Down with Bodo
El Sobrante, a small town in Northern California, 1980.
Johnny and I were obsessed with getting in with Rex Bodo and his crew. It would be our ticket to popularity, coolness, and the best weed in town. We had dropped all our non-pothead buddies and were ready to make the move to Rex Bodo badasses. I had even dumped my girlfriend, Carmela; Johnny had insisted she was too into school, and that if I really wanted to be down with Bodo, I would have to get rid of her. Johnny knew about this stuff and he even had an in: his older brother, Russell. He had been a legendary running back in his high school days, who became a legendary dope fiend shortly thereafter. He was known and revered by squares and stoners alike, including Rex Bodo.
Bodo had invited Johnny to swing by his pad and then go to a party where there would be “lots of good weed and so much titty you’ll be drooling like a baby.” Johnny and I could barely contain our excitement over this good fortune. Every time one of us mentioned it, we’d start whooping it up and planning our future with Rex Bodo and his stoner posse.
The only problem with this plan was my nerves. I was a bit of an anxious kid, somewhat phobic, kind of OCD, could be a hypochondriac at times, perhaps a little PTSD—nothing too serious. I had missed a few weeks of eighth grade with a mysterious “illness” I had created to avoid Mr. Handelman’s gym class, and I couldn’t go places that involved heights or enclosed spaces. But I had found a pretty good cure last year when I started puffing the occasional joint three or four times a day. It helped a lot, but only went so far. My nerves could still get the best of me in high-stress situations, like trying to prove myself to Rex Bodo, the biggest badass in all of El Sobrante. He wore a snakeskin jacket, sported a black soul patch, and had an L-shaped scar on his cheekbone he got in sixth grade during a fierce game of Duck Duck Goose.
In front of Rex’s house, a cute stucco with a well-manicured lawn, Johnny grabbed my arm. “Dude, just be cool. This time don’t act like a dick,” he said, and then knocked on Rex’s basement door. I was stung. What the hell did that mean?
“You don’t act like a dick either.”
He gave me a sharp look and shook his head. It was hard to admit, but Johnny, my best bud since pre-school, was getting fed up. I had blown it a few times before, like the night I puked in Lance Gonzaga’s GTO after doing beer bongs, or the time a group of us got in a fight with these San Pablo dudes, and I hid in the Porta Potty. “I won’t act like a dick,” I said. “I’ll be cool.”
The door opened and there stood Bodo, lean and shirtless, hair wild in his glazed eyes. He gave Johnny a soul clap, their two hands popping together, then pulling back for a toke off an air joint, and then he gave me one. This was going to work, I thought to myself. I stepped into paradise: an unfinished basement, the walls covered with posters of topless ladies, hot rods, and rock bands: Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Van Halen. On the counters were skull candles, bongs, and a Big Bird figurine with a fork stuck in its neck.
We sat on his unmade bed and Bodo filled the Proto Pipe with green buds. “Wait,” I said. “What about your parents?”
Bodo smiled. “The door’s locked. No one comes in. No one goes out.” That was all it took, the little pebble that started the avalanche. I looked around the tiny dark room. I was locked in, trapped. It was a fire hazard too, I realized. My heart sped up and I couldn’t get a full breath; it felt like my chest was being pressed in. I heard them sucking on the pipe, smelled the skunky weed. There could be a fire but we’d be too high to realize it and I’d die!
I leaped off the bed and ran for the door. “I got to get out!”
“What’s he doing?” croaked Rex, releasing smoke from his lungs.
“Dude, maintain!” said Johnny, his jaw clenched. The door was locked. I heard Bodo’s words again: No one goes out. I saw a door on the other side of the basement and, without thinking, ran to it and flung it open, the tiny eye-hook lock flinging off into space.
“What the fuck!” snarled Rex.
I raced up a flight of dark stairs and into the kitchen where a woman with a face like Rex’s, but with mascara and bright pink lipstick, stood in front of the stove stirring a big pot. She jerked her head back, startled at the sight of me, but then smiled. “Well, I don’t usually get to meet Rex’s friends. I’m Mrs. Bodo.” She stepped toward me and shook my hand. What a nice lady, I thought, and what big tits.
