Looking back, there are always things that you should have noticed as things were happening but missed a crucial warning. In accident investigation the phenomena is often referred to as “OBE,” overtaken by events. Every disaster has a chain of events that if you broke one link the situation would have been diffused and the situation is recovered, but those don’t normally make good stories now do they?
Link one in the chain was listening to a friend of mine tell me that his sister was heartbroken because she had been dumped by her boyfriend and she’d already bought tickets to some major church youth group dance, so could I do him a favor and take her? I knew better, I knew her and although she was very cute there was no click, mainly because her brother was essentially a gorilla with speech skills and high on my list of people that I really didn’t want to piss off, even on accident.
Link two of the chain was meeting up with them to go and not only did I forget her name, but I’d forgotten to get her a corsage. In my defense, I’d never gone to a dance that required flowers before so I really feel that wasn’t such a big deal. The next year when I went to my senior prom and forgot the name of that date and a corsage, again… well, ok, that was my bad. Fortunately, my friend bailed me out and had picked one up when he grabbed his. So, this was a pretty strong link, once her mother reminded me of her name. No, I won’t name names. First of all it’s rude to tell stories and name names. Secondly, if I didn’t remember her name then what makes you think I know it now?
Inevitably, link three was showing up at the church hall, it’s not a big link in the chain; but, it probably factored in there somewhere. I didn’t realize that I’d dated so many girls that went to this church. That made me nervous but I mostly got smiles and waves, until I looked over at chaperone row. Oh, damn. A long line of evil maternal units all staring hate and malevolence my way, I felt like I was being lowered into a cannibal’s cooking pot for a second there. The panic passed quickly, after all, I wasn’t here with any of their daughters, and I had plans on being a good boy that night.
So, link four was letting her out of my sight when she went over to greet all of the nice church ladies lined up on murderer’s row. While I was checking out the room, and the munchables, she was getting an earful about me from a few mothers and I was chatting up a girl I’d seen a few times. At this point I suppose some form of naming is going to be required to keep things straight. I went to the dance with a girl we’ll call Gina, she was pretty, blond and sort of quiet. Wait… hold on a second…
Link five will have to be the girls in question, Gina is the quiet blond. I must not be a gentleman because I really don’t now nor have I ever preferred blondes. Nope, nope, nope! Tina showed up the second that Gina stepped away, also pretty, dark red hair (probably auburn, but what do I know?) and she liked to talk and thought every stupid joke I knew was comedy gold. Link five is probably the point that we can refer to as the OBE threshold.
Link six, when you bring a blond to the dance, don’t have more than one dance with the redhead. I know, I know, that should be common sense but I was 17 at the time. I can’t be held completely accountable for testosterone poisoning. There were probably a dozen dances all together, with stand there and talk breaks spread throughout, I danced around 8 times with Gina, 3 times with Tina and once with a girl that’s a story I’ll probably take to the grave with me. So, Gina has the slanderous propaganda of murderer’s row still ringing in her ears, which makes her even quieter than normal, even for her. So, the dances were sort of uncomfortable, first because I detest dancing, add a icy blond to the mix and this was shaping up to be a long cold night. But, the shape was altered a bit, what Gina froze, Tina expressed interest in thawing.
Link seven. Never listen to a plan dreamed up on the spot by an affectionate redhead when your brain isn’t fully in charge of the situation. Nuff said.
Link eight. I repeat: never execute a plan dreamed up on the spot by an affectionate redhead when your brain isn’t fully in charge of the situation. We were supposed to go out after the dance and have something to eat, which is why we all brought a change of clothes because nobody wants to eat BBQ in their Sunday-go-to-meetin’ duds, but Gina decided she just wanted to go home. So, I tipped off Tina and piled into the car with Gina and her brother and his date and we went back to their place. Right is right, after all, you see the lady home. We’d said our goodbyes when my ride pulled up.
Link nine, never let the blond see the redhead pick you up in front of her house.
Link ten, in the car I asked, “where to?” She smiled at me and said words to the effect: “My house, my folks are in Dallas till tomorrow.” At this point I was hormonally incapable of anything resembling rational thought, so I didn’t notice at the time that the stare that Gina leveled at me as we drove off was straight out of Children of the Corn.
So, those are the links in the chain. How bad could it get? Well, not horror movie level fun, but let’s not skip ahead.
At her place, which was only about six houses down from Gina’s, we went inside and I completely forgot about the gym bag with my jeans and t-shirt sitting in the back seat. 17, remember? And it was some time later I was wandering through Tina’s house, puffing on one of her dad’s cigars and looking for the pieces of my suit when Tina flew by putting on a robe and spouting impressive profanity for a churchgoer. I went to the window and puffed on the cheroot with great confusion as I as a scarecrow burning in her front yard.
Who would burn a scarecrow in somebody’s yard? Who even has a scarecrow?
Then I noticed my gym bag lying at the feet of the scarecrow, it was open and empty. That was my jeans and t-shirt stuffed full of straw and blazing away merrily. The flames kicked up really impressively at this point and I saw Gina and Tina screaming at each other and waving their arms around, but then as the flames began to dim I could see they were both crying and then they hugged each other. Then they looked at the house, and it looked like the eyes in Amityville Horror, red and evil, and there were two sets.
It was a long walk home around the lake that night, the first mile of it I was running over beach and big rocks in a pair of cowboy boots and carrying my clothes. No, it wasn’t the first time I’d been forced to take to my heels while carrying my clothes, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the last time. Another story, anyway. I never did go out with Tina again, she was pretty put out with me for some reason that I never did figure out. I also never figured out why Gina got so bent out of shape either, we went out a few times during my senior year, but the subject never came up.
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