Catapult Alumni | Fiction

The Golden Eldorado

               It was about thirty seconds into the first round and not a hell of a lot had happened yet.  Pete and his opponent, some Bum-of-the-Month-Club guy, were testing each other out trying to spot a weakness, but already we sensed that Pete was in control.  Despite it being early in the bout, my […]


            It was about thirty seconds into
the first round and not a hell of a lot had happened yet.  Pete and his opponent, some
Bum-of-the-Month-Club guy, were testing each other out trying to spot a
weakness, but already we sensed that Pete was in control.  Despite it being early in the bout, my
buddies and I knew there would never be any question as to who would triumph in
this cakewalk.  That was when I motioned
to my friends that we should go get some popcorn and come back.  We knew Pete would want to give the people
their money’s worth, so we didn’t have to hurry.  To us, he wasn’t so much of a boxer as he was
an artist.  And since he was such a huge
role model for us, we decided that we wanted to be artists too.  So we went down the center aisle and looked
up at the rows of spectators who were watching Pete with rapt attention as he
danced tauntingly around the periphery of the ring being artistic.  Pete landed a flurry of jab and cross
combinations, stunning the Bum for a few seconds before they both grappled with
each other on the ropes.  Pete got
himself untangled and haughtily toe-walked back into the center with a Mona
Lisa smile on his lips that pressed against his mouth guard.  I looked at my friends, and they looked right
back.  When I gave the proper cue, we
launched into a pleading hyper-falsetto harangue: “STOP THE FIGHT!  STOP THE FIGHT!!  The ref was the first one to be startled, and
he gave us a glare, but we didn’t care. 
He looked like he wanted to scold us, but then remembered that he had to
referee the fight.   

            This moment sparked a great rise
out of the crowd, and we basked in the resulting roar before taking a
collective bow.  Pete basked too.  I mean, it wasn’t as if he really had his
hands full.  The Bum-of-the-Month
cautiously elected to stay out of range as Pete laughed and then paused to blow
kisses to everyone before getting back to the rigorous business that would most
likely result in the Bum being dashed to the canvas.  The crowd responded with an admixture of laughter
and outrage.  I loved the outrage
part.  That was when a female voice
bellowed, “STICK HIM!  STICK HIM! 

            Me and my buddies glanced over at
Section Four Row Three and could see a middle-aged woman urging the Bum
along.  “Ha!” I chortled.  “That’s the Bum’s Mom.”

            “I don’t think Mummy can save him
now,” Jim replied.   

            The lady’s voice erupted again;
this time she was shouting, “KILL HIM! 

            I shrugged my shoulders because I
had a pretty good idea about who was gettin’ killed and so did my pals, so we
continued on our leisurely pace to get to the popcorn stand.  Although it wasn’t exactly in the realm of
ringside seats, the front of the concessions area still offered a decent enough
view of the proceedings, so we didn’t miss much.  By the time we had gotten back to our seats,
Pete had his opponent loopy-footed, doin’ an extravagant back-pedaling tango
step which eventually wound up grazing into the edges of the ropes.  Yes, for a split second there, Pete had him
lookin’ like an Argentine tangora.  I half-expected an accordion to come blarin’
out of the PA system as an accompaniment for the pair of them.  No doubt a certain geriatric sportswriter
named McGonagall would later be sure to lapse into his patented blowhard
doggerel, so he could say things like, “The claret was flowing, the outcome
unknowing.”  I knew Pete adored reading
that awful prose in the Press Herald because something about it spoke to his childhood.  You see, Pete had told me as much.  Oh yeah, it was true — if Pete did well and
won the fight and if he was feeling up to it, he would invite me and my buddies
back to his dressing room afterwards. 
Yeah, really!  Sometimes he would
annoy the local press corps by making them wait while he chatted with us and
sometimes he would make me and my pals wait. 
No matter.  We didn’t mind.  Either way was good with us.  Hell, even Pete’s girl of the moment would
have to wait.  But most of the time, the
girl of the moment kinda sorta knew that waiting around was part of the
deal.  And if by some chance she was
unaware of this karmic fact of life, then she wouldn’t be the girl of the
moment for very long.  That gave me a
shot of pleasure ’cause I liked to see a man who was an absolute monarch in
that often troublesome compartment of life. 
Me and my buddies could seriously comprehend that, unlike the teachers
at school or other supposed role models, Pete was a man who clearly had the
world at his beck and call.  He did
things, and those things had tangible results. 
None of the others could seem to pull that off.  And I found the ineptitudes and shortcomings
of other so-called adults to be an unending source of disappointment.  But Pete was never disappointing.  I cherished the time when, as I was taking a
walk through Deering Oaks, I suddenly spotted him drivin’ his big-finned golden
Eldorado down Forest Avenue.  He stopped
and waved and chatted with me, wanting to know what I was up to.  And I got the feelin’ he really cared about
my life.     