Rex and Johnny were up the stairs now. “Hi, mom, just taking Stuart on a tour of the house,” said Rex, pulling me out of the kitchen. They were each on one side of me, dragging me around the house. “This is the living room, this is the bathroom,” they said, Rex cursing me under his breath: “Dumbass. Dickhead. Bug-fucker.” It really was a lovely house: sunken living room, hardwood floors, Mexican tiling. I realized my terror was ridiculous—I could get out of the basement any time I wanted, and Mrs. Bodo seemed very capable of dealing with any fire issues.
When they got me back downstairs Rex was in my face. “What the hell was that?”
“It’s cool, man. He doesn’t like small spaces. It’s a good laugh, that’s all,” Johnny said, trying save the night. He passed me the pipe and I filled my lungs, trying to calm myself.
“All right,” said Rex, staring at me with his angry prison eyes, “but no more of that shit, got it, dickless?”
I couldn’t believe it. After five minutes I had already blown this thing. I toked again and again, trying to escape my stupidity. “You going to keep bogarting that pipe?” Rex growled.
I thought things might go better on the ride to the party in Bodo’s ’67 Camaro, but he was driving like a maniac, and I had to keep reminding him of the speed limit. “You know, I saw a sign that said 25.”
“Shut up, dickless,” he said, revving the car to 70, houses flying past us in a blur.
We stepped into the party and it was a wild scene. AC/DC blasting, chicks, mostly El Sobrante High School stoner girls, but maybe some El Cerrito girls too, dancing, swishing and snake-like, their cleavage bouncing, strips of belly wriggling. Grungy dudes bounced in front of them, and others spread out in little clusters, drinking, puffing, yelling over the music. All of Bodo’s buddies were there giving him soul shakes and hugs. “Bodo! Now the party can begin!”
“Bodo!” with the oooooo dragged out like a chant.
“Toke it up, Bodo!” Bodo was introducing them to Johnny, but I was playing cool and hanging back. First, this place was definitely a fire hazard; I wanted to stay close to the door. But also, that music was too loud, certainly enough to cause hearing loss. You don’t want to damage any of the key sensory organs: ears, eyes, or dick.
I found some older guy sitting by the turntable and asked if he might lower the music a bit, but he couldn’t hear me. I kept yelling, trying to explain to him about decibels and hearing loss, but he just kept shaking his head. He did give me a beer though.
I walked over to Rex and Johnny and the gang, who were smoking a bowl in the kitchen, where it wasn’t quite so loud. Rex’s eyes lit up when he saw me. Yes, I would meet his friends and my destiny would be assured. “Hey everyone, I want you to meet my new buddy, Dickless. Dickless, meet everyone.”
I heard a chorus of “Hi, Dickless.” I smiled pathetically. This one guy was looking at Rex all serious. “What kind of parent would name a child “Dickless”? They started razzing him, and I used the distraction to sneak outside and sit on the porch. I couldn’t handle the abuse and I really was worried about my eardrums. But Johnny was in there all chummy. Not only would I never get in with Rex and his posse, but I’d probably lose Johnny too.
“Stuart,” I heard through a haze of self pity. I looked up and saw Carmela, my ex, wearing a broad smile and a skimpy halter top. I was completely shocked to see her. She was glowing, older looking than last time I saw her, wearing make-up, her body confident. I realized I should never have dumped her.
“Carmela, you look fine!”
She giggled. “Hey, you were the one who broke up with me.” I sat there trying to figure why the hell I did it. I liked hanging out with her—holding hands, making out, getting the occasional blow job in the park—but being with her all the time at school and everything started to feel awkward. I just started running out of things to talk about. Then Johnny insisted that if we wanted to get in with the stoner crew, I had to drop my square girlfriend, that she would hold me back, and like a dumbass, I listened.
I had to rectify this situation. Maybe I couldn’t get in with Bodo, but maybe I could find something just as good. Better. “Carmela,” I said, swallowing, trying to find the words, “maybe I was a bit hasty. Could you give me another chance?”
Her grin turned to wide-mouthed surprise. She socked me in the arm.
“Ow! Holy shit, you have bony knuckles!”
“You should have thought of that before. I’m with someone else now.”
Something inside me crumbled, but I fought to stay nonchalant. “Oh yeah, who?”
“An older guy. And he’s really fine.”
Whatever had crumbled in me was ground to cruel dust.
Two of her friends popped out on the porch and said they had to go.
“Bye, Stuart,” she said, giving me a little pout and hopping into the station wagon with the girls. I watched them drive away, keeping my eyes on the car until the taillights were little specs.
