The Road of Dreams
by Geron Kees
When Brian awoke the next morning, it was to find himself alone in his bed. For a moment he was startled, feeling still the warm sense of special ones near. The night had been a parade of short movies within the dark theater house of his sleeping mind - amorous vignettes, in which he had starred with Jeff, or Annabelle - or both. It had not prepared him to wake in a new void, alone and without the comfort of those bodies and hearts close to his.
It had all been so real.
He lay a moment, one foot sticking out from beneath the summer sheet he slept beneath, his toes warm in a patch of sunlight coming in through the sheer curtains of his bedroom window, and reviewed the images he could remember, even as they sought to vanish into the realm of unwrought things. All were scenes of himself and the two people who had somehow found a way past all the signposts that made him singular - all the gates, all the fences, that nature had placed in and around each human being to define him or her from every other person that walked the crowded earth.
Somehow, both Jeff and Annie had become part of him. He sighed at the enormity of it; it had been too big for him to view as a single thing when it had just been him and Jeff; now it was even grander, a mountain so tall that its peak was lost somewhere in the clouds overhead.
I love them both. How did this happen?
Yes, the previous night had truly been the stuff of dreams. The party was an almost ethereal memory, not totally real - something that he had read about, that had happened to someone else. Yet he knew it was all his, and so deep it was almost frightening to see where it reached to inside him.
After stopping by the shopping center to show JohnyG and Gary where they could often be found, they had gone on down the road and eaten at Mickey Dee's. Jeff had backed his Camaro in next to the Dodge's driver's side so that their windows were close together, and JohnyG had parked on the other side, so that all of them could take part. The Bee had been full of warmth and laughter, and bathed in smiling faces from either side, and all Brian could really remember of it was that it had all held a pleasure unlike anything he normally experienced. For a short space of time, they had all been of one mind.
Their next stop had been McClelland Road, the hangout and race lane of the crowd from Kennedy High School. To their great surprise, that place was vacant save for two cars pulled together under a streetlight at the head of the course. A '70 Mustang, and a '71 Torino 500 - both Fords.
They'd driven up as a group behind the other cars and shut down their engines, and Jeff had gotten out to talk to the guys in the other cars. With his window down, Brian could hear most of the conversation.
Jeff had walked up to the driver's window of the Mustang, and bent to look inside. "Hey, Billy." He peered farther into the car, nodded. "Lou. Where is everybody tonight?"
The voice that answered sounded slightly drunk, to say the least. "Jeff! How's it going? Thought that was your race car I heard coming." The driver's face had momentarily pushed out into the light from the lamp above, revealing a narrow face ringed with long blond curls, and eyes that squinted mightily at the Bee. "Though it's kinda hard to tell, with the company you're keeping. Ain't that a Proctor car?"
"Yeah, yeah, Billy. But they're cool, or I wouldn't have brought them. Where did you say everybody was?"
"I dinnit. I mean, I didn't." A hand had emerged and waved around in a vague circle. "They all heard about some big-ass party up Route Five someplace, and went looking for it. You know Mahowsky - someone's got beer and reefer, he's going for it."
Jeff had laughed. "Yeah? Do you know where?"
"Nope. Out in the boonies, somewhere. 'Bout ten carloads of them went. Me and Lou said fuck that. You can spend all night looking for a party and never find it wisout - without directions. We just said we'd party right here."
Jeff nodded, straightened, and looked over the roof of the Mustang at the other car. "How are you doing, Mel? That Barry with you?"
Another voice had called from the Torino: "Yeah. Hi, Jeff. What's happening?"
"We were looking for a little action. But there's no one here to run, I guess."
There was laughter from both cars. "You're crazy," Billy had said then. "Neither one of us is running that screamin' bitch you drive. Might as well toss the money out the windrow - window."
Jeff had laughed. "Well, maybe one of these other cars?"
All heads had turned, as everyone looked over at the Bee and the El Camino.
"Yeah, I don't think so," Billy had continued. "I know that purple fuckin' Dodge, now. That's the one that ate Mahowsky and beat you. Think I'm nuts?"
"I'm no judge of that," Jeff had said, straight faced. "How about the El Camino? Show a Chevy what a Ford can do?"
The guy in the seat next to Billy - Lou it had been, as Brian remembered, had spoken up then. "You gone over to the other side, Jeff? I got a feeling that any car that rides with you runs. Usually you're with your own kind - but we don't know these guys. You tryin' to pick our pockets or something?"
Jeff had sighed. "Nah. We were just looking for some fun. Runs for grins - no money. Sorry to bug you, okay?"
Billy had waved a hand out the window. 'S'okay, man. Why don't you guys run each other? We'd be up for watchin' that."
Jeff had laughed, but had shaken his head. "Nope. Lookin' for some strange, you know?"
That had brought more laughter from the two Fords. "We ain't talkin' pussy here, man."
Jeff had patted the window sill of the Mustang, and then headed back to talk to Brian. "Nothing happening here. Everyone's out looking for that party."
"They ain't gonna find it, not without directions," Ed had said assuredly, from the back seat. "Not out in all them sticks."