            But I suppose I’m gettin’ off the
beaten track, which is easy since Pete was the kind of guy who had a talent for
causing people to digress.  I’ve often
wondered if that was part of being a good boxer. 

            So back to the bout — the Bum was
digressin’.  He was digressin’ bad.  That was going to be his problem.  He launched into a desperation lunge with a
flying roundhouse right, but Pete gently sidestepped out of harm’s way before
smackin’ the man with a string of uppercuts and left jabs, the effect of which
was to leave the guy staggering back and forth to the outer reaches of the
ring. I could tell that my buddies really got off on the fact that this
particular combination sent a slight mist of blood and saliva out over the
closest ringside seats.  I knew my pal
Jim was gettin’ off on this part since he often spoke about it at school.  On that score, I was less into the visuals
and more into the great sound effects, those reverberating thuds and hissing
sounds that permeated the air with sweat as they teed off on one another.  I honestly thought that the Bum would soon be
lying flat on his back and that would be the end of the festivities.  But then I remembered that this was only near
to the end of the first round and doing that would be far too early for Pete’s
sense of drama.  Like all artists, he
would have to make it interesting.  

            And so it went for seven more
rounds.  The proceedings got me to
wondering about healthy living organisms. 
You see, I’d been studying about organisms at school in my science class
under the supervision of one of the so-called adults, and since I was going to
be tested on them, they weighed heavily on my mind.  I was amazed at how durable living organisms
are.  They were then and still are now.  I guess it was part of evolution, somethin’
else I knew I would be tested on. 
Organisms, even the one that comprised the Bum-of-the-Month, can take
vast amounts of punishment again and again and manage to shake it off.  With varying measures of success, I tried to
wrap my head around this idea because here was the Bum gettin’ his head rapped
around by this guy who, from my adolescent point of view, seemed to have each
and every attribute of an artist.  Yes, I
know I said that already, but I couldn’t help saying it again since Pete seemed
to be touching him up yet again with all the finesse of a Pointillist painter
working on an Impressionist seascape. 
Somehow, I loved the repetition of it. 
You see, Pete wasn’t a “slugger” kind of fighter per se.  I mean, that’s not to say that he never had
it in him.  No, no — Pete was more than
capable of goin’ in that direction.  But
instead, it was almost as if he had opted early on not to go there unless he
absolutely had to.  And tonight I could
tell that he really didn’t need to use that arrow in his quiver.  Rather, he wanted to wear the man down and to
show off his technique.  And the
technique would all be leading up to that singular moment when the organism
suddenly ceased to be durable. 

            Well, in the next rounds, Pete got
down to the serious business of systematically dismantling his opponent.  Throughout the rounds, he’d sundaed him up,
and at first it didn’t seem like much more than a small cut, but eventually the
cut had burgeoned into quite a different laceration, thereby causing the
organism to wear down.  Toward the end of
the eighth was when the technique kicked in and took its final toll.  On the verge of exhaustion, the Bum roved
around the ring with the look of a wounded bull, swinging wildly and missing
most of the time.  Having softened him up
some more with a stiff uppercut, Pete deliberately sidled into a clinch to see
how well the Bum would handle it.  Twisting
his arms to find an opening, Pete let his guard down for a second, and the Bum
managed to score some points with resounding blows to Pete’s abs, but I could
tell that those punches hadn’t done any real damage.  Still, the crowd reacted and let out a murmur
that morphed into a roar.  Pete shook it
off and still kept up his relentless dancing as he cracked another smile and
nodded to his opponent as if to say, “Hey that was good.  I give you credit.”  Then Pete went in and finished him off with a
string of right crosses.  The crowd let
out an even bigger roar, and that was the end of it.  Ever the gentleman, Pete hugged his opponent
as if to acknowledge the sanctity and intimacy of the ritual that had just been

            Later on, back in the dressing
room, Pete was holding court, and like I said, he was annoying the hell out of
the newspaper guys while he focused most of his attention on the questions from
me and my buddies.  Still, one of the
older reporters managed to get a word in edgewise: “Pete, for a second there,
especially in the early going, you guys seemed to be doin’ more wrestling than
boxing.  Was that part of your strategy
or was it some sort of improvisation on your part?”

