One of the highlights of the Thanksgiving was the family photo that would eventually become the Pulaski Christmas card. Mr. and Mrs. Pulaski stood by the mantle over the fake fireplace. Eileen stood between them in her ugliest sweater.
Hercules the Lesser got the camera set up. He made sure everything was as it should be. Then he hit the timer and tried to make it into the frame in time.
Of course, he never did, so every year the Christmas card from the Pulaski family included two proud parents and a lovely daughter and a great grey blur. No never noticed and no one ever said a word about it. This year – like every other year – Hercules the Lesser combed his hair and tied his tie to get ready to take the family picture.
He loved Thanksgiving.
Hercules the Lesser looked forward to the Thanksgiving break because he would be able to sleep in and spend time at home with his parents and his sister Eileen.
The Pulaski family was just your average family.
Mr. Pulaski went to work in his office every morning selling insurance. Mrs. Pulaski volunteered for the Altar and Rosary Society. Eileen Pulaski was pretty much a big deal at Booker T. Washington High School. (Go Wasps!)
From where he sat in the classroom Hercules the Lesser looked out and decided maybe he wanted what Hercules the Greater had. Hercules the Greater probably wanted a life more like Hercules the Lesser if he even knew Hercules the Lesser existed.
“Should I play for you?” Miss Kravitz asked.
“Please,” Hercules the Lesser answered
Miss Kravitz sat down at the piano and played “Puppet on a String.” She sang it in German. She wasn’t sure why that song meant so much to her, but she was glad it did.
Hercules the Greater sat alone – out of sight – behind the big oak tree. He was reading a big book of poetry. It was really a big book. He was reading away from the other kids. He didn’t want to get caught. Hercules the Greater didn’t want people seeing him reading a book at recess. He didn’t know what his friends would do if they saw him reading when he didn’t have to.
Truth to be told if the kids had ever seen Hercules the Greater reading at recess they probably all would be reading at recess, but he never could’ve known that.
“Do you want to talk today, Hercules?” Miss Kravitz asked. He had come in quietly and she was startled to see him when she looked up.
“Not really,” he said.
He set his chin is his hand and leaned a bit to the left as he looked out the window at all the kids playing kickball or Red Rover. He wondered what it would be like to join the other kids at recess.
All the kids surrounded them on the playground and laughed at Booger Wilson. Hercules the Greater didn’t laugh at all. He just looked down at Booger Wilson there on the ground. The side of his face was red and pebbles stuck to his cheek as he pulled himself up from the wet pavement. That day signaled the ascension of Hercules the Greater and the last happy day of school for Booger Wilson.
Hercules the Greater became popular overnight. Booger Wilson was abandoned by everyone. He just rolled himself up into a tight little ball of anger.
Mr. Kennedy pulled Hercules the Greater aside and told him he beat up Booger Wilson on the playground in front of everyone. That would be his revenge on Elrod Wilson without actually being dragged into the fracas.
Hercules the Greater didn’t want to fight Booger Wilson, but he knew he would have to do it sooner or later. He decided sooner was better so one crisp, autumn afternoon Hercules the Greater caught Booger Wilson on the playground behind General John G. Pershing Elementary School and – without warning – pushed him to the ground and began to kick him. All it took was three or four good kicks and Booger Wilson was red-faced and crying.