My brother, not unlike myself, had, and still has, an active imagination.
I have written, briefly, before, about his made-up friend, Cristifina Filipkowski.
Whereas my imagination has always been a tool to entertain myself, it served my brother more as a form of escape.
My brother didn’t speak to anyone for the first two years of his life. He wasn’t born a dullard, he understood English, he just chose not to speak, for some reason.
On his second birthday, he delivered the words that would become the stuff of legend in our family:
“Mother, this cake is bland. Not unlike your choice of blouse.”
Sometimes my brother would refuse to go to school. Normally, he loved going to school, but not on a holiday. What holiday, you ask? Why Happy Carnival Time Day, of course!
Yes, my brother would refuse to go to school on the day of his own made-up holidays. He didn’t want to insult the honor of all the heroes who died in space on Happy Carnival Time Day. He was a man of principle.
We never really knew what my brother was “escaping” from. He seemed to be a happy, content child. Nowadays, they might pump him full of anti-depressants or something, but back then, the only prescription was a steady course of forced social interaction with a side of spankings.
As far as we knew, he hadn’t experienced any great trauma, which is why we were maybe so willing to believe when he told us about Dick Blick.
When he was six, my brother informed my family at the dinner table that he had been molested by a man named Dick Blick.
Naturally, we were all in shock. To have a child abused in such a way is something no family should ever have to go through. My mom grabbed my brother and I, she embraced us both. I can still feel her hot tears against my skin as she sobbed. My father went to retrieve his gun.
The police were called in, the whole family was questioned. My brother had to point to the parts on a doll and show a psychologist where the man had touched him.
Then the news media came calling. Things got crazy. My parents did their best to shield us from what was going on. We went on a two-week vacation to Disney World, to get us away from everything. I love Disney World, so my brother getting molested was the best thing that had happened to me so far, though I knew enough not to vocalize this in front of my parents.
After a day spent going on rides, eating cotton candy, riding the monorail and hanging out by the pool, my brother and I retired to the room while my parents went out for a fancy dinner. It took some coaxing by my father, but my mother finally agreed to leave our side for the first time since my brother broke the news.
After showing us 12 times how to lock the deadbolt and making us promise we wouldn’t leave the room or open the door for anyone, my parents left us.
I just want to point out that this advice would have meant our inevitable doom, had there been a fire, but there hadn’t been, so I will let you off the hook this time, Mom and Dad.
We sat on the beds, watching cartoons and eating pizza. I decided to ask my brother about his recent molestation. Something had been gnawing at my stomach and I just couldn’t shake it.
As he described, in detail, what this “Dick Blick” had done to him, I realized my hunch had been correct. My brother told me, word for word, the plot of the now infamous “Diff’rent Strokes” episode where bicycle store owner Mr. Horton molests Arnold’s friend Dudley.
I shook my head and laughed. I knew my brother was in trouble, but you had to hand it to the kid. He had quite an imagination. Not to mention some pretty solid acting chops. I told him to dry his fake tears. He was going to have to come clean and tell my parents the truth.
In six days, when our Disney World vacation was over, that is.
On the plane ride home, he broke the news. I thought my parents would be relieved, but instead, they seemed kinda horrified. Then really, really mad.
When we got home, my father sent my brother to his room with no dinner. I went up to my room too, but listened by the door as my parents agonized over what to do next.
You see, my first tip-off had been the name of my brother’s assailant. My brother liked names that rhymed. He had confirmed to me that he just liked the way it rolled off the tongue.
Unfortunately, by some cruel, twist of fate, there actually was a Richard “Dick” Blick who lived in our town. And yes, he did own a bike store. Though he truthfully protested that he had never even seen my brother before, a child’s word and especially tears held a lot of value back then.
Remember, this is before DNA testing and repressed memories and all that garbage. This was a cute little tow-headed boy crying his eyes out and telling a tale crafted by the best television writers Hollywood had to offer.
When they came forward, my parents offered Mr. Blick their most heart-felt apologies. Surprisingly, this didn’t really put him in a better mood.
His store burnt to the ground by an angry mob, his soon-to-be ex-wife and children now in hiding in a different state, Dick Blick was a pariah. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t been convicted of child molestation, all that mattered in most peoples’ minds was that he had been accused.
Basically, his life was over.
Much later, on a different vacation, I remember my mom asking my brother if he had learned anything from that experience. He said that while he was sorry, he no longer felt bad since a Wal Mart had come to town that would have surely driven Mr. Blick out of business anyway.
Well, my mom couldn’t argue with that.