Just Desserts

Tom Stanton

It seemed only fitting that the Manzelli boys should be poisoned in our garage. It was there, after all, amid the monkey wrenches and hopelessly sealed cans of turpentine, that they perpetrated some of their most memorable mischief: dropping a pencil into the gas tank of Dad’s ‘69 Camaro, pouring varnish on our lawn mower, rubbing ball-bearing grease on the bottom of little Roseina Pellerito.

Such crimes cried for retribution.

Like the other garages in our suburban Detroit neighborhood, ours jutted out toward the road, in front of the house, as if it were the main feature of our ranch home, the part we most wanted visitors to see. Its guacamole-green walls were lined with patio-red benches, under and on top of which set anything too unseemly to be stored inside. Car oil and cinder blocks. A spare tire iron. Mom's early acrylic landscapes. Almost-empty cans of paint. A chipped, 14-pound bowling ball. Pesticides, insecticides and assorted household chemicals.

It was an early summer afternoon in 1971. Mickey Lolich was pitching the Tigers into a division race, and my older brother, with his head under his red MG, was worrying about the draft, contemplating Canada and singing off-key with Rod Stewart.

Tommy Hensen and I, both ten, were eating vanilla ice cream in the cool damp shade of the garage. Across Shawn Drive, the Manzelli boys played tag in their treeless yard.

The neighborhood alliances had recently shifted, with Tommy and I pledging lifetime friendship.

"They think they’re so cool," he said of the Manzellis.

"Just cause their dad races cars," I added. "But his car is junk."

We talked some more, and then stirred lawn fertilizer into the ice cream.

"Danny? Steve?" I yelled across the street, beckoning them with a bowl. "You wanna be friends?"

Tom Stanton, a Detroit-area journalist, co-authored Rocket Man: Elton John from A to Z. His newspaper columns have won state and national press honors. Stanton is working on a collection of essays.

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