My Mind

My Mind
This is my mind

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hands up! Dirtbag

We sat at the Patio eating the famous hamburger that was the size of a 45 record. The summer of '66 was winding down. C of C would commence again in a few days for my third year.
"Whatcha been doing Clyde?"
"Same old stuff," Clyde said. "You know Charleston. Not a whole lot to do."
"The Patio is the same. It won't ever change. Still the best burgers in town."
"How was your trip?"
"It was great! I never had so much fun."
"That's a long time on a boat. Think I'da gone stir crazy for seven days on a boat on the Atlantic." Clyde made a face tilting his glass of coke and Calverts.
"No, it wasn't," I said. "On the way back I slept through a hurricane."
"On the ocean? Wouldn't that thing have heaved around? I can't imagine seeing waves higher than the ship. You'da been bobbin' like a cork in the mill pond during a heavy wind. Not me. Uh uh."
"Well, I don't remember it. I slept through it. Guess all those hurricanes we rode through made me immune to the roughness."
"Don't think it's the same but if you want to think so..." Clyde looked at me like I'd eaten a bug.
"Anyway, that was on the way back. Going over there was lots to do. The booze was poured like it wasn't yours in the evening. They had lots of activities during the day. All the passengers were my age so it was great."
"So what did you and the rest of the drunks do?"
"I took a drawing class."
"Whoopee," he said.
"I tweeked the instructor's mind a bit."
"He had models..."
"Nude models?" he smiled.
"No, clothed models."
"What did you do? Draw them without clothes?"
"No, I just drew them in a reversed pose. When the guy came over to check my drawing he looked at it, then the model and back again to my drawing."
"Thought you were crazy, huh?"
"He just looked perplexed. I asked him what's wrong. He just asked, "Is that the way you see her?' My answer was, 'yes. Why is there something wrong?'"
"Um," he said. "You have her opposite to how she is actually sitting."
"Huh? I do? That's how I see her. I don't know what you mean."
The look on his face was priceless. I sat in on his classes a few more times. Each time I'd draw the model reversed. He said he had never seen this in his life. I just told him, "It's how I see her." He began to ignore me so I stopped going. The joke was stale.
"So that's all you did?" Clyde was getting bored with my story.
'No there was lots more, but the best time was in England with the other half of my family. Every day was exciting. England won the World Cup while I was there. Everybody was dancing in the street til the early hours. All my cousins were the best. There was always something going on. It wasn't boring like this, sitting in a car at the Patio drinking beer, eatin' a hamburger."
I could tell I was getting to Clyde. His mood began to change.
I went on and on about the thrilling times I had with my English cousins at Margate and Ramsgate, my trip to London and the castles. My roaming the streets of Dover, my grandparents house on Dour Street. On and on and on until...
"Wow! That sounds so great, so exciting. You think this is boring? Sitting at the Patio? This has been the most excitement you had growing up in this podunk town. Your first beer. Your first real drunk. This is where you got the scars on your arm and you think it's all boring now?"
"Uh, yeah, I do."
"So you want excitement? You want real excitement?"
"Yeah, I do but I don't think anything you can show me here can match the night we won the World Cup..."
"So you want excitement." I nodded my head yes about to bring up another English tale but he moved in my direction his face angry. I dodged his movement. The glove box dropped open from his smacking the dashboard. He reached in grabbing his Beretta, his constant companion. I crouched down in my seat.
'So you want excitement?" he repeated. "I'll give you exciitement," he smiled that drunk smile edged with danger. It was a look I had become familiar with over the years. It always came when that one drink over his limit was reached.
"No! That's OK! I've had enough excitement for one night. Let's head home!"
"Hell, no! You want excitement. I'm going to give you excitement." He sat up and eased his left hand out the window pointing the gun at the brand new Kentucky Fried Chicken across the fence from the Patio. BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! He emptied the clip into the sign above the KFC. And just as relaxed leaned back in tossing the gun into the glove box.
"There. That enough excitement for you?"
"Uh, Clyde, I think we better get back to the island."
"Hell no. I know everybody here. Nothings going to happen to us."
"Clyde, you just shot up the Kentucky Fried Chicken place. They don't like that. The cops will be coming."
"Naaah. The folks in the Patio told me they don't like that big sign and the smell of chicken frying. He'll be fine with me shootin' up that sign."
"I don't think so. I think you need to crank thois car up and get us moving back to the island."
"I'm not moving."
The owner of the Patio came out and rapped on the window.
"Yeah, man?"
"Clyde, I just called the cops. I'm giving you fair warning so you can get out of here. I can't have you shooting a pistol in my parking lot. So leave. Now."
"Oh, OK," said Clyde. His eyes weren't really registering the current events.
"He's right, Clyde!" Crank 'er up and let's get a move on."
He turned the key, slipped it in gear and began a slow roll out of his parking space. The owner slipped back inside the diner.
"You want to drive a little faster, Clyde."
"No, I'm going to take it slow and ride around town for a bit."
"Are you crazy? You need to get to the island as quick as you can.' I was getting frantic at this point. Clyde's ambling ride around town lasted about thirty minutes. I was constantly trying to talk him into going home. He just looked at me like Robert Mitchum in Thunder Road.
"What's a matter, nef? Too much excitement?"
"If the cops catch us you'll probably go to jail," I screamed.
"I don't think so, but if you've had enough excitement for tonight I guess I can head home."
"Yes! Yes! Yes! I've had more than enough excitement. Get us home! Now!"
His lazy smile answered as he turned onto Spring Street heading in the right direction finally.
We were fine. We hadn't seen one cop's car since the shooting. As we passed the Patio on the left, heading for the Ashley River Bridge, we saw lights flashing in the parking area.
"See, nothing to worry about. We got a free ride back to the island."
As he spoke and we approached the foot of the bridge four cop cars with lights flashing and sirens wailing came to screeching halts in front, back and both sides. We were boxed in. The policemen stepped out of their patol cars hands on their weapons at the ready.
"Jigs up," Clyde said getting out of the car raising his hands. I was doing the same but it was Clyde they handcuffed.
One of the officers came over to me.
"We're taking Clyde to lockup." Funny how all the cops knew Clyde. He was a friendly guy.
"If you want to get him out you'll need to raise bail." They told me the amount and where to post it. They confiscated the Beretta as evidence. The one speaking to me tossed me Clyde's keys. I sat in the driver's seat as the four police cars backed up and pulled into the street. They left me sitting there wondering how I was going to get the money to bail him out.
It wasn't easy but as the sun was coming up I had the money in hand. I turned it over to the bondsman sporting two days growth of beard on his face. He explained the terms. I thanked him. They had to wake Clyde up before bringing him from his cell.
That was a wild night I have to admit, one of the more exciting Clyde and I shared. As time went on it became more of a legend as it was retold by others. Last I heard Clyde walked into the KFC and asked for a hamburger. When told they only sold chicken he whipped out his pistol and commence shooting the menu above the heads of the ducking employees shouting, "I hate chicken! I want a burger like they have at the Patio not chicken!" When the clip was empty he calmly walked out the store to a parking lot full of flashing lights and wall to wall cops guns at the ready. Clyde just smiled raising his hands.


  1. Great story! Back in the day (the 50s) you could get a driver's license at 14 and the drive-ins served beer. Interesting combination. Thanks.

  2. Thanks. I got my license at 14.