          “It was an improv of course.  And lemme tell ya somethin’, Mr. McGonagall,
I got no respect for wrestlin’.  Not one
bit.  Wrestlin’s fake drama.  Boxing’s the real McCoy.  None of that pretend violence for me.  As a matter of fact, boxin’ was probably the
first sport.  Perhaps you can print that
’cause my friend here Albert read about it someplace in school.”  Pete rubbed my head with his scarred hand,
and I turned to the reporter to let him know it was true.  And Pete continued, “I can’t believe it
’cause Albert and his friends here are still goin’ to school.  When I was his age, that was two years into
the past already.  As far as I was
concerned, it was ancient history.  But
I’m only kiddin’.  I know he has to go to
school, so he can eventually become a good boxer, an’ if that doesn’t pan out,
then he’ll have a Plan B, so he can become a lawyer.”   

            The sportswriters laughed, and the
old reporter scribbled something in his notepad and said, “That’s what’s so
great about you, Pete.  You’re such a
good example to the kids.”  

            “I suppose it’s ’cause I’m kind of
a kid myself!  Ain’t it so, Jim?”

            My buddy Jim gave him some effusive
praise about how well Pete had kept the show interesting. 

            Mr. McGonagall continued with the
post-fight interview, which was no small accomplishment on his part since
Pete’s attention was directed at me and my buddies.  “So Pete, how come you don’t go in for the
big powerhouse slugfest style of fighting? 
Lots of folks out there are wondering about why that is.  I’m certain, and most fans are fully
convinced, that you could go for that style if you wanted to.”  

           “I don’t do that very often because
I want to give everyone their money’s worth. 
Whenever I can, I like to drag it out. 
My young friend Albert here once told me that it most likely has
something to do with my childhood. 
Ha!  Isn’t it funny how kids are
these days?  Even they fancy themselves as bein’ shrinks.”

            Again, Mr. McGonagall hastily
jotted something down on the notepad.  I
could tell he was already thinking in terms of rhyming couplets.  And knowing him, he would soon be forcing
them with a shoehorn. 

            I leaned forward and volunteered
some information because for some reason I sussed out that Pete wouldn’t
mind.  “It’s true.  Childhood’s got something to do with it.  Pete told me so.” 

            Pete gave a toothy grin as if he
were still biting into his mouthpiece, which was most likely through force of
habit.  “Yeah, I guess I have to ’fess
up.  It might have somethin’ to do with
why I became a fighter.  My Mom pulled a
fast one on me an’ my brother.  You see,
when my brother and I was about four years old, she tol’ me an’ him she was
gonna go ta the store to get us a loaf of bread and maybe some milk too.  Well, she leaves, an’ she’s not back right
away.  I figure, gee, no big deal.  So my brother an’ I wait, an’ we wait, an’ we
wait.  An’ she doesn’t come back that
night.  An’ she doesn’t come back all of
the next day, nor does she come back the day after that.  In fact, she doesn’t come back for
years.  Yeah, it was freakin’ years.  Ha! 
Ha!  Ha!  I didn’t get to see her until I was about
ten.  An’ by that time, I was sorta
wonderin’ if I really an’ truly wanted to ever see her again ’cause I reckoned
she wasn’t worth the trouble.”

            The reporters seemed to be stunned
by this impromptu revelation, but being professional, I got the feeling they’d
probably keep this brazen insight to themselves since the time of this here
story was deep into the furrows of the past, and the divide between the public
and private was still a line that decent people would politely consent to
observe.  So Pete stood up from his chair
and then laid down on the nearby padded table where one of the attendants started
to give him a massage.  This was the sign
that the interview was formally at an end.  

            Just about then, Pete’s girlfriend
came in all out of breath saying, “Pete, I’m so sorry.  I got stuck in traffic and then the car
stalled and wouldn’t start without jumper cables, but I finally got here.  So here I am. 
They told me you really did quite a number on him.”

            Pete glanced at her coldly.  “Yes Carol, I guess you could say that.  Sorry you missed the fun.” 

            Then, since the evening’s
entertainment was fast drawing to a close, Pete made the girlfriend wait for a
real long time before they both got into the golden Eldorado and roared off
into the night.  He’d done it lots of
times before, and this one was no exception.  


            Not long after that, Pete helped me
to get a part time job, no not just any job, but a job playing music.  Well, I just about felt I’d died and gone to
heaven I was so happy.  You see, Pete was
a welterweight and although that meant he would never quite gain the attention
of the great wide world beyond this sleepy seaport town, for many he was a
local hero.  Still, a local hero had to
make ends meet, which meant he had to keep a regular job, and his regular job
was bouncer at the Cosmos Lounge on India Street.  I had always wanted to come and see Pete at the Cosmos, but since I was only
sixteen years old, that was not an option.   

