Jakob confronts the school bully after the funeral
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It was nearly 3pm when I reached the plaza. I needed to keep a watchful eye on the clock. I was working the dinner shift at the country club that evening. There was a banquet--something to do with the winners of last year's fall golf tournament. The usual group of underaged "beer bums" were camped out in front of the Brewers' Retail Store, waiving two dollar bills, haranguing and cajoling customers: "Mister, can you get me a six pack--anything will do. My father broke his leg and can't get around!" You can keep the change--please mister!" " I went into the cigar store to grab an orange crush and a bag of chips.
As I was leaving the store, I spotted Jenny and her boyfriend Moose Miller at the entrance of the pool hall, his arm around her waist, both glaring menacingly my way. They walked closer towards me. "Moose", who's real name was Clinton, was nicknamed after the character in the Archie comic strip. He was a huge fucker, built like a brick shit house: a good six feet tall, thick necked and barrel chested, his light sandy hair done up in a flat top marine crew cut, which combined with a strong jaw line reinforced the square shape of his head. He played offensive lineman on the senior boys' football team, his main objective being to prevent the opposing team's big lugs from destroying his team's 150 pound quarterback. It was sort of a sophisticated version of Red Rover but without the hand holding and much more violent.
Like the comic book character, Moose was not the brightest light on the chandelier. Although he took grade twelve classes, he was in my grade 10 math class, having flunked out his two previous years of math. This was his second year in grade twelve. I was told by a friend of his that he had turned nineteen at the start of the school year. His old man owned a huge American Motors dealership in the west end near the airport and let Moose drive some of the demos and used cars on weekends. They lived on a cul-de-sac near the school in a fancy three garage split level. Oddly, big Moose owned a tiny cherry red 1951 Nash Rambler convertible. The tiny two door car looked like a pregnant bathtub on wheels but the chicks loved the antique "cutie." In the warm weather, I sometimes saw the little shit box bombing down Bathurst Street with big Moose, looking hilariously awkward, squeezed into the driver's seat with little Jenny snuggled against him, her head on his massive shoulder. Helen and her boyfriend-of-the-week would be crunched in the back seat, country and western music blaring from the radio and the four of them happily enlightened by the head-turning envy of the gawking pedestrians.
"Let's have a little talk Jew-boy!", Moose scowled. He gave off the phoney tone of an upset adult or teacher dressing down a naughty child. "Jennifer informed me that you had disrespected her and Helen at the cemetery. She told me that she felt that her physical safety was in jeopardy!" He stared at me waiting for a response. I remained silent. "A cat got your tongue goof?" He grabbed my bag of chips and pop and handed them over to Jenny. "Here, babe, take a swig!" She laughed. "No way Moose, the little snot's got the cooties!"
I tried to conceal the envelope behind my back but Moose caught site of it. "What's that you're trying to hide fuck face?" I stepped back slightly, contemplating making a run for it. He grabbed my arm, twisting it until I let go. Moose read the writing, smiled broadly, and then turned towards the small group of his hangers-on forming a half circle around us. "Looky here people! A letter to our lover boy from Boris! "Don't call her "Boris", I shouted. Moose laughed heartily. "The little kike is making demands of me!" Someone yelled out from the group. "Moose--his mother's Eyetalian--he's half wop!" Moose thought about it for a moment. "I guess he's a Jew wop, right?" Everyone laughed. Moose started to sing: "Jew wop de wop...Jew wop de wop...." Jenny laughed. "Hey Moose this could be the next big hit parade single!"
Moose started to open the envelope. I reached up to his hand to try and snatch it away. He grabbed my arm and twisted it behind my back then pushed me away. I fell over, my elbows breaking my fall against the garbage strewn pavement. "Give him back his enveloped, dumbass!" I quickly turned around and spotted Franco, Cody's superintendent's son walking towards Moose, still wearing his grubby construction worker's overalls and muddy boots. I was aware that he had recently finished his first year of law school and was working as a labourer to help pay his tuition. Franco was not much taller than me but had the physical presence of a muscle bound Mack truck. Unlike the stereotyped Italian, he had light ginger coloured hair and green eyes, due, according to Cody, to his parents' northern Italian background.
Franco handed me his hard hat. " Ciao, Jake! Come stai!" "Sto bene", I replied, recalling my modest hold of the language. He handed me his hard hat. "Keep this for me while I have a little chat with the mangiacake over here." Franco sauntered purposefully up to Moose, a scheming smile on his face, stopping close enough to make sure Moose was aware that he meant business. "Give him back the envelope." Moose's tongue moved his ever present toothpick to the side of his mouth. "Come and get it, dago!" Franco's calm facial expression remained unchanged. "I'll ask you one more time dip shit." "Fuck you!", Moose replied, anger percolating from his reddening face. Moose took off his jacket, revealing a tight black T-shirt emphasizing his muscular biceps. A large tattoo of an antique roadster extended down his forearm. Someone in the growing group of spectators yelled out: "FIGHT!" Another screamed: "KILL THE FUCKING WOP, MOOSE!"
