I have known for a while that I would have to cut this chapter from my novel, “Swamis.” It doesn’t move the ever-tighter, ever more focused plot along enough, Grant Murdoch is not an important enough character to be given this much, um, attention; AND, despite cutting somewhere around 70,000 words, the manuscript keeps creeping up and over my self-set limit of 120,000 words.
SO, to put you in the place where I tried to make this fit; Joey is talked into going out drinking with his friends, then hanging out at the high school. Rusty McAndrews, mentioned here, is more of a critical character. Part of my original reasoning for including this was that it helps to illustrate that Joey, aka Jody, still has an ability to quickly and violently strike out when he feels threatened.
THE BASIS for the story is one that I did not witness, merely heard about; a guy who would pretend to have an epileptic seizure; roll around… the whole show. That I found that shocking (and that others I’ve mentioned it to aren’t nearly as disturbed) says… hey, I don’t know what it says.
I should restate that my real life friends, some of whom (Ray and Phillip in particular) have characters named after them, actually did very few of the things their namesakes do in “Swamis.” They did, however, do some. Erwin is also a character, mostly so readers don’t think I am Jody. However it is true that the real Phillip and Ray and Erwin, maybe Bill Buel, did get skateboarding shut down at Fallbrook High, or, at least, we take credit for it. Oh, and the urine stream, Bill Birt. I have written about him in realsurfers.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11, 1968
Not cutting this chapter must be defended. I would rather not do either.
It was kind of a deal during football season, a bad-boy tradition, evidently. Some of my friends would tell their parents they were taking the rooter bus to an away game, go somewhere and drink some beer, smoke some marijuana; and return to Fallbrook High when the bus returned. See who went, see who won. Fun. Bad-boy adventure.
Fun while trying to attain that exact level of intoxication where your contemporaries would recognize it, but the teachers and chaperones, grownups, wouldn’t. Or that was how the evening had been sold to me. Fun. I was pretty-much sober; a bit pissed-off and quite uncomfortable, the irritability from an incident at their drinking/lookout spot, the discomfort because this wasn’t my kind of scene.
We’d arrived at the school a bit too early, Phillip and Ray and Billy B (one of the Billys) and I were leaning on or walking around Ray’s car; parked, parallel to the street, lights on and engine running, doors open, on the asphalt parking lot that sloped down from the school to the road in front of the cafeteria/gym. Music was coming from his tape deck. Cream. “White Room,” from “Wheels of Fire,” Ray’s pick for a perfect song. Some parents, there to pick up their kids, had waited long enough that they’d turn off their engines.
“Maybe it went into overtime,” Ray said.
“Orange Glen,” Billy B said; “Fuck, man, we could have gone there and back by now.”
“No. No. We’d have missed the fun.” Phillip looked at me, punched his left palm with his right hand, “Joey punching out Rusty fucking McAndrews.”
Ray and Billy B looked at me. I wasn’t amused. They were. “I should have taken the Falcon. Escape vehicle.”
Billy B jumped between Ray and me and made a couple of hodad/kook surf moves. “We have to get going early enough tomorrow to beat the weekend crowds, huh Ray?” No response. He looked at me. “Huh, Joey?” When I didn’t respond, he jumped over next to Phillip. “Huh, Phil?”
“Yeah, Billy B, early.”
Billy B came a bit too close to me. “I was going to stay over at Phil’s, but, hey, let’s just get our boards and shit and fuckin’ head out after the bus comes back. Sleep on the beach and…”
“Nope. And, please quit breathing on me. Huh?”
Ray pushed Billy B away from me. “We’ll get you home, Joey. Jeez; you’ll be a fucking hero once word gets out about…” Ray did a fake punch toward my chest, backed away quickly, one hand protecting his face, the other his chest. Phillip and Billy B laughed. My friends’ faces were still glowing, as if the beer added a certain piss-orange color to their cheeks, and they were all still a bit unsteady. “McAndrews; never liked him… or his younger brother.”
“And, wait… his brother…” Now Phillip was too close to me. “Is he the guy you slammed into the…?”
“Water fountain,” Ray said. “Yeah. Yeah, he was. Sixth grade. It was, like, my second week in Fallbrook and Joey’s knocking people’s teeth out. Whoa. Pretty scary!”
“There’s the first bus,” I said. We could see the lights; headlights, interior lights; unmistakably two buses, across the lower fields, over on the highway. Highway? I never thought of it as more than a road. Two lane road heading west, toward the ocean.
Though the road was probably three hundred yards away, it was close enough that we could hear honking. Suddenly a car raced around both buses, pulled back in, very close to a car coming from the opposite direction. More horns, this time including a long blaring honk from the lead bus, and a ‘shave and a haircut… two bits’ series of honks from the car, now slowing down considerably, leading the busses.
