"I think I'm goin' to Katmandu,
That's really really where I'm going to
If I ever get out of here
That's what I'm gonna do"
- Bob Seger - Katmandu -
Don’t mess with Texas
October 6, 1987
I was taking a nap on my lower bunk when Cody knocked on my dorm room door. Knocked is probably the wrong term to use. Cody used his fist to pound my dorm room door like Saxons used to use battering rams to make entry to Saracen castles they wanted to storm.
"Hey! Shields! Open up!"
I came awake, not without some regret, got up and opened it for him and as the door slowly opened wide he pointed to the letters that had been carved in the paint of my dorm room door. Carved deep.
“Have you seen this?” he asked, pointing at the six inch tall letters that someone had used a knife to carve in my door.
“Yeah. It’s kind of hard to miss.” I said.
The letters carved into the face of my door said, quite simply, “CHRIS IS COOL.”
“Bro! Someone personalized your door for you!”
“Looks that way, doesn’t it?”
"With ... like ... a knife!"
“That's seriously fucking cool! You’ve got a fan … or a fan club … or maybe even a fan cult.” Cody said, running his hands over the deep groves in the door.
“I guess so.” I said, walking up and admiring the handiwork, again, that someone had done to my door.
“Or someone with a knife just really, really likes you.”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“There’s that possibility as well, I guess.”
“A scary possibility. Their love might be sharp!” Cody said.
“And there’s that thought as well. Thanks!”
“Yeah, well, like Nazareth says … love hurts. The trick is to make it out without having to get stitches.” Cody said.
"I don't know ... if the sex is good enough to cause you to have to get stitches I'd say that's pretty good sex."
"I wouldn't know ..." Cody said, folding his arms in front of him and stared at the big letters carved in the door then turned to me and started singing the lyrics of Bryan Adams’ hit song “Cuts like a knife.”
“This wouldn't be the first time things have gone astray now you've thrown it all away now it cuts like a knife but it feels so right …” he crooned and although I recognized the lyrics I don't think that Cody did a very passable Bryan Adams impersonation.
“Funny.” I said and letting it go at that.
“Just saying. Just saying.” Cody replied, trailing off in his rendition of the song.
“Yeah. It’s a mystery. I can’t figure out who I either pissed off enough to be that sarcastic or who likes me enough to risk getting expelled and criminal charges brought against them to tell me … that.” I said, pointing at the door.
“Wow.” Cody said, looking at the deeply grooved and carved letters. “Just looking at this closer … Someone really took some time on this. This wasn’t a scratch and run, this was thought out and planned. Maybe even like someone used a stencil ... When did this happen?”
“Last weekend, when I went home to see my parents in Hattiesburg. I came back late Sunday afternoon and it was like that so I’m guessing someone did it either Friday after I left or sometime Saturday, maybe Sunday before I got back.”
“I don’t know if you should be happy or scared.” He said.
“Depends on who did it as to how I might feel about it.” I said.
“What if … Debby Lee did it!?” Cody said, pausing for dramatic effect.
I’d thought about that but something like this just didn’t seem to be something that Debby Lee would do. She wouldn’t drive all the way out here if I wasn’t here to be with her and she certainly wouldn’t resort to vandalism or graffiti just to win my affection and attention.
“No. It’s not a Debby Lee thing.”
“Maybe it’s that other girl … you know, the long haired one. What was her name?” Cody asked, musing, thinking, snapping his fingers next to his head like that would somehow jar loose the memory he was looking for.
“What other girl?”
“The one who kept looking at you! The one that didn’t get to be your partner. Long legs, long hair … those kind are always the psycho kind.”
Long legs … long hair …
“Alison? The rich girl?” I asked.
Cody snapped his fingers loudly in confirmation then made a gun hand and pointed it at me.
“Maybe it’s Alison. Maybe she’s stalking you!”
“Maybe she’s going to stab Debby Lee, kidnap you and keep you in her parents' house cellar as a sex slave for the rest of your life.”
"This is Mississippi, Cody. We don't have cellars. We have basements. and we don't have a lot of those."
"I bet Alison has one. With a little room done all up in pink and ribbon ... and some chains and cuffs."
I just shook my head at him.
"Stab. Stab. Cuff. Cuff. ... and Ray Bans' picture gets put on the side of a milk carton and he's never seen again ... Death by sex ..." Cody said, pantomiming everything then slowly spreading his hands to the wind and whistling softly, fading out.
I stopped and thought about what he was saying.
“Wouldn’t be real happy about Debby Lee getting stabbed but the rest of it … yeah. There are probably worse fates than that … Just hope she's a good cook. Having Chef Boy Ardee for the rest of my life could be a real downer.” I mused.
Cody looked at me.
“No. You know what? I take that back. It’s probably not Alison.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“She’s pedigreed. She wouldn’t go out with the likes of you because she’s got class and money and that precludes her from going out with the likes of a blue collar peasant like you.”
"Peasant?" I asked, laughing and looking up at Cody.
"Peasant." Cody said, pointing his finger at me.
“Hell on that.” I said flatly. "I might not be royalty but I'm sure as hell not a peasant."
“Well … someone likes you and maybe not in a good way.” Cody said as he ran his hands over the carved letters in the door again.
“I figure someone will own up to it eventually before the semester is out.”
“You know those dicks in the business office will probably try to stick you for this, make you pay for the damage.”
I shook my head.
“No. I already grabbed the RA and showed it to him last Monday and he filed a report so I’m good. I won’t have to pay for it, he told me so. I think they understood that I wouldn't grafitti my own door in a third person sort of way."
“Yeah, that kind of makes sense. Anyway, that’s a relief."
"Yeah, to my wallet."
"So ... where were you at lunch?" he asked.
"I went to get my picture taken for the yearbook. Did you get yours taken? Today was the last day."
Cody shook his head.
"Naw. Don't much care for that, didn't see any need to."
"Memories." I said.
Cody shrugged his shoulders.
