After Chris Kennedy, there was Brian Kieford. Brian, like Chris, was sloooooow as the dripping of molasses. But unlike Chris, Brian wasn’t a booz hound. Heck, he probably never had a drink in his life. He seemed to be a good kid at heart. He was part Jewish and part African American. He had quite a cool look to him aside from the oh-so-plain clothes he always wore. He had the sweetest smile stretching across his face most days and a set of engagingly bright puppy dog eyes. My parents loved him for being such a quiet kid who always said “yes sir“ and “yes ma’am” when he came over. He had such a good aura about him.
Brian was a sharp-looking, whitish black guy and he looked like he was destined to be the life of every party. And Brian was the life of the party, but not for the reasons you might think. You would think a handsome guy who wore a small “fro” with good muscular definition and low profile preppy clothes would get along with most everybody. You would think wrong! Brian would get in fight after fight all through the two years I knew him. Fight he did--and fight he could!
The boy was tough as fucking nails. He had a mild muscular build, resembling a breakdancer from the early 1980s, but he wasn’t big. He was still rather small. Of the fights he got into, some of them were not his fault and some of them were totally his fault. I’d seen him fight a big, zit-faced cowboy who clobbered him and should have had him whipped, but Brian kept getting back up and eventually took down his bigger opponent.
With very little provocation, Brian once took a fork out of a kid’s hand as he ate lunch and threw the kid against a plate glass window at MacArthur High School. He was always in fights. The only fight he ever lost was against five guys, football players who jumped him after school one day to get him back for kicking one of their butts in the gym. He was so damn tough!
I once remember him getting slammed headfirst onto the concrete in the hallway by a gang member named Donald who had tackled him. You could hear his head hit the pavement like a home run. Like before, the guy should have won, but he didn‘t. A police officer who stood guard at the school happened to be present and jumped in the way and broke up the fight. But even after the hit, Brian stood right up and would have fought again had the officer not been there. He just stood up and put his hands in his pockets with a blank expression on his face as though waiting in a checkout line. He was like a damn robot (some would say like a robot while others would say he was too stupid to know any better!)
Thing about Brian was, he was so shifting. To some, he was the kindest, sweetest, most soft spoken heart-of-gold kid there was. With others, he was a troublemaker who said the wrong things at the wrong times. He had the habit of pointing at whomever he was mad at while he stared them down and told them what he was about to do to them. And yet, he had such respect for authority...weird! I remember seeing a yearbook of one girl. Brian’s picture had written above it: “duhhhhhhh.”
Brian and I got to be best friends. I’m not sure how or why we got to be friends. I guess he made me feel like I had something to say. If I went on about parallel dimensions or Stonehendge or some other mystical shit that I only thought I understood, he would listen and soak up everything I said. As was to be the case in my ministerial days, I was a big bullshitter as a kid and I loved to hear myself talk. Brian was a good sparring partner too. He would come over to my house and we’d work out and watch Bruce Lee movies when we were done. When not doing that, we tried roleplaying games with the rest of my friends. Yes, my cousin and friends’ dorkdom had us fervently campaigning in the world of Dungeons and Dragons, that home of the soul for every dateless, self-esteem-less wonder the world over.
But we could never play roleplaying games with Brian because that demanded strategizing and thinking--two things that were anathema to him. Brian didn’t learn normally and was in special classes at school, but Brian could once in a while argue and use some surprisingly eloquent strings of wording that had us in awe. It was like, once a month, he would impress the hell out of us! Most hilariously, every Dungeons and Dragons campaign we ever played resulted in conduct like “I’m taking out my sword and sticking it in his chest!” on sight of every town’s guard we came to. He just didn’t have the brains to play in a virtual world, but our campaign got tons of laughs at his expense (and he never picked up on it).
Aww, poor Brian! Don’t pick on him. So what? Thinking games are not his thing! Is that what you’re thinking? Well, not so fast. There was something else that wasn’t his thing, and that was staying out of trouble with the law. Unbeknownst to everyone except his immediate family, Brian was insane--very insane.
