We looked out from the booth and hoped our friends would show up before the sun went down. We had a payphone. Back then cell phones were worn on your back like a day pack.
First call was home but my older brother was working construction somewhere. The twins were in the armed forces. We didn’t call Mac’s older brothers because his brothers weren’t like mine. I had proved that over a dish of ravioli’s.
I knew Joe would be alright once I saw his head roll and eyes roll around. I knew he was at least alive. I also knew in that instant I had changed things, disrupted Joe’s Place and elevated my own among my group, the kids in High School and the mechanics at work. I had protected my cousin by knocking out a bully
A mad looking mechanic, a biker type who hardly ever said a word to me saw the whole fight and wanted me to tell the tale seconds after it happened. The mechanics and the manager smiled and listened to me tell what happened. We all finally agreed that more guys would show up later.
Pumped up by me the young lanky guy brawling it out, the mechanics gathered their biggest crowbars and handles. They waited by Mac and my side an hour after they were off the clock.
A half hour in to the mechanics free time a big 4×4 truck screeches into the gas station packed with angry kids with weapons. The mechanics grabbed their weapons and prepared to confront and scare away the angry group that had come to fight Mac and me. Mac and I were told to stay in the booth.
One guy I had never seen before stood out from the rest of the group. He was big, blonde and looked like the extreme version of Joe. He stood behind the wall of kids, confronting the mechanics with finger pointing and gestures toward the booth. I watched like a goldfish from out of my bowl.
I had no chance against this guy and if I was to confront him my time had to be then before the mechanics left and this big blonde Kong came back. Our friends had not gathered. They were either playing handball at the school or smoking pot somewhere in the last of the woods.
I handed the pipe back to Mac and walked out to meet the gathering.
There was no pop in my neck this time. There were no long strides. I walked with a slow swagger. I smiled and came out of the booth like I was the Grand Poobah. My courage had grown in a few short hours. I walked out with a childish joy, a cocky grin and my best bluff I could come up with.
The mechanics couldn’t turn from the wall of foes and had no choice but to watch me walk up from behind them. I had no weapon in my hand and I was tossing M and M’s into my mouth. I squared up to blonde Kong from behind the mechanics.
“Tell ya what. The mechanics are gone in a half hour, come back then and I’ll put you in the hospital like your buddy”.
I walked back to the booth with knees knocking.
They went home.
Later that night they jumped Mac, about a block from his house and just a few minutes after we split up. Their numbers were down to three with out blonde Kong. Mac tricked one of them into chasing him around a corner. A pipe to the body sent yet another one off to the doctors. Mac was left without a scratch but Joe had to show up to school with a broken collar bone, a yellow bruised face and a patch still on his skull from the stitches.
A week after the fight I saw Joe at the 7 11. He pulled up in a car as I came up around the corner, on my ten speed bike. I put the kickstand down peered through the windshield at the driver, Blonde Kong, only to be greeted by Joe apologizing to me. His able hand reached out for a handshake no more than waist high. I tried not to shake his hand too hard. I had broken my collar bone before I knew the pain he was feeling. I could see his wounds and he was man enough to confront me with regret. I told him I was sorry too. I held the door open for Joe, went inside and bought a Big Gulp. We never spoke again.