I woke this morning to a memory of an incident that took place when I was a kid in the 1970’s. I was a 14-years-old and living in Lindenhurst, New York, a blue collar town on the south shore of Long Island.
Having just completed my newspaper deliveries, I was straddling my bike in my driveway talking to my then best friend Joe. His cute brown and white mixed-breed dog, Kilroy stood nearby. As we were talking I noticed this kid, who looked to be seventeen, walking down our block and angling right toward us. He wore a parka, had dark disheveled hair, a scruffy beard, and a serious look on his face.
I didn’t know who he was, but my danger radar was sure pinging. I slid my bike lock chain off my handlebars and lowered it to my side.
I turned to Joe, “You know this guy?”
“No idea who he is but he looks pissed.” Joe said.
The guy walked right up to us, and faced me. He was taller than me, had a wiry build, and was all business. He said, “You beat up my little brother.”
Fear gripped me. I thought I was in for a real ass-kicking.
The day before, my younger sister told me this kid Eddie constantly picked on her and harassed her on her way to and from school. I knew the little punk, and knew he was a trouble maker. When I saw my sister visibly upset by the antics of this asshole, I decided to do something about it.
Earlier on this day, I ambushed Eddie on his way home from school and confronted him about my sister. He was 12 years-old to my 14, and I was a lot bigger than him, but he didn’t care. He took on a wise-ass attitude so I hit him once, then threw him down on someone’s lawn. He started crying, got up and took off running.
Now his older brother was here to exact revenge.
“Your brother was bullying my little sister. He made her cry. What was I supposed to do, let him keep picking on her?” I said.
“I don’t give a fuck what he does to your sister, and I don’t give a fuck about you. Look at the size of you. My brother is only twelve. Get off that bike ‘cause I’m gonna fuck you up,” my attacker said.
At first I froze. I kept the right side of my body from his view and gripped the heavy chain tighter.
“I said get off the fucking bike,” the attacker said taking a step forward.
I swung the chain in a vicious arc trying to connect with his head or face. He flinched just enough so that the lock on the end of the looped chain just grazed his chin. He took a step back, and I jumped off my bike and backed into my front yard. I kept the chain at the ready.
His right hand went into the pocket of his parka, and it came out holding a knife.
Amazingly I kept my cool sizing up my opponent; I figured I’ll keep swinging the chain to keep him from getting close. Just then I saw Joe, stark fear across his face, grab his dog’s collar saying, “Come on Kilroy, let’s go home.”
“That’s right Joe, go home and call the cops and tell ‘em there’s a guy with a knife trying to attack me.” I said.
Me and the attacker circled one another in this deadly stand-off. The unnerving thing is he wasn’t saying anything, I could just see him trying to figure out how he was going to stab me without getting hit with the chain.
Suddenly a green 1968 Dodge Charger roared up the street and screeched to a stop in front of my house. I was thinking, ‘Oh shit, is this another of Eddie’s brother’s?’
A guy of about 20, with curly blond hair poked his head out of the window, “What the fuck are you doing with that knife?” he said to my attacker.
The attacker looked over at the blond guy and said, “He beat up my little brother…”
“Yeah, because his little brother keeps bullying my sister, and makes her cry.” I shouted out.
My attacker looked at me then back to the blond guy, who said to my attacker, “You better put that knife away and get the hell out of here.”
“If I get out of this car, I’m gonna take that knife away from you and shove it right up your ass,” the blond guy said.
My attacker looked at the blond guy and could see he wasn’t kidding. My attacker didn’t say another word. He backed away from me while pocketing the knife. Once he reached the street, he turned and ran and was soon out of sight.
“You alright kid?” The blond guy said.
“Yeah, thanks for helping me out.” I said.
“If he bothers you again, let me know, I live just down on the next block.” The blond guy said, putting his car in gear and roared down the street.
I never saw the blond guy in the green Dodge Charger, nor the guy with the knife, again.
I had another run-in with Eddie a few years later, but that’s another story. By the time he was in his 20’s he became a muscle bound thug. When he was 24, he went to jail for rape.
The frightened kid Joe, who abandoned me, grew up and joined the NYPD. That pasty-white Irish-Catholic kid was stationed in Brownsville, Brooklyn, one of the toughest neighborhoods at that time. The last time I saw Joe was just before 9-11. He was still with the NYPD, but had since transferred to the Harbor Patrol. I just know he was there that day showing great care and courage helping people to escape the stricken city.
Although I didn’t give it much thought at that time, as an adult I often wonder what would have happened if the guy in the Charger hadn’t shown up. In every scenario I play out in my head, none of them end well.
Somewhere out there was a young man with curly blond hair in a green 1968 Dodge Charger, who most likely saved me from great harm. Thanks again.