The idiocy of youth and its derivatives.
Regrouped and reinvigorated we waited for Kenny Keller to call our next play. Kenny was a twenty-two-year-old senior, and a veteran of countless raiding parties like the one in progress. He held the status of a campus hero whose exploits were regularly lionized during those slurred and dazed early morning hours when all night keggers lapse into the telling of tales. On top of that, he was a congenitally funny character who commanded his position within our tribe as much for his comic talent as his athletic prowess.
Catching sight of Kenny’s face striated by the grandstand's shadows, it suddenly became eerily obvious to those of us who had history with him, that Kenny had made one of his peculiar transformations. While sitting on a crunchy pile of leaves beneath the recesses of the bleachers, the demon alcohol had crept in and taken possession. A certain artificiality now occupied Kenny’s toothy smile and there was that telltale cocking of the head ever so slightly to the right. Even more concerning was the unfocused gaze in his eyes which nearly always signaled some sort of impending explosion.
As if on cue, that very instant the detonating cap made his unwitting entrance. A column of the home team's boys were filing close by on the busy walkway and one among them, having noticed SUMMERLIN stenciled out in tall green letters across our shirts, simply had to say, "Go Western." It was neither a loud voice nor even a taunting voice, more of a conditioned response than anything. The misdemeanor nature of the comment was, however, of little consequence for as soon as those two off-handed words had left the Westerner’s lips Kenny's prodigious fist arrived to split them.
Like the brief delay before the lit fuse reaches the cannon’s powder there ensued a singularly infinite moment wherein everyone seemed to be hypnotically frozen, stunned by the overwhelming incomprehensibility of what Kenny had just done. Then boom the shock wave blast of a full-on melee. In chain reaction a cluster of fist fights erupted at the core surrounded by a plume of chaotic pushing and shoving while further out a corps of peacemakers rapidly converged to intervene. Young women lent a shrill chorus of shrieks and screams which naturally drew a crush of idle spectators to the compelling sideshow. After several minutes of savagery, the primary enthusiasts had spent the most of their energy and acquiesced to the mollifying efforts of the greater crowd. A brief epilogue of the usual vituperations then ensued while the entire circus gradually dissembled into a lot of milling about punctuated by the spitting of blood and some torn t-shirt dabbing of wounds.
As often happens near the end of proceedings such as these, an ad hoc element arose intent upon finalizing the whole affair with a shaking of hands. Presumably the notion is to help everyone achieve a sense of restored civility. Eventually the urging came to Kenny and the poor soul he had suckered to join hands and make nice. Kenny was profuse with apologies, begging forgiveness and convincingly sincere in condemning his decidedly reprehensible behavior. The other guy was instinctively leery though and didn’t want to have anything further to do with Kenny. He had the far more immediate concerns of tending to his divided lips and loosened teeth. Nevertheless, with persistent prodding from several self-appointed mediators and the unspoken pressure of the many onlookers, Kenny's victim finally relented and agreed to shake, probably just to have done with the pestering. Showman that he was, Kenny engaged the Western crowd and loudly proclaimed how much he regretted having caused so much trouble. He then extended his thick right hand, smiled and tilted his head ever so slightly in the same direction. When the Westerner grasped Kenny's outstretched hand, Kenny being a lefty, wound up from way down town with a devastating left hook that bashed the guy's right jaw. The victim went out on impact. His eyes rolled and his knees buckled as he crumpled to the ground in a mass of twitches and quivers.
There was no hesitation this time from the preponderantly Western throng. They lurched swinging and kicking en masse. No peacemakers anywhere this time either, just calls for more Western reinforcements. We Summerlins had had enough time to sober a bit and were now able to fully grasp how absurdly outnumbered we were. Fight and flight adrenaline flooded into our systems simultaneously. Our only hope was to force our way free and run for our lives. Evidently survival instinct trumps revenge, because the wild intensity of our panicked defense seemed to convince the Westerners that it was in their own self-interest to chase us rather than to actually engage us. It’s the only dynamic that could account for the majority of our entourage, including Kenny, managing to escape to the relative safety our cars for a screeching getaway. A less fortunate contingent of six were ultimately forced to take refuge with the responding Western campus police. The cops mercifully took them into protective custody, only later to charge them with inciting to riot.
It was a long, agonizing ride that evening, first to the Summerlin Infirmary and then on to the hospital emergency room. In our car alone, the four of us had sustained one broken wrist, two broken noses, two cracked ribs, one concussion, a few chipped teeth and one grotesquely dislocated thumb. An additional thirty-three stitches in total were administered before we were finally released. Somewhat less important were the three t-shirts, one shoe, one ball cap and one pair of glasses abandoned somewhere on Western’s grounds. There was also the hurled rock and other missile damage done to the car. Though laughable in hindsight, at the time we figured we’d faired pretty well considering the gauntlet run.
With the advantage of several decades to deconstruct that infamous autumn afternoon at Western, a number of those involved still maintain, as perverse as it might seem, that Kenny had actually taught us a few valuable lessons. The most obvious of course was to avoid keeping company with violent alcoholics. But there were two others as well. When one behaves like an enemy they probably are, and never ever lower your guard in the presence of an enemy. Thank you professor Keller.