Off I went to become an airman. You might have seen an airman, or even several of them, in your time. When an employer requires you to submit to a drug screening urinalysis, an airman is what the technician hands you and asks you to fill in the restroom.
While I was off and gone on the far side of the country, Elwood was stationed in San Diego, and being so close he spent his weekends and leaves (get this) at my parents’ house. He would bring his buddies and invite them not only to crash in what used to be my bedroom, and not only to eat at the table, and not only did he forbid them to offer to help with the dishes as many thought only right, he also invited them to help themselves to whatever they wanted from my record collection. I left behind something like 16 feet of shelf packed tightly with LP’s, but when I returned four years later it was down to less than a foot.
Also while I was away, Elwood found his mother living a few blocks away at an “adult living” apartment complex, one of those places where one of the qualifications for residence was being over 50. She’d been there all along, apparently. Elwood’s father returned to our home town, too. I didn’t witness it but have heard many times that one of his first orders of business was to guff my parents out for taking Elwood’s future away from him by giving up the truck. The natural, rational response to that was the one I’ve way too often heard that he got: If anyone was supposed to provide Elwood with a future it was you.
My hope was that when my stint as a protector of the free world was through I’d be able to relocate to somewhere along the Front Range here in Colorado. (The Front Range is that region including Denver along the base of the eastern scarp of the Rockies, from Fort Collins south to either Colorado Springs or Pueblo depending upon whom you ask.) The economy had been quite weak, though, and Colorado wasn’t much recovered so it would have been a bit dicey and I’d had quite enough of dicey so it was back to Southern California I went. Ronnie Raygun was spending borrowed money like a madman on the defense industry, most of the money was going to Southern California, and though I really wanted nothing further to do with the US government the desire to maintain self sufficiency was strong. Gee, I wonder why.
I didn’t look Elwood up, but didn’t have to. He found me. He’d hoped to re-enlist but wasn’t selected for it; it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not when war stories are involved, but I’ve heard from several sources who’d have been in positions to know that it had something to do with an F-14 and its tow rig being unable to swim. He was living with his father in a fleabag right around the corner from where my parents ended up, and working as a tire monkey. While I avoided the guy to the extent possible, I usually didn’t run him off when he showed up. For some reason I ended up at the fleabag and in conversation with his father, which was another thing I avoided but wasn’t a jerk about when more or less cornered. The Elderwood said something about that god damned truck and Elwood’s future… the son of a bitch forced me to be a jerk:
“Look, man, if it was up to anyone at all on this Earth to provide the boy a future, it was you. And what did you do? You put his ass on the street and ran away to Vegas.”
“What are you talking about? I didn’t put Elwood on the street.”
“Well then why did he show up on my porch after spending a couple of nights sleeping at the park?”
“Because he refused to move to Las Vegas with me and I couldn’t very well drag him kicking and screaming. Did he tell you that I’d put him out? God, man, he’s my son. I couldn’t do that. Is that what he told you I did?”
Elwood bolted into the bedroom and locked the door behind him. “Yes, that’s exactly what he told us”, I said, and saw myself out.
It would be several weeks before I would see Elwood again. He lost his desire to darken my door, I guess. When he did show up again he explained that he’d lost his job and asked if I knew of anything he might pursue. How the hell do you lose a tire monkey job? I don’t disrespect the job or those who do it, but how the hell do you screw it up? I told him that not being in the job market myself I really didn’t have any reason to know of job openings of the sort he might qualify for, but that my employer had two openings, one for a janitor and another for a facilities maintenance man. They were swing shift jobs so I’d only risk bumping into him when I worked overtime, and could and would run him off if he tried to interrupt my work.
A couple of months later Elwood’s boss dropped by my lab to complain about and ask for help solving his problems with Elwood’s work ethic (none), attention to detail (zero), desire to do as he was told (nil), and stunning ability to screw up even the most trivial of assigned tasks (infinite). Elwood was four strikes over his boss’s three strike policy limit, and his performance degraded after each stern talking-to. I explained that I wasn’t the one who made the hiring decision, he was, so he could unmake it just the same. He exclaimed, “But YOU recommended him for the job!”. I asked him to remind me of when it was that I went to him or anyone else to make any such recommendation, or when anyone had asked me to speak as Elwood’s reference.
