I am not a fighter. I’m not a lover. I guess primary skills are rising my wrist and being an impenitent smart-ass. And the two have been known to join forces, thereby ensuring my participation in situations that, while off-the-charts stupid, can occasionally be quite diverting.
Sense a tale looming on the horizon? Bully for you.
Not long ago I was goofing around with my brother, who was in town on one of his too-infrequent leaves from the military. We ate lunch at a Mexican place, a meal comprised of a burrito and six or seven beers each, then decided to swing by Best Buy on the way back to my place—me in search of a wireless mouse and my brother wanting to price 70” flatscreens.
It being a Saturday, the parking lot was crowded, and we had to navigate around a bit looking for a spot. We were approaching the front end of a lane when oncoming cars forced us to pull in behind an idling sedan of some early 90s vintage; a dirty brown turd on four treadless Goodyears hugging the side of the thoroughfare. Two passengers, or their shadowy outlines at any rate, were visible through the vehicle’s grubby windows.
We sat motionless for a tick or two before my brother—in whom the Army has instilled a certain paucity of patience—said, “What are these dipshits doing?”
“Just sittin' there,” I responded. “There’s room. Go round em.”
This my brother undertook, pulling out into the lane and easing forward. Only to come to a rocking stop about five feet into the maneuver, when the Turdillac suddenly leaped violently out into our path. My brother laid on the horn and started screaming at the other car through the windshield. For my part, I stuck my head out the window—the passenger side, I should mention, was nearest the other party—and did a little bellowing of my own. Digging deep into my reservoir of witticisms and bon mots I yelled at the driver:
“The fuck are you doing, ya fucking retard!”
To which the driver rejoined—and I swear this is true:
“Ya wanna make something of it?”
Yes, I decided, I did want to make something of it.
“OK. Pull over, fuckface.”
From there things degenerated into a short period of mutual shouting. The operative word was fuck, and it flew as fast and wild as a covey of startled quail.
As my brother drove I took off my sunglasses and removed stuff from my pockets—change, keys, wallet—just in case events actually did devolve into fisticuffs. I also remember thinking how profoundly glad I was that my brother was along. Everything I lack in fighting skill and general toughness, J.P. makes up for in spades. I’m seven years older than he is and I didn’t even beat him up when we were little kids. He’s a tough motherfucker.
“If I get my ass stomped,” I asked, “you got my back?”
“Of course,” J.P. said.
And there ensued a few minutes of Keystone Kops bustle, as my brother and the Turdillac took off in opposite directions—we hadn’t settled upon exactly where our little throwdown was to take place—and thus proceeded to circle each other about the parking lot, still hurling invective. But, finally, we arrived almost simultaneously in the lot’s south forty, on an open patch of asphalt suitable for parking and/or a street fight. We parked facing each other.
I climbed from J.P.’s pickup while the passenger across the way exited the Shitvrolet, and we got a good peep at one another. He was about 5’4”, and wiry. And he was dressed like the Caucasian reject from a housing projects pick-up game—Nylon NBA shorts that dangled down below his knees, a Miami Heat jersey over a white wife-beater, and an LA Lakers cap on his head, twisted sideways, ‘80s-style.
“Hey, Flavor-Flav,” I said. “Where’s your clock?”
My brother burst out laughing, and the kid’s face to go all twisty like one of those demon thingies in Jacob’s Ladder.
“Fuck you, you fat fuck,” he answered, giving me a serious dose of the hates, glaring, hands on his hips. “What’s yer fucking problem?”
“Hey, you pulled out in front of us, pal.”
“No we didn’t.”
“Jesus Christ. Yes you did,” my brother corrected him, matter-of-factly “Stop acting like a pussy.”
“Yeah, well, we were there first.”
“All we were doing is going around you, man,” I said. “You were clogging up the lane. What are you, fuckin stupid?”
By this point the kid had given me a good once-over. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting me, I’m a little better than 6’4” and tip (well, demolish actually) the scales at about 320. NFL size. These facts all by themselves usually serve to keep me out of most physical altercations. People have this mixed-up idea that big guys are somehow automatically meaner than normal sized folks. Might be true in some cases, but it’s not at all true in mine. I mean, I can take a punch, but where’s the fun in that? Hay bales can take punches, for fuck’s sake. In any event, I absolutely towered over this kid, a fact he was well aware of, but I could tell by the nasty little gleam in his eye that he was more than willing to come to blows, if it came to that. Shit.
