SHORT STORY SATURDAY: Too Much Fun!
It’s another Short Story Saturday! Local writer, Charles Wilson, has another story this week. He took a story he read or heard and added a little imagination. If you have a story you would like to submit, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can call me Will, most folks hereabouts do.
It was a boring afternoon. I was kicking back with a big old joint in my mouth, a 40 oz bottle of malt liquor by my right foot on the floor and the TV remote in my hand. I was bored and ready to watch some NASCAR racing. Well, to put up with a bunch of advertising and talking heads with a few minutes of actual racing thrown in was more like it. There had been yet another crash and the cars were circulating the track at about 20 mph while crews cleared the mess.
This is the way most of the race laps would probably be spent, following the damn pace car around and around the big oval track.
I would rather have been out riding my dirt bike on the river bottoms, roosting around and doing jumps and the like but it was raining. So here I was in front of the tube. Personally I would rather do the crazy shit myself than watch someone else do it on the tv; it may be more dangerous but it’s infinitely more fun. Like I said, it was a boring afternoon…
A foxy looking reporter in a low-cut top was asking some good ol’ boy what he thought his driver’s chances were. He was drawling his answer back to her, trying to avoid having his eyes fall into the chasm of her cleavage while in front of the camera. He didn’t completely succeed and if I was in his shoes I wouldn’t have either. Hell, even the camera seemed attracted to that tanned crevasse. It was infinitely more appealing than the good ol boy she was interviewing so maybe the cameraman was doing us males watching the show a favor.
That was when I heard a loud V8 drive up and stop outside. The engine revved a couple times rattling the windows in my old house. Then it was shut off, a car door slammed, and moments later my front door opened. A familiar voice said, “Yo, dude, let’s go have some fun.” It was my pal from work, Johnny, with a huge grin on his face. Johnny was a few years younger than I, maybe 25, and based on the tales he told at work he seemed to always be into some sort of mischief.
“What sort of fun do you have in mind?”
“My sister and her husband are in Hawaii, he left his truck in the driveway and the keys were on the kitchen counter when I went to feed their cats. Let’s go try that sucker out on the river bar. As long as it’s clean and parked in the driveway when they return he’ll never even have a clue.”
Quick as a flash I hit the remote, the tube was off, and I was out of the sofa. I did remember not to kick my 40 over as I got up. I walked to the door and sitting in front of the house was a beautiful, red, early 1950s Ford pickup with rear tires over a foot wide and a big air scoop coming up through the hood. It looked and sounded like one serious badass hotrod! Johnny was nuts if he wanted to take that classic down on the bar but hey-it was his sister and his ass.
I rolled a few joints, grabbed my 40 from the floor, followed Johnny out to the truck and opened the door to get in. A full case of Eye Of The Hawk ale sat unopened on the floor of the cab. I climbed in, put my feet on the case of ale, stuck the 40 between my knees and leaned back in the seat. Things were about to happen and I had left my boredom in the house with the TV remote.
“This is a mighty nice truck to take out on the gravel Johnny, are you sure you don’t want to just take a drive over the Wildcat or something? This rig belongs on the pavement.”
“Nah, I wanna slide this thing around a little. That and get righteously drunk! I’m taking a week’s vacation so I don’t have to show up at work tomorrow. I plan to celebrate!”
“Well, it sure looks like you have your supplies aboard so I guess let’s get on with it.”
He started the motor and revved it a couple times. The noise probably was rattling windows and churning the milk in dozens of cow’s udders all over the lower Eel valley. That rig was LOUD! He stuck it in gear and we rumbled out of town on Grizzly bluffs, hung a left on Waddington, then Johnny floored it. The tires let out a howl, the engine bellowed and the slam in my back was like getting launched on a rocket. This was going to be lots of fun!After a few seconds Johnny took his foot off the gas, a good thing since we were already far in excess of 60 mph on the narrow two lane road. We rumbled along the rest of the way at a responsible pace till we arrived at the access down to the river. Johnny idled the truck down to the gravel then shut it off. He produced a joint, a lighter and a bottle opener, pulled a bottle from the box under my feet and deftly popped the cap off. The first bottle was empty in under a minute. Johnny opened the window and deftly hooked the empty into the back of the truck then rolled the window back up.