There was general agreement to that. When you heard about a party in a neighborhood, but didn't have an address, you just drove around the area until you heard the noise and saw the lights. More often, you would run into someone you knew, who would direct you. But none of that kind of stuff worked when you were party-hunting in the woods.
Brian had looked at his watch. "Going on midnight. The girls will need to be home in an hour - and I can't stretch it a lot further than that and stay cool with my dad."
Jeff had nodded. "Want to come by the Winnie for a bit? I think we can all squeeze inside."
They'd asked JohnyG and Gary, but those two had opted out.
"No, I guess we'd better get going," JohnyG had said, a little sadly. "Be well after one by the time we get home, even now." He'd sighed. "But we sure enjoyed meeting all of you."
Brian had grinned. "Now that you know where to find us, maybe you'll come and visit."
"I think we can do that." JohnyG had looked over at Gary. "What do you think?"
Gary had looked sleepy, but nodded. "I'm up for it. You guys are the most fun we've had in ages."
The two had gotten out of the El Camino and offered hugs all around. Brian had been surprised at both the level of what he was feeling, and at the look in the other guy's eyes.
"Brian. You take it easy, okay?"
"I will. You, too." He'd grinned. "No passing on the shoulder on the way home."
JohnyG had grinned as he'd gotten back into his car. "God. I can see now I'm never going to live that down."
"Balls move, dude," Ed had said. "Those things stay with you."
Brian had grinned at the way that Ed had changed his perspective on how JohnyG had passed them. From stupid fucker to balls move, all in the space of hours.
"Can you find your way out?" Jeff had asked.
"Yeah. I've been out this way before. Catch you guys later."
JohnyG waved, and the Chevy pulled out. The car got a ways down the road, and then suddenly roared, smoke pouring from the rear fender wells. The El Camino reared, and then bolted down the road in a fashion that was reminiscent of the way that Jeff's Camaro moved. They all looked after the car, impressed.
And then the El Camino was gone.
"Cool dudes," Ed had said. "Hope they come back."
They'd followed Jeff to his grandparent's house, to the Winnebago in which he stayed most days and nights. His little slice of the world, away from a more turbulent life at home with an overbearing father.
"Where are your grandparents?" Brian had asked him, when they had all emerged from the cars.
"France, now. They have a little chateau in Saint-Malo."
They'd gone inside the Winnie, and gotten comfortable while Jeff fired up some sounds. Rock You Like A Hurricane, by The Scorpions, took up a quiet presence in the background as Jeff turned the volume low.
Ed and Missy had found that they could be comfortable in the window seat if they really crammed themselves together, which they did. Brian had sat himself on the sofa, and Annie had taken one side, and Jeff the other. That Brian was in the middle of this really came home to him then. I have two people that want me, he had thought, shocked all over again at the idea.
It was enough to give him a big head - if it hadn't made him feel so scared instead.
They'd just sat quietly, snuggled together, listening to the music and talking softly. Brian had held a different hand in each of his, and just marveled at the idea that such a thing could have happened to him.
Time stretched slowly out like a rubber band, and then suddenly snapped back, and it was time for them to go.
Brian had wrapped his arms around Jeff, and held him tightly while they had exchanged a long and detailed kiss. "I'll call you in the morning," he'd offered finally, as they had allowed themselves to come apart.
"Unless I call you first," Jeff said, his eyes twinkling.
He had walked out with them, they'd said goodnight one more time, and then Brian had started the Bee down the driveway, watching in the rear view mirror as Jeff stood back in the drive, waving. Brian flashed his lights a last time before they rounded the fir tree screen and the other boy went out of sight. And then he'd sighed to himself, and started them home.
"Awesome night," Ed had said, from the back seat.
Brian had nodded, thinking of Jeff, now alone in the Winnie, and wishing he could have brought the other boy home to his bed. Or stayed with him.
Annabelle was comfortably close, lying against his side, having stepped full into her new role as girlfriend in a single night. Brian had to smile inwardly at that - at the games that fate played with the minds and bodies of the young. He had no idea what he was doing, or where he was going with this. And that that seemed somehow okay only bewildered him. As someone who liked to have a handle on his daily life, this looked awesomely like a very deep crevasse with only the narrowest of bridges across it. That he seemed to be stepping lightly and without concern over that tight little roadway simply amazed him.
The trip back was uneventful. They dropped off Ed and Missy first. They lived at opposite ends of the same block, and Ed opted to get out with Missy and spend a couple of minutes more with her before jogging home.
"Got your stuff out from under my seat?" Brian had asked.
Ed laughed in return. "Need you ask? I need my mini for my go-to-bed hit."
Brian had just shaken his head as he'd gotten out of the car and opened the trunk so that Ed could get out his store bag of pot. Ed had pulled out the bag, and then pretended to stagger under its weight, grinning like a madman. "Man! I ain't gonna have to do without until after Christmas, I'll bet. I am so glad we went to this party, Bry."
Brian had nodded, smiling. "Yeah, right. I'll be surprised if it lasts that long."
