Friction indeed.



          “Here,” Randle said. “Right here.”

          “Yeah,” I agreed. “That’s perfect.”

          I followed the thug into the shadows of the forest and we crouched behind a large tree. Randle laid the bat in front of him and even in the dark could I see that his bulky knuckles were white from holding the wooden weapon so tightly. Jimmy and Mike took up their positions on the opposite side of the dirt road. The tall figure of Mike did not squat because of his injured ankle.

Moments later, Lisa’s white Volkswagen drove by and parked in front of the house. The girls climbed the porch stairs and knocked on the front door before entering. There was no turning back now.

          “What the fuck is Jimmy doing?” Randle mumbled.

          I heard the sound of running footsteps and saw Jimmy sprinting across the dirt road. He was soon crouching with us in the shadows.

          “Mike and I will jump out behind him,” he said.

          “Whatever,” Randle said irritably. “Now get back over there.”

          “Wait!” I whispered.

          Jimmy looked at me questioningly and Randle nodded towards the house.

          “It’s too late,” Randle said. “Look.”

          Stacey and Stephan had already emerged from the front door.

“Shit!” Jimmy hissed as he squatted back down.

          At first, I thought the thug was cursing because he was unable to return to his hiding spot, but then I saw the real reason for his disgruntlement.

          “Shit,” I gloomily repeated.

          Stephan had decided to bring along his black Labrador Retriever. To make matters worse, the large dog was not on a leash and was permitted to freely roam about. Friction indeed.

          We watched Stacey and Stephan slowly make their way down the long dirt road. A few paces ahead of them, the dog excitedly ran back and forth as he sniffed out suitable places to mark his territory with urination.

          “Fucking dog,” Jimmy grumbled.

          As I watched the animal, my heart started beating faster and a familiar coolness came over me. Knowing that I was about to fight was liberating, exciting, and empowering. Like those few seconds before doing a drug, the anticipation of impending violence was nearly as stimulating as the violence itself. That I was driven tonight by vengeful justice served only to intensify my excitement.

          It was not long before the dog sensed danger and the soft pattering of its feet suddenly came to a halt. The animal braced itself into a fighter’s stance and glared menacingly into the shadows of the trees exactly where Randle, Jimmy, and I were crouching. A low growl rumbled from the Labrador’s chest which was repeated several times. If it was not so damn serious, it would have been hilarious. There we were, hiding in the forest like bandits, and the fucking guard dog had spotted us. Jimmy motioned to Randle that he should hit Fido with the bat and quickly take the animal out of the equation.

          The low growling sound continued to drone from the chest of the canine, but the steps of the rapist did not falter because he was focused on what appeared to be a heated argument with Stacey. When they were twenty-five yards away, I was able to discern that Stephan was a skinny young man with what looked like Middle Eastern ancestry. Fifteen yards away, their intense argument became audibly clear.

          “You raped me!” Stacey accused.

          “No, I didn’t!” he exclaimed.

          “You pulled out my tampon when I was passed out!”

          “No, I didn’t. You were awake and you pulled it out!”

          “I want you to admit what you did!”

          “Stacey, nothing happened you didn’t want to happen!”

          Twelve yards. Ten yards. Eight yards away from where we were hiding. Randle stood up from the shadows and stepped out into the dirt road with the baseball bat resting on his shoulder. Jimmy and I were right behind him and Mike scurried out from his position to the duo’s left. Stacey slowly backed away and there was an awkward moment of silence as Stephan realized he had just been set up.

          “What’s up?” Randle said in an oddly casual way. In the next instance, he swung the bat at Stephan and connected squarely with his shoulder.

          “Fuck!” the victim of the blow cried out in pain.

          “No, Randle,” Stacey murmured. “Not the bat.”

To my surprise, the dog fearfully backed away instead of defending his master. To my even greater surprise, the wooden bat did not fell the young man to the ground. Stephan spun around with startling quickness and took flight towards the house with Randle, Jimmy, and me in hot pursuit. Mike tried to cut him off, but was inhibited from doing so by the limited mobility of his injured ankle.

And so the hunt was on. Like savage wolves that had tasted blood, we chased our prey down the long dirt road. The rapist was fast and he had a decent lead, but Jimmy and I were faster. Ten yards. Nine yards. Eight yards. We were narrowing the distance and were going to catch him before he reached the house. Jimmy stole a quick glance over his shoulder and saw that I was only half-a-step behind him. I could see the same wild look in his eyes that must have burned in my own eyes. This fucking kid was going to suffer for what he did!

          The sound of gunfire ripped through the air. Looking up from our prey, I saw his roommate standing on the front porch, firing a handgun at us. The element of chance had just become the element of reality.

We sprinted away from the house as the sound of gunfire continued to ring out. I ran faster than I had ever run before. Air rushed by my ears, making a whirlwind humming noise. I screamed inside and the panic nearly choked me, but beneath the fear was another emotion—surprise. Getting shot at sounds more like a loud popping noise than the bang bang you hear in movies. 

