July 1, 2016 – H12 - The Big-Fat Eraser
We woke up late morning and took turns performing scrub-downs in Comatose-Ben’s apartment shower…
A fresh change of clothes and off we marched with our backpacks of antics and our eyes aimed north.
It felt a tad chilly for us Florida boys.
We dug out our jackets, mine was plain but Brent’s denim was littered with hand-sewn graffiti like Aunt Bee had spent the night in a feverish bout of insomnia. As it turns out, a blasted coworker snatched his jacket one day and went haywire with a sewing machine, double-stitching his coat full of tacky slogans like…
Born to go wild…
What shows up must get down…
If it’s warm, screw it!
We spent the day hoofing and thumbing but mostly hoofing, making very little progress. People were not in a ride-share mood today and the sun had begun to set when we dropped our packs beneath a highway overpass in a little town called Lafayette.
Brent pointed up the road.
“Look, a sandwich place over there.”
Several hours had passed since our last meal and a big-fat sub sounded pretty-dang good. We ordered our hoagies and plopped down at an outside table where Brent rudely laughed, claiming his sandwich resembled a certain section of female anatomy which will go nameless for the moment.
A 1970 Datsun Bluebird rolled into the gravel parking lot and scrunched to a halt near our feet. Two doors popped open and two dudes folded out wearing jean jackets and long hair, just like us.
They pointed at our packs.
“Where you guys headed?”
They looked to be our age, medium height, slender and easy-going. One of them wore a ski-cap like Michael Nesmith from THE MONKEES and the other sported a tie-dye headband like he might break out in a chorus from HAIR at any moment.
Head-Banger gave us a grin.
“We’re going to Rome.”
I wasn't sure what he meant but I wasn’t fazed either, considering the ongoing disconnect we kept catching from all our wayfaring associates. They waltzed into the sandwich shop and returned with their own versions of female anatomy and propped against the hood of their Japanese four-door.
Head-Banger started bobbing to some inaudible soundtrack inside his mind.
“You guys wanna’ come along? It should be a hoot!”
Brent and I made eye contact and I could tell he was as confused as I was.
“To Rome, man.”
That seemed like a hell of a long way to me but they were insistent.
“The reservoir, dude… It’s Coolsville, man!”
Mike the Monkee joined in.
“It’s just up the road. We party there all the time.”
Well, we weren’t the type of guys to turn our backs on Coolsville so we tossed our packs in their trunk, observing a pile of camping equipment already taking up space.
Head-Banger noticed my stare.
“Oh, yeah, we usually spend the night. That way, the parents don’t find us.”
I had to re-evaluate their ages and landed on sixteen, maybe seventeen, tops. Oh, well, what else we got going at the moment?
The adolescent Nissan whined up the highway and soon we were rambling alongside a fairly large body of water, glistening behind the trees as the sun continued its snuff into the horizon. The guy in the ski-cap armed the car onto an overgrown dirt road and we bounced across a thick meadow, under some oaks, around a thicket, and through the woods.
We rolled over a rise and there it was…
A huge flat rock overhanging the lake.
And when I say huge, I mean ginormous like the size of a Rolling Stones concert stage. A handful of people were already out there, silhouettes against the twilight, music thumping out of a boom-box, little red embers flaming between pinched fingers and puckered lips.
In the middle of the stoned-stage, a bonfire burned, not too big but big enough to look incredibly comforting to a couple of shivering guys from the southern tip of the USA.
We hefted our packs over to the hearth and made ourselves comfortable smack dab in the middle of the high school revelers. Joints came from the left, pipes floated over from the right, and we followed proper haymaker protocol and passed them on!
One by one, probably age related, the youngsters departed the high ground, returning home to their disapproving parents, dousing themselves in cologne and mouthwash en route. Eventually, only Brent and I remained alongside Head-Banger and Mike the Monkee and the crackling fire so I figured it was time to drag out the Coleman.
Brent picked up the lantern and thumbed a lighter to its hanging mantle but it refused to ignite.
I batted a lazy hand.
“Probably out of kerosene.”
Brent unscrewed the fuel tank and squinted inside.
“It’s too dark. I can’t see.”
Head-Banger grinned like a kid at the dentist.
“Bring it over by the light…”
Okay, when he said LIGHT, he really meant FIRE and that was definitely NOT a brilliant move, there, Algebra-Boy. On the way to the fire, Brent stubbed his toe on a rocky inconsistency and smacked down to his knees, the lantern splashing its contents all over his needlepoint…
It was NOT out of fuel.
Brent burst into flames, looking like Hell Rider without his ride, screamed and made a dash for the lake. He leapt high into the air and hurled out over the water like a burning meteor falling from the sky and I swear I heard COOOSH when he hit the drink.
We all rolled around that big flat stone, howling at the drenched Brent as he armed himself up out of the water. We scrounged up some more wood and built up the flames so my buddy wouldn’t catch pneumonia and we all stretched out around the soothing inferno, giggling ourselves to sleep.
The morning sun kindled my locked eyelids into orange lava and I fluttered awake to a spent fire. I rolled onto my knees and squinted around, the musty smoke filling my pores.
Everybody was gone.
No, wait, not everybody.
Brent was still here, snoring away in his sleeping bag on the far side of the smoldering pillar of smoke. Head-Banger and Mike the Monkee had high-tailed it home to their mommies, I guess, but where the heck were we?
I knuckled out my trusty map and unfolded it across the big flat rock. I finger-painted our trajectory from Lafayette and the sandwich shop up to Syracuse, across the 90 to…
I had no idea where we were…
How to get out…
Out here in the Twilight Zone…
Rod Serling had just fisted a big-fat number two…
And rubbed a twenty-mile ERASER SPOT into the map!
Why are you two gawking at me for? I didn’t do a stinking thing in High School, not a single solitary thing.