When the sun was angry, it blazed in the middle of the sky and its deadly rays penetrated our light pigmented epidermis. Late afternoon was the deadliest time during the spring and summer, mainly summer. During spring, the sun was a little more sparing towards our skin. However, there was this constant case of the weatherman being so inaccurate, that the absolute opposite thing happens than what was supposed to. It does not matter for that day, because that day, not even a speck of a precipitation showed in the sky.
Ingrid was now combing her hair while trying to eat a saltine cracker with just her mouth. She was a very skillful multitasking person while Mark and I and Gerard were not so very skilful. Her skin has a little darker tint than the three of us. Her eyes match the water on some days, today hers did. The sun was being bright, yet gentle; reflecting a blue hue when we looked at it. She was a foot shorter than Gerard and had a much smaller build than any of us. Gerard, as a senior did not look much of a senior at all. In fact, he looked as if he was a sophomore or a freshman. But with his sleek, jet black hair, he looked like a thug. He looked more of a thug from Greece, but he wears these borderless glasses with sleet black thin arms going back to his ear. It suits him really; all of us compliment it regularly. So his physical being is quite contrasting but if you know him well enough, you would know he was a senior.
Cars honked over us; the bridge was somewhat crowded today. It was late afternoon, but the sun was still high in the sky, gleaming rays touched us, and gave us warmth. Mark, Gerard, and I were still in the river, wrestling and splashing. I looked up; black, silver, green, and red. Past our bridge over on the horizon I saw two or three other bridges. So far in the distance, same design, same length, same height, it seemed like this town was just like any other town. This town is different; one who lived here all his or her life would know it. The cement banks under the bridge slant nearly at a fifty degree angle, making it easy to walk or sit on. The banks were not totally made of cement, it would look so plain. Grassy banks filled the gaps between bridges, long and pointy, green during the spring, yellow during the summer and fall and none.
“Gerard, do you own a leather jacket?” asked Ingrid.
“Huh? What? That question was sudden,” Gerard wondered.
“I just want to know,” she said.
“I bet he has a tight, sleet, black one,” Mark suggested. His face had a wide smirk on it. Kind of like the scary smiles in the movie: Greece.
“No, I don’t own one,” he sighed.
“Do you wish for one?” Marked asked.
“Maybe, I don’t know,” he answered again.
“You know you look like that-” Mark was interrupted by Gerard.
“Look likes that thug from Greece, I know,” he repeated after Mark.
They look at each other; Mark was surprised that Gerard had stolen those famous words. It was not really surprising though, we always compliment him with that. It was one of Gerard’s unique physical qualities. Gerard moved towards Ingrid and snatches a long, large pack of saltine crackers, shoving two down by the second.
“Hey, those are mine!” Ingrid shouted.
“I know,” he replied with a laugh.
“Hey Gerard, that wasn’t a nice thing to do,” I said. He looked at me like I was being serious. I wasn’t. “Can I have some?”
He tossed me the pack and I started to scarf down the salted goodness.
“Wow these are good,” I exclaimed as I satisfied my stomach’s raging hunger.
“I’m glad you liked it,” muttered Ingrid. She reached over and recovered her revered pack of saltines.
Speaking of holiness, a few moments later, some inconsiderate asshole from above in a white Land Rover threw out his bag of trash right into the river. McDonalds has committed a sin, a very terrible one. So did that man in that white Land Rover. The four of us glanced at the grease and oil that seeped through the top of the sinking bag. Nothing angered us more than this. Ingrid dropped her brush; the left side of her hair was perfect, and the other, well, let’s say she looked like medusa on the right side. All Gerard said was, “Oh my god.” We have never seen this before; you could see now the French fries floating on the surface.
“Sweet BLASPHEMY! Someone has desecrated our sanctuary of purified swimming!” cried Mark.
“Quick, take it out!” Gerard shouted.
I quickly swallowed the rest of my saltine crackers and jumped into the river. My eyes started to sting, the amount of oil in that McDonalds bag I could use to fry a months worth of eggs. Sort of a bad analogy, but I was blind; trying to grasp the bag I felt my heart to beat more quickly, and then slowly. Lack of oxygen, gives the heart carbon dioxide you are meant to breathe out. I suddenly felt the plastic bag, grasped it, and pulled myself up. I reached the surface and rapidly sling-shot the bag out of the river onto the grassy bank. Gerard and Mark fished out the floating potatoes of death.
Ingrid was still on the edge of the river. I yelled out to her to grab the bag and throw it away and she did. As I swam towards the edge of the pool, I suddenly felt light headed. My eyes displayed a greenish hue on everything I looked at. I pulled myself up slowly and lay on my back as I started to breathe really heavily. I then began to cough ferociously.
“Quet!” Gerard yelled.
“What’s wrong man?” Mark asked as he swam towards me.
I turned to the side, facing away from the river and towards the grassy bank. What happened next was utterly disgusting. I couldn’t see anything, but it smelled and it stung my throat. What was supposed to be saltine goodness became a smelly pestilence that plagued the grass for that day and the next day.