"Not big into memories, live for the day. Besides, having a book full of pictures of people I'll never see again doesn't sound like a good thing to spend my money on. Half these people we go to school with ... this degree is just something that will get them some job that is only slightly better than flipping burgers. They won't do anything with the degree. A lot of these girls are just here to meet someone and get married and get taken care of so they don't have to use the degree that they get from here. Half of these guys you see on campus ... they'll be selling cars or insurance or managing some television and VCR repair place."
"Never thought of it that way."
"The human race is full of disposable people." Cody said. "Just a bunch of flotsam and jetsam that clogs up life and gets in your way. I try to avoid most of them that I can. Makes life easier."
"And I thought I cast a cold eye on the human race." I said.
"You're a misanthrope, Ray Bans. Why show up and waste time taking a picture to go in a book filled with the pictures of people I don't care about and people I won't have anything to do with when I leave this school."
"My picture will be in there." I offered. "That probably in and of itself makes the yearbook worth buying."
Cody looked at me.
"Ray Bans ... I'm not going to need a picture of you to remember you, bro." He said, tapping his forehead and temple with his fingers.
"You're just going to remember me the way I am?" I asked, smiling.
"No. The goddamn psychological therapy I'll have to take over the next ten years just for being your friend is what's going to help me remember you. Probably need drugs when all this is over and done with."
I laughed out loud.
"You've already got drugs!" I said.
"The good kind of drugs. I've got the kind of drugs that mess up your mind. I'm talking about the kind of drugs that make your mind okay again. I'll need that kind of drugs. Lots of them."
I laughed and shook my head.
"Yearbook." Cody muttered. "Come on, Ray Bans. That's such a fucking high school thing. Why bother?"
I shrugged my shoulders because I'd lost interest in the argument. It was a damn yearbook for crying out loud and Cody made it sound like it was some kind of personal religious transgression. I played over his line of reasoning in my head as I stepped back and Cody stepped on into my dorm room, looking around. He saw the tall new trophy on my side of the work desk and went over to it.
"Hold on. This is new. Where did you get this?" he asked.
"First place trophy. Got it at a car show back home."
"You put the TA in a car show?"
"When?" Cody asked.
"Last weekend while I was back home. Won first place, '75 to '81 stock category."
"That's pretty damn smurfy!"
"Smurfy?" I asked, laughing at Cody using one of my words.
"Yeah. Okay. You got me using that damn word now. For a lot of things. For almost everything. It's contagious."
"Fun to say."
"Fun to say. Easy to use. Has a variety of uses and connotations. Plus I like how it catches people off guard when you throw it out there." Cody agreed.
Cody looked the trophy over again and put it back down.
"Big trophy. Nice, bro. Congratulations are in order." he said.
Then Cody saw my Ibanez Roadstar II electric guitar in its stand and his eyes lit up.
"Whoa! What the fuck!? Check it out! You've got an axe, bro! You didn't tell me you had an axe!"
Cody put my car show trophy down and went over, picked up the electric guitar by its neck, threw the sling around his neck and keyed it to power with the motions that betrayed that he'd done that enough times that it was muscle memory now. He played a few strings, adjusted the amp, then softly began to play several chords. Cody was good ... really good and I could see how he had been part of a band back in Corpus Christi.
"How long have you had this axe, bro?" Cody asked.
I thought back to last year.
"Maybe a year now, little over. I brought it up from Hattiesburg ... thought maybe I'd get around to using it a bit."
"This is so very capital! Can you play?" Cody asked.
"Yeah, I can play ... about like an epileptic retard."
"Like an epileptic retard ..." Cody laughed out loud as I pantomimed my best impression of an epileptic retard trying to play an electric guitar.
"But ... you do play?"
"Yeah. I'm still learning but I'm nowhere near where you are."
"No one is as good as me." Cody said, running his fingertips over the guitar strings like a lover would.
I watched Cody handle the guitar almost like it was an artifact, a symbol of his chosen faith. He was lost for a second as his hands played over the neck, the strings ... then he chuckled, seemingly coming back from where ever it was that he'd gone off to.
"Epileptic retard. That's good." Cody muttered, laughing, and went back to playing the Ibanez ... hard. His expression changed, his hands and fingers moved across the neck and body of the Ibanez. Strings and chords flowing together.
"A moron tuned this." he said.
He set about to adjusting the guitar to his preferences then started hammering out chords.
"Ozzy Osbourne ... Crazy Train." I said.
Cody seemed impressed but didn't say anything, just nodded.
He played several other samples from songs I recognized.
I got most of them.
Crue's "Too young to fall in love" took me a bit longer as did Van Halen's "Ain't talking about love" but I guess it was the way he was playing them.
Cody finished up playing with the Ibanez and set it back down in its stand, turning everything off. The hum from the Peavey amp fell to silence.
"Come on. You ready? Let’s cruise.” Cody said, motioning with his head to follow him then heading on down the dorm hallway.
I looked up at him.
"First you wake me up out of my nap and now you're telling me we're going somewhere?"
"Were you having a wet dream?" Cody asked.
I shook my head, not sure where he was going with that line of thought.
"Well, if you weren't having a wet dream then it wasn't a very good nap. Come on, let's blow this trade school and have some fun."
"Where? Doing ... what?" I asked.
"Kathmandu's." Cody said.
"Kathmandu's." I said.
"Kathmandu's." Cody said loudly, almost singing the name.
Kathmandu’s was a relatively new night spot to the Jackson club scene and one that used Bob Segar’s old song of the same name as their lead-in for local radio spot advertising. Like all brand new night spots, it was attracting a lot of attention, a lot of talk among other people in my classes (especially the girls) and I had been curious to check it out myself. Cody's offer seemed interesting and since I'd finished my classwork and really had nothing better to do ...
"Okay. That answers where. Not tell me what ... or why?"
I nodded, more to myself than in acknowledgement of Cody.
It all made sense then.
Yes, never let it be said that the Lone Star Gigolo was going to miss a ladies night at a bar somewhere in Jackson, Mississippi.
