“C’mon ladies! Get a move on, we’re burning daylight.” Fish called to us. He was now almost half a block ahead of us and he showed no signs of slowing down.
“Wait up man!” I called to him, then I looked at Fin and said “Don’t worry about what Fish does, just try not to be near him when he does shit like he did today. And for God’s sake, stop picking fights. None of us need any more trouble than what we already get into.”
“I’ll try but you know it’s not as easy for me as it is you. Hell, your sister has protection orders out to all the teenage boys on you. No one dares mess with you.”
“I know, I don’t like it but I have to live with it. Besides, who says those orders don’t apply to my friends?”
“Kids are gonna mess with me regardless of our friendship. You know that.”
“Wanna bet? I’ll see what I can do to get you some protection but you have to keep your mouth shut. Can you do that at least?”
“That’s all I can ask I suppose.” I said as we caught up to Fish who was standing in the middle of the sidewalk trying to light a match off the seat of his pants. He had a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth and a string of profanity was spewing forth as he broke the match and tossed it on the ground alongside a growing pile of other broken wooden matches.
“I don’t know how the fuck they do it in the movies.” He proclaimed “Bastards make it look so easy.” He said as he pulled another wooden match out of a box.
“Fish, just use the side of the box like normal people.” I said.
“Fuck normal people. I want to do what they do in the movies. I’m gonna learn how to do this.” He said as he broke another match on the seat of his jeans.
“Gimme a smoke and let me see the matches before you break them all.” I said. He handed them to me; I dug out a smoke, lit the match on the side of the box and blew the smoke in Fish’s face. “Fish, just light up and stop playing games, also, next time you steal from Przbylski’s shop, make sure Fin and I aren’t there. We can’t afford to get busted.”
Fish glared at me. “Fuck you Skip. I did it for your damn bike, so get off my ass.”
“I know you did, and I’m not complaining about that. It’s just, you know what will happen to me if we get busted. And you know what will happen to Fin. All’s I’m asking is that you think about our situations before you do something like that.” I handed Fin the Marlboros and the matches and he promptly lit up and passed everything back to Fish.
“Why do you put up with that shit anyway?” Fish asked me “I mean if my old man beat on me like that I’d be at the police station as soon as possible.”
“First, he aint my old man. He’s my mom’s boyfriend. Second, if that son-of-a-bitch is willing to do this to me in front of my family and they stand around and watch, what else is he capable of when no one is around?”
“That’s what I’m talking about; you could get put in a better place.”
“Fish, you aint listening. What would he do to my sisters if I’m not there? I mean, beating on me is one thing but I have three sisters that would take the brunt of his shit if I wasn’t around. At least this way he won’t mess with them. Ya know?”
“I guess. But it don’t make sense. You should look out for yourself.”
“Like you wouldn’t try and protect your sisters if someone tried to hurt them?”
“Well, yeah, I would. But I don’t think I could take getting my ass kicked every week.”
“It’s not like I don’t try and fight back. He’s bigger than me and he has that fucking horse whip he likes to use too.”
“Didn’t you break that tip of that thing?” Fin chimed in.
“Yeah, I did, but he still uses it. I’ve been wanting to throw it away but I know he’ll just get pissed and use his fists again.”
“Whoa… hold up. The fucker uses a horse whip?” Fish asked.
“Yeah, a riding crop, like the jockeys on tv use in the horse races.” Fin informed.
“That’s fucked up.” Fish commented, his voice trailing off in wonder.
We were at the corner of Meadow Lane and E. Allouez Drive, not two hundred yards from Fish’s house. Our collective mood had become quite somber in light of all the shit we’d been talking about. Fish spoke up “Look, let’s can the shitty family talk. We got a bike to build and I don’t think talking about this crap is going to solve anything right now. Besides, we gotta get ready for Friday night and the camp out.”
We all agreed, and as we approached Fish’s driveway we threw our cigarette butts on the ground just as Fish’s dad came barreling around the corner on his Harley. We all stopped and watched as the big man clad in leather powered the metal beast into the drive way, revved the engine and shut her down.
“What are you three shit-heels up to?” he said as he dismounted his steed.
“Hi Pops.” Fish said rushing over to his dad.
“Hi Mr. Minnow.” Fin said as he tried to make himself invisible.
“Hi Mr. Minnow, how was your ride?” I said.
“Yeah, yeah, it was good. But you guys didn’t answer my question. What are you up to?” he asked again as he pulled off his riding gloves and unzipped his jacket.
“We’re building a bike Dad. We just got back from the hardware store and now we’re gonna paint it.” Fish said enthusiastically.
“Really now? And where is this bike?” Mr. Minnow inquired. Fish headed into the garage calling out to his father “Right here, we’ve been working on it for a few days and we almost have everything we need. We’re building it for Skip.” And then he moved the box we had the frame hidden behind, picked up the frame and started to carry it out to the driveway.
“Not a bad job boys. Hmm, you say you’re gonna paint it today?”
“Yes sir.” I said, “I have two cans of Krylon blue.”
“Well, good luck, and don’t make a mess and you better not get any paint on my HOG.” He warned as he walked inside. He paused for a moment by his son and looked down at the bike, and whispered something to Fish, and then he walked inside.
We all stood there in silence, the sound of the Harley’s cooling engine interrupting our thoughts with a ticking noise every now and again. Fin and I slowly walked over to where Fish was standing.
“What’d your dad say Fish?” Fin asked to Fish’s back.
Fish slowly turned to face us, his head down and his hair hiding his face. He raised his head and there was a big grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye. “He said he was proud of me.” He managed in a whisper through the veil of hair. “He’s proud of me…”
Fin and I just stared at him. Neither of us knew what to say or what to do. We did know that what Fish was feeling was completely alien to us and we also knew we were both very jealous of him at that moment.