The good news was that Elwood got his paycheck the next day, but the bad news was that there were two of them.
Things went back to normal, with me avoiding Elwood as best I could but usually not running him off. I didn’t see all that much of him, really, but there came a stretch of a few weeks when I was at home more because the woman I had been dating just couldn’t stand my immoral heathen ways. We worked for the same employer, and a cow-orker had a Halloween party… I allowed another cow-orker to do my tarot reading, and hit on a joint that was passed to me, and that was that. I’d considered raping a baby fur seal right there in the the living room, too, but there weren’t any nearby.
Time passed, I did my thing, sometimes Elwood was around and sometimes he wasn’t. I left my employer and started a radio (Ham and CB radio) repair shop because even then working for wages wasn’t something I found rewarding in the ways that mattered. The radio business was good, and I had customers coming to me from all points within a greater than 100 mile radius when there were any number of shops closer to them, and paying my rates which I’d bumped to be 20% higher than the going rate. Truckers would bring me CB radios in boxes, each one with a name and address taped to it, from all over the country. My reputation was spreading and I had plans to stay in that business for a very long time, but, well, some people claim that there’s a woman to blame…
Elwood showed up one Saturday evening, and it seemed a good time to go out knocking around the town because my tropical fish detested him and my ficus would wilt. I just found it easier to tolerate him everywhere except in my home, so out the door we went. Fast forward…
I’ve mentioned before, though you may have missed it, that I’d long been an honorary vato. I could go into any barrio in Orange County without the otherwise rational gabacho fear, so it didn’t seem at all threatening to me to wind up in the most notorious neighborhood in the county, Crow Village. Just five years earlier I was often to be found there, engaged in wholly legal activities except for the occasional underage consumption of intoxicating beverage. It didn’t occur to me that night that five years is a very long time in the barrio and the cholos I’d known would mostly be in prison or under the grass and a whole new crop who probably wouldn’t remember me would be running the street. And so it was that I was once again just a pinche gabacho…
… and one who suddenly found that the hand holding his wallet was not one attached to his own arm. That would never do. My spare house key and driver’s license giving the address of the house with the door that the key would fit were in there. The cash was a thing that mattered in principle but not in practice, but I didn’t relish the idea of being called at work with the news that someone who didn’t know better shouldn’t have cowboyed it up with those fine young gentlemen who’d come to retrieve that which was theirs despite having never seen it before. They could have the cash, but I had to get either the key or the driver’s license back.
Kids, don’t try this at home.
There were three of them, and the one temporarily in possession of my wallet was the last one trying to get into their car. I pulled him away from the car door and slammed it, and let him know that the price of his escape would be the return of my wallet. He didn’t quite know how to react to that so he tried again to get back into the car. And again, and again. The last time I slammed the door, the cholo in the passenger seat grabbed my arm and that was a real drag. A literal drag, in fact, as the car was in gear and the gas pedal on the floor. It was a bit of a trick to pull it off, running beside the passenger side of the car with my right arm being held to my left, but I managed to get up to my top running speed and jump away from the car, giving the passenger the choice of letting go or being pulled out through the open window. He let go, and when I hit the pavement I was really glad that I was still wearing my motorcycle helmet.
I ran back to the scene of the crime, and there found Elwood just standing there next to the cholo who still held my wallet who I guessed must have been the Hispanic Elwood. When I held my hand out he gladly filled it, and when I told him I wanted the cash back, too, he surrendered it. I suggested that it would be a very good thing for us to call this encounter finished, and he agreed, so Elwood and I made our way back to our waiting motorcycles. Yes indeed, Elwood finally had a motorcycle. Not a Harley: A Kawasaki with a relatively small displacement engine. A Kawasaki that would not start. Of course. If there was a way to make a bad situation worse, it was Elwood who’d find it. I was yelling at him that it really was time to go and he should find a way to make that happen, but he was panicked. It must have been really scary for him standing there watching bad things happen to me. I noticed that the kill switch on the handlebar was switched off, so I reached over and switched it to on, and was just about to suggest that he open the throttle fully because the engine was flooded when out of the corner of my eye and way too late I saw motion. The motion of two pissed off cholos tackling us off of our bikes.