Ed sat the bag on the ground and came over, and lowered his voice. "You okay, Bry? Got some pretty heavy shit going on now." He'd smiled. "Told you you were bi."
"Yeah. I guess you know me better than I do."
"That's what buddies are for, dude." Ed had clamped him on the shoulder then, given him a fond squeeze. "Doing anything tomorrow?'
Brian had nodded. "Sure. What do you feel like?"
"The quarry might be nice. Wouldn't mind seeing Missy in her bathing suit again."
Brian had laughed. "I'll call you after I get up."
And then it had been just Brian and Annabelle, cruising up the block and around the corner to her house. Brian had shut off the Bee, and they had sat there a moment in silence.
"I had a great time," Annie had finally said. "Best party ever."
Brian had sighed, leaned his head against hers. "I'm glad it all happened, Annie. Every bit of it."
She had pushed her face against his. "I've dreamed about this."
Brian had nodded, feeling almost intoxicated by the changes the evening had offered up. "Dreams are everywhere, it seems. The night seems to give birth to them, or something."
"It's the moonlight, like the lady at the party said." Annie had smiled up at him.
Brian had nodded. "Maybe. Or maybe they're always there, around us, and the moonlight just lets us see them."
They'd kissed, and Brian had walked her to the door, and they'd kissed again. "I really like Jeff," Annie had said last. "I can't believe he's willing to share."
Brian had laughed. "Let's wait and see, okay? I gotta say, this whole thing is a little scary. I have two of you to worry about now."
Annabelle had sighed. "Don't worry about me. Jeff was here first. I'm not a thief, Brian."
He'd smiled at her odd choice of words, but understood her meaning. "There's nothing to be stolen, little girl. It's mine to give."
She'd nodded. "What are you doing tomorrow?"
"Ed said maybe we could go swimming at Nicholson's. Probably be fun. You wanna?"
"That sounds great."
Brian had nodded. "I'll call you."
He barely remembered the short drive home, and crawling into bed. Sleep had come quickly, and with it, the new dreams of his new reality.
He was barely out of his morning shower when the phone rang. Jeff, he felt for sure, grinning as he picked up the receiver.
Brian sighed. "Hi, sweetheart. How'd you sleep?"
He could hear Jeff sigh on the other end. "Good, Brian. Really good. What a night!"
"Yeah. I just realized that we didn't split our bag."
"Doesn't matter to me. I never smoke on my own. If you'd like to keep all of it, that's cool. Or, just take some out and put it in a baggie for me. One baggie will last me forever."
Brian laughed. "We'll worry about it later. So - are we going swimming today?"
"I think that'd be cool as shit. It's already hot, and it's not even ten. It's gonna be a scorcher later. Some cool water sounds great to me."
"Okay. Let me call Ed and Annie, and I'll get back to you. I gotta eat something, too."
"Okay. I already ate. Give me about twenty minutes, okay? I want to run up to the Sunoco and get some gas. The Chevy is thirsty."
Brian grinned to himself. "You got enough money for that? Way that car drinks?"
"Look who's talking. Our girls both drink at the same bar. Talk to you in twenty."
Brian dressed, then went downstairs. His parents were in the kitchen, his dad with a cup of coffee on the table before him and the sports section of the newspaper in hand. His mom was getting stuff out of the dishwasher and putting it away in the cabinets.
His dad smiled at him. "Hi. Heard you come in last night. Right on time. I appreciate that you aren't taking advantage of the rules, Brian, now that you have your own car."
Brian got a glass of OJ and put it on the table by his dad. "We agreed, right? I'm not messing up my summer over something like that."
His mother made a small sound somewhere between a laugh and a grunt, the glasses clinking a little bit harder as she lined them up in a cabinet. "Well, your sister wasn't so easy to get along with after she got her car." She looked over at Brian's dad. "How many times did we ground her over coming home too late? Five, six times?"
Brian's dad sighed. "Let's not go there, honey." He winked at Brian. "Let's not give our son any ideas."
Brian smiled as he fixed a bowl of cereal. "I'm not gonna get ideas, dad. I like my freedom too much. I didn't go through all the stuff to get the Bee and get it where it is only to have it sit in the driveway while I'm locked down."
His dad gave him an approving look. "Now that's the smart kid I raised to be like his dad."
Brian's mother made a disgusted noise and rolled her eyes, but didn't say anything. Brian grinned. "I think mom might have something to say about that, dad."
He had just poured milk over the cereal when the phone rang. Brian's mom, who was closest, snatched the receiver off the wall, still looking mini-daggers at Brian's dad. "Hello?"
She listened a moment, then nodded. "He's right here. Just a second." She held the phone out to Brian.
He got up and took it from her. "Hello?"
"Problem, Brian." It was Jeff. "My car won't start."
Brian blinked. "Huh? What's up with it?"
"I think it's the starter solenoid. I turn the key and just get that click of death from it."
"Really? It was okay last night, wasn't it?"
He heard Jeff sigh over the phone. "It's been acting funny for a couple of weeks, clicking a little sometimes when I started the car. Not like this, though. I should have paid more attention to it."
