from the archives

His name was Timothy but we called him Carrot because his hair was red. Later, behind his back, we called him Gimpy because he walked funny. A week after we moved to Virginia Beach, Carrot’s mom brought him and his sister Tiffany over to our house.
    “Hi, I’m Elizabeth,” she said when my mom opened the door. “We live just up the street. Welcome to the neighborhood!”
    Mom introduced us.
    Carrot looked at his feet. When his mom nudged him he asked if I wanted to go play football with him.
    "Oh that sounds nice, Joey,“ my mom said. "Would you like to go? Go on and play.”
    I went. At first I was scared because Carrot was the ugliest kid I’d ever seen. He had a big upturned nose and reddish skin with freckles, wild hair, and big teeth. The first thing Carrot said to me was: “You can call me Carrot. Everybody does. If you call me Timothy I’ll hit in you in the face. Naah, I’m kidding.”
    "Okay,“ I said.
    We walked over to get Carrot’s friend Justin and went to the park to play football. Carrot played quarterback since he had the strongest arm and could throw the furthest. I played receiver and was pretty good. We played the neighborhood boys and beat them. From then on, when Carrot picked me we usually won. When we got bored with football we played other games like Smear the Queer or Freeze. I didn’t like playing Smear the Queer. I liked playing Freeze since his sister Tiffany would play. Unlike her brother, she was pretty. I liked chasing her and making her freeze.
    That fall Carrot said to me,  "Hey, whatta you gonna be for Halloween?”
    "Nothing,“ I said.
    "Whatta you mean?”
    "We’re not allowed to have Halloween. My mom thinks it’s evil.“
    "So you don’t get candy or nothing?”
    I shook my head.
    Carrot and Justin laughed.
    "That’s stupid,“ Carrot said. "Your family is weird.”
    "Hey,“ Justin said. "Why does your dad duct tape his shoes?”
    My dad taped his running shoes because he couldn’t afford to buy new ones.
    "I don’t know,“ I said.
    The next day I was playing basketball with Justin in his driveway. Carrot wasn’t there.
    "Hey, do you think you could beat Carrot up?” Justin said.
    "What?“
    "Beat him up? Do you think you’re stronger than him? Carrot says he could beat you up.”
    "I don’t know, maybe I could.“
    "He said he could beat you up because he’s stronger and you’re a sissy.”
    "He said that?“
    "Yeah.”
    "No, I could beat him up,“ I said, scared.
    The next time I showed up to play football, Carrot was captain but he didn’t pick me. He picked Justin. The other captain picked me.
    They got the ball first and Carrot threw to Justin and they got a touchdown. Then, when Carrot was guarding me, Carrot was pushing me making it hard for me to run my pattern. They got the ball back. We played for a while and Carrot and Justin didn’t say anything to me. Near the end, we were up by a touchdown and it was 4th down and goal for Carrot’s team. Carrot acted like he was going to pass it but then tried to run it in. I saw him doing this and tackled him before he could make it in the end zone.
    "Asshole,” he said.
    I gave my team high fives and left for home. A few blocks from my house, Carrot came up behind me and pushed me to the ground. He jumped on me and drew his fist back. At that moment, Carrot’s older brother was walking by and grabbed Carrot as he was swinging his fist.
    As his brother dragged him away, Carrot yelled, “I can beat you up, sissy!”
    "Tim, shut up,“ his brother said.
    A few days later when Carrot was riding his bike down a hill the front tire came off because the bolts were loosened and he crashed into a tree and hurt his leg.