Friday, December 10, 2010

Phillip Alexander, part one

The cruise in Texas City was a four mile circuit down Palmer Highway, from Sonic on the west side, past the high school and the stadium, to the Weingarten's parking lot, where everyone turned in, either to park and make the scene, or to turn around, and make another loop. There was a semi-riot occurring the early November evening when this story begins. Some guys from Dickinson were acting stupid, as they were apt to do, and there was intermittant fighting going on—one guy said he intended to kick every Texas City ass, one at a time. His knees buckled the first time he was hit, though, and that was the last I saw of him, though some of his friends made up for his noisesomeness.

Understand, I'm not a fighter. Been in my share, I guess, but the idea has never appealed to me—always seemed so embarrassing. So, you know, undignified. On this night, though, I was very, very drunk. A couple of those Dickinson guys were talking smack about David Connor, who I did not know, had never even heard of, but who seemed that moment very much the idea of a person worth fighting for. I rushed toward them, ready to rumble. "David Connor? David Connor?" I screamed. "I'll kick your fucking ass motherfucker!!!" (This was, perhaps, my first organic use of the prized muh-fofo epithet, inverted though it was).

I felt a large hand pull me backward. "Hold on there, cowboy," the guy said. He was about 6'3" or 4", must've weighed 200 or so. "I appreciate the offer, but I got this." David walked up to the guys, who immediately began to hang their heads and eat their words, especially when Phillip walked over. Him, I had heard of, as had the backtrackers from Dickinson, I'm sure. He was only about 5'10", but was built sort of square, and solid; he wasn't fat at all, but he was very, very strong. He had a shock of curly blonde hair that hung in front of his face, and was usually smiling, which contrasted with David's dark long hair, and glowering nature. They were each 19 (I was 16).

After the Dickinson guys departed, David turned to me and said, "You're riding with me." Thus began our friendship.

I formally met Phillip a few days later, when he came cruising with us in David's white Torino. Phillip was pretty drunk, this time, and really pissed off at the manager of the MacDonalds for firing him, several weeks before.

Phillip: I was the best employee there!
David: I know you were.
Phillip: They called me the french fry kid!
David: I remember that.
Phillip: That piece of shit had no right to fire me!
David: Piece of shit.
Phillip: Let's go rob 'em!
David (grinning, to my horror): Let's rob the shit out of em.

On the way to MacDonalds, I was kind of freaking out. Leaving home that night, armed robbery was about the last thing on my mind. While Philip had climbed half out of the passenger window, telling the pick-up beside us what he aimed to do to the MacDonald's manager, I attempted to talk some sense into David.

Me: David, what the fuck?
David: You're afraid we're gonna get caught, ain't you?
Me: Caught? No, David, I'm afraid we're gonna get fucking killed.
David: Nah. I'm not even sure it's illegal to rob a fuckin MacDonalds.
Me: I'm pretty sure it is.
David: Well, even if it is, not enough to get shot over. Not like robbin a bank or something.
Me: That's reassuring.
David: Prison, maybe. You're not afraid of the joint are you?
Me: It's not high on my list of things to do.
David: Well, don't be afraid—me and Phillip'll take care of you.
Me: Wow. That is so great. How many friends will take your slack when you go to prison together?
David: Fewer than you'd think, buddy. Fewer than you'd think.

When we pulled into the MacDonald's parking lot, I nearly pissed myself. Everything started going in slow motion, like I was in a really bad dream. Phillip and David became grim and determined-looking. They nodded at each other. "Let's do it," David said.

I jumped out of the car. "I'm goin in with you."

David stared at me. "You don't gotta do that."

"I ain't waiting in that car."

"You're not even packing heat, are you?" Phillip asked.

"I ain't waiting in that car."

"Well, come on, then, you crazy sonofabitch," David said.

When we walked into the lobby, David walked to one end of the counter, and began furtively checking everyone out. His right hand was hidden inside his jacket. From the counter's other end, Phillip did the same. I was busy looking for something to use for a weapon, once the shit went down. I wondered if we would have to go on the lam. If I'd ever see Teri again.

Finally, Phillip strode to the cashier, a tall rail-thin geek with acne and Elvis sideburns. "H-H-Hey, there, Ph-Phillip, " he said. "What's h-h-happenin?"

Philip's empty hand exited his jacket, and banged on the counter. "I wanta see that sonofabitch," he said, pointing at a pot-bellied bald guy in back of the store.

The geek took a few steps back, and called out: "Hey, J-J-Jim! Ph-ph-phillip wants tuh see you!"

When Jim approached the front, he looked nearly as scared as I was. He didn't say a word.

"Give me my check," Phillip said, quietly. "You piece of shit."

"Piece of shit," David nodded.

"Piece of shit," I agreed, tossing a napkin-holder between my hands.

After Jim returned, and handed Phillip his check, Phillip stuffed it in his pocket. "You shouldn't have fired me," he said.

"Piece of shit," David glowered, turning toward the door.

"He was the French Fry Kid," I said, setting the napkin-holder on a table. "Let's get outa here, boys."

Solemnly, we filed out. In the parking lot, Phillip punched me in the arm. "You're a crazy motherfucker, boy. You were gonna rob that place with a napkin-holder." David punched me in the other arm, and grinned.

We drove back to the parking lot, and bought a few six-packs of Lone Star. Some point in the night, I looked at Phillip, and laughed. Phillip understood, cocked an eyebrow, and smiled. "The important thing is," he said, "We coulda robbed the motherfucker if we'd wanted to."

"Damn right, " David agreed.

"Damn right," I said. I told them the story of how I was fired from working at Jack-in-the-Box, because of a party we had on the roof one night that ended with some of us throwing eggs at police cars.

"Oh, I used to work at Jack-in-the-Crack, too," Phillip said. "I was the best worker there. They called me The Taco Kid."

As he began to enlighten us with his observations about dumbass managers and the intricacies of taco-making, David leaned back against the driver-side headrest, and smiled. He'd obviously heard them before.

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