I didn't say anything more, just grabbed my leather jacket and headed for the door. Cody followed me out into the hall and I closed my dorm room door behind us, making sure it was locked. Cody paused and ran his fingers over the carved in wood letters in the face of my dorm room door again.
“You know graffiti is considered art in some circles.” Cody said.
“Graffiti isn’t art, it’s a crime.” I said flatly.
“You think so?” Cody asked.
“Yeah. Graffiti is to art what a knife fight is to surgery.”
“And that’s what I like about you Ray-Bans. You always see things differently than other people. Hanging around you is intellectually refreshing.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” I said.
“As well you should, Ray-Bans. As well you should.”
Kathmandu’s was located in an old strip mall off a frontage road along the main artery that fed into north Jackson. The strip mall itself had seen better days but there was the club, reconditioned out of an old department store the name of which I could no longer remember from my youth and the time spent when I had lived here in Jackson over a decade earlier …
In a strip mall.
Because putting a bar in a strip mall seemed like such an excellent business strategy.
Kathmandu's was closed when all the other stores around it were open for business, open when all the other stores around it were closed for business.
In fact, Cody and I were cruising around in his ’85 Toyota Supra while listening to the soundtrack to the modern day vampire movie “The Lost Boys” and our favorite track so far was “Cry Little Sister.” It was a great song to cruise to around Jackson after dark. When the song was finished, he’d just rewind to the start and we’d listen to it over and over again.
Despite all the
hype to the contrary, as far as bars went
If this was ladies night, it was missing the one crucial element that made it ladies night.
Five minutes into Kathmandu's and Cody had come to the same conclusion. If this was ladies night then all the guys had showed up looking for a target rich environment and instead the ladies had apparently gone somewhere else ... or maybe they didn't show up until a lot later ... or maybe they were going to bus them in. With our luck they'd bus the "ladies" in from the local retard school.
"So ... Where are the ladies?" I asked.
"I know." Cody muttered.
"False advertising. We could sue them."
"And get ... what? Look at this place! We'd be lucky to get our door cover back."
"I thought you said people were coming here!"
"That's what a bunch of girls said in my class. They said they loved this place." Cody said.
"Do you see them?"
Cody looked around, not sure if he could recognize any of the girls from any of his classes if he had to. He gave a look, made it look good then shook his head.
"No." he said at last.
"Let's go." I said.
"Give it a chance." he said, not wanting to turn and run just yet.
"I'll give it a chance ... about like I'd give testicle cancer a chance." I said.
Cody laughed and shook his head.
"If we bail now we can hit The Stage Door over near the Coliseum or The Dock way out on the reservoir."
"We're here now ..." Cody said.
The Stage Door and The Dock were far superior to the place that we now found ourselves at. For all the hype that had been played on the radio building Kathmandu's up I considered the newest night spot in Jackson, Mississippi to be a real letdown.
“Cody. This place is dead. Let’s cruise.” I said.
“Hold on. Give it a few.” Cody said.
“Give it a few what, Cody? A few sticks of dynamite?” I asked, looking around and finding ... nothing that attracted my interest.
"Just give it a few, Ray Bans. Something will happen. Something always happens. Cody knows this." Cody said as he patted me on the shoulder and melted into the crowd, a shark among goldfish.
I turned to take in my surroundings again and when I turned back Cody was gone ... gone."Give it a few ..." I muttered, mocking him under my breath. "Something will happen. Something always happens. Cody knows this."
Misanthropy was a way of life for me; for Cody it was a social convenience, maybe even a tool. It was something that he pulled out of his bag of tricks when he needed to.
While I had been walking around and trying to find some merit in staying in this place, Cody, ever and always the Lone Star gigolo, had started to talk to a girl standing on his right and that’s when the trouble for the evening started. Before I knew it, Cody and some guy bigger than him were tying up right there next to the bar, right there inside the night club. The hush and pulse of the crowd in how they talked, in the noise that surrounded the bar, what was going on between Cody and the other guy ... all of this drew my attention, and everyone else's attention, directly to that point. Apparently Cody had said something to the guy’s girlfriend that she didn’t like and she had told her boyfriend who was now looking to teach Cody a lesson. Said lesson started with the guy grabbing Cody by the collar of his leather jacket and pulling him backwards off of his feet.
Pull and jerk.
Cody’s ass caught air, a good foot of
elevation and triple that or more of trajectory.
Yeah, I thought to myself ... that's not good; that's really not good.
Cody may have been part alley cat but he didn’t land on his feet when he fell or at least this time he didn’t. Cody picked himself up, straightened his leather jacket and marched right up to the angry boyfriend where they began to chest up at each other, words were exchanged, fingers pointed, fingers stabbed into chests and voices raised ever higher. Suddenly, everyone in the place was hushed and listening to Cody and the girl’s boyfriend insult each other. This went on for about a minute before the boyfriend used both of his open palms to push Cody backwards into the crowd that had gathered. Cody, again, recovered quickly, having only stumbled rather than gone down, and he came back at the boyfriend like a black leather jacket wearing steam locomotive.
A black leather
jacket wearing coal fired steam locomotive built in
Cody’s return shove was harder and sent the girl’s boyfriend sprawling flat on his ass. Cody danced around the fallen boyfriend, taunting him.
“Like that? Got more of it for you! Oh, I got all of that you could want, right here!” Cody said loudly, using a finger to point to himself then tapping his chest hard with his fist.
The boyfriend recovered quickly and came up cocking a swing. One of the bouncers, or what passed for a bouncer at the night club, rapped a beer bottle hard enough and loud enough to get everyone’s attention and shouted at Cody and the girl’s boyfriend to take their disagreement out to the parking lot before he called the cops. The tone of his voice and his gesturing made it evident that this impromptu party was moving on to the parking lot. Cody and the girl’s boyfriend had agreed to take it outside to the parking lot and, being Cody’s friend, I followed the group out. At that point I didn't know what I could do ... or even what I should do. I didn't know what Cody had gotten himself into so I was just taking it easy and trying to figure out what was going on and how I, if in any way, fit into the situation.
