Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Peanut Gallery

The Cooper brothers were and are two of my best friends. Adam, the elder of the two, was a calm, peace loving diplomat. Jonathan was also calm and peace loving, but he was more of a clam than a diplomat. Whereas Adam had taken me under his wing as the older, wiser man of the world, Jonathan only spoke to me in replies for the first few months of our hanging out.

We had known each other practically from birth and our family connections went back generations. However, when we were young we didn't like each other at all. They thought of the Ethridge brothers as loud, brash and violent (which we were.) and we thought of them as dull as dish water (they were actually much duller than that, but we gave them a break as we had known them for such a long time.)

When we reached our teens we began to develop an appreciation for each other, however. Adam became a sort of pied piper of young women which amazed me. Jonathan was a silent philosopher that I respected. I believe they liked my "kick the door down" attitude and Joshua's ability to always say what was on his mind. Once we began to admire each others qualities our friendship quickly blossomed.

The few tales contained within this telling are centered on Adam. I have here the opportunity to set the record straight about a few things. For one thing, it has often been thought in our little social circle that I was a "bad influence" on the Cooper brothers. I can say with certainty that this isn't true. Well, for the most part it isn't true.

Adam often used me as a smoke screen. From the outside it looked as if I could convince Adam to do almost anything. However, I could only "trick" him into doing things he really wanted to do. Once he had done what ever it was to his complete satisfaction he could jump back, point the accusing finger at me and yell "How could I have been deceived again!" It never bothered me as I had gotten what I wanted and didn't care what people thought.

A perfect example of that took place one afternoon when Adam and I had gone to pick Jonathan up from college. I was supposed to have a date with Rachel (for those of you who don't already know, Rachel is my wife.) later that night, but her parents wouldn't let me take her out with the guys unless I had another girl go along with us. I had been mulling over a solution all morning and I finally had an idea.

"Hey, Jonathan, what do you think of heading to Charleston after we've got you all packed up?"

"Sounds good bro!"

Now, Charleston was roughly one hundred miles away from home and it was already mid-afternoon.

"We're not going to Charleston!" Adam chimed in.

I looked at Adam for a moment and then looked at Jonathan and smiled.

"Want to bet?"

Jonathan laughed and this annoyed Adam. He knew that he only ever did what he really wanted to do and that I couldn't make him do anything. However, I did keep a long list of things he wanted in the back my head, just in case I needed them. I would barter with him. If he did what I wanted I would help him get what he wanted. He ignored this fact and pressed on.

"There is nothing that you can say that is going to make me go to Charleston!"

"Is that a fact?"

"It is!"

"Ahhh... Well, I just thought that if we went to Charleston we could pick up my cousin Christie and bring her home with us for a while."

"Your Aunt would never allow that."

"Want to bet?"

Here I had thrown down the gauntlet. It was a challenge and Adam knew it. Christie was a particular weakness to the Cooper brothers and as my cousin didn't mind me flaunting her a bit I used her feminine wiles whenever I was in a tight spot. He knew that I wouldn't have challenged him had I not felt certain I could win. So, either I lost and he could mock me or I won and Christie could come with us. It was really win/win from his point of view.

“Your Aunt is not going to let Christie come up here with us.”

“I say she will. The bet is simple. Aunt Sarie says yes, we go get Christie.”

“She's not going to say yes.”

“Then you have nothing to loose.”

I stood there staring at Adam and Jonathan stood there smiling at the two of us. Finally Adam caved or pretended to. He knew that he had nothing to loose either way. I called Aunt Sarie and thirty seconds later had permission to pick up Christie. Adam grumbled, having “lost” the bet, but by the time we were in the car you couldn't have wiped the smile off of his face.

An hour or so later we were in Charleston and a few minutes after that we had Christie in the car and were heading for Beech Island. That's about one hundred and fifty miles from Charleston and close to fifty from where we lived, so it was going to be quite a trip. Except for a speeding ticket things went well and I ended up being able to take Rachel out at around midnight. It had been a long drive and I had to have Rachel home in a little over an hour. (I only got that because of the trouble I had gone too. Her parents couldn't believe how far I had gone in order to take their daughter out on a date.)

After all was said and done Adam complained about how I had tricked him into it. Of course, he had a great time with Christie and had actually done exactly what he wanted to do. However, if any eyebrows were raised about our two hundred mile detour it was all because of Jeremy. I took the wrap and got what I wanted. That was often how things went with us.

