basementsongs

OutfieldWe slammed the doors of the Whomobile and left the skater punks behind. Matt and I crossed the street. Approaching Jeff’s house, I felt ready for anything. This kid, a guy I thought was my friend, was about to suffer the wrath of Scott Malchus.

Summer, 1986. It was a significant year for me, as it was the first time I was trusted to stay home alone for the summer. Well, not completely alone. While my parents and younger sister were off touring the country in a camper, my older brother, Budd, was in charge of supervising me. But we pretty much kept out of each other’s way. That summer I was part of a rock band and played paying gigs (pretty sweet for a cover band); I had a cute girlfriend; I drove a cool car (the Whomobile); and surprisingly, I was relatively popular. It was a good time to be a 16-year-old.

My band of choice was the Outfield, the British trio whose song, “Your Love,” was a smash hit. Guitarist/songwriter John Spinks had a gift for the perfect pop hook and bassist/lead singer Tony Lewis’s aching voice was the perfect instrument for Spinks’ songs. Rounding out the band was drummer Alan Jackman, who provided the right amount of power and kick to lift the band above the fray. Every song on Play Deep is a classic that I sang to and played along to for months. “61 Seconds,” the song that closes out side one, has always stood out to me.  It’s a departure from the broken-hearted/paranoid lyrics that populate the rest of the album, dealing with the plight of the working man. With its ticking clock and propelling beat, I can only imagine that I listened to “61 Seconds” several times the evening Matt and I drove over to confront Jeff.

The night before, I had thrown my first party, a small soiree with a bunch of drinking teenagers, loud music and plenty of mutual groping between the sexes. By all measures it was a success. Toward the end of the night my girlfriend, Sandy, had to go home. Having had a couple wine coolers she was not okay to drive. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take her home. We all know the cardinal rule of hosting a teenage bash: never, under any circumstance, leave your house. Luckily Jeff, someone I knew through my best friend Matt, volunteered to get her home safely. I always thought Jeff was a decent guy and this proved it. I kissed my girlfriend goodbye and watched them walk off to his car.

While cleaning the house the following morning, reliving the good parts of the party with Matt, hungover and lounging on the couch, Sandy called. She was distant, worried, hiding something. After 10 minutes of prying and fearing she was going to break up with me, Sandy finally let it out: Jeff had tried to take advantage of her when he dropped her off at home. She begged me not to do anything, expressing guilt that it had happened, as if some lout hitting on her was her fault.  I. Was. Furious.

After a half-hearted promise to remain cool, I slammed down the phone receiver (you could still do that back then). I needed to think, clear my head. Without a word to Matt, down to the basement I went to pound the hell out of my drums, most likely to the Outfield and the tick, tick, ticking of “61 Seconds.” I couldn’t let this slide. This… asshole had disrespected my girl, and word was bound to get around in a day or so. If I did nothing, I was a chump. Matt didn’t need coaxing, and agreed that we had to go see Jeff. He knew where the guy lived and would ride shotgun with me, even though he was in no condition to back me up.

Driving the Whomobile across town to Jeff’s neighborhood, my stomach was a mix of bile and butterflies. I’d been in few fights and I wasn’t a very tough guy. But I was 16, feeling like an adult, and this is what adults did, right? They defended the honor of their girlfriends. Across the street from Jeff’s house was a small park where a group of skater punks were doing some street skating off the curbs and benches. Bringing the car to a halt, Matt and I sat anxiously, trying to summon the proper combination anger, courage and stupidity to walk up to Jeff’s house. Finally, I opened my door and was met by those skaters, admiring the Union Jack painted on the roof of my car.

“The Whomobile. Bitchin’. I seen this car around town.”

“Yeah, thanks,” I replied, observing that there were no cars in the driveway. Where were Jeff’s parents?

“Dude,” another kid spoke up, “think we could we catch air off the trunk of your car?”

I stared at them, incredulous. “Uh, no.”

“S’Cool.”

I looked at Matt. I nodded; time to go. We slammed the doors of the Whomobile and left the skater punks behind. Matt and I crossed the street. Approaching Jeff’s house, I felt ready for anything. As we walked up the drive my rage built. All I could envision was Jeff sliding up to Sandy in the front seat of his car, trying to coax her into a little kiss while his paws slid up her skinny legs. Fury. I was Arnold, Rambo and Dirty Harry tightly bound inside the body of a 16-year-old gangly kid. I was going to kick his ass.

“I see him hiding in the garage!” Matt exclaimed.

“Come out!” I shouted, pounding on the garage door. “Come out, you—“

SMASH!

One of the garage door windows had shattered. I panicked. Now what? Could he call the cops? What about his parents? How would I pay for the window? What about my own parents? What would they say? What’s that on the ground? Red.

“Scott, you’re bleeding.” Matt said.

A trail of blood ran down my arm where I had cut my wrist breaking the window. Turning pale my eyes widened from the shock of my own blood. Without hesitation Matt grabbed me and guided me back to the Whomobile.

“The keys, give me the keys.”

He helped me into the backseat and then jumped into the driver’s seat. Matt roared the car to life and sped away. As we drove off Jeff stood in his driveway screaming, “Come back here! Come back, you…” but we were gone.

Back at my house we cleaned the wound, a deep gash that left a small scar. Afterward Matt and I sat silently, waiting for Jeff to retaliate. But he never did. In fact, I heard he lied to his parents about the broken window and my name never came up. He didn’t want to fight. Whether that was an admission of guilt, I don’t know. I never saw him again. A week later my parents returned home with stories and photos from their vacation. When they asked me if anything significant had happened while they were gone, I just shook my head, said, “no” and went back to drumming along with the Outfield.

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