“We were waiting there, and you cut us off,” the kid said, rather too petulantly. No way was he on his high-school debate team.
“You were just sitting there,” I said.
“We were waiting on our friend.”
“And he couldn’t walk an extra ten feet?”
“But wha—” I began, then stopped, hit with a brainwave. “You guys were stealing shit weren’t you?”
“Fuck you, fat ass! We weren’t stea—”
“You were the getaway drivers, right? Ha!”
“You fat fuck! Fuck you!”
(Side Note: It was about here, though I wouldn’t learn of it until later, that the driver made to join the fun. He only got his door open a couple of inches however, before my brother blocked it, leaned down through the guy’s open window, and said, “If you get out of that car I’ll put my foot on your neck ‘til you fucking die.” The guy closed his door again. And locked it. And rolled up the window.)
“Jesus,” I chuckled, throwing my arms wide in as scenery-chewing a way as I could muster. “The whole world of smack open to you and that’s all you can come up with? I’m fat? Dude, Helen Keller knows I’m fat, and she’s blind and dead. You probably didn’t finish school, did you.”
“Go to hell.”
“And that’s why you’re out here stealing TVs.”
“We didn’t steal any TVs, motherfucker.”
“Well, not you personally, no. I get that. You’re the getaway team. Your buddy inside did the actual stealing. Am I right? Oh, please, tell me I’m right.”
I have no idea if the kid was swiping electronics from the Best Buy, and I don’t give a solitary shit, but the longer I kept hectoring him about it, the less control he seemed to maintain. That and, by this time, there were about fifteen people arrayed about the open space near by brother’s pickup, each and every one of them brandishing a camera-phone and diligently videoing the scene, probably to be immortalized (for eleven seconds) on You Tube.
“Shut the fuck up and throw a punch fat-ass,” the kid grumbled, speaking to me but not looking at me. He was looking at the gaggle of iPhoners.
When he said that I realized that there was very little chance that he was going to try to hit me, so my let’s-fuck-with-this-guy troops sallied forth en masse to the front lines.
“You started this stupid shit,” I responded, giggling. “Punch away.”
“I can’t throw the first punch.”
“Why the fuck not?!” I was, I must confess, momentarily knocked off center by this.
He didn’t speak for a second or two, and then said, “I’m on probation.”
My giggle dialed up a notch into actual laughter. “For real? Like from jail? Were you caught stealing TVs?”
“Fuck YOU!” he screamed. “Fuck you and hit me!”
“Well, which will it be? Fuck you or hit you? Cuz from the way you’re dressed I’m worried it might be the former.”
Laughter now from the iPhoners. The kid’s face went the color of a cherry Slurpee.
“Did you experiment with man-on-man sex while you were in jail?”
He actually screamed so loudly that a great streamer of saliva shot from his mouth, and came at me like a 3D movie snake. “FUCK YOU MOTHERFUCKER!”
“I recommend getting a job,” I said, calmly. “Hasn’t your parole officer explained that to you?”
“Go to hell!”
“Cuz if he’s the guy telling you to steal TVs, I think you got the shitty end of the stick, officer-wise.”
“Are you gonna throw a punch or not? Huh, you faggot?”
“Faggot? Wow, another quality zinger from the reality TV camp. No, I’m not going to throw a punch. I’m not going to waste any more time with you.” I turned to my brother. “Let’s go inside. I don’t have time for juvie offenders and their ball caps.”
“Pussy!” the guy yelled.
And I started laughing again.
“Jesus, kid. Just stop, OK? Seriously. You’re making a fool of yourself. Take your stolen TVs and go home.”
J.P. and I climbed back inside his truck. The kid, his supply of trash-talk depleted to nil, kept up a flow of “fat” and “pussy” comments. “Fat pussy.” “Pussy fat-ass.” “Fat pussy fuck.”
We drove back up the lane, found a space and parked. As we walked toward the store, an elderly woman approached. She was grinning her geriatric head off.
“You should’a kicked his skinny ass,” she said.
“Maybe,” I answered.
“Would’a been hilarious.”
“Maybe. Who knows.”
She shrugged. I shrugged. My brother bought a new TV.