Shit had just got serious. It was all just fun and games up to that point, but they’d just earned themselves a world of hurt when they let The Beast out. I rolled and came up on my feet, and charged the two who’d tackled us. The one who looked the least freaked out was my first target, and I let the blood out of his nose. His watering eyes would slow him down for the next several seconds so I turned my attention to the other one, but the first blow was ineffective because he turned his head and took it on the cheek. My peripheral vision was obstructed by my helmet so I didn’t see Hispanic Elwood coming until the instant before he tackled me. Well, okay, if that’s how you want it… he’d let go before we hit the ground so was just beyond me, and to make my way up to where his brain would have been if he’d had one I grabbed a handful of crotch and pulled. It sounded like it was very painful for him. I had just got into position to take a shot at his face, intending to take an eye out with an extended finger if the opportunity was present, and crush the nose if not, then WHAM!
Now that was interesting. The blow to my helmet was enough to knock me off of Hispanic Elwood, and to see stars. Nothing but, for an instant, just blackness and pinpoint flashes of light. Without the helmet I’d have been in really bad shape, unconscious and brain damaged. But where did it come from? It wasn’t a fist or a foot, that much was certain. Maybe a freight train or a crashing satellite, but not a body part.
My vision cleared just in time to see and so be able to block the offensive weapon. It was a two-by-six board, and the face behind it was one I hadn’t seen before. Where did this fourth guy come from?
In blocking the second blow I rolled away, so used the momentum to get to my feet. The guy with the lumber came forward and took a swing at my torso, so I caught the free end of the board hoping I could wrestle it away and share the experience more fully with him. He must have figured that it was still his turn at bat, having only two strikes (against me) so wasn’t letting go. It seemed that a sound kick to the nads if there were any present might do the trick, and getting into position for it compelled me to turn just in time to see two cholos coming at me. They both tackled me, and though I had to let go of the board it just happened that it left me with a shoulder free and in position to mash the head of one of them into the ground. When opportunity knocks, you answer, right?
WHAM! It was that damned board again. Again blackness and pinpoints of flashing light. That settled it, to my way of thinking, and it was now only fair that it should be my turn. The other three were a threat only when together, but that guy with the board was a problem all by himself. All I had to do was figure a way to convince him to give up the thing.
The head I’d driven into the ground was the same one with the bleeding nose from earlier, and he apparently felt like he was getting the worst of it and wasn’t going to be so quick to fuck with the white boy just now. He rolled away, and the other one (who wasn’t Hispanic Elwood) was on top of me. He didn’t seem too eager to get close to my head, though, probably because that was the most likely place to encounter a flying two by six. The dude with the board had it raised high like a baseball bat, so I guess it was a wise enough choice — I wouldn’t volunteer to put my head in front of the damn thing, either. Willie Mays started hollering, “Get his helmet off! Get his helmet off!”, which was a fine idea for someone hell bent on murder but I didn’t like it nearly so much. It was a very good time to think things through, but really, really quickly.
If he got close and I wasn’t otherwise occupied, the bloody nose guy would be very easily finished off, but he didn’t seem like he wanted to get that close so he was either a minor threat or none at all. I’d caught a glimpse of Hispanic Elwood beyond the two who’d tackled me while wrestling for the board, and while Elwood was on the ground and his Hispanic counterpart was upright, Hispanic Elwood didn’t seem to have been moving very quickly, a sign of reluctance to violence and perhaps awareness of the pain in his nads. No real threat, not a fighter. The guy on top of me was the most pressing problem as he was relatively unknown and of the original three he was the one in the best shape — at most he had a headache. If I could get him out of the way it would be me and Willie Mays, and I owed that motherfucker something. The plan made itself.
