We all have them. Whether we share them or not can be a very touchy matter. Sometimes there’s a legal component where sharing could actually land someone in court or jail or worse. There’s also the issue of other people involved in the story. Will divulging your story put them at risk or make them feel bad?
I’ve got one such story from my high school days that I rarely share. It involves illegally obtained alcohol, violent behavior, a trip to the emergency room, filing a false police report and lying to parents. Fortunately, I was mostly on the periphery and one of the five people involved, a close friend who was the central figure in the incident, was able to laugh it off the next day. Still, there was nothing funny about it at the time.
It all started on a warm summer night when a couple of co-workers and friends – let’s call them Steve and Todd – and I were looking for something to do. Steve came up with the idea of getting some beer and getting drunk. Todd, who had his father’s car, knew someone – let’s call him John – who would get the beer for us.
John wasn’t too keen on the idea, but did it anyway, warning us to behave ourselves and not get into any trouble.
Todd drove into the bluffs that gave our home town of Council Bluffs, Iowa, its name, where he and Steve drank the beer. Steve turned out to be a lousy drunk. As we drove up and down Broadway, our town’s main drag, Steve hung out the passenger window, loudly taunting people in other cars. Big mistake.
As we waited for a light at the east end of the viaduct that separated the east and west ends of Council Bluffs, an obviously angered driver from a car behind us came around to the passenger side of Todd’s car and sucker-punched Steve through the open window.
The blow shattered Steve’s glasses, sending a spray of glass fragments over me in the back seat and blood running down Steve’s face. Todd took off for a hospital that was nearby but the angered driver was right behind us, bumping Todd’s car with his bumper.
Todd turned the corner, the car continued to batter us from behind. He turned again, more battering. Todd pulled over and got out of the car.
“Hey, man. Leave us alone. We’ve got to get to the hospital.”
The angered driver wasn’t about to let that happen. He started beating on Todd.
“You mother f****r! What’s so g**ammed funny?” he screamed as he pummeled Todd while Steve continued to bleed in the passenger seat. After a short time, some guys from the angered driver’s car pulled him off Todd and we were able to get to the hospital. Todd dropped us off there as he left to assess his own situation.
Fortunately, Steve wasn’t hurt badly. No eye damage, a few stitches and we were done. But the doctor wanted to know what had happened. Steve knew that his tee-totaling parents would never let him out of the house again if they knew what happened so he came up with what he thought was a reasonable alternative – he lied.
We had walked uptown to a teen dance, Steve said, and were walking back home when a gang of kids jumped us and made us drink beer. After a few sips of the bitter stuff, Steve said, he refused to drink any more. That’s when they hit him, he said. It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud at that point and the doctor was rightfully skeptical, too. Well, he said, you’ll need to file a police report.
So, that’s what we did. As the officer took Steve’s account, he continued to embellish the story. Can you identify the assailants, the officer asked? It was dark, Steve explained, but he did caatch a glimpse of a shiny big western belt buckle on the kid who hit him. It was obvious from his raised eyebrows that the officer wasn’t going to be issuing any bulletins in this case.
In fact, I was pretty sure no one would believe Steve’s story, but I agreed to support it with his parents who would surely be asking me about it.
I don’t remember that they ever did, but we concentrated on getting our story straight as we walked back to our west end homes that night. The next day at work, though, the freshly-sutured Steve was happily sharing the real story with anyone who would listen. And that was pretty much the end of it.
Of the five people I’ve mentioned, I’m the only one remaining to tell the story. Illness took Todd at a very young age and Steve died of a chronic illness fairly recently. John, the guy who bought us the beer, died in a horrific auto accident not long after the incident. The angered driver, we later learned, was well-known in our town for his violent and erratic behavior. He died violently, too, by gunshot a few years later in what was reported as an accident, but who knows for sure?
As far as I know, none of the other four had family to share this story with. That’s too bad. I’d certainly be interested in hearing their versions.
Writing prompt for the day: What “tough story” do you have to share?
Larry Lehmer is a personal historian and legacy planner who helps connect generations through their stories. To learn more, visit his web site, send him an e-mail or follow him on Twitter.