Chapter 21 - The Games People Play
I was still having trouble believing that Jill Booth was with me. I kept thinking that she was far too lovely and desirable for this to be true. Yes, we were still going out, but it wasn't a traditional type of dating by any sense of the word. She would sneak away and come over most of the time. At other times, I would meet her somewhere in some out-of-the-way location, and sometimes, very rarely, I would go over to her house.
The friction with her step-dad kept getting more and more intense. I guess at some point he had talked to Mickey, probably on the golf course or someplace like that. And I'm sure that Mickey left out the things they had done to provoke Dean and I. Anyway, Clark was getting relentless in how he came at Jill about her seeing me.
There were also the things she did. Once, she told me she couldn't come over because she was grounded, and later, I saw her standing outside Roy's Burger Emporium with her cousin Beth. She was laughing and appeared to be having a great time, which was far from the picture she was painting on the phone. Talking to me over the phone she was an oppressed prisoner of love surviving on crusts of dark bread and cups of water.
Then there was the time Mickey's name was mentioned, and she recalled a memory of him where he had been nice to her. I didn't want to hear that. To Dean and I, he was nowhere near nice. His and his friend's attacks had intensified in fact, and now he was using other people to fight his battles too.
Once, Dean was in a line ordering a burger when a car screeched to a halt behind him and someone threw a empty beer bottle which hit him behind the head. He had to get some stitches behind his ear. Later, he told me that he recognized the car as belonging to a football player from Hartford. Word reached us that Mickey had paid a bounty of $25 for the attack.
When Jill had mentioned how nice Mickey use to be, I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to ask her what kind of nice guy would throw pieces of bread in the streets on a rainy night to draw cats out and then come back in the wee hours of the night to see how many he and his buddies could run over. Often, the road kill would find it's way onto the top of my car or Dean's car. Also, someone shot BB's threw two of my apartment windows.
But I didn't scream at her, I just swallowed it whole and kept it to myself. It was the only way I could see for it to play it out. Arguing would have only made it into a comparison of my merits versus Mickey's, and that was where I worried that I might come up on the short end.
"Hello," I said as I picked up the phone. It was her. "Hey, Babe, what's up?"
" Hi, Sweetie. I wanted to call you and tell you that he did it again?"
"Clark? What did he do this time"
"I'm grounded, and I can't go to the baseball game tomorrow night."
"Oh no! I was looking forward to that. The local team is playing for the regional championship. Scott's pitching." My brother's baseball team was pretty good; they had shocked the entire tournament field and made it to the championship game.
"I was too! I came home fifteen minutes late from band practice. I told him that Janie's car wouldn't start, and Mr. Torelli had to give her a jump. It didn't matter to him. He just jumped from his easy chair and started screaming at me, accusing me of sneaking in a visit to see you."
"That's not right. You didn't do anything. I won't go either. I stay home and we can talk on the phone."
"No way, that's your brother. You gotta go to the game."
We left it at I would go to the game and call her later. It rankled me somewhat, but I couldn't decide whether I was more mad at her step-dad or anxious because these groundings were becoming more and more frequent.
I decided I would go catch up with Dean. He had called earlier and said he was hanging out with Donny Leonardo, a good friend of ours, at the bowling alley. I had one of my brother Glen's driver's license and the bartenders were a little lax on checking on them anyway. Danny was two years younger than I but almost never got carded.
It was about 7:30 in the evening when I got there. I pulled into the parking lot parked in a space up front where the lights were the brightest. I reasoned that if Mickey or someone messed with the car they'd at least be noticed.
The parking lot was smallish and only had about 30 parking slips around the side there was a big dirt field where a lot of others parked. In the back of the huge pink building there was another asphalt lot where a lot of kids parked and hung out. The owners were cool with it as long as they didn't have to pick up the bottles and the trash.
I walked in blinking. The lights in areas surrounding the bowling lanes were kind of dim. Joe Tilly, the dude who ran the place, felt that it gave it a more grown-up atmosphere and discouraged adults from bringing their kids and have them running wild everyplace. The bar was at up front of the building where you walked in. It was in a room with two big dark glass doors that helped keep the noise of the bowling out. Behind the bar was a large glass window, also dark. You could see out, but the people bowling couldn't see in.
I found Dean and Donny sitting at the bar. There were a couple empty Bud bottles in front of them.
Dean saw me enter, "Well, look what the cat's drug up!"
Donny stood up, and we shook hands and embraced. I hadn't seen him for a year because he had enrolled in a junior college at the coast.
"Donny, the Man! What the hell? I haven't seen your ass in over a year and you don't even call?"
He laughed and sat back down and pulled out a seat between him and Dean, " I know dude. I just got back in town yesterday. I was helping dad coach your brother's baseball team. I got all the baseball equipment in my car. I was going to hang out with the parents tonight, you know. Then dad got called out to work, so we put it off until after the game tomorrow. I came down here looking for you two and saw Dean in here by his lonesome. Hey, what's this I hear about you getting married?"
Dean shot beer out of his nose. "Damn it, Donny! I told you not to start in on him about that shit! Now, he'll want to run to a phone and call Jill up and tell her I said they were engaged or somethin."
Donny just laughed when I flipped Dean off. " That's just a vicious rumor, Danny. I don't which one my low life buddies is responsible for spreading that rumor around." It was Dean's turn to flip me off. " I do know that it gives her step-dad a conniption fit every time he hears of it."