"Sure it's not the battery, or a connection?"
"That battery is brand new, and so are the cables. I checked them, and they're fine. No, it's the starter, I'm pretty sure. I have another one back at the house. Guess I'll have to put it in."
Brian felt alarm at the idea that he would not see Jeff that day. "Yeah, but not right now. I'll come and get you and we'll still go out. I can come by tomorrow and help you put the other starter in, okay?"
There was silence for a moment, and then he heard Jeff laugh. "You mean go in your car? As a passenger?"
Brian laughed. "Yeah. It's allowed. You don't always have to be driving."
Jeff gave another small laugh. "Okay. Come and get me, then."
"Soon as I eat, I'll be by."
Jeff sighed again. "I love you, Brian."
Brian felt a wash of emotion, and cleared his throat to cover it. "Me, too. See you in a little bit."
"What was that about?" Brian's dad asked, as Brian hung up the phone and came back to the table.
"Jeff's car won't start. He thinks the starter solenoid went up."
His dad gave a small groan. "Yeah, probably. Have to say, that's one area where your Mopar is probably superior. Damn GM starters always did suck, no doubt about it."
Brian smiled, taking a spoonful of cereal into his mouth. "Mmfp. Just one of many areas where Mopars are better, dad."
His father shook his head, grinned, and went back to his newspaper.
The first thing that Brian did before leaving was to remove his store bag of pot from the trunk of the Bee. A moment of angst overcame him then - where to stash his stash?
He lived in his parent's house - having a pound of pot laying around was not only not smart, it was not cool. There was no question that he put it in his room, so if something happened there would be no doubt as to who the stuff belonged to. For a moment he could not decide where, and stood in the middle of room, the bag vaguely clutched to his waist, his eyes going over his bed, his desk, his closet door - to land upon his chest.
His dad never bothered anything that belonged to Brian. He had the typical guy's sense of separation from other guy's things. But Brian's mom was - well, a mom. She could not be described as deliberately nosy; but she did tend to look into Brian's room, and had no problem making comments about it if it wasn't reasonably neat. He had never felt that she poked around in his room and looked at his things - but he had noticed that, a couple of times - when he'd been in a hurry and just pulled the covers up on his bed - that when he came home again, it was neatly made. So she did come into his room, and so he did not want to leave the pot where she might discover it while neatening.
The chest was perfect. He knew his mom never went in there. He had a small collection of model cars sitting on the top, and they had not changed positions in his memory, other than when he dusted them himself. He removed them now and lifted the lid, and was treated to the clean scent of the linens within.
It was a small chest, and the inside was mostly home to winter clothing for his bed - heavier sheets, several blankets, and a large quilt. He lifted the bulk of the fluffy quilt, felt around at one end of the chest beneath, and found a nice hollow not taken up with linens or blankets. Perfect.
He hunted through the pockets of several pairs of jeans until he found a baggie, and put a single finger's width of buds into it, rolled it up, and laid it on the desk. Then he carefully closed the store bag, placed it into the corner of the chest and pulled the quilt over it, then closed the lid of the chest and put the model cars back in their original spots. If someone opened that lid, he would know.
He changed into his trunks, stuck his feet into his shoes, and changed to an older blue tee-shirt that matched the color of his trunks. Then he grabbed his wallet and keys, and his little baggie, a towel off the back of his desk chair, and headed for the door.
Brian picked up Annie, and then Ed and Missy, who were already together in Missy's front yard. He told them all about Jeff's problem with the Camaro, and that they had to go and pick him up before going to the quarry.
"He shoulda got a Mopar," Ed said, grinning. "Mopar talks, while Chevy walks."
Brian laughed. "Yeah. Be careful not to say that around Jeff, okay? My dad, either. You're too young to die."
Jeff was standing in his driveway when they arrived, a rolled up towel under one arm. He was wearing a small green bathing suit with just a hint of legs to them, a green fishnet tee-shirt, and had his bare feet stuck into his Nike running shoes. He looked as cute and sexy as could be, and Brian grinned through the windshield at his boyfriend as he pulled up near him. Jeff caught the grin, and returned a dazzler of his own that made Brian's heart knock against his ribs.
Jeff came up to the driver's window, bent down and laid his arms along it, stuck his head inside the Bee, and gave Brian a kiss that caused his body to go limp in the seat. He felt Jeff laugh silently at the response, and when they pulled apart they were both smiling.
"You don't seem too upset about your car," Brian said softly, his eyes exploring those of the other boy.
Jeff shrugged. "I'll fix it tomorrow. It's not a big deal." His smile widened. "Especially with your help."
Brian nodded. "Let me know what time."
Jeff nodded, went around to the passenger door of the Superbee. Annie pushed it open, and climbed out. Jeff immediately put his arms around her, laid his chin on her shoulder, closed his eyes, and hugged her. Brian could tell by the way that she stiffened that she hadn't been expecting this; but she immediately relaxed, and returned the hug.
Jeff kissed her cheek, then pulled back. "Now get back in."