            However, one day when I spotted
Pete driving down Congress Street in the gold-finned Caddy, he pulled over to
the curb, motioned for me to get in, and said, “Albert, you play the drums,
don’t you?”

            “Yeah, sure I do, Pete.  You know that.”

            “The reason I ask is that Leon, the
regular guy at the Cosmos is gonna quit. 
An’ since I know you’re pretty good at that with your own band at
school, you’re the first person I thought of as a replacement.”

            “Pete, you know I’d jump at the
chance in a minute.  Only problem is I’m
way the hell underage.”

            “Aw hell Albert, don’t you know I can fix

            “Really?  How in the world can you make that problem go

            “I can do it ’cause I know the
right people.”

            “The right people?  And who would they be?”

            “Look, I know how they can set you
up with a fake ID to get in.  I can get
you one that’s so good nobody’ll be able tell it from the real thing even when
they’re squintin’ at it from right up close. 
An’ hell, in case you didn’t notice, they just changed the drinking age
in this here state.  How old are you?”


            “Close enough.  An’ ya look old for you age.  Honestly, I don’t know how to say this to ya,
but the gig is yours if ya want it.  But
if ya don’t want it, I suppose that’s a different deal.”

            “Of course I want it.  Can you really get me the fake ID?”

            “Of course again!  Jus’ show up in front of the Lounge tomorrow
after school.” 

            “Gee Pete, I don’t know what it is,
but just bein’ around you, my life gets better and better.”

            “That’s my idea of fun,
Albert.  I wanna keep pilin’ better on
toppa better.  Sorta like the reason I
decided to special order the beautiful thing we’re ridin’ in now, this here
big-ass gilded set of wheels.  Ya see,
people tol’ me an Eldorado was golden ta begin with, so I thought ta myself —
aw shucks, why stop there?  Why not pile
up gold on toppa gold till it’s the best it can possibly be?”  I wanna make it more golden than it already
is.  Why not make it a golden Eldorado?”

            When he said it like that, my ears
got lulled a bit by the way he stretched out the syllables.

            “C’mon Albert, how about I let ya
take her around the block for a spin.  I
think you’ll appreciate her.”

            I couldn’t believe it.  Pete was going to let me drive the golden

            “Are you sure, Pete?  I mean this is your big beautiful car.  Is it really alright?”

            “Aw hell yeah.  It’s only around the block and back.”

            And I got out and went over to the driver’s
side and gave it a spin, and it felt great, and I was so happy for Pete and for
his lettin’ me go around the block and back, and then I got out, and he got
back in the driver’s seat, and I said, “Yeah Pete, I’m lovin’ it.  I never really thought about pilin’ gold upon
gold.  You’ve sussed out all the
angles.  But I gotta be goin’, so I’ll
see you tomorrow at the Lounge.  I’m
lookin’ forward to it.  And don’t let the
Novocain steering catch you unawares.”

            “I sure as hell won’t ’cause we’re gonna
stack gold right on toppa gold.  Don’t
fail me now.”

            “Don’t you worry.  I’ll be there alright.”  

            And I’ll be damned if Pete didn’t
pull it off ’cause the very next day, after having posed for a photo in the
back room of the Cosmos that was stacked with banks of beer cans, I managed to
score the highly coveted counterfeit ID. 
As a matter of fact, as I stared at it and compared it to the real
thing, that is, one that belonged to Pete, I thought it was better printing
quality than the genuine article.  It
even had a shiny little carrying case. 
Damned if that wasn’t golden too.   

            And so began my first stint as a
musician.  Each night I played at the
Cosmos was absolute bliss.  Me and the
house band got to do cover tunes of everyone from Tom Jones to Jimi Hendrix to
the Rolling Stones.  Frank, a British
chap who was the bandleader, also saw fit to throw in a few of the more obscure
Chicago blues tunes as a change of pace now and then.  On the first gig, Pete pulled me aside and
gave me some very astute advice on how to handle things in the event that
trouble started.  He indicated that since
this was obviously a drinking establishment which catered to some of the more
ruffian elements who frequented the waterfront area, sooner or later trouble
would be certain to rear its ugly head. 
Accordingly, if a fight broke out, he and the other bouncers would
handle the offenders, but if a ruckus occurred in the middle of a song, I,
being the drummer, should just keep playing a steady four/four time for at
least as long as the punch-up was happening. 
I should especially do this in those dicey situations when the guitar
and bass dropped out.  The purpose of
this, he explained, was to draw attention away from the violence and more to
the entertainment end of things.  In
short, I was to drive people to distraction. 
I gave this notion some thought and decided that it made absolute
perfect sense.   

