That Time in I.V.
Everyone has at least one story, I have maybe a dozen or so, although they all seem to start with “that night at Carrows in Goleta”.
Writing them down is a good way to keep track of them, and it keeps me from talking to myself. Besides, it’s funny how people, me included, look back on an event and make historical changes.
For example, one night in a previous life I nudged my `72 Chevy Nova against a payphone in Isla Vista. This friend of mine, we’ll call him Chuck, because he is one of my closest friends in the whole world and that’s his name, was on that payphone being verbally assaulted by his girlfriend. I don’t remember which girlfriend… or maybe I do.
Either way, in my humble opinion at the time, an opinion shared by Will, who was there, unless he needs me to testify that he was somewhere else, Chuck was in the process of “turning traitor for a piece of tail.”
I forget what pressing guy-type buisness we were supposed to be attending to. We were probably going to hang out at Carrows or crash some bitchin’ party in Montecito. The point was that Chuck was holding us up.
Maybe I wouldn’t have been so ticked if he wasn’t standing there babbling random apologies into the phone. Philosophical note; show some backbone. A man should at least have the nerve to inquire as to the nature of his supposed offence before apologizing. I digress.
There’s Chuck, hunched down into the phone, trying to have a private conversation with us two minions mocking him at every oppertunity while he is desperately trying to salvage a relationship that was ultimately doomed. It might have been Will who offered the first idle threat to rip out the phone. It might have been me. I really don’t remember.
I do remember that it was an idle threat. We’re laughing and talking about hitching a rope up to the phone booth and the Nova. I opened the trunk to look for rope, knowing full well that all I would find was a two gallon gas can and a 9/16 wrench.
Maybe it was the sound the trunk made as I slammed it home. Maybe it was sleep deprivation psychosis. This was a point in my life when I was holding down three jobs and trying to get an Associates Degree in History. Advisory note; dumb idea on both counts.
Anyway, suddenly I had a geat idea. I wanted to see the look on Chucks face as it occurred to him that we weren’t bluffing.
I fired up the Nova, which at the time was primer grey except where it was grass green. The `72 Nova wasn’t the prettiest car ever to roll out of Detroit, and mine had no exhaust system from about the front seat back. Just starting it up was threatening. The car alarms it set off didn’t add to it’s subtlety, either.
Will jumped in the passenger side and I did what any self respecting gearhead in a piece of shit Nova would do, I slammed it into reverse and floored it.
There is a very distinctive odor to burning bias ply rubber that is best appreciated when it is accompanied by the throaty roar of a smallblock V-8. The car was completely enveloped in blue-white smoke, although in truth I think it was more from burning oil than rubber.
Just at the apropriate moment, either because I couldn’t see or we had backed into the building, I let up off the gas just long enough to find a forward gear. Will was giggling like a crazed loon, I was laughing like someone who had no buisness as a designated driver and through the smoke and grime on the windsheild I could see the shock on Chucks face….
Okay, he just looked kind of annoyed. The same look a sane person might give a room mate who is playing music too loud when they’re trying to read. He didn’t really seem at all scared until the Nova caught traction and started to gain some momentum.
I think I’m obligated to explain that the payphone we were at is in the parking lot of the mexican restaurant that is now a burger king behind the apartments I lived in before it became a sorority house. Oh shit, I’m old.
Anyway, the parking lot is tiny. The car’s bumper – front bumper, that might be important, had been touching the phone booth when we first parked there. It’s probably where we got the idea, and now maybe ten feet away is about a ton of Michigan steel with the throttle wide open. Only qualified teenagers should ever think of this maneuver, and nobody should do it, ever, for any reason.
So that 350 is screaming at about 5500 rpms and the Nova inches forward, then jumps. I was on the brakes before it got two feet, but you have to remember there was only ten feet or so to play with. Chuck dropped the phone and jumped to the side, a true credit to his intelligence. I look my foot off the brake and let the car idle back up to the phone.
By this point, Chuck, Will and Myself are all laughing rather uncontrollably.
Chuck picked the handset back up and tried to give us the one more minute routine.
I started to add RPMs until the rear end was just about to slip traction again.
Chuck’s looking back and forth between me and the phone, “Yeah, I gotta go. ALRIGHT! GUYS, KNOCK IT OFF!! Sorry, yeah I know I gotta go….”
And we left.
Occasionally, someone will ask me what Chuck and/or Will are up to, and I tend to give whatever answer works for the occasion.
Once in awhile, the person will give a short laugh and say, “Remember that time you tried to kill him in Isla Vista.”
I guess that’s why I started to write. I needed an alibi, or at least a good defense strategy. I’ve been playing a lot of phone tag with Chuck lately. If we ever do get a chance to have a beer, I think I’d better give him a draft of this to see if he remembers it any different.
Then again, his memory can’t be any better than mine.
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