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Friday, December 24, 2010
FOR OUR EIGHTH ANNIVERSARY, LET'S HAVE A GANG FIGHT
When the day came, we didn’t even know it. Both of us had forgotten our anniversary, until a card came from my Mom in the mail, congratulating us! We had forgotten to plan for it, and we had no money. We didn’t know what to do to celebrate. Micki enjoyed window shopping, without buying anything, just looking. But I think of this as a waste of time, and don’t like to do it. So, I thought I’d be extra giving on our eighth anniversary, also taking advantage of being broke, and just go for a walk downtown with my wife, and window shop.
It was a good day for it--Sunday--so a lot of stores were closed, and Everett, Washington, was quiet and seemed almost empty of traffic and people. As we walked up Hewitt Avenue, beginning slowly to make our way back home, we saw a gathering of teenage boys in front of a bingo hall up ahead. Micki, from southern California and knowing more about gangs than I, suggested we move to the other side of the street. But this was laid-back Everett; there were gang member wannabes but no real gangs; and so I poo-pooed Micki’s suggestion and told her it was just fine to pass through them. And it might have been, had I not noticed what they were doing.
They were harassing a retarded man and scaring him. The smallest kid among them was on a Stingray bicycle, and he kept riding up to the poor man and popping a wheelie, just short of hitting him. The guy was terrified, the boys were laughing, and I was furious. The bicycle kid had just ridden up to the man again and stopped, and I gripped the kid’s shoulder with my hand and said, “Stop it.” The whole gang then turned their sadistic attention on us, and let the retarded man go. He walked on as fast as he could walk, constantly looking back and staring with wide eyes. I watched him go free, and realized I had just taken his place.
Micki and I tried to pass it all off and continued walking, hoping the gang would pass it all off, too. They didn’t. They all followed us up the street, with the bicycle kid in front of them. Micki and I turned right onto Colby, downtown Everett’s main street. The street was empty and quiet, but the hate-filled, loud-mouthed, bicycle kid wasn’t. He rode behind us, cussing at us all he could. I was getting dangerously angry, but Micki said, “Ignore him. Just ignore him.” And so, still hoping to continue our anniversary window shopping, we walked along, gazing into store windows, and ignored him.
But after putting up with him for a half block, suddenly Micki reeled around and shouted at the kid! I glanced into the sky and mumbled, “Thank you,” then turned and ran at the kid. With the rest of the gang watching, I shoved the kid off his bike, then picked up the Stingray and heaved it out into the middle of the street. Its side hit the pavement with a loud crash.
Within seconds, Micki and I were standing in the street, just off the curb, with about twenty gang members in a large circle around us--a circle stretching to the other side of Colby Avenue. I was too angry to show any fear, and this seemed to puzzle the boys. They weren’t sure what to do, they weren’t sure what I could do, or what I would do, yet their pride had been heaved onto the pavement and they couldn’t walk away from it. It was a standoff for several minutes, each side making loud threats. They inched closer, until finally I pulled a little jackknife out of my pocket, opened it, and held it out. The circle stopped shrinking. Then I heard a bottle break. The humiliated, bicycle kid, now directly across the street, had broken a bottle he found, and held in his hand the jagged half. He came closer. This obnoxious kid, the smallest of them all, seemed to be their leader; or at least the meanest with the most guts. I really didn’t want to stab a boy in the middle of Colby, so I folded up the knife, put it back it my pocket, gave a little grin and said, “All right. I’ll use my feet.” The kid stopped, all of them were still, and Micki and I took this little opportunity to turn around and walk back onto the sidewalk. Surprisingly, the boys in our way spread out and allowed us through. Leaving the gang behind, we walked away slowly, once again looking in windows.
But it wasn’t over. Three of the biggest teenagers, each one taller than us, had been appointed to follow us, and hurt us. They came closer and closer, until Micki and I stopped at the “Don’t Walk” signal at Everett Avenue, with the three hit men only a few yards behind us. One of them muttered, “There’s nowhere to run now.” The moment had come when they would run up and at least strike us hard, then run back to their gang, victorious.
And Micki and I walked home, having celebrated an extra special, eighth anniversary.
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