Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Case Of The Governor's Limo

When my parents realized that a third child was on the way they moved into a neighborhood known as Rolling Acres, a quarter mile loop of modest houses off of a small thoroughfare that connected Peacedale and Kingston. It was 1972.

Til then we'd lived in a small apartment in the heart of Peacedale and I have memories of that time that mostly come from photographs I've seen. The old lady across the street. The dusty courtyard that served as a playground. My mum cutting my dad's hair and snipping a tiny bit of his ear. But I was three when we moved and I have a feeling that these memories are anecdotal, told to me, not intrinsic.

The new house seemed like a magical place. I quickly made two great friends in Billy Hodge who lived directly across the street and Brian Quinn who lived five houses down on the same side as ours. Now, as I've said before, I dreamed only of a career as a professional athlete. The irony? My childhood neighbors would both grow up to be two of the best athletes ever to go to South Kingstown High School. By that point I was limping along and slowly realizing that if I was ever going to be an athlete I would have to play one in a film.

We raced around the loop of our world on bikes, on foot, shooting each other with imaginary guns, throwing real rocks at each other, climbing up and falling out of trees, up ramps, down bush laden hills and in and out of each others kitchens.

Brian and I were born three days apart and both of us were tiny babies. Brian was a twin and both his sister and he were so small they had to be put in incubators. No giant myself I was one ounce over the incubator weight limit and was not given that extra boost. I always secretly believed this was why Brian grew up to be 6' 1" and blindingly fast and I stayed average on both counts.

If Billy wasn't around I would run down the block to Brian's. Soon I was riding a small bike the short distance. For quite awhile after learning to ride I couldn't start or stop, I could only pedal. I would go crashing onto the Quinn's lawn and then either Mr. or Mrs. Quinn would give me a push to get me started on the way back home.

If we wanted to get back to my house fast, sometimes Brian would pedal and I'd sit behind him. Soon I began to be annoyed at this. It was my bike, why did he drive? Finally I insisted that I should drive and he should sit behind ME. I think he knew something I didn't because he skeptically agreed. He was already much bigger than me and somehow this didn't factor in to my appraisal of the situation.

Now comes the larger context that must be explained. Also across the street from us lived a nice family called the Driscolls. Mr. Driscoll was a high ranking member of the State Police who much later would go on David Letterman to show off the prize winning uniforms of the Rhode Island State Police. At this time his duty involved accompanying the Governor as a security detail. The limo used to pick up and transport the Gov was often parked on the street in front of the Driscoll's yard. They'd have parked it in the driveway but their house was actually on a steep little hill so fitting the long limo in there was tough.

Brian and I set out from the Quinn's. I struggled mightily to get the bike going fast enough. We wobbled back and forth crazily. If we'd been in a car we'd have looked like a couple of drunks. Brian hung on for dear life probably ruing the decision to let a pipsqueak like me try to pedal him around. As my house loomed I began to lose control completely.

We careened from one side of the street to the other. No sidewalks were present to bounce us to a stop. No cars came along to force us into a premature cessation. Somehow our speed increased in spite of my inability to control the trajectory of the bike. The wheel was jack-knifing under my guidance, handlebars whipping to and fro.

Somehow my house seemed more distant than ever even though we were quickly approaching. The black limo sat across from my house and was the only car in sight.

As the handlebar scraped along the door it made an ungodly sound, like some underworld beast dragging his filthy clawed fingernails across a Hellacious blackboard. We bounced off of the black metal, returned to it as if it was magnetized, bounced away again and fell against it in a heap. I had a stinging pain in my right hip where I'd hit something, the ground, a twisted pedal, the car itself, I don't know.

We slowly stood up and looked at the Governor's limo. A giant scrape ran down the length of the car. It looked as if Paul Bunyon had keyed it.

Brian told me to stop crying. I should only cry if I was bleeding. I stopped immediately but there was still the question of our impending arrest to deal with. The cover-up started immediately. We rushed my bike into my back yard and hid it in the basement so the cops couldn't run forensic tests on the handlebars and match the paint. We had a hushed intense conversation in the basement about who might have seen us, what we would say when we were interrogated, and how we would come up with the bribe money we would need to keep us out of prison for the rest of our lives.

After getting our story straight we went upstairs to the kitchen. My mum was busy doing something. I was still stifling the tears I shouldn't be crying because I wasn't bleeding. Then I went to the bathroom.

My hip was torn to shreds. It was as if I'd been shot. There was a deep gouge, a hole. My shorts were soaked with blood. It ran down my leg from underneath them. It is still a scar, a raised pucker of flesh. I came out and triumphantly showed it to Brian and promptly resumed my well-earned tears.

I only tell this story now because the Statute of Limitations has expired and I cannot be prosecuted for my heinous crime.

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