Annie's head pulled slightly back. "Don't you want to sit next to Brian?"
Jeff and Brian both laughed at the same time, and Annie turned and bent and looked into the car at Brian. "What's funny about that? He's your guy."
Brian nodded. "How would it look, us driving around with Jeff in the middle, up against me, and you at the window?"
Annie looked surprised, and then laughed. "Oops. Sorry." She scrambled back into the front seat, and Jeff squeezed in behind her and closed the door.
Brian turned the car around and headed back out to the road. Annie leaned forward and turned up the radio just enough that they could hear it and still converse. Quiet Riot's, Bang Your Head was on.
Brian reached down and fumbled inside the waistband of his trunks, and produced the small baggie of pot, and handed it past Annie to Jeff. "Since we were going out to the quarry, I just brought you a little. That way, if the cops show, you can chuck it and not lose much."
Jeff nodded, and pulled something from the waistband of his own trunks and held it up for Brian to see. it was a package of rolling papers. "I came prepared, too."
Brian couldn't help grinning over at his boyfriend, amazed still at how far and how fast Jeff had come out of his shell. Jeff was an awfully sweet guy, and seemed so gregarious now it was hard to believe he had ever existed inside a bubble of fear and shyness almost incapacitating in nature. Brian's throat momentarily caught, as again he imagined how lonely Jeff must have been. His Jeff.
"That's great," he said softly, reinforcing his smile. Jeff beamed, and returned the papers and the baggie to his waist.
Ed leaned over the seat and flashed his mini bong. "And for the super duty buzz we all know and crave, we have the latest technology from the boys in the plastic department."
Brian grinned at Ed in the rear view mirror. "If you put a leash on that thing you could walk it like a dog. Follows you around like one."
Ed laughed. "Dude, I believe in being prepared, you know?"
A thought came to Brian then. "Please tell me you're not carrying a huge bag of dope around with you."
Ed's eyebrows knit together in the mirror, but Brian could also see Missy stifle a grin.
"Hey, I'm reasonable," Ed said. He fished around out of sight a moment, and then held up a rolled up baggie no larger than the one that Brian had just given to Jeff. "Just enough for the day."
Brian nodded, returned his eyes full time to the road. Only Ed would think that much pot was a single day's worth.
They pulled into the Sunoco in Alna and topped off the Bee's gas tank, and then drove over to the shopping center to see if they could catch Bailey and get some beer. He was there, propped up against the side of Wade Tomlinson's Chevy.
"Hey Brian - and crew," he said, as they pulled up next to Wade's car. "Guess you want a beer run?"
Before Brian could reply, Jeff leaned over and pushed a ten dollar bill at Bailey. "Two sixes of Molson, okay? The beer, not the ale. And a bag of ice? Thanks."
Bailey laughed. "Yeah, I know the routine now." He took the bill. "Back in a flash."
Wade looked over at them, smiling. "Got a carload, huh? Where you guys going?"
"Nicholson's." Brian squinted up at the sun. "Need some heat relief."
The other boy nodded. "Thought about driving up there myself." He sighed. "Still feel a little stupid after that party last night, though. I may just go home and fall into my little sister's wading pool instead."
Brian grinned. "Hell of a party, huh?"
Wade nodded. "I'll say. I was actually stepping over people passed out in the grass. Never did that before, anywhere. And there were people passed out leaning against the headstones in the graveyard."
Brian gaped a moment, then laughed. "No shit? We never made it up there. What was that like?"
Wade shrugged. "Maybe thirty headstones, going all the way back to like 1809." He frowned. "Some of them were just kids, and babies. Hard to see that."
Brian nodded. Hard times, back then. "I guess it's just as well we didn't go up and look. That's kind of a bummer."
"Did have a kind of a thrill on the way home, though," Wade added. He shook his head. "We were coming back down Route Five, and I saw these headlights coming up behind me, fast. I figured it was a cop, so I was sitting right on the speed limit as the car came up. But it didn't even fuckin' slow down, Brian. Passed me like I was standing still, and kept on going."
Brian felt a small tingle in the middle of his gut. "Yeah? Wasn't a white Corvette, was it? A sixty-eight?"
It was Wade's turn to gape. "How'd you know?"
Brian nodded. "That car went after Jim Van Pelt on his way up to the party. He said a chick was driving it."
Wade laughed. "Yeah? I couldn't see who was in it. It must have been going over a hundred when it passed me. I just thought the guy was nuts."
"You didn't happen to catch the writing on the back, did you?" Brian asked.
Wade shook his head. "No. It was moving too fast. What writing?"
Brian grinned. "Jim said it had pretty script painted on the tail, that said, 'If you can beat me, you can eat me'."
Wade stared a moment, then squeezed his eyes shut and tossed his head back, laughing. Brian smiled at the sweet boyishness of the move. Goddamn - I'm seeing cute in everybody now!
Wade finished laughing and looked back at Brian. "Now, there's an offer most guys won't refuse. What's this chick look like?"
"Jim said she was blonde and cute."
"Yow! I may have to go and look for her myself."
