How to Clean your Conscience Chapter 8: It’s on enough. Let’s go!

Several warning signs lined the edges of the Boise River as we closed in on Ann Morrison Park.  “THIS IS THE LAST TAKE-OUT POINT!  CAUTION: DAM AHEAD,” and “SET-OUT NOW” they read in bold, red letters.  Against the fortitude of our depleted bodies, we heeded to the signs demands, avoiding imminent catastrophe.

“Dude,” blurted Josh, stupefied.  “where’s the Tubapalooza finish line?”  He emerged from the river, eyes forward, un-phased by the adolescent chaos surrounding him.  Children ran amuck across the spread of well-kept lawns and manmade landscapes that made up Ann Morrison Park, their parents in close-proximity, though too exhausted to care.  He scanned the street where shuttle buses and truck/trailer combos loaded up in a strangely efficient manner.  No race officials in were sight.

“Man Josh, looks like we’re the last ones,” said Gretch.  Her sheepish grin gave away the façade of a sincere observation.  Josh failed to respond, his eyes steady in disbelief, still waiting for the Tubapalooza Race Officials to welcome him with open arms and a fresh beer.  Blinded by his own ignorance, there was one self-evident truth he simply could not accept: we were so slow, that the Tubapalooza Team had forgotten all about our team.  They had long since packed up and left.

“Great,” I blurted, my response completely exaggerated.  “Just great. All that for nothin’!”  Josh remained silent, his head buried deep into his sternum.

“…Well, I think it was worth it to hang out with everybody,” said Bill.  “I don’t know about you guys, but I thought the float was fun!”

“Really Bill?” I replied. I knew full well the balance he was attempting, all with good intentions too.  I wouldn’t have it.  Josh was weak and vulnerable, not to mention in public, and Churchill sure as hell didn’t defeat the Nazi’s with smiles and appeasement.  “Look at yourself.  Just take a long, hard look at yourself.” Bill peered down upon his unbuttoned shirt. A wide, red stripe stretched the length of his torso.  “Was that really worth it?”  He joined Josh, head into the sternum, responseless.  “…I wish you would’ve thought about that this morning.”

“That’s the least of our problems right now,” injected Megan Mills.

“I mean, I totally could’ve gotten a nice run on the Greenbelt in if it weren’t for this.”

“Zack—“

“With my new running shoes, no less!  Yep… bet you wish you could’ve taken that one back—“

“Zack, will you shut up!” demanded Megan Mills.  I abided. “Have you even thought about how we’re getting back?…  Anybody?”  Bill, myself, and Gretch each looked at each another, hoping at least one of us had an answer.  Nobody spoke up.  “…Our cars are over 6 miles away.  Did anybody even bring any money for the shuttle?”

“Pff.  You guys are a bunch of rookies,” boasted Josh, throwing a waterproof backpack across his body and onto the ground.  “I packed your cell phone, your keys, wallets—everything else you need,” he continued, pulling random items from his back like he was handing out candy to kids.  “Lucky you have me around.”  Indeed, perhaps we were lucky.  Our pride disallowed us from admitting it.

“So, we take the shuttle back,” I suggested.

“You have three dollars?” asked Josh.

“No I don’t have three dollars!” I shot back with attitude.  “Who has that kind of money?”  I looked at a wide-eyed Bill and Gretch.  They certainly, didn’t have it.

“Alright, alright,” said Megan Mills.  “This is what we’ll do.  Josh and I will take the shuttle back, then pick you guys back up in a little bit, ok?”

“…I can go with Josh,” nudged Gretch.

“Gretch, you’re probably drunk,” I interjected, pure speculation backing my claim.

“Are you kidding me?” she snorted.

“Sorry Gretch, I believe you, but can’t take the chance,” replied Megan Mills.  Wise move, Megan Mills.  Responsibility first.  Gretch snapped a glare at me and snarled.

“Well then, c’mon Megan Mills!” said Josh.  “The shuttle’s leaving.”  He grabbed Megan Mills by the arm and dragged her towards the shuttle line.  She looked back in distress, taken against her will.

“But what about our stuff?” I asked.

“How long will you guys be gone?” added Bill.

“Just hang tight,” replied Josh as he boarded the bus.  “We’ll be back in an hour.”

“Josh, wait!  An hour?  What are we supposed to do for an hour?”  Our cries were drowned to the scuffle of a loaded bus, already packed like a can of sardines.  “Bill, do you have your wallet?”

Bill shrugged and mumbled.  “I dunno.”

“How far away is the hotel?  Do we even have our room key?  God, I don’t even have my phone!  How am I supposed to—Bill!”  Bill stood, flustered and overwhelmed.  I turned to Gretch.  “Gretch, can we make it back—“   Screw it.

