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I'm Here for Rick's Party

The Spanish Inquisition

By Chris ZPublished 2 years ago Updated about a year ago 3 min read

"I’m Here for Rick’s Party!"

In ‘93, I was 17. I kept a near life-sized cardboard likeness of silver screen “legend” Jean Claude Van Damme in my hatchback’s backseat. First-time passengers would glimpse Jean Claude lurking in the rearview mirror and catch air from fright. It never got old.

Richard Del Toro wasn’t my best friend, but he was in my top three. Rick was a misfit, but not for show or social media (Myspace was still 9 years out). Rick grokked MC Escher’s art. He introduced me to the Red Hot Chili Peppers years before MTV introduced them to mainstream ears. Rick wore bell bottom jeans, I suspected, because marching to the beat of his own drum required more legroom than conventional cuts offered.

Rick’s parents were strict, approaching cruel. Rick never caused any real trouble, but, as a rule, they treated him like a one-trick pony named “Trouble.” They frequently vetoed his requests to embark on wholly innocuous outings. They threatened him with drug tests, despite zero evidence that he used drugs. They read his journal for the same reason COPS ask deceptively confusing questions during routine stops, to conjure probable cause for further intrusion.

On one occasion, unforeseen circumstances impelled Rick’s parents to leave town post haste. Maritza and Bolivar left their only son home alone, but only because accompanying them would have cost him two schooldays. The Spanish Inquisition -my nickname for Rick’s folks- promised to return at noon on Sunday. Rick did what any teenager with a heartbeat and a house to himself would have done, he threw a party.

Saturday night set in. I was the first on scene, or so I concluded based on the conspicuous dearth of parked cars I encountered. Ever the class clown, I came in costume. My “costume” consisted of crouching behind cardboard Jean Claude and affecting a bush-league Belgian accent.

I drummed the door with gusto. I heard it open seconds later. “I’m here for Rick’s party!” I bellowed, animating Jean Claude’s effigy for enhanced comedic effect. Rick said nothing. “I’m here for Rick’s party,” I repeated. The silence abided. Slowly, I lowered Van Damme’s likeness. Two scowling, middle-aged sentries stood in the doorway. Never averting her eyes, Maritza shouted over her shoulder: “Richard!” A thoroughly emasculated Rick peered out from a room at the end of a long hallway. “You said you weren’t throwing a party!” Maritza cawed, “I’m not,” Rick mewed, “I’m just having a few friends over!”

From an early age, I recognized my strengths. Charm and eloquence came naturally to me, or at least more naturally than they came to the preponderance of my peers. There was no sophistry I couldn’t sell, or so I thought. Affecting my warmest smile, I ad-libbed a line meant to palliate the Inquisition: “Mister and Misses Del Toro, you’re mistaken. Richard is not throwing a party. When I said, ‘I’m here for Rick’s party,’ I meant that my presence has transformed this humble kick-back into a party.”

Save for the Grand Inquisitors, all my friends’ folks were won over by my gregariousness and good manners (One girlfriend’s father affectionately rechristened me “Eddie Haskel”). On a good day, Rick’s dad showed me indifference. On any day, Rick’s mom scowled at me like a wife whose husband forgot their anniversary. That night, her frigidity hardened into permafrost. She unhinged her jaws to dress me down when a horn blast stole her thunder. A timeworn pickup peregrinated into the driveway. The two teenage boys in the bed swam in soapsuds from having just passed through a car wash unsheltered. The moment the driver made Rick's parents, he reversed out of the driveway and drove off at a clip.

The jig was so up it was palpable. Rick would be confined to quarters ‘til college started. Obviously, I bore no blame for stumbling into a deleted scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Still, I wondered how my inadvertently serving as the prosecution’s star witness would affect our friendship. Vestigial Catholic guilt kicked off damage control mode. I steeled myself, refocused on Rick’s folks and, with as much sincerity as I could feign, queried, “What do you suppose that was about?!” Maritza slammed the door.


About the Creator

Chris Z

My opinion column garnered more reader responses than any other contributor in the paper's 40-year run. As a stand-up comic, I performed in 16 countries & 26 states. I've written 2 one-man shows, umpteen poems, songs, essays & chronologies.

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