With the promise of there being no lumber hurtling through space in the immediate future, the guy on top of me tried to follow his instructions to remove my helmet. Yeah, like Crow Village cholos know the first thing about motorcycle helmets. He reached up toward the chin strap but was yet too far south (east by the compass, toward Disneyland) to get a solid grip or for my purposes, so I turned my head to the right to get the D-rings out of sight and out of reach. Willie Mays yelled again, “Man, get his helmet off!”, and the cholo with no nickname replied “I’m trying to!”. His tone of voice was that you might expect of a frightened child excusing his panic to a parent. Right fucking on. Not a fighter, either. Though he was pushing through it, he was afraid — which meant pumped up on adrenaline, which meant the loss of fine motor skills. There was no chance of him removing the chin strap from those D-rings. So I gave him a hand, and turned my head so he could see where to reach. He moved northward to get a better grip that would do him no good anyway but would free my hips so I could swing my legs up to pull him backward and off of me. Opportunity knocked again.
In moving toward my head, unable to think because of the adrenaline, he lifted himself into a bent position you’d expect of someone bending over to pick up dropped car keys. Hell, I’ll take it. I lifted my left knee to get my left foot flat on the ground, and drove my right ankle as solidly as I could into his crotch. Willie Mays couldn’t hit me with that board while no name was flying north for the evening, and before he was completely out from between us I rolled out to my right and got to my feet. A quick glance to my right to find out where Hispanic Elwood was showed me something I wasn’t too thrilled with, but just now it was time to take my turn at bat. I’d earned it.
Willie still had that board held high like he was waiting for a slow breaking curve ball, and I needed for him to swing it at me so I could take hold of it while staying out of his arms’ reach. I moved toward him but he didn’t swing. He backed up. What, he’s done now? I took another step forward, and he took another step back. He yelled at me, “What are you doin’ here, man?”. Doo-een. What am I doo-een here? Wherever he’d come from, he’d come into the middle of it and had no idea what was going on. He was just playing for the home team and didn’t know why. I really wanted to return the kindness he’d shown me, but then I remembered where I was and that I was no longer known or welcome there. So I told him what I was doo-een there: These assholes were trying to rob me and then you came along to help them, and all I really want to do is go home. It looked like he felt pretty foolish to be participating in a strong arm robbery gone wrong. “You guys get out of here!”. “What the fuck do you think I’ve been trying to do here, man?”. 😀
When I turned back to where the bikes were lying on their sides, I got the confirmation I needed. Didn’t want, but needed. Elwood was in the same place and same position I was pretty sure I’d seen in the few glances I’d got. He was lying on his back, knees up, feet in the gutter, and hands folded behind his head. Like he was in a field of clover looking up at the stars. Like he was saving his pansy ass by making the fight four against one rather than two. And he’d been there since it was three against one rather than two.
Okay, Universe, I get it. I fucking get it! But did you have to literally hit me in the head with a board to make it sink in?
Yeah, I guess you did. Boy, did I feel like some kind of an asshole.
The nose and no name were standing to Elwood’s left, and Hispanic Elwood to his right. I walked toward Elwood and they all backed away, Hispanic Elwood with his hands held away from his sides, palm up, showing submission. The nose had his t-shirt pulled up and bunched, holding it to his nose. These guys were done. I kicked Elwood’s helmet to get his attention and said, “C’mon, asshole”. We uprighted our bikes, I got mine started, and Elwood’s was still flooded. I told him again to hold the throttle wide open, but he was still panicked and just holding the starter button down, so I reached over and opened it myself and when I let go he held it there. The three amigos drove away, and I batted Elwood’s hand away from the starter button. He looked at me and I explained that he was working on burning up his starter and should give it a few seconds to cool. Under any more favorable circumstances I’d have said a few minutes, but we were still in very hostile territory. I pulled out a cigarette, lit it, and then told him to try again. Again had to wick the throttle wide open for him. Damn, but he was awfully scared for a guy who’d just been relaxing and looking at the stars.
