Never Mess with Marines

The coaches selected me to play in the Senior Bowl composed of football players who were finishing high school in the area. To improve my strength for the upcoming baseball season, I had begun working out on weights with a trainer three times a week and my strength and speed had increased that helped during Senior Bowl football practices. Designated a halfback, I finally had a chance to enjoy that position. Running the ball through the line in scrimmages,  and cutting left or right into the open, made me realize how much fun I had missed not trying the position when offered after I recovered from my concussion. Skip Lawrence called the first two plays for me to run the ball. Running the ball more than ten yards, driving linebackers off balance, and racing through the line for two first downs was a great beginning. After my second run, another coach yanked me for his team’s halfback and I played defensive safety for the rest of the night. At the end of the game we were awarded our jersey and I wore mine to celebrate with a friend. “Let’s buy some beer and party on the beach!” he suggested. “Why not? Let’s go,” I said.            We bought a six-pack of sixteen-ounce, Colt 45 malt liquor, and we drove in my black ’49 Buick to the bluffs of Huntington Beach and parked on a high hill covered with green ice weed overlooking an area near Tin Can Beach.           We had just finished the last beer when two attractive females in bikinis walked by. After rolling down the windows, I made an approving whistle and got out to follow them with my friend. Instantly, from behind, came two angry muscular dark haired men in their twenties with crew cuts who wore red and yellow shirts that warned: U.S. Marine Corps. They were Mexican as were their dates. In a flash two Pit Bulls jumped a Greyhound, while my friend escaped in a mad dash to the beach in the dark. The smaller one with square jaw, clenched fists, and contorted face, threatened me, “Hey, punk. What you doing hustling our women?” “Ahh, I’m sorry, ahh, didn’t know they were with you,” came stammering from my numb mouth. In a second he punched me in the face, but it glanced off me as I twisted my head quickly just before the blow struck. Despite my disorienting inebriation, I tried to defuse the situation, “Hey, I’m really sorry, but I had too much to drink.” “Come on. Fight me, white boy,” said the square jaw. He heightened my fear knowing they both had brutal hand-to-hand combat training.“I don’t want to fight, drank too much beer, and am sorry.” “You’re chicken, white boy. I’m going to teach you not to fuck with me.” He struck me again with a strong uppercut that grazed my chin, as I dodged back a step. One woman standing on a large towel spread with food and drinks tried to calm the husky Marine, “Leave him alone and come here.” The other Marine was my height, had a narrow face, chiseled chin, and ugly scar on his forehead, curled lips, and a long nose. Muscles bulged from his red Marine shirt. He ignored the women and hovered waiting his turn. Neither would let me out of their trap. The tall one taunted, “Hey, white boy,” he said as he poked his finger in my chest on my jersey causing me to stagger. “You wearing a football jersey, man. Why don’t you defend yourself?” “I’m too drunk.” My response brought a quick punch to my face from the smaller man followed by another. When each blow came at my face, I turned my head, jumped slightly backwards, and stumbled, so it glanced off. That pissed off the smaller brawny Marine. Their eyes flamed with hatred. He lunged at me and swung a hay-maker. I ducked, slid under his arm, twirled around, ran as fast as I could, cut to his right, and sped off for a hundred yard sprint toward the ocean. How I escaped them will always be a mystery—they could have killed me or left me disabled and scarred for life if I had thrown one punch. My friend turned up a few minutes later near the water, “I saw the whole thing. I’m amazed you escaped. They were going to kill you.” We wandered along the beach listening to the waves breaking at one of the best surfing beaches in California. After walking a mile down the seashore my balance returned and we had lost the Macho Marines. “Let’s get out of here,” I muttered. We scrambled back up the dunes to the highway, ran to the safety of my car, and I sped  to Long Beach. After dropping him off, I drove home. That was the first time I had become drunk all year and it nearly cost my life. How foolish to let my guard down, quickly become drunk, whistle at strangers, and have a confrontation with professional killers. I barely had any control. Taking a deep breath of fresh air, I walked out into my backyard into the arms of the gentle night under a full moon, and was thankful for being alive.  

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