Sunday, February 5, 2017

Excerpt from Harm's Way

They were all packed in there like sardines, man.  Ankles, chins, elbows, pelvises, fingers, tongues, rotator cuffs, teeth, hair, bone, blood, urine, and fecal matter.  All piled one on top of the other so no one could tell where each began and ended.  Ben had a feeling that when he stopped the van it would be impossible to separate them.  He felt quite comfortable; he had the driver’s seat all to himself, so despite the complaints, he was not inclined to stop for stretch breaks, pee breaks, etc.
They had been driving for what seemed like hours, but was probably more like hours.  They had reached the end of civilization, or what passed for civilization in Vermont, and Ben knew from bitter experience that the 7-ELEVEN in St. Hockenberry was the very last stop before he had to make the long long trek down the long long boring road toward the Quebec border, where the camp was.
And there it loomed in the distance, like an oasis.  And much like weary travelers that had crossed the great desert to get there, they were all parched and hungry.  Ben himself could really go for one of those soggy prefab subs that they kept in the refrigerated case, right next to the cream cheese and jars of lemon curd.  Slightly behind the pints of goat’s milk and Trojan box that some discourteous traveler hadn’t bothered to put back in its regular spot when he got an inkling that maybe he wasn’t going to get lucky tonight after all.  Maybe he was a loser with wishful thinking.  And maybe he should have been nice enough to put the box of condoms on the back shelf, right next to the Ritz crackers and lantern batteries where he got them from.  His rudeness and thoughtlessness was probably the reason he wasn’t going to get laid in the first place.
Once they had all managed to un-Twister themselves out of the van, and stretch their muscles and re-set their joints back into place, they all walked together in a single line toward the store, strutting all cool-like, like in Reservoir Dogs.  This scene would be much more effective if I could sell the movie rights to this story; instead I have to just try and describe it as best I can, and hope you know what I’m talking about.
And into the store they walked, having an air about them of teenage greed and horniness, with a bitter aftertaste of mildew.
“Hello, my friends!  Welcome to 7-11!” The overzealous cashier said, a little too zealously.
Not one of them returning his greeting, they all got busy picking out what they were going to get.  The back of the van was already loaded with enough groceries to feed three battalions for three months, but they needed something to sustain them for the next three hours that it would take them to get there.
Ben got a Snickers bar, a bag of chips, and a Coke.
Adam got a pint of Cherry Garcia, of course.
Muffy and Buffy got a pack of Doublemint gum (how cute).
Darnell got a bag of Doritos and a pint of strawberry milk.
Brent got a tube of Pringles and a box of Nerds.
Kiera got a Slim Jim and a diet cola.
Jonesy got the munchies from the weed he had smoked before he left the house two hours ago, much to his dismay, and had his arms full.
Floyd got a bag of jerky and a copy of TV Guide.
Doris got nothing, for he was still in the van.  He had gotten his guitar out from the back and was happily strumming “Patience” by Guns N’ Roses.
“Hey, just where do you think you’re going with those, Chet?  You’re not TWENTY-ONE.” Brent asked, indicating the two cases of beer he was carrying.
“Well, I don’t know if I like this very much,” Brent squeaked.
“Hey man, stop being so square.  Don’t you want beer?”
“I...well...How are you going to purchase those?”
“With money, stupid.  What’s it going to take to get you to shut up?”
“I don’t know...I...”
“What do you want?  Anything, just shut up.”
“I need Sudafed.”
“Sudafed?  I say I’ll get you anything you want, and you say, ‘Sudafed’?”
“My allergies are going to be really bad, I can tell already.  And my prescriptions are weak.  And you have to be eighteen to buy Sudafed, and since you’re already breaking the law...”
“All right, fine.  I’ll tell you what.  I’ll get you a lottery ticket, too.  Go fill out a Megabucks card.”
“Yeah.  You gotta be cool, and you can’t be cool unless you gamble and drink, man.  So you can at least gamble.”
So off he went to fill out the card.  Man, it was just like taking his SAT’s.  He thought for a minute, and then filled out numbers that were significant to him.  He didn’t just want the easy pick.  One by one he filled in the numbers, THIRTEEN, EIGHTEEN, THIRTY-TWO, SIXTEEN, THIRTY-FIVE, THIRTY-NINE.  He brought it to Chet and watched him work his magic.
Chet slammed the beer on the counter in front of the Middle Eastern dude, rattling the Zippo display and almost knocking it over.
“Yes, my friend, can I help you?” the clerk asked helpfully.
“Just the beer, man.  Oh, and this,” he said, and handed him Brent’s ticket.  “Oh, and some Sudafed.  Oh, and a pack of Winstons.”
“May I see some identification?”
“Don’t I look twenty-one?”
“No, I’m afraid not.  I am very sorry, but if you do not have identification, I cannot sell you these things.”
“Aw, come on, Habib.”
“Look at my name tag.  Does it say ‘Habib’?”
He did.  It said “Hank”.
“I do not call every American John, why do they insist on calling me Habib?”
“My apologies, Hank.”
“Once again, I am very sorry.”
“Oh, you’re going to be,” Chet said, as he pulled a handgun out of the waistband of his underwear, which was actually not a handgun at all, but rather a very nice replica fashioned out of a block of processed cheddar cheese, the authenticity betrayed only by the fact that it was bright orange, and it was so old that it had grown quite funky.
Not even caring about the fact that it was obviously a sham, Hank reached down behind the counter and pulled out his very real shotgun.  “You do not do this.  You do not do this,” he explained to Chet.
“Woah, woah, okay.  Hey, calm down, man. It’s just cheese.  See?” he said, and took a bite of the stinky food.  “Hey, I was just trying to have some fun.  I’d never pull a real gun on you.  Gee, I’m awfully sorry about that.  It’s just, we’re going to camp, and we just wanted to have some fun, you know?  Figured we could get some beer.  And my friend here’s really sick, and he really needs the Sudafed and cigarettes and lottery ticket.  I could have had a fake ID made, but I’m much too honest for that.”
“My friend,” Hank said, “in my country, we have a saying.  An honest man is like a hive of angry bees.  Of course I will sell you these things; your honesty humbles me.  Get a few more cases, if you’d like.  It’s on me.”

AnchorSo out the store and back in the van they went.  “Said woman, take it slow,” Jonesy sang.  Man, that Doris cat could really play that thing.

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