I saw his face in my mind, Rex Bodo, with the slit red eyes and soul patch, going out with a girl two years younger than he. It had been less than two weeks since we broke up, and this guy, this older guy with a stupid reptilian jacket, was probably using her heartbreak over me to squirm his way in. Hell no!
I squeezed through the crowd of the party, Led Zeppelin blasting, keeping my eyes peeled for emergency exits, and stormed into the kitchen, where Bodo and his crew were still hanging. “Rex, you’re going with Carmela?” I demanded. He was in trouble—I was going to tell him that proper protocol is to wait at least a month after someone breaks up.
“That slut, hell no! I just mess around with her.”
I felt rage in my knees, moving into my gut and fists, rising toward my skull. I stepped up to him, my face to his. “You’re a misogynist!”
I felt the heat of Rex’s boys gathered around us, waiting for something to erupt. Rex squinted his eyes and wrinkled his nose. “What the fuck’s a misogynist?”
“Someone who hates women.”
“No, that would be you, you dickless homo.” His boys laughed, hooted, heckled.
“Yeah?” I said, desperately searching for a way to save face, “Well, I titty-fucked your mom.”
I saw a blur of arm and felt a sharp pain on my cheek bone. I ducked the next blow and wrapped around his waist, trying to squeeze the life out of him. The crowd roared and howled: “Fight! Fight!”
“Kick his ass, Bodo!”
“Fuck him up!”
I felt a cluster of blows to my head and neck, but I would not release my grip, his snakeskin jacket scraping against my face. I knocked him into the wall and then felt a hoard of people grabbing and pulling at my arms and legs, the crowd yanking us apart as we tried to get at each other.
A guy the size of a moose stood between us, the older brother of the kid throwing the party.
“I’ll fuck you up, dickless!” growled Bodo.
“You ain’t shit, Bodo!” I screamed.
“You clowns want to fight, go up the street. You don’t fight in someone’s house!” said the moose.
The crowd started to move to the door for part two and I was dragged along. What the hell was I doing? I was just at this guy’s house hanging out and now we were brawling. “Wait, I don’t want to fight,” I said. “He’s a friend.”
The crowd grew silent, waiting for Bodo’s response. “I ain’t your friend, dickless.”
Something broke in me. The crowd smelled blood. “He’s my friend,” someone mocked.
“Who invited you, anyway?”
“Why don’t you get the fuck out of here, dickless!” They hovered around me, yelling, shoving. I looked to Johnny who was in the back of the crowd. His eyes met mine, but he just shook his head. I dropped my chin to my chest and walked out the front door, angry taunts fading as I trudged down the block.
“Wait, Stuart.” I turned around and there was Johnny jogging toward me. What a buddy. I felt fire in my chest! At my lowest point, my true friend was rejecting what he desired most for me.
“I knew you’d stick by me,” I said.
“Hey, dude,” he said, “could I borrow a couple of bucks? Rex needs it for gas money.”
I was never so alone in my life.
The walk home was miserable. I kept replaying every stupid thing I did that night. Why did you make me like this, God? I asked A worthless loser who has no one and who ruins every chance he gets for anything good. Is it some kind of brutal joke? Maybe I should put an end to this joke, I thought. But I’d probably bungle that too.
My house came into view. The front light was still on and there was something on the porch. Someone. There was a person sitting on my porch, the figure growing and becoming clearer as I got closer. Carmela.
I ran to her. “What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I still have twenty minutes before curfew.” She looked beautiful, the moon glowing on her cheekbones and lips, her nipples perky in the cold. “I thought about what you said tonight,” she said.
“Really? But what about Bodo?”
“I broke up with him.”
“Just now. I called and left a message with his mom.”
“I thought you were into him.”
“He was a complete asshole to me tonight. Plus, his breath stinks.” I had noticed that. She leaned into me and wrapped her arms around my neck. She lifted her chin, reaching her lips toward mine. Yeah, whose dickless now, Bodo? I thought.
“Wait! Did you and Bodo ever…” I struggled for the words. “Did you ever give him oral sex?”
She cocked her head and gave me a reassuring smile. “Only twice.”
I panicked thinking about all the germ possibilities and the STD videos I saw in health class showing massive clusters of warts and fist-sized pustules on shrimpy penises. Her plump lips moved toward mine. Oh my God, the germs! Her mouth met mine and it was soft and warm. It felt like it could suck all the poison from this night out of me. And I realized that if I had to, I could live with “only twice.”
About the Author
Gordon West lives and writes in New York City.