Jimmy jumps up outta his spot that he barely ever leaves – I swear the whole dang house could be on fire, and he’d still have his lazy butt sealed to that dent on the left side a’ the couch, but a guy like Calvin Briggs shows up to fix some pipes, and well, that’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for ole’ Jimmy to make an ass of himself, so he pops out of that couch like someone jus’ poked him in the behind with somethin’ sharp. And he walks right over to Calvin, b’fore I even hadda chance to say a word, and he grabs his hand and says, “Thankya sir, for comin’ to fix our old pipes – we really appreciate it!” and he’s pumpin’ the man’s arm up and down real exaggerated like. I know it don’t sound so bad, when you wasn’t there to see it, but trust me, Jimmy was mockin’ with the way he said it.
Maybe Calvin Briggs didn’t pick up on it, the way Jimmy was bein’ so sarcastic, or maybe he’s just a gentleman, cause you know I half xspected him to reach out and clobber Jimmy’s face with his free hand – his hand’s that big, ya know, big as a man’s face, I swear – but he didn’t do nothin’ like that; he just asked where the pipes for the shower was, so I took ‘im down the hall, and Jimmy’s nearly trippin’ on the back ‘a my heels, followin’ behind us. I know he’s dyin’ to go all crazy and gossip while Calvin is still in the place, and you know Jimmy ain’t never learnt how to whisper a dang thing – he’s only got that one volume – loud, so I’m all nervous he’s gonna make us both look bad.
So Calvin goes into the closet behind the shower – we keep them galvanized pipes exposed in there, since their ain’t no point in puttin’ the wall back when they keep seizin’ up all the time – an he pulls out this little flashlight from his shirt pocket with the “Calvin” patch on it and starts lookin’ over the pipes. Jimmy, he grabs my shoulder, which really annoys me cause I hate that boy touchin’ me with his filthy hands, and he pulls me back in the hall, starts into all his crap.
“You recognize that guy from the plumbin’ company, don’t ya?” says Jimmy.
“Yeah, I know who he is, I ain’t stupid.”
“That’s Calvin Briggs, from high school!” he says.
“Clean the wax outta your ears; I heard ya. I know who he is!”
“Well, what happen to ‘im? He oughta be swimmin’ in cash, playin’ pro ball! What’s he doin’ a plumber?” And that part he said, bout Calvin s’posed to be playin’ in the pros, he said it all loud like Jimmy does, and I know Calvin hadda heard it, so I give the boy a shove – and not no little one, neither – I push ‘im hard so he smacks the wall on other side a the hallway, but I shouldnt’a done it, cause it took me outta the closet doorway, and Jimmy scurries on past me, and he lands hisself right there, next to Calvin Briggs, almos’ climbin’ up the poor man’s back while he’s tryin’ ta check the pipes.
“So Calvin,” he says, “can I call ya Calvin – it’s on yer name patch an all.” At this point, once he gets in that little room with Calvin, I know I ain’t gonna be able ta stop it. It was like when I seen my lil’ cousin Jeffrey jus’ as he was about ta’ stick a penny in a light socket. I couldn’t catch Jeffrey in time, ‘fore he lit hisself up like a big lightnin’ bug, and I couldn’t do nothin’ ta stop Jimmy, neither.
“Mmhmm,” I hear Calvin say, and the way he hums that word, I know he must know whas comin’.
“Seems to me,” Jimmy says, “you look a lot like another Calvin I knew of some years back.”
“Hey Jimmy!” I says, “I was thinkin’ maybe of gettin’ me some KFC, watcha say? I’m buyin’!” I weren’t about to buy that little bastard nothin’, but I was tryin’ to distract him.
“Hey, don’t be rude now! Me an Calvin here is havin’ us a conversation.”
“Hmph” Calvin says. You could tell he already didn’t like Jimmy as much as I don’t like Jimmy.
“Yeah, thas’ right, you look a whole lot like this other Calvin fella who used ta’ be real popular ’round here,” Jimmy says, and I’m ’bout ready to jump outta my skin at this point, “but I know you mus’ be a diffrent Calvin, cause the fella I know of, he was a big time football player; he weren’t no plumber like you.” And this is where things started gettin’ sorta strange, like I was watchin’ the whole thing happen to some other guy, but the other guy was actually me, right there in the basement with Jimmy an Calvin Briggs, but I felt more like some other guy than myself, cause I felt like doin’ somethin’ I don’t normally do. Calvin, he just stopped his lookin’ at the pipes an was starin’ at ole’ Jimmy with his arms crossed, very stern.
