When we last left our intrepid hero (that’d be me) he (or rather I) was standing on the front deck of the Overbay hacienda eating one of the first bags of Cool Ranch Doritos to grace the snack shelf at the local Stop ‘n Steal watching my best friend Robby allowing two of our class (drivers license-less) hotties to take his car for a spin. They were on the return trip with KC in the driver’s seat and CC riding shotgun as Robby sat helplessly in the backseat. All had gone well on the trip out and now, one more turn and KC would bring the little Phoenix to a nice safe stop and we’d all go home to supper.
Only she didn’t make it.
Like most families of my childhood friends, the Overbays had that bane of a bicycle-riding child’s existence — a crushed gravel driveway. Inevitably, some of the gravel would travel out onto the black top and create a gravel slick, which could throw and unwary two-wheeler into a serious case of road rash in a skinny minute. Little did we know, it worked for cars just as well as bicycles.
KC hit the gravel slick and the front end of the car got a bit squirrelly. Now an experienced driver would have just backed completely off the gas and waited for the dust to settle. KC was not — as I have mentioned before — an experienced driver. She panicked and stomped BOTH pedals at the same time. The accelerator won out over the brake and the poor Phoenix skidded completely off the driveway to be quite rudely introduced to the sawn off telephone pole that served as the north corner post of the Overbay’s barbed wire fence.
As usual in these cases, time seemed to stop as the collective gasp of the party goers caused me to drop my chips and bolt towards the stairs. Once on the ground, I was joined by several other people in a headlong Jack and Jill-esque tumble towards the scene of the accident. What we found was not encouraging.
The front end of the car had wrapped its bumper around the cruel pole in a desperate lover’s embrace . . . and so did the radiator. Simultaneously, KC and CC – seatbeltless, naturally — launched forehead first into the windshield. They didn’t do the classic “shattered glass fly through” but they hit with enough force to make two NICE spiderwebs — one on each side of the glass and raise beautiful raspberry blue goose eggs on both their classically beautiful high foreheads. Meanwhile, Robby, the Phoenix’s erstwhile owner, was tossed into the hatchback where he lay on his back, feet in the air, somewhat dazed like a spring-woken tortoise newly crawled from his winter’s den.
Ignoring all first aid training and advice, we helped the girls and Robby from the car. The girls were a bit unsteady on their feet and might even have had a mild concussion. We would never know because this was a skip party and what happens at the skip party STAYS at the skip party, or at least it did in those pre-cell phone camera days. We certainly weren’t going to call the police and ambulance. At the risk of sounding heartlessly arrogant, we were the cream of the Laurens 55 High School crop (what I was doing there, I still wonder sometimes) and we couldn’t risk the hoopla and resulting brouhaha a police report would generate.
The party disintegrated just as soon as everyone realized that no one was dead or critically injured. This is referred to even to this day as the “Getting the Hell out of Dodge” procedure. Robby took the driver’s seat, I sat shotgun, and Duane folded his lanky frame into the backseat. Hopefully, Robby turned the key and the little Phoenix that could sputtered to life. Against all odds, it backed away from the pole and with the help of a couple of Raider linemen, ended up back on the road and off towards home.
We did have one nasty dilemma. We had to get Duane home under his parent’s radar. They were the most strict parents of our entire group — if by strict one means somewhat Stalinesque. That party I mentioned in the first act of this tragedy resulted in Duane being put on restriction for the rest of his life. He didn’t get to leave the house on the weekend until college. If his dad found out about THIS snafu, Duane would probably end up in a shallow grave somewhere. Luckily, we had always planned for just this kind of eventuality. Duane got out of the car about 200 yards from the schoolbus stop for his house. When his younger brothers got off the bus, he just fell in behind them — no muss no fuss. Duane didn’t even worry about them ratting him out. Those five boys were tight. None of them was going to risk bringing the wrath of Gray Court’s version of The Great Santini down on a sibling.
So with Duane’s continued future assured, Robby and I limped the Phoenix back to his house. He asked me if I wanted to take his motorcycle home and thus avoid the ensuing confrontation with his dad — Bobby. I told him that I’d been with him when the mess started and I wasn’t bailing now. I figured I owed to him as my best buddy to face the music with him. Besides, Bobby T was one of my greatest father figures growing up. He knew how things were with me and Mama and with me and Daddy so he always made sure I had walking around money as well as doing five thousand other little things for me that I’ll never be able to repay him for. Bobby T is a great man and I really looked up to him so I couldn’t run home like a coward and let Robby take the heat alone.
We sat across the den from each other waiting for the sound of Bobby’s car in the drive. In that eternal hour, I caught a glimpse of what a condemned man must feel like waiting for the warden and the preacher to come to his cell. Bobby got home and walked in the house all smiles and hellos like always. Robby and I realized instantly that he hadn’t seen the car. Now Bobby was the type of parent who hadn’t forgotten that he hadn’t been a complete angel as a teenager either, so he recognized our guilty looks pretty quickly. We didn’t even BOTHER trying to explain anything; we just led him out to the car. He looked at the damage, then at us, then back at the damage and just shook his head. That head shake was his ultimate mark of disappointment.
Funny though. Duane’s dad would have launched into the stratosphere. I don’t really know WHAT Daddy would have said, but I know I couldn’t write most of it on a family oriented blog. Bobby just shrugged and said, “Don’t plan on going
anywhere Saturday, boys,” and walked in the house.
I spent the night with Robby that Friday and we spent about 16 hours the next day cleaning out Bobby’s three bay garage / workshop. The Augean Stables that Herakles cleaned as his fifth penitential labor were pristine compared to this building and alas, we had neither Alpheus nor Peneus to reroute to our aid. We worked mightily fueled by gratitude and hot dogs until the floor of the shop was FDA approved. It was a learning experience for certain, but it still wasn’t the last skip party we’d have 🙂
Love y’all! Keep those feet clean.