"Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted."
Yellowed and tall river grass embraced the mouth of a small group of pine that made a perfect place to whittle away the time. The whithered trees that dotted the river bank proved to be invaluable sun dials; marking the passage of time through the movement of shadows. It was understood that time was moving - making its way towards the end of one day signaling that another could very well appear to take its place. That another would arrive was never certain. This watching, this taking witness of the sun rising and chasing the western horizon brought about thoughts of our future. Having seen Kubrick's Space Odyssey presented us with a focal point.
"Where do you think we'll be in 2001," I asked my friend Al. Alan was ever the great listener. We passed several joints back and forth between us and thought great thoughts.
"I don't know," he replied.
"Man, I'll be like, in my forties. Probably all married and shit. Maybe to some Southern Belle with a sweet lil' drawl when she talks."
With that done we climbed into my car and exchanged Led Zeppelin for silence. We knew that Al's father would likely be sitting at the kitchen table draining his third imperial quart of Narragansett beer. He would accost Al as soon as he walked in, accusing him of smoking pot all day and accomplishing nothing with his life. Al consoled himself, as all young men do, that with one more year of high school he would soon be free. Leave the old man behind. Maybe move to Pennsylvania. It was always Pennsylvania for Al. I was never sure what the draw was but man, he sure could shovel down them apple dumplings. "That's where apple dumplings come from, ya know. From Pennsylvania," Al would say.
I went home to my obnoxious little sister and my mother who was always cleaning, baking or doing some other such household task. My father was off working his second job as a chef at one of the area's restaurants. My older brother was in the service and my older sister was living on Cape Cod working as an LPN. I went to my room and locked the door behind me and took a nap before the night's festivities began.
They say that life is for learning. I have often wondered if we take lessons learned from one lifetime into the next. For some inexplicable reason I never turn my back to the room. From my days in Kindergarten I would sit with my back to the wall and watch; always feeling uneasy if someone were to approach me from behind. When I learned of that fateful day 78 years earlier and on the day of my birth, I wondered if one thing might just be related to the other. James Butler Hickok asked several times to change his seat with another just so his back would not be to the door. When refused, he let down his guard and continued to gamble; to play his hand. Holding eights and aces, a shot to the back of his head left him dead. In an instant. Quick. Alive at one tick of the clock. Dead at another.
I sat at the perimeter and watched the heat and flame cast wiry shadows upon the faces of the party goers. Music was blaring out through the trunk of somebody's car while Allard was challenging everyone to wrestle with him. Allard was the only guy we ever knew that was into weight-lifting and body building. You saw that shit on t.v. not in real life. He look formidable and mean like a young Incredible Hulk. It was enjoyable to see the son my old elementary school principal tie him up in knots. Skill vs bulk and brute force. Someone yelled that the cops were coming to break up the party and everyone headed for the hills. If you were one of the unfortunates that came by car there was only one way in and the same way out. Some guys drove into the sand pits and turned off their headlights. Those two feet police flashlights flushed them out. After a brief interrogation they were all allowed to leave.
I just walked, backward, until I found a safe perch. I watched as the two local police cruisers accompanied by a Sate police car stormed in to make the bust. It was comical watching inebriated young girls crying while skinny young roosters fluffed their feathers in defiance. The cops poured out the beer and chased everyone away. Allard was arrested just because he looked like he should be. The police left and everything got quiet. The fire smoldered in the distance providing me with a beacon. I walked toward the orange glow knowing that from there I could find my bearings and exit the pits by following the railroad tracks home. As I neared the glow, feeling much like a teenage zombies from one of those 1950s B movies, I noticed that I was but one of several party goers that had escaped the keystone escapades. The wheat was separated from the chaff. The calm, cools dudes were left in the company of some equally cool girls.
And I felt like one of them.
We sat looking endlessly into the fire and laughed about the strange situations that arise out of these impromptu parties. I could hear this distant thrashing echoing outward from out of the dense woods. We speculated that maybe a bear was coming to eat us. Or maybe Allard had escaped from Barney Fife.
It was rumored that my brother was being discharged from the Army after a year in Germany. I treated the news with about the same regard as one might upon hearing the news that Nixon was declaring war on cancer. Big fucking deal. And then - there he was. He crunched through the brush and the night and sat with us at the fire. I introduced him to the crew and filled them in on his stint in the military. With a little small talk out of the way he exited just as he had come.
Back into the woods and then he was gone.