Chapter 6 On Saturday Ross didn't show and the games were lousy. He had kind of a fire he carried with him. If he liked you, if he let you inside the circle, you wanted to stay near. And if he froze you out, you wanted to make him pay for it. He was the most popular guy on the court--and the most hated. Everybody played harder when he was there.
But without him around, the guys drifted off early. After an hour or so John and I were the only ones left. We tried playing some one-on-one, but we didn't match up at all. John was too big for me inside, and I ate him alive outside. After a couple of games we gave it up.
"I wonder why Ross didn't show," I said as I pulled on my sweats.
"He caddies weekends at Broadmoor," John answered. "Or at least he did last summer."
"Who knows? You can never tell with Ross. But I doubt it."
I went late the next day. I hadn't planned on going, but a lousy basketball game is better than no game at all. I was about half a block away when I heard Ross scream, "In your face! In your face!" I started walking faster.
When I reached the court, Ross stopped the game so that we could pick new teams and I could play. Some of the guys groaned, but Ross pushed until he got his way. For the next two hours we ran the court together. I'd feed him passes and he'd put up the most impossible, incredible shots. And when they went down, he'd give me a high-five or point his finger at me and chant: "You! You! You!"
I could have played all day, but some of the guys had things they had to do. We dropped down to three-on-three, then two-on-two. Finally even John left. Ross and I shot for a few minutes, then he said he had to go. But as we were walking off the court he asked me if I could get a car that night.
"Yeah. Or at least I think so. Where do vou want to go?"
"It's a surprise I'll meet you right here around ten. OK?"
I couldn't ask for the car for no reason at all, so I had to lie and tell my parents I was going to the movies. And since nothing starts at ten o'clock, I had to leave the house at eight-thirty.
I drove down to the Peaches in Ballard Square and walked up and down the aisles looking at albums until I was sure they figured I was a shoplifter or a weirdo or both. It was still only nine-fifteen; Crown Books was closed so I couldn't go there and
It was a little creepy sitting there in the dark. The minutes crawled by. At ten o'clock, I started looking around, but Ross didn't show. I put my head against the window and dosed my eyes. The next thing I knew, Ross was pounding on the hood. I jumped up so fast I banged my head. "Let's go!" he said when I opened the door for him.
He still wouldn't tell me what was up. He just kept saying that I should relax and that it would be fun. He gave directions and I drove. I didn't like it much, but I did it. Once we crossed the Montlake Bridge I was completely lost. I'd never been in that part of the city before. He had me turn left at a store that made artificial arms and legs, and it wasn't until we were halfway down this wide avenue heading toward Lake Washington that he said anything at all.
"I got fired today."
"I sat on a white bench."
"Caddies are supposed to sit on these old beat-up green benches. I sat on a white one, some old duffer complained, and they fired me."
Ross leaned forward and pointed to a side street. "Pull in there," he said. "Park the car and kill the lights."
We sat for about five minutes, then he opened the door and softly closed it. When the dome light went on, I noticed that he had a brown bag with him.
We walked along on the side street for about fifty yards, and then Ross ducked in behind some bushes. I followed him. He hoisted himself up and over a brick wall, and I tumbled after him.
"Sh!" he said when I landed in a stack of leaves.
I could tell we were on a golf course from the sand traps in the moonlight. Ross looked around for a second and then motioned for me to follow him as he ran across the fairway. It was so dark
that when he disappeared into the bushes on the other side, I lost him completely. I stood out in the fairway until I heard him call my name. "Stay close!" he said when I finally caught up with him.
We walked up a grassy knoll and then down to a creek. When we reached a bridge, Ross took two cans of spray paint out of the bag. "Here," he said as he handed one to me. "Go to work!"
"No way. I'm not writing anything."
He glared at me for a second. "All right, but keep a lookout."
Ross knelt down and started spraying obscenities on the boards of the bridge. The only sound was the wind in the trees and the hissing of the spray can.
I'd never been with anyone who'd done anything like that before. I should have walked away. I had the car; Ross would have had to follow. But I didn't move. I just watched him, and I kept thinking how astonished my father would be if he ever found out.
I was scared, but it was exciting. And I felt strangely powerful, as if I were capable of things I hadn't dreamed of.
Ross finished spraying and stood up.
"Let's get out of here!" I whispered.
"Not yet. We've got one more thing to do." Then he ran along the side of the fairway and headed up toward the brightly lit clubhouse. We stopped about a hundred yards from it.
"This is stupid," I said. "We're going to get caught."
Ross shook his head. "No, we won't." He pointed to a little shack. "See that? The night watchman sits in that room smoking cigarettes and watching porno videos. We've got nothing to worry about. Just keep quiet and follow me."
We ran right through the lights. If anybody was looking, they'd have seen us clear as day. It was the fastest hundred I've ever run in my life.
I kept my eye on the shack as Ross went to work on that beautiful white wall. He had written a few of the standard things when we heard the footsteps. Immediately he dropped the can and we took off.
"Hey! Stop! You hear me? Stop!"
We ran faster, across the fairway and into the bushes. Ross dropped to the ground and grabbed my leg and pulled me down right next to him. My heart was pounding. Then I saw the beam of the flashlight.
The watchman was on the other side of the fairway, about thirty yards away. I couldn't see him, but when his light hit a bush or a tree it blazed up like it was under a spotlight. "I know you're there," we heard him say. "I can wait. I'll get you. I'll get you if I have to wait until morning."
Then the light bobbed up and down in the darkness as he crossed the fairway and headed right toward us. I put my face right down into the dirt and felt Ross next to me doing the same thing. The
watchman moved the light in a wide arc, and for a split second it was right over our heads. Then it was gone.
We lay perfectly still as he strode up and down the fairway pointing his flashlight into the bushes. Finally he gave up and slowly made his way up the hill toward the clubhouse.
"Let's go!" Ross whispered and he was off like a shot. I stumbled along after him as best I could. He knew the course, but I didn't, so he had to stop and wait for me. We ran across the bridge, through the trees, and then I fell into a sand trap. He pulled
me out of that, and the next thing I knew we were at the brick wall and up and over. We should have walked to the car, but we ran the whole way. I got in, started it up, and floored it.
"Don't ever pull that again," I said when we were safely away. "Why didn't you tell me what the deal was?"
"Hey, I wanted to surprise you."
"No way, Ross. Don't ever do it again. Understand?"
"OK, OK. I'll tell you next time. No big deal."
We drove in silence. I was so mad I didn't say a single word.
But once we crossed the University Bridge I felt calmer, and by the time we hit Phinney Ridge my hands weren't shaking at all. When we reached Market Street, Ross fished around in his back pocket for his wallet. "You hungry?"
"Yeah," I admitted. "I'm starving."
"Stop at Burger King. I'll buy you a Whopper."
By the time I finished my first burger I wasn't mad anymore, and as I ate my second one we were both laughing, thinking about how stupid we were to have hidden when we could have just kept running. That old guy never would have caught us