Gracias

“Whose damn motorcycle is that parked out there?”

“It’s mine coach”, I said.

I knew how he felt about motorcycles.  He’d made it clear before.  But what choice did I have?

I was 15.  That terrible age when you’re still not old enough to drive.  To make matters worse, my birthday is in September.  My mom put me in school early.  This meant everyone else was already a year older than me.  It sucked majorly.  In Alabama, you could get your license at 14 for a motorcycle… so I did.  I went everywhere on that Honda XL-185.  That was about to change.

honda xl185.jpg

“Son, I’m not gonna invest my time in coaching and training a young man to have him splatter his brains on the highway or end up  in a wheelchair.  I expect you to find another way to football practice.”

That night, when my mom got home… I told her what Coach had said.  She was pissed to say the least.  She was a single mom.  She worked her ass off.  I had gotten rides to and from practice in years past, but since we had moved, there was no one on the team that lived near us.  My older brother was away at school.

“Then you come pick him up and bring him home”, Mom demanded.  I cringed and hung on to every word.  A few more minutes of conversation… and then laughter.  Laughter?  What the hell could they be laughing about?  I was like an old lady… tapping my index finger to my thumb… waiting for her to get off the phone.

“Mom… what’d he say?”

“He asked if you had access to a car.”

“Why?  I’m not old enough to drive a car yet anyhow.”

“He said he had no problem with you driving a car to practice if you were responsible.  He’s calling the Sheriff to work it out.”

To those of you reading this outside of the southern United States… in particular… those of you outside the state of Alabama… this may sound totally absurd.  The truth is… we take our football that serious here.

In fact, it was cleared with the Sheriff and the Police Chief as well.  At 15, I was driving a 1967 Pontiac Tempest with a 326 engine.  It was booger green and it looked like a tank, handled like nightmare, drank gas like water through a drain… but she was mine.  Stacked headlights… push button AM radio and all.  Cost:  $700.00.

Pontiac Tempest 01.jpg

I never received specific instructions from my Coach… but I pretty much assumed it was cleared for me to drive to and from practice only.  But again… I never received specific instructions.  This was crucial in the mind of a 15 year old in the throes of puberty.  So what happened next was probably inevitable.

“So I’m babysitting  Saturday night”, Tricia said.

“Yeah?”

“So you can come over after they leave.  I’ll probably put the kids to bed early because there so young.”

This story has been played out millions of times.  Those of you reading this… have undoubtedly been a participant in this scenario at some point in your life.  Either as the babysitter, the visiting teen, the parents… or the dang kids being put to bed early.  The law of averages says so.

The driveway was long and steep.  It was a nice neighborhood.  I remember my bumper scraping the concrete when I pulled in.  It probably cost me 2 bucks in gas just to make it to the top.  I didn’t ring the doorbell.  I didn’t have to.  She opened the door as soon as I made it up the bricked patio.

We went to the kitchen where we talked.  A short while later we were on the sofa watching TV.  It wasn’t long before we were on the floor, jeans inside out and clothes scattered across the living room.

Sometimes life can throw a curve that no writer of fiction could imagine.  At the very moment we started, I thought I heard a noise.  I stopped.

“What was that?”, I asked.

“It must be the neighbors… they’re not due to be home until close to midnight”, Tricia responded.

I believed her.  I mean after all, she would know… right?  I proceeded once more… but only for a moment.  I heard keys jingle and the dead bolt start to turn.  We were on the living room floor about 20 feet from the front door.  Without thinking… I jumped straight up and ran toward the sliding glass door which led to the back yard.  I was buck naked.

Shit shit shit… oh shit!“, I said to myself as I rounded the side of the house toward the front.  The dew had already coated their perfectly manicured yard.  Did I mention how steep the driveway was?  The yard was just as steep.  For a defensive lineman, I was pretty agile and quick… but I was no match for the dew-covered grass.