Moose crouched down slightly and raised his fists, one in front of the other, like a prize fighter answering the opening bell. Franco stood there smiling, calm as a cucumber, sizing up Moose like a chess player contemplating his opponent's next move. Moose took the first shot, laying out a right hook that glanced off the side of Franco's head, leaving him slightly off balance but unfazed. Moose quickly moved closer and swung out again but this time Franco's raised fist caught his arm, breaking his powerful jab. Franco took a quick step towards Moose, faked a punch and grabbed the big fellah's arm, twisting it with a powerful grip. Moose tried to break Franco's clutch, leaving the rest of his body defenceless. Franco kneed him in his midriff, watching Moose fold like an oversized lawn chair. Behind the two combatants, a group of curious pool players suddenly exited the entrance door, some still gripping their pool cues.
Moose was hunched over, trying to regain his wind. Franco could have easily finished him off with a couple of boots to the head, but instead, stood there, hands on hips ready to continue the fight if Moose was up to it. Moments later he stood up, still a bit wobbly on his feet. Someone shouted from behind: "TAKE HIM DOWN MOOSE--TAKE THE FUCKER DOWN!" Moose grabbed Franco by the neck. The two struggled, wrestling style, both bent forward facing each other like a rugby scrum. It seemed like a standoff until Franco broke loose, placed his boot behind Moose's leg and grabbed his shoulders. He then pushed him backwards and swept his leg around Moose's ankle.
Moose fell backwards, his head striking the hard pavement. Jenny cried out: "Oh shit, are you okay Moose?" Moose responded with a muffled moan. Franco pinned his shoulders down and then put both knees and his full weight on Moose's chest, leaving him totally immobilized. "Now big guy, I want you to listen very closely to me. I have three requests: one; tell your girl to give back Jake's envelope, two; give him back his two bits for the pop and chips; and three: apologize to Jake for your bad behaviour." Moose tried to break Franco's grip. "Fuck you, wop!" Franco lifted Moose's head. "I'll give you one more chance". Moose spit in Franco's face. Franco slammed Moose's head against the pavement. Moose lifted his head, a streak of blood oozing down towards his neck. Jenny screamed hysterically: "Stop it! You're going to kill him!" "Listen to your girlfriend, Moose!" Moose continued to refuse to follow through with Franco's request. Once again Franco struck the big man's head against the ground. Jenny ran up to me and shoved the envelope in my face. "Here, you little shit!" She opened her purse and threw a quarter at my feet. "Take your filthy Jew money!" She gave me a look that freaked me out. It was the expression of a crazed lunatic who, if given the right circumstances, would leave me hunched over in wretched pain while watching my balls hanging from the nearest telephone line!
I have no idea why my thoughts abruptly turned to a news article I read awhile back, although the obvious trigger point was a certain female anatomy, more specifically Jenny's enormous chest. The story was about a disturbing murder that happened out west in Vancouver. An old scumbag wino living in one of those residential dive hotels in the grubby east side, had procured a young Indian hooker. The two apparently dropped a hit of acid and that's when the "date" went bad. He strangled the girl in a fit of anger or maybe paranoia. The next morning the desk clerk found her naked bloodied body on the stairwell, her breasts missing. The cops searched the killer's room. One of the hawk-eyed detectives noticed an oddly shaped slightly blood stained wrinkled ashtray filled with butts and ashes. After taking it in to the lab they discovered it was one of the girl's breasts. "Holy fuck, that's really, really sick!", I contemplated. The pervert was later busted for second degree murder.
Now, I admit that I'm not the most together kid in the neighbourhood, so maybe the next image in my fucked up head could be excused. Perhaps Freud would be able to figure it all out! So, what I imagined was an old bearded guy sitting in his kitchen, a row of empty beer bottles stretching across the table--in front of him a strange looking fruit bowl, all wrinkly with a sickly grey colour: Jenny's tit!
Franco put his knee on Moose's neck. "I'll give you ten seconds to apologize. Ten...nine...eight...seven...six... "Okay fellas break it up! I just called the cops, so it's best you disappear." It was Finny, the pool hall's owner, all red faced and winded from his dash down the stairs. He turned towards the onlookers. "The party's over folks! Best to carry on with your day." Franco stood up and walked towards me. "I guess we'll have to take a rain check on that apology!" "Jesus Franco, you saved my ass--no apology needed." "Well, us paisanos have to stay together, eh!" YOU DOUCHE BAGS BETTER GET YOURSELVES !" Moose, back on his feet and slightly dazed was yelling from the pool hall entrance, Jenny padding the side of his head with a bloodstained handkerchief. He pointed at Franco. "I'll finish you off next time you fucking mud trucking guido!" Jenny joined in, pointing my way: "And you too, you little homo!" Franco smiled, turned towards the two, and gave them the old hand-on-folded-arm Italian salute.