April 15, 2016 - H2 - The Redneck Bottleneck

 

After ditching the grit-faced drunkard and his Back to the Future station wagon, Brent and I strode up the highway with our backpacks, lamenting our close call with Alice Through the Looking Glass, er, windshield. Brent gave me a lopsided grin framed by a shoulder shrug.

“We really need to screen these guys before we get into their cars, man.”

Rattled and jittery, I took a hard swallow from one of my army-surplus canteens, not the one with the water, no, the other one, the one that I had filled with Jack Daniels Whiskey. I palmed my dripping lips and handed the metal flask with the green jacket over to Brent.

“And if we don’t like what we see? Maybe some kind of code word or something?”

A horn honked and we twirled.

A cloaked van, its original color mysteriously shrouded with ghosty-white body-filler and blood-red primer-paint, scrunched up the roadside easement behind and squeaked to a stop alongside our gaping faces.

“Hey, Brent, did you have your thumb out?”

“Not me, man.”

The van’s side door trundled open while a snaggle tooth face grinned out the passenger window, looking like a pale pumpkin wearing a trucker cap.

“You boys need a ride?”

I glanced over at Brent, wishing we had come up with that damn word because now would be an excellent time to scream it to the heavens but my frigging buddy was already stepping into the van. I followed him in just as the driver, wearing a raccoon cap, stomped the accelerator and we had to do a Fox Trot to keep from planting our faces into the hard metal floor.

I took stock of the situation…

What we had here was a tin can full of odd rednecks, foe-show.

Coonskin Calhoon sat yonder in the driver’s seat alongside The Pumpkin Prince and, sprawled out along a U-shaped bench that be hog-tied to the walls, Camouflage Clyde and Fat Lance and The Tattoo Tarzan, get a shirt, puleeze. They all wore expressions of varying contempt, ranging from smelling a skid mark to the burning of the eyes.

I did not like where this was headed and, gauging from Brent’s pop-eyes and zigzag lips, neither did he. I dropped my pack and lowered onto the horseshoe bench, pleading a look out the van window at the passing cars and considered fingering the word HELP across the dusty glass.

“That’s some mighty long hair, there, boy… ” Tarzan mumbled through spittle-lips and smokey haze, pointing at Brent’s shoulder length frock of frizz with his crumbling cigarette.

“Maybe he’s not a boy, maybe he’s a girl.” Fat Lance jabbed.

“Pretty dang ugly girl, if you ask me, but I’d still do her,” The Invisible Man played with his zipper.

“You know,” Brent picked a bad time to be cute, “Even though you’re wearing camouflage, we can still see you.”

That drew a round of snickers, none of it friendly, and Jack-O-Lantern, up front, turned a fuming shade of orange.

“I say we roll their hippie asses!”

One of them slid a hunting knife out of his boot and another clicked open a switchblade. Geez, it became sharply apparent... As soon as they spotted us, this was their plan all along … Pummel the flower people.

I had a sudden thought.

“Hey… You guys like Jack Daniels?”

Raccoon-Man blinked over his shoulder, the fire in his eyes unexpectedly extinguished and I unsheathed the army canteen. With one fist on the steering wheel and the other upending the metal flask, he chugged a goodly portion as we barreled up Dixie Highway in the midmorning Florida sun, all of it culminating with a resonant belch.

The Bourbon was a hit and all the mental rednecks drank from the metal bottleneck…

Er, guzzled.

After a few minutes, the chain-smoking, ink-covered eyesore tossed my canteen back at me, bone dry. The driver in the coonskin cap pulled the van over and they all insisted we go our own way.

As we stood on the side of the highway, watching the Primer and Bondo van rumble away, I heard Brent grumble.

“We really need to screen these guys before we get into their cars, man.”


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These days, in the inner schools, the idiots with the fishing poles have become the bullies with the assault weapons and they’ve snuffed out the learning experience like pee on a matchstick.

- BLACKWATER