One shadow lingers over my memories of Forest River Park. A dark shadow.
His name was Albert. He was in the same grade at Saltonstall as me. Where I was thin, he was skinnier still. A faint breeze could blow him away.
I don’t remember any occasions when he was up in our apartment, but believe he must have been. I had added to my collection of models by this time. The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Phantom of the Opera now shared room on my desk with Dracula. And Albert had an obsessive fascination with movie monsters, in fact he would always talk about his favorite magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland. I felt that he probably slept with a copy under his pillow at night.
Usually he seemed easy going, even if slightly sinister. More along the lines of an Igor, the limping assistant of the Big Monster. (I wouldn’t have been surprised if he ate spiders in secret).
But that perception shifted one day.
He tagged along with us to play “army” in the park. We would have eventually worked our way along the ridge to the rock face, but not this time.
Albert was acting more odd than usual. One foot dragged and his speech took on an Igor like cadence. I turned my back to him. Without warning he hit me with clenched fists. I turned and pushed him away, saying something like, “Cut it out, Albert!”
He wouldn’t. He kept at me with something of a growl. I hauled back and punched him. The blow spun his frail frame and my second jab landed square on his back. His body arched as if an electric shock were pulsing through it, his mouth drawn in a grimace, snarling and drooling, not unlike Lon Chaney’s unmasked Phantom. Then he fell to the ground and it was as though he were enacting some death scene from a horror movie.
Of a sudden, I had a revelation, he had wanted me to inflict pain on him. In some sado-masochistic sense he wanted me to continue to beat him.
I backed away. We all backed away and left.
I have no memory of involvement with Albert after that. He stands in the back row of our Eighth grade graduation picture, a frown on his face.