When I was seventeen, I was seeing a girl named Rae. It was no great
passion, just a pretty girl to hang out and have some perfunctory sex with. She
drove over to my house early one summer evening. Like kids are wont to do, she
liked a dramatic scene. So, she stopped her new 1967 Mustang with a bit more
skid than was entirely necessary. She was damn cute when she was mad. She
had round little cheeks that would glow. You could practically calculate just
how mad she might be by their color.
“These guys were bothering me downtown. Then they were following me
around.” She said with that “what are you going to do about it” tone.
“Alright, let’s go find them,” I said, “I’ll be right back.”
I ran up to my bedroom and took off the shirt I was wearing. I’d just go in my
t-shirt. I was popping off a hundred pushups twice a day that summer and my
pectorals were impressive. A real fighter wouldn’t have been impressed
because my arms were normal at best. But the girls liked it and punks were
impressed. I also put on my big-buckled garrison belt. I stuck my head inside my
Olds on the way down the driveway and grabbed my Ray-bans. I was ready.
“Let’s start down at the park. What were they driving? Will you recognize it?” I
asked as we wheeled into traffic.
Well, we didn’t even get as far as the park. They recognized her maroon
Mustang before we spotted them.
“They’re coming up behind us,” she said.
I put my sunglasses on and slowed right down. They pulled around and drew
alongside. I gave them the hundred yard stare, although they had to imagine it
since I was behind the glasses. Seeing she was no longer alone, they took off.
That was my cue. I rode their bumper until they pulled over at the park. I leaped
out of the Mustang and tried to look rabid without knocking my glasses off.
“OK motherfuckers, who gets it first?” I screamed as I slid the belt off. I had it
double wrapped around my fist so I wouldn’t drop it, in case I ever really did get
in a fight. The big brass buckle was swinging freely. The trick was to keep them
focused of the shiny stuff.
I jumped on their bumper, but just for a moment to rock the car. It was no place
to fight from. The passenger made his move first. I let him get the door open just
enough to see his hand on the frame.
“Come on, come on,” I shouted as I clanged the buckle off the top edge of the
door. It made a pleasing thonk. Then I had to run around to the driver’s side.
The driver was making his move. The trick was to keep them from getting out
and shoving that buckle up my ass.
After we repeated this ballet a few times and I was getting hoarse, I got the
result I was looking for. They both knew that even though they could get to me
eventually, the first one out was going to have it real nasty. It had been going
on for only a few minutes, but that was long enough for impetuous bravery to be
off the card. They had had time to contemplate a concussion and stitches. Fear
set in. They started the car and raced off. I didn’t follow.
“Well, that was fun,” I said as I tossed the glasses in the window. I chuckled while
I put my belt back on. My hands were trembling a little. I slid into the driver’s
“You wanna get some burgers at Rut’s Hut?’ I asked with my most ingratiating
“You’re not even mad are you?” She said like a prosecutor.
“Mad, what should I be mad about? I’m hungry, is what I am.” I said with
“That whole thing was an act, you weren’t really mad!” It was like she was
running this over in her mind and it just wouldn’t compute.
“First of all, if I really had been mad, I probably would have made a mistake and
gotten my ass kicked.”
She didn’t wait for the second thing.
“You were just acting!” Now those little chipmunk cheeks were lighting up.
“Look around doll, we’re teenagers. Everybody’s acting.”
She didn’t like me so much after that.
About the author:
John has been a gallery owner for 35 years. His previous publish works have been academic articles in his field and book reviews. He is an alum of the 2014 Yale Writer's Workshops and is writing a memoir.