June 17, 2016 - Stark Raving Nekkid!
We slept past noon!
That’s right. The sun had burned half way across the sky before we finally lifted our heads beneath that highway overpass on that back road in South Carolina back in the May of 1977. I wormed out of my sleeping bag just as my hitchhiking buddy, Brent, blinked open his crusty eyes.
“Wow, I think that was the best night’s sleep I ever had!”
We concluded that the zoom-zoom of all the cars droning by below created a profound white-noise that held our mental hand, guiding us down Sleepland’s deeper paths.
“Too bad we couldn’t bottle that up and sell it, huh?”
Someone eventually did but it wasn’t us because I’m still poor.
We took turns sipping lukewarm water from my aluminum army canteen, contemplating the day’s plan of attack. I peeled open my highway map detailing the eastern seaboard of the good old USA and we determined that we had wound up on the 301 beneath the 38 overpass. We needed to ease back over to I-95 if we ever wanted to catch up with our friends in the northeast.
“Yesterday was killer, man!”
“I know, I know. Today, we stay sober, okay?”
We ambled down the concrete embankment with our fifty pound backpacks and, after a brief relief behind the bushes, we were ready to confront today’s exploits. We didn’t have to wait long before a four door green metal box dusted towards us into the sideline grass and Brent and I fisted our packs over to the odd looking car with “American” stamped in chrome along the side of the front fender.
The driver door popped open and a relatively normal looking young man sprung out with a smile.
“Well good day, governor, going our way?”
He delivered his line with a flourish and a bow and I came to know an actor when I saw one, starting with this one. I made eye contact with my wiry haired colleague and he voiced his approval, Three Stooges style.
The smiling man brandished a few more hand gestures.
“Righty-o! You blokes can call me Bill, and that bird be Betty and the bloody other one be Joe.”
I peeked in through the rolled-down window at the farmer’s daughter and her well-mannered brother lined up across the front seat bench like spectators at the fair.
I tipped my mock captain’s hat.
“Corey and Brent.”
Bill skipped back towards the trunk, jangling his keys and persisting with his jolly-ho demeanor.
“And where are you chaps dashing off to on such a fine day?”
He keyed the trunk but before it popped open I spotted RAMBLER across its lip and that struck me as totally appropriate.
“The Rambler American… Hey, that’s us!”
“Surely a ’62 but still as good as new!”
My mind snorted a retort but my lips remained silent as I heaved my backpack into the open trunk alongside Brent’s. With the front seat full, neither of us had to sit up there and entertain the driver this time so the pressure was off.
I slid into the back seat and Brent dropped in from the other side but between us, on the floor, was this giant cooler full of ice…
Mister Cheerio fired up his pre-Volvo abomination and chuckled over his shoulder.
“Do help yourselves to a spot of beverage, gentlemen, I insist.”
That’s when a light went off inside my head…
These people were giving us rides because they wanted to PARTY with us, no other reason. No one wants to drink alone and everyone enjoys a captive audience so, look over there, a couple of lads on the side of the road!
Do you think they’re up to tipping back a few?
Let’s go get ‘em!
Brent must have ducked down the same back alley of analysis because we both shrugged and dipped our fingers into the chilly slush, extracting perspiring cans that went COOSH when we popped their tops.
So much for our day of sobriety.
As it turned out, Daisy-May, I mean Betty, was the aspiring thespian’s Dream-Queen while Joe, over there, was simply along for the ride, just another member of the sitting ovation. Our ALWAYS-ON, persistently performing chauffer, Bill Allen, could easily have gone with the stage name, Nil Talent.
We blasted past Pedro and his South of the Border billboard bonanza, silly slogans slap-dashed across domino billboards along the side of the highway, culminating in an overstated fireworks funk-house.
We got back on I-95 and were well up the highway by the time Brent and I thumbed open our second beers, keeping it on the down-slow, but the front seat sippers had sucked up some real damage from their arsenal of ale.
I feared a Back to the Future déjà vu from our aspiring actor charioteer when his pretend British started sounding like rear-end gibberish. Brent shot me another one of his zigzag frowns and I began to plot our plan of escape. Abruptly, Sir Lawrence Oblivious, up there, craned over towards his drunken Cabbage Patch girlfriend and slurred a cryptic dare.
“I will if you will!”
She burped out a giggle.
“I will if you will!”
“Oh, I will, now… Don’t be teashing me.”
“I’m not teashing… I will if you will.”
And then the car took a turn for the worse…
Our driver, High-Ho Lothario, armed the steering wheel over to the grassy sidelines in an uncontrolled stop that included the skidding of the tires and the shredding of the bushes. He stumbled out of his Rambler, unsnapping his belt, and his pickled princess tumbled out after him, elbowing her checkered shirt up over her cackling chin.
Well, that did it.
Now, I was wearing one of Brent’s corkscrew expressions, too.
Joe shrugged at us from his corner of the front seat and we all gaped at the sozzled striptease going on outside the car.
“What are they doing?”
“Is that the Mashed Potato?”
“Sort of looks like one.”
Betty, bone-thin nude, hopped up on the hood while Bill... Well, Bill did the same exact thing except he wasn’t really thin. Joe, dang near as drunk as they come, guffawed at the flesh-colored pretzel bouncing around on the American hood and he backhanded Brent’s knee, pointing through the windshield.
“Lookee there, Brent, she’s stark raving nekkid!”
He hammer-fisted the car horn, howling so hard his face had gone Deep Purple. The bleating horn made me think about the cows from last night and it made the drivers think they had something here to rubber-neck.
I shook my head in udder disbelief.
“Calling all drivers, calling all drivers… Outrageous in progress.”
I reached into the front seat and fisted the keys out of the ignition and tossed a thumb over my shoulder. Brent nodded and we grunted our packs out of the rocking trunk while Joe persisted with his blasting of the horn and the raging of his face while the traffic out on the highway came to a squealing halt.
I chucked the Rambler keys out into the grass and wandered up towards the gawking drivers and their crawling vehicles. It didn’t take long to zero in on someone willing to rescue us from this drunken mayhem and, thankfully, we were off and away.
Alas, it was poor Brent’s turn to ride in front and entertain the driver while I got to lounge across the back seat and gaze out the rear window at the naked-nasty causing a sordid-shutdown on the I-95.
And then it hit me…
Right in the funny bone.
They promptly peeled off their clothes and got busy doing the Baskin Bobbin.