We met when I was eighteen and Brittney Stockholm was seventeen. It was the last dance of the school year at East Side High and we were both graduating in just two weeks. I was from the poorer section of town where the dance was being held. Brittney went to Lincoln on the west side. I guess she and her fellow students decided to crash the dance and be as obnoxious as possible. Things would have been all right except for her date, Brad Doyle.
We had heard of the Doyles even down here in the mill section of the city. They were the powers that be in the city administration. His father was the mayor and his uncle was on the city council. There was another brother who owned a woolen mill where a good many of my neighbors were employed. My family was black Irish and I took after them in looks.
When Brittney walked in all eyes turned to her. She was petite, blue-eyed, blonde, and oh so cute. Brad was tall, rugged and well set up with all of his blond looks. He played football and it had been in the paper that he was headed for school on an athletic scholarship. I had hoped to get a scholarship as well, but I hadn't quite made it, so I suppose it was going to be the factory for me. I had the brains, but I had to work part-time helping my widowed mother and two younger brothers survive.
It was after the band's intermission that the trouble started. Brad had been making loud comments about the girls that were here. Mostly derogatory remarks about various body parts or their dress or hairstyles. I was watching when Brad grabbed one of my classmates and pulled her out onto the dance floor. He got fresh by running his hand down over her butt. She tried to prevent it by moving his hand up. Then he moved up and was visibly fondling her breasts. Her boyfriend went out and tried to cut in, which got him nowhere.
I was standing near his date Brittney, and could hear her talking to one of the other couples she came with. At first I think she thought it was funny, but when it continued, she was as embarrassed as everyone else. Soon everyone became aware of what was happening. I'm no hero, but this person from the other part of town was here making passes at one of our girls. I challenged him when he laughingly came off the dance floor.
I knew this little blonde girl was Brad's date. When he was almost up to us, I turned to her and said, "Your date has been making an ass of himself. It needs to be evened up. Kiss me."
She looked scared and hesitated. I think she was ashamed of his actions and maybe a little concerned being in this section of town. But wonders be, she came to me and let me take her in my arms. The kiss was like going to heaven and was nowhere near long enough. I was pulled roughly away from her. "What the fuck are you doing with my girl?"
"Just getting even for what you were doing to my friend, Sandy. At least I asked to kiss your date. You just started grabbing. Consider it even and the incident finished."
"Like hell I will. I'll meet you outside."
"Brad, let it go. It was just a kiss. You were making an ass of yourself. Why did you act like that anyway? You embarrassed me."
"I won't let it go. No hunky is going to kiss my girl."
"Brad, I'm Irish not Hungarian. Us Irish have been whipping British ass for more centuries than you can count." I knew I was letting myself in for quite a tussle, but I wasn't going to back down in front of this cute little thing I had just finished kissing. "The O'Hara will meet you anytime, anyplace."
About this time the school officials came rushing up. "What's going on? Is there trouble here? No fighting. If there is any fighting on school grounds, it doesn't matter what school you are from, you get suspended and won't graduate." That cooled my will to fight. I needed my diploma in two weeks.
Brad saw this. "I'll shake hands, if he will."
"Okay by me." I stuck out my hand.
Brad took it and pulled me close. "Get your friends to find someplace away from school and I'll still knock your head off."
Brad was three inches taller and twenty-five pounds heavier than me. I wasn't worried for I had been unloading raw material from trucks coming into the factory for the last two years. "You're on. Meet me outside."
"I'm Brittney. I'm afraid you're going to get hurt." The girl that had kissed me said this as she sided up to me when we exited the dance hall.
"Don't worry about me, I'm The O'Hara. Worry about your boyfriend. By the way, I'd like to kiss you again sometime."
"You are as bad as Brad! I hope he does knock your block off."
We trooped down the street to an empty lot. When we got there, Brad was a little concerned that he would be mobbed. I allayed his fears. "This is just between you and me. Nobody will interfere. If I lick you, it ends here and if you lick me, you will be free to leave. No reporting this to the police either. Agreed?"