Ingrid was away when I hurled thirty saltine crackers on the ground. If she saw me in action, she would have gone on the ground too. Mark and Gerard pulled me away from the liquid and chunks and splashed my face with the river water. I pulled myself up into seating position, I was still a little drowsy and my friend’s faces were still green.
“Are you ok?” Gerard slaps my cheek a couple of times trying to snap me out of my trance. It worked, because it hurt.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I replied drowsily. I took deep breaths as I began to see things clearly.
Ingrid came over, stared at the vomit on the grass, and complained about its smell and hue. She knelt down over me and asked about my condition.
“I’m ok,” I told her.
“Maybe you should go back home,” she suggested.
“He just overdid it, you know, all that crackers and swimming at one time,” Gerard stated out.
“You want me to take you home?” Ingrid asked.
“No, Mark will help me back, won’t you buddy?” I said.
Mark cheeringly agreed, and quickly picked me up, my arm over his shoulders and his arms trying to hold me up. We hailed our suicidal friends good bye as we got up onto the bridge. I saw Ingrid put on a pair of baggy pants with a million and one pockets. Gerard put on his shirt and they started to chat as they walked up the bank. By the time they reached where we were a few minutes ago, we were already half a mile down the road.
The walk home seemed like a lifetime, snails slimed passed our fault movement speed. It was pleasant though, no cars were in sight for a long bundle of time. The sun hid behind an array of clouds. Luckily, we left the river at the time we did, because it would start to rain. Drizzling now, ten minutes from home, the sky was smoked in an endless sea of depressing grey and white. At that point, we saw Carlson Train High, and students leaving its grounds.
“Saturday hell is over,” I said with my head down.
“You ditched,” Mark accused me.
“No I didn’t, they recommended me to go, I just declined that proposal,” I argued back.
“Touché,” he said, with nothing else to say on the matter.
We happened to eavesdrop on a group of girls’ conversation as we cruised by. Actually it was a forced eavesdrop, we did not have to eavesdrop, because they were announcing their boyfriends wanting a fuck from them. Half of the girls at the school lost their virginity at age ten; it is not surprising anymore when you hear a conversation about a couple’s sex life. I lost interest in their conversation the moment the first girl said “fuck”. I did not care anymore afterwards. All I could hear from them from that on was something about a pink result and lack of contraceptives.
“Does any girl or anyone in this school have any sense of dignity or self confidence anymore?” Mark asks.
“I bet the guys do, the girls not so much,” I assumed thoughtfully.
“That’s the twentieth baby this year,” he detailed out.
“A record,” I congratulated.
“Yes, we must celebrate,” he said sarcastically.
“Bob-kicks and Knick-Knacks?” I asked him.
“Absolutely, most certainly!” he answered very maniacally.
I looked at him and he had this silly grin on his face. By this time, I was no longer handicapped and we entered the school cafeteria where the lunch line transformed magically into an after school refreshments stand. The cafeteria looked, brighter today. The newly waxed floors gave off more light than needed and blinded everyone entering and exiting the building. The windows were sprayed with their monthly doses of Windex; you can see yourself in them. Girls were standing right in front of them, fixing their hair. The lazy-eyed, huge mole, grey haired, long-pointed nose lunch lady with a coarse voice dressed in a orange stripped jumpsuit was replaced with this younger Russian looking woman with vivid brown hair, huge eyes and a long mouth.
We crossed the empty cafeteria and, blinded, made our way towards the after noon refreshments counter.
“How may I serve you today?” she asked us. Her voice was soothing and fragile, if overused, the worst case of a lost voice.
“I’ll take four of those and four of these,” I said as Mark handed over the Bob-kicks and I handed her the Knick-Knacks.
“That would be four dollars and fifty cents,” she happily responded back.
I handed her a five dollar bill and she gave me five dimes back instead of two quarters. I did not press the matter really, I did not really care what kind of change I get, but that was rather awkward. I lost three of the dimes on the way back to the house. The drizzling became more intense and people started to run with shirts or backpack or papers over their heads.
The house walls were dampened with god’s cry. We reached the door, and it magically opened in front of us. Cap opened the door about to leave to somewhere, she did not say where. She was dressed in four tank-tops, black drain-pipes and her usual, ugly red cap. I would assume work or errands but she did not come home that night. I do not think Momma noticed she was gone, it seemed like she thought Cap was in her room all night. I did not mention that day to Momma; I did not want loud conflict, not after what I had gone through that day already.
Pigging out on Bob-kicks and Knick-Knacks was a great way to spend a rainy late afternoon. Mark recommended for some sleep and I did. As I lay down on the bed, Mark began to play a soft tune on my guitar. The bright bronze-brass strings touched the fret board so firmly but the sound was so soft. Incredible I say, he was playing the C-scale and the G-scale over and over in different styles and playing patterns. The guitar sounded farther and farther away and I sank deeper and deeper into a two hour slumber. What I heard before blacking out completely was sudden recoil of strings, but that did not stop me from my nap.
I woke up and Mark was on the floor sobbing quietly. I glanced over to the big brown hunk of wood next to him. Thankfully my guitar was still in one piece, but two strings snapped.