And then, damn it, that car that had drug me down the street was back. These fucking guys just don’t know when to stop! I cracked the throttle to half open and popped the clutch. Fuck it. Fuck Elwood. I’m done. They can have him.
I got maybe two hundred feet. Damn it, why can’t I just let Elwood suffer his own consequences? I turned back, and the cholos were running toward Elwood, with Hispanic Elwood bringing up the rear, of course. I pointed the front wheel at them and opened the throttle wide, hoping they’d have sense enough to get out of the way. They did. I turned back and took another run to keep them backed away, then turned and went back for a third. Just as I was passing, Elwood’s bike started and he finally got moving. Good. I continued on my way, and got the fuck out of Crow Village.
It felt good to get back out onto Beach Boulevard, Highway 39 which runs from near the summit ridge of the San Gabriel Mountains down to the Huntington Beach pier. 30 feet outside the boundary of Crow Village it’s another world and one I intended to continue inhabiting. I pulled up to the red traffic signal and looked around to make sure I wasn’t being chased. I wasn’t. The only thing out of place was the scream of Elwood’s Kawasaki running at high RPM. I looked to the left and behind me, toward the sound, and there through the shrubbery separating Crow Village from the rest of the world I saw Elwood, still in a panic, running topped out in first gear with our fine young Hispanic friends hot on his ass.
I mentioned in the closing of Part Four that Elwood’s a school bus driver in some desert town, so you know, you just plain damn know, that I couldn’t and didn’t turn my back on him despite his deserving it as the only thing he’d ever truly deserved in his entire sniffing, snorting, drumming, cowardly, miserable life. They would have killed him. Life’s cheap in Crow Village. Hell, they’ll murder you for free. I made an illegal u-turn against a red light and powered through the shrubbery of the parkway to rejoin the fight. When I got to the right angle curve of the residential street Elwood blew by, following the turn, and my intent was to do the same and draw the three amigos off of him. It was me they were pissed off at, and I wasn’t panic stricken so I could easily enough lead them on a merry chase and then ditch them while Elwood rode his bike wide open in first gear until the engine seized.
The car was just ahead of me, so I made the turn to my left and raced to get ahead of it. As I went by they were throwing litter out of the car at me. ??? Really? A drink cup from Del Taco is somehow a weapon now? No, but the front bumper of the damn car was when the driver jerked the wheel to the left to hit me with it. I wobbled a bit but kept on keepin’ on, making a mental note to stop by the dealer for a new right rear turn signal to replace the one that died on the street in Crow Village. These fucking guys, I’ll tell ya… If I can get them out of their car again they’re going to have hell to pay.
But for now it was the car chase sequence without which no action story is complete. I kept it to a safe and insane speed to keep the three amigos focused on me because it was certain that Elwood was far too stupid and far too panicked to find his way out of Crow Village for at least ten minutes. My plan was to lead the three amigos out of Crow Village so Elwood could find his way out without bumbling into them again. If there’s a way to fuck up, Elwood’s just the one to find it.
Back out onto Beach Blvd. The traffic was up, so I figured I’d just take the easy way out and tunnel between the cars at that same intersection where I’d just been before my illegal U-turn, and when the light changed I’d speed away and ditch the idiots. They’d try to find me, surely, being such persistent young men, so Elwood would be fine. But nooooo… some dipshit in a drunkard van (Chevrolet van “conversion”, favored by brain dead alcoholics everywhere) spotted me angling for it in his side mirror and nudged the nose of his beer transporter to the left, blocking my way. I was pinned alongside his van with his ugly unshaven face grinning defiantly at me in the mirror when he noticed that two of the three amigos were out of the car and running toward me carrying something in their hands. It looked like one had a tire iron and the other a baseball bat. It wasn’t that damned 2×6, anyway. I thought I’d seen a tire iron being held when they hit me in that corner. The van drunk turned hard right and pulled forward a few feet, and I got to the intersection just as the light turned green. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, ZIp-A-Dee-Ay, gettin’ my ass out Crow Village today…
I figured I was home free, with a pack of cars in a bunch between us. I ran it up to about 60 miles per hour (in a 45 zone) and settled in for a cruise. It was a nice night, and I got to thinking that maybe I’d take another road down to PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) to do a little cruising with the salt air to clear my mind and mellow me out. I had a date later, at an all-night club that didn’t even open until midnight, so I had plenty of time. A little cruise was what I needed. My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of horns honking. Apparently some folks were a mite annoyed that the three amigos were on the other side of the center divider speeding the wrong way into oncoming traffic. I never met a more persistent bunch of violent criminals in my life.
