Nick…

Nick and I used to be enemies back in middle school when nothing mattered. We grew up quickly, though, and by the time high school rolled around we were friends, discussing random topics way beyond our age such as religion and politics, both of which we could not have been more opposite on. He was a religious republican and I was a libertarian atheist. He’s changed since then.

I haven’t.

Nick was a regular at our local coffee house. I don’t really like coffee and I also don’t like to brag, but we had the best damn coffee house in the Midwest. We hung out there frequently and stuck our pinkies out sitting on the front porch pretending we were literary geniuses. Nick loved music and wrote songs often. He was one of the few who didn’t play poet. He was the real deal. We liked to prank Nick often, for reasons I can’t explain. One night Nick, Jason, Chad, Kate and a few stragglers were all hanging outside on what I believe was supposed to be a nice fall evening. Nick had ridden with Stacy to God knows where and for some forgotten reason Kate carried his car keys. We decided to move his car as a fun little prank.

We drove it a few blocks down the road and walked back, laughing at the thought of his expression. When we arrived at the coffee shop/house we looked for a place to hide his keys. I did one of my rare power scans, where I analyzed every inch of my surroundings. The porch was small and consisted of few hiding spots. I looked up to see if there was some crevice that may normally harbor a rogue hornet’s nest or something and found a slight ledge where the pillar connected to the roof of the porch. “Gimme the keys. I’ve got a great spot!” Kate handed them to me and I climbed a chair, reaching up to place the keys on a ledge that was just a little too perfect. I set them up there and let go.

They fell.

I heard the keys shake, rattle and roll their way down the pillar, which I was recently informed was hollow. Like my fuckin’ head. Oh shit. My mouth dropped and everyone wanted to know what happened. “That’s a hole.” I said, pointing at the faux ledge.

“What!” Some of them snickered, others simply stared. Nick was returning from his little road trip. I ran inside and asked if I could hide in the kitchen. The barista nodded in confusion as I crouched behind a stove. Bursts of muffled laughter from outside. Nick walked in, laughing. I guessed no one told him yet. “Where’s Errol?”

Barista betrayal.

Nick came around the corner and I stood, hands in the air. “Where are my keys?” He asked, still smiling.

“Okay. Don’t get mad.” the smile faded.

“What did you do?” I thought it was better to show rather than tell. Must’ve been my inner filmmaker. I walked to the porch and reenacted my hiding attempt. “So thery’re up there?” Nick pointed. I shook my head, pointing down. “What?”

“How was I supposed to know the pillar was hollow!” Nick got a ride home that night and his father came back another day to fish them out with a magnet. I was once told by a kid’s parent that I was a bad influence. I wasn’t when that statement was made, but I seem to have a knack for turning into what people seem to think I am.

Nick’s birthday was a pretty good example.

Any followers of this blog know how much I love fireworks. All of my friends know to stay away from me in July. Once I was left with yet another full box of random fireworks that cost three figures. We sat around a nice little campfire close to the lake that was nearby my hometown. Nick, Logan, Jason, Joe and myself had a cooler of beer (I didn’t drink then) and a teenage excitement. I told them of the cardboard box in my trunk, and we pulled it out, firing off little bottle rockets into the night sky. Nothing crazy. Then out of the woods walked two full grown rednecks. “Hey!” one of them shouted. We all turned in unison. “What the fuck’s wrong with yew!? We’re tryin’ ta have a fishin’ tournament here and yer scarin’ away all the fish!”

“Oh, sorry about that. We didn’t know anyone else was out here.” Nick said.

“Yeah you better be.” one of them said. They reeked of inebriety.

I nearly scoffed. “Excuse me?”

“What’d you say, faggot!?” My jaw literally dropped, as I’m sure everyone else’s did.

“What the hell’s your problem, guy?” Logan chimed in.

“You guys wanna start somethin’?” They might as well had rolled up their sleeves.

“Look, we said we’re sorry.” Nick replied, trying to keep the peace and maintain his frustration, “Now how about you guys just leave us alone, okay?” One of the rednecks spit before both of them turned to walk away. Once again we found ourselves circling the fire, this time pissed off and night ruined by two dickheads who couldn’t take sorry for an apology. Grunts and mocks were had around the fire. I didn’t like that these bastards were going to just get away with acting like tough guys for no fuckin’ reason. I snuck out of the group. Jason’s clothes from our recent swim sat on the hood of my car. I used my foresight to toss them in the back seat, before returning to my trunk, popping it silently. I reached in and grabbed the heavy box. Once I had it over my shoulder I crouched around the side, inching closer to the fire. Joe stood up from the group and walked back to see what I was up to. He saw me around the bend. He stopped. In his silhouette I saw a small reflection of the fire from behind his glasses. I stopped.

“…What are you doing?” was all he could say. It was almost as if he didn’t want to believe I’d really go that far. In a panic I ran toward the fire. “Errol, don’t!” Is all I heard over and over from each individual as I dumped the box of fireworks into the pit. It was as if an invisible explosion had taken place and everyone backed up instantly.

We ran.

