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My local Teen Movie Panel is hanging out on the sidewalk across from the Irving Park Y: six or seven of the neighborhood's finest 14-year-olds, all attired in the latest superbaggy prison garb, baseball caps skewed to the proper semiotic angle. A couple of the boys are loudly and heartily throwing culturally intricate insults at a boy who has just departed their company, dashed out through traffic across the busy thoroughfare, then trotted down the opposite sidewalk.

"Hey, Shorty, where ya goin' so fast?" yowls one of the boys.

"Yeah, man, why ya in such a hurry to get home?" howls another.

The girls in the group are smiling tolerantly, and the alpha youth in this pack, the largest boy, is working the jawbones in his long face, grinding his facial muscles as if to stir up thought in the manner of a cement mixer. He looks down, looks up, looks down, looks up--and finally his eyeballs arc on. The gum in his mouth moves over to make way for the epiphany.

"Hey, Shorty, man!" he calls out, "what's the big hurry, man? Are you runnin' home to spank the puppy?"

"Monkey," says the girl standing next to him in a flat drone. She blinks her eyes and raps him on the rib cage. "That's monkey. Spanking the monkey."

The conversation devolves zoologically.


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