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June 9, 2012

Here is number 6 in my Little Debbie series.


was a kid I grew up with.

His name when he wrote it, his “E”  looked like a  “G”.



My Dad said, “Is it a GRIC?”

So we called him GRIC.  I am sure that he had some learning disabilities and there was early evidence to that effect.  Gric was my best friend for most of my young and formative years. We grew up in a complex of condominiums called Somerset Place, in Garden Grove, which is located in Orange County, in Southern California.

My family moved into a townhouse in this planned neighborhood one December evening in 1965.  I was five and a half years old.  As my dad pulled the car into our new garage,

I noticed that there were bikes and a wagon in the garage that sat kitty-corner to ours.

Early the next morning my brother Mark and I went over to investigate and we found several toys, scooters and bikes in the garage, unattended.  I sat down on a large red trike.

Immediately a small and wiry white-haired boy appeared in front of me.  He grabbed the handlebars with both hands and said (rather fiercely I thought),


I did not respond right away, simply sat. I thought that he looked like a little doll.  I think that Gric was only three, and he was just this tiny little man…one who was getting very irritated at the big giant girl sitting on his bike, in his Garage.  I got off.

This was how Mark and I met our neighbor, and we soon met Eric’s two big sisters who owned the other bikes.  The oldest, Cindy, was about eight years old.  Bobbie was my brother’s age, six.

They had a very nicely organized garage and that made it easy to view all of their stuff.  I saw a doll on a high shelf so I climbed up and got it.  It was the creepiest looking thing and I have never seen another one like it EVER.  The doll had a stuffed rag-doll torso with rubber limbs and a big rubber head.  The head was covered by a hard rubber cap, made to look like a knitted baby bonnet. It covered all but the face.  There was a knob on the top of the doll’s head, and you if you turned it you would see different facial expressions.  I believe that the doll had four different faces.  Happy. Crying. Sleeping. Awake. Here was an early indication of the unique emerging spirit that would become dEb:    The fact that I was kind of creeped-out by that doll, and my preference was to twist the head so as to have half of two separate expressions. Two-faced.

Debbie & Eric Incorporated

Eric and I had a booming business on the side…candy, gum and sunflower seeds that we sold during school hours…we made a bundle!  These same kids who were free to buy all that junk before and after school—somehow they didn’t and we harvested the funds of the captive audience during school hours for all sorts of candy contraband. I had an arrangement with the owner of a small dairy drive-in market that was near my school. Mr. Ed allowed me to ‘charge’ my purchases during the week, and I settled the bill on Fridays.

A couple of times Eric and I took a kid named Steven with us to the local dime store. The staff would watch us carefully but they never paid any attention to Stevie.  He was very small for his age.   He only looked to be about four or five.  Anyway, we would go in first and Stevie would tuck in his shirt and go in after us.  Then we would manage to stuff a few dozen candy bars down Stevie’s shirt, and he would walk right on out.  Eric and I were often detained, and searched!  They never suspected cute little Stevie.

Once Eric stole a cigar from his grandpa …it was nasty and when we tried it, we both turned a few shades of green. We smoked it one morning at 5am when we were up for our deliveries. Eric’s Grandpa caught him and made him smoke the whole thing!

Eric and I both had newspaper delivery jobs.  I was a papergirl for the Herald Examiner and Eric delivered the L.A. Times I think.  Every weekend we would be up EARLY (like 4am) to deliver our papers.  More precisely, we were up to screw around in the dark when no one was watching!  We did everything from riding our bikes down the carpeted inside halls of the Oakwood apartments, to putting dish soap in the fountain of a local church.  Ahhh…good times…


Once, around Christmas, we were up and folding our papers and it was a little chilly.  My Mom had just the day before taken me shopping for clothes and I had a brand new plaid winter jacket.  Eric decided that he was cold and he was going to light the fire. That sentence was quite telling:


When Eric decided something, there really was no use arguing with him! He was always very determined.

The fireplace was decorated with (dry, dead) pine boughs and (old) paper Christmas icicles.  There was a large pile of pine wood in the fireplace, so all that a nine-year-old boy needed to do was turn the gas key and strike a match!  Or, maybe, open the flue, which Eric did NOT do.  This omission was obvious within NANOSECONDS as this ugly black smoke began billowing, NOT up and out of the chimney as we were used to seeing, but UP and OUT of the FIREPLACE!  The flames began gently licking at the paper icicles…and they started to burn…and Eric just stood there, paralyzed into inaction.

I yelled, “ERIC!  GET SOME WATER!” He ran into the kitchen and started rummaging around for a pan.  I grabbed my jacket from a nearby chair, ready to beat out the flames.

I picked up my brand new colorful plaid jacket that I had owned maybe six hours…and then I thought,

“My Mom would KILL ME…”

I threw down MY jacket

and immediately grabbed HIS jacket and I started to beat at the flames.  About this time I realized that Eric had not returned.  I ran into the kitchen and found him sitting on the floor in front of the pan cupboard, where he was trying to decide which PAN to use.

The fire alarm began chirping its inanimate head off and within minutes, the entire family (Joan, Ed, Grandpa Brown, Cindy and Bobbie) came charging down the stairs in their pajamas.

We were all hustled outside and Gric’s Dad was able to get in there and get that flue opened up and all danger was averted without too much fuss.  In fact I don’t even recall a fire truck being called so it was in fact, minor.

