Doing A Fred Astaire on His Skull
Artecca swaggered into Ray's Pizza Parlor carrying his reputation on the same sturdy shoulders he had a large chip on.
The crowd of young people parted for Artecca. Though he was short, he was mean, very quick, and at 18, fearless.
When he got into fights, he wore heavy-duty black leather motorcycle boots. He beat the hell out of guys twice his size by kicking them in the groin, and then stomping on their heads when they fell down in agony. We called it 'doing a Fred Astaire on his skull' after the actor who danced and sang in movie musicals in the 1940's and 50's.
Artecca sided up to the front counter, where Jimmy Plat and I were standing. Artecca elbowed Jimmy Plat over. Jimmy bumped into my arm, causing me to spill Coke on my new white shirt. Jimmy moved away quickly, leaving me face-to-face with Artecca. Angry, and without thinking, I pushed Artecca into the wall.
"Hey, take it outside!" Ray picked up the baseball bat he kept near the register.
"Yeah, let's go outside!" Artecca walked out and waited for me in the parking lot.
I remained at the counter, cooling down, fear replacing anger. My friends emptied out of Ray's and formed an open circle around Artecca.
"Well, aren't you going out there?" Ray put down the bat.
"Yeah." I moved slowly out the door.
I walked into circle and then it closed up around us. I assumed a fighting stance a few feet from Artecca, and waited. He studied me, and then my friends.
"I ain't fighting you tonight, not with all your friends here." Artecca put down his hands
It was a reprieve.
"We'll meet back here Friday night. Eight o'clock."
It was Tuesday. I could pack a lifetime into three days.
Artecca shoved Jimmy Plat aside and left the circle. I watched him walk away, noticing for the first time he was wearing sneakers, and not his legendary boots.
I pounded the punching bag in our garage during the three agonizing days that followed. I shadow boxed with a short, mean guy wearing motorcycle boots.
Friday night came soon enough. My friends arrived early and sat around Ray's parking lot drinking beer bought with phony proof. Inside, Ray was selling pizza as fast as he could make it. The consensus was my head was destined to be a dance platform.
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© Copyright 2012 by Zalman Velvel Inc.
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