Another random tale of mischief and woe from my adolescence...
It was during that period — 1972 or 1973 — when my friend Charles and I made it our business to prank call as many people in the town of Martinsville, VA, as was humanly possible. Perhaps you'll remember the story of The Pinocchio Lady, who doubtlessly suffered more at our hands (or our voices) than any other single individual. However, there was the case of Mr. Ray Bocock, whom we started out pranking, only to have the table somehow turned on us. Sort of. Anyway, witness the following account:
When I was thirteen years old, I considered Ray's son, Ken, my fiercest rival for the affections of one Mary Beth Hughes, with whom I was madly in love. For reasons that can perhaps be fathomed only by a very peculiar thirteen-year-old lad, I determined that it was up to me to make Mr. Bocock the Elder pay for the sin of having sired said rival by way of the prank phone call. Charles, being the devoted friend and all, was perfectly willing to help me on my quest — mainly because he enjoyed playing on the phone as much as I did — and so we set about plotting Mr. Bocock's demise with evil glee. The man was clearly a monster and needed to be dealt with.
As was our custom, we set up my Lloyd's cassette recorder to tape record the call. I wanted this take-down preserved for posterity. It was going to be brutal.
"Hey there. Who's this?"
"This is Ronald! Don't you know anything?"
"Oh, Ronald. I didn't recognize your voice."
"Are you deaf?"
"No. Are you sure this is Ronald?"
"Are you sure this is Ray?"
It occurred to me then that, for all our scheming, Charles and I had no plan at all. Now that I had Mr. Bocock on the line, I had no idea how to bring this terrible man to his knees. This could be serious. With the most hostile inflection I could manage, I said, "So, whatcha doing?"
"I was about to go mow the yard."
"Yeah? You know, I just got me a new riding lawn mower."
"Really? Sounds nice. What kind did you get?"
"Uh, a Sears, I think."
"You didn't get a Toro? That's a lot better."
Holy cow, this was falling apart quickly. Mr. Bocock actually sounded very nice. But how could that be? His son was trying to steal the love of my life, the maiden who had stolen my heart, the girl with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life — or at least the next couple of months. This simply could not stand. It was time to get ugly.
"Uh, hang on, Ray, my wife's calling me." (Charles makes some noise in the background.) "I'm back. She's a real nag, you know?"
"I bet she wouldn't nag you if you'd get on that riding lawn mower and mow the yard."
"Uh, yeah. I guess I will then."
"That's good. Well, give her my best, will you?"
"All right then. Well, thanks for calling, Ronald. Talk to you later."
I hung up, not quite sure I had achieved my objective. I'd had the man square in my sights, but he was so... so... cordial I just couldn't bring myself pull the trigger. Of course, it wouldn't do to let on to Charles that our wicked little plan had been derailed, so I gave him a sly grin and said, "We sure got him, didn't we?"
"Oh, yeah! I bet he doesn't even have a riding lawn mower."
Big laughs all around. "Yeah, and you know his wife nags him."
"All the time!"
After that, Charles and I called Mr. Bocock a couple more times, and the conversations went just about the same way. Those I did not record, alas. I never could bring myself to say anything bad to him, even about his son, and it wasn't long before it didn't matter anyway because Mary Beth Hughes had pretty much spurned the both of us. And a couple of years later, Ken Bocock and I took to playing golf together. What do you know — Ken was pretty much all right! And in my later teens, when I played a lot of golf with my dad, we often ended up in a foursome with... Ray Bocock. Damn, he was a great guy! Fun-loving, witty, sometimes a bit acerbic, in an endearing way.
Hell, no, I never told him I was Ronald. Would you?
I understand Mr. Bocock passed away a good many years ago — not long after my dad, as a matter of fact. I have to admit, I'm kind of glad Ronald made his acquaintance. Ronald probably learned something. I think he really needed to.