          We approached the spot of our botched ambush where Stacey and Mike were now standing. Headlights shined behind us and the roaring engine sound of Lisa’s car filled my ears as she zoomed by and skidded to a stop. The five of us raucously squeezed into her small vehicle and the engine of the Volkswagen roared again, drowning out the sound of our panting breaths. Seconds later, Lisa slammed on her brakes and all of our bodies lurched forward as the automobile came to another skidding stop. The thugs jumped out and climbed into the red Maxima and both cars were soon racing down the road towards the highway.

          A few exits before Tallahassee, our two car convoy got off I-10 to eat a late night dinner at Burger King. As we walked towards the restaurant, I wrapped my arm around Lisa and felt her small shoulders shaking like a frightened puppy.

“It’s all over,” I said and squeezed her tightly. “We’re safe now.”

          “Do you think it’s a good idea to stop here?” she asked.

          I shrugged. “If that kid Stephan calls the cops, the first place they’ll search for us is the dorm, not some random fast food joint.”

          “Do you think he’ll call the cops?”

          “Probably not. We didn’t hurt him bad enough. But you should call Stacey’s roommates in twenty minutes to see if the cops have been there looking for her.”

          We ordered our food and I joked with the thugs by making a growling dog noise. They laughed and I chuckled with them, but the laughter felt strange and out of place in the aftermath of what just happened. I think all of us were in a state of semi-shock. It’s not every day that you’re shot at with a gun. For me it was like it didn’t even really happen—it was surreal to know that ten minutes before ordering my Double Whopper with cheese, I had been running away from bullets. My psyche refused to completely acknowledge the dark reality that someone had just tried to kill me.

          Sitting together at a row of tables, we ate our food and quietly discussed how we screwed things up by failing to adequately surround the rapist.

          Jimmy shook his shaved head in frustration. “It takes strategy to plan something like this.”

          I swallowed a few french-fries and said, “There was no way we could’ve predicted the fucking dog.”

          “You girls should’ve told us about that,” Mike said.

          Lisa shrugged. “We didn’t even think about it. That dog is so nice. It couldn’t hurt anyone.”

          “It didn’t,” Stacey said simply.

          “That shit surprised me.” Jimmy replied. “I thought the dog was for sure gonna attack us.”

          “Fuck the dog,” Randle cursed with a sneer.

          The other young men grunted in agreement and I noticed the eyes of the bat-wielding thug were consumed by bitterness. I felt it too. We all did. Inadequacy and self-loathing for failing to sufficiently avenge Stacey.

          After eating our burgers, I sat with Lisa in the far corner of the restaurant while Stacey quietly conversed with her three guy friends. I think they were trying to distract her with gossip from back home. Lisa wanted to talk about us and the relationship we shared.

          “I think you’ve changed, Darren.”

          “What do you mean?”

          “I don’t know…you’re just not the same guy anymore.”

          “You’re right, I’m not. I have a girlfriend now.”

          “That you’re always with,” she said, rolling her eyes. “The old Darren wouldn’t shut out the people in his life.”

          I shook my head. “You’ve got it backwards. I’m not always with her. She’s always with me and my boys.”

          Lisa sipped her straw and shrugged. “I guess I just feel like you’re never around anymore. You don’t ever come down to see me or the girls.”

          “You know where I’m at. You don’t come to see me.”

          Lisa scowled. “I’m not gonna come up to your room and hang out with you and Allison.”

           I chuckled softly. Lisa and Allison hanging out in my dorm room at the same time would be volatile at best.

          Lisa sipped her straw again and said, “Just don’t let her change you, Darren.”

          “Me having a girlfriend hasn’t changed how I feel about our friendship. You called me for help tonight and what happened? I came down to Stacey’s room immediately.”

          “Yeah, I know…I guess I’m just trying to say we miss you.”

          We. I knew Lisa was too proud to use the word I. My lips twisted into a smile and I reached across the table to hold her small hands in mine.

          “Lisa, you know you can always count on me. But you’re feeling a lot of emotions right now. We just got shot at and you’re on emotional overload.”

          “I know…but near-death experiences can make you see what really matters.”

          I nodded. “You do matter to me, but I have a girlfriend now, so you can’t expect me to be the same way with you that I was before.”

          Lisa smiled mischievously. “What about the shower we took together two weeks ago? And what about the night you kidnapped me and carried me back to your room?”

          “Mistakes,” I said. She looked hurt by my answer, so I squeezed her hands and added, “Not because they happened with you, but because I have a girlfriend I care about.”

          “Well, don’t you care about me?”

          I looked up from Lisa and saw Stacey approaching our table. Saved by the fucking bell.

          “Are you guys ready to leave?” she asked us.

          “Yeah,” I replied. “Let’s go.”

