Philadelphia, PA – Mid 70s
There was this guy named Rudy Falf who lived with his brother across the street. They were probably both in their early 40s back then. They were both weird guys. They kept to themselves and I have no idea how they supported themselves. I’m assuming their parents maybe left them the house across the street where they resided.
Now, when I say “weird guys” I don’t mean creepy, pedo-type guys. They were both really sweet people. But a little touched in the head. Rudy’s brother was really quiet and sort of furtive. We didn’t see much of him. But Rudy was always out. He had a cast in his one eye which made him look even weirder. Like, ‘one eye is looking at you, and the other one is running down to the shop to get a pack of smokes.’ But they were both sweet and harmless men. Rudy was really friendly to us kids, and would always give us comic books. I remember he would sit in his car and just run the motor and read his comic books. I didn’t know why, but I heard he did that to charge up the battery because I rarely saw him ever drive that car.
I remember one of our neighbors told her two daughters that they couldn’t go to the Falf house for trick or treat on Halloween because she figured the brothers would diddle her daughters. But that would never happen because they were two really nice people. Just a little touched in the head. It’s that kind of ignorant behavior that creates prejudice in people. Just because somebody is different or weird, doesn’t make them evil pedophiles. I wasn’t raised that way and never agreed with her behavior.
But we liked him because he was nice and always gave my friend RJ and I comic books when he was finished reading them. I probably still have a few left in my collection. Free comics are always welcome!
Oh, one last thing. Rudy had this crazy stutter. Certain words would just hang there and he’d just keep saying the prefix of a word over and over really fast until the rest of it came out of his mouth. It was odd, but as kids, we just saw it as the way he spoke. And could this guy talk. He could ramble on forever about the most simple of subjects.
Everybody in the neighborhood loved my mother. I mean, everybody. It was like she had a fan club. Back then all of the dads worked and the wives all stayed home and took care of the house and kids. The ladies would stop over and chat with her. My mom was such a good listener and very cordial, so people just gravitated to her. I think there were days where our neighbor, Mrs. Hanley would come over with a cup of coffee and her cigarettes and talk my mom’s ear off. But my mom was always nice and would host anyone who wanted to swing by out of boredom.
Of course, my mother would be at the market and always run into somebody in the neighborhood and they’d chat. But one of the people who was the most annoying was Rudy Falf. Not because he was nuts, but because he would walk her home from the market and literally chatter nonstop. Stuttering his way through some nonsensical tale. My mother would smile and listen respectfully.
But one day she runs into him in the market and she hears him going on and on about a theft at his house. He’s literally talking non-stop to anyone who will listen about this crime that’s been committed against him.
Of course, this gets the attention of my mother in the checkout line. I mean, you couldn’t escape this guy if he started waffling on about something. He just wouldn’t stop going on and on about the subject. But my mom, knowing she’s been cornered and will probably have to listen to him all the way home, smiles and listens to him.
“What happened, Rudy?”
Rudy responds in his usual stutter, more manic than ever because he’s upset about the crime that’s committed against him.
“Somebody stole my ligga, ligga, ligga, ligga ligga, ligga, ligga, ladder!”
“Oh really? That’s awful. I’m so sorry to hear that.”
“Yea, it was lying right on the side of my house and somebody came along and stole it!”
“What did it look like?”
“It’s wooden and about this long! I’m going to call the police!”
The stark realization of what’s happened hits my mom like a freight train.
Rudy’s stolen ladder is resting against the wall of the garage in the garden of our yard.
She tells him how sorry she is for his misfortune and will keep an eye out for it. She never tells him!
Of course, my mother being the sweet woman she is, and an upstanding member of the community, is mortified. She immediately comes home and tells me the story she just heard.
I tell her I had no idea where Michael had gotten the ladder from and thought he had picked it out of someone’s trash. For once, I was telling the truth. My mom surprisingly believes me and tells me to figure out a way to get that ladder back to Rudy.
I concur with Michael. He tells me that he did indeed nick the ladder from the side of Rudy’s house but thought it was in the trash. The truth of what he does or doesn’t believe is a moot point at this juncture. We need to get that ladder back to Rudy’s house as soon as possible before we get in deep trouble.
So that night, Mike and I quietly crept over to Rudy’s house under that cloak of darkness. We gently placed the ladder back where Michael had found it. Then we did what all boys do when faced with adversity. We ran away!
So, in closing, no harm was done, and Rudy’s ladder miraculously reappeared safely back on his property. When I think about this whole incident now, I think it wasn’t so much about us climbing on my mom’s flower trellis. We just wanted a way to get up on the roof. My mother knew that if the trellis broke and we fell, we risked falling through a bunch of sticker bushes and possibly crashing down on one of the many large stones that surrounded her garden.
Parents don’t stop their kids from doing risky stuff to control them, but to try to keep them from killing themselves.
Or… one of us boys could have fallen off the roof and hit the concrete driveway below doing some serious damage to ourselves. Can you imagine falling 20 feet and landing headfirst onto cement as a kid? If you survived the injury you might end up talking like Rudy for the rest of your life.
And nobody wants that.
But, I got a good story out of it, so it was all worth it!
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