"Then it did some good then, " Donny looked at Dean and grinned.
It was like old times sitting there and drinking beer with Donny and Dean. I laughed more and harder than I had in quite a while. It was easy to forget that we were being stalked by some sadistic and goofy sons of bitches.
I went to the bathroom and on the way I passed a friend of Jenny's named Holly Guillen. She was on the pay phone. She looked at me kind of funny like, but I just said hello and walked right by her.
The men's bathroom at the bowling alley was kind of gross. It was long and narrow with dark red walls and two stalls and a single urinal. There was a dirty sink with a scratched up mirror at one end. The window over the sink was big enough to crawl out . It looked out over an alley that ran between the bowling alley and a field where drunk kids would spin donuts raising up clouds of dust.
Dean and I used to do just that when we came with our church group. We would sneak out, smoke a joint, and then sneak back in with the chaperones, posted at each entry, ever suspecting a thing.
While washing my hands, I studied my face in the mirror. I was drunk and trying to think why I seemed to be happier when I was out like this and not worrying about a thing. When I came out, Holly was still on the phone and acting stupid. She stared at me the whole time that I walked toward her and then averted her eyes when I got up close to her.
Right before I ducked back into the bar, I saw Mickey enter the bowling alley. He looked straight at where Holly was, and when I looked back toward her, she was pointing toward me.
When I entered the bar, Dean saw the look on my face right away. He stood up and looking out of the glass behind the bar, saw Terry Kenneshaw, Lester Lewis, and Booby Lyles coming in the door on the other side of the building. Mickey had halted when he came in. He was waiting for Rigo and No Neck, both of who stumbled in a few seconds later along with Vern Jenson and Mike Malloy.
Dean looked at me, "What the fuck we do now, Ke-mo sah- be?"
"How fuck would I know, dumbass?"
"You the one who reads the books all the time, dude."
Donny started to stand, "What the hell's going on?"
I motioned him down, " Just sit here. It's got nothing to do with you. You'll be safe."
I grabbed Dean and thrust him toward the rear of the bar. There was a second door to the bathroom there. Earlier, I had used the outside way to check out who was in the bowling alley.
We both scrambled in that direction and left the dumbfounded Donny sitting at the bar. We locked the outside doors as soon as we got inside. Dean went out first. He opened the window and thrust himself outside in a blur. I followed right behind him falling to the ground when I let go of the ledge.
When I stood up, I saw Moose Miller holding Dean over his shoulder, and behind him were three other of Mickey's friends.
Moose laughed in way that only a demented three hundred pound left tackle could laugh. "HA! You think we didn't know about the back window, Dumbass!"
I ran across the space between him and I and kicked him in the nuts as hard as I could. As he crumbled, he let Mickey down slowly. The other three started toward me.
"Wait a minute! Wait a fucking minute!" It was Mickey coming around the corner." I get first punch on that punk Danny Wilson! And the second, the third, and the next fifteen. You guys can make short work of that other greasy fuck." Around the other corner, I could see Terry Keneshaw and his friends making their way towards us.
It looked like we were fixing to get the living shit pounded out of us and there was no way out this time. Then I heard Wagner.
No shit; I heard Richard Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries blaring loudly. I looked up and saw Donny Leonardo's Blue El Camino come sliding around the corner. I remembered that he had placed outside loudspeakers on it so that when we partied we always had loud ass music.
All of the others turned to look stunned by what they were hearing and seeing. I smiled. I was standing there like Custer, surrounded by guys who wanted to kill me, and I started laughing like I was fucking crazy.
The bodies cleared out of the alleyway as Donny barreled toward us. He had pushed up the baseball equipment bag toward the opened side window. Dean and I moved while the others were still frozen in disbelief. When Donny screeched to a halt, we both reached in and pulled a bat out of the bag. Donny killed the engine and jumped out swinging a bat of his own.
And that was how the Battle of the Bowling Alley started. We were still outnumbered by a lot, but the bats helped even things up a bit. There were also a few guys in the parking lot behind the bowling alley that didn't like Mickey and his friends. They were chunking beer bottles from the dark. It was pretty good fracas for a while. We'd get a lick or two in, and they would retaliate. The tide was starting to turn a bit just based on numbers. We were getting tired, and the numbers were on their side.
The music kept right on playing through the whole thing. Finally, someone yelled cops real loud and the Mickey and his bunch started sliding away leaving the field. When they left, Donny and I were backed up against Donny's car. Seeing no one else to swing at, we tossed the bats down and collapsed on the ground. Dean picked himself up off the ground, spat out a mouthful of blood, and gave us both a hand up.
He put his arm around Donny, "Welcome home, Motherfucker!"
"Nice to be back," Donny laughed and spit out a tooth. "Don't worry it's a crown." After catching his breath, he went to the driver's side window, reached in, pushed a button, and the Beatle's And I Love Her poured out of the speakers.
"I give her all my love
That's all I do
And if you saw my love
You'd love her, too"
Dean and Danny put their arms around each other and started dancing in the headlights of the El Camino. I could see the kids who had the thrown the beer bottles laughing and pointing at them. The cops never did show-up.
I was bruised and battered but felt good. That is, until the song made me think about Jill.