The Bigger Brothers
GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:
OK, so in ninth grade, they made me take a shop class. It was mad crazy, right? A bunch of dudes futzing around with heavy equipment. And our teacher was a hands-off, figure-it-out, leave-me-the-hell-alone type of guy, so I started messing around with these engines mounted on these tables. And the very first thing I learned was this - if you spin the flywheel of an engine when you're holding a spark plug wire, you get a shock. It hurts like the dickens. But if you spin the flywheel, hold the spark plug wire in one hand and touch someone else with your other hand - ha ha - they get the shock. But if they happen to be touching someone, that person gets a shock. The last person in your daisy chain gets zapped. And I tell you this so I can tell you about the war.
You see, working in shop class, we like to listen to music. And there were these two brothers - the Bigger brothers - Randy and Chad or whatever. They fit their names to a tee. Each of them bigger than the other, topping the scales at over 300 pounds. And that's all well and good, the problem was that the Bigger brothers would get to shop class late, immediately turn off whatever it was we were playing, stick in their little cassette and start hopping around.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BIG COUNTRY")
WASHINGTON: (Singing along) I'm not expecting to grow flowers in the desert, but I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime.
They had a cassette with just one song on it - "Big Country." They put it on repeat. They would get in each other's faces and scream it.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BIG COUNTRY")
WASHINGTON: (Singing along) In a big country, dreams stay with you, like a lover's voice on the mountainside.
It was driving everyone crazy. But nobody would mess with them because fear reigned. Now, I was pushing the 130 pound mark, if I was lucky. But I figured, that just made me wily and quick because if no one else would stand up to the Biggers it was going to have to be me. And me, I liked Michael Jackson of course. So when the Biggers had their heads buried under an oil pan or something, turn that noise off and come to jam. Rebellion. And they would come running as fast as they, could murder in their eyes. Who turned that music off? Who turned off that big country? They're about to catch a pounding, I'll tell you what. And they prowled trying to get someone to rat me out. And if someone looked like they might be sympathetic to the MJ cause, like, say they wore a jeweled glove or something, they were for sure going to get a Bigger brother beating. And all the while, they watched me like a hawk. They knew. You got to understand - I couldn't fight the Biggers directly, that's crazy talk. And that's why I fought back the only way I knew how - with organization, with discipline, by drawing a majority of shop class students to me against the tyranny of the Biggers.
The drills were on the down low, surreptitious. Frank, Tony, Todd, on the count of three, hands linked now, disperse. Do it again. It's not good enough, do it again. And again. Until one day, one day one of the Biggers had his behind crack stuck way in the air. His cheeks exposed as to two hairy moons orbiting our shop class solar system. I gave the nod, grabbed the spark plug wire, held out my hand and watched as an army formation of seven guys coalesced with the last one sticking his finger right there in the Bigger brother's exposed butt crack, only then did I spin the flywheel. There was a holler like a birthing cow. He jumped 15 feet in the air, crashed down with murder in his eyes. Who did that? Who did that to me? Who did it? And there I was all the way across on the far side of the room holding a wrench with a big innocent smile.
Surely, I was too far away to have anything to do whatsoever with what had gone down. What happened? - I asked him, eyes wet with concern. He gave out another (imitation of groan) of impotent rage. And 15 minutes later, my troops lined up, I spun the flywheel again and we got the other brother right in his jangly soft spot. He leapt into the air, a 300 pound bull of jumping Jell-O. It may have been the single funniest thing I've seen in my short life. Of course I celebrated by turning on some Michael Jackson.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T STOP 'TIL YOU GET ENOUGH")
WASHINGTON: (Singing) Keep up with the force, don't stop, don't stop till you get enough.
And, you know, I end with my victory moonwalk, got that spin move down. What I didn't realize was that the Biggers had special Bigger brother communications powers. They didn't have to talk to lay their plans in motion. They just knew what the other one was thinking. And what the other one was thinking was that this ain't a court of law, we don't have to prove who did what, we know good and well who did it. And who did it is going to get hurt. I felt the floor rumbling. I looked to my right and I saw Bigger brother number one racing at me, belly forward. I looked to my left and spied Bigger brother number two running at me from the other side. They were going to slam me into a Bigger brother belly bump pancake.
No. I made to move out of the way and realized there was a brick wall behind me, engines in the front of me and nowhere to go, trapped. I quickly passed through the five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, before finally arriving at acceptance. Milliseconds before doom, my Spidey-senses activated. And then something deep inside me decided that if I was going to go out, I was going to take company. I reached, I grabbed the spark plug wire and let the flywheel spin. Today, on SNAP JUDGMENT, from PRX and NPR, we proudly present "Bloodlines." Amazing stories from real people connected in the most intimate of ways. My name is Glynn Washington. Please get yourself ready. Why? Because you're listening to SNAP JUDGMENT.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.