Pickles On My Burger by Lick The Fridge

Topic: New Year’s Eve

I watch my kids fight over a toy truck. I wonder when I’ll tell them my fight story. About my real truck. Maybe when they get their driver’s licenses.

Chad Powers didn’t like pickles on his burgers. That’s what he said at least. He said it with such anger that I had no reason to not believe him. Chad was sitting on the passenger side window end of the bench seat in my 1972 two tone green Ford F100 pickup truck. My best friend Matt sat in the middle. I drove. Music blasted from the stereo.

“If they put pickles on my burger, I’m going to be seriously pissed off.”

That’s what Chad said. Matt and I didn’t say anything. We just looked at each other and smiled.  Knowing smiles. Smiles that said, here goes Chad again with one of his random useless tirades. I’d be lying though if I said I predicted the result of this tirade. Over twenty years later and I still can’t believe the result of this tirade.

“They put pickles on my burger! What is wrong with these people?”

While Chad fumed, Matt and I continued to smile. We smiled because we had seen Chad fume before. In fact, since the time we met Chad in seventh grade, Chad was always fuming about something. I never realized the extent of his fuming until now. It should have been obvious.

Chad’s dad was an asshole. His mom was nice. And she was pretty hot. Which made it more difficult for me to understand why his dad was an asshole. He was always saying mean things to Chad and his little brother and sister. Trying to be funny. I think he tried to be extra funny when I came over. Like he was trying to impress Chad’s friends. That’s what Chad said anyway.

Chad never talked about why his mom slept on the couch every time I spent the night at his house. Maybe he didn’t know why. I guess parents don’t discuss that kind of stuff with their middle school aged kids. And middle school aged kids don’t know how to say that they’re interested in discussing that kind of stuff with their parents. The whole thing just seemed to put Chad in a perpetual downer mood. Most of the time he wasn’t that fun to be around. I’m not really sure why I hung out with him so much.

And I hung out with him a lot.

For four years, from seventh through tenth grade, I spent New Year’s Eve at Chad’s house. We were not part of the popular crowd. We didn’t go to parties. We weren’t invited to any parties. We didn’t sneak out of the house. We didn’t drink. We didn’t kiss our girlfriends at midnight. We didn’t have girlfriends. We didn’t high five our friends. We didn’t even high five each other.

Instead we stayed in Chad’s room and listened to the radio. The top 91 songs of the year on the 91X year-end countdown. We fist pumped the songs we liked and we wondered how anyone could vote for the songs we hated. We wrote all the songs down on a piece of paper as if we alone were responsible for archiving the lists of songs each year.

We drank sodas and ate chips and pizza. It was just the two of us in his room. His mom sleeping on the couch. His dad being an asshole. His brother and sister at their friends’ houses. Songs from Oingo Boingo, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cure competed with the fireworks that brought in the New Year.

That was our relationship, Chad and me. We listened to music. Our common ground. It wasn’t common enough to hold us together though. Our relationship ended abruptly in my truck the summer after tenth grade. We were sixteen. I had just gotten my license. We would not spend another New Year’s Eve together.

“Just take the pickles off the burger, and eat the freakin’ thing, and shut up already!”

Chad didn’t take to that comment very well, but he did take the pickles off the burger. And he threw them at me. One landed on my face. I was surprised, but I was still smiling. I threw a fry at him. At this point, the situation was funny. Just a couple teenage boys driving down the road having a little fun with their food.

And then the shit hit the fan. Within ten seconds there was a full on food fight in the cab of my truck. Pickles and tomatoes and fries and cokes and hamburger patties and shakes flew back and forth across the cab like a disturbed hornet’s nest. Obscenities were yelled. Names were called.

And then I snapped.

With my left hand steering the truck, I leaned across Matt and hit Chad several times in the face with my right hand. To get the power I needed to pummel him, I put all my weight on my right foot, which was on the accelerator. We were now going over eighty miles an hour. Chad’s face was bloody. The red from his blood mixed with the white from the shake I had thrown at him. It created a surreally picturesque candy-cane-pink design flowing down his shirt.

Chad leaned across Matt and hit me one time in the temple. “What the hell was that for?”

“It’s for four years of your shit, Chad. Four years of your negativity.”

Chad wasn’t crying. Neither was I. The radio was still blasting, barely louder than the anger that filled the cab. Matt made me stop the truck. I skidded off the road and stopped to let him and Chad out. I sped off, spinning my tires like they do in the movies.

If the cab of my truck was a compost bin, my mind was an overflowing trashcan. My thoughts were racing as fast as I had been driving. I had never been in a fight before. I had never even thought of being in a fight. I was not the kind of kid who got in fights. I was scrawny. I was a wuss. I was afraid. And I had just whipped my friend’s ass driving down the road in my truck.

This episode happened over twenty years ago. I still can’t believe it. I have not been in another fight since. I’ve been in plenty of arguments, however, and the majority of them have ended civilly.

Just as my kids’ argument over the toy truck ended civilly. I suggested that my son have a turn playing with the truck, and then when he’s done, my daughter can have a turn. They agreed that that was a reasonable compromise.

I hope all their truck arguments end just as civilly. Especially if they’re driving down the road at eighty miles an hour.


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