It would have worked out better for me to have kept it to the speed limit. The only mid-block break in the center divider was just behind me when I saw them. If it had been yet ahead, I could have made a U-turn after they came through it, and losing them would have been easy. But who am I to bitch? I’d already got plenty of good luck in the middle of that bad situation when I needed it and there might yet be more ahead. I turned up the throttle a bit, because of course there’s never a cop around when you really need one, and scanned the road ahead. Red light and cars backed up behind it at the next intersection, but the left turn arrow was green. Okay, I’ll go that way. The light turned yellow as I entered the left turn bay, and dammit all, there were a couple of cars turning left from the oncoming traffic side so continuing along straight wasn’t an option to be available when I got there. Down hard on the brakes at the last possible moment, drop a couple of gears, and throw it into the turn… I’ll get some distance and time to think in a second, because they’ll have to lose a lot more speed in a car to make the turn.
Eh, no, they won’t. The driver might have wanted to, or maybe he didn’t, but he got me there. Literally got me, rear ended me. The bike was pushed back upright, then over. I hung on as best I could so I wouldn’t have quite so far to fly through the air, but that was a mistake as my right foot had got under the brake pedal, and when the bike and I parted company my big toe was pinched between the brake pedal and the pavement. Off came shoe, sock, and big toe nail. Just in time for me to bounce off of the side of the three amigos’ piece of shit car. I was spun around by that, all in nice slow motion action, and watched as my feet and lower legs went under the car. That will never do, what with that rear wheel coming along, so I pulled them back out again. My left foot caught on a ridge in the pavement, rolling me forward, and I bounced off of the back fender but thankfully didn’t get caught on the leading edge of the bumper as they passed.
Phew. I ain’t dead yet. I was again on my back in a flat, sliding spin… and what have we here? Hmmm. Red, white and blue it is, very patriotic, but damn heavy on my chest. It says “V-Four”. Oh, I know what that is. It’s a Honda VF-1000.
It’s always good to know what you’re being run over by, I think. But why is someone running me over and how did this front tire get on top of me without first being alongside?
The flat spin continued. Ah, that’s it. He hit my bike first, and so was airborne when he got this far. Lucky me. I’d be fucked if he’d got here firmly grounded. My luck might be bad, but at least it’s not as bad as it could be.
The other rider fell off of his bike. He had matching red, white, and blue leathers, and the helmet to match, too. A real Ricky Rice Rocket Racer. Bits of expensive plastic and fiberglass were flying off of his bike. That’s whatcha get for jumping the lights, man. I came to a stop near the northwest corner of the intersection, and thought it prudent to not just jump right up. Wiggle the toes; yep, can feel ’em, and boy oh boy does that right foot hurt. Fingers, yep. Not that any of this really means anything; I know a guy whose missing leg sometimes itches something fierce. But, hey, it’s a better sign than not feeling things, right?
I got to my feet, and with nothing seeming to be more pressing at the moment looked down at the one that hurt. Shoe’s gone, sock’s gone, and it’s leaking. Shit. I sure hope the bike will run because I really don’t want to walk on that. I looked into the intersection, saw the shoe and sock, and thought I ought to retrieve them. The other rider was running toward me, a good sign because it means that he can. I looked around some more wondering where the three amigos had got off to and how they managed not to have a much worse wreck than I had, and saw them down the street making a U-turn. Yes indeed, they were the most persistent violent criminals I’d ever met. The other rider got to me, and asked, “What did you do that for?”. Why am I the one who always gets the dumb questions?
