I’m guessing it was probably a Tuesday night. In January. That’s when we had basketball games — Tuesdays and Fridays. I don’t think it was a Friday because I was in a hurry to get home. It was a Tuesday. I still had homework. I was a junior in high school, on the varsity basketball team. Don’t be impressed. We only had 49 students in my graduating class and I wasn’t a starter. I usually got to play a little when one of the starters needed a breather or was in foul trouble. I honestly don’t remember a single thing about the game. I only remember that it was cold outside, really cold. The streets outside our high school were snow-packed, and I was anxious to get home. I didn’t have my own car; when I drove, I drove my dad’s car, a rear engine, rear drive Renault. Four door, 1100 cc engine, and a four speed stick shift.
I had parked on the street directly in front of the high school. Must have gotten there early. That was prime parking space. To get home, I proceeded along the street in front of the high school for about a block and then had to make a left turn down a side street towards Main, which would be my most direct route home.
So, I made that left turn. I don’t remember that I was going too fast, though I could have been. The car began to go in a direction that I didn’t want it to, and I couldn’t change it. I was skidding towards a parked car; I put on the brakes and I kept sliding. I was going slow enough that when I hit the rear passenger door on the driver’s side of the parked car, it wasn’t a huge deal. I broke the turn signal on my car and put a dent in the 4-door Chevy Nova that was parked in my path.
Much worse is that the car belonged to Eddie Stafford. And that there were people around who saw that I had skidded around the corner and put a dent in Eddie Stafford’s car.
I was a junior. Eddie Stafford was a senior. I was a bench warmer on the basketball team. Eddie Stafford was the starting center, the star of the team, almost every game the high scorer and the high rebounder on our team. If we won games, it was usually because Eddie Stafford had a good game. He was not tall and lanky. He was solid. Like the Statue of Liberty. Rock solid. He was the center on the football team. He was a state qualifier in the discus. And he had a reputation that you didn’t cross him. He would make you pay for it.
So, now what do I do? I wanted so bad to just back up and keep moving. Go home as if it never happened. The thing is, I knew that others had seen me ding his car. And I figured that he would see the dent, and it would be only a matter of time before he would come looking for me asking about the dent in his car. If there was a high school mafia, Eddie Stafford was The Godfather.
Maybe I could drive. Just drive and keep driving. Never come back. Call my parents from someplace in Montana and tell them I had joined the circus. Or something.
I parked my car and headed back into school to look for Eddie Stafford, hoping somehow that I would not find him and that at least the word would get out that I had been looking for him. I was scared. Barely able to control bodily functions. Walked through the entry hallway still populated by stragglers from the game. Headed toward the locker room, and there he was. Hanging out by the doorway to the gym, smiling, doing the chit-chat thing with fans congratulating him for a good game.
Because I didn’t know how to do this, I did it the only way I could think of. Walked up to him and said, “Hey, Eddie, something I need to talk to you about.”
“Ok. Shoot,” he said, turning his focus from the small talk around him.
“You know your car?” I said. “Parked right across the street from school? That’s yours, right? Greenish Nova?”
“Yeah, that’s mine. What about it?”
“Well. I kinda bumped into it. I was going around the corner and slid. I almost stopped. But I hit the back door on the driver’s side. Put a little dent in the door. I’m sorry.”
I was happy there were people around. I mean, how hard could he hit me with all these people around?
“On the door? Don’t worry about it. There were probably three dents there already. See you tomorrow.” He turned back to his adoring fans. I walked down the hallway, out the door and drove home.
And to think that I almost drove to Montana for that.