There was a portrait hanging above the fireplace.  (I later learned) the PAINTING


no monetary value, although it may have had sentimental value—however, it was a different story with the FRAME.  That frame had been in the family for generations…and I do believe that Eric and I had ruined it.  The picture was saved but the frame was ruined. I believe this is the moment that I came to understand the meaning of the word “IRONY”.

When it was over, Eric and I sat on the couch and quietly waited and watched while his Mom paced the kitchen like a caged animal.

She was extremely angry!

We just sat there, seemingly as silent as a couple of mice.  The whole time I was fiercely whispering to Eric, “YOU HAD BETTER TELL HER about this because it was all your idea…”

The Wallet….

One day at the Market Basket Eric found a wallet that was fat with money….We were young enough to only think about who it belonged to and how we would return it, and no thought of keeping it. As I said, we were YOUNG!  Eric saw the wallet first. It was lying next to the newspaper boxes out front, so he picked it up and we saw all that money.  It was certain that someone would want it back so we went to the office at the market.  There was a woman there who was very distraught and she was practically screaming at the store manager.  I was a few feet away from Eric, who was standing near the now—near-hysterical person.

Eric held the wallet out in front of him as he waited for his turn to talk to the manager and return it. Suddenly the woman noticed Eric standing there.  Then she spied HER WALLET in his slightly out-stretched hand.  She swooped down on Eric and viciously grabbed it away from him.  Then she snarled at the store manager, saying “I’ll bet this little boy STOLE it!”

We were just trying to return this wallet we had found; hopeful that maybe we would get a dollar as a reward!  The look on Eric’s face was devastating.  Even the store manager seemed aware of the injustice and tried to reason with the woman.  She just turned away and grouched off without a single word of thanks.

Although I was pretty young, I remember thinking at the time that the incident probably caused a painful break in Eric’s heart.

Games with Eric

We played the board game ‘Careers’ in his room and whenever he was losing, he would claim “Eric’s  House Rules…” Then he would proceed to ‘legalize’ whatever questionable move he was making in the game. It used to infuriate me!

Eric’s secret shame was his middle name.  Dahl (pronounced ‘doll’) When he confided in me about it, I laughed and was going to tease him but I could tell it was a big deal to him, so I didn’t.

Eric at the Oakwood Apartments…..

We were out goofing around at the Oakwood apartments.  That was our playground during those early-morning adventures. We went there all the time and went swimming in the pool and sat in the hot tub.  We played in the tennis courts.  We rode our bikes up and down the carpeted hallways at 5 am when we were allegedly out delivering our newspapers.  These apartment buildings were three stories.  One day Eric made the announcement to me,

“I am going to ride down the trash chute”. 

At first I thought he was kidding, but he was completely serious.  I tried to talk him out of it!  It was a dumb idea.  Dumb and possibly deadly!

I tried to reason with him but it was no good and finally I told Eric that if he was bound and determined to do this idiotically dangerous stunt, then the very LEAST that we could do was to go down to the trash room in the parking garage and see where he would be landing.  If there was a bunch of pointy stuff like broken glass in the trash I thought maybe Eric would change his mind,

but he was more determined than ever to DIE, in my view.

The trash bin that was situated underneath the chute was your typical wheeled and double-lidded, squarish commercial trash container.  Eric climbed into it and started stomping around to smash it all down flat.  I brought some boxes over and we smashed them down too.  I was maybe 11 years old and that meant Eric was 9.  I had some previous experience with my friend’s single-minded determination—when Eric made up his mind about something, it was damn hard to sway him (see the fire) but on occasion,

I had been able to sideline him by getting him all busy with a small task that would serve to become more interesting than the original plan and then the danger is averted…but Eric would NOT be swayed from riding that trash chute! I even went so far as to say that I would not help him into the chute (hopeful that it would be too high for him to get into on his own, and then he might abandon the idea).

He cheerfully replied, “I can do it myself”.

After we had the ‘landing pad’ as puffy and soft as could be with the extra boxes in there, we headed up the elevator to the third floor. I think I probably made a few more half-hearted attempts at discouraging while en route.  Soon enough we were standing in front of the chute.  Eric was thinking that he could probably climb into it without assistance so I went down to the lower level again and stood near the landing spot, the dumpster.

*   *   *

Eric: Debbie!  Are you down there?

Me: Yeah I am here…

Eric: Ok —Here………. I…. go!

All of a sudden there was a loud clanging and banging as Eric clambered into the chute.

I heard him start to go and then all of this GROSS CRAP came sluicing out of the chute ahead of Eric!  I was able to recognize

egg shells,

coffee grounds,

banana peels, and

orange juice—

and that was just the goosh that I could identify!  All this gunk and more had stuck to the sides of the chute for who-knows-how-long!  Flying rapidly behind that gooey grossness was Eric, falling VERY FAST!  He hit the trash bin solidly and with a meaty thud.


It sounded like what I imagined the Liberty Bell sounded like, right before it cracked.

It was a good thing we had placed the extra boxes in the trash bin, because Eric had managed to flatten all of them and I realize now that–at the time, we did not yet comprehend the concept regarding the speed and velocity of a  three-story drop, when utilizing your average garden-variety nine-year-old lunatic.

Eric got hurt; of that, there was little doubt in my mind.  He would never say that.

I helped him to climb out of the bin and he seemed a bit dazed.  He staggered, so I supported him and held him by the arm.  He was covered from head to toe with sticky gooey grossness and he STUNK!  His hair was glued down on his head, and he was unsteady on his feet. There was nothing left to say.  I draped my arm across his shoulders and together we walked home in silence.



Whatever we send into the lives of others will return into our own.

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