May 2004 – (Long) Winded…
Well I’m feeling long winded this month. I’ll warn you now, if you’re going to try and get through all of this months reprisaly goodness, you’d best run to your kitchen and pack yourself a lunch.
This is going to take a while.
My stomach hurts, It’s late, and I’m tired. Let’s just get right to the good parts, shall we?
I recently had an ant problem in my apartment. I say had because I would like to think that it is now dealt with. After trying the "humane" less aggressive method of shelling out money that I don’t really have in order to purchase ant traps, I found that rather than making my problem go away, it seemed to make it worse.
Now I am usually a huge fan of the "live and let live" philosophy, but there are only so many mornings that you can wake up to find yourself greeted by a swarm of invaders that you never invited into your little world before it becomes time for drastic unilateral action. So I marched down to my local grocery store and shelled out even more money that I don’t really have and purchased myself an industrial size can of aerosol ant killer.
And then I nuked the little bastards.
Now my apartment smells of country fresh death, but the ants seem to have finally died off. A shame that, I would have far preferred it if they had taken the initial hint of the ant traps, but it seems that sometimes, communication just isn’t what you wish it could be. So, you do what you have to, and when the dust settles, you grab the broom and the mop and start sweeping up the carcasses.
Sometimes, I guess, life is just like that. Drastic times and drastic measures and all that.
The moral to that little introduction?
Not a clue. But don’t buy ant traps, because despite what the box says, they don’t work worth beans.
Doublespeak as always, expect nothing less from these shadowy halls…
Skippy liked ice cream.
In particular, Skippy really liked vanilla ice cream.
Skippy was full aware that there are hundreds, if not thousands of ice cream to choose from, but boy if he didn’t have the purest of loves for vanilla ice cream.
Skippy’s love for vanilla ice cream was the kind of love that people used to write about in fairytales, only difference being the characters in those stories were always a prince and princess or some such nonsense. Never did anyone write about a boy and his ice cream. But that was how much Skippy loved his Ice cream.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t in a romantic way or strange twisted way that you might think. We all have our soul mates, and Skippy’s happened to be three scoops of vanilla in a waffle cone.
Skippy lived, for the vast majority of his life (save summer camps and such), with his parents. Skippy’s father was quite a successful lawyer and had a very successful firm in town. Skippy’s father was a real estate lawyer who specialized in repossessing homes. This basically means that his whole mission in life was to make as much money as possible by taking away property or land from someone who could no longer make the payments on their property, and selling that same property to someone else at a profit. Quite often, only a few years later, he would then take the land from whoever had bought it and sell it to someone else.
It was a good living, although whether or not it is largely a life is a matter of opinion.
Skippy’s mom was what some people liked to call a trophy wife, meaning that Skippy’s dad had only married her because she was pretty and her presence could make other men envious of Skippy’s dad.
And really, it worked quite well. Quite often, other men would look at Skippy’s mom and wish they could have sex with her. Quite often, other women wished that they could kill her, or at the very least slash her cars tires, because somehow she had managed to give birth to Skippy without any negative impact on her ass or her boobs.
Generally speaking, after childbirth, a lot of women have to work very hard to get their ass and boobs back into the condition that they were in before they had children. Very hard indeed.
Skippy’s mom did not, and there was a part of her that enjoyed showing off that fact. Truth be told, she tended to lean towards the shallow unintelligent side of life, but at the same time, she was a fair and loving mother to Skippy, so we have to give her that.
Both of Skippy's parents loved Skippy very much, and as such, would often take him to the local Ice Cream Shoppe after he had gotten out of the daily classes at the local private school so that he could be with his true love.
Often the clerks at the local Ice Cream Shoppe (I think they’re called clerks, whatever do you call someone who works at an ice cream Shoppe?) would comment to Skippy’s father or mother as he ordered vanilla ice cream that as there were so many flavours to choose from, why on earth did Skippy always go with plain?
Skippy never got that.
While Vanilla Ice cream was easily the standard ice cream flavour against all else were measured, the bottom line was that it was not plain. Plain implies blandness, or a lack of flavour. Vanilla ice cream had a flavour, and that flavour was pretty clear to Skippy.
