Steve Cash Is Not Afraid

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

Featured Review on this writing by Criss Sole

The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear--Nelson Mandela

Billy Jenkins glared across the wrestling mat at his opponent.  His mother had taught him it was wrong to hate another person.  It didn’t matter.  Billy hated Steve Cash.
 
The referee blew his whistle and the two boys locked up.  Billy was fast and aggressive and scored points early.  But a wrestling match can be decided in a fraction of a second.  Steve threw Billy over his hip and pinned him.  Just as he’d done the other times they’d faced each other.
 
This was the part where Billy came to hate Steve.  After the referee raised Steve’s arm, he issued what had become his catch phrase.  “Steve Cash is not afraid!”  The gym erupted in applause and cheers.  Billy felt six inches tall.
 
In the locker room after the match, Billy talked to himself.  “At least I’m done with that asshole.”  Both boys were seniors and the season was almost over.  Time to move on.
 
Steve was moving on to the University of Northern Colorado, where an athletic scholarship was waiting.  Billy was moving on to Ethridge Construction Company, where he would wrestle bundles of roofing shingles up ladders.
 
Billy was correct, he’d never wrestle Steve again.  But he couldn’t escape from his shadow.  In the years Steve was at school, Billy managed to buy a mobile home and furnish it with hand-me-downs and the $115 a month plan from Aaron’s Rental.  A twenty year old car got him to the construction site most days.  He missed wrestling and found an outlet for his competitive nature when he joined the Ethridge Hammers, his company’s team in an after work golf league.
 
Steve’s tenure at college was well documented in the local paper’s sports section.  “Steve Cash Is Not Afraid” apparently was the perfect length for a headline.  An injury in his junior year required surgery.  It must have been a slow day for news.  The paper ran a color photo of Steve on the front page, on his hospital bed, leg wrapped in gauze.  With his patented smile, he held up a manila envelope, where he’d written his catch phrase with a Sharpie.  For Billy, seeing those five words was like having salt rubbed into an old wound.
 
Steve’s knee injury meant he would not be able to wrestle for eight months.  As part of his rehabilitation, he took up golf.
 
Billy didn’t need the newspaper to tell him Steve opened an insurance company in town after graduation.  The billboard next to the Walmart let everyone know The Cash Agency was ready to meet their life, auto, and home insurance needs.  In case anyone forgot, the banner across the top pointed out that Steve Cash Is Not Afraid.
 
Though they lived in the same town, the two men rarely crossed paths.  Mostly, they were separated by the invisible but thick line that money creates.  Billy didn’t shop or eat at the establishments Steve frequented.  Steve’s car cost twice what Billy paid for his mobile home.  Billy had never played at Fort Collins Country Club, where Steve was a member.
 
Which is why Billy was surprised when the shiny Mercedes E-Class sedan pulled into the lot at the driving range where he honed his golf game.  As Steve got out of the car and headed straight for him, all Billy could think was, “What the hell is he doing here?  He better not be selling insurance.”
 
He wasn’t.  “Hey Billy, it’s been a long time, how the heck are ya?”
 
Billy didn’t hold back.  “I was doing fine all the way up to now.”
 
Steve laughed.  “Aw come on bro, I thought we were friends.”
 
“Really? When were we ever in the same place and we weren’t trying to dislocate each others body parts?”
 
“Exactly!  Most damn fun I’ve ever had in my life!”
 
“Okay, I get that.  Doesn’t explain why you’re here.  I’m pretty sure Fort Collins has a driving range.”
 
“I didn’t come here to hit balls.  I came to talk.  I’ve got a proposition for you.  There’s a two man scramble at Copper Creek next month and I’d like you to be my partner.”
 
“Why me?  There’s got to be dozens of better golfers at your club than me.”
 
“Maybe so, but consider the elevation at Copper Creek.”
 
Copper Creek Golf Club is at a ski resort, more than 9700 feet above sea level.  High enough to cause altitude sickness.
 
Steve continued.  “You and I have something in common.  We’re wrestlers who play golf.  We’re a lot tougher than anyone who’s just a golfer.  I can tell, the construction business has done a good job of keeping you in fighting shape.”
 
He paused, then closed the deal with, “So what do you say, are you ready to lay the smack down on the Rocky Mountain golf scene?”  He gave Billy his best smile and held out his hand.
 
