July 22nd, 2016. 11:15 AM
It had been a year since the road trip, that infamous trek across the heartland of the United States and into Wisconsin, aka the motherland, straight out of the vein and back. Punch cards for derogatory language had been spent, bodies had been possessed, babes had been met and courted, and copious amounts of beer had been consumed with close encounters of the Third Eye Blind. The purpose seemed obvious from the beginning, for attendance to Beth and Blake’s wedding was mandatory. But the further we traveled, the more evident it became that the wedding wasn’t the only reason for our journey. A new path had been revealed, one much darker and ulterior, directed from a higher power perhaps. A new goal… a drive that consumed… that took over… that became our immediate life’s purpose—the absolute destruction of one’s faith in humanity.
The results, you ask? They could not be any more pleasing; bigger and better than anything beyond our wildest imagination.
Eye witness accounts confirmed that her soul was left beaten and battered after my departure from Pony, Montana; her brain distorted, much like the physical deformations of the Elephant Man. A week’s worth and persistence from Bill and I—one week of hell—had managed to take its toll. And now, after a solid year of psychiatric treatment and mind-altering prescriptions, she had somehow, barely managed to make the transition back as a functional member of society.
And here I stood on a spotless, sunny day in Boise, Idaho, at the helm of a beautiful weekend, unannounced in her town, moments from taking it all away
I salivated at the opportunity, the moment those unexpected eyes crossed my sight; the shrivel of her skin, the coarse and uncontrollable expletives, the drastic aging process that would commence as soon as I walked into frame! Yes, I’d see to it that those thousands of dollars spent on therapy sessions would be wasted, that any progress made during the course of a year was to be reversed.
And as Bill, Megan Mills, and the city of Boise as my witness, I would do everything in my power to ensure that Gretch’s weekend was completely, and utterly… ruined.
“Ok, you know the plan, right?” I asked Bill as we exited the Bandanna Running Store with a fresh pair of running shoes in my hand.
“We lure her down here to pick me up, and then you pop out of nowhere and walk across the street, right as she’s driving by.”
“She won’t even be paying attention! She won’t even know what hit her!”
“And knowing her, she probably won’t even stop.”
“She’ll run me right over I bet ya!”
“A travesty! …It really makes you wonder, her being a danger to society with all of that reckless driving going on…”
“…It goes through my mind each and every day. Even keeps me up at night…” Bill paused for a moment, realizing for the first time how dangerous a world we live in. I joined him.
“Ok, snap out of it. It’s go time.”
“No more screwing around. This is Hollywood.”
“This is the big time.”
“Ready. Make the call.”
Bill punched a few buttons on his phone and put it up to his ear. I waited patiently, as I had ever since my unannounced arrival into town the night before. Seconds went by, the silence between faint dial tones driving my anticipation. Then, a break. Bill’s head propped up, followed by a quick inhale—preparation to speak. His posture was straight, his eyes focused. He was alert, he was on his A-game; everything was going according to plan.
“…Hey Gretch, what’s up?” Both of us shared a smile and a silent snicker. “…Oh, you know, just hanging out and stuff…” Oh man, this is going to be great! “…About to get lunch… Yea, downtown…”
My heart raced harder with each syllable, a Shakespearean sonnet spoken by the master himself. Bill continued. “Why don’t you come on down and meet us for lunch?” God he’s good. A natural! “Yea, we’re by the running store.” …Oh baby, here we go! Here we—wait, did he just say ‘we?’ Bill looked passed me with a giant grin and a solid look of confidence… perhaps a little too much confidence. “…Yea, Zack wanted to get some new running shoes—“
“What?!” My faced turned to stone; my body jerked and my arms swung wildly, nearly slamming the box of shoes to the ground had it not been for my Kung Fu grip. Bill stood as if it were no big deal. His shifty eyes said otherwise. “Bill! Are you crazy?” I mouthed. “Quick, come up with something! A misspeak, a lie—ANYTHING!”
“Oh, it’s Josh’s friend, Zack…” Josh? Of all people! “…Yea, I met him like 20 minutes ago…” 20 minutes ago? C’mon man! Bill bent his knees and shot me a look, his eyes wide and gritted teeth exposed. You’ve screwed it up this time—royally! “Josh? He had to go to work… well, yea, he works from home, so he was out with us, but now he… he had to go back home, where he works… to do more work.
