I bet you all know a kid like the one I grew up with. Didn’t we all either grow up, or go to school, with a kid devoid of any social skills? A kid that’s a bit dim. A kid that’s an imbecile. The kind of kid that would be the village idiot, if only he could handle the responsibility.
In the case of my childhood, it was the boy who lived across the street. His name wasn’t Carl, but that’s what I will call him in order to avoid potential reprisals. Look, I know that everyone does stupid things. We all shoot ourselves in the foot from time to time, but for most of us it’s just a metaphor. Unlike the time Carl literally shot himself in the foot, whilst loading a catapult. Carl suffered the kind of stultifyingly ignorant naivety that transcends being able to bestow any kind of insulting nickname relating to his lack of intelligence or street smarts. Carl was…just Carl.
It is said that a baby’s brain is like a sponge. In the early years of childhood, the brain is a learning machine. Because the baby is under near-constant parental supervision, this works well as the baby grows older. Critical thought and analysis will typically develop later.
By any measurement, Carl’s brain was almost entirely sponge. Not just any sponge, though. A magical sponge that selectively throws away information that might be in any way useful, retaining only the most rudimentary information so that he might, for example, at least remember that he is not a fish.
Carl was famous for giving completely unrelated answers to any questions posed of him. To be generous, you might think he was simply a step ahead of the person posing the question. To be imaginative, you might think that his Babelfish was fitted incorrectly. To be reasonable, you’d be right to assume that he was simply a fucking fruitcake.
One example of Carl’s unusual question response was when he had been left at home for a few hours. When his parents returned from their shopping trip, they asked if there had been any phone calls:
“Did anyone call?”
“Yeah, I fed the dog”.
This was one example, of many.
“Carl, are you coming out to play?”
“About thirty in a bag.”
“What are you taking for your GCSEs?”
“Next to the umbrella!”
As my brother and I got older and more cruel, we began to manipulate and trick Carl. Basketball was popular when we were kids and we had a basketball hoop attached to the back of our house. Even the local council got in on the action, building an outdoor court in a nearby park.
True story… One day we invented a scenario where the three of us had to win a basketball tournament, and the top prize was ownership of some random land somewhere. I think it was in Greenland. We didn’t really think it through in any great detail. But we didn’t need to.
I took a sheet of high-quality, textured A4 paper. I typed a letter on my computer and made out that it was written by people representing 7-Up (the drink, made by Pepsi), who were to be the fictional sponsors of our tournament. The coup de grâce, at the foot of the letter, was an incredibly blurry overhead photograph of the land that was to be given away as first prize, so that the winners might build their own state-of-the art basketball court. And of course, as undisputed champions of our backyard, we would be winning. Aquiring the image was a feat in itself, as these events pre-date Google Earth by years. Intead, using Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000, I nose dived a Cessna towards a random spot in Greenland and Print Screened it. Carl gobbled all of this up.
For the next God-knows-how-many weeks, we were in the local park practicing our mad basketball skills. We were shit. I really cannot understate how reprehensibly poor, how soul-crushingly dire and insulting to the sport we were. We were horrific and surely offensive to any on-looker unfortunate to glimpse us. We would have made our own Mothers physically sick with our distressing, revolting performances. We were genetically and culturally basketball-disabled, although my brother and I were not under any illusions. Carl, on the other hand, was under plenty of illusions. But as I’ve already said, in the nicest possible way, he displayed all the symptoms you would normally associate with being born with an extra chromosome.
As the days went by, all of our conversation surrounded the fake competition. If ever Carl’s suspicions were aroused, which wasn’t often, we just fed him new yet increasingly unlikely scenarios to pique his interest. “We have to go to Greenland! We have to beat loads of other teams! No, Carl, it doesn’t matter that there’s only three of us. We can take on a team five! We just have to practice MORE!”
The prize became more elaborate. It started off as a random piece of land and became a random piece of land in Greenland that we could develop into our own indoor basketball court. It would be the future venue of all major basketball tournaments, and we would be rich. And good at basketball.
