by Michael Ryerson

Well, the first thing you have to understand about Axel is he was a bastard. I think everybody would tell you that, even Kevin and Kevin was his best friend. In fact, now that I really think about it, Axel would probably say the same thing, that he was a bastard, I mean. Mostly it had to do with how he treated women but it included most everything else. You know, he’d borrow something and never give it back. If you reminded him about it, he’d just blow you off by saying something like yeah he’d get it back to you real soon all the while knowing that he’d conveniently forget about it. He probably had a half dozen boards in his garage that weren’t his and he had my favorite pair of fins, a pair of Churchills, for chrissakes, for like two years. Even if you caught him with your stuff right in his frigging hand, he’d whine about still needing it and you’d probably give in and let him keep it. See, he was also this really fucking charming guy and you’d let him take advantage of you even though you’d be pissed at yourself later. Everybody knew him or, at least, everybody wanted everybody else to think they knew him, he was kinda famous, if you know what I mean, and even those of us who really did know him, and knew he was a bastard, still found ourselves taking some kind of stupid pride when we’d say we knew him. Jesus, this is kinda sick, huh?

They lived in one of those houses out on the point. You know the ones, I’m talking about. When you say ‘Out on the Point’ its supposed to mean something, very wealthy, very old money, very ‘Out on the Point’. There aren’t too many houses out there and certainly no little cheapo houses except maybe Mr. Driscoll’s bungalow, which is pretty small but he likes it that way and anyhow it’s still probably worth like a million bucks. Anyway, they lived out there where the road makes that big circle and heads back up the peninsula, just past the dunes and the cypress trees, in that big three story job with the cedar shingles on the outside. They had a boat slip on the bay and a fancy gazebo out on the lawn overlooking the boat channel. They had pretty much everything you could want but you’d expect that, right? I mean with old money, you know, if you have a bunch of money for a couple of generations, well, you probably bought everything you’d ever want. Well, they did, have everything. And the kids, Axel and his kid sister Meghan, Meggy to all of us, who was maybe two years younger than him, pretty much raised themselves, Mr. Rudd being a workaholic and Mrs. Rudd being so nervous. The money, at least the old part of it, was Mrs. Rudd’s. In fact, the house was built by her grandfather and she inherited it. Her family used to spend summers out there when she was a kid. Mr. Rudd was this real brash, good looking guy that came along one summer and swept her off her feet, as they say, and they got married and decided to live out there on the point even though, in those days, most of the houses out there weren’t year-rounders. Anyway, Mr. Rudd was a real hard-charger and with some of his wife’s money, it wasn’t long before he had the two car lots going and a piece of a restaurant and he bought the Coca-Cola distributorship for the south county. He had it all going on. Mrs. Rudd spent a lot of time smoking and meeting her girlfriends for lunch. And avoiding the kids.

Axel spent parts of three semesters going to school but didn’t go to school anymore because he didn’t think he had to, seeing how he figured he was going to move right into his Dad’s business. Anyway, they both had real nice cars and drove them around too fast and were always banging into other folks. With Meggy it was always just little fender benders and maybe some scratched paint but she was always good about sticking around and giving her drivers license number and insurance information, so there was hardly ever any hurt feelings when she banged into somebody but Axel was a shit. He was always sliding sideways where the sand had blown out onto the road and roaring into town at like a hundred miles an hour, so when he clipped somebody it was usually more serious. In fact, folks were making book about how he was going to die, or kill somebody else, driving the way he did. And then, if his car was still running, sometimes he’d take off and it got to be a game with him and the cops and the sheriff to see if anybody could catch him when he was headed back out of town. Of course it was a stupid game, everybody knew where he lived and there was only one road out to the point and, of course, the same road back, so it wasn’t like he was going to get away. Mr. Rudd had a kind of an agreement with the cops, since there was really only one way out to the point, then Axel couldn’t really be trying to escape and since it was really only a mile or so to their house he wasn’t really leaving the scene of an accident. That was how the agreement went anyway, stupid as it seems to normal folks, but everybody seemed okay with it and it kept Axel out of jail and except for when he banged into a tourist who couldn’t be expected to know about ‘The Agreement’, everybody just watched him drive away and shook their heads. So it wasn’t too unusual to see a police car in front of their house. He went through three or four cars since high school which still didn’t seem to bother his Dad too much, him owning that Porsche dealership up on the coast highway and all. You know, he’d talk real stern to Axel before he’d toss him a set of keys to the new car, maybe he’d wag his finger in his face and lower his voice but then he’d take Mrs. Rudd out for drinks and Axel’d be there with his new car and a couple of hours to kill.

All things considered, I guess you couldn’t really blame Axel for turning out to be a bastard.

Michael Ryerson