"Okay asshole. I'll leave your buddies to pick up the pieces." We were arranged in the lot with his two friends, their girlfriends and Brittney. This left them on one side and half the student body lining the sidewalk behind me. I took my blazer off and debated about my shirt. It was the only white one I owned, so I took that off too. Brad just removed his suit jacket and faced me.
At first I had the advantage, for I had the street light over my shoulder. I knew that would change once the fight was joined. Brad did have an impressive set of shoulders and arms like hams. I was going to have my work cut out for me. One thing about Brad, he didn't wait. He launched himself at me thinking the first blow would settle the fight.
I side-stepped him and just tapped his chest as he went by me. It didn't hurt him. I went farther into the lot, turned and waited for him to come again. This time he had both arms out and was going to grapple. I ducked under one arm and planted a good solid blow to his belly. His belly was hard, but I knew my blow had hurt. I turned quickly and when his arms came down, I hit him up high and hard on the chest, just inside his shoulder and then tapped him on the chin with my other fist. One arm came around and hit me on the right cheek. It was only a half blow with no power behind it, but I felt it.
We went back and forth with me hitting him twice for every time he hit me. I was just a bit faster. He did make my nose bleed which was a bother. I had been very careful to keep away from his face, although I had connected with his chin a couple of times, just to show him I could. The crowd behind me on the sidewalk could see I was still in control and kept yelling to hit him on the nose.
The blow to his inside shoulder had made that arm almost useless. He could move it, but it was only good for defense. I got a good blow into his solar plexus and when he turned I hit him with my fist to the back of his thigh. I knew enough about street fighting to know that blow would give him a charley horse and slow him down, especially if I backed off and gave it time to tighten up. He wouldn't realize it until he needed to move quickly.
I spoke for the first time. "Brad, do you think you can whip me? Really I want to know. You've got one arm and one leg that is basically useless. I've left your face alone on purpose. I could have mashed your face in almost at will. Even when I hit you in the jaw, I pulled my punches. I'll shake your hand anytime you say. The only thing I will demand is that you apologize to Sandy, the girl you got fresh with."
I stood ready to stick my hand out waiting on his decision. He was half a mind to continue, but then he took a step forward and almost fell because his leg wouldn't hold him up. Sandy moved up beside me and looked at Brad. His eyes were riveted on me, and then he switched them over to her. "Sandy, I apologize for treating you with such disrespect. Would you please forgive me?"
"Yes I will. I have to say you are one lucky bastard. If The O'Hara had been feeling mean, you might be dead or wishing you were."
"I'm just beginning to realize that."
Three weeks later I was coming home from the mill. I was working full time now that I was through school. I was still on the dock, loading and unloading trucks. At least I wasn't stuck inside at a saw or lathe. When I got home I found Sandy sitting on the stoop. "Hi there, hero. Having fun now that we are out of school?"
"Yeah right, like always. Like last week or any week fifty years from now."
"Hey, it's a living."
"Keep the bullshit to yourself. What are you doing here? Where's Pete?"
"Pete and I split up. I've got a new boyfriend now. Say, how would you like to double date? I don't know this guy too well and I'm a little hesitant about going out with him."
"That's good, except I don't have a girl."
"I'll supply the girl for your date if you'll go. I promise she won't be a dog."
I hadn't been out since the dance and even that night I didn't have a real date. Everyone liked me so if I wanted to dance, someone was always there for me. Also, everyone knew that I was supporting my mom and brothers. It wasn't that I was poor or cheap, it was just I had a use for what money I made, so my social life was almost nil.
"I don't know if I can afford it. How much will it cost?"
"Not more than a twenty. If you need more during the evening, I'll slip you some and you can pay me back. I really want to go out with this guy."
"Okay, I guess. What should I wear?"
"Just a sport shirt and jeans. We will be going to a movie and maybe have a beer after."
"When is this going to take place?"
"Tomorrow night. My date is going to pick me up at seven-thirty."
"Who is your new boyfriend? Is it someone I know?"
.... There is more of this story ...