“That’s better” he sighed then he lit the joint, took a big hit and handed it to me. While I took a toke he popped the top off another bottle. The joint made its way back and forth between us as Johnny drank his ale and I worked on my 40. After a while that reefer was done, so was my 40, and I produced a fatty of my own, lit it up and helped myself to one of Johnny’s bottles of ale.
The empty 40 went in the back to join Johnny’s growing collection. And I was getting starting to get righteously fucked up!
When my fatty was nothing but a cold butt, Johnny tossed it out the window along with his latest dead soldier. He started the truck, revved it again to keep the cows nervous and dropped it into gear. Moments later we lurched forward while the rear wheels sprayed river gravel out the back like a rocket’s exhaust. Johnny spun donuts, figure 8s, and the crazy fool even took one try at a small jump but the old rig had suspension that was set up too stiff for that kind of shit, this was a street rod, not a river rat. He would have been better off if something had broken then and there.
We spent the rest of the afternoon drinking, smoking, and abusing that poor truck. If Johnny’s brother in law knew what Johnny was doing to his treasured ride he would have tied him to the bumper and dragged him all the way to Petrolia.
Even though it continued to drizzle the river seemed to be dropping fast throughout the afternoon . By dusk there was a lot more gravel to slide around in and we were both pretty looped. Actually looped is being kind-we were both plastered, stoned, and thoroughly fucked up! Johnny was still sober enough to realize he shouldn’t be driving home till we sobered up a little though so he drove to a spot about 30 feet from the water, turned off the motor and moments later he nodded off. I followed him into dreamland within minutes as the river gurgled by outside.
“Hey! What the fuck?” Johnny’s yell brought me awake in a flash. It took a couple seconds to realize my feet were soaked. Outside the truck the drizzle had stopped, the clouds were gone and a full moon shone down upon a fair expanse of moving water that was now between us and the shore. We were in trouble! Deep trouble you might say…
I opened my door with some difficulty, and water rushed in to cover the bottom of the seat. I slid off the seat, into the river and started wading and swimming for shore. I could hear Johnny splashing and swearing behind me. We ended up staggering onto the riverbank about 50 yards downstream from the truck then we looked at each other in the moonlight.
“Oh shit! Shit! Shit! I’m screwed, Will!” Johnny wailed as he watched the water glistening in the moonlight while it flowed around the truck. Then he bent over and threw up on the gravel. A strong smell of beer came up from the steaming mess. My stomach contents almost joined Johnny’s when that smell hit my nostrils. I moved a few feet away, head throbbing. I felt like shit and Johnny had drunk a lot more than I had.
“We gotta get that thing outta there!” Johnny wailed and tossed his cookies again. I moved a few steps further upwind…
I answered, “I have an old friend that lives about a mile back up the road, let’s hike to his place. He has a big gnarly 4 x 4 and loves to show off what it can do. Short of a tow truck he’s probably your best bet.”
So we set off trudging up Waddington under that cold full moon, boots squishing with every step. Johnny kept up a quiet string of curses under his breath as he staggered along. Every now and then he would stop, retch a little more and moan, “My ass is hamburger if I can’t get that truck out, not even hamburger, it’s dogfood.”
It took us about half an hour to squish our way to my pal Mark’s dad’s ranch. Fortunately the temperature was fairly warm, it felt like maybe low 50s, so the exertion of slogging along kept us warm enough so at least hypothermia wasn’t going to be a serious problem. Johnny by this point was moaning, “I wish I was dead”.
“When Barbara and her hubby get back from Hawaii you may get your wish, Johnny boy.” I always was a joker…
When we got to the ranch house I figured we would go knock on Mark’s bedroom window but Johnny lurched up the porch stairs and started banging on the door yelling, “Hey, help me. I need help. Come on, wake up and let me in dammit!”
Lights came on inside, then the sound of footsteps could be heard approaching, the porch light came on, the door was flung open, and my buddie’s dad stood there nude holding what looked like his old service .45 from Nam. It was a convincingly ugly piece of metal!
“What the hell do you mean waking people up at 4 AM. You better have a damn good reason! Oh, Will, it’s you. You and your friend here look like a couple of drowned rats. Now what’s going on?”
Johnny spoke first. ”I have a truck stuck in the river and I need someone to come down and tow it out. Will said he thought that your son’s 4 x 4 should be big enough to do it.”
