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Works of fiction and poetry by friends of Bamboo Ridge Press.

THIS IS A YEAR OF THE DOG CONTEST ENTRY

ON HE RODE

Published by JIM HARSTAD | Friday, June 08, 2018 8:09 AM



Chapter Two

It’s summer and I’ve got too much time on my hands and money in my
pocket. My best friend is suffering the same unlikely circumstance.
Just a tad bit cocky with our tropical tans, official draft
exemptions, and freespending ways, Evers and I, back to batting around
the Olympic Peninsula like we owned it. Didn’t we? Once? The more
things change . . .

This afternoon finds us once again tokin’ and jokin’ tavern-to-tavern,
beer or two here, shuffleboard or pool table there. Usually it’s just
Evers, me, and your occasional lovely woman stooping to folly.

But this is different. Tammy followed Evers from Hawaii two days ago,
and now she’s taken to following me behind my best friend’s back. Who
knows why? What am I doing to discourage such unconscionable behavior?
Nothing whatsoever. Total nada. Aiding and abetting, if anything.
She’s a cutie, they’re not married, and neither am I.

Here at the Bay Point Tavern, home of the famous Handlers Kar Klub,
Evers sips beer and ponders as he watches our not-so-subtle maneuvers
in the bar mirror. We’re sloshed stupid, of course. Again. Explain to
me, again, how a race so devoid of good sense has managed to survive
this long. Survive? Nay, proliferate beyond reason. Pure dumb luck?
God’s joke on us?

“You this guy’s big friend? Baldy?”

Do I know you? A little earlier I’d stumbled off my bar stool in a
flurry of drunken fumbling and swept past Tammy’s, uh, backside with
an awkward celerity that fooled Evers not in the least. By the time
I’ve pissed and washed my hands and face in cold water, Evers has
picked me a fight and avoided one himself. Devilish fast worker
sometimes, Evers.

“So this is your big friend you want me to fight instead of you?”
inquires the lanky stranger in the Handlers tee-shirt.

“That’s him,” Evers nods. “Get him, Dog,” he says to me. “He’s fooling
around with Tammy.”

Evers is not tall, just short enough to con you into overlooking the
bone, sinew, and muscle of his overlong arms. Do so at your peril. He
is short, but only sort of. I am just tall enough to be his Big
Friend. That’s all.

The discerning eye of the young man wearing the Handlers tee-shirt
sees that he might be getting off easy with the Big Friend. It’s what
we both suspect, which is why it’s a bit disconcerting to suddenly
find myself face-down on top of this helplessly furious stranger, with
no idea how I got here. Did I punch his jaw? Shove him off-balance and
fall on him? Bear-hug him to the floor? I have no clue. I’m a lover,
not a fighter. Really!

Here I am, Cupid’s willing stepchild, on top of this squirming
squirter of curses, this spitter of obscenities, and actually having
no trouble keeping him here. But how to release him without the fight
— if there was a fight — starting up again? “Baldy!” he called me, and
somehow, against all odds, Baldy’s laid him low. Now what?

“I didn’t want to fight him,” I apologize to the broad-faced man in
the white shirt leaning over the bar.

“I know,” the bartender growls. Of course he knows. He’s seen the
whole thing with me and Tammy and how cleverly Evers had maneuvered.
“I know,” he repeats.

Finally it takes four Handlers to hold down my foe, one limb per
Handler. It occurs to me to drop a big loogie in his face as I get off
him but reconsider and swallow it, like a raw quail’s egg. He’s still
struggling as I navigate their gauntlet of, say, fifteen Handlers on
my way out the door of the Bay Point Tav. To my surprise, nobody takes
a shot at me, no sly elbow digs my ribs, no iron toe dings my shin.
Did Evers pay the tab? Am I going back to inquire?

My friends’ve been long gone since the ruckus, of course, so it’s a
good thing I drove my car as backup. At the time, I’d been eyeballing
the back seat as future accommodation for romantic Tammy and me. Fat
chance now, thanks to clever Evers, who has, I realize, also made off
with the weed.

Since nobody follows me into the parking lot, I take my time unlocking
the car and checking the rear-view mirror for cuts and contusions.
Nothing there. I check my hairline with my index finger. For the
record, I’m not bald, only receding. But that day’s coming. Daddy
Warbucks, Mr. Clean, and the Rainier Brewmaster have dealt with it to
their advantage, but will I? The bigger question: Women? Will they?

I’m drunker than I thought, of course, and by the time I’ve finally
maneuvered myself behind the steering wheel I feel disoriented,
endangered. Those cars whooshing along out there on the highway, I
have to figure out how to join them in such a manner as to safely
reach my destination. Can I do that? Can I even s-s-shay it? Shafely
reesh my deshi . . . desha . . . desanayshin?

Of course I can. Here. Insert key. Push button. Gear lever up into
reverse. Oops. First depress clush . . . clutch . . . pedal. This
other one? Oh yeah. The brake.

Successfully backing out enables me to go bumping over a curb I didn’t
see into an open spot in a lane of traffic that seems to be guiding me
in roughly the direction I want to go. There’s the sign I’m looking
for: BELFAIR. HOOD CANAL. Turn left.

My fastback ‘51 Chevy is still near-mint despite its seventeen years.
We’ve gone some strange ways together, this streamlined baby and I,
and if the plan I’m spinning comes true, we’re about to extend that
adventure into some broader unknown. Think you’re clever, Evers? Chuck
you, Farley. See you next fall. Maybe.

I hereby cede Evers his Tammy True and this whole Northwest summer
idyl. I’d often dreamed of going East to see the country, always
vaguely planning and never taking off. Kerouac himself couldn’t say it
any better. Am I smilin’, Jack? Are you?



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