So many human foibles have we. So many.
In the mid 1960’s, we lived in a fourplex, and had some new neighbors move in. It was a mother and her teenaged son, and we got to know them and to be friends. The son’s name was Randy. He was a skinny, wiry little guy, something like a young Mick Jagger, with kind of a hard looking streetwise countenance. He may have been a year or two older than I, but we chummed around anyway, being convenient to each other.
About fifteen years old at the time, I was easily impressed (and corrupted) by his cunning ways, and by the picture he presented of being a rebel against his mother’s authority. Each escapade of his seemed to top the last one. Looking at it now, I think he was acting out because of his broken home life and estrangement from his father. He never talked about it.
We got involved in some small time misdemeanors, such as creeping out in the middle of the night and running down the street in our sock feet with a shopping bag to rob a coke machine at the local gas station, using his deft technique, learned from who knows where. He came on vacation with us one time, to a cottage we rented each summer, then suggested we go for a long walk, whereupon he magically produced some bags from his trousers, and we pilfered a local farmer’s garden. We were chased before we got far, but managed to elude the pursuit in the bush. Farmer Maggot never did catch us.
Things got more serious later on in this career of crime. Randy got involved with drugs, and his behavior became more erratic and unpredictable. He made it known that he had a gun, but of this I am not certain. He was still allowed into our house, as my parents didn’t know. One night, while we were playing poker, he took out a small bottle from his pants and began to sniff it. Nail polish remover. It had an instant effect upon him, and he did some crazy and destructive things. We got him to his house and left him with his mother, and we had to explain to our own folks what had happened. That was effectively the end of our association, and it wasn’t long before he moved away. A short time later, I heard that he had been picked up for grand theft, and was spending time at juvenile hall.
It may seem wrong to have “Sympathy for the Devil”, but there are a few things that I will always carry with me about Randy…..he needed a friend, and so did I, and it happened. The little hints that one could divine from his conversation showed what kinds of wounds he had within his soul.
And, lastly, he may have saved my life one night when we were attacked by a group of hoodlums trying to show off to their girlfriends. They got us from behind, pulled us down on the pavement, and began the beating. Six against two. I didn’t know how to fight, but he did. We both took a pretty good beating, but my wiry little skinny friend managed to defend both of us until they took off. The last memory I had was of Randy beating one guy’s head against the pavement, before someone came along and called an ambulance.