It was, of course, vanilla.
And Skippy liked vanilla, so it all worked out quite well for him.
Skippy was always a well behaved, very polite boy. Full of manners and goodness for the world.
Of course, that was well before he met Bandit.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m doing the whole "introducing the principal characters" thing, which I think is important in a story, so bear with me here and I’ll try to make it worth it.
No guarantees, of course.
We’ll Be Your Attendants…
I am really not a fan of contemporary country music by and large. There’s the occasional song I can hear without the taste of crushed glass in my mouth, but for the most part, it’s all about that sharp grinding sensation. Why it is that country artists seem to, by and large, perpetuate the stereotypes that have been assigned to the music, the lyrics, and the persona of the performers is utterly beyond me.
But so was that whole business with the dohnuts of late, so who am I?
Bandit was a fan of both country music and dohnuts, but he had grown up in a trailer park that well fit every cliche about trailer parks, so we have to give him that.
Bandit's dad was an unemployed plumber who was a less than acceptable human being. Now, to be sure, the fact that he was less than acceptable had nothing to do with the fact that he was a plumber by trade or that he was unemployed.
For the record, the purpose of this story is not to besmirch the names of plumbers or the unemployed. Not at all.
What made Bandits father less than acceptable was his decision to spend his days lounging about on the porch of their doublewide, drinking himself stupid (although it wasn’t really that far of a trip for him) and jeering at the nighbours dog. He was determined that this dog was part of a secret advance alien platoon to take over the world.
As I said, Daddy drank.
And of course, in the truest of fashions, any and all activities that took place on the porch took place in the 1973 spring line blue jeans (if he bothered with the pants that day) and a white wife-beater tank top.
Ever wonder why they call them wife beaters?
You shouldn’t, it’s pretty self-explanatory. If you still don’t get it, go hang out at a trailer park and watch what the guy on the porch yelling at the dog next door does when his wife burns the rice. That should put all the pieces nicely in place for you.
Luckily for Bandits mother, it only took her a couple of trips to the hospital and one completely unexpected appearance on "To Serve And Protect" before she realized that she might not be in the best of situations.
So, Bandits mother did what any self respecting woman who lived in a trailer park and was married to an abusive alcoholic unemployed plumber would do…
She promptly ran of with a mechanic named D’Wayne, who was also Bandits fathers best friend.
(We may need a map for this part of the story…)
D’Wayne was very particular about the apostrophe in there (so no, that’s not an error to be interpreted as an example of my typing skills), largely because he saw a movie once where an actor had added an apostrophe into his name, and D’Wayne thought that it added a sense of Hollywood and style. D’Wayne had also drank copious amounts of paint thinner as a child on a bet with his brother. He barely survived, so we have to give him that.
D’Wayne drove a Camaro, and the two of them drove that Camaro straight out of town and into the path of an oncoming semi trailer full of cattle.
Luckily for Bandit, his father thought that his wife and his best friend were simply on a liquor run, so out of loneliness and guilt he settled for a daily regimen of drunken stupor and gave up his violent ways.
Bandit didn’t go to school.
Bandit’s last time on a school ground in his entire life (even well into adulthood) had been when he was twelve and he stole a BMX bike that some poor kid had left unlocked from one the bike racks.
That kid was me. That bike was mine. And that is more or less the entire extent of a part that I play in this story. The rest I heard from either Tina. I knew Tina in High school, and for a little bit after that. We hung out, and she was one of the group of us that used to go down to the coulee and get royally shitfaced on weekends. There was a nice tall bridge there for those that had enough of small time life and couldn’t get their hands on a rifle. None of us ever went there to do that though, we just wanted to get hammered someplace that the likelihood of getting caught was pretty low.
Sometimes I still visit Tina in prison, most times I don’t. The whole affair is still kind of sad to me.
Please Make Sure Your Seatbelt is firmly in place…
(or "Camaro’s, Infedility And Mass Bovine Transport")
Things never work out quite like you expect them to. The funny thing about that particular lesson is that no matter how many times you think you have learned it, you never really do, and more often than not, you get surprised.