“A truck stuck at 4 am?” The old man laughed uproariously and said “I bet there’s a humdinger of a story behind this… Come on in and I’ll get Mark. But stand on that rug guys. I don’t want you dripping all over my hardwood floor.” He gestured to an oval rug just inside the house and walked back to rouse his son.
A couple minutes later Mark and his dad returned. Mark was mostly dressed already and was pulling on a sweater while his dad had put on a robe. While Mark’s dad made coffee Johnny gave them both a highly edited explanation of the situation and assured Mark that his big F350 would pull the borrowed rig out in a blink. After a couple cups of coffee Mark pulled on his boots and said, “Well guys, let’s do it.” His dad wished us luck and out the door we went.
Mark went first into the barn and returned with half a dozen feed sacks, opened the door to his rig and spread the sacks on the passenger side of the seat. He went back in the barn and came back with a coil of cable with hooks at both ends. The cable was tossed in the bed of the truck where it landed with a loud THUNK. Mark climbed in his truck and gestured for us to do the same. “Don’t get too close boys, I’m dry and want to stay that way!”
Five minutes later we were back at the scene of the crime. And I guess it was an actual crime, not just a figure of speech. The moon was lower in the sky, hovering just above the Wildcat hills but it still shone with enough light to clearly show the hapless hotrod facing downstream with water flowing smoothly around it.
Mark said “Jesus Christ! I can’t tow that thing out guys. My cable won’t reach that far and your rig is pointed crosswise to us. Even if the cable did reach I would have to pull the front end around first before the truck could roll. You guys need a real tow truck. The tide will start going out soon and as it does the river will drop as well. Then you can get a cable on the truck and get it out of there but I’m not going to try. We would just end up with two stuck trucks instead of one. Let’s go back to the ranch, you can call the towing service and borrow some dry clothes.”
“Will, you call the tow truck, would you? I’m going to stay here and make sure nobody fucks with the truck.” Now who would mess with a semi-submerged pickup at 4:30 in the morning is beyond me but we left Johnny gazing despondently at the old hotrod as the river slid by. Its gurgling sounded like a quiet chuckle.
Back at the ranch Mark’s father was dressed, had made another pot of coffee and was reading a book at the kitchen table with a steaming mug at hand. Without a word he got up, poured two more mugs full, handed one to Mark. He reached down, opened a cupboard and took out a bottle of whiskey. Into the other mug he poured a generous dollop then slid the mug across the table towards me.
“A little hair of the dog? Your friend smelled like he had taken on a whole pack of em. And lost! I figure you might have suffered a little bite yourself. He laughed again and shook his head. The coffee and booze helped settle my stomach and by the time the big mug was empty, I felt almost human again. It was time to make that call.
Mark got up and got me a cordless phone and the phone book. I looked up a towing service out of Fortuna and gave the woman on the other end of the line our sad story. She cheerily announced she needed a credit card number before they would roll anything. Mark’s dad tossed one in front of me and said, “Use this and we can settle up later.” After she was given the number, she announced that a tow truck would be there in about half an hour. I cut the connection, stood up and said, “I should walk back there and make sure Johnny is still OK. Besides he’s going to need someone coherent to talk to the tow truck driver. He isn’t doing all that well at the moment. Thanks for the help and the coffee, especially that cup with the whiskey in it. You were right about that “dog bite”…”
I squished my way back to the scene of the crime much quicker than we had staggered to the ranch. The coffee and booze had banished the headache and I felt remarkably chipper considering the amount I had imbibed myself. It sure didn’t hurt that the truck was not my problem, it wasn’t me who took the keys off the kitchen counter and decided to go for a ride. THANK GOD!
When I arrived Johnny was sitting on the gravel with a half empty bottle in his hand. A few more “dead soldiers” were scattered on the gravel around him. He was soaking wet and had obviously been back in the river and out to the truck. He had gotten the last half dozen bottles of ale and tossed them down to console himself. Some people never learn…
The tow truck arrived a few minutes after I did. The driver surveyed the situation and said, “I ain’t going out and hooking that thing up, one of you guys have to do that. My job description don’t include swimming!”
Johnny was in no shape to do anything but sit there blubbering so I stripped off my boots and the borrowed clothes, grabbed the tow hook and started dragging that cable out to the old Ford. It was a tough slog that took me several minutes. The river wanted to take me with it.