A small group stood around while Cody and the girl’s boyfriend paced off, mouthing off again to each other, upping the challenge and generally prepping for an epic public display of ego-driven, step up, bring it on ass kicking. I had been leaning up against the passenger side of a 1983 white and gold Z28 when the boyfriend said something about Cody’s mom and that was it.
I mean that was it.
Something in Cody had snapped and you could see it in his expression.
“It’s MILLER time!” Cody shouted and he threw
the first punch … it had been a good punch, it had connected solidly with the
jaw of the boyfriend sending the boyfriend staggering back under the impact.
But it didn't put the boyfriend down.
That in and of itself kind of surprised me but if it surprised me it surprised Cody even more because I guess that had been his best opening hit and when it hadn't done what he expected it to do, well, that's when the fight was on right there in the parking lot of Kathmandu’s.
The boyfriend was taller and stronger but Cody was faster and more agile plus Cody looked like he knew what he was doing and the boyfriend didn’t. The boyfriend looked like he had spent most of his life letting his size do the talking but now that there was actually someone willing to stand up to him and fight back, the boyfriend didn’t exactly know what to do. Cody looked like someone who had actually fought someone else before. The boyfriend looked like Wally Cleaver practicing boxing in front of a mirror. Cody was landing two to three hits to each one that the boyfriend was landing though it looked like the boyfriend’s hits were more solidly delivered.
I stood there by the Z28, enjoying watching my friend fight because you can read a lot and learn a lot from watching how someone fights and Cody was something to see there in the parking lot of Kathmandu's. Unfortunately, I was so busy watching Cody and enjoying the brawl that I didn’t realize that three of the boyfriend’s friends had moved up near me.
“Is that a friend of yours?” one of them asked, motioning towards Cody.
“Something like that.” I said, not really sure what they were getting at and just then realizing that I'd let three guys basically walk up around me and form around me while I'd been distracted by watching Cody.
I chided myself for being that inattentive and deep down inside, I had a feeling that I was about to pay a price for being stupid.
“I saw this guy come in with him.” One of the three said and just like that I joined the fight in the parking lot at their invitation and without any further discussion given on the matter of my attendance.
You see, even though I had been content to let Cody and the girl’s boyfriend sort things out the three friends of the girl’s boyfriend hadn’t been content not to get in on the action and since they couldn’t just join in kicking Cody’s ass they turned to the next best thing … me. Yes, apparently since I was with Cody that night the three friends of the boyfriend surmised that I needed my ass kicked as well and when it came down to kicking my ass, well, they were just the guys to do it. The first punch thrown at me was solid and it surprised me almost as much as it nearly put me down for good. It had been quick and I'd been stupid for a second time in that I'd been paying attention to the two guys talking about me and not paying attention to the guy who had just moved up on the right side of me.
The punch landed.
An explosion of orange and red fury went off in my skull. As the initial shock was setting in from that first surprise punch I had two more punches land about my midsection and face then two of the guys who were on me grabbed me up, body slammed me hard against the side of the white and gold Z28 then picked me up and rolled me over the hood. Between the pain and the motion I got the mental image of a big duffle bag full of bowling balls being thrown across the hood of a car.
That was what I felt like right then, that's what it sounded like right then, at least to me it did and I imagine that's probably what it looked like as well.
My first thought I had, as I climbed out of the pain and confusion I had just been thrown into, was here I was at Kathmandu’s, with Cody, on ladies night and that is why, I had to remind myself, that I was rolling over the hood of a ’83 white and gold Camaro Z28 and that people on the driver’s side of the Camaro were moving out of the way of where I was going to land. The hood abruptly ended which wasn’t that big of a problem since the asphalt pavement on the other side rose up to catch me. The only problem with that was the fact that the pavement wasn’t quite as soft as I had hoped it would have been but it was warm, still warm and somehow I found myself wondering about that.
I came up in a crouched position that was wobbly to say the least, shook my head to try to clear my thoughts as well as my vision and that’s when the second punch came down from somewhere above and sent me back flat down to the dark pavement’s embrace. I swear that I had heard the punch when it was coming down. I tasted asphalt in my mouth. I tasted blood in my mouth, I smelled blood in my nose, my ears were ringing, people were shouting and I saw that there was still a decent amount of tread left on the Goodyear tires on the Z28 I was lying next to. I don’t know why that thought occurred to me at a time when I was finding it hard to remember my name let alone where I was but when your bell gets rung and rung hard like mine had you kind of latch on to anything at hand to draw focus.
Good rubber.Expensive rubber.
I remember seeing the Z28 badge on the lower ground effects behind the front tire well. I remember reading “Crossfire Injection” in black letters below that ... a decal. The black asphalt still smelled fresh and felt warm against my now scraped raw cheek. It was a good kind of warm and I would probably have stayed there for a little nap except for two things; the bits of gravel and grit pressing sharply into my cheek and the fact that I just wasn’t the kind of person to stay down and quit when I was getting my ass kicked. No, I hadn’t wanted any part of this fight but now that some hicks had dragged me into it I was ready to start throwing some bones and just mad enough to do it. I could count the number of fights that I’d been in on two hands and a few fingers added in. The number of times that I’d lost one of those fights I could count on one hand minus a thumb and a few fingers and I was damn sure determined that tonight wasn’t going to break the winning streak that I’d been on for a while now.
Some redneck had hit me ... for no good reason ... and for that some redneck was about to get his ass kicked.
I started to get off the pavement again, pushing myself up out of a deafening sound filled world of dull color and bright hurt, determined that I would make it this time since the last time that I’d tried to get up had been such a complete failure. Movement came at me then, something like a kick that I leaned into and took most of the power out of what was coming my way … still, it moved me back up against the side of the car and gave me a whole dump truck load of new pain to go right on top of the other pain that I was trying to pack down and compact. I rode it, using it to help me up but I paid a price for that, a price in pain.
Everything was pain.