Bandit and Tina and Skippy met at roughly the same time, give or take a week or two.
I knew Bandit from around town. He worked at gas stations and such across the town since he was about 14, and he lived in a small hotel room above the downtown motel. The owner of the hotel felt sorry for Bandit because in a particularly drunken stupor, his dad finally mustered up the courage to do something about that damned neighboring dog, and ended up having the better part of his throat removed for him by the animal.
Never go after a trained attack dog with only a BBQ cleaning brush. It’s not nearly as effective as it might seem it would be at the time.
Not only that, but that single act was enough to prove that people were nothing but trouble, which caused a great deal of grief thirty years later.
How does that lead to Bandit getting put up in the hotel?
Well, simply enough, the owner of the hotel also owned the bar that was just off the lobby of the hotel. The hotel owner made a hell of a lot of money off of Bandit’s dad, as it was one of his favorite watering holes when he mustered himself off the porch. So, when Bandit’s dad bit the big one (although a very bad joke could be made about him actually being the one bitten), and the good ole’ doublewide was repossessed by the bank and it’s crack legal team, the innkeeper put Bandit up on the condition that he paid $20 a week and worked in the kitchen three nights a week.
So Bandit, fresh out of options, did.
Bandit eventually got a job at a local garage, but he kept on with his three nights a week in the innkeeper’s kitchen. Cheap rent is cheap rent.
Incidentally, it was in part the commission that Skippy’s father earned from the repossession of the doublewide that helped buy Skippy his first car. It was very shiny and red, and the first place that Skippy drove to in it was the Ice Cream Shoppe with his parents along for the ride.
A first car is a big deal, and as such, it deserved ice cream.
At Skippy’s house, any special occasion deserved ice cream.
All Carry On Baggage Should Be Stowed…
In 1994, Skippy and Tina and I were about to graduate from high school. It was a big deal for us, as we had just spent 12 years working our way through hell to get a small piece of paper that said that we were capable of doing what we were told for roughly 8 hours a day.
A lot of people think that Diplomas and such are indications of intelligence or some such nonsense.
By and large, I have to disagree.
This is because I have met a good number of people who did not get their little pieces of paper, but who are much smarter than I am. There is a man who fixes my car from time to time, and while he never got his little piece of paper as he walked across a school gymnasium stage while wearing a dress, he understands the subtleties of my cars engine as if he had built it himself. He can hear the sound that rattles out of my exhaust pipe when my car is not feeling well, and he can tell me exactly what illness has stricken it.
But he has no piece of paper, other than invoices and a couple of posters of women in bikinis who are selling beer.
Bandit was one of these people too. Bandit, as I have said, never finished junior high, let along high school, but he had the most amazing hobby. He could build little airplanes from scratch. I don’t mean paper airplanes, I mean little airplanes that had all the working parts that could stay aloft for hours. Some of them even had motors in them that Bandit had made from scratch. Bandit was so good with his airplanes that he could build one, let it take off, and then while it was in the air, he could tell you exactly, within about a foot, where it was going to land.
So I figure Bandit was a pretty smart guy.
And so, as the summer of 1994 began to show its face in our little town, that is where things were. Skippy and Tina and I (although, as I said, I really only played the observer for the most part, and mostly only because I was just friends with Tina), were readying to put on fancy dresses and silly hats, and Bandit was flying airplanes all over the place.
As you do.
Please Pay Attention
I remember a couple of days before the big graduation ceremony/party (let’s be honest, I couldn’t have given a damn about the ceremony, I was all about the inevitable party in the ravine), Tina came up to me all excited. I was standing at my locker pulling some books out.
Have you ever noticed that lockers usually have a very distinct smell to them? I hadn’t really though about that until just now.
Anyways, there I was standing at my locker, when Tina bounded up to me and told me, all excitedly, that she had finally gotten a date for the big graduation night. I remember the whole scene very clearly, for two simple reasons.