“Course,” says Jimmy, “I s’pose you never quite know what happens to these big football boys, once they leave town with their fancy scholarships – they can start doin’ dumb things – dopin’ up, jumpin’ in bed with lil’ girls, drivin’ drunk…Who knows, maybe that other Calvin didn’t turn out to be anythin’ afterall.”
That feelin’ I had – like I was me, watchin’ some other me – well, one of the me’s popped like a big ole firecracker jus’ that instant. Next thing I know, I’m grabbin’ Jimmy by the neckhole of his stained-up Budweiser t-shirt an haulin’ his nasty butt into the next room, which happen ta’ be his own stinky bedroom; we both tripped over the pile a dirty laundry that never ever leaves the doorway of his stinkhole, but I more or less landed on top a him, and I start shakin’ ‘im, and I heard myself screamin’ somethin’ like, “Whas wrong with you! What in the hell is wrong with you – you disgustin’ excuse for a man!”
If Jimmy’d acted normal, the whole thing woulda ended there, but do you know that little pissant had the audacity to laugh? No kiddin’ – I’m on top a the boy, shakin ‘im like my momma used ta shake out the bathroom rugs, and that lil jackass is laughin’! So that’s when I started swingin’ – I’m pretty sure it musta been the other me who did that part.
I reach back, and I dunno what Jimmy’s thinkin’, cause he don’t even try an block it or nothin’, and I land a fist across the right side a his filthy mouth. He stops laughin’ and starts kickin’; he knows this ain’t a game no more, and I could hear the empty beer bottles scattering around when his feet was hittin’ ’em while he was tryin’ to get away. But Jimmy, you know he ain’t a big man, which is part a why evrybody hates ‘im so much – ain’t nothin’ more annoying than a rude, scrawny man – so he wasn’t gettin’ away nowhere. I got ‘im pinned still, and I swing again – that one he almost blocks, but I still get ‘im pretty good next ta his right eye.
I don’t quite recall how many more punches I got in – you’d hafta ask the other me – but I don’t think it was many. I got tired real quick. Fist fights ain’t like you see ’em on TV. All that adrenaline and hittin’ a man while keepin’ ‘im pinned down, it takes a lot outta ya. So, after a few blows, Jimmy is jus’ layin’ there – not knocked out or nothin’, just stunned – an I get up to go look for Calvin. He was gone. I guess he got nervous with all the fightin’ an all an left b’fore even fixin’ the pipes. He left the back door wide open, and I didn’t close it ’till I’d finished tossin’ out all Jimmy’s junk.
I dunno what makes a guy like Jimmy talk the way he does to a man like Calvin Briggs, but I can guess. Know what I think? I think Jimmy’s such a miserable failure, eight years outta high school an’ he ain’t made a damn thing a hisself, I think it made him feel good ta’ know that the biggest thing to ever come outta Freeman High School ended up a lowly plumber. Maybe he figured he ain’t so much a failure if Calvin the Star is only Calvin the Plumber.
Me? I’d like to think I was defendin’ the reputation of a respectable man, but lookin’ back, I don’t think I was. No, don’t get me wrong – Calvin is plenty respectable. I did some checkin’ later on, after I got done kickin’ Jimmy out, cause I wanted to see what came of college and football an all that. I felt sure Calvin musta got hurt or somethin’. Fact is, nothin’ happened to ‘im. He never got hurt, and he never got into no trouble with drugs or underage girls like Jimmy thought, neither. Turns out, as amazing as Calvin was here in our little corner a the world, when he got to Texas, evrybody else was amazing, too. At Texas, he was just regalar. That couldn’ta been easy on Calvin – goin’ from Superman to simply human. Seems ta’ me, the fact he didn’ haul off and start doin’ dumb things is a good thing. He’s out there, makin’ an honest way for hisself.
But that ain’t why I d’fended ‘im, I don’t think anyway. I think I was just frustrated, really pissed, matter of fact. I was angry with myself and with Jimmy an the whole situation down there in Ms. Jenkin’s jacked up basement. Truth is, I mock Jimmy, but I ain’t made nothin’ a myself in eight years, neither. B’fore yesterday, at least I could say I went to school with Calvin Briggs, the football star. There was always a chance that I’d be shootin’ pool at the bar someday, and there’d be a playoff game on TV, and there might be Calvin Briggs, scorin’ a big TD, and I could tell evrybody there that I went to school with that man. How great would that have been? Now, well – ain’t no pride in sayin’ you went to school with Calvin the plumber.
Yeah, you’re right – maybe I’m bein’ too phillasophical ’bout all this. Mind if I come ta’ your place ta’ watch the game t’night? I threw Jimmy’s big screen out on the back lawn with the rest a his crap.