The beer lands on a red Windbreaker. That's one of the things you
remember. It was freezing cold outside, in the teens, and yet
someone was wearing just a Windbreaker. The other thing you will
never shake from your mind is that a Windbreaker is waterproof. The
spilled beer, little as it was, would not harm the coat. It would
not stain. It could so easily be rinsed away.
He, the owner of the red Windbreaker, is a big guy but not huge.
Duff shrugs. He does not apologize. The guy, Mr. Red Windbreaker,
gets in Duff's face. This is a mistake. You know that Duff is a
great fighter with a short fuse. Every school has a Duff--the guy you
can never imagine losing a fight.
That's the problem, of course. Every school has a Duff. And once
in a while your Duff runs into their Duff.
You try to end it right there, try to laugh it off, but you have
two serious beer-marinated headcases with reddening faces and
tightening fists. A challenge is issued. You don't remember who made
it. You all step outside into the frigid night, and you realize that
you are in a heap of trouble.
The big guy with the red Windbreaker has friends with him.
Eight or nine of them. You and Duff are alone. You look for
Duff's high school friend-- Mark or Mike or something--but he is
nowhere to be found.
The fight begins quickly.
Duff lowers his head bull-like and charges Red Windbreaker. Red
Windbreaker steps to the side and catches Duff in a headlock. He
punches Duff in the nose. Still holding Duff in the headlock, he
punches him again. Then again. And again.
Duff's head is down. He is swinging wildly and with no effect. It
is somewhere around the seventh or eighth punch that Duff stops
swinging. Red Windbreaker's friends start cheering. Duff's arms drop
to his sides.
You want to stop it, but you are not sure how. Red Windbreaker is
going about his work methodically, taking his time with his punches,
using big windups. His buddies are cheering him on now. They ooh and
ahh with each splat.
You are terrified.
Your friend is taking a beating, but you are mostly worried about
yourself. That shames you. You want to do something, but you are
afraid, seriously afraid. You can't move. Your legs feel like
rubber. Your arms tingle. And you hate yourself for that.
Red Windbreaker throws another punch straight into Duff's face.
He releases the headlock. Duff drops to the ground like a bag of
laundry. Red Windbreaker kicks Duff in the ribs.
You are the worst sort of friend. You are too scared to help. You
will never forget that feeling. Cowardice. It is worse than a
beating, you think. Your silence. This awful feeling of dishonor.
Another kick. Duff grunts and rolls onto his back. His face is
streaked with crimson red. You will learn later that his injuries
were minor. Duff will have two black eyes and numerous bruises. That
will be about it. But right now he looks bad. You know that he would
never stand by and let you take a beating like this.
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