Reason #1 – I did not have a date as of yet, and I knew damn well that I wasn’t going to find one. Tina and I had agreed to be each other’s back up plan, and clearly, I was now screwed.
Reason #2 – I would never have guessed that Tina would have been able to land a date. That thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. Tina was about as plain a girl as they come, and the ratio of boys to girls was exceedingly in favor of the boys.
Now I know you’re asking why if there were so many girls as compared to boys, why wasn’t I able to convince some maiden that I might make a reasonable date myself? Honestly? I don’t know the answer, although I have come up with two possibilities. Either I was, as was the popular opinion, the biggest loser in the school, or (and this was my choice of the two options), the female segment of the school was populated largely by lesbians. That was a running joke between Tina and I, and whenever I complained about my inability to get any attention from any of the girls in our school, she would make a crack about the fictional lesbian population. We joked, but I would be lying if I said that as a teenage kid, I didn’t give that idea the full attention it was due.
Cause lets face it, would you rather be the loser of the school or surrounded by herds of teenage lesbians, just out of your reach?
I also had an active imagination, I may have neglected to mention that so far.
Back to Tina and her new man though.
Tina was ecstatic to say the least. She told me, jumping up and down and through high-pitched squeals of excitement, the whole story.
Before I tell you that story, I have to say, I quite liked it when she jumped up and down.
The night before, Tina had been working her part time job at the local Ice Cream Shoppe when a boy that she had been making eyes at for some time, finally noticed her eye making. They ended up talking for quite a while, and then when the Ice Cream Shoppe finally closed, this white knight saw to it that she made it home safely. At the end of the conversation, he asked when he might see her again. Tina explained that she was going to be quite busy with working at the Ice Cream Shoppe and preparations for graduation, and it didn’t take long for this dashing young man to figure out that Tina’s best bet for a graduation date was her loser friend who spent his time fantasizing about the lesbian population of his school (although I quite like to think that I kept that whole lesbian theory of mine was a secret that stayed only between myself and Tina), and as soon as he did, he asked Tina if he could be her date.
She, of course, said yes.
After a longish type goodbye that people who have just met and are quite taken by each other have, the young man hopped into his car and drove off.
That was Tina’s story. She was so excited about the whole deal, that I don’t think she even noticed that I was a little disappointed, but I did the stiff upper lip routine that one gets well practiced at when being what I was, and I told her I was very happy for her.
As you do.
Only a week later I would be standing in a coulee amazed at what had transpired and only think to myself "Well gee, sure didn’t see this coming…" but I’ll get to that.
A Brief Orientation
Now there are a couple of important things that happened before that night in the coulee, and again, most of this is second or even third hand information that had been run through the town gossip mill before I got my hands on it.
Want to know why they call it a gossip mill?
A gossip mill takes in all this rough material that you could never really put to any serious use on it’s own, crushes it down to only a part of what it originally was, and then puts it out in a form that people can then eat and get fat off of.
That’s what it does.
Some of it I learned from learned from newspapers, so I think there’s a little more factual than fancy, but I certainly wouldn’t swear any of this in a court of law.
One other piece of information. Graduation was on June 9th, 1994. It was a Thursday. The school had a long tradition of giving the students the Friday off as well in order to let them have a long weekend. At least two days would be needed for most of us to recover from our hangovers and they knew it.
I think I, and a good amount of my class should still be on our long weekends, because I certainly haven’t fully recovered yet.
That’s nice and foreboding, isn’t it…
Lets do this Oliver Stone style for a bit shall we?
On Wednesday, June 1st at roughly 6:53 PM, two cars collided on the intersection of Main Street and Elm Street. One of the cars was quite damaged, but no one was seriously hurt.
On Thursday, June 2nd, at exactly 2:14 PM Tina informed me that she no longer had a date to Grad, and that I had regained my place as backup plan #1.
Over the following weekend, a bunch of shit happened, but I’ll get to that soon enough.
On Monday, June 6th, I was informed that Tina had gotten her grad date back and that I was again left to fend for myself.
