Thursday, December 03, 2020

The Autobiography of Someone Else - 18

Harry and I began to hang out with Jim. Just another loser with a mother who knew our mothers. Is that not how lifelong bonds are formed? I sensed that Jim was interested in more than television and Atari and Star Wars and sports. He did like guns and swords and tanks. That was normal but he liked them more than me, more than most. In the library I’d look for race car books. There was one with black and white pictures of North American sports car races in the ‘60s, a book that was already old and nobody cared. Races that had faded deep into history, their results recorded but never re-examined, the names of the drivers forgotten by all but their descendants. Triumphs and Corvettes with roll bars winding up and down and through the fields. Men in white, short-sleeved, button-down shirts and their wives or girlfriends in long floral-print skirts sitting on the hilly lawns to watch. This is all I wanted. Jim came over to my house one day to build model airplanes. We began with a strangely ceremonial lunch, as though my parents had to check him out to be my girlfriend. For some reason Mom had severely undercooked the burgers. I gamely swallowed clumps of cool, mealy meat, its blood soaking the bun, dressed in pickle relish and Heinz Tomato Ketchup, as Jim excitedly explained why he’d prefer a knife to a machine gun in hand-to-hand combat. “A machine gun might jam,” he said. “With a knife, you can stick it in the other guy’s body.” I gulped my iced tea and the lemon wedge knocked my nose. My parents examined Jim with some concern. “Unless you have a bayonet on the gun. A bayonet is the best,” Jim exclaimed. “It’s like a knife!”