It occurred to Billy that Steve was probably pretty good at selling insurance.  He laughed and shook the man’s hand.
 
As the Mercedes purred its way west on Interstate 70, Billy marveled at the performance and handling of the expensive vehicle.  The radiator in his old beater couldn’t handle the uphill climbs, the brakes would be questionable on the way down.  The men made small talk on the two hour trip to Copper Creek.
Billy started to relax once they were on the course.  Steve was a lot more fun to hang out with when they weren’t trying to tackle each other.  Before long they were high-fiving each other after good shots.  Billy realized he was playing some of the best golf of his life.
 
Steve capped off the round by draining a 40 foot putt on the last hole for a birdie.  While chowing down on roast beef sandwiches in the clubhouse, they learned they’d finished in third place.  Good enough for a pair of gift certificates at Big 5 Sporting Goods.
 
“So what do you say Billy, you up for more tournaments?  There’s one next month in Denver at Riverdale Dunes.”
 
“Sure, why not.  As long as you’re driving.  You probably don’t want to be seen in my jalopy.”
 
Steve chuckled.  “Not a problem.  Let’s get on the road.”
 
An announcement on the PA system on their way out didn’t dampen their mood.  “Attention golfers, if you’re traveling east on I-70, there’s an accident near Georgetown, traffic is down to one lane.  You may want to exit at Silverthorne, and take Highway 9 north to Kremmling.  From there, take US 40 east.”
 
“Well, I think I remember the way but the Mercedes has a navigation system if we need it,” Steve noted.  “Hey, did you ever wrestle against Buddy Grimes from Jefferson?”  Jefferson High School was in Granby, a town they’d be driving through.
 
“Twice.”
 
“Dude bit me on the finger!  I didn’t realize it till I was in the shower.  I could see teeth marks!”
 
Billy chuckled.  “He never bit me, but I got a few elbows and head butts from him.”
 
The two reminisced about their glory days.  Before they knew it, they’d covered 75 miles and were passing through Granby.  They laughed as they passed the sign pointing to the high school.
 
They were still laughing when they crossed the continental divide at Berthoud Pass and began a series of steep declines on the way toward Denver.  Steve’s phone rang, except it wasn’t his phone, it was the Mercedes.  Billy had heard of Bluetooth but never envisioned it turning a car stereo into a phone.  Steve glanced at the number and said, “Sorry man, it’s work, I’ve got to take this.”
 
Billy used the break in conversation to enjoy the scenery.  This part of the highway wound through a valley, with steep hills and towering Douglas firs.  The sun was setting below the mountains behind them.
 
Steve talked to the car.  “...and that’s why there is the disagreement about the insured value...hello...”  He paused.  “Hey Billy, I’ve been talking to dead air, must have lost coverage when we started down this hill.”  He stared at the display.  “Yup, zero bars.”
 
“I guess we’ll have to entertain ourselves the old fashioned way.  So, how did you get that knee injury in college?”
 
“It was during a dual meet with Utah Valley.  Guy’s name was Dylan Fortner.  I was executing a fireman’s carry when somehow my foot got caught...”
 
Steve’s dialog was interrupted by the horn from a semi truck closing rapidly from behind.  A moment before they were alone on the road, now approaching headlights filled the car’s mirrors. 
 
“Holy shit!  He’s bearing down on us!”  At the last second Steve’s instincts kicked in and he jerked the vehicle into the other lane.  Fortunately it was empty when the semi flew by them.  As it passed, Billy caught of glimpse of the driver’s face.  Sheer panic.
 
“Fuck, he lost his brakes!  There’s no way he’s going to make that turn!”  The men watched helplessly as the truck slid along the guardrail for a moment, then tumbled over down an embankment.  As it tipped across the metal railing, flames were visible around the trailer’s wheels.  Evidence of a brake fire. 
 
Gazing over the bent railing, they could see the tractor trailer rig on its side, about 50 feet down from the road.  The smell of diesel fuel and the flaming brakes gave the scene an ominous feel.
 
Steve turned to Billy.  “Take the car up the hill far enough to get coverage and call 911!”
 
“What are you going to...”  Steve answered Billy’s question by hopping over the guardrail and climbing down toward the wreck.
 