On Wednesday, June 8th, there was a large explosion on one of the outlying farms that would end up burning for 4 days as the farmer there had accumulated an enormous number of rubber tires. Once those tires caught fire, they burned quite fiercely without being even slightly agreeble to the notion of being extinguished. Most of the police department in the town doubled as volunteer firefighters, and being that this property was only a couple of miles from a large oil drilling operation, it was decided that everyone available would do everything they could to make certain that the fire did not spread.
By oil field, I refer to those oil pumps that look like horses that you see in the middle of fields now and then. There were six of them, and they looked like galloping horses that never went anywhere if you had a romantic enough mind to picture it.
It was later discovered that the fire had been started because while working on some repairs to a the electrical system of an old Chevy nova, a mechanic had left the car battery out in the sun. The combination of heat from sunlight and quite a nasty little chemical reaction caused said battery to explode like the dickens and also scared the holy well out of the family dog.
Also on Wednesday, June 8th, Debbie Haverson and Mark Stevenson were caught having sex in a stairwell in the school. I’m not sure if it is at all relevant to this story, but it was a big deal just before graduation, and as such is a big part of my memory.
Debbie would later go on to become an executive for a large IT company. Mark would not.
Debbie was grounded by her parents, thus missing the graduation festivities. Marks dad congratulated him on his conquest.
Debbie spent the night of grad at home, and most of Mark spent the latter part of the evening lying on the ground with the better part of his head spread out around him in a bright red fan. A police officer would later comment, much to the disgust of his partner, that it looked like half of a great red butterfly.
More on that in a bit...
I was at the ceremony, and it was the run of the mill boring ceremony that you would expect from a small town. One of the graduates, who I wasn’t really friends with, tripped as he walked across the stage and the auditorium broke out into the quiet nervous laughter that comes when people think something is funny, but they know they shouldn’t.
Often people think it’s funny when someone falls down.
As long as they get back up of course.
After the ceremony, we all did the obligatory dinner thing before the vast majority of us ended up in the ravine under the bridge. Tina was kind enough to drive me there in her Dad’s pick up truck, even though I’m really felt the third wheel aspect of things while riding in the back of the truck. We got to the ravine, pulled out the booze and I wandered into the growing crowd of students hell bent on putting themselves into an alcoholic coma. I lost track of them after that.
Please Refrain From Using Any Electronic Devices…
As a side note. The graduating class of 1994 was the only class in 35 years that didn’t lose a member of it’s graduating class to the fun of driving drunk. Up until then, at least one person a year (usually a lot more than that though) would drink themselves almost to the point of blindness and then hop in their vehicles to go play bumper cars with telephone poles and the sides of buildings.
The cars with their soft little people inside almost always lost. Resilient things, telephone poles.
From here on in, I’m going to tell the story as I heard it from Tina. My versions starts and ends with me at a bonfire just below the bridge, huddled in front of the fire taking pulls of of a bottle of I quite honestly don’t remember what. When everything happened, I hid behind a log, so all I know for sure is that I was hammered, and that my world, like everyone else’s there that night, went from drunken stupor to a complete and total collapse of reality.
So here’s Tina’s version of the truth.
Tina and her date wandered through the crowd for a bit before they decided that they weren’t just in the mood for drunkenness just yet. Instead, they opted for a little privacy and started to hike up the side of the ravine to the bridge.
Before I go painting the wrong picture, it is important to note that at this point, all of us had traded in our fancies for more comfortable clothes. The girls wanted to save their grad dresses forever, and the boys wanted their deposits back on the tuxes, so everyone was dressed quite casually. Jeans and t-shirts and jackets and such.
Just didn’t want you getting the wrong picture there.
So Tina and her companion, not being encumbered by impractical clothing or footwear made pretty good time up the side of the ravine. They walked the side of the ravine before they got to the bridge, and then they walked out into the very middle of it.
Tina told me that it was like something out of a Meg Ryan movie. The stars were incredibly bright, and there was a warm breeze. Sometimes women over romanticize things, but I don’t think Tina was. I know it was a nice clear night, and I imagine that being swept up in the excitement of graduation and all probably made for quite the fairytale atmosphere.