Color and sound and pain and I was wading through it.
Hands grabbed me about my jacket and collar, lifting me up, other hands moving around the area of my stomach and chest, trying to find a clear spot, getting ready to hit me again. I realized that I just couldn’t let that happen.
At least not again.
There was sudden movement near me and then whoever it was that was standing next to me was jerked quickly away from me with a lot of protesting and arm flailing.
Okay, that was unexpected but I wasn’t one to question when the odds suddenly changed in my favor so I looked for the next hick that deserved my attention. I couldn’t see very well so I picked a shape that looked like I didn’t want it to be that close to me and threw a punch with everything that I had. Since I had a little bit of luck still left on my side my punch hit something soft with a noticeable lump in the middle. I felt my fist sink in a little then I felt whatever it was fall away from my fist all the while making awful noises, which, I thought, was probably a good thing because when you hit someone you want them to make an awful noise otherwise you aren’t hitting them right or if you are hitting them right and they don't make an awful noise when you do hit them then it's just not as satisfying as when they do. I turned and saw something else that didn’t look like I wanted it near me so I threw two more punches, quick and low, as hard and as fast as I could. I felt soft and hard on the first punch then nothing but soft on the second. It also felt like my fist got a little play on that second punch, going the extra distance into something soft.
The color and the sound and the pain started to clear up.
Everything looked so different than I'd remembered it looking.
My arms were tired, my fists felt like I was wearing lead boxing gloves and my feet felt like I was moving in mud. Where had everyone gone? I knew that there were three hicks that needed me to be hitting on them but I couldn’t find them right then. I blinked then wiped my face again, slinging my hand clean of the blood, bloody saliva and parking lot grit. Someone came at me then, moving in quickly from the side and I used the last thing that I had left … my right leg. I snapped my leg out and caught whoever it was right in the middle of the stomach with the heel of my boot. He went backwards, stumbling into the side of a Chevy pickup truck, bounced off grabbing his chest and making the kind of wheezing noises that I knew meant that he wouldn’t be bothering me any time soon. I moved in close to him and put two quick punches into his midsection, right where I had kicked him or close enough, then let him fall to the pavement making some noises and sounds that really couldn’t be good for his short term well being.
Two to go.
I wiped my nose and mouth for the third time in what must have been less than a minute and came back with a blood smeared hand.
I spat again to clear my mouth of the tastes that had accumulated there and looked around. People were staring at me now, even the guy that Cody had been working over stopped and was paying attention to me. The nearest guy to me was crawling up off of the ground, wiping at his face; he had blood splattered all over his face and the front of his shirt. He had one hand wrapped around his stomach and was moving slowly. How he got on the ground I didn’t know.
Didn’t care, either.
His position and location just made him a target of opportunity and I took that opportunity, thank you very much. I took a step towards him and he took a step back which didn’t matter because he was within reach and that meant that I owned him. He put up some kind of protest, not that it was worth much in the kind of mood that I was now in so I grabbed a handful of his hair, helping him to his feet then ran him a few steps to the right, flipped him around until his back was to me and bounced his face off the hood of the Z28 … The same hood that I had been sent rolling over a few minutes ago.
I bounced his face ... hard. Just palmed his head and dribbled it like a basketball.
It felt surprisingly good to do that so I did it again.
And again, because I felt like it.
And … again … just for the hell of it.
The third time when he came up it was evident that the fight was gone from him.
The fourth time that I dribbled his face off the hood of the Z28 he looked worse than I imagined that I looked. I jerked him backwards by his hair and threw him roughly to the ground. The guy that I had kick bounced off the pickup truck was now up on his hands and knees grabbing the front tire and wheel while trying to pull himself up to a standing position … his breathing was still labored, shallow and rapid. Maybe a rib. Good for him. I didn't care. I reached down, picked him up as far as his knees would support him, put a punch into his right side then threw him down hard on top of the guy that I had so much fun working his face over on the hood of the Z28.
I thought that they made for the cutest couple there on the pavement.
Hey, I thought to myself, this is easy! These guys must be in high school or something. I wobbled a little, took a second to let the world get all orderly then steadied myself. I felt pretty confident right then that what all of that had looked like was not the makings for what you saw in a blockbuster action movie.
I half walked, half stumbled up to stand beside Cody. We stood there, looking at the crowd around us. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid it wasn't. For damn sure, it wasn't.
“Are we done here, yet?” I asked, wiping my face with my hands again.
“Getting tired? Need a nap?” Cody asked.
I shook my head.
“No … just want to know who’s winning, what quarter it is and if there’s any halftime entertainment.”
“I think we’re winning.” Cody said, laughing softly.
“Great! Where’s the sexy cheerleaders?” I asked.
“You fucking kill me, Ray-Bans. You know that? You really fucking kill me sometimes.” Cody laughed.
Cody took two steps away and stood between me and the guy who he had been working over. There was still plenty of fight left in Cody’s eyes but the other guy I wasn’t too sure about. Wally Cleaver looked like he had had just about enough. We stood there, near each other, slowly looking around at the gathered crowd. The only guy still standing was the girl’s boyfriend and he didn’t look too stable.
“Why are we stopping?" Cody asked.
"I'm not stopping ... there's just not really anyone I want to hit right now." I said.
"Well, there’s this hick left.” Cody said in a hushed whisper, smoothing out his jacket, wiping at his lip and getting up in the face of the guy that he had been fighting.
“You can have him. He's all yours. I took care of his three friends who jumped me.” I said.
“You took care of two of them. I pulled one of them off of you to give you some breathing room then got back to working on this loser here."
"Wait. What? You did?"
"Yeah. Two for you, two for me, I thought that was only fair, bro.”
So that’s where that guy had suddenly gone to ... the one that had been jerked away just when I thought that he was about to start punching on me.
“Yeah. That’s fair. Two for you, two for me.” I said softly. “Thanks for pulling him off of me.”
“Thanks for jumping in like you did.” Cody said softly.
“I kind of got invited.” I muttered.
