February 13, 2013

Class of ’92

I look across the table and you stare back at me. Our eyes lock above your corn on the cob captured between those little fork-handles. I never knew anyone who used them, and yet here you are at this picnic and you brought your own. Were we enemies, or friends, so many years ago? It doesn’t seem to matter now; the important part is that we’ve survived.

Does your wife cut your hair? You don’t have to answer, because I can see she buys your clothes. I push some more food into my mouth, without regard for what I put in there. I eat for strength and the endurance to outlast my foes. You seem to sense this as you open a wet-nap packet, cleanse your buttery fingers, and then impale another ear of corn. It becomes clear to me I must focus. Protein is for winners. I stab at the ribs—the ones on my plate. Your time will come later, my unworthy adversary.

When you arrived this afternoon—your wife all a-bristle like a battleship, progeny scampering like salamanders all around your feet—my hopes for a day of food and fun were scraped into the trashcan downwind of our table. Everyone else brought a covered dish to share, but you threw down an open bag of potato chips. Your youngest brat grinned greasily. I wanted to smash you with a croquet mallet until your face resembled a shattered bowl of salsa.

Our wives sit together now, their hair almost interlocked in a cat’s cradle of collusion. They whisper and giggle, pausing only to sling disapproving glares at us. What good to me are your secrets if my own are revealed? I am betrayed. Likewise, I will not permit myself to be cast as the villain in my life’s own play. This ends now.

You unbutton your Hilfiger blue chambray and fold it over a chair. I can see you’ve been working out. I remove my own shirt and toss it on the ground, my pale, jiggly flesh causing onlookers to blink in the reflected sunlight. Your smirk devolves into a snarl, which fades to stark fear and doubt.

Yes, you’ve looked into my eyes again, in which your demise plays out as surely as one of those drunk-driving videos we watched in health class our senior year. Flag football: family-friendly fun, or blood sport of modern gladiators? For the first time in your life, you’re about to understand something.

Moreover, I can win this.

(via my blog)

comments

  1. rick neece on February 14th, 2013 at 1:45 am

    Love this, MGS. I haven’t attended any of the Pokey class reunions, mostly because I only went there my senior year and the folks I came to really know (other than cousins) … well, we don’t talk much now.

    But I did attend Danny’s ten-year with him up in Des Moines (some years ago). One fellow walked up to him, said, you remember me? Danny: Yes, Marcus. You’re the one who used to call me fag, push my books out of my arms and stick my head in the trash can. Marcus: I was afraid you’d remember that.

    Marcus turned out to be okay in my book.

    In that moment I was never more proud of Danny. There’s lots more to be proud of now. (Happy Valentine’s, dear.)

  2. Michael Grant Smith on February 14th, 2013 at 5:50 am

    Thanks, Rick, and thanks for the story of redemption. It’s a fascinating yet elusive theme.

  3. Sheila Ryan on February 14th, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    I’ve never attended a single class reunion. But lately I got in touch with someone from grade school, and I’m pushing for a thoroughly spur-of-the-moment grade school reunion next time I’m in Dallas.

  4. rick neece on February 15th, 2013 at 1:58 am

    A grade school reunion, now that would be interesting. North Park Elementary, circa 1961. Right now, I almost feel like I could name some people in the photo.

  5. Michael Grant Smith on February 15th, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Identify, locate, and defeat them.