            Weeks went by and there was no occasion
for me to do what he’d told me to do. 
Then one night before the first set began, Carol, Pete’s girl of the
moment, showed up very early and wanted to chat.  Being a good red-blooded American
sixteen-year-old, I was in total awe of the righteous eminence of her womanly
infrastructure.  She made my eyes hurt,
but it was a good hurt because I couldn’t make up my mind whether this organism
was an angel or something more meretricious. 
For a fleeting second, I wondered what my science teacher would have said
about that because the young lady standing before me was dressed in a
minimalist outfit: a black mini with fishnet stockings beautifully
complementing her mauve flounced blouse and candy-cane makeup that highlighted
her porcelain face.  In addition, there
was a bow and some ruffles.  I was such a
sucker for bows.  Still am.  I was particularly struck by the splendor of
certain aspects of the topography that came damned close for serving as a
possible shelf for a Budweiser Tall Boy. 
In her own way, she was the human version of a golden Eldorado.  I immediately thought about how lucky Pete
was.  For a second, I had a feeling that
bordered on the edge of jealousy, but not for long because Pete was my friend
for life and besides, despite the multitude of pulchritude that she had to
offer for my adolescent eyes, there was an unsavory vibe about her which made
me get real darned suspicious.  Well, she
chatted me up, asking lots of nosey questions about Pete. 

            “C’mon, Albert.  I know you and Pete are good friends.  Tell me something about him.  I wanna know about each and every dark niche
and chasm.”

            “Well, Carol.  How would I know?  I’m just a friend.  I really don’t know nothin’.”

            “Albert, everyone has dark niches
and chasms, but in case you don’t know it, this is especially true about boxers.”

            I got the feeling she wanted me to
blurt out something she could use in the game of love.  Ah, but I was too savvy for that clever ruse,
despite being only sixteen years old.  Of
course, she tried a few timeworn tactics like dropping thinly veiled hints and
open-ended time bomb enquiries.

            “What happens in the average day in
the life of Pete Desmond?”

            I played as dumb as dumb could be
and even threw in a little naiveté for good measure.  Then seeing that her strategy was a dead end,
she elected to try a more circuitous tack, which was to tell me some things
about herself.  I could tell she adopted
this plan in the hopes that I would inadvertently let slip something about
Pete’s life which had occurred away from her. 
Clearly, she had pretensions that I could be her eyes and ears.  However, much to her deep chagrin, it didn’t
work out that way for her because, as she had more and more drinks, she
revealed too much about herself. 

            “Lemme tell you a little somethin’
about myself.”

            “Nah Carol, you really don’t need
to tell me.”

            “So, maybe I don’t need to, but
that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t volunteer. 
Hey, I mean, I’m only tellin’ ya ’cause I want to.”

            God, she was beautiful. But I still
didn’t wanna hear.

            “Albert, my biggest secret is that
I love to be around dangerous men.  And Pete
is pretty high up on the Danger Scale because he’s so good with his fists.”

            “Uh huh.  I suppose that might be attractive to some

            Since I didn’t have to play drums
for at least another forty-five minutes, which was when the first set started,
I kept leading her on with feigned interest while I chugged some more from my
fifth underage beer.  I made a mental
note that she couldn’t keep up with the drinking thing because my dad had
trained me well.  I recalled that it was
lots of fun when so-called adults couldn’t compete with me.  It really was a blast watching them spin
their wheels and stutter and stall.  I
made another mental note that this ravishing organism sitting at the table before
me was yet another “so-called adult.” 
However, given the arc of her manipulating chat, I thanked God that I
had five more years to go.  As she
blabbed away in a confidential tone, I soon discovered more about her other
life.  Well, the young lady delved more
deeply into the subject of why she enjoyed the company of dangerous men.  She let on that two weeks prior to this, a
gangster guy named Gene, whom she had previously known only as an acquaintance,
had asked her if she wanted to help him move a load of stolen seafood off from
a hijacked delivery truck, and she had said yes.  I adored the way she described the whole
operation and her participation in the heist. 
With all the amplified drama of an opera singer presenting an aria, her
voice wavered and trilled as she reveled in the sheer illegality of the
caper.  I got the distinct vibe that
Carol was making some sort of comparison-shopping for decision-making purposes,
but my mind raced as I tried to reassure myself that this sleazy Gene guy was
just some passing tone in her existence, a spasm of bad harmony, and that I
shouldn’t be unduly nervous about the whole situation. 

