One day Rich was at Carpenter’s. Joe stopped for gas. Carpenter’s was only a small grocery, it had two gas pumps.
“You want to go into town?” Joe asked.
Rich hesitated. “What for?”
“The Varsity Shop has a sale on shirts and I want to pick up a couple,” Joe said.
“Sure,” Rich said. “I’ll go.”
Joe drove not west toward town, but east toward his house.
“Where are we going?” Rich asked.
“I got to get some extra money,” Joe said.
They drove to his house. Mr. Quinn was sitting in a lounge chair under a shade tree.
“Maybe you better take me back to Carpenter’s,” Rich suggested.
“Why?” Joe asked.
“Your dad said we weren’t welcomed here anymore,” Rich said.
“This is my place too, and besides, he’s probably forgotten all about it,” Joe said.
Rich was nervous. The night of the argument was a side of Mr. Quinn he had never seen. He always seemed jovial, good-natured, and Rich never heard him say a cross word to anyone. He and Mr. Larsen always got along. That night issues from the past spewed out of them, as if they were there just waiting for something or someone to come along and crack open the door of long-held resentments. Rich wondered, “with Dad, that is common, but is everybody like that—even Mr. Quinn?”
“You want to come in?” Joe asked after he stopped the car in the driveway in front of Mr. Quinn’s car.
“I’ll wait,” Rich said.
Joe turned the key so Rich was able to listen to the radio with the engine off. Mr. Quinn raised up from the lawn chair, waved, and eased himself back. He seemed normal and friendly – just like good ole Mr. Quinn. Rich slowly got out of the car and walked cautiously toward him.
“Hey, Mr. Quinn,” Rich said, “how have you been?”
“I‘m doin‘ good,” Mr. Quinn said with a smile. “Just sittin‘. Takin‘ a little rest before I have to go back to work. The place can’t run without me. I went fishin’ this spring. They called me every night. I threw my gear back in the car, came back home, and ran everything myself. What’s up Rich?”
“I was hanging out at Carpenter’s,” Rich said, “And Joe came along and ask me if I wanted to go to the Varsity Shop to buy a couple of shirts.”
Mr. Quinn clicked his cheek, shook his head, and smiled. “That boy has got more shirts than I’ve had my entire life.”
“Yeah, Joe likes to dress well,” Rich said. “I’m going to wait in the car. Nice talking to you Mr. Quinn.”
“You too, Richie boy,” Mr. Quinn said, “we’ll see ya later.”
“Later, Mr. Quinn.”
Rich walked back to the car and glanced in the garage. The motorbike was still there. He wondered if an opportunity existed to offer the fifty dollars again. He thought about returning to Mr. Quinn and asking, but thought it best to approach his dad first. However, it might even be best to test the waters with Joe.
Rich sat in the car and waited for Joe and listened to the radio. Little Eva was singing The Locomotion. Rich’s head bobbed in time with the music and even a little train movement with his arms. Things were starting to feel good again. “That Parilli will soon be mine,” he thought.
Joe bolted out of the house and down the steps in one leap. He looked happy. Mr. Quinn looked happy. I was happy.
“Where ya goin’?” Mr. Quinn raised up and called to Joe.
Joe turned to his Mr. Quinn but continued to walk to the car. “Got to go in town and get some things.”
“What are you goin’ to do after that?” Mr. Quinn said raising to his feet.
“Why do you want to know, anyway?” Joe said smartly.
The way he replied made Rich uncomfortable. Although Rich said things back to his dad and mom, he tried to be respectful. Joe did not sound respectful, and Mr. Quinn must have thought so too. He walked toward the car, as Joe got in.
“You know, the rest of this lawn has to be done,” Mr. Quinn said.
“Do it yourself,” Joe said. “You’re not doing anything.”
“I think you should be spending a little more time around here,” Mr. Quinn said. “You’re gone too much.”
Mr. Quinn grabbed the door handle. “Let’s get out of the car.”
“Get your hands off my car,” Joe said.
Mr. Quinn opened the door and grabbed Joe by the shirt and pulled. Joe grabbed the door and lurched away from Mr. Quinn and slammed the door. Joe started the car and when he straightened up to put the car in reverse, Mr. Quinn reached into the car with his fist and hammered Joe once on the chest and another time to the face. Wild and indiscriminate blows followed. Joe was able to deflect the full impact with his arms.
“Mr. Quinn,” Rich yelled. “Stop it! stop it! stop it!”
Joe floored the accelerator and the car sped backward, weaving down the driveway. Mr. Quinn spun around and nearly fell to the ground. He ran to his car and got in. Joe pulled onto the road and moved slowly away.
“I think he’s coming after us,” Joe said.
“Let’s get out of here!” Rich said.
Blood trickled from Joe’s nose and lip. He smirked and accelerated.
Mr. Quinn turned out of the driveway and violently fishtailed onto the road. Immediately Rich became ill with fright. Joe was collected and reasonably calm. He seemed to take it as a game.
Rich turned in the seat looking back at Mr. Quinn’s car lift in the front as it accelerated and headed toward them like a charging bull.
“He’s coming!” Rich yelled nervously. “He’s going to run us off the road! He’s a madman!”
Joe smirked again. “That ole bucket of bolts can’t touch us.”
Mr. Quinn’s car got closer. Joe turned on state highway 25 and Mr. Quinn got into the other lane to move up beside Joe’s car. Joe watched him in the side view mirror and suddenly accelerated. The acceleration held Joe and Rich to the seat, and the ’57 Chevy easily pulled away from Mr. Quinn‘s ‘59 Plymouth.
Mr. Quinn leaned into the steering wheel as if the distribution of weight might make his car go faster.
Rich leaned back to see the speedometer. The needle pointed beyond one hundred miles per hour.
Joe zigzagged the township roads until they completely lost the ’59 Plymouth. They stopped at a roadside park. Joe was mad, embarrassed, and bleeding. His left cheek was red and swollen. His shirt was ripped.
“Get me some napkins from the glove compartment,” Joe said.
Rich nervously fumbled through the glove compartment and handed a handful of napkins to him. He dabbed the blood. He rolled up a napkin and placed it inside his mouth, to stop some bleeding. He stuffed a torn napkin in his nose. He bent his head to inspect his torn shirt.
“The old man’s going to pay for this,” Joe said holding the torn part of the shirt in his hands.
“What are you going to do?” Rich said.
“What am I going to do!” Joe said surprised that Rich should even ask that question. “I go on as if nothing happened. I’ll go home late tonight and get up in the morning and have breakfast. Stuff like this happens all the time.” Joe buried his head in his hands and wept.
Rich reached over to touch him and he threw his arm away.
“Let’s go to my house and clean up your lip and nose,” Rich said. “We can do better than some napkins.”
Joe looked at his face in the rearview mirror. “That isn’t so bad.” He spit blood out the window and said, “Let’s go to Penney’s. The ole man is probably waiting for me at the Varsity Shop.”
They drove away, Joe smiled and said, “What did I tell you about that ole man’s bucket of bolts.”
Joe had a different way of handling an abusive father. He did it competitively with arrogance and pride.
Although Mr. Larsen never hit Rich, he was afraid that he might.
Rich found it easier to submit. Joe lived his life in the world around him. Rich lived within his mind. Mr. Larsen did not affect what was most important to Rich – his thoughts.
Although at times, Joe’s arrogance and pride angered and offended Rich, he did not allow it to leave him unsympathetic toward his struggles and insecurities. They always had a way of looking at one another, as if knowing what the other was suffering. In that way they were more than friends – they were brothers.