I was, what, twelve? Thirteen? Half my life ago... that was the last time I saw Calvin Gallard. We used to be really great friends. He was in my top three best friends from maybe 4th grade on until 8th grade I think. Up until he went a little.... too redneck on me one day.
Calvin was a total redneck, and it was a title he approved of and even touted with pride. He was a good guy, though a bit misguided. He had Confederate flag stickers on a lot of his stuff, and was blatantly racist towards most of the Mexican kids at our school. I remember him picking up mostly-smoked cigarette butts off the ground after school and trying to light them to get a puff. One foggy morning we were riding our sweet new Razor scooters to school, must have been 6th grade, and he yelled while grinning his wide goofy grin, “Hey! Let's stop at the mini-mart so I can get a beer!” He was dead serious, and he did it, too. I never bothered to think about the guy on the other end when I was that age, but looking back, I wonder what kind of seedy shopkeep sells a 40oz of malt liquor to an eleven-year-old at 7:30 A.M.? He drank that whole 40 on the way to school, all while riding the scooter. I thought it was funny. My first direct exposure to marijuana can also be gracefully attributed to Mr. Gabbard. Dunno where he got it, he just pulled it out of his pocket while we walked down an alley one day, on the way to school again. We were with our other friend, Johnny Cribbins, a skinny little pecker of a kid who was half as red-necked as Calvin and the rest of him was full of piss and vinegar. He was a scrawny, pale guy with a round baby-face, but had a hyped-up energy and was always ready to fight you about something, usually in a friendly way. If you ever made a joke at his expense, he'd punch you good in the shoulder. Harmless, but it was enough to keep me from poking much fun at him. Most of the time, anyways. So the three of us are walking down this alley when Calvin whips out a joint. I had never really seen one, so I didn't know for sure until Calvin told me through his thick grin. He lit it up, took a hit, passed it to Johnny who took a hit, and passed it to me. I was curious, but I was also a bit scared. So I took a tiny, tiny hit, didn't inhale, and then blew it out. Needless to say, nothing happened. Calvin was always a good friend though, always full of jokes and ideas for things to pass the time, always in good spirits.
He lived on the edge of town, in a beat down house on a large dirt lot. Chickens ran around the yard, pecking at the patch of grass in the front yard where a laundry line hung, then running and scratching in the dirt in the chicken pen out back. Several non-running or partially-running vehicles sat off to the side of the mangy house. One in particular, a 1967 Ford Mustang, sat on blocks with no hood. It was a sky blue, or would have been if it weren't caked with years of dirt and patches of rust. He always talked about “that 289” he had in it, and when he finished it it was gonna be a mean machine! He worked on it with his dad sometimes—his hard working, low earning father who was never seen without a can of Budweiser in hand. In fact, I never really saw him any other way than sitting on the couch in a wife-beater, faded red baseball cap on head, Bud in hand, watchin' T.V. and yelling angrily at the kids. Calvin had a couple siblings floating around. Two younger sisters, they weren't around us much, they were maybe eight or so years old. Then the middle child, a sister named Savannah.
Ooh Savannah Gallard. She was cute as could be. She was a year or two younger than we were, don't remember exactly. She never liked me much though, always had an attitude to me. I would sometimes just antagonize her for the fun of it. She always stormed off, angry. Calvin gave her a lot of shit, too. She's how this all came to be though. And probably not in the way you're thinking.
One particularly hot summer day, we were hangin' out at Calvin's place; he had one of those doughboy above-ground pools. We were all swimming in it, Calvin, Johnny Cribbins, Savannah, one of Savannah's friends, Calvin's extremely slutty cousin Dena, and myself. Dena was our age, and had come to live with them near the end of 6th grade, if I recall. She was flirtatious, promiscuous, and literally had sex with guys our age and a little older to get herself things. She had huge breasts, which she liberally used to her advantage. I always had the hots for her (of course I did, duh), and she would flirt and tease me, but that was all. Calvin would always threaten Johnny and I if we made any moves towards or comments about her.
So we're all swimming and having a great time. It could have been any day of my childhood, just a bunch of friends splashing around in a pool on a hot weekend. A radio played classic rock off the back porch, a horse and a donkey stood out in a mostly barren field, munching tufts of grass. The chickens clucked about. A couple of dogs slept under a bush. Johnny kicked my legs out from under me and dunked me beneath the surface. Savannah's friend and Dena sprayed each other with Super-Soakers, squealing and giggling when they got hit. As I came up, my eye burned. My eye had smacked the water when Johnny pushed me down, and it was stinging and burning now. Savannah splashed me as I came up, and I splashed her back as I turned, hunched over, trying to set my eye right. Just as I pulled my eyelids open to let the overly-chlorinated pool water drain from my eye, she circled around and with a swift thrust, splashed water forcefully right into my face, and my already burning eye. In a momentary fit of (literally) blind rage, I picked her up with both arms and with all my strength, threw her into the water across the pool. As I lifted her up and out of the water, I tore my right calf muscle. I instantly cringed in pain, and felt a clinching feeling in my leg that I will never forget. It was like a cramp, but a thousand times worse. Though she had traveled maybe four feet in total, and was obviously fine, Calvin was infuriated. Storming over to me, he screamed at me. I was in so much pain that I wasn't even hearing him. I have no idea what he said, but he was yelling. In my face. He wanted to hit me, I could see it. He told me to get the fuck out, to leave his property or he'd kick my ass. I tried through tears and a clenched jaw to tell him that I couldn't, and that I hadn't meant any harm, and that I was sorry I touched his sister, and that I needed help, all at the same time, but through his yelling and my pain, I couldn't get anything out. Everyone else was silent. The mood was broken. I pulled myself out of the pool, nearly collapsing on the ground when I placed my first step. I gasped in pain as I caught my balance, the tight, searing, clenching, screaming pain rocketing through my leg. I hopped to my bicycle, grabbing my shoes and socks, and my t-shirt. I fought desperately to put the shirt on as I hopped, still crying and scared of the angry redneck escorting me out of his yard. I managed to pull the shirt over my wet body, and decided not to bother with the shoes. I held them between my fingers as I attempted to mount my bike. My left leg flailed around, trying to operate the crank; my right leg was useless. As I shakily wheeled off his property and on to the street, he yelled at me to keep going. I had stopped crying by this time, but my leg still burned in agony as I struggled to pedal my bike with only one leg.
Calvin eventually forgave me, admitting that he though I had hurt his sister, and she let him think that until several weeks later when she told him the truth. But things were never the same after that. We didn't hang out any more, we didn't walk or ride bikes to school anymore, and we didn't speak too much at all anymore. Shortly after that, we graduated junior high school. I moved away, he stayed. Last I heard, he and a few other guys I knew had gotten busted for beating a kid up pretty bad. Got him for assault and battery, he got some time. Dunno how long. Maybe he's still in there. He could be out by now. Hell, he could be dead.
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