“I’m sorry Quet, I’m sorry,” he apologized looking down.
“Hey, I do not care about the strings, just don’t cry,” I replied back to him calmly.
“But I broke them!” he retorted back.
“So what, I can string it back,” I reassured him.
I reached at the second, smaller drawer on the bottom of my desk. It had a guitar sticker picture on the face of the drawer. I glanced at the empty drawer, the bottom of the drawer was white, pure white. I never saw this drawer empty before. I closed it, sighed and turned to Mark.
“The rain stopped, let’s go shopping!” I said excitedly.
“The guitar store?” he asked.
“The one and only, you will be playing that guitar again soon, okay buddy?”
He nodded his head and we headed down the stairs. The first floor was dark except for the two dim lamps that were lit up in the living room. The nightlight on the wall of the hallway brightened most of deep, dark tunnel. Most of the ceiling and corners were still hidden in shadow, but we did not mind.
“No one is home,” I sighed.
“Where is your mom?” He asked.
“I think she is working late today, she’ll probably bring back take out when she gets home.”
“Great, you see, we go to the store and get the strings and come back.”
“Yeah, she should be back when we get back,” I reassured.
I grabbed the keys on the kitchen counter and ran towards the door. As the door cracked open, a gust of fresh after rain scent diffused through the room. Refreshing and calming, yet wet and clammy; the wind blew some papers off the table of the middle of the living room. Mark looked at me.
“I’ll get that later, come on,” I said.
I always do as I say, because I keep my word. Usually; however, I am too late to fix the awful disaster because either Cap or Momma cleaned up things. Side walk lamps dimmed a circular beam of light that hit the lightless ground. Each lamp was equally spaced out so that each circle of light overlapped each other just barely. One of them from afar, about eight or nine light posts away, began to flicker. That always happened, no one bothered to fix the annoying thing.
We reached Guitar World about ten minutes later. It was in a plaza, along with the infamous Save Mart and Longs Drugs, ten minutes away from our neighborhood. The Save Mart was separated by four stores and then connected to the Longs Drugs. Guitar World was one of those small stores between those huge franchises. Right next to it was the family owned Robin and John’s Pizzeria and Postal World, which had a huge mailbox in front of it for mailing services. The stores touching Save Mart and Longs drugs were a local ice cream store called Frozen Yogurt & More and a Blockbuster. Although this place has been here since the beginning of time, when everything around it was still orchards and cow farms, this plaza still looked almost brand new. Very decent cleaning services or no one litters or vandalizes this place.
A very thin man with long blonde hair, kind of a moshy and messy look, with a Guitar World t shirt and denim jeans was behind the counter near the entrance. He looked at us as we entered in.
“Hi, how may I help you guys?” He greeted with a gigantonormous grin.
“Hey Gary,” I waved back.
He ran over the counter and gave us a suffocating hug. His embrace cut off my circulation to the head and Mark’s circulation in the arms. He let go, finally, and asked, “Hey, have you guys seen the latest stuff?”
“I want to see your new toys!” Mark shouted.
We made our way to the back of the store; I might add that the whole store is about the size of two to three tennis courts. Shiny, brand new guitars and base guitars hung from the walls of the whole place. There were several huge boxes, taller and wider than any of us there and some smaller boxes. All of the boxes were opened.
“We got these new theatre amps and they are great for concerts,” Gary explained, “They are about five grand each.”
“Five grand, eh?” I repeated.
“That’s as much as my mom makes a month,” Mark said, being very happy about it.
“And we have 64 Strats with upgraded pick-ups,” Gary added.
“Wow, they are five hundred,” I said, gazing at the price tags.
“Yeah, amazing huh, well that is about it,” he concluded the open house of new items and guided us back to the counter. No one was in the store; it was seven o’ clock at night. I asked him for the acoustic guitar strings he gave me the second package of strings for free. Mark tutored Gary during Gary’s sophomore and junior year, when Mark and I were fresh meat.
“You know,” Gary said, “You shouldn’t break strings so often, it takes such a while to break new ones in.”
“I know, Mark just overdid the playing a bit,” I said.
“Did you get the mail yet?” Mark asked.
“Oh yes I did!” Gary exclaimed, “As of next year, I am going to attend UCD.”
“Davis!?” shouted Mark in such amazement.
“Congratulations,” I shook his hand.
After a couple more minutes of small conversation, Gary had to close down the shop, since it was thirty minutes passed closing time.
“Let’s go home, Mark. Momma must have dinner ready,” I said as we left the plaza.
“You know, Quet?” Mark responded.
“What?” I asked him, turning my head to him.
“We should go to college together, we can be roommates,” he announced.
“I doubt that, with my grades and your grades, I don’t think we’d be in the same vicinity around each other. We could be thirty or more hours away,” I said, doubting his thoughts.
“Well, I can tutor you.”
“Tutor me? You basically live with me, it would be basically cheating.”
“Who knows, we might get into Davis.”
“Maybe…” I said, putting stress to the end of that word.