I found out soon enough that he was a peeping tom who got caught in the act of looking into a window where a woman was showering. This happened more than once, and then it started happening a lot. Brian definitely wasn’t gay, but he never talked or looked at women around any of us, his friends, which (looking back) appeared to be a sign of sociopath behavior. The police only cited him the first time he got caught, though they could have taken him to jail had they wanted to. But I never will forget the day Brian took a crow bar and split his dad’s head open on an ordinary Saturday afternoon.
It was a pleasant Saturday…dogs barked, the birds sang, the sun was out, the smell of cut grass was in the air…and blood covered a living room floor apartment on the Northeast side of San Antonio! All was calm until Brian’s dad told him to clean his room and get on his homework.
*snap* Brian went off. I got a call from him around 4:30pm…
Brian: “I hurt my daddy.”
Me: “What do you mean you hurt your daddy?”
Brian: “I hurt my daddy.”
Me: “Wait…what? Tell me more.”
Brian: “I hit him.”
Me: “You hit your dad? Why? Is he ok?”
Brian: “I hit him. [long pause] He told me something [long pause] and I hit him.”
Me: “Is he ok?”
Brian: “He’s going to the hospital.”
I right nearly dropped the phone and raced over there in my 4-speed standard 1976 Datsun pickup truck. Brian was outside of the house as I pulled up. Mr. Kieford had been taken to the hospital and stitched up. As I suspected he would, he refused to press charges on his son. The cops nearly kicked Brian’s ass though. I remember hearing them say as I approached: “You have something wrong with you, boy!” These officers had dealt with Brian before. They were leaving just as I was arriving to find the bloody mess.
I walked in and saw his grandmother, a sweet little old lady sitting in a living room chair against the wall. She was nearly immobile. She watched in shock as her grandson flipped. I never will forget what she said to me in her shaky, soft voice as she sat in that chair that was almost too big for her, her eyes nearly drooping closed as she talked: “He just had a moment, that‘s all. Sometimes boys get angry.”
That was the worst part of it--Brian was never expressively angry. He was always quiet, even when enraged. Then he attacked someone or threatened them in a soft and huffing voice. He was never openly emotional. Why did he go apeshit on his father? This was weird, as well as awful. But that wasn’t the worst thing. What was yet more disturbing was that as Brian spoke to me and to the cops, he was laughing--yes, laughing! He was actually failing in his attempts to hold back laughter. His bloodied hands were in his pockets, like they so often were. It was like someone told a joke and he couldn’t keep from chuckling about it.
“What happened here, Brian?” I said. He quit laughing as though his brain was shifting modes. He went from amused to indifferent to mournful in the space of not even two minutes. He was now so blank, so slow to give any response. “I don’t know. He was saying things to me.” A long conversation ensued into the late hours of the night. Mr. Kieford arrived back home and thanked me for getting involved. Brian saw his dad and said: “I’m sorry about your head, daddy.” He replied: “I know, Brian. But we still have the same problem.” “What problem? There is no problem, daddy.” Brian said. His father replied: “Really? Well, your friend sure sees it.”
As it is for so many people, one day with Brian was just like any other. It was a matter of getting up, getting dressed, saying the Serenity Prayer that was posted on his wall, and beginning the new day, just as clueless as before. Brian wanted to be a botanist and a martial arts instructor. He wanted a lot of things. I know he expected to get them. He seemed like he deserved them, that quiet boy who held the door for his teachers. Something tells me he had a hard road ahead of him!
Poor boy…he was born 6 months premature. He was kept alive for a while. Still, it was thought he wouldn’t survive, but he did survive. The result was a child who had great difficulty in school, violent episodes, immense trouble socializing, disturbing behavior, and who knows what else. And why? Because my people prevented nature from taking its course. The moral of the story is that when nature rubs out a life form or a species from existence, there is a reason for it. And barring our ability to competently direct evolution, we ought not stand in its way!