Reflections on the Pond It was not a very cold winter day but the sky was colorless with grey and had been for several weeks. There was not a ripple stirred by breeze on the glassy surface of the small pond and on its calm surface reflected the limbs of a large oak, bare of leaves but for an old squirrel’s nest high in a fork. Tall brown grass bordered by second-growth cedars still covered patches of melting snow and grew to the south edge of the wooded oasis. My reflection in the still water did not at first, look like the young man that last peered into the quiet depths but slowly, decades melted away and a troubled sixteen year old looked back at me and we were both a little embarrassed at the intimacy of the moment.. This was the very spot where Richard Alexander and I had fought our battle to a draw; a fight over a now forgotten girl that social cast would allow neither of us to cry “Uncle”. I do not even remember the face nor features of the fair maiden, the “Helen of Troy”, that initiated this fight and it was only at this moment that I had ever reflected on how many battles that I have fought, easily capable of winning the battle but knowing that if I did, the war would never be worth the collateral damages. Richard had informed me first that Monday morning, upon my arrival at Beech Bluff High School, of our impending duel and of my obvious infraction that made it necessary. Apparently, the Friday evening preceding this challenge, at the Bemis Skating Rink, myself and the comely object of Richard’s desire had succumbed to raging hormones at the end of my rock band’s performance that evening. Richard was two years older than me but we were of approximate same dimensions and timbre; both unwilling to acquiesce any point of pride. I was not at all surprised, when upon disembarking the school bus that afternoon, to see Richard standing there waiting; intent on full-filling his promise to gain his retribution by “kicking my ass’. I did not necessarily want to participate in this duel and I certainly had no further interest in any type of on-going relationship with the young lady whose honor was in question, so I asked Richard inside and offered him a glass of coke while I changed from my school clothing into something more appropriate for a teenaged fist-a-cuff. I did not see any way to avoid the duel, at least within an acceptable parameter and I did not want an audience or seconds to be spreading the tale of carnage, thus I suggested that we walk to the wooded Glenn by the pond, well away from prying eyes and witness. On arriving at the pond, we sat on the grass and had a long discussion and I almost believed that this battle had lost impetus to the point that it could have almost been avoided; we had discovered a number of common interests, but that was not to be the case. The sun was getting lower and darkness would soon be, Richard stood and spoke with resolve, “Well, I guess if we’re gonna fight, we better get on with it.” And fight, we did. It was not a monumental battle, as fights often go. There a number of required blows exchanged and eventual grapple that covered both of us with mud and blood belonging to each. There on the muddy ground, we locked into what amounted to an impasse; if neither would relinquish his hold, there would be no more damage or blood drawn. I had a moment of clarity and realized that I could take this battle, if I suspended the unspoken rules of combat. I could walk away the victor and even take the fair maiden as spoils of war but what would result from this move? I would be forever branded for having broken the rules of fist-a-cuff, the peers of Sir Richard were two classes ahead of me and would be honor bound to teach me my lessens in force, if not individually, over an extended period and I could not foresee having much use for the fair maiden as spoils, beyond an occasional romp in the back of the Angel van. So I offered the suggestion,” This isn’t going anywhere. Do you want to call this a draw? Or do want to start all over again?” He was pretty happy to call the battle a draw. We were both bleeding profusely and had beyond the required number of bruises and scars to attest our manhood, though neither of us were seriously damaged. We shook hands and I offered to drive him home, as he had walked the five miles from his house to mine. We became friends, not best of friends but friends that had respect for one another. There were some fun times after that: the night his cat ate our qualudes, shot-gunning beers around the camp-fire, a few fishing trips, and never again, the mention of our fight. I was with Richard a few years later just before he was shot and killed by a Murray Guard after walking picket during a teamsters strike. The guard that killed him had spent a number of nervous days while the teamsters tried to force their issues with Jackson Express Trucking. Richard had been promised a job by a Teamsters organizer named Thomas Springer, if he would walk the picket and help agitate until the Trucking Company acquiesced their demands. He was hit by a single 00 buckshot in the leg and quickly insanguinated, after it had penetrated his car door while cutting doughnuts in the gravel parking lot. The guard decided to shoot because threats had been made and he was in fear of his life. Richard was twenty years old and his dream of being a union truck-driver died with him. He left behind a young widow; I do not recall if in fact, it was the fair maiden we had fought over years earlier. I left Jackson the day of his funeral, to begin my apprenticeship training as a contract killer for our government and later, returned as a material witness at the coroners inquest to exonerate the guard from charges of voluntary manslaughter. The guard worked for Roger Murray, a local attorney that had been associated with my family’s dealings for a great number of years. My reflection returned to the greyed scarred face that I see in my mirror each morning without even a nod from the young man that insolently starred back at me moments before. I tossed a twig into the water and the reflections dissolved into a series of small rings and I walked away with another of my ghosts now just a friendly advisor.