They were in love. They were together in the way only teenagers can be: oblivious to the honks and yells of truckers, to the disapproving stares of old ladies and the sad, envious glances of old men. Sitting on a couple of milk crates borrowed from the Jewel down the street, they’d set themselves up in front of a pay phone, and it looked like they might never leave. The girl was sitting in her boyfriend’s lap kicking her legs restlessly, one hand softly rubbing his back, the other hand holding an enormous slice of pizza. The phone was cradled between her shoulder and neck. The guy had his arms wrapped around her so tightly it looked as if she were locked up. They were eating pizza, kissing, and talking on the phone–all at the same time. It was impressive.

On a corner across the street a few of their friends were taunting the pair and laughing at them. But then, for no clear reason, they began waving frantically, trying to get the guy’s attention.

“Paul, you better look out!”

A moment later, a scowling, chubby girl charged up to the couple and shoved the guy hard in the back. The two jumped off the milk crates looking stunned and frightened. The girl who’d done the shoving was already yelling at the top of her lungs.

“What are you doing with her?”

The guy was in terror; his face had already turned a vivid, humiliated shade of red and his lovestruck confidence had vanished. The girl he’d been kissing stood behind him peering anxiously over his shoulder.

“I want to know what you’re doing with her, Paul,” repeated the second girl.

Paul winced. A small crowd of kids had run across the street to watch.

“She’s a friend of mine,” he finally managed.

“Bullshit. You’re kissing her and feeling her up and shit like that and she’s just a friend of yours? You told me I was your girlfriend.”

“Hey, hey, be cool, you know, you’re my ladies.”

“Fuck you we’re your ladies. I ain’t sharin’ you with this ugly bitch!”

For the first time the other girl spoke up.

“He’s with me,” she hissed. “He doesn’t give a damn about you anymore. He told me so.”

Paul mumbled and dragged his feet as the two girls began screaming insults back and forth, the small crowd egging both of them on. Finally, the second girl, her eyes wild and spinning, pointed a finger at her new rival and broke into a lyrical tirade.

“Girl, I know you, I know you, I know what you are, I know what you do and how you do it and where you do it and who you do it with and you ain’t doin’ it with this boy anymore.”

Her foe was unimpressed. With just the right combination of malice and triumph she declared, “I’ve been to his house for dinner.”

That did it. In a second they were fighting, clawing and pulling at each other’s hair and clothes. Paul circled around the pair, swearing under his breath, trying feebly to get between them, sometimes even imploring his friends for help, but it was all to no avail. When he finally squeezed his way in he didn’t have the slightest idea how to pull them apart. He just kept saying, “Be cool, be cool now, be cool.”

All of a sudden he wasn’t saying anything. The two girls were no longer tearing at each other, they were pounding him. “They’re double-teamin’ his butt,” cried a delighted voice from the crowd. The three of them spun around and around, a clumsy, stumbling hurricane of arms, feet, and fists. They were too tangled together to do much harm. Most of the blows sailed at crazy angles through the air, hitting nothing. Paul finally began to fight back and with one amazing swing actually punched himself in the forehead. His friends were hooting and pointing and jumping around like crows, but they suddenly froze at the sound of screeching tires.

“It’s Paul’s mom!” shouted a guy in a tone of complete astonishment.

A huge, fearsome woman lumbered out of a car and literally tore the three fighters apart. She was shrieking so loudly and so furiously that I couldn’t make out a word she was saying, except at one point it sounded like she called her son a “broken, fucking ganook.” The second girl stalked off howling as Paul’s mom dragged the remaining two into the car. With tires peeling they sped off down Clark Street.

By now the crowd had swelled to about 15, and the newcomers were being told breathless, exaggerated versions of what had just happened.

“Man, those women were vicious,” declared one guy, “even his mom looked like a professional wrestler. I wouldn’t let any woman treat me that way.”

He walked over to the phone. The receiver had been dangling a few feet above the ground since the beginning of the battle. The guy held it to his ear.

“Hello? Hello?” he said with a serious look on his face. “I have a news bulletin…I have a news bulletin…Paul’s in trouble…big trouble…woman trouble…”