Tina and her date just stood up there and enjoyed the quiet, and when it was occasionally interrupted by a car crossing the bridge to get to the party down below, they didn’t even notice. They just stood there, talking and laughing and dreaming about what life would be like if either of them ever got out of that small little town.
Tina has since called those moments "perfect".
And then perfect came crashing to a halt as a large pick up truck full of drunk graduates came skidding to a halt just behind them and one of them yelled out at the couple. He said something typical of a high school tough guy nature, although Tina said that she was never really ever able to remember what.
She thought it was, "Hey, that’s the asshole who trashed my car!"
It might have been, it might not have been. Doesn’t much matter I suppose.
It’s always a car. Or a girl. Or both. In this case it was just the car. A slightly older model sports car that had been in an accident only a day or two before.
The next thing that Tina knew was that the loud angry young man from the back of the pick up truck was now no longer in the pick up truck, but was heading towards her an her man. In a lightning series of events, the angry young man had stormed into her perfect little moment and had grabbed the nicest boy she had ever met by the lapels of his coat and was walking him backwards..
In Case Of Sudden Cabin Decompression…
If they were going to ever turn this into a movie, this is how it would be shot:
All in slow motion of course.
The camera moves around the edge of a pickup truck in a wide arc, emerging from around the front left fender. The headlights from the truck momentarily wash out the camera, but as it continues it’s arc, it begins to rise, and we see that the truck is full of high school graduates, cheering something on quite enthusiastically. The arc continues and through the dust that has yet to have fully settled from the pickups sudden stop, we begin to make out three forms. The first two forms are of a young man leaning over the edge of the bridge. The second form is of a teenage girl hitting him in the back for some reason.
As the camera continues to circle this little scene, we see that the first young man is in fact holding a second man bent over the edge of the bridge. He is shaking him quite ferociously, and as he does the young man being held is being worked out farther and farther above the bridge.
Cut to a wide shot above the bridge, where you can see exactly how far out the second young man is now being held. This is all reasonably well lit by lights from the truck, but the space below the bridge is completely black and there is nothing to be seen underneath.
There is no sound.
This would be one of those scenes where everything preceding had plenty of sound. There would have been the sounds of the party in the ravine below, and the noise of the wind, and of course during our two young lovers whole scene on the bridge, there would have been a reasonably top 40ish love song building up the moment in the background.
But not here.
Here there would be no sound save two. As the camera cuts to a side view of the assailant shaking our hero, all we hear is the slow sound of fabric ripping and of wood snapping. The expression of our violent young man changes from rage to fear as the jacket he was holding as well as the bridge railing, being the only things that were keeping Tina’s boyfriend from falling, give way.
Please Remain Calm…
When Bandit was younger, he used to build model airplanes. He would build them from scratch, using parts that he found here and there, cannibalizing radios and small toys and such. Bandit always wanted to know what it would feel like to fly. That’s what went through his head the moment that he felt the support of the bridge railing disappear from behind him and his jacket teat away. He looked up and saw the horror on Tina’s face, and he watched her expression get smaller and smaller as he fell away. When he could no longer make out her face at all, he turned his head to look and see where the ground was, in order to try and figure out where he was going to land. Bandit could always tell you where things were going to land.
I imagine that Bandit must have known about the rocks. I try not to think about what it must have been like, seconds stretching into eternity all the while knowing exactly where you would land. Sometimes, I try to imagine whether or not there would be a fear or the coming inevitable, or if the fact that the outcome was unavoidable would have gifted him with a strange calm.
There are nights where I drink to much and think things best left unthought I think.
Take Deep And Consistent Breaths
And here is where all hell started to break loose.
First of all, Skippy immediately reminded his friends his father was one of the most powerful men in town, and informed them that they didn’t see a thing. They all agreed. Skippy was frantic at this point, as was everyone else on the bridge, but for the first time, Skippy started to think that he may have finally done something that his father might not be able to save him form.
Skippy walked up to Tina, who was huddled in the dust by the bridge railing having just finished vomiting for the third time since Bandit went over the side of the bridge. She was half looking over the edge for some sign of Bandit, and at t he same time, trying to hold herself back from the edge of the bridge, fearing that she might fall as well.
