David N. was not my friend. I knew him, but he wasn’t a friend. He lived a block farther away from school and one day we ended up walking home in the vicinity of each other. He was a good bus length ahead of me and we were yelling various things at each other. Mean things, but it wasn’t exactly heated. There was no threat of it escalating into a real fight. But for some reason when I stopped in my driveway and he kept going, I started chucking rocks at him. Not buckeye-sized rocks that would have dented his skull but probably acorn-sized rocks that would have put a gash in his scalp. He made fun of me for missing and kept walking at the same slow pace, taunting me, so I kept throwing. Just before he got out of range, one bounced off his backpack. He looked back and said, “About time.”
I forgot all about this for about an hour and then I remembered that it was Thursday and Thursday nights were church class and it was David N.’s mother’s turn to carpool. I spent the rest of the evening terrified and utterly alone in my fear. I obviously couldn’t explain to my parents how I was scared to be confronted by the mother of a kid I’d been chucking rocks at, and I wasn’t daring enough to even think of inventing reasons to get excused from things like that. So when the car pulled in, I got in the backseat and tried to vanish there. She started out as her usual polite self, but I was just waiting for it to start. About halfway there, I started to think, “Maybe he didn’t tell on me.” Then I looked across the backseat. You can tell how much of your emotions are wrapped up in moments from your youth by how clear a mental picture you have of them, and I can still see David N. sitting there, grinning.
Years later, after college even, David N. and I worked together at a pizza shop. I told him that story. He remembered and we had a good laugh over it. If my aim had been better would we have laughed? Probably. David N. was a cool dude.