"She runs for top end," Jeff called. "Quarter milers aren't gonna beat her."
Wade looked interested at that. "Yeah? That lets me out. I get to a hundred and twenty, I'm done." He grinned. "What about you, Brian? Your car will probably pin that racing speedo you have."
Brian made a dismissive noise. "Not me. The one time me and Ed went fast we could barely talk afterwards."
"I'll say," Ed put out. "Like riding on a snowflake in a hurricane. Made my stomach fall into my shoes."
"Yeah." Wade nodded. "A sixty-eight Vette is close to the ground. It can get away with a lot more speed than our cars."
Bailey came back then, with two sixes of beer in a cardboard case bottom, and a bag of ice in the other half. "Where you want it, Brian?"
"Back by the trunk." Brian got out, followed Bailey around to the back of the Bee. He opened the trunk lid, and Bailey set his load inside the trunk.
"They didn't have any cold Molson beers, Brian. They were just refilling the cooler when I went inside. So these are warm."
Brian shrugged. "We'll live. That's what the ice is for."
"Cool. Got your buddy's change here."
Brian nodded. "You wanna get high, or you want the beers?"
Bailey grinned. "Need you ask?"
"Okay. When you go give Jeff his change, tell him to roll you one."
Bailey laughed and stepped hurriedly away.
Brian took the bungee cords from over the cooler he had lashed in one corner of the trunk, pulled the cooler out, opened it and dumped the water inside into the parking lot. Then he sat the two sixes inside, tore open the bag of ice and dumped the contents into the cooler, and hastily arranged the cubes over and around the bottles. He dropped the trash in the trunk, lashed the cooler back in place, and closed the trunk lid.
Brian went back around the car and climbed into the driver's seat. Bailey had his arms and head pushed inside the passenger window, and was just putting the finishing touches on the joint he was rolling. Jeff looked over at Brian, seeming slightly embarrassed. "I never rolled one before."
"Now you know how," Bailey said, matter-of-factly. "All I need is a light, and we can all relax."
Jeff laughed, and dug a Bic lighter out of the car's glove box. He held up the flame, got Bailey lit, and put the lighter away.
Bailey crouched down outside the car, took a big hit off the joint, and then looked up, surprise written all over his features. He dropped from sight, and a huge cloud of smoke puffed up outside the window as Bailey lapsed into a fit of coughing.
A moment later his head came back into view, his eyes looking vaguely astounded. "Geez, man. You said this was homegrown. If it is, it's some kick-ass homegrown, is all I can say."
Ed leaned forward in the back seat, grinning. "Old big Jed he had a farm, ee-yi-ee-yi-oh. And on this farm he grew some weed, ee-yi-ee-yi-yo. With a bong hit here, and a doobie hit there, here a hit, there a hit, everywhere a little hit; Old Big Jed he had a farm, for stoner's on the go!"
Brian turned and swatted him playfully, and Ed laughed, jerking back. "Didn't know I could sing, huh, dude?"
"I still don't know," Brian said, shaking his head.
Missy grinned and circled an arm around Ed, smiling. "I thought it was very creative, Eddie."
Brian felt his eyebrows bounce upwards. "Eddie?"
Ed gave him a slightly pleading look. "So, are we ready to go?"
Brian nodded. "Yeah." He turned back to look out of the Bee's passenger window. "Bailey, we gotta roll, buddy. Thanks for the beer run. Enjoy that joint, okay? Though, if you want my advice, you'll smoke half and save the rest for later."
Bailey gave him a grin as he stepped back from the Dodge. "Sounds like good advice, Brian. You all take it light, you hear?"
"We'll take it any way we can get it," Ed returned, snuggling his own arm around Missy and grinning at her. "Right, babe?"
"Anything you say, Eddie."
Brian rolled his eyes and refrained from looking into the rear view mirror. What the hell was happening to all the people he knew? It was like he and all of his friends had somehow been tied into one big, fluffy knot, or something. It was as creepy as it was fun. So much change in so short a time!
He put the car into first gear and pulled across the parking lot, and then out onto the main road. He goosed the gas, smiled at the squeal of protest from the Bee's rear tires, hit second, and grinned again as the tires chirped their annoyance at all that torque. At least something is the same, Brian thought, resisting an urge to reach out and pat the car's dashboard.
It was still well before noon, and the sun had yet to reach its full height in the sky. It was behind them as they moved down the road, heading farther out into the country, its rays reflecting with an unusual intensity of greenness from the leaves of the walls of trees along either side of the road. Traffic ambled past going in the other direction, none of it looking to be in much of a hurry. It was that kind of day: slow.
REO Speedwagon came on the radio: I Don't Wanna Know.
"Hey," Ed said suddenly. "No brews for the ride up?"
Brian smiled at him in the rear view mirror, amused at how long it had taken his friend to realize that they were beerless. If Missy hadn't been back there with him, they'd never have made it out of the parking lot at the shopping center without Ed commenting.
"Wasn't cold," Brian told him. "But it will be by the time we get there."
Ed grinned and magically produced a joint. "Anybody wanna help me with this?"