“Invited?” Cody asked.
“Yeah, a couple of his friends ... those three guys ... asked me to join in the hard way. Really couldn’t say no after that. Guess I’ll be feeling that invitation come tomorrow.”
Cody looked over the three that had jumped me; one still on his knees holding his bloody face, one sitting on the bumper of a Buick coughing and holding his throat where I had punched him (he didn't look so good) and the third holding his ribs with both arms wrapped tight around him while lying on the ground next to the guy with the messed up face. A look of pure hatred came across Cody’s face then and he stepped towards the girl’s boyfriend.
“This was between you and me but no! You had to bring my friend there into it when your three stunt dicks jumped him. Four of you on two of us? There were four of you and two of us and you still got your asses kicked. Do you know why you got your asses kicked tonight?! Do you!?” Cody shouted.
The big boyfriend looked confused and it was easy to tell that this was not how he had planned on things working out.
“Do you know why you all got your asses kicked? Well ... Do you?!” Cody shouted even louder, playing it for all he could as he looked at the gathered crowd.
He moved closer and shoved the boyfriend back against a gunmetal gray Dodge Daytona but it was evident that there was no fight left in the boyfriend or any of the other three hicks.
“The reason why
you got your asses kicked is because I’m from
“What about him?!” the boyfriend asked, pointing at me.
Cody looked at me.
“Him? He’s with me and that makes him just as good as being from Texas!” Cody said, throwing his thumb back my way.
“It does?” I asked Cody in a hushed whisper.
“No, not really but they don’t need to know that.” He whispered back.
"Oh." I said, somewhat disappointed in his answer.
I gave a little laugh as Cody walked over and pushed the boyfriend back into the Daytona, again, hard, more for emphasis than for any real effect and when the boyfriend stumbled back to his feet Cody punched the boyfriend, one punch, hard as he could right to the stomach and the guy folded in half, stumbling backwards into the Dodge again before stumbling forwards. Cody met him with a solid punch to the face which sent the girls’ boyfriend stumbling sideways to the pavement hard. Cody huffed, shaking his fist like he had hurt it, catching his breath and looking around at the gathered crowd until he found the girl who had caused all of the trouble tonight. He marched up to her and she took two steps back into her friends, fear and tears in her eyes.
“And you …! You’re the reason why your no-neck inbred knuckle dragging neanderthal boyfriend and his fucking special ed friends got their asses kicked tonight. Let me tell you something, little girl; the next time someone tells you that you have really pretty eyes maybe you won’t run off and tell your stupid boyfriend that someone wants to fuck you. Sometimes a compliment is just a compliment! Telling you that you have pretty eyes is an observation, not an invitation, on my part. If you try to read something else into that, this is what you get when you do.”
“Finished?” I asked, walking up and standing next to Cody as he was catching his breath.
“Maybe.” He said with a lot of fight still in his eyes. “Maybe not. Maybe I’ll just start grabbing whatever retards I can get my hands on and keep on beating the crap out of some really fucking stupid people. I'm just in a mood to do that right now. God knows I am!”
Cody looked across the crowd that had gathered, probably about ten or twelve people all told, and he stared at them like he was about to reach out, grab one of the onlookers and lay into them for all he was worth. Murmuring. A few stepped back, obviously not sure of Cody's intentions but definitely not wanting to be the outlet for any of his still bubbling aggression.
“Well, we need to go.” I said flatly, putting my hand on his shoulder.
“Yeah? And why is that?” he asked, shrugging my hand off.
There came the sound of sirens off in the distance, getting closer. I wasn’t sure if the sirens were for us or not but it was best not to wait around to find out. Cody might could talk his way out of going to jail, after all, he was kind of a local but me? Hell no. I was from out of town. I was as good as someone's date tonight at the county lockup. Right then Cody seemed to hear the sirens for the first time.
“That a good
enough answer for you,
Cody brought his jacket sleeve up to wipe his own nose and mouth. We certainly weren’t the prettiest two people in the parking lot at that moment in time but out of the six that had been fighting we were the only two left standing and that had to count for something, maybe more so than not and I guess that made us pretty in our own right.
“Yeah, I guess so. This place is boring, just like you said. You drive, Shields.” Cody said, slapping his set of keys down hard into my hand and then starting to hobble over to where we had parked his red and black ’85 Toyota Supra.
The guy with the messed up face was trying to get to his feet. I used my boot to push him back down, hard, on the pavement as I walked past him on my way to the Supra.
“Try not to get any blood stains on the seats.” I told Cody. “Cloth like this is a real bitch to get clean.”
“Won’t be the first time.”
“Do tell.” I said.
“Yeah. Found that out one night with Gwen Dale when we did it in the back seat here out at Mustang Beach.”
I stopped, halfway into the Supra, holding myself up supported by the driver’s side door and stared at Cody across the roof of the Toyota Supra, a look of loathing coming over my expression.
“What? It was her time of the month and she got really horny then so we were in the back seat and … Oh, come on, Ray Bans! Don't tell me that you've never earned your Red Badge of Courage!”
"My ... what?" I asked him.
"Your Red Badge of Courage. You get that when you have sex with a girl on her period. Earned mine right there in that back seat back in May of 1986."
The fact was that I had earned my Red Badge of Courage, twice, with Marie last year but I wasn't in the mood to start a discussion on her or having doen that with Cody right then so I waved my hand to hush him up.
“Just tell me this … Was Dale her last name or her middle name? You’ve told me so many stories of you and her …”
“She had a double name, Gwen Dale … always called her Gwen Dale … or Gwenny … or Skinny Gwenny … her parents gave her some hippy name, happy trippy hippy name, named her after the place where they met … out west … farther west than Texas … Colorado, I think. Anyway, I think that’s where her mom got pregnant with her is why they named her that. She said her dad and mom pulled over at some roadside rest area and her dad fucked her mom on top of a picnic table in the dead of winter and ...”
My only answer to
that line of reminiscing was to fall on down into the Supra, shut the driver’s
side door and start buckling my seat belt.
