20080916

Hodges in His Home Town

That summer evening began, most auspiciously, with a fist fight. The most pleasant aspect of the fist fight for Hodges was the timing, as if the participants had choreographed the whole thing earlier that day in summer school Metal Shop.

He was driving west on 10th Street in the station wagon he'd borrowed from his father, moving through the thickest part of what was known locally as the Loop. Around him cars full of high school kids watched the sidewalks and parking lots intently for something new or at least interesting, something they hadn't seen the dozens of times they passed up 10th Street to Minnesota Avenue, then over to 11th and back down to 2nd Avenue and back over to 10th to start the circuit again. On the sidewalks and parking lots, other kids gazed hopefully at the cars they had seen pass by dozens of times.

At 10th and Phillips, Hodges saw a ripple go through the sweaty throng a block ahead. The ripple said, "fight!" clearer than any combination of vocables. Faster than the speed of sound, the ripple announced that a welcome point of rage had formed in the humid ennui.

Hodges and his borrowed wagon, idling fortuitously in the far left lane of the one-way thoroughfare, drew closer to the two high-school guys standing just off the curb, puffing their chests at each other, back and forth in a crescendo of tee shirt expansion and thrust. On the stereo of a nearby car Lionel Ritchie was urging everyone to raise the roof and have some fun.

The puffing, which started with so much flair, quickly reached a plateau, a mesa of machismo, and the two contestants started to lose steam. As Hodges drew alongside, it looked as if the fracas might dissolve into the damp night air. But then another, larger kid emerged from the soggy, dead-faced crowd, pushed his fellow primate back with a sinewy and hirsute limb, puffed once for good measure and laid a fistful of bones on the jaw of what was now, beyond any doubt, the beta male.

Hodges heard the mighty crack through the open window. But like so much that happened that night, the action took place on the periphery of his vision. In Hodges' rearview mirror, the impromptu audience was already dissolving. A girl with limp blond hair knelt over the beaten beta, both of whom grew smaller as Hodges drove on to meet his friend Ethan at the bar.


Image above: Phillips11thpano by talented flickr user Jerry7171 (used under a Creative Commons by-share-alike license).

2 comments:

Doc said...

the 80's were weird.

i remember hurting people at my favorite blues bar for far less than ennui -

popped collars

anyone telling me anything by Fleetwood Mac after Bare Trees was "great"

popped collars

people wasting quarters in the juke on selections by Kenny G, Lionel Richie or Men at Work

popped collars on young republicans

salespeople - in popped collars - trying to sell me ripped jeans

people wanting to talk about any John Hughes movie

people in parachute pants AND popped collars

and anyone who old me to "just say no"

...

in retrospect, i may have had anger issues that whole decade. had i known that fist-fights pooped up in Lawrence like late summer afternoon thunderstorms, I might have spent more time there.

Lee said...

Despite numerous warnings, we go on not suspecting the Spanish Inquisition.