Josh and Megan Mills made their way to back seat, barely visible from the pedestrian traffic loading the bus.  “Josh,” I screamed.  He couldn’t hear.  Try again.  “Megan Mills!”  Nothing. C’mon, use your head.

“Josh, look. Babes!” Josh jerked his head, a combination of words that although unclear, sparked tremendous interest.  He darted his eyes towards the window, eventually settling on the figure waving his arms wildly near the back of the bus.  “Over here!”

Josh, mildly irritated, leaned over a group of young girls and peaked his head out of the window. “What do you want?”

“My wallet, and my phone!”

“I don’t know where it’s at.”

“Check your bag!”

“You expect me to find it… now?”

“Just do it!”

“You know you can’t stick your or anything outside of the school bus.  It’s against the rules!”

“Damnit, Josh. Just once, throw me a bone!”  Josh received a slight shove from a few patrons making their way to the back of the bus.  The girls surrounding him scoffed and lifted their arms as if they were ready to administer an elbow.

“Hold on.”  Josh threw his dry pack onto the seat back and rifled through it.  “I don’t see it.”

“Keep looking.” The engine turned and the bus door shut. “Hurry!”

“I can’t find it! We’re moving—there’s no time!”

The bus pulled out from the curb.  I walked along with it.  “Check again,” I urged.  “Before it’s too late!”

I chased as Josh stuck half his body out the window, calling out the final words to his dame chasing the departing train.  The girls cowered beneath him, taking shelter from the intense power of his pecks. “It’s too late, you’ll have to manage without me!”

“I don’t even know where we’re at!” I yelled, jogging to keep pace with the shuttle.

“Check Google Maps.”

“But I don’t have my phone!  What if I want a beer?”

“Ask Gretch!  She always has beer!”

“Gretch?” I shouted, running at full speed to keep up.  “Gretch—she hates my guts!”  Josh yelled back, though his words could not be heard, drowned out by the roaring engine coupled with the growing distance between my running body and the shuttle. I came to a gradual stop, my body frozen with disappointment.  I stared at a bus I could no longer keep up with, fading into the distance.  If only I had my new running shoes with me…

I returned to Bill and Gretch in a slouch, unable to break a slug’s pace.  Sitting in an even deeper state of gloom, they had managed to find refuge under a tree, the only open source of shade and a safe distance from the rambunctious torrent children.  “Gee, somebody’s got to brighten the spirits around here,” I thought to myself.  “Bill!…  What’s going on, good ol’ buddy, ol’ pal?  How about we go explore the park, pass the time a little bit,” I suggested with a nudge to the chest.

“Ahh!” he squealed, curling his arms across his seared body.  “Take it easy.”

“Oh right, the sunburn. Whoops!  Sorry bout that, heheh.  Hey Gretch, know any good jokes?  Any good stories about Megan Mills?”  She turned and shrugged her body further away from me, the only response she was willing to offer.  “…Well, you should hear about the dream I had last night.  It was crazy!  I was taking a test in a gym, then I was driving you guys off-road on a trail by the creek.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, I crashed into the bank, got the car all wet!”  

“What kind of car were you driving,” asked Bill, a question that seemed to be out of pity rather than curiosity.

“Ford Explorer, 96. Or was it a 2004…”

“Sounds like an amazing dream,” blandly responded Gretch.  It’s hard to hold disappointment with such a poor reception when none exists whatsoever. This is going to be a long wait.

***

Minutes passed. Several of them, long and torturous. No water.  No food.  Only the sun remained, unabated and intent on desiccating the life blood of every living organism in the park.  At least the rowdy and eclectic kept the entertainment value to bearable levels… barely. It’s all we had.

“Oh, my God,” gasped Gretch, peering out along the lawn.  “Do you see that girl in the shorts?”

BIll and I turned our heads towards the water, as if this girl’s coordinates could be precisely located across the vast surface area of the park.  “What are you even talking about—ohhhhh.”  Apparently, Bill had spotted the girl with little effort.  The cheeks were a dead giveaway, bursting from a garment that resembled a pair of Victoria’s Secret panties more than a bathing suit.  Even with such a large demographic of wild kids and worn-out adults spread about the field, her fleshy figure stood out like a ginger kid at a sun tanning contest.

“Looks like mom approves,” added Gretch, pointing to the woman and her herd of kids that followed; an omen for things to come.  Their styles were similar, though the mother’s age and weight forced a bit more modesty, however subtle the changes may have been.  Bill and I shifted our eyes elsewhere, foregoing the guilt held from looking at a highly probable under-aged girl for too long.  Gretch, biologically immune to such guilt, kept a close eye.