Skippy grabbed Tina and dragged her over one of the bridge support beams. He then grabbed her and threw her up against it. Later, Tina would tell me that she clearly remembered getting several splinters in her legs and back from being thrown up against the support and then being dropped. She said she remembered it hurting, but just not caring.
I suppose she had other things on her mind.
Skippy then proceeded to explain to Tina that she had just broken up with Bandit, and that he had thrown himself off of the bridge in a fit of grief. He also proceeded to explain to her that if she ever said anything different, he and his friends would take her out for, as he put it, "a real good time" before they made sure that she followed the lover that she had just lost. "Accidents happen", Skippy told her with a smile.
Skippy then threw her to the ground, hopped (and I use the word hopped because that is exactly how Tina spat it every time she told the story) back into the rear of the truck, slammed his hand down on the roof of the cab a couple of times and disappeared in a cloud of gravel and dust.
Tina later told me, and the better part of the country that was busy leading a vicarious TV existence, that she didn’t know exactly how long she stayed at the bridge. What she did know was that when she left the bridge and began the walk down the ravine, she knew exactly what she had to do with what she described as "a perfect certainty". As the song goes, "the silicon chip inside her head got switched to overload."
If You Look Beneath Your Seat…
I was sitting at the edge of a campfire when it all started. I had heard Skippy and his crew arrive, spinning the truck wheels and hooting and hollering, but as usual, I did my best to ignore them in the hopes that they would do the same to me.
They quickly dispersed into the crowd. At that point, none of us had the slightest clue that the night was holding anything other than the drunken antics of a high school graduation party.
Police officers later asked me when the shooting started. Between the fact that people were setting off fireworks, logs were exploding in various campfires, and at that point I was more than half way through my bottle of rum, I’ve never been able to give a real answer. I know that the first shot that I was aware of came right after Skippy ran past Mark Stevenson and myself. Mark was also quite drunk, and he was complaining to me about the fact that his girlfriends parents had forbade her to ever see him again. We were momentarily taken aback by Skippy bumping into us as he ran past us, but Mark (who was bigger than me by quite a bit) just swore at Skippy and told him to watch where he was going. Mark started in saying something about how there was no way that they should have been caught in that stairwell when there was an incredible roar and his head opened up like one of those flowering onions you can get at Tex-Mex restaurants.
And he just kind of fell back. And a butterfly started to grow from where his head used to be.
I dropped as well, not because I was hurt, but because that’s what you’re supposed to do. In the movies, when the shooting starts, you either drop or you shoot back. All I had was a half-empty bottle of rum, so I dropped.
I was lying face down in the dirt when I saw Tina walking towards me. What I didn’t see, of course, was the 12 gauge that she had retrieved from her father’s truck. I yelled at her to get down, and she just looked at me as if I had said something that confused her.
She turned slightly and the light from the campfire caught her side just right and I saw that she had the gun. She walked up to me and looked over at what had been Mark. Her face took on a slightly annoyed expression and she looked at me. All she said was, "I didn’t hit you, did I?", and when I shook my head no, she just said, "oh, ok. Good.". And then she walked off in the directions Skippy had run.
I heard more shots that night. A lot more shots. I didn’t see anything else, because I didn’t move until the police showed up an hour or so after the shots finally stopped. I later learned that someone had managed to call the local emergency line on a cell phone, but because most of the police were attending a fire, it took them quite a while to get to us. The one unit that was able to attend right away had been instructed to wait for back up. So they did, and a lot of us died.
Tina was found lying beside Bandits broken body, quietly crying. Skippy was found several hundred feet away. The final coroner’s report said that Tina had to have reloaded at least 6 times to do the damage that she did to Skippy. Every single one of the boys that had been in the truck was killed, as well as a couple of people who just happened to get in the way of Tina’s line of sight.
They all grew butterflies out of different parts of their bodies.