Good gravy, somebody call a doctor! This guy’s gone mad!
My body contorted into different positions like a man trying to fight off a possessing demon, exploring the line between stomping and tiptoeing. Stubs of shaved hair were pulled involuntarily—at least the attempt was made in all the madness. How could he be so careless?
“Look, it’s no big deal,” Bill said, in an attempt to recover. “Just, come and pick us up—me up. Come pick me up! Nobody else. Gretch, sorry, I gotta go. I’ll text you.” He hung up, thank God.
“Are you kidding me,” I said. “Are you freaking kidding me!” I repeated, this time screaming, the over-pressurized kettle finally getting its much-needed release. “I love you buddy, but… ya blew it!”
“What do you mean what?! A week’s worth of planning, and you out and out completely blow it!”
“Don’t even sweat it. It’ll be fine. She didn’t suspect a thing.” There was no sense of wrongdoing in his voice—not even a sense of panic. Oh, the nerve!
“Didn’t suspect a thing? Didn’t suspect a thing??? Your mind’s in the gutter, I know it!”
“It is not!”
“Bull crap! You got cocky, then got sloppy, and then you blew my cover! You’ve lost your vision!”
“That’s not true…” Bill grew quiet for a moment, guilt finally setting in, though he would shy away from publicly admit it. “…That’s not it at all…”
“…I know what it is…” It was a calm response, much like the response I give Mike Gibson every time I beat him in a political debate. “It’s the babe in the running store, isn’t it? Your mind’s been set on her ever since we left.”
“What? Whatever. I… I don’t even know what you’re talking about—“
“I saw the way you were looking at her. It totally makes sense!”
“Are you kidding me?”
“Absolutely not. It’s ok, she was a cutie, I’ll admit, but you should also admit that you blew it.”
“I didn’t blow anything! You’re the one that did all the talking in there!”
“Me? Talk—I barely spoke!”
“‘Oh, I just love running, it’s the only thing that makes me feel free.’”
“Hey!” His mocking tone was a little too sarcastic for my taste.
“’Which are your favorite trails around here?’”
“Knock it off!”
“’Maybe I’ll just see you on the Greenbelt this weekend!’”
“I’m warning you.”
“Oh, and you can show me your stride. I bet it’s graceful, just like you.’”
“That’s it! You’re dead. You’re dead!”
“Oh, give me a break, will ya!” he screamed and shifted backwards in a defensive position to avoid a potential sock in the face; smart move on his part. “Like she was going to do any smooching with you anyway.”
“Sounds like somebody’s a little jealous cause they didn’t have anything to say!”
“Jealous? All that talking did was almost con into buying that stupid tank top.”
“That tank top wasn’t stupid!” I paused, realizing the need to calm myself before a bigger scene was made. “…Well, it wasn’t the best-looking tank top… ok? But, what’s wrong with being nice every once in a while? It doesn’t hurt anybody, could even make their day better! And I’ll tell you what. You’re pretty lucky I’m a nice guy, or else you would’ve been pounded by now.” Bill threw up his hands, acting like he couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth. “And I don’t even know why you had to bring the babe up in the first place.” He turned and glared, for some silly reason. “You’re just trying to divert from the fact that you still dorked up, big time!”
“Oh, not this again.”
“Well, what are we going to do then?”
“Listen, we’re good. You’re just overreacting, that’s all.”
“Overreacting? More like I just wasted hundreds of dollars on a meaningless trip…” The last sentence was muttered under my breath.
“It’s just… ya blew it. Kapeesh?”
“Zack… trust me. We’re going to be ok.”
Trust me… The phrase failed to ease my concerns, no matter how many times it circulated through my head. Not much else was said on our search for a restaurant—not much else could be said with a mind so clouded with rage. So, for blocks, we walked in silence, no eye-contact afforded, or deserved for that matter.
“What about this place,” asked Bill. He pointed to a café that shared a space in a freshly constructed town square with the name “Solid.” Solid… looks like an overpriced Applebee’s if you ask me, but with all that organic bull crap instead. “It has a patio…”
“Whatever,” I replied and followed him into the restaurant. It was the only respectable response I was able to utter. As long as it has beer.