Jason and I climbed into my car and, understandably, everyone else jumped in Nick’s. We jetted our engines as crackles turned to kablams and rednecks in the dark howled. The dirt flew up from the sides of our cars as we drove down the road. I’m fairly certain I shouted “Woooo!” in a rush that my body just had to express verbally. Jason smiled in spite of himself, “Jesus, man! Did you get my stuff from the hood of the car?”

“Yeah I threw your clothes in the back.”

“What about my phone?”

“…” I said.

“Haha. Good one.”

“I’m serious. My phone was on top of the car. You didn’t grab it?”

A mix of guilt and shame washed over me. “Shit. No, man I didn’t see it. Sorry.”

“Fuck.” Jason washed his face with his hands. “We have to go back.”

I laughed again, “Are you insane? Did you not see what I just did?”

“We have to man. I need my phone. I can’t replace it.” I sighed and called Nick, telling him to pull over. The situation was explained to him.

“Fuck. Well, what do we do?”

“Here.” I said with my little solution, “You guys all go back. Tell them that you had nothing to do with it. I just went crazy, blah blah blah. It’s all true anyway. Maybe they won’t punish you if you condemn me.” I shrugged.  “Or we could just fight ’em.” Everyone thought the former was the better plan, and Jason climbed into Nick’s car. They pulled a U-turn and I watched as tiny little versions of my friends spoke to some man and pointed in my direction. The man stared at my car for a moment, and began walking to me. He just kept getting closer. I panicked, and started the engine. He was close enough now to say, “Don’t go nowhere I jus’ wanna talk to ya.”

“Yeah right.” I said, cranking it into drive just as a monster truck came into view. My trusty Plymouth Neon was no match for such a massive beast on this dirt road. They were gaining on me at an incredible rate. If I can just make it to the highway, I thought, I’ll be able to outdo them. But there were simply too many twists, winds and turns for me to make it, and the truck was hot on my tail. I pulled off behind a large patch of trees, hoping I could conceal myself. The silver finish of my car glimmered when their headlights washed over, however, and they attempted to ram me. I pulled away just in time, but I had nowhere to go. I sighed once more and returned to where the rest of my friends were.

Nineteen.

That’s the number of rednecks that were participating in some sort of fishing tournament at 3 AM on a Friday night. I counted from inside my car while some of them circled it, asking me to get out in an accusing voice. At first I resisted, but then I realized that these people cared little about legalities, and would have no problem smashing my window if they wanted, so I stepped out, helping my friends to look for Jason’s phone. Logan seemed to get into it with one of the rednecks. I’m not sure how it started, but soon the guy was in his face, telling him that he had all his money riding on this fishing tournament and he couldn’t feed his kids.

That’s when old trusty Joe stepped in. He told them all to get the fuck out and leave us alone. Suddenly the man preventing Logan’s nemesis from rushing him turned to Joe. “Hey what the fuck’s your problem! We’re trying to help your friend find his phone!”

“And I appreciate that, but if you guys are gonna be dicks about it, then you can just leave.” Oh shit.

Did I mention that there were 19 drunk, angry, broke rednecks who we just fucked over surrounding us at all angles? And Joe just called them dicks and told them to go away. He didn’t even clench his jaw, readying his face for a punch.

This was it; my first fight. I was leaning against the car, split three ways; fearful of the outcome, excited at the escalation, and happy that I was just one man who could cause so much damage.

Nick geared up. He was the only one of our group who trained to fight regularly. He was going to have to be our ace in the hole.

Logan balled his fists and seemed fearful of his proximity to Joe, which may force him to be the first of our side to attack. That’s when Jason jumped up in the view of a pair of headlights shouting “I found it!”

Whew.

That pretty much relieved everyone of the built up frustration. The heat of the moment faded rapidly as we retreated to our cars. I often fantasize about an alternate dimension where all hell broke loose and someone threw the first punch. An all out brawl between The Warriors and The Panzers. How bloody would it have gotten? Would any of us have died? Way out beyond the reach of the law, a fight like that could have easily escalated beyond repair. Broken bones, missing teeth and cracked ribs galore. But that’s not how it went down. We returned to Nick and Chad’s house.

Nick and Chad rented this little house off the main street in the town next door to the one we grew up in. For some reason lost in time I spent the night there frequently, and Nick would give me rides to Composition II. He always grabbed a Peanut Butter Nature Valley bar, offering me half of it. I liked it back then, but I must have O.D.’d on them, because now I eat one and it’s always too dry. But when I’m walking down the “health” aisle or hanging out at a friend’s place and see those hard, brittle snacks my mind goes back to those awfully early morning rides to class with Nick.

One day I’ll find myself in a coke deal with the guy who inspired PT Anderson to make that Jessie’s Girl scene in Boogie Nights, because that’s just my luck. He’ll be jumping around to some Miley Cyrus song with gun in hand and through his paranoid prancing I will glance into the kitchen. Wouldn’t you know it? There’s a box of Nature Valley Peanut Butter bars in there! “Hey!” I’ll say. Unfortunately this will be the only word I’ve spoken tonight, and the sudden noise will alarm this crackshot cokehead into firing low at the hip and right between the eyes. I would have from serious whiplash if I weren’t already dead, my brains leaking out all over his four thousand dollar sofa upholstered in italian silk. Oh well, it’s just a couch. At least I’ll have died a rock ‘n roll death thinking of my rock ‘n roll friend Nick.

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