Do Not Panic…
Tina was, of course, arrested and charged with multiple murder counts. Skippy’s dad pulled all of the strings that he had to make sure that Tina would never be able to walk free again. He had a lot of strings at his disposal, but for some reason, they just didn’t seem to be enough.
Being that she had systematically hunted down all of the possible witnesses to her story, her case was not very strong to begin with. There was some minor physical evidence, but in the end what swayed the judge and jury I think was the fact that when Tina sat in that courtroom, you could see that she had been broken by some terrible thing. She wasn’t the vicious killer that most of us wanted or even needed her to be. She was just a broken person.
Tina was sent away forever. But she was sent to a nice prison where they let you have your own kitchen, and if you were really good you could have a puppy or a kitten. The grass was quite green, and the fences weren’t that high and were painted a bright, bright white. There were no bullies in the prison, because all of the women there knew that they were very lucky to be there, and that if they did misbehave, there were far worse places that they could end up going to.
Once things had settled down, I did visit Tina, to hear the story from her and try to come up with a why of things. As always, there wasn’t really a why, just a whole lot of explanations that didn’t much help me feel any better. In prison, Tina was the same person I had always known her to be. She said it was hard to believe what she had done, and that she didn’t remember all that much of it. She said a lot of things that I don’t think I was able to register accurately.
I went back a couple of times after that initial visit. It was very strange, because in a way, here was my best friend, but at the same time, my friend had brought an early end to a lot of other people that I had known. On my final visit, I’m pretty sure she knew it was my last. I’m sure that she could see that I was trying to make sense of things that I could never make any sense out of, and that I couldn’t handle the paradox anymore. She was my best friend, but at the same time…
Maybe I’m trying to make myself feel a little better. Are you supposed to have a guilty conscience if you give up your loyalty to your closest friend, even if that friend is a murderer?
I haven’t figured that one out yet.
At the very least, I know she’s not angry at me.
The last time I saw her, I had just given her a hug (you were allowed to do that at this prison). I had told her that I probably wouldn’t be back to visit again, and she just looked at me, warmly, but un-surprised. I was about to turn away when she called me back and said something that I know was her way of trying to let me think that things were OK.
"Hey", she said.
"Did you know that over half the women here are lesbians? Doesn’t do me much good, but I thought you might like to know".
I guess I have to give her that.
Thank You For Flying With Us, Please Come Again…
I seem to have gone and written a lot this month. To those of you that have actually made it this far, I can only thank you for your tenacity and perseverance.
So before I wander off to bed through a cloud of ant death, here’s the latest skinny…
Busy month this is going to be.
It seems that the cliché about starving musicians is by and large true. Here we are, more or less completed more than a CD’s worth of material, and yet we find ourselves without the raw currency to reproduce the thing in the quantities desired, so here’s the latest plan.
On May 14th, we’re playing a show at our favorite local venue, The Bar Fly. Now beyond the usual fun and games, this show will see the release of a very special little CD. Entitled "Living In Red", this CD will not only showcase four tracks from the new CD, but also two tracks that just didn’t belong on the final complete release. In addition, this new mini CD will also feature remixes of a couple of songs from "Galleries", as well as the demo version of one of the songs off of "Galleries".
We’ll be selling this little disc for the more than fair price of $10 in order to make up the funds that we’re missing in order to release the full record, "Revolution", the way that it should be.
This is a limited run of 100 copies. After that, that’s it for this little prelude. Like I said, there are two songs on this disc that aren’t going to see the light of day on another release, and you can bet that I won’t be releasing any more demos from days past, so this is a one time deal.
But that’s not all…
Inside this disc, there will be a coupon for $10 off of "Revolution" when it is released in roughly two months. That record will be selling for $20, so for all of you that are to exhausted after this long little read to do a little math…
If you’re planning on picking up "Revolution" when it comes out, by buying "Living In Red", not only does it not cost you any extra money in the long run, but you also get some cool extras. That and well actually be able to afford making the damn thing. And you get to sleep the sleep of angels knowing that you’re supporting independent music. Always a good thing.
So there you have it.
Buy the CD. Buy them both. You won’t be disappointed.
See ya around, you know where I’ll be…Nate@natepike.com