I almost didn’t live to see my father die. He almost survived me by about 38 years. I think, at least. It was on a pretty cold night, probably in the fall, and my next oldest brother and a good friend of his and I walked down into the darkness at the bottom of the driveway to throw eggs at cars, which was a fairly common custom back then when you lived in sleepy Greenwich, where nothing ever really happened. I don’t know if it still is.
That was certainly the kind of thing kids were doing back on October 30th, which people in my area called Mischief Night. It was also known as Doorbell Night because kids got their kicks out of ringing doorbells and racing off. As I was saying, things could be pretty uneventful back then. That was until they stopped becoming uneventful, like on the night of October 30th, 1975. That was the day Martha Moxley got bludgeoned to death with a golf club, a six iron, in one of the most high-profile murders of the end of the 20th Century. The act was performed so violently that the perpetrator literally split the metal stick in two. Then he plunged one half into her neck to ensure she was dead. It was another one of those coups de grace, I guess. People can be so merciful at the strangest of times. It would have been a perfect story for Forensic Files.
The night I was talking about was also chilly. I remember this because I was wearing a brown winter coat whose collar I used to suck on all the time and which possessed a feature I originally thought was a good one, but it didn’t turn out that way in that particular instance. Let me explain.
We were half-hiding behind the white wooden fence mounted on a stone wall. Further protected with bushes and low trees, it was impossible to be seen. A car came up the Clapboard Ridge Road hill from the right side and was now heading down towards the triangle where you could turn left or right onto North Street. I stood and observed the expertise of the older boys as they led the ambush. I think it was my brother’s friend Eric who landed a direct hit. An enormous thud echoed out even louder than the car’s engine and the vehicle screeched to a halt and started to back up. We bolted up the driveway. My brother and his friend were much faster than me and I couldn’t keep up. The minute I felt the car lights sliding along the dark trees and shining up in my direction, I dove to the side behind one of the big gumball trees that lined the driveway. Then I lay on my belly and flattened my body as low as possible, like a lizard on a desert highway. Part of the reason was that, if I didn’t, there was a chance I would get caught because parts of my dark brown coat, otherwise suited for the occasion, were reflective orange.
The man was livid and he vented his anger the only way he seemed to know how, though I wish he had opted for something pacific: he wielded a baseball bat and used it to bash the lights that partially illuminated the road up. Not a single lamp was spared, and, to the best of my knowledge, neither would have been my head, should he have ever found it. But that did not occur. It came close. For a few seconds I had lost sight and sound of the man on the rampage. That meant he could have been anywhere. Then I finally detected his footsteps returning towards the car, but not before staring right in my direction and growling, “I’m going to fuckin’ kill you!”
Just think that I can still recall it lividly. The I was close to death. At least that was the only one I can recall. Maybe there were more that I was unaware of. There must have been.
The driver returned hours later to talk to my parents. He was from the family which owned a gas station near the library. Now it’s a bank or something like that. It turns out he had been struck in the head, the kind of thing that would have moved me to smash to smithereens a dozen street lamps. My father defended my brother saying he was sure he done nothing, though my little sister, deciding to take justice into her own hands, shouted out from the fridge door, “Dad, there are no eggs in the refrigerator!”
But my father still believed my brother. All the same, we stopped taking our car there for repair work…just for good measure.