The joint was fired up and passed around. Brian was even less inclined to get high while the sun was out - it seemed much less strange to distort the night a little than to tinge broad daylight with too much observation and consideration. But he took a small hit when the joint came his way, just because it was part of the mood.
They came to a traffic light, which turned yellow, and Brian stopped.
"Check it out," Jeff said quickly, pointing.
A gold-colored car that had been stopped at the light to their right pulled out and turned in the direction they were headed, to the accompaniment of a roar and the squeal of tires.
"Four-Four-Two," Jeff said, grinning. "Olds Cutlass. Looked like a seventy." He looked over at Brian. "Didn't sound half bad, did it?"
Brian smiled. "Hard to say. Moved out okay, anyway."
Ed crossed his arms on the back of the seat. "See if you can catch him, Bry."
Brian looked back at Jeff, who shrugged. "Might be fun."
Brian nodded, and when the light changed, he nailed the gas pedal to the floor. The Bee leapt off the line and threw them down the road, her tires squealing curses at the pavement and adding further protests as Brian went through the gears. They hit eighty going down a straightaway, rounded a bend in the road, and spied the Cutlass ahead, just stopping at another red light.
"Fuckin' right," Ed said, grinning at Brian in the rear view mirror. "Dr. Oldsmobile's about to get a lesson in brute force."
Brian couldn't help laughing as he eased back, and braked as the car dropped under sixty. He eased them up next to Cutlass's driver's side and they all looked over.
The other driver had obviously seen them coming in his own mirror, and he and his passenger were already looking. They were both teens, the driver dark haired, with a scraggily beard, and the passenger sandy haired, his face covered with freckles. Brian could see them both smile as they realized how many people were in the Dodge - five hundred extra pounds if it was an ounce.
Brian grinned, nodded ahead down the road. Wanna go?
The Oldsmobile's driver nodded enthusiastically. Hell, yeah!
"Got four-fifty-five badges on the fenders," Jeff said, grinning. "This should be fun."
Ooh. A 455 cubic inch big block, huh? Fun indeed!
Brian stepped down hard on the brake and at the same time eased onto the gas pedal, bringing the Bee's tach up to over three thousand RPM's. The car hunched up like a tiger poised to leap, her brakes groaning at the torque barely held in check.
The light changed. Brian jerked his foot off the brake and stepped into the gas pedal, and the Bee leaped ahead of the other car. But she only gained a car length before the Olds stopped falling back, and for just a second they held at an identical pace over the road. But then Superbee moved ahead again as Brian hit second gear, and they slowly pulled ahead to two car lengths, and then on to three. At four car lengths ahead and still moving apart, and after Brian was sure they'd done a quarter mile, he let off - they were going well over a hundred miles per hour. And they had beaten the Cutlass soundly.
The Four-Four-Two whipped up beside them, still accelerating, and out of the side of his eye Brian caught just a glimpse of the other driver's face, knotted into a mask of pure fury. The guy's look only just registered before the Olds loomed close, as if it intended to hit the passenger side of the Dodge; and then suddenly the other car was in front of them, so close Brian was sure they would rear end it. Despite his dad's warning never to lay on the brakes at this kind of speed Brian nailed them, holding onto the steering wheel for dear life. The nose of the Bee dived, and suddenly Brian felt the car lurch to the left - and then they were in a spin, going round and round and round as the car bulleted down the road. Brian's hands moved on the steering wheel so fast that his eyes couldn't keep up with them.
And then, just as suddenly, they were stopped, the Bee straddling the two lanes of the road. Brian shook his head and looked to the right - there was traffic coming their way. He turned the steering wheel to the left, started the car moving, got it into one lane, and moved ahead at a sedate thirty-five miles per hour. Ahead of them, the road was clear. The Olds had disappeared.
For a second no one said anything; and then everyone was talking.
"That motherfucker!" Jeff roared, his face red with anger. "He tried to run us off the road!"
"Dude did it on purpose," Ed said, smacking a hand down on the top of the seat. "Just because he lost!"
"He tried to wreck us," Annie said, looking at Brian in disbelief. Missy only nodded in back, her eyes staring ahead down the road. "Shit on that!"
Brian was just getting his thoughts into line again. Somehow, he'd managed to keep the Dodge on the road. It had happened so fast, he had reacted, not even thinking about it. Now he let the car pick up speed, until he was going sixty again, his eyes peering ahead for signs of the other car. A cold fury burned inside of him at the deliberate act of the other driver. The guy had cut them off, dodging his car in front of the Bee so close that it had nearly hit them.
He had tried to run them off the road. The Bee accelerated a bit more, as if seeking the other car on her own. They were going seventy now.
Jeff looked over at Brian then, alarm showing on his face. "What are you going to do? They're gone, Brian. Don't go nuts on me now."
It was like a cup of cold water in his face. Brian blinked, took a deep breath, and eased off of the gas, his eyes darting to the speedometer. The Superbee dropped back to the posted fifty and stayed there.
Brian looked over at Jeff. "I don't believe that asshole did that."
