Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fight At The Bag O Chicken(Part 2)

  I drove my parent's VW bug to school the day of the fight. When school let out, I met Rick in the parking lot and we drove over to the Bag O Chicken together. There was a sizeable group of kids already there. The high school was located right next to a major freeway and a steady stream of students was pouring over the walkway bridge that crossed the freeway from the edge of the school grounds. The Bag O Chicken restaurant was located across the street on the other side of the freeway. For years it had been a favorite lunch and after school hangout for students. The fried chicken and French fries were served in a brown paper bag that was instantly saturated with grease.           As soon as I stopped the car, Rick hopped out and walked right into the middle of the crowd, disappearing from view. I noticed a number of hoods, supporters of Chadwick. The talking suddenly died down. Everyone began backing up, opening an area in their center which defined the battleground, a familiar high school ritual. I worked my way into the inner ring where I could clearly watch the fight. I noticed Paul on the other side of the circle with some of our friends. I caught his eye and he gave me a subtle wave. The others didn’t look my way. They all assumed my friend Rick was going to be slaughtered.           From opposite ends of the circle as if choreographed, stepped Rick and Chadwick  into the open space. I expected some kind of verbal exchange, like Rick saying "I don't like the way your thugs talked to my girlfriend," and Chadwick saying "Oh yeah tough guy, what are you going to do about it?" and then maybe a little pushing and shoving, but none of that happened. Chadwick gave Rick an acknowledging almost friendly nod and said, "Let's go." Rick nodded, put up his fists, and crouched down into a fighting posture. Chadwick didn't look ready. He raised his hands only slightly, not forming them into fists, but intensely watched Rick. They both began to circle around each other.           My heart was beating fast and hard. I hadn't realized how big Chadwick was until now. Rick was six feet tall, strong and wiry, but Chadwick looked several inches taller. His rolled up shirt sleeves exposed thick forearms and bulging biceps.            Rick closed the gap between them, approaching Chadwick in a sideways walk and then lunged in throwing a fast left jab. Chadwick effortlessly bobbed his head back and away. They circled each other a few more times and then Rick threw two more left jabs followed by a right punch toward Chadwick's head. Chadwick stepped out of the way and caught Rick on the side of the face with a bone jarring punch. It looked like Rick had thrown his head against Chadwick's fist. I felt sick to my stomach and light- headed, but forced myself to keep watching. Rick staggered back, but quickly regained his composure. He approached Chadwick again in the exact same manner. The crowd murmured and I thought, Oh God, don't try that again, but instead Rick faked the left and then squatted down low punching Chadwick right in the stomach, causing him to double over gasping for air. Rick punched him again, a glancing blow off the side of his head. "All right Rick", I blurted out.           Rick backed off allowing Chadwick to straighten up. But now Chadwick began moving with a new level of intensity. He walked right over to Rick, allowing several of Rick's punches to bounce off, grabbed one of Rick's arms in mid-flight and pulled him into a headlock. He then proceeded to punch Rick's head over and over. Rick struggled to get free. This stirred the crowd up and my sick feeling, which had left momentarily, was back.  With much effort, Rick managed to wiggle free. but the side of his face was dripping blood.  He bobbed and circled and threw several more punches at Chadwick, but none of them landed with any force. Chadwick kept his composure, waiting for his opportunity and then landed another bone thumping punch to the same side of Rick's head. Rick staggered and fell, dazed and disoriented.      Chadwick stood over him, with his fists poised ready to knock Rick back down if he tried to get up.  No one would have blamed Rick for staying down. It was obvious to everyone that Chadwick out matched him. But Rick shook his head and struggled to get back on his feet. Several guys in the crowd encouraged Rick to stay down and we all braced ourselves for the final blow, but a police siren broke the suspense.            The police car pulled into the Bag O Chicken parking lot and the crowd scattered. Chadwick and his guys began walking quickly toward the footbridge and back onto the safety of school property. The air was filled with the sound of crunching gravel, screeching tires and roaring engines. In a matter of seconds there was no one around except Rick and me. Rick was still on one knee, too stunned to get up from where Chadwick had left him.           The cops remained sitting in the squad car and watched the crowd disperse. I walked over to Rick, helped him to his feet, and we slowly made our way to my VW. As I drove out of the parking lot and onto the street, in the rear view mirror I saw the cop car pull out and head back toward town. This was routine for them, but we all knew that the officers took notice of who was there and especially who was fighting.         We went to Rick's house where we could assess the damage. He had a swollen eye and a bad cut on the side of his head by his ear. I found some iodine in the bathroom medicine chest and Rick began dabbing the cut behind his ear. I was embarrassed that Rick got beat up in front of our fellow students.      "That Chadwick is one hell of a fighter." I said trying to ease Rick's emotional pain.      "Yeah, he's tough all right." "What if his guys start to harass Cathy again?" "I guess I'd just have to fight him again."      I thought, Are you totally nuts? but said, "Man, I hope that doesn't happen."  I certainly didn't want to go through that again.          Then Rick stopped dabbing his head, looked right at me and said, "Thanks, dude, for sticking by me."      "No problem." I replied and with that the whole incident made sense. I remembered when I felt like quitting wrestling because I was losing every match and my dad telling me, "Sometimes it's not about winning or losing or what other people think".        Rick threw the iodine soaked gauze into the trash can and said, "I think I'll go lie down for a while. Maybe after school tomorrow we can hang out and listen to music."      "Sounds good, I'll see you tomorrow" and I left.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fight at the Bag O Chicken(Part 1)

In 1964 I transferred from a small private school to a huge public school in the St. Louis suburbs. McClure High School had over 3,000 students in grades ten through twelve. My childhood friend, Paul, was quite popular at the school, which helped me make friends easily. The public school had all types of students. We didn’t divide up into as many categories as the students do today, but one category of kids we called Hoods or Greasers. They hung out and supported each other similar to the gangs of today. They didn’t participate in school clubs or functions and dressed like the cast from a James Dean movie. I learned early not to mess with the Hoods because most were experienced fighters. I had never been in a fight, but my new friend Rick had.