Billy B said, “Whoa!” Phillip said, “Fucking idiots.” Ray said, “Grant Murdoch. For sure.”
It was a minute or so before Grant Murdoch’s mother’s car came into view around the school buildings, tires squealing, then squeaking as it turned from the rougher road to the slicker parking area, horn honking.
That parking lot, with its shallow drop toward the gym, and the sidewalks around the school buildings, were perfect for skateboarding if it had been allowed. it wasn’t formally disallowed until Phillip, Ray, Erwin, and I slalomed on the sidewalks one hot afternoon, August 1967- busted by some summer school substitute teacher.
The overlarge American four-door circled the four of us, backed up against Ray’s car; all four of its occupants flipping us off. The car was parked, slightly uphill of us, parallel to the approach road, cigarette smoke coming out of the open windows, music louder than Ray’s 4 track, engine revving. The Doors; “Summer’s Almost Gone,” as I remember, from “Waiting for the Sun.”
Reasonable; sure; we were still huge Doors fans; self-disenfranchised suburban teenage males.
And, sure, we knew these particular idiots. This was their version of a Friday night adventure. They had gone to the game at Orange Glen, looked for a fight on the bleachers, threw empty bottles out the windows on the highways and roads between Valley Center and Fallbrook. Fun.
One of the idiots, another of the Billys, Billy G, sometimes referred to as Bigger Billy, jumped out of the backseat, uphill side, leaned in toward the car in the area between the opened door and the trunk area.
“Urine,” Ray said, as a stream came from under the car and down the asphalt.
“Billy fucking G,” Billy B said, laughing and pointing, “He’s fuckin’ pissing.” His voice got louder. “Go, Bigger Billy! Shit; that’s a quart, at least.”
To help with any Billy confusion, Billy B-2, mentioned earlier, had, by this time, moved away; his father transferred to Twenty-nine Palms.
“Here’s the bus,” Phillip said, waving at a girl about halfway back on the still-moving vehicle, her arm out a window, more pointing than waving, pointing at something past Phillip, past us.
Seconds later, more students were pointing.
It was Grant. Grant Murdoch. He had fallen out of the driver’s door and onto the pavement (just out of the urine stream), and was convulsing, rolling around, his body spasming. His compatriots were gathering around him, turning to the advancing parents, appealing for help, as the second bus arrived, with the team; and kids and chaperones and teachers from the buses started unloading.
Billy B seemed concerned, ran toward Grant. Phillip and Ray looked at me. “Fucking Grant,” Ray said, putting out an arm to try to stop me from walking toward the big car.
Phillip said, “Not worth it, Joey; don’t…”
Members of the Big Car Idiot Crew, each of the three near Grant, and then Billy B, were yelling; “Help him, help him!” “He’ll swallow his tongue!” “Oh, my God!”
Grant had just been flipped onto his back when I got to him, foamy spittle coming out of his mouth, eyes fluttering. I stood over him for a second before I put my foot on his throat.
“Good evening, Grant,” I said, calmly. Sort of calmly.
A grownup grabbed me by one arm, another on the other arm, pulled me back.
I resisted. “What? What!”
“What the hell do you mean, ‘what?’” It was Martha Dewey’s dad on my right arm. “You think because of your father you can get away with this… this… (lowering his voice) shit.”
“Please let me go, Mr. Dewey,” I said. I thought it more a demand than a request. “Sir.”
Grant Murdoch rolled to his side, then to his stomach, and leapt to his feet with amazing speed.
“What?” That was Mr. Dewey, still holding my arm after the other grownup had let go.
“I didn’t know you were here, Jody,” Grant said, trying to wipe the spittle off his chin with two other dads holding him, more in a supportive way, before he shook himself loose. “Sorry, man. Just for fun, you know.”
While some parents were pulling their children away from this scene, Mrs. Dewey and Martha were among a group headed our way. I looked at Mr. Dewey, his hand still on my arm. I gave him a look that I meant as a reference to the alcohol on his breath, made a motion to suggest he should look at the lipstick on the collar of his white dress shirt.
I believed he got the messages. He looked at his wife and daughter, approaching, then at me. He released his grip, stepped between Grant and me, started to say something to Grant; something like, “You’ve got some nerve, young man…”
Grant Murdoch threw up. Some beer, maybe some pizza, God knows what else. Most of what Grant threw up got on Mr. Dewey.
There were brief cheers from some of the nearby high school boys, bolder cheers from a couple of the out-of-high school guys who hadn’t yet found another place to hang out on a Friday night.
“You got Lucky, Mr. Dewey,” I said, smiling at my own cleverness; all the more clever in that Mr. Dewey completely understood it. “Martha. Mrs. Dewey,” I said to Martha and Mrs. Dewey as I passed them.
Adventure. Fun. Friday nights.