The Buckster


You’d think that with a cowboy name like Buck, this would be a pretty tough hombre we were dealing with. But Buck was his last name. His full name was a mouthful, starting with three given names and ending with Buck, and if that wasn’t enough, he insisted on adding that he was the Third. He could gone by either of his first two perfectly normal given names, but he bypassed those and went by the third, which was easily the nerdiest of the three.

And it fit. He had flannel shirts years before grunge; lank, greasy hair; and these huge, Coke-bottle lenses behind which you could see his nervous eyes twitching and flitting around. And he had a chipped front tooth. I remember he once mentioned that, with eyebrows waggling, as a thing he had in common with Becky, the cutest girl in my elementary school, this one time when he was chatting her up, much to her disgust. She did have a chipped front tooth too, but she was still damned cute. Anyway, she got it fixed later, and she was certainly out of Buck’s league.

Buck probably had a chipped tooth because he was a bit of a jerkass back then and someone probably knocked half of it out of his head. Poor, obnoxious Buck. He got a rough time of it, but some of it was his own doing. I remember he once lied to us for no reason about having an infrared pair of low-light goggles he used to watch us from his window, or some such nonsense. Whatever, Buck.

I felt bad for his dad, actually. And not just because he was Buck the Second or a divorced father. His dad seemed like a decent guy who somehow ended up with that son. I remember he once practically begged us to be friends with the Buckster by using selling points such as his awesome tricked-out Commodore 64 and vast library of games. It was like we could just come be friends with his son’s computer and nominally hang around with his son.

But I didn’t feel bad enough for him that I didn’t trick him: Once, my friend Paul and I called up Buck, and his dad answered. We asked to speak to him, using his given name rather than Buck, of course. But his dad was suspicious. Why would anyone call his son? Why would anyone actually want to talk to him? He didn’t phrase it like that, of course, but that was generally what he wanted to know. That, and who was calling. “It’s James,” said Paul. Smart choice, I thought; no one named James could be out to make trouble. If it’s a bully, it’s Jim, or Jimbo. If it’s an ineffectual little pantywaist, it’s James.

“James who?” Buck’s dad demanded.

“Oh, just James from school.”

Well, that worked, because the phone was handed over to Buck. “Hello?” he croaked into the phone. And that’s when we blew an air horn we’d stolen from a nearby construction site right into the receiver. Paul only lived a few houses down from Buck in the first place, so he’d likely have heard the blast even if he hadn’t been on the phone with us. With the receiver up to his ear, it must have been goddamn deafening.

This other time, we were standing in the schoolyard at recess. I guess I was taking the piss out of Buck about something, because he called me a fag, spitting it with some real venom. I didn’t really care that he called me a fag, but I wasn’t going to take shit from the Buckster. So I made like I was going to punch him — not even a real lunge, just a little feint.

Buck almost twisted his scrawny body into a knot scrambling to flee, and he slipped on the gravel and fell, scraping himself up. Right then, the entire schoolyard full of kids turned toward him, and in unison, laughed.

Buck scrambled to his feet. “I’m telling on you!” he sobbed, and ran into the school.

“Tell them what?” I laughed at his back. “I didn’t touch you.” And of course I didn’t get in any trouble, since I’d managed to kick Buck’s ass without touching him.

One other thing about Buck, though: That little nerd could really run. I guess he must have had a lot of practice, to avoid getting his ass kicked. We had this annual track meet at our school, and Buck was in a distance event. I think it was the 1500 meters or something. And Buck just tore ass, easily outdistancing the rest of the pack. People were even cheering for him, because it was just a feat of unexpected athleticism. He reached the home stretch all by himself, with the rest of the runners about half a lap behind him. and then the cheers died out as he just slowed down and walked the rest of the way to the finish line, letting every runner pass him and coming in last.

I guess he was making some statement about nonconformity or just giving a general fuck-you to everyone. I thought it was pretty stupid at the time. Now I’m kind of split on whether it’s stupid or cool or so stupid, it’s cool. It was defiant, I’ll give him that.

I can’t remember what happened to Buck after that. He’s probably either a software billionaire or dead by his own hand now. But for dramatic purposes, I’ll supply the following ending:

Then, after every single other competitor had finished the race, Buck hit the finish line running. He ran past the end of the track and out into the parking lot. He ran down the end of the street and out of sight, and he never came back to school. We never saw Buck again. His dejected father donated his Commodore 64 to the school computer lab and started dating again. Fittingly enough, I used to play Lode Runner on that machine at lunchtime. God bless you, Buckster, wherever you are.

One Response to “The Buckster”

  1. 1 ellie tan

    so who is this Buckster? is he any kind of cowboy with rough attitude?

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