One fall afternoon, when I was washing my parents’ car, a Studebaker Lark came screaming up the street, swerved over toward my house and came to an abrupt halt at the end of the driveway where I stood, chamois in hand.
"Hey Dude, my name's Rick. My family just moved in up the street."
The driver was thin and handsome with curly brown hair. He sat hunched over the steering wheel of the boxy little car as if daring the world to challenge him to something. He invited me to come over to his house and listen to music. I accepted and soon discovered that we were both passionate about the same music, especially the Rolling Stones.
Rick and I began riding the bus together to and from school every day. One afternoon after the final bell, I got to the bus early and was sitting waiting for Rick when I noticed a small crowd of students standing in a circle outside the classroom building. This usually meant a fight, so I got off the bus to see what was going on. In the center of the circle was one of my friends, Doug, arguing with a Greaser whom I didn’t know. The argument grew louder and the Greaser pushed Doug so hard that he stumbled backward and fell, his school books scattering on the ground. Before Doug had a chance to get up, into the circle stepped Rick. He reached down and helped Doug to his feet, then walked right up to the Greaser and said, “You want to fight somebody?”
The greaser backed up, “Hey man, this is between me and him and has nothing to do with you.”
Rick didn’t say anything more but just stood there between the Greaser and Doug. It was obvious, he wasn’t about to move out of the way. Then a big strong looking guy entered the circle. His name was Dave Chadwick and everyone knew he was the head Greaser. Chadwick put his hand on his friend’s shoulder, whispered something in his ear and they both turned around to leave. But before exiting the circle, Chadwick turned back and gave Rick an intense look. The whole thing was over in a matter of minutes. All the students dispersed and climbed into the yellow buses lined up on the roadway.When Rick slid into the seat beside me, I asked him why he got involved.
“That guy’s a jerk. He’s always asking for trouble and besides I know Doug is a friend of yours.”
We sat quietly on the bus ride home. I felt guilty.  It didn’t even occur to me to step in and defend Doug. If I would have, that Greaser would have beat the crap out of me and then finished off Doug.
My friends thought Rick was a Greaser and the Greasers thought he was one of us, but he was neither. Rick didn’t fit into any category and he didn’t seem to care what any of them thought. He was dating a girl named Cathy who was definitely from the Greaser side. She wore a lot of makeup and her skirts were slightly shorter than the rules allowed. Rumor was that Cathy used to date Chadwick and was only going out with Rick to make Chadwick jealous. I asked Rick about that and he said, “People like to talk.”
On Saturday Rick and I were at his house listening to music, he told me that Cathy had been harassed by some of Chadwick’s guys. They called her a slut and a traitor for dating Rick.
“I’m going to have to fight Chadwick,” he said.
“What are you nuts? Chadwick is the toughest guy at school.” I tried to dissuade him, but he didn’t respond. He stood up, went over the telephone and called Chadwick’s number. I heard him say, “Be sure to tell him to meet me by the Bag O Chicken tomorrow after school.”
By lunch break the next day news of the fight had spread all over school. Some of my friends made comments like "So your buddy's finally decided to commit suicide huh?" or "Which hospital are you going to take your friend to." Even kids I didn't know made negative comments to me in the hall. Paul knew Chadwick pretty well and liked him. Their lockers were right next to each other. Paul never talked badly to me about Rick. He knew he was my friend and respected that. But at lunch he told me in private. "You know Chadwick is going to annihilate Rick."
"Well don't be so sure about that." I said defensively.
Paul thought it was foolish and unnecessary for Rick to challenge him in the first place and I kind of agreed with him.
I was worried for the rest of the school day. Everyone was talking about the fight. I stopped Rick in the hall and asked him if he was still going through with it. He said he was. I tried to convince him that it wasn’t too late to pull out, but we both knew it was. I resigned myself to the inevitable. After school I’ll drive Rick over to the Bag O Chicken and hope for the best.