I pointed at the three amigos. “See that brown car making a U-turn? Those assholes have been trying to kill me and everyone near me for the last 20 minutes. If I were you I wouldn’t be here when they get back”. “Oh!”, he exclaimed, and set about getting scarce. I limped over to my bike, uprighted it, and found that the handlebar, though not badly bent, was nearly in the gas tank on the right side with the front wheel pointing straight ahead, thus ruling out tight right turns for the time being. I got in the saddle, tried the front brake. Yep, got fluid pressure there. Stepped carefully on the rear brake pedal, got good resistance. Started the engine, and it sounded good. Being in no condition any more for hand to hand combat it seemed a good time to go.
After the break in the middle of it, I finished my left turn and was headed west, again with the three amigos hot on my tail after ripping through a parking lot. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of high speeds any more, with my bike bent and possibly not up to the stress of higher speeds. I might be just seconds from a tire blowout and didn’t want to be cooking if and when it happened. I got into a residential neighborhood I knew, one full of cul-de-sacs and curving streets, where the little agility I still had left would be to my advantage, and hoped things were as I remembered them. They were, so I squeaked through a pedestrian break in a block wall, one that would have been a challenge with handlebars not badly bent, and made my way home again without further incident.
Once in the house I sat on the side of the tub and surveyed the damage. The big toe was intact but for the nail, though the foot was scraped up. The jacket was a total loss, but had saved most of my bacon. There was gravel embedded in my right arm, not surprising given how hard I’d slammed into the pavement when the bike was high-sided. The helmet was a goner, intact but severely stressed and only idiots don’t view them as single-crash items. Some scrapes and gravel in the ribs on the right, nothing serious. All in all, not nearly so bad as it could have been. So I washed and scrubbed and brushed and cussed all of the gravel out, and got cleaned up for my date. Took the car. 😀
My date was already there waiting for me, as she’d got there early. She noticed the limp that hadn’t been there a few hours before so I told her that I’d had a bit of a run in with some fine young Hispanic gentlemen who were only trying to work up the scratch to buy their mommas something nice for Christmas, a two by six whose intentions were not so honorable, and had got hit by the same car twice but run over by another motorcycle only once. Just your usual intrepid adventurer stuff.
Then in walked Elwood who had never been inside that club before in his sniffy snorty miserable cowardly life.
He got to the table and was understandably greeted by me with a “What the FUCK are you doing here you piece of shit?”. I might not be tough but I can sure talk like it. He said, in his best growling billy bad ass voice, “Let’s go get ’em!”. Okay, now, this is really the weirdest damn thing I’ve seen all evening. All year, even, and here it is almost Christmas. I wanted to, but I couldn’t even stay mad. I laughed at him, and said, “No, man, the only thing you’re getting is bent. Get the fuck out of here.” He put on his best movie action hero snarly face, which was just comical as hell, and withdrew from the waistband at the back of his pants a really worthless souvenir Bowie knife, too large for a knife but too small for an ax, and again growled, “No, man, I mean it. Let’s go get ’em!”. “What, so this time around you can get in on it, maybe hold me down so they can stab me with your big toy? Fuck you. Get out of here.”
He started to speak again, but I called out to the bouncer. “Hey, Roy! This guy’s got a big fucking knife over here, man!”. Roy was not just a large man. He was two thirds of the Los Angeles Rams offensive line all rolled up into one. And a helluva nice guy, too, but only just as long as he was allowed to be. Elwood had taken that option from him when he came into the club with a weapon. Roy was faster than a mass so large has any right to be and was up close and personal with Elwood far faster than seemed possible. He grabbed the arm of the hand that held the knife and Elwood yelped in pain. I don’t blame him — I’d have bet money that Roy could crush a sixteen pound bowling ball in one hand. I didn’t even care to see the rest, so I turned back to my date who did want to see the rest. The loud noises coming out of Elwood on his way to the door were not protest; Roy was hurting him. My date said, “Looks like Roy has another knife for his collection”.
