It’s the kind of summer night that magnolias compete with the smell of ball park hotdogs and the high-pitched drone of cicadas is everywhere. After nine innings of softball, I decide to cut through the park on the walk home. The shortcut not only allows me to stop at the Tastee Freeze, but also knocks 20 minutes off my time.

And that’s when I hear it:

“Well boys, look who it is.”

The voice is unmistakable and I freeze – it’s the thug with the blue leather bomber jacket and his entourage of like-minded bullies.

I toss my banana split in the garbage and bolt, running as fast as I can, acutely aware of the sound of feet behind me.

At the Oliver Street Bridge I take a sharp right onto a little-known path– it buys me five, maybe ten seconds.

Then, on the path, a second voice . . . this one, soft and ethereal.

“Sometimes, ninety-percent of the fight is just showing up,” says a man whose resemblance to me is positively eerie. He runs beside me as I make my way down Lake Street toward my house.

“What fight?” I say between asthmatic wheezes, as I slow and finally stop, slumped against a telephone pole.

“First, catch your breath.” says the voice; authoritative yet immensely kind.

Slowly, gradually, my breathing finds its natural rhythm, and I first notice the majesty of the full moon.  Then, without threat, and under the shadow of the lunar landscape, he says, “You ask me ‘What fight?’ and I’m here to tell you it’s the one you’ve been avoiding for five years. That one.”

We talk for nearly two hours.

Then we walk up Lake Street, toward the park. That’s right, walk.

Sure, I got a couple of teeth loosened that night, but I gave as good as I got and I’ll never fear the man in the blue leather jacket again. Or any man for that matter.

Almost forgot . . . Who is ‘JC?’ He told me the initials stood for “A Just Collaboration,” but I don’t believe Him. Not for a second.