When I was in third grade, my brother and hero, invited me to become a member of a “very exclusive social club” he’d founded — The Wart Hogs. There was an initiation fee – forty dollars – which was five dollars more than I had in savings at the time. There was also an induction ceremony: new members of the club were to sit, Indian-style, while the club founder flicked them in forehead, repeatedly, until they could not withstand even one flick more. The number of painful blows one could tolerate would determine their rank and role within the club.
My hesitancy to participate was met full force by my brother’s considerable oratorical and rhetorical skills. He listed people ahead of me in school, kids I knew and respected, that had already paid up, both in dollar and swollen flesh. He called upon the ancient adage “pain is temporary, glory forever” which seemed to me like something only someone doing the flicking might say. He donned a “No Fear” t-shirt, and spoke of Tony Hawk and Don Majikowski, and the litany of heroes who had battled through pain and injury only to emerge dripping irresistibly with glory and respectability. Schematics were drawn up of an impressive clubhouse, it was to be built in our backyard, and it would host all the club meetings. “This is what your dues are paying for,” he explained. Finally, and most effectively, he called me a total pussy, and accused me of being scared.
67 flicks to the forehead later, a giant welt throbbing above my eyes, I was deemed treasurer, fourth in command, my brother said, contingent upon my full payment of club dues. The following week, I forked over the five dollars I’d earned picking apples at an orchard down the street, at the rate of one dollar an hour, and it became official — I was a member of the Wart Hogs.
And then, of course, nothing happened. For weeks, I waited in anticipation of our first meeting, or for the lumber order to arrive for the clubhouse we would be building. I finally inquired when we’d have our first club meeting and my brother flashed a confused look. ”The club,” I pointed to the fading bruise upon my forehead, “When do we meet?” He laughed heartily and with delight, and revealed to me the truth: there was no club, really. I was the only person who’d joined – the only person who he’d told, in fact. It was all a ruse – both to bilk from me my meager savings, and to punish me for my gullibility. “It’s a life lesson,” he said, as if, as a sixth grader, he was qualified to give them.
My forty dollars? Spent, I can only assume in the candy aisle, in two neat installments – one of thirty-five dollars, and one of five.
And so now, twenty-five years later, it is with much ado and great anticipation that I welcome, at long last, a third member to the Wart Hogs Social Club. Katie Enright Norman, after your marriage to my brother, your membership is nearly complete. Considering the substantial pain and suffering you have no doubt experienced leading up to this event, the club’s traditional “induction ceremony” will be bypassed, and you will immediately be named Vice-President. Please forward a check for your membership dues, forty dollars, payable to me, and your membership will be complete!
Excitedly and with congratulations.
Treasurer, The Wart Hogs