"It was a punk move," Jeff said, the anger still in his voice. "Only a real shithead would do something like that."
"He could have wrecked his own car," Annie pointed out. "He must have been crazy."
No. Not crazy. Furious. Brian recalled now the glimpse he'd had of the other driver's face. Anger, and a lot of it.
He hadn't expected to lose, and he couldn't deal with it, Brian realized. Holy shit.
He wondered what that other driver was thinking now. He had to have seen them spin out and stop in the road in his rear view mirror. And the guy had just taken off. Brian felt his jaw tighten,
Fucking punk. What a goddamn bitch.
Brian looked around at the people in the car, just glad that none of them had been hurt. And then he gazed out over the twin scoops on the Bee's hood, also happy that nothing had happened to his car. And then he realized something that he was not going to forget in a hurry: that was close.
They continued to talk about the incident, wearing it out until they were tired of it. Brian turned up the radio a little, smiled at Motley Crue's, Shout At the Devil.
By the time they reached their turn, they were smiling mostly again, the fact that they were okay finally taking control over the fear and anger they'd been feeling at almost not being okay. The Bee rolled serenely down the two lane black top road that led back into the woods, the car not in the least concerned with its close brush with the junkyard. It was the way of inanimate objects - a way that Brian could not understand, but at the moment mildly envied. The Bee wasn't pissed. She wasn't even annoyed.
They reached the almost hidden divide in the grassy field and turned into the rutted drive that led back to the quarry, and Brian let the car creep slowly over the stones so as not to throw them against the curving bottoms of the car's fenders. They passed the first parking area, and it was full of cars and pick up trucks.
"Hot day," Jeff said, mirroring Brian's own thoughts. "Place is probably packed."
The next parking area was also full, as was the third.
The fourth was about halfway empty, but Brian still decided to pass it, hoping the next one would have even fewer cars.
"Stop!" Jeff yelled.
Brian stood on the brakes, not knowing what to think, and the Superbee ground to a halt.
"What?" Brian asked, vexed at the suddenness of the call. After what they had just been through, Brian realized that his nerves were still a little on edge.
"Look," Jeff said, pointing back at the spot they had just passed.
Brian turned his head and looked out through the rear side window.
And there it was, parked on the other side of a pick up truck.
The gold Olds Cutlass 4-4-2.
Brian's mouth dropped open. "Oh, fuck yeah."
He turned back to gaze out of the windshield, let the Bee go on to the next parking spot on the right side of the lane. There were a few cars there, but the little lot of compressed dead grass was mostly empty. Brian pulled the Bee in, around the three cars that were there, and stopped and shut the engine off. Then he sat there a moment, thinking.
Annie gripped his wrist. "What are you going to do?"
Brian sighed, smiled at her. "Go swimming. That's why we came, right?"
She nodded, but looked uncertain. "What will you do if you see the guy?"
Brian shrugged. "I might just punch his fucking lights out."
"I know I'll help," Ed said from the back. "Let's get out."
They piled out of the car, stashing wallets under the seats, and grabbed their towels. Brian locked the car, and led the group around to the trunk, where they each got a cold beer. Then they walked back up the lane to the where the Cutlass was parked, and surrounded the car.
Brian bent and looked inside the driver's side window. The interior was a saddle brown, in nice shape. Pretty.
"I could write my name on the fucking hood with this rock," Ed said, bending and retrieving a sharp-looking stone.
Brian shook his head, eying the black and silver louvers in the car's sleek hood. "No. It's not the car's fault. And it's too pretty to mess up."
Ed shook his head, but dropped the rock. "Yeah. I couldn't do it, anyway."
Brian looked around at his friends. "We came here to swim. Let's go do it."
Jeff came up beside Brian as they regrouped and headed for the path to the break in the fence around the quarry. "What are you going to do if you see the guy?"
Brian looked at him. "What do you think I should do?"
"I don't know, Brian. If the guy had done that to me, I'd be wanting his blood about now." He reached out and gently wrapped his fingers around Brian's wrist. "But I don't want to see you get into trouble, either."
Brian nodded. "Yeah." He looked around them, at the woods and the patches of blue sky visible through holes in the canopy. It was a beautiful, if hot and humid, day.
He looked back at Jeff. "I don't think I know what I'll do until I talk to the guy. If we even see him."
They reached the break in the fence and passed through. They began to hear people calling and laughing, and the splash of water ahead. And then they came out near the little beach at the end of the quarry.
Jeff made a small noise, and Brian looked over at him. "What?"
"You need to start thinking about what you want to say to the guy, because there he is."
Brian let his gaze follow Jeff's pointing finger.
High atop the rocky shelf that was the Front Porch, two guys in bathing suits stood, watching people in the water below. One was the dark-haired guy with the scraggily beard, and the other one's freckles could be seen even at the distance from which Brian was watching. The two guys hadn't seen them - Brian wondered if they would even recognize them.
Didn't matter, he decided, feeling again the anger rise inside him. They would certainly remember Brian and his friends later.
He nodded, waving a hand at the others. "Come on. Let's go introduce ourselves."
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