Cody must have realized that the conversation was over because he
half-sat / half fell into the passenger seat beside me, closed the
“What a bunch of retards. Look at them! They act like that’s the first real fight that they’ve ever been a part of.” He said, wiping his mouth and coming away with blood.
“It might be.” I mused, using my tongue to try to see if I had any loose teeth and finding none. “Where to?”
“Hell. I don’t care. Just drive. Just … leave."
"You're sure? I mean, maybe we could stay around here, maybe another fifteen, twenty minutes, see if anything happens."
"Let’s leave." Cody said flatly.
"Now would be good.”
I put the key in the ignition then paused.
“You know ... Leaving when I said we should have left would have been even better.” I chided.
“Yeah? Well, give yourself a fucking gold star for that, Ray-Bans. Maybe even a pat on the back.”
I turned the key in the ignition and the fuel injected inline six cylinder engine ripped to life. I quick shifted the stick into gear, flicked up the headlights, worked the clutch and slowly drove away from where Cody had parked. As we passed the standing crowd and the four recovering guys that Cody and I had put down Cody rolled down his power window, leaned out almost halfway from the Supra and shouted at the top of his lungs …
“Remember! I’m from
Cody whooped out loud like a cowboy and fell back into his seat as we drove on out of the parking lot.
“You’ve got to remind them of that, especially when you stomp their ass.”
“You do?” I asked.
“Sure. It’s a Texas thing. Stuff like that keeps the retards in line.”
I nodded as I
worked the Supra through the gears quickly, left the club parking lot, took
some of the back roads and put some distance between us and the night club
“What if someone got our tag number?” I asked casually, looking in the rearview mirror for any sign of blue lights.
“They couldn’t.” Cody said.
“And why is that?” I asked. "Don't think any of those retards can copy down the numbers on a license plate?"
“Can't copy what you can't see …” Cody said as he leaned over in the passenger seat and reached behind the driver’s seat to get something.
“Live and learn, Ray Bans. I always take my tag off when I go to clubs. You know, in case I get in a fight or something and someone calls the cops.”
Cody held up his license plate in his hand. I guess he had it under the back of the driver’s seat.
“That’s actually …” I said.
“Yes. Say it. Go on. Say it.”
“Probably one of the smartest fucking things I’ve ever seen someone do.”
“Genius, really. Now, if some cop pulls me over I just tell him that the bolts holding it on rusted off and I had to get some new bolts and I just haven’t had a chance to put it on yet but here it is, run it and see if it checks out okay.”
“We probably need to pull over and put that on.” I said. “You know, in case they’re looking for a red and black Supra without any tag on it.”
“Good idea. Why don’t you do that, Ray-Bans?” Cody said.
Two miles later I pulled over in the parking lot of a convenience store, parked on the side and went and put the license plate back on the Supra. I tightened it down with a dime I took out of my pocket then got back in the Supra and we left. As I was driving and watching for any signs of legal trouble Cody looked through the center console, found some disposable wet wipes and napkins and began to clean himself up there in the passenger seat, dropping the blood stained napkins and wet wipes in a pile on the floor.
"Want one?" he asked, holding up an unused wet wipe.
"Do I want to know why you have a bunch of those?""No, probably not."
“Hell of a
night.” Cody said. “We got thrown out of
“Right. Like they knew who we were …” I said.
“You and me, we’re famous. Everyone knows who we are.” Cody said flatly.
"Yeah. We're a real pair of outlaws."
“Now you’re thinking like you’re from Texas, Ray-Bans. A reputation is a hell of a thing ... requires a lot of maintenance."
"Besides … It’s not like we were ever going to go back there anytime soon.” I said.
“I don't know ... I might give it a second chance. Give it a few weeks and let things settle down.” Cody said.
“Why? That place was full of losers and posers. There probably wasn’t anyone older than seventeen in there.”
"Maybe got a score to settle. Maybe find that girl there again one night, turn on the Lonestar Gigalo Charm and grudge fuck her brains out, show her what she's been missing all her life. Give her a little one on one Miller Time." Cody said as he wiped his lip again.
"You're serious?" I asked.
"Oh, yeah. She was a grudge fuck if ever there was one. You know, add insult to injury ... hey, I'm the guy that kicked your boyfriend's ass and now I'm going to fuck your brains out and you're going to wonder why you ever wasted your time with that knuckle dragging mono-brow sporting steroid sponge."
I laughed out loud and when I did I still tasted blood.
“We’ll be feeling all of this tomorrow.” I said.
“Yeah. We will. And people will look at us funny while we’re sitting in class.” Cody said, stretching out his arm and flexing it.
"And when the girls in my class ask me if I've been to Kathmandu's I'll just point to the bruises and scrapes and say "Yeah, I have. Where were you?"."
“Damn that was fun.” Cody muttered, shaking his head.
“I can think of other ways to have fun that involve less pain …” I said.
“Me too, I guess. Still, it’s been a while since I’ve been in a good fight.”
"Was that a good fight?" I asked.
Cody shrugged his shoulders.
"You take what you can get." he said.
“Only good fight is the one that you can walk away from.” I said.
“I thought that was a wreck … the only good wreck was the one you could walk away from.”
“That, too.” I said.
We drove for a while in silence. Cody kicked on the Supra’s radio. Z106.7 FM. MSG’s “Love is not a game” was playing, halfway through by the sound of it.
“Hey! What was that “It’s Miller time” thing you did back there?” I asked.
“Huh?” Cody asked.
“You shouted “It’s Miller time”’ right before you hit that guy. You're always saying "Miller Time" about this or that? What the hell was that all about?”
“Miller time? Oh! Ha! I always thought that was cool, you know, the old Miller High Life beer commercials where some guy is always getting excited and shouting “It’s Miller Time!”? Remember those on TV when we were growing up?”
I nodded at the memory of that commercial.