The next day I went to the fleabag to retrieve a couple of my things that Elwood had in his possession, and to tell him that if he ever got within 50 feet of me again I was going to break my vow to never be the one starting a fight, one that I’ve so far managed to keep and seem quite likely to now that I’m an old guy. Elderwood answered the door, and seeing the unhappy look on my face said, “Elwood told me you guys had some trouble last night and had to fight your way out”. He didn’t say, “and you had to fight your way out”. He said it like maybe he thought Elwood was more than a stargazer. I laid it all out as concisely as I could: “Yes, there was trouble, and yes I had to fight my way out of it. I had to fight four guys and one of them swinging a mean two by six, while your cowardly piece of shit son laid there on his back with his hands behind his head looking at the sky. He was perfectly happy to just lie there and let me die so long as he didn’t have to risk getting banged up in a fight, and had they succeeded in killing me he would have been next and gone down whimpering. I got drug by a car, hit by it twice and the second time I got splattered in an intersection, then I got run over by another guy on a motorcycle, and the only reason I got hit by that car and run over by that motorcycle was because I was once again and for the last time in this lifetime going in to save your cowardly piece of shit son’s miserable fucking life. And if he told you some bullshit story about his heroism, you should just ask him to show you where he got marked up even a little bit in fighting outnumbered. Or even a grass stain. Your son is the most pathetic coward I’ve ever met, and I’m through with him forever.”
Yes, I do sometimes speak in run-on sentences, very rapidly, when pissed off.
The old man looked severely pained to have just heard it all out loud. There was no more denying that his son was in fact the most pathetic dork ever to breathe oxygen. He sank like I’ve never seen anyone sink, like his shoulders were trying to wrap around his hips and his chin wanted to hide in his navel. Elwood handed me back the box I’d given him to put my things in, and never said a word. I told him that if he ever got near me again I was going to show him what it was like to get pounded on as I had the night before, and walked out.
Several weeks later I went into my favorite billiards parlor and much to my surprise I saw, there around a table in the rear corner, a couple of suspiciously familiar looking young Hispanic gentlemen. One of whom, coincidentally, had a splinted nose. Hmm. Must’ve broke it somehow, I guess. They bolted, and a few minutes later I got to hear about how his nose got to be that way. He and a couple of his buddies were just walking along minding their own business when five or six white guys got out of a car and jumped them. Just random white guys, for no reason at all.
With the wonders of the modern internet I’ve been able to peek in on Elwood. It never occurred to me to do so until after Amethyst and I reunited, but then I got curious. Was he even still alive, defying the odds?
Yes indeed, he was still alive and for all I know still is. I found a web site he’d created at some now long gone free web site hosting outfit. One page was devoted entirely to big rigs, including a promotional photo of the same year, make, and model, even the same gawdy paint scheme, as the one my father had more or less owned. He waxed poetic about trucks and their drivers, modern day cowboys — every trucker’s fantasy but about as far from the truth as any other fantasy. He never made it to be a trucker, was instead a bus driver. The second page was devoted to ham radio, a thing about which I’d never known him to express an interest. I showed it to Amethyst, and her first words were, “Wow. Look at that. He can’t come up with a life of his own so now he’s trying to live yours. That’s pretty sick”.
There was a third page on which he spoke of his family. His youngest child, a daughter, was about two years old when he wrote that web page. Her name? The same first name as Amethyst, with a middle name beginning with the same syllable. The pervert had named his only daughter after the girl whose bikini bottom he’d stolen. How nice. When I showed Amethyst that page she became fearful for the little girl’s safety, as did I.
Some time later, Elwood finally found me online. Anyone who knows my name can find me in about three seconds, so I guess it was inevitable that he would eventually figure it out. He sent me an email message. In it he said that he missed me and I was the best friend he ever had. He apologized for letting our friendship fall by the wayside, explaining that his first wife had messed up his head pretty badly. Yeah, I guess so, if that’s the lie he’s telling himself about why and how things happened.
I replied, telling him that if he wanted to believe the things he’d written about why I put him out of my life that was up to him, but that Amethyst and I wanted nothing at all to do with him so he should just fade back into the mists of history where he belonged.
I haven’t heard from him since.