Howard was a high school friend of mine. I don’t know why I considered him a friend.  He could also be a major pain in the ass. Maybe I pitied him.

The high school girls all knew that Howard was hard to get rid of once he got attached. Speaking to Howard for any length of time would mean that he would pester you until you shut him up with a rude remark or just walked away quickly. Howard was impervious to hints that he was unwanted.

Howard was not handsome. He was short with red hair and a red complexion. When he was excited, which was often,  he looked like a lobster just pulled out of a boiling pot.

But Howard did not know he was ugly.

For some reason I liked Howard and tried to help him with his main problem, getting girls to like him.

I tried to slow him down so his incessant nervous babble would not scare the girl away.  

Howard  listened to me sometimes but did not heed my counsel. He just continued talking loud and nonstop when he was trying to strike up a conversation with a girl.

Howard  tried for the pretty and even the most beautiful girls.  I suggested some girls who were somewhat plain but not at all as ugly as he was.  I knew several girls whom I liked who were having problems finding a boyfriend. Howard might have served a  purpose there but he ignored my suggestions.

He eventually trapped a pretty girl who was too kindhearted to hurt his feelings. Her name was Judy. Judy’s passion was horses. She was a champion horse woman, good enough to  win the barrel race at the county fair for three years running.

Judy had been hounded by Howard for over a week. After that long  without  a firm rejection Howard saw Judy as  his girl and let everyone know that she was his girl. No one believed it but Howard.

Meanwhile Judy was still  trying to  find a way to let Howard down politely. 

 She took to riding her horse more than usual when Howard came around.  It was her way to get away from Howard’s pestering without offending him. When she was on horseback Howard could not follow her and she thought he might just go away.

It might have worked if she had stayed at it a little while longer but unfortunately the poor girl didn’t have a little while longer.

She was riding down a farm road  where a farmer was starting his tractor nearby. She had ridden this road many times and knew the farmer well. She waved and the farmer waved back. Just as  she passed the tractor the tractor’s engine suddenly backfired.  It sounded like a gunshot. It startled Judy’s horse The horse threw her, breaking her neck and killing her.

Of course Howard was distraught as were all her friends and family. but the friends and family knew how Howard had been hounding her. Some blamed Howard for her death. They shunned him at the funeral home and left him standing alone without a ride to the cemetery. The cemetery was not far so Howard walked there.  He got there just as the funeral caravan was breaking up to go to the reception. Once again Howard couldn’t find a ride to the reception so he walked again. Through all of this Howard never understood that he was not wanted.

  Judy’s death changed Howard’s feelings  toward women and girls. In the aftermath he began thinking like a widower who would never cease to mourn the love of his life. He didn’t want any other woman to sully his memories even though the memories were completely imaginary. Howard didn’t know his memories were made up. They were precious to him.

It was late in the school year when this occurred. Howard and I graduated at the same time. Howard enlisted in the navy and I went off to college in New York. I did not think of Howard at all for several years. Later I returned to Ohio to visit my family.  I heard Howard was in town on leave from the navy so I looked him up.

We drank a couple of beers and discussed what had happened to us in the intervening years. Howard did most of the talking and his talking was mostly about women. He never mentioned the former love of his life and neither did I.

Howard talked about whores. There were plenty around the naval base in San Diego where he was stationed. He described his perverse sexual adventures to me in coarse, disagreeable language.  It was clear he hated women.

After talking with Howard I talked with Caroline, one of the few girls who were still living  in my home town and still  stayed in touch with Howard. Like me, She was a friend who pitied him when we were young.

Howard had returned to our home town more frequently than I had.  Caroline had noticed how he had changed each time he came home on leave. His bitterness against woman was stronger each time he returned.

I returned  one last time to home. There weren’t many of my friends still in town. I went to see Caroline. She told me that Howard had been killed in action near the end of the Vietnam war. We  talked about him a little bit.  When I was rising to go Caroline said “There are some men who get fucked but never get kissed. I guess Howard was just one of them.”

” I guess so, Caroline, I guess so”