Of course, at times, Adam would refuse to do what Jonathan or I suggested just to prove that he could. I remember one instance when we had gone to see something up in Augusta. I don't remember what the occasion was, but we went down to the River Walk and there was a huge crowd. After whatever we were there to see was over we hopped in the car and headed for home.

We had parked in a gas station parking lot and as we were going to pull out Adam had his right blinker on. I looked at the cars backed up to the right and the absolutely empty left lane. I also considered the fact that the drivers in the right lane were gracious enough to leave a space where we could turn left. In addition left was the more direct way home, so turning right seemed anti-productive. I decided to speak.

“Hey bro, we should turn left while we have the chance.”

“Nah, a right turn is easier to make.”

“Normally I would agree, but not in this case.”

“Look at the traffic to the right Adam. We really should go left.” Jonathan chimed in.

I suppose he shouldn't have. When Jonathan and I sided against Adam it was often enough to make him do the opposite of what we suggested just to show us. This was an example of that fact.

“I'm driving and I'm turning right!”

And so he did. He turned right up to the bumper of the car in front of us. After ten minutes we had moved around fifteen or twenty feet. Jonathan and I were a constant chorus of “You should have turned left!” as we stared out the window at the left lane which was completely devoid of cars. After a few more minutes of this Adam snapped at us.

“If you two don't shut up you're both going to be walking home!”

We took his subtle hint and got quiet. For a few minutes we sat in silence. Finally Adam slammed his hand down on the steering wheel and yelled:

“I should have turned left!!!!”

At this point Jonathan began to look in the back seat and under his seat and all around. After a moment I couldn't resist asking him about it.

“Jonathan... What are you looking for?”

“The peanut gallery. If we can't say how right we were somebody has to!”

At this we all burst out laughing. A couple of hours later we were out of Augusta and Adam had learned a lesson about being contrary. Still, to be fair to Adam, Jonathan and I could be royal pains at times. It's a wonder he didn't snap at us more than he did. One of the times he did snap was a bit shocking. Adam became a little violent which was something we never anticipated.

Adam had taken Jonathan and I to the movies. We went to the late show, as we almost always did, and so it was almost midnight by the time we got out of the theater. Now, the theater was in the same shopping center as the book store. We almost always went to the book store when we ended up near it.

On this particular night Jonathan and I were counting on it. We had a couple of gaming books that we were considering picking up and there wasn't anywhere local that we could get them. We wanted to get at them without making a special hour long trip just to buy them. Adam refused. He had worked all day, he had work to do that night and the next day. He was heading home. That didn't sit well with Jonathan and I. I opened the dialog.

“Come on bro! It will take like five minutes.”

“No! I'm dead.”

“Man, we are right here.”

“No! I don't feel like it! We still have work to do tonight!”

We went back and forth like this for a while. Jonathan was standing there silently getting more and more angry. He felt that the trip to the book store was part of the deal and that Adam was backing out of it. Finally he spoke... or yelled rather...

“You will go to the book store! You will go because we've told you to go! Now get in the car and drive across the parking lot to the book store! Now!!”

Adam was shocked to say the least. Jonathan normally didn't get loud or violent. Adam always claimed that Jonathan got like that when he spent too much time with me. To be fair, he was probably right. At last he gave up and we drove over to the book store. As we went in the Cooper brothers will still bickering back and forth.

Adam was angry because he had caved and was underlining all the reasons it was stupid for us to go to the book store. Jonathan was mocking Adam and saying that if he had enough backbone to stand up to us he wouldn't have to be there. I was browsing through the books and ignoring them. I wanted to get what we came for and get out as quickly as possible. I was determined, but not cruel.

Suddenly I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye. I saw that a small white blur had struck a larger white blur and knocked it out of view. I turned to see Jonathan quietly getting up off the floor. Adam had finally had enough. He had charged down a row of bookshelves at Jonathan and tackled him! After the outburst both of them regained control and we quickly and silently left the building.

I think even Adam was surprised by the turn of events. It gave us a good laugh later on and it was a lesson for us all. You can push even the most peace loving person too far if you try. Jonathan and I never pushed Adam that far again. If he could be goaded into sacking you in a public place with any number of spectators watching then who knows what else he might do.

Many years have gone by. The three of us rarely end up at the same place at the same time now. There are no more midnight adventures. Still, we have the memories. We are what we were, but our lives have changed now. I wouldn't give up my life now to go back to then. I like to look back and remember, however. It is a great blessing to be able to look over your life and like what you see.

I hope you all enjoyed this! Remember to spread the word!

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