There was a spot for Keaton’s truck right in front of the address he got for the dude who hit Travis’ parked car, and, sure enough, parked in the driveway was a Toyota minus its front bumper. The house had a low gate around the front yard, but Keaton hopped it. I followed. Travis hung back, maybe because he can’t hop fences, and maybe because this wasn’t the kind of thing he was used to getting involved in.
By the time I caught up with Keaton, he was already pounding on the front door.
A Mexican dude came to open it. He was way shorter than Keaton, and wearing a tank top, basketball shorts that were too big on him and flip-flops. He had a ball cap on worn what I think of as ghetto style – with the brim left flat like it comes from the factory instead of bent like you do when you’re a ball player. I put him at 5’7” and 200…he was short but hefty and had some big uglyass tattoos.
“That your car, man?,” Keaton asked. The guy looked at him. “Oye, muchachito…es tu carro?,”
“Who wants to know?”
The next thing the dude knew he had his back up against the wall and Keaton’s forearm across his throat.
“I’m gonna ask once more, fucker.”
“Yeah…it’s…my…car.” Keaton was leaving him enough air to talk, but only just enough.
“Were you driving it last night at 1:20?”
The guy suddenly realized what was going on. And he looked even more scared than he did when Keaton first got him up against the wall.
“You fucked up my buddy’s car and then you ran like the piece of wetback trash you are. You got insurance to cover it?”
“Yes or no?”
“No,” the dude said.
The next thing any of us knew the dude was on the ground.
I think he said some kind of cuss word in Spanish and tried to get up. Keaton helped haul him up.
“You got money to pay for the damage?”
“No,” the dude said.
He was on the ground again.
“I’m…gonna…call…,” the dude gasped.
“The cops?,” Keaton said, looking down at him. “Go ahead. Have a good time in jail for leaving the scene of an accident. Unless they deport your ass. If you had a brain, which you obviously don’t, you’d realize you’re getting off pretty easy.” He turned to look where Travis was standing. “You want a swing at him?”
“Um…no…I’m good,” said Travis.
Keaton turned back to the dude, who was trying to get up to his knees.
“Do yourself a favor, fuckwad, and don’t try and get up…or the next time you wake up it’s gonna be in the hospital…and I bet you ain’t got insurance for that, either.”
The dude lay back down again.
“That’s the first smart thing you’ve done. You gonna tell my buddy you’re sorry?”
“Sorry about what?”
“About hitting your car…and” – he looked up at Keaton – “about leaving the scene. I…should have…left a note.”
“You hear that?,” Keaton called to Travis, who nodded. “You satisfied?” Travis nodded again. “Let’s get outta here, then. My fist smells like wetback.”
So me and Keaton hopped the fence again and the three of us got back in the truck.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Travis said. “But I’m kinda glad you did.”
“Anything for a buddy,” Keaton said.
“Where’d you learn to kick a guy’s ass like that?”
“That was nothing,” I said. “I’ve seen him bust a dude’s nose, knock him out…and then take him to the ER.”
“You learn all that from that guy you were taking boxing lessons with? What’s his name? El Leon?”
“El Tigre,” said Keaton with a smile. “No. My dad taught me. He boxed Golden Gloves and told me he was gonna kick my ass if I ever lost a fight at school. So I did that exactly once.”
“Wow…talk about tough love.”
“Anywhere around here we can go hang out?,” Keaton then asked.
“We can alwas go home.”
“Home?,” I asked.
“Where I’m staying, I mean. It feells like home. I’ve been there long enough.”
So that’s where we went and we hung out with Travis for another half hour. He’s bounced back from his fuck up with that Lola chick, and they’re starting to talk about where he’s gonna go next, since he can’t stay there forever. Everyone wants for him to get his own apartment somewhere and thinks that he’ll be safe on his own. They don’t want to send him back to his parents’, which makes sense to me. I don’t know if there’s anything really wrong with his parents, but he certainly doesn’t have good memories of two summers ago when he was in his parents house, and, besides, he’s old enough to be out on his own. It’s not good to stick around home too much longer after you’re 18, even if it just means going away to college. And y’all know what a fucked up mess it was when I moved home after my season in Hickory.
“He’s looking pretty good,” I said to Keaton, once we were back in the truck and driving back up to Pasadena. “Think he’s gonna be okay when he moves out on his own?”
“Sure,” said Keaton. “He’s tougher than he wants us to think he is.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s giving himself some room to fuck up again, just in case he needs it. But what he said about his meds working was great news. That’s a big piece of the battle with bipolar disorder.”
“It seems like shit keeps happening to him, though. It really does suck about his car,” I said. “It’s taught me something, though: I’m calling and getting the full coverage back on the shitbox this afternoon.”
“Yeah, I reckon it makes sense,” Keaton said, “although you can also figure that, what you save on insurance, you’ll end up paying in repairs once something happens. There’s no real way to win. Although,” he said with a smile, “I reckon we won this afternoon.”
“You liked taking that jerkoff out, didn’t you?”
“Fuck yeah,” he said. “I’m not getting nearly enough exercise.”
“The bars are opening up this weekend, aren’t they?,” I said. “Are you gonna go back to the Volcano?”
“I’d like to, although the money from Amazon is a lot better. Even if it means I’m working for a totally fucked up evil corporation. I’m not sure I want to work two jobs, although helping out on weekends might be cool. I talked to the owner last week, and he definitely wants me back, at least to train replacements, since Miguel’s moved out of LA and won’t be coming back. He and his girlfriend just couldn’t afford it any longer.”
“They’re reopening at what? 25%?”
“Yeah, to start. There probably won’t be a whole lot of trouble with a small crowd like that…”
“…unless people have been saving up trouble for a year.”
“Good point,” Keaton said. “I told them I’d work the first Friday and Saturday they’re open again…which looks like this week. You wanna stop by? They’ll let you out, right?”
“I reckon so,” I said. “I’m allowed to spend the night at Joyce’s a couple times a week, so I’m sure I can go out after the boys are asleep.”
“Then call some of the guys. I’ll make sure y’all count towards the 25%, alhtough numbers like that are total bullshit. It’ll be fun. We can go see Alicia after closing…if she’s still here. It might be just like old normal times.”
“Wouldn’t that be awesome,” I said, texting Sloppy Joe to find out if his girlfirend would let him loose for a guys’ night out.
It’s been way too long since we’ve had one of those.