Thursday, July 9, 2009

Jerry Fish and the Strawberry Shortcake

Jerry “Fish” was your basic “rink rat” down at the Avenue F hockey
court in the 1970’s. I'm not sure how he got the name “Fish”,
and we never asked him. Because no one really wanted to know
anyway, and sometimes certain nicknames are better left alone.

At 14 years old Jerry stood about 5 foot 5 and was kind of skinny.
He had straight dirty blonde shoulder length hair and blue eyes.
Jerry usually wore an orange and white “Flyers” jersey that always
looked quite dirty when he skated with us.

Now we were all at least 18 or 19 years old and much bigger than
Jerry. But because this kid was so good, we would always let him
join in our choose-up games during the week after school.
He was just a real sweet kid that looked up to us older guys,
and we in turn always made sure to keep an eye out for him
on and off the court.

One day Jerry was real excited because he just got
paid from his part time job at a supermarket on
18th avenue. He said he had about 20 bucks in his
hockey pants and was looking forward to spending
it on something he always wanted.

“Hey Ronnie, would you mind giving me a ride over
to “Scotto’s” on 13th Avenue after the game?”

“Sure kid, what are you going to buy?”

“You know, I always had this dream about
what I was going to do with my first paycheck
and today it’s coming true”

I had no idea what Jerry was going to do, but
gladly told him I’d give him a lift to Scotto’s
on 13th Avenue.

So I took off all my goalie equipment and threw it
in the trunk of my 73 Buick. "Fish” just kept his
equipment on, including his skates and sat in the
front seat of my car.

When we got to Scotto’s I was able to get a
spot right in front.

“Hey Ronnie, can I get you something?”

“No thanks Jerry, I’ll just wait here”.

Jerry just opened the passenger’s side door
and glided on his skates to the entrance of the
bakery and opened up the door. About five
minutes later Jerry appeared with a big white
cake box tied with that red and white string.
I guess he bought it for his mom. But then,
without warning Jerry sat on the sidewalk in
front of the bakery window. He put the box
to his mouth and started breaking the string
with his teeth. He then opened it up and stuck
his hand inside. Before you knew it he had
whipped cream and strawberries all over his
face and hands.

Yeah, that was Jerry’s dream, to buy a strawberry
shortcake and just eat it all by himself,
even if he didn’t have a fork and knife.

After the league shut down in the mid 80's,
I kind of lost track of “Jerry Fish”. From what
I heard he wasn’t keeping the best of company
down on Ditmas Avenue.

And I guess the off-duty cop that shot Jerry to death
never saw the same kid I did eating that cake with
his hands in front of Scotto’s bakery.

No, he just saw some teenage trouble maker trying
to steal his car early one Saturday morning in the
late 80’s. No one ever really knew if Jerry had a gun
that day, although that was the cop’s version.

And from what I heard,
he died right in the car.

An innocence lost is such a terrible waste,
I sometimes look at my own son and worry about
how fast his path could change. As a parent you
just try to do your best and hope they keep with
a good crowd. You try to give them their freedom
and let them dream for themselves. Even if that
dream is simply about eating a strawberry
shortcake in front of Scotto’s with their
first paycheck.

Ron Lopez

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