Small towns never mean small minds, but grudges do linger and grow. I grew up with Jeremy. His mind was always working and making big plans. They usually got us into big trouble. My parents would take me to task. Jeremy’s parents just shrugged their shoulders and it was back to business as usual for him. It’s not like we robbed banks or anything at an early age, it was just little stuff like stealing cigarettes from parents so we could pedal out into the woods and smoke. Or, like when we found hidden Easter candy and gobbled it all up. We weren’t mean or anything . . . we just didn’t think things through to the logical conclusion that we would end up being punished in some way or not. But it really just comes down to the last shenanigan that Jeremy came up with . . . before he left town. We were a little older by then.
We were out looking at used cars for sale along South Tacoma Way. Between Tacoma and Lakewood it seemed as if there were hundreds of car lots, but that was to the untrained eye. We knew where the best deals were. We had already looked around two of our favorite places and then stopped in at Happy Dave’s Used Cars just a block or two from the headquarters of Roman Meal Bread.
As I went from car to car looking at the prices, and sitting in them to check out my comfort level I noticed that Jeremy was just standing and looking slightly up towards the sky. I stopped car hopping and walked back to Jeremy. He wasn’t just looking up at the clouds he was looking at the new eye-catcher Happy Dave was using to attract customers off the street and into his car lot. Strung on a wire between balloons were images of Happy Dave. They were drawn images, possibly by Dave’s young daughter, on white card stock and then cut all around the face. The excess was trimmed to just show the face and hair. If you drilled a little hole in each earlobe and connected them from behind with string, you could easily make a mask to wear at Halloween time as Happy Dave. So, what we saw was about three dozen images of Happy Dave fluttering in the wind. I raised and waved my empty hands in front of his eyes to distract Jeremy’s reverie and said, “What are we doing?” His response was “Planning a little revenge.” I shook my head back and forth and mumbled, “Nononononononono.”
Back in my dad’s car I drove Jeremy to his place. I knew who he wanted to deliver a little come-upance to. “I’m out,” I said. I wanted no part of it, but knew I would somehow be sucked in. This was March and graduation was only a few months away. Jeremy had been completely quiet during the ride back. I stopped at his drive-way and he hopped out of the car. He looked back at me and wagged his head back and forth and said, “No problemo.”
Nothing really changed about our daily habits. We joked around like always, but I could see his mind working. I knew something was coming and then the thought struck me. April Fool’s Day. I had nothing to go on of course, but we were so tuned into each other I could almost see the cogs in his head turning. I thought to myself, “Keep it clean, keep it legal, and keep me out of it, Jeremy.” He did.
The 31st of March was the last time I saw Jeremy. He took off and left town. I got a postcard from Hawaii, with no return address, so I hope he has been successful. His parents got divorced and both left a year or so after Jeremy. It’s too bad Jeremy never knew about what happened after he set up his revenge.
Apparently Jeremy made a number of flat face masks like Happy Dave’s. His target was Mr X, an middle-aged, well thought of man about town, who most people didn’t like if they really knew him. He took credit for things he didn’t do and blamed people for his own screw ups. His wife had already left him. Jeremy and Mr X had a history. Jeremy and I had mowed Mr X’s huge back yard several times and were paid less than agreed upon . . . and no tip. He always found a reason to complain. I roll with the punches. Jeremy didn’t. Mr X went to a fund-raising function on April Fools Day eve and didn’t get back home until well after mid-night. He was known to drink a bit too much. Mr X made it all the way to his bedroom, which looked out onto the beautiful fountain in the backyard that many times had dish washing soap poured into the water creating mountains of suds. So far, no one had ever come clean about the suds.
As Mr X entered the bedroom a motion detector light went off just outside the window, but lighting up the room. The flash back-lit eight or nine Happy Dave face masks. Someone said one looked like me. Mr X responded by pulling out a revolver and firing at the Happy Dave people. He was actually a pretty good shot. Consensus is that the bullet went through his own likeness and wounded a Fort Lewis soldier who was throwing stuff in the back of his station wagon. The stuff had come straight from Mr X’s basement. His buddy threw up his hands as Mr X fainted (this is not official). Soon sheriff deputies arrived and arrested the two soldiers, slapped Mr X awake and sober and then called for an ambulance.
The deputies never saw the Happy Dave masks, the local news made Mr X a hero. A month later he died of a heart attack. His wife returned smiling, and sometimes laughing, for the funeral, which was held in the back yard by the fountain (no suds). About a hundred people gathered to show their respects for Mr X. Some of those who gathered saw the Happy Dave masks and had no idea why they were taped to the bedroom windows.
I’m hoping that Jeremy will eventually return. I miss him. Perhaps he’ll come back for our 25th reunion at Clover Park.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.