            Next, she started in on Pete’s
faults, the chief one being his penchant for making her wait around for him.  “Albert, my time is valuable, and Pete is
drivin’ me crazy with this waitin’ around thing of his.  I can’t stand bein’ at his beck and
call.  It’s the most frustrating part of our

            “But Carol, I don’t think you
should worry.  Pete loves you .  And if he wanted to, he could be rough on you,
but he isn’t that way, so maybe you should let this minor foible pass since it’s
probably from one of the niches and chasms that you told me about.  I mean, it’s nothin’ to get all hot and
bothered about.”

            She fumbled for words, and I
silently congratulated myself on how well I’d totally figured her out.  Leaning back in my chair, the flush of
triumph enveloped me, spreading convulsively into my hands and feet like a
giddy osmosis, and I knew the upcoming music would, in its own special way, be
saying Amen to what I’d discovered about life. 
I became aware that people were looking at me because I was definitely
having trouble trying to sit still.  I
pretended for a second that I was in my science class, which helped me to calm

            Then the rest of the band arrived,
and I got behind the big orange sparkle drum kit, and we kicked off the first
set.  We were in the middle of the first
chorus when I thought about the situation. 
Should I tell Pete about Gene? 
One minute I said yes as I smacked the snare drum during the second
verse, but then during the next chorus, I said no.  By the time we’d reached the bridge of the
tune, I was flip-flopping back to the original option like the tremolo whammy
bar was doing right that second over on Frank’s white Fender Strat.  By the end of the song, I didn’t know what in
the world to do.  Ultimately, I decided I
should hold onto the info for a bit and tell Pete only when the moment was

            For the most part, the remainder of
the first set went well both musically and socially.  Some of the sailors fresh off from one of the
oil tankers just in from Liberia got up and danced with the local girls.  I could hear different versions of patois
Canadian and African French being spoken. 
Not long thereafter, the Coast Guard and lobster boat guys got out onto
the floor with their ladies, and this mixed bag of people all danced to our
spectacular rendition of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” 
A tipsy woman twirled dervish-like from the outstretched hand of her
gyrating man and yelled out, “This is the part where you’re supposed to throw
me over your shoulder, Baby!”  And he
did.  It was so much fun to see that fun
was being had by all, and that I was having something to do with it.  The music held me in its grip, making me firmly
believe that the act of feeling in and of itself would be more than enough to
bring goodness and light into the world. 
If music were capable of this, then I pondered what grandeur that dreams
could achieve, provided of course I could remember them in the morning, and
lately that had been too much to ask. 
Perhaps the music would also cause even that to change for the
better?  In the meantime, I could savor
the beauty of what was happening now because I immediately remembered Pete’s
big speech about the necessity of piling gold on top of gold.  Obviously, this gilded atmosphere was exactly
what he had in mind.         

            However, this beauty didn’t last
because during the second set, the fun just up and flew away.  Harsh words were spoken, and a
strange-looking man with a fedora hat just off to my left threw a beer bottle
at one of the sailors.  The bottle
crashed into a chair, spewing glass onto the floor directly in front of a
sailor who was the object of his wrath. 
The man with the fedora yelled some obscenities.  I could see that some of the glass had cut
the sailor who was now bracing himself for a fight.  At this point, Pete intervened and pummeled
the man with the fedora.  Naturally, I
did exactly what Pete had told me to do — I kept drumming right on through
the fight while Pete knocked the bottle thrower out cold.  Frank, being a Brit, leaned over my ride
cymbal and whispered, “What a bloody tosser!” 
Two of the other bouncers on staff took turns on the tosser as
well.  Then they picked him up, rammed
the hat down over his eyes, and pulled him out the door.  Pete later told me they dumped him in front
of the police station, so he’d have time to think about what he’d done once
he’d sobered up and come to.  As we
launched into the next song, I noticed that Carol looked very uneasy after all
of this had transpired.  I was a bit
startled when she left the club in such a big hurry.

