August 06

Don Flamenco’s Finest Round

Seth Harwood

Drew looked me up and down. He said, “Tell me I can’t rip your head off.”

I didn’t say anything. He made fists and opened his hands. His head only came to my chin, but he had a thin brown moustache across his upper lip. I could see the muscles of his shoulders flexing through his T-shirt and the tension in his forearms as he gripped the air. He walked the sidewalk, pacing like he didn’t know what to do next.

The others, Dub and Jerrod, they watched. They’d put me up to calling Drew that morning to accuse him of stealing the five dollars off my sister’s bureau, saw a fight was necessary, told me that I needed to get my respect. “You got to throw blows if he’s stealing from your household,” they said. So I’d called him, told him to come over.

This was all in the summer after ninth grade, the summer I first started hanging out with Dub. I'd seen that the kids in my Hebrew school were dorks, that my only option was Dub and his friends from the projects; they could play ball like crazy, called me white nigger and Larry Bird when I came down and fought as a part of their lives.
The heat was still full on then, like the city was an oven that someone had left set to Clean for too long. You sweat no matter what you did. Basketball took up less of our time, fighting took up more. But usually it was the others that fought, and I just watched.

Around us people walked Mass. Ave. like any other weekday. I could see the line inside Dunkin’ Donuts, people waiting to order. A few newspaper machines were lined up along the curb. Dub and Jerrod circled Drew and me, cheering us.

“Tell him,” Dub said. Jerrod hooted and pumped his fist.

“Tell me I can’t rip your head off.”

I looked at my own hands: white like Drew’s, not black like Dub’s or coffee-colored like Jerrod’s, but thin. Not fists. Drew’s forehead wrinkled. I knew he fought, that he and Dub took turns punching each other in the stomach, competing to see who could take it the longest, and that he took kung-fu classes, lifted weights in his room.

“You can’t rip my head off,” I said.


“Ooh,” the others droned in, trying to stoke it.

Drew and Dub and me, we had gone to school together in seventh and eighth grade. But he had stolen from me, a thing I suspected of Dub, and something I’d caught Jerrod at once, but now I had to fight Drew. It was something I had to do.

“You can’t rip my head off,” I said.

And with that I let go: I’d known it would happen, that I had to go through with it. I’d even resigned myself to this fact, but I didn’t let go until I said this. And from that moment I knew it was on. Drew lunged at my waist. I was trying to get my hands up as he grabbed at my arms; he seemed like he was trying to pull my head down, and I pushed him off, into the panel glass of the Dunkin’ Donuts. He caught me again, held me against the glass, trying for a hold. People inside beat on the window. Drew locked his arm around my head, and I could hear people yelling, “Take it away. Go on, take that somewheres else. This ain’t a good place for yous to be fighting.”

“Move down, move down,” the others yelled as they pushed Drew and me away from the Dunkin’ Donuts. The headlock came off, and I could see ladies on the sidewalk staring. An old man with a white T-shirt and a beer belly shook his head and waved his finger.

Drew’s face looked wild with anger. A bead of sweat rolled down his temple.

“Yo, around the corner,” Dub said. “Mass. Ave’s too busy.”

“Yeah,” Jerrod said. “Yeah.”

The four of us walked around the corner to a side street with less traffic. We stood in the middle of the pavement, Dub and Jerrod leaning on cars. Drew still looked mad, and my heart was going wild.

“What you want now?” Drew said.

I rushed at him and pushed him backward into a car. I could hear the others cheering. “Fuck him up,” Dub said.

Then Drew turned it and threw me against the car. He tried to grab for my head again, and I fought him off, trying to hold his wrists, but he pushed me back, and we landed on the hood with me bent over backwards. Somehow I moved him to my side and we both rolled down the hood and onto the pavement. He landed on top again and held my arms on either side of my shoulders. I did my best to keep my legs moving, just flailing, trying to kick him in the back. “Stop it,” he said. He moved up so his knees were on my elbows. He was farther from my legs now, and I couldn’t kick him. I kept trying. He slapped me in the face; I knew he could punch me if he wanted, but for some reason he wasn’t. “Stop it,” he said, but I didn’t stop. I kept kicking at him and then, stretching as far as I could, I managed to get my body partly up from under him and, catching my feet under his arms, I threw him off me, into the car.

“Oh, shit,” the others called.

"The fuck was that?”

I looked up and saw Drew as surprised as I was, slumped against the front tire. For a moment, I felt good, like I had done something. But then he got up faster than I did, knocked me down, and he was on top again. He hit me in my ribs and I tried to pull his head down to hurt him in any way I could. I wanted to hold his head against the pavement, push his face into the street. He held my arms and we rolled over, ending with him sitting next to me, my head locked against his side.

“Now say I can’t rip your head off.”

I couldn’t breathe and when I said what I could, he tightened his hold on my neck. It hurt, and it was dark underneath him. I was sweaty. Gasping. The ground was hard and rough, is all I can say.

Then Drew was off me, and when I sat up, Dub held him against the car, his hand on Drew’s neck. “It’s over,” he said. “Now be the fuck out.”

I stood up slowly, watching Drew. He looked hurt worse by what Dub had said and done than by anything I did. He had a scrape on the side of his arm and his shirt had stretched out of its shape. He looked around: Jerrod had been his friend first, a guy he met at kung-fu, and he and Dub were close.

“What you looking at?” Dub told him.

“Go on, fuck off,” Jerrod yelled, pointing his chin up and at Drew, who didn’t say anything. When Drew started away, Jerrod ran up and pushed him from behind, but Drew didn’t stop, or turn, or try to fight back.

“I told you I would jump for you,” Dub said.

“Yo, you punked that bitch.” Jerrod slapped hands with Dub.

Dub punched my shoulder, hard, as I stood up. “That shit was all right.” He nodded.

“Fuck was that crazy leg shit?” Jerrod asked me.

I shook my hands and brushed the dirt from my palms. I couldn’t really believe the fight had ended. “OK,” I said, but it was more like it just came out of my mouth.

Top image: Sheryl Light, Heart of the Town. Lower image: Sheryl Light, Flame
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