Carl would start to get furious that we weren’t trying hard enough and my brother and I had to do all we could not to laugh, painfully swallowing our own fists if necessary. Without any irony, using my Dad’s video camera and some awful computer generated music, we even produced a music video to promote our basketball team.
The closing date to submit ourselves to the competition came and went, and with it, Carl’s aspirations of being the next Larry Bird. Or some other famous white basketball player.
Carl had a couple of older brothers who were in the territorial army, presumably so that they could escape from their maniac sibling. As kids, they would like to play army games, running around with toy guns shouting “bang!” and “rata-ta-ta-ta-ta!”. Carl had this bizarre habit of making a gun out of his fingers, pointing this ‘gun’ at you and shouting “bang!” in a slightly expectant tone. Ultimately, he would be left disappointed when his targets didn’t clutch tightly to their imaginary wound before collapsing to the ground, but instead stared at him in bewilderment.
The thing is, he would perform this finger-gun charade at inappropriate moments. Once, we were making a stupid video using my Dad’s camcorder (again). In our home-made X-Files episode, my brother decided to play a male version of Scully and I was a video-camera-operating version of Mulder. Carl was the bad guy who fights with male-Scully at the end. It was agreed that my brother would win this play-fight. I was filming this final fight scene, and Carl had clearly decided he didn’t like the idea of losing. He began dragging the scene out to an aesthetically displeasing length. Finally, he then ruined the whole thing by pulling his stupid fingers out and shouting “Bang!” while smiling knowingly, directly to the camera.
Okay, we were just messing around making a video and it wasn’t serious. But other famous “Bang!” moments include the time he ‘shot’ a menacing older lad who had stolen our football and wanted to know what we were planning on doing about it, the time he ‘shot’ his families dog after it stole a packet of crisps and then the shooting of a small child at the ‘School Sports Day’ because the younger child beat Carl in a pillow-fight.
My final story about Carl comes from when I was about 15 years old. There was another boy at school who was very much into his porn. He loved porn a great deal, but was frustrated by his inability to procure it. Since the Internet was in its infancy, as a substitute for actual porn, I specifically remember a VHS tape that he’d lent around school which featured a hastily spliced together collection of very slightly naughty bits from films. I remember watching the sex scene from The Terminator where you get a flash of Sarah Connor’s 1980s tit. Of course, because it was a VHS cassette, for every raunchy 3 second clip, there would be a wank-stalling 10 seconds of static. Even at 15, I have no idea how he managed to get off to it. It would mean manipulating himself with one hand, while simultaneously operating the video players tracking control with his free hand. Surely such a delicately balanced precision and demand of concentration would guarantee to diminish any potential pay-off.
One time he managed to get hold of some kind of softcore porn called something like “Naughty Nurses 3”. It was fairly lame and just featured 3 women taking it in turns to wash one another with a flannel and soapy water. The nurses wore the kind of nurse uniforms you only genuinely see worn by tarts at pubs and bars on Halloween night.
When it was my turn to borrow the video, Carl made it known that he was keen to see it. I had a video player and portable television in my bedroom, so I put it on for him. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of sitting on my bed, side by side with him while the pornography played on the television. I therefore sat in the chair at my desk, which was positioned in front of Carl. My back was to him.
The video played for just a few seconds when I became acutely aware of a shuffling sound behind me. This was followed by what I would describe as a rhythmic stroking sound. This was not really a situation where I felt comfortable turning around to see where the noise was coming from. As you might imagine, I didn’t want to take the risk of seeing Carl’s erect penis and contracting testicles. So I waited. And waited. And waited some more. I suppose about five minutes later, the sound stopped after a brief fumbling of fabric. Carl coughed slightly. I stopped the tape. We went outside and played football. I did not mention it.
This article was originally written for the now in-active comedy website, teamfishcake.co.uk