky I wasn’t killed. I moved my head slightly to the left and saw Eddie and Franky staring at me from a couple of chairs. I could tell by the streaks on his face and his red, puffy cheeks Franky had been crying. Eddie looked the way Eddie always looked when it came to me—pissed. I had ruined his game, and now he was stuck in a hospital staring at his stupid brother sleeping for hours. I’d go into more of Eddie and his reactions, but this isn’t his story so we’ll get to him a little bit later.
While my mother explained to me the stupidity of my decision and implored me to tell her what the hell I was thinking and made me promise to never do such a stupid thing ever again, I could think of only one thing: I’m famous.
The epilogue to that story involves a lawyer who saw dollar signs, an injured nine-year-old, and an easily manipulated legal system. Despite my own stupidity, the driver, who it turned out wasn’t Italian, saw the writing on the wall and settled out of court with us. Later on, I found out that money helped us get through a rocky couple of years. Did my mom ever thank me for sacrificing myself for the good of the family? Of course not.
Naturally, I became a legend in the neighborhood and at school. Eventually, the story spiraled out of control to where I landed on the roof of the car, surfed down the block, and only got hurt because the car crashed into a fence. I milked that bad boy with the girls all the way to high school.
I tell you this tale not as a note of caution, because I don’t believe anyone would be stupid enough to try to mimic my stupidity. Although I suppose for legal reasons I should tell you to not be a fucking idiot. No, I say these words in order for you to grasp the premise of how my mind works. I would put myself in front of impending doom if it meant possible fame and fortune. With an outlook like that, no wonder I was drawn to the bright lights of rock and roll.
Starita is the author of two novels, "Two Ways to Sunday"
and "Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated" and makes an
impact on everyone he encounters. When asked for her thoughts about
him, Oprah Winfrey said, "Who?" Tom Hanks refused to
respond to an email asking for a quote and former Mets great Mookie
Wilson once waved to him from a passing taxi.
Originally from Staten Island, NY Starita has now found a home in the beautiful beach community of Stratford, Connecticut with his wife Shannon and their dog Lola. He remains a loyal fan of the New York Mets.
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