“Sweet baby Jesus!” I was getting restless. “How far away is this place?”
Bob casually snapped on the left-turn signal and smiled. “Take a pill, Kurry. We’ll get there already.” Another turn, this one onto the highway. “And what’s with the baby Jesus crap? You’re not even close
to being religious.” He was right.
We were quiet for what seemed like forever. Too bad we couldn’t say the same thing about Bob’s Mini; even though it was only a two-cylinder, we had to shout over the damned engine. The thing was louder than a badly-tuned hair metal band at a librarian convention.
It wasn’t exactly the most comfortable ride to begin with. Add a year’s supply of pop cans, six pairs of sneakers and last Monday’s half-eaten bucket of chicken, and we’re talking the very picture of first-class travel. Oh, did I mention the gear? We’d jammed all of our equipment into the car with us. We had our weapons of choice, our armour, and a few surprises. We liked to be prepared for just about any situation. After all, we were going off to war.
“D’you think they’ll be tough?” I asked meekly. I wasn’t familiar with the Red Dragons, and quite frankly wasn’t looking forward to the introduction.
“I dunno, I’ve never seen ‘em in action.” Bob’s pause was as pregnant as a shy servant girl with a swollen belly.
“But they killed the Cripps last weekend.”
Bob absentmindedly rubbed his knee as he made a right turn. We’d gone up against the Cryptkeepers a few months back, and it was a hard-fought battle. To this day, I’ve got a long white scar on my neck from a fight with Jake Cripp. A pasty, seven-foot redhead, Jake weighed about thirty pounds. We used to joke about him until he single-handedly went through every one of us. I got a cut neck, and Bob wrecked his knee. Jake was nothing less than a menace.
And the Red Dragons killed him. Bob looked worried, and with good reason.
“Gulp,” I said aloud.
Bob looked at me with a sudden disgust. “You pussyin’ out on me?”
“No, really, I’m thirsty. Pass me the Big Gulp.”
Bob sighed and wriggled his left hand to a massive drink wedged between a duffle bag and the door. The entire driver’s side window was eclipsed by the waxy cup of orange soda. I thought, Little car, Big Gulp
“This thing is bigger than your gas tank,” I said, sipping sickly sweetness. “How can you drink this stuff?”
“Shut up, asshole. At least I have
That stung and he knew it. I’d spent all summer — and all my money — wooing Marie Zapetti. I’d wanted
a car, sure, but I’d wanted Marie more. I’d tried everything: flowers, chocolates, I even bought a few poems from this poncey creative writing student from down the street. And still, I was as unsuccessful as seven unsuccessful things at a failure festival. Not that I was bitter or anything.
“Fuck you, too, virgin-breath.”
More silence. We’d come off the highway; the road was flanked by golf courses and farms. Considering our destination, not to mention the gritty tension that now inhabited the Mini, it was surprising how beautiful and calming the scenery was. The last hints of fog lay stubbornly on the grass, making blurry the odd flag, the occasional cow.
“Hey, maybe we should go play some golf or something instead,” I mugged, hoping to lighten the mood.
already!” Bob turned dark as he turned to me. In seven years of friendship, it was the first time I’d ever seen him angry. I liked it about as much as extra math homework on prom night. “I’m tired of your fuckin' bullshit, Kurry! We are going
to the Red Dragons’ home turf, and we are going
to beat the shit out of them. End of fucking story! You got that?”
The look on his face reminded me: Bob had a cousin in the Red Dragons. This was a more difficult day for him than for anyone else in our gang. Bob, he was going to war against a family member.
Uncomfortable with his deep, hypnotic glare, I tore myself Bob’s eyes and mumbled something, probably an apology. Silence, accompanied by that crappy two-cylinder, reigned supreme. Bob turned his attention to the front window, too, but the fog had closed in around the vehicle. We were blind, and it scared me more than the finalists at a That’s Really Fucking Scary
“Holy shit!” was all I could croak out before the crash.
The impact had us moving and stopped at the same time. Limbs and hair swung forward with inertia, knuckles and nails slamming the dash and glove compartment. Slo-mo tin cans arced through the air, a graceful liquid ballet over break-dancing drumsticks and staccato cassette tapes. Metal and plastic splintered and crinkled like aluminum foil around potatoes for a summer barbeque. Potatoes named Bob and Kurry.
We both managed a nervous laugh as we climbed out of the Mini. It must have been a combination of seat belts, Bob’s slowing down to yell at me, and all that crap wedged into the car with us, but we didn’t seem to be injured at all.
The car, however, was another matter. Both side windows were cracked, spider tracks snaking in all directions. The passenger door was badly mangled. And the whole front end of the damned thing was crumpled up like so much honeymoon lingerie. It was some time before we turned out attention to what we’d hit. The front fender was wrapped around an undamaged pole. We looked up slowly, until we could read the sign at the top: Steveston Arena
“We’re here,” Bob chuckled, immediately seeing the humour it would take me years to comprehend. “We fucking-well crashed right at our destination.”
He laughed excitedly as he took his goalie gear out of the wreckage; his trapper was ripped a little bit, but he didn’t even flinch at the sight. He was a man possessed, like a man who is possessed by something and shows it. I began scooping up hockey balls, pads and uniforms until I couldn’t carry any more. I stumbled behind Bob, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It did, several times, in fact, and I had to go back and pick it up each time.
“Why don’t you buy a fucking equipment bag?” asked Bob cheerfully, as he strolled with purpose towards the lacrosse box behind the arena. “You’re always dropping shit. I’m surprised you don’t lose anything.”
Lose is one thing we didn’t do that day. Bob stood on his head. The Red Dragons outplayed, outhustled and outshot us all game, but he just wouldn’t let them score. We won the game 1-0, on my first and only goal of that season. It wasn’t a pretty play, but every year it loses a little lunchbucket
, and gains a little finesse
"By the time you retire, Kurry," Bob says, "you'll be Wayne fuckin' Gretzky in that story."
Is that so wrong?
It cost us $97.63 to tow the Mini from the lot, and Bob ended up spending almost two grand on a VW Bug.
But that car’s another story altogether.