            Well, I finished the gig, packed up
the gear and safely stowed it in the corner right off the left edge of the
stage.  Saying goodnight to the band, I
got into my trusty Plymouth Valiant and drove home.  The red vinyl seats made me feel protected as
my mind replayed the events of the night. 
That was good because I quickly fell asleep as soon as I hit the
mattress and proceeded to have a stunningly beautiful dream.  In the dream, I was walking through the city,
only I was totally alone.  The people had
up and left the premises as if to surrender them to future archaeologists who
were patiently waiting for the dream to run its course, so excavations could
begin in earnest.  I walked several times
throughout the area of the waterfront and was mystified by the emptiness that
greeted my eye.  There was no one for
miles around although the confident residue of civilization was
everywhere.  Upon turning a corner, I saw
Pete’s golden Eldorado parked a few yards from the door of the Cosmos
Lounge.  Apparently, he had left it there
to do an errand, but like I said, there wasn’t a soul in sight — with one

            I was surprised to see that Carol
came out from the Cosmos.  She was
dressed even more beautifully than she had been earlier in the evening.  Only this time, it wasn’t evening.  In fact, the sun beat down and reflected off
from the hood of the golden Eldorado, giving a gaudy shimmer to the surrounding
buildings and trees.  Carol came up and
threw her arms around me, tugging at my sleeve and pulling me over to the car.  She gave me a huge kiss with her vamping
tongue burrowing deeply into my head. 
Then she slowly laid back onto the hood of the golden Eldorado,
snuggling and pulling me on top of her, so that I suddenly found myself
straddling her as I looked into her beckoning smile.  My gaze shifted downward, and I saw her
lovely feet curled against the grillwork. 
It suddenly dawned on me that they might be the most innocent things
about her.  Perhaps I could rescue them
from the rest of her?  I would certainly
try.  But since this was a dream, her
feet didn’t have to play by the conventional rules of reality, so rapidly they
deliquesced into the grill itself, and for a moment I thought she was going to
become a gigantic ornament for the car, and I made a note to myself that this
was rather strange; however, a second later it didn’t seem odd in the least
since the scenery had taken this opportunity to blend into a bizarre glow, and
if scenery were allowed to do that, then why couldn’t a woman melt into an

            She never said anything, preferring
to let her smile be the focus of attention. 
Then she hovered above me to step on my shoulders and face.  The tempo shuffled as she drew me into her
world, prompting me to consider the vast array of things that could be done on
the hood of a car.  And she whispered,
and everything felt great, and she whispered again, and things felt better
still, and I hoped this feeling would never go away, and what was I thinking
because syncopated situations slammed up against me, and then I was thinking
about Pete and how he was a friend of mine and how being a friend and having a
friend were maybe the most important things in the whole wide world and how I
would never want to do anything to hurt him and how I kept saying this over and
over, so that the thinking might replace the onslaught of feeling I was
drowning in, and why couldn’t I approach this stuff a bit more reasonably, and
then I was inside of her, and she was moving ecstatically to the music that me
and the band had been playing earlier, and suddenly I exploded, and then I was
awake and awash in sweat, and I looked out the window, so I could hear the
hooting owls of the early morning, and it was over. 


            In the following days, my efforts
to put these occurrences out of my mind met with limited success.  The unsavory character in the fedora hat —
that guy I could banish far off to the periphery.  Such a low-life swine was a piece of cake as
far as that was concerned.  But the dream
was quite another story.  It kept staying
with me, hogging huge expanses of my memory, brusquely intruding even into my
science class when on more than one occasion, my teacher interrupted my stultifying
reveries to ask me exactly what in the hell was going on, and my subsequent
answer became nothing more than an agog staccato stutter that ironically
mimicked some of my manic open rolls on the snare of the orange sparkle drum
kit.  The class erupted in giant waves of
laughter, and I cringed in embarrassment. 
The nagging dream made me so sad with myself.  I wished I could be someone else.  And what someone else was the closest to
me?  Why that would have been Pete.  Yes, I had to go and see Pete box again, so I
could get me out of myself. 

            In fact, Pete had another prize
fight coming up, and my attention soon focused on his upcoming bout.  On this go-round, my usual school buddies
wouldn’t be able to make it.  It seemed
they had too much homework to do.  And
anyway, I was fast moving away from them to find new buddies.  Of course, one of them was Frank, the British
bloke who played guitar in the house band at the Cosmos Lounge.  So Frank and I went to the fight together,
and it was yet another sterling performance by Pete.  This new adversary gave him a bit more
trouble than the previous one, but from the get-go I could still see that Pete
had the upper hand.  As I watched him go
to work on his opponent, time slowed down for my exclusive appreciation.  I felt that I had been sucked into the ring
by some mysterious force.  I became Pete and concentrated on the car
and the mermaid who resided there.  With
each punch, magic flowed from the dull thuds of uppercut and body blow
combinations, and there was a deepening awareness that some sort of alchemy was
taking place.  I blinked my eyes for a
second and then glared at my foe — rippling patinas of gold hurtled across my
senses imbuing objects and living things with the authority of violent rapture,
and the world opened itself like a compliant altar and lay before me.  I could never lose because Pete was on my
side and music was on my side, and as soon as this fight was over, I would be
sure to tell him all about Carol’s duplicity. 
This would be so good because in that moment, I would have rescued him
from something, even if it would be hard to say exactly what it was.  Then Pete would go to town on the man in the
fedora, giving him a dusting he would never forget, and life would be better for
Pete and for me, and he could find another girl-of-the-moment, so we could both
pile gold on top of gold.  And maybe, if
I was really good, from time to time, he might share her with me.  Just to emphasize that point, I landed a
right cross to the opponent’s exposed jaw, and he reeled backwards into the


