Robert Woods (A Local Dude)

These kids are pissed.
They are organizing.
They have a plan.
I’m not sure who is helping them,
But I am sure they are serious.
Even the young ones
On my elementary run
Are on board.

What If Shorty Had
Not Been So Cool?

“I’ll show you punks how to tie a knot.”

When you are being tied up with a piece of rope that is also tied to the back of a raggedy tow truck, this is not exactly a comforting piece of news. The night, which had started as another boring exercise of cruising around Williamsburg had taken a tragic turn. The three of us had hopped into a my friend’s brown Buick Skylark hoping to kill some time before inevitably ending up at the Carolyn Court where quiet would be the order as we watched the Headbanger’s Ball on MTV. Arn wanted no part of the heavy metal. Craig and I were not prepared to deal with Arn’s steely temper.

However, due to the bravado of my wrestling friend, Arn, I found myself being tied to the back of this truck by an old drunk guy who seemed hell bent on dragging us through the mud of what might have been a Penniman Road garden, but it was hard to tell since it was dark. All I knew was that I was scared and the fun that put us in this predicament wouldn’t be worth it if Shorty carried out his towing plan.

Getting into this situation behind the Ford house had been something else. We were cruising Richmond Road looking for anything to do and jamming to the Talking Heads when some kid gave Arn the finger. Right there at the McDonald’s, Arn went Dukes of Hazard and pulled a u-turn with a burst of adrenaline fueled by road rage. The last time this happened we ended up chasing a Camaro with a Chevette (not Corvette). Arn would have caught the future hotel magnate if he hadn’t ducked into Kingsmill, but that has no bearing on this story.

The chase was on. None of us knew the kid with the offending finger, but he was driving as if his life depended on it. I don’t know what Arn would have done had he gotten his hands on the other kid, but I’m glad we never found out. The pursuit went all over town, Jamestown Road, Route 5, Centerville Road, everywhere. Then the other kid pulled away on the Colonial Parkway. Arn was so mad, but for some stupid reason, the kid turned around and flew by us heading in the other direction. I thought Arn’s initial u-turn had been something, but his power-u on the Parkway is the ballsiest move (That’s right, Top Gun reference…) I’ve ever experienced in car.

He never lost sight of the other car and as we headed down Penniman Road, the kid made a fatal turn. He took a hard left on the big curve and drove right into a muddy plot of land. We stayed back and watched him spin his wheels. He was stuck.

And Arn flipped. Now he wanted to help the kid get out of the mud. So we tried to figure out what to do.

That’s when Shorty came out of his trailer. He was dirty, drunk, and carrying what appeared to be a twelve gauge shotgun. There was no running. We all stood there looking at this guy and his gun hoping he would be a nice person. Boy, were we wrong.

“What the hell is going on here?” he yelled.

“Uh, Uh, Uh,” said the kid we had been chasing.

“Shut up,” said Shorty, “Who’s car is that?”

We pointed to the “Uh” kid. He nearly had another accident.

“Stay here. I’ll get a rope and my truck.”

For all his previous swagger, Arn was ready to run. He wanted no part of this drunk guy with a gun. We probably should have listened to him, but seeing as he had put us in this situation we chose the relative safety of doing what Shorty said instead of provoking him to shoot us. He returned with his truck and took out what seemed like an awfully small rope to pull a car out of the mud. He also had a woman with him. She was just as dirty and just as drunk as Shorty. She also looked as menacing holding his shot gun.

“Shoot ‘em if they move,” he told her as he started tying our legs to each other. Then he tied the other end of the rope to the truck. I was about to have an accident.

My mom had always told me to be careful. My dad had always warned me about the crazy people in Williamsburg. They were home worrying that I would make good choices and come home in one piece. There I stood having not been careful, being held against my will by a crazy man and his shotgun pointing woman, and about to be sent home in a bunch of different pieces.

“You’ll pay for this, Arn,” I said.

Shorty got into his truck and revved the engine. He let the brakes go and off he went. I closed my eyes and braced for death, which somehow never came. We just stood there. Shorty slammed on the breaks and backed up. He got out of the truck laughing so hard he was in danger of breaking a rib. His woman was laughing with the same gusto.

“WHO TIED THAT KNOT?!!! Babe, put the gun down before someone gets shot. I had you guys going. Did anyone crap their pants? Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha…” He kept laughing as he picked up the end of the rope he never tied to the truck.

“Alright, let’s get this car out of the mud.”

When the car was out of the mud, we thanked Shorty. Then we drove with the kid down Jefferson Avenue to a 24-hour car wash. On the journey, I had learn how to drive a stick since Craig had to be home by 11:00 and there was no time to get the car washed before Craig’s curfew.

Years would pass and my friend Arn would get all puffy once again. Suffice to say, I tied the knot and it didn’t slip… 

At least that’s how I remember it…

The sixth grade qualification
For being a father?
“I take baths without you guys asking.”

Thank goodness it’s
Not that easy.

Of course tonight
The eleven year old will right the parental scales
When he has to be asked to take a shower.

Tantalyzing, enigmatic expressions of youth
Force patience to crumble
When petulence sticks responsibility
With the sharp end of a verbal rapier
Once an agrarian thought takes root
These same mysterious beings
From other seeds
Sprout new attitudes
Giving life to the beginnings of maturity

A couple of decades back he stood on the blacktop, a gangly high schooler full of the thinness of youth. His uncle stood hunched over, clutching a basketball between his elbow and hip, and unable to catch a breath in the humid fall air that is Virginia Beach. Alas the elder rose and revealed the sweat of too many beers and too few minutes in the gym. There, for all to see, was the sweat outline of a famous bi-coastal rodent complete with the ears and head.

The ribbing he gave his uncle represented the shortsightedness of youth and the snarky cockiness of adolescence. The jokes ran much harder than the game and ultimately, experience and size prevailed, as the ball fell through the hoop on the final point.

All those decades ago came back to the young man today as in his mid-forties he wrestled with his lungs and legs in an effort to gain some of that youthful thinness back. The morning sun was his opponent, casting an intense light that promised to bring soaring temperatures. The rhythm of his strides could never quite match the staccato like breaths his lungs beat and the sweat flowed.

Then finally at the end of the run, he looked to the ground, full of the satisfaction of working through the pain and noticed the stenciling his sweat had left on his shirt. There it was, that darned mouse from Florida, looking just as it had looked all those years ago.