          When I entered my dormitory suite later that night, Blake’s door was shut and his light was off. I tossed my keys on a desk and sat alone in the silence of my dark bedroom. Hazel eyes stared blankly at the cement wall as I tried to sort through my thoughts and emotions. A few moments passed before I picked up the phone and called Allison.

          “Hey, Baby,” she answered. “I called you earlier.”

          “Yeah…I left my cell phone in my room.”

          “What’ve you been doing? I miss you.”

          “I was shot at tonight.”

          Silence. And then: “Were you buying cocaine?”

          The question posed to me suggested that friends from Allison’s past must have endured such an experience. I ignored my revulsion to the idea that my girlfriend had been associated with such people.

“No, I wasn’t buying cocaine. Can I come over?”

          “Sure. Do you want me to pick you up?”

          “No. I’ll walk.”

          Allison’s dorm room in Reynolds Hall was on the other side of campus, but a solitary walk under the dark sky of night was exactly what I needed. My thoughts were running wild and I knew sleep would evade me until I ditched my late night companions of anxiety and anger.

          The quiet walk helped a little and Allison’s presence had a soothing effect on me. I crawled into her bed, held her in my arms, and whispered my story into her ear. Lisa’s participation was conveniently left out. Allison had always been suspicious of the 404 Girl and the last thing I wanted to do was provide my girlfriend with ammunition for an accusation.

          Half an hour later when we were trying to sleep, Allison started crying. My girlfriend’s period was scheduled to begin in a few days, and like clockwork, she was always overwhelmed by her hormones during this phase of the menstrual cycle.

          “Hey,” I whispered. “What’s wrong?”

          She sobbed and did not answer me.

          “Baby, tell me what’s wrong. What’d I do?”

          “I have a Business Calculus test tomorrow.”

          “So? You studied for it, didn’t you?”

          “Yeah…but I’m not gonna get a good night’s sleep with you here in my bed.”

          It seemed like a silly thing to cry about, but I slid off the bunk bed and said, “I’m sorry I made you cry. I’ll leave now so you can sleep.”

          “I’m sorry too, Baby,” she sobbed down at me. “Take my car. The keys are on the desk.”

          I snatched up the keys and left.

          Allison’s indifference to my own problems infuriated me and I took it out on her car. The MX-6 flew across campus, skidded through stop signs, and furiously sped up again. By the time I got back to Salley Hall, both automobile and man were on fire.

I walked into my dark bedroom, sat down in the same chair, and stared at the same cement wall. The journey to Reynolds Hall had accomplished nothing and the traumatic events of the night were sinking in now more than ever. Learning that a sweet girl like Stacey had been raped by some asshole, the failed execution of his ambush, being shot at by his roommate, and getting no emotional support from my girlfriend who cried until I left her presence. The feelings of anger, failure, and helplessness consumed me. Feeling helpless reminded me of what Stacey must have felt when she was woken by the painful sensation of being raped—helpless and so terribly violated. My thoughts darkened and my emotions continued to run wild. Anger, failure, backed into a corner, needing to seek flight, needing to escape. Anger, failure, rage. I leaned forward in the chair, elbows resting on knees, head in my hands, fingers rubbing my skull, feeling the prickly sensations of a freshly shaved head.

          “This motherfucker shot at me,” I mumbled. “This motherfucker shot at me.”

          I was on emotional overload and needed to release my frustration. Rising to my feet, I stalked out into the common room area of the suite. Powerful hands seized a plastic chair by its metal legs and I let loose the caged beast, repeatedly slamming the chair against the wall as chips of paint, cement, and plastic shattered into the air.




Loud knocking on the front door halted my aggressive act of destruction. I placed the deformed chair on the ground and opened the door to see my Resident Assistance standing before me in a robe.

Julio scowled. “What’s going on?”

          My RA had been forced to deal with a lot of shit because of me and my boys. Smashed windows, vomit and urination in the hallways, kitchens sprayed with foaming fire extinguishers, and broken elevator doors were just a few examples of the carnage caused by our Animal House mentality. We even stole Julio’s mattress and refrigerator. The possibility occurred to me that he might have finally reached his limit and was going to make a stand here and now against our animalistic behavior. But after the wild night I had just endured, Julio’s authority seemed even more of a joke than usual.

I thus firmly held his gaze and coldly replied, “Nothing is going on…just some drama. It’s over now.”

          To my surprise, the RA was satisfied with this explanation and returned to his room. Maybe he saw the strain of the night’s events in my eyes and felt sympathy for me or maybe he just wanted to return to whatever I had disturbed him from doing. Regardless, he left and I was alone in the darkness of my dorm room once more.

          Three floors beneath me, Stacey was lying in bed with one of her guy friends. Down on the floor with pillows and blankets were the two other young men. The sound of a cell phone ringing cut through the silence like a knife.

          “Hello?” Stacey answered.

          “That was fucked up,” said a male voice.

          “You deserved it and it should’ve been worse.”


Website Builder