It only took a few minutes for Billy to make the call and return to the scene, but he felt like he was moving in slow motion.  As he approached, the glow of flames backlit the canyon.
 
Steve managed to get the driver out of the truck.  He’d banged his head pretty hard and was barely conscious.  He hoisted the man on his shoulder and turned away from the vehicle. It was going to be a slow climb up the hill.
 
Years of practice made Steve an expert at the fireman’s carry on the wrestling mat.  Now he was demonstrating his technique in real life.
 
When Billy returned he jumped over the rail and made it a few steps down the slope.  He heard a groaning sound and saw the semi tilt over and slide a bit farther down the hill.  Then hell broke loose.
 
The movement must have torn the already leaking fuel tank.  When the volatile liquid ran down to the flames, a fireball erupted.  Billy fell backwards when the wave of heat hit him.  It took a few seconds for his vision to return.  He saw two men lying motionless below him and made his way down to them as fast as he could.  This was broken ankle territory with any misstep.
 
Steve and the driver were moving around and making moaning sounds when Billy got to them.  Miraculously, neither appeared to be injured by the fireball.
 
“Did you see who hit me in the head with the folding chair?”  Billy took Steve’s humorous reference to professional wrestling as a sign he was alright.  He checked on the driver. 
 
“Sir, can you hear me?”
 
“Yeah...what happened?”
 
“You just wrecked your truck.  Are you in any pain?”
 
“Oh, yeah.  Overheated the brakes.  Got a hell of a headache.”
 
Billy noticed the fire ebbing, the fireball had consumed most of the fuel.  He heard sirens in the distance, steadily approaching.
 
“Gentlemen, I’d say we should just hang tight, the professionals will be here soon.”  He didn’t get any arguments.
 
In a few minutes the hillside was covered with people as firemen extinguished the remaining flames and paramedics loaded the driver on a stretcher.  Steve and Billy gave statements to the police.  When it was time to leave, Billy took a last look at the wreck, smoldering in the moonlight.
 
It was obvious, if Steve hadn’t gotten the driver out when he did, he would have been in deep trouble.
 
That was when Billy put his hand on his friend’s shoulder and uttered the words he never thought would pass through his lips.
 
“Steve Cash is not afraid!”
 
Steve laughed.  “Well, I have a confession to make, if you can keep a secret.  Steve Cash was scared shitless.” 


Submitted: January 18, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Criss Sole

This was such a touching story!
I am so glad they were able to come together and not just be golf buddies, but saved a life.
It might have been a rough start at first, but Steve and Billy certainly make a great team.

Mon, January 18th, 2021 2:36pm

Author
Reply

One of my golf buddies in high school was a wrestler. I figured I'd eventually work that into a story.

Tue, January 19th, 2021 2:54am

Penetentman

Funny last line. So true. Often we act brave but are just as scared as anyone. Its facing your fear that makes you a hero! Great story!

Mon, January 18th, 2021 9:29pm

Author
Reply

Thanks! I stole the last line from Stephen Stills at Woodstock.

Tue, January 19th, 2021 2:59am

JE Falcon aka JEF

A great story for any reader, Serge. It gets a*hold of you right from the beginning and won't let got. ... Like Steve, it's not afraid.

Mon, January 18th, 2021 10:55pm

Author
Reply

Birds and snakes and aeroplanes, Lenny Bruce is not afraid... Thanks for reading.

Tue, January 19th, 2021 3:21am

niah

I like the catch phase as always well done.

Tue, January 19th, 2021 7:17am

Author
Reply

Thanks, I borrowed that from R.E.M. I appreciate the comment.

Tue, January 19th, 2021 3:25am

Nicholas Cochran

Great story, Serge. Makes you wonder how many guys you wish you could reconnect with—minus damn near frying from an exploding truck up your tailpipe.
Again, well done.

Wed, January 20th, 2021 10:37pm

Author
Reply

Thanks. That's true. I looked through my high school yearbooks researching a story a few weeks ago and it reminded me of how many people I've lost track of.

Thu, January 21st, 2021 3:30am

Sharief Hendricks

Great story Serge !

Wrestling, golfing heroes , loved it !

Mon, June 14th, 2021 1:14pm

Author
Reply

Thanks. I've always thought there must be a way to combine the two sports.

Mon, June 14th, 2021 9:54am

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