“Well, I thought it would be cool that if I did something wild I’d use that as my … I don’t know, battle cry? Attention getter? Miller High Life. Cody Miller. So since my last name is Miller when I do something wild or crazy or I’m about to kick someone’s ass I shout out "It’s Miller time!" and get busy. Don’t sweat it; it’s just something I do. Been doing it for a long time now… It’s just me.”
“Is that a Texas thing, too?”
“No, that is a Cody thing. That is a very Cody thing. Is that cool with you, Ray Bans?”
“It’s cool.” I said. “I just wondered why you said it when you said it. I didn’t have much time to think about it when you said it because right after you said it I kind of got jumped but yeah, I get it. It's your own thing and that's cool.”
“Hey, Ray Bans? Are you sure you aren’t from
“I don’t think so. Why?” I said.
“You fight like
“Is that a compliment?” I asked.
“It damn sure isn’t an insult.” Cody said, laughing.
I thought about that for a while, mulled it over as I drove.
“I fight like that because I don’t like to lose.”
“Ever lost a fight?” Cody asked, turning to look at me.
“A few. Not many but a few. Won more than I lost, figured that out early in life that was the important thing to do. I lost the first real fight I ever got into. Guy was almost half my size."
"Tall?" Cody asked.
"Short." I said. "He had that Prince Valiant dick head kind of hair cut. Hell, I could have just grabbed his ears, shoved my dick in his mouth and rested a pizza on top of his dome he was that short."
"And you lost to him?" Cody asked.
"It was 9th grade. I didn't know what I was doing. Never been in a fight before. Just got mad at this little guy always bullying me. He had little man's syndrome bad ... probably still does."
"So you just had enough and tore into him?"
"And you lost to a guy half your size?"
I nodded, smiling and laughing out loud at the memory.
Ninth grade ... almost four years ago ... man, that seemed like a lot longer ... almost an eternity ago.
"But you obviously figured out what to do since then."
"Yeah. That was my first fight. Had a few since then. I've done all right."
"Lost your first fight ..." Cody mused.
"9th grade, Cody. Yeah, I lost my first fight. Kind of figured out real quick after that that losing fights wasn’t a good survival instinct and told myself that I’d never lose another one. If it comes down to throwing bones you might as well be the one who wins. Besides, I didn’t want this one to change the streak I’m on.”
“Well, at least you’re honest.” Cody laughed. “Can’t win them all but you sure can try."
"Do or do not. There is no try." I said.
"You have to say that in a Yoda voice." Cody laughed.
"Do or do not. There is no try." I said in my best Yoda voice.
"Hey! That's not bad! I can't get my voice to drop that low."
"You would if you ever managed to reach puberty and your balls finally dropped." I said.
"What? Oh! Ha ha, motherfucker! Very funny!"
Cody finished wiping his face with another wet wipe, looked at it, looked in the mirror then sat back in his seat.
"So? What’s your score so far?”
"Score?" I asked.
"How many fights? How many have you won and lost?"
I thought about it, took longer than I would have liked it to and I figured that my bell might have gotten rung a little harder than I thought.
“Seven and three, my favor.”
“Counting tonight?” Cody asked.
“Did we get in a fight tonight?” I asked.
“I think so. Or at least what passes for a fight here in Jackson Mississippi.”
“Did we win?” I asked.
“I’m pretty sure that we did.” Cody said.
“How can you tell?” I asked.
“Because we’re the ones who are smiling and joking about it and we’re not going home with the stupid women? That counts as a win in my book.”
“Sounds like as good a set of criteria as any, I guess. Victory it is.”
“Victory it is. Works for me.” Cody said. “So, how many does that make for you now?”
“How many ... what?” I asked. “Fights or going home with stupid women.”
“Seriously. You're killing me, Ray Bans. Fights. How many fights does that put you in?”
“Including tonight? Eight and three, my favor, but I don’t know if I can count tonight as a fight since it wasn’t my fight … I just got pulled into it.”
“Any fight that you’re a part of is your fight. It counts.” Cody said.
“Well, if it counts then it’s eight and three, my favor.”
“That’s a pretty good streak. Keep on keeping on.” Cody said.
“I intend to. Hey, Miller? Have you ever lost a fight?”
Cody turned towards me.
“Hell, no! I’m from
I turned and looked at him with an expression of pure disbelief.
“Seriously. I’ve never lost a fight.” He said. “I will tell you that I have woken up after a fight, picked myself up off the ground and wondered where everyone else was so I guess I won those fights as well since I was the only guy left afterwards and no one was around to tell me any different.”
I shook my head and tried to laugh. It took more effort and hurt more than I remembered laughing did before.
“Criteria.” Cody said. “It’s all in how you look at something that determines how you count it, bro. Remember that in life and you will go far.”
“I guess I’ve just got a different set of criteria than you do.” I said.
“Yeah? Well, that could be a problem for you, bro. That could seriously be a problem for you.” Cody admonished.
We drove on in silence for a while, listening to Z106.7 FM, playing out classic rock and some new stuff. The Georgia Satellites “Keep your hands to yourself” began.
“Hey! I’m hungry. Let’s find something to eat.” He stated, looking in the passenger side vanity mirror and using a finger to check for loose teeth in his mouth.
“What do you feel like?” I asked.
“I feel like a hammered tampon.”
“No, I mean where do you want to eat?”
“Oh! Hell, I’ve always been kind of partial to Burger King.” Cody muttered, still looking at his teeth and gums in the mirror.
“Yeah? Most white trash from
I saw Cody casually flip me off out of the corner of my eye, not even bothering to look away from the mirror as he did so and I laughed. I looked at the clock on the dash. Even with a quick stop at Burger King there was still time to get out to The Dock and salvage the evening.
Maybe tonight would turn out all right after all.
“Hey! Did I tell you that I fucked Wanda the other night? Fucked her right there in the back seat, bro. Man, you gotta hear what she wanted me to do to her ... that woman's mind is a gutter when it comes to sex ... I mean I was beast fucking the hell out of her! Hey! Got a question for you ... Have you ever had a woman want you to ...”
And then again, maybe I was wrong.