Finally, I was standing in front of the truck. I took a deep breath, bent over and groped underwater for something to fasten the cable to. It took several tries before I finally had it wrapped securely around what felt like the front axle. I gave the cable a couple hard tugs. It seemed secure so I splashed back to the tow truck and said, “Give that a try.” The driver fired up his rig and started reeling the cable back. It came tight, slowed, and then as it continued to wind onto the drum the front of the old hotrod started to come around. In 2 minutes it was on the bank, water pouring out of the back. Johnny lurched over, started to open the driver’s side door and was knocked over by the flood of water he unleashed.
Between what he had drunk the day before and the stuff he had had that morning you could have knocked him over with a feather. He was plowed!
“Where do you want this towed to?” the driver asked me since Johnny was reduced to maudlin self-pity and incoherence. I gave him the address of Johnny’s place and told him to just leave it in front of the apartment or as close as possible.
“I’ll give you a ride out of here if you want but he has to walk. I don’t want my upholstery all soaked.” The driver gestured at Johnny who was sitting on the gravel and wailing.
“No. Thanks, I better stay with this guy. He’s completely out of it.”
“I’ll say! Well good luck getting him home buddy. If I had a wheelbarrow I would loan it to you ‘cause he doesn’t look like he can walk very well.” With this the driver laughed, winched the nose of the old Ford up in the air and the two trucks crunched off across the gravel.
“Come on Johnny, get up or you’ll get pneumonia. I don’t want to stand here till you’re sober so get off your ass and let’s get moving. I gave him a hand and yanked him upright, draped his arm across my shoulders and started to walk him towards the road. It was a project but I got us up to the pavement and we started trudging back to Mark’s place. Johnny stumbled along and if I hadn’t been holding him up he would have done a face-plant in the first 100 feet. We had covered perhaps a quarter of a mile when I saw headlights approaching in the distance. I hoped it was Mark coming back to see how we were doing. Holding Johnny up was a lot of work doing it had gotten my borrowed clothes almost as wet as if I had worn them in the river.
A minute later a white and green SUV rolled up and stopped, the window rolled down and the deputy sheriff inside asked “You guys the ones with the truck in the river?” I started to answer when Johnny started yelling at him, telling the cop that he had enough goddam troubles and he didn’t need no goddam cop giving him shit. He yelled quite a few other things as well, none of them polite or wise when addressing an officer of the law.
“Mister, you smell like a goddam brewery! You’re drunk! ” The cop got out and grabbed Johnny by the arm, slammed him against the SUV and told him to mind his manners. Then he opened the back door, shoved him in and slammed it shut again. He stuck his face in mine and said, “You want some of the same?”
“Hey, not me, I was just trying to help this guy get to someplace warm before he gets sick.”
“He smells like he has enough alcohol in his system that you could drop him in Antarctica and he wouldn’t freeze. Well, we’ll take good care of him in the drunk tank. Now how did you get involved?”
I gave him a somewhat edited version of yesterday afternoon’s events and the cop just shook his head and laughed. “OK, so where are you going now?”
“Just up the road about ¾ of a mile. I called the tow truck from a friend’s ranch. I figured I would go back there and warm up a little. I had to strip and swim the tow cable out to the truck and then my pal there” I gestured at the back seat of the car where Johnny was slumped. “Got my borrowed clothes pretty soaked while I was trying to walk him back to the ranch.”
“Hop in and I’ll give you a ride then.”
A minute later I was getting out of his rig in front of the ranch house and thanking him again. Lights inside told us that someone, Mark and his dad probably, were up.
“You can tell someone they can bail this guy out after the court offices open. Better tell them to bring him a change of clothes and a king sized bottle of ibuprofen. The way he smells he’ll need every pill!” The cop laughed at his own joke.
“I may just leave him there, his brother in law will be coming back from Hawaii soon and when he sees his truck Johnny will be much safer in the tank. MUCH safer…”
The cop had a big belly laugh then. When he finally stopped he said, “Well, you have a good day now, mister. You know it’s gotta be better than his!” He gestured with his thumb to the back where Johnny had passed out on the seat. He was still laughing as the window rolled up and the SUV motored off quietly into the dark.