            One of the showboat aspects that
the promoters had devised for this bout was to have beautiful women in string
bikinis come out between each round to sashay and strut around the ring with
placards announcing the number of the next round.  Of course, nowadays such show biz stuff is
par for the course, but back then it was totally fresh, and that night people
loved this new wrinkle.  I could see Pete
liked the idea too.  He liked it so much
that after the Sixth Round, as the latest beautiful young lady started to
parade provocatively around the ring, instead of retreating to his corner to
have his seconds and trainers attend to his face, he remained near the center
of the ring and grabbed the placard out of her hands.  Then he proceeded to hop, skip, and prance
around the ring with the placard announcing the upcoming round.  This was a surefire crowd pleaser.  The young lady looked out into the crowd and
shrugged her shoulders as she gave the people out there a wide grin.  The laughter continued well into the start of
Round Seven, which of course had a disconcerting effect on Pete’s
opponent.  Round Seven was when things
deteriorated for the opponent.  Pete
closed in and whaled away on him and was just about to knock him out when the
bell ended the round.  While Pete went to
his corner, another pretty ring girl came out with a different placard to
announce Round Eight.  To my utter
surprise as well as Pete’s, the new ring girl was none other than the beautiful
Carol.  This time she was wearing a
leopard dot bathing suit, and she also flashed a demonic smile.  Only me and a few others knew who she was,
but I could tell that Pete was seriously spooked.  I was close enough to the ring to read her
lips which said, “Well Pete, you won’t keep me waiting around this time, you
pathetic loser!”  Pete went to his corner
faster than I’d ever seen him go.  But
despite being more than a little unnerved, in the next round Pete, truly
enraged by her transgression, really went to town on his opponent.  He was pummeling him in nearly the same way
that he had pummeled the man at the Cosmos Lounge.  Finally, here was that slugfest style that
the sportswriters had asked about.  And
the slugging seemed to go on and on and Pete’s opponent was staggering, and his
brain was sloshin’ inside his head, and I couldn’t quite believe that the
lurching man hadn’t fallen down yet because he seemed to take far too many
stinging shots, when suddenly, I could see Pete’s left shoulder give way,
wobble, and separate as he followed through on a punch.  Pete crumpled to the canvas and writhed in
pain.  His opponent continued to stagger
for a few more seconds until he found his bearings and stood stock still with
glazed eyes.  The ref grabbed his gloves
and ended the fight as doctors and seconds scrambled into the ring to attend to
the injured fighters.        I tried
unsuccessfully to get back to see Pete, but they had packed him off to the
hospital to have his shoulder looked at. 
Frank and I walked out of the arena, and I found myself in a fog as I
second-guessed all of the feelings and thoughts that had been rushing through
my head in the last few weeks.   


            Pete was never the same after
that.  Old Man McGonagall wrote some bad
poetry about him trying to jumpstart his career.  This is not to say that there were no more
fights left in him.  No, he still
continued, but only as a faded facsimile of his former glory.  Other dangers previously lurking on the
periphery of his life suddenly took center stage.  The worst of these was the fact that the man
he’d badly beaten up at the Cosmos Lounge was the very same Gene, the gangster
whom Carol had so dutifully helped with the truck full of stolen seafood.  Then it came out that Pete had owed money to
the very same Mob organization which Gene belonged to.  Apparently, Gene was a man who could nurse a
grudge, and Pete, sensing that the gangsters were closing in, suddenly
disappeared.  Looking everywhere, I tried
to find him, but my best friend had completely slipped off the radar.  Eventually, I gave up, and Pete existed only
as a fading memory and a haunting inspiration. 
Much later, I was reading a copy of the Press Herald when I came across
a story about him.  It seemed that he’d
retreated to the boondocks of a certain northeastern state, and under an
assumed name had found work as a dishwasher in a series of greasy spoon diners
serving workers in the logging and paper industries.  After a few years of doing this, he had been found
dead in the big-finned golden Eldorado.