I slipped and slid on my butt… faster than any Slip ‘N Slide ride of my youth.  I almost wish someone had been there to clock my speed… someone other than the passing car that honked at me.  By the time I reached the bottom… I had a grassy ass… aka… gracias.  Like the Road Runner bolting from Wile E. Coyote… I shot back up to the top.  This time I used the driveway.

grass hill

When I reached the top, my heart was broken.  I mean broken.  My ’67 Pontiac Tempest was there alright, but it was blocked by their family sedan.  It didn’t matter.  I didn’t have my keys anyhow.  I stood there naked.  Waiting for the parents or the cops to come.

My football bag! Hell yes and hallelujah!  I reached into the back seat.  I found my sweaty practice pants and a cut-off t-shirt.  I was a brand new man… a  stinky one… but I didn’t care… I was clothed again!

I sat there on the concrete with my back against the rear driver’s side tire.  I could hear voices.  Poor Tricia, I thought.  No matter how bad I thought I had it… she had it worse.  She had just enough time to jump to her feet and moon the living hell out of the them as they walked in.  What losers!  I thought to myself.  Who hires a babysitter for a night out and then comes home by 9:30?  Never mind the fact that I was screwing on their living room floor with their kids asleep upstairs… I was pissed at them.

“Bill!  Here he is Bill… he’s over here!”, the wife blurted.

I sat there paralyzed.  Bill rounded the corner of my car.

“Stand up you little punk!”

Only I wasn’t a little punk.  And when I stood up… I dwarfed him by at least 3 inches.   I probably outweighed him by 25 lbs also.  As I stood up, his demeanor changed slightly, but not his anger.

“You could have scarred my kids for life!  What if they had crawled out of their beds and seen you two?”

I have to admit, he was right.  But I’m pretty sure they were toddlers in cribs.  Regardless, I took the tongue lashing like a man.

“Yes sir, I’m sorry.  I really am.  If you’ll let me just get my clothes and wallet, I’ll leave now.”

“No!  I’m keeping your wallet and your clothes!  You get the hell off my property!”, he shouted.

“I can’t… you’re blocking me.”

Mrs. Bill got into the sedan and started backing down the driveway.  Bill retrieved my keys from the living room and handed them to me.  I left… with my tail tucked between my legs.

I was totally ready for another tongue lashing when I got home.  I was utterly in shock when I explained the story to my mom.  She exploded in laughter.

“You ran out of the house naked?”, she asked.  She laughed until she cried.

“Mom, he’s still got my clothes, my boots and my wallet.”

“Oh we’ll see about that”, she said.

First on the agenda, my mom had to call Tricia’s mom.  When my mom hung up the phone, I asked, “Are they mad?”

“Not really”, she responded.  “They already knew.  I’ve got the people’s number.  I’m calling them now.”

Apparently, the plan was for my brother to drive me back to the house where Bill was to hand over my clothing and wallet.  Only when we arrived the next morning, there was a police car in the driveway.  A police car from the jurisdiction of another school district.  I felt sick.

“Just keep driving”, I told my brother.  I was scared.

“Hell no!”, my brother said.  “Mom told me not to come back without your stuff.”

We walked up to the front door.  This time I rang the doorbell.  The officer came to the door.  I heard Bill say, “That’s him!” as he pointed at me.

“Can you follow me to the station son?”

“Yes sir.”

Hoover Police.jpg

My brother followed the squad car.  When we arrived, the officer walked over and met us.  He asked me what happened.  When I told him, he hunched over in laughter.

“Listen… that man was crazy mad.  I asked you to follow me down here just to please him.  The truth is… I’ve already talked to the girl.  She stated she invited you there, so you weren’t trespassing.  They placed her in charge of the household.  Also, she said that whatever happened between you two was consensual.  Here’s your stuff.”

I was relieved.  I was too embarrassed to even talk about it.  It took me years to find the humor in this story.  It also took me 2 showers to get the grass stains off my butt.  I wonder if Tricia ever tells this story.  Gracias.