Together, they walked towards the shuttle bus rendezvous point, flaunting their figures as though their goods were a scarce commodity in high demand.  Their man seemed to agree.  “Check out the action over here on lover’s lane!” informed Gretch.

The mother and daughter duo gravitated towards the daughter’s boyfriend, of which they found his buzzed head and rough countenance most attractive.  A meek scatter of tribal and barbed-wire tattoos covered his limbs, a collection he vowed to grow as his income allowed.  It was hard to tell whether or not his sweat-stained wife-beater was the result of a hard day’s work or a sign that the washer and dryer had been out of order.  Even harder to tell was his age, as young as 21 years old, but no older than 35.

Neither the stained shirt or his unshaven face was of concern for the scantily clad daughter as she embraced her boyfriend, holding his body against hers.  “I can’t wait to take you back to the trailer,” we could imagine him say as he prepared a trail of greasy smooches, starting from the arm and leading to the mouth.  Their display of overtly affectionate behavior triggered no sense of shame. This trailer park hunk was adamant in showing the city of Boise that this was his babe, and they were in crazy, stupid love.

Mom threw in a flirtatious quip here and there between smooches and booty grabs; a vicarious effort to bring homage to her golden years of eye candy.  She smiled and laughed, oblivious to the fact that her daughter was destined for a life of steady divorce and child support.

“Chh, God…” scoffed Bill. Like me, he was unable to resist the hands-on action for long.  Further inspection of the park mended similar results.  

“We’re… surrounded,” I said.  It turns out that amorous displays were not uncommon in Ann Morrison Park.  Couples everywhere had trouble controlling their primitive instincts.  Overwhelmed, we quickly diverted our attention to the street, our only bastion against the romantic escapades.

“Get a load of Gary over here,” said Gretch, pointing to a trailer/truck combo coming to a stop. Bill and I couldn’t help but release a quick chuckle.

At first glance, there seemed to be nothing special about this particular individual.  Under normal circumstances, nothing of merit would’ve set Gary apart from the ordinary, as many improvements could be made: a promotion at his job that at best was mediocre, an exercise plan that would cut a good 30 pounds from his waist, and a proper grooming to trim his wavy gray hair back to white collar standards among a list of others.  Having been dealt the typical hand of cards in life, Gary had done pretty much what was expected of him in his 45 years of existence. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing to suffer from but the fact that he had never become anything special.

But Gretch was on to something.  The way this Matt Groening look-alike commanded his man-machine, squabbling over the space between him and the curb was something of an anomaly… a captivating affair.

Over and over again, he flipped his head back and forth, indecisive as to what his next move was. Wait… is that a spot?…  Yes, I think it—but… oh I don’t know—I could try, but gee—what if I can’t make it? From the get go, the silent consensus was to root for Gary… or at least encourage him to give it a try.

Gary peaked into the rearview mirror—another truck approached.  Each shift was hard now, more exaggerated, his level of confidence draining with each glance.  With time waning, the window for success was diminishing.  “Nope, not worth it,” he thought to himself, relieving pressure from brake pedal.  “Not even, worth…”

He turned over to the curb one last time, slowly peering into the park.  His eyes widened, his heart stopped, and the breath sucked from his lungs brought him to a whisper.  “Scotty… my boy… my blood…”  There, his son stood, erected next to the family raft, peering back at his father, the omnipotent, the sole-provider; the hero. To turn back now… that would be a sign of weakness… not in front of the boy… not in front of my sweet Scotty…

Gary dipped his gaze back to the curb and settled into a grin.  Yes Gary, that’s quite a bit of curb there.  In fact, maybe just enough to fit a truck/trailer combo.  It’ll take swift action to back the trailer, and you just might have the skills to pull it off.  He shot his eyes forward, smiled, and with a forceful thrust, shifted the truck back into reverse.  Alright Gary, now or never.  You are the man; the man with the plan.  It’s all up to you…

Gary threw his arm over the seat, looked behind him, and cranked the wheel away from the curb.  All right. Here we go!  The trailer backed at a swift pace, for Gary be damned if little Scotty knew this was dad’s first pony ride.  “Alright Gary, looking good… looking good,” he said, using the moment to check himself out in the mirror.  That’s it, just like you’ve done it a thousand times!  Back that thing right into the curb, nice and easy.  Yea baby, you like that, don’t you?  Nice and— “AH, what the!”

By all accounts, Gary had maneuvered his truck in the correct direction.  His back wheel had aligned well, sitting abreast a few inches from the curb.  His trailer, sticking halfway into the street, unfortunately had not.  Without the aid of evasive maneuvers, all vehicular street traffic would be temporarily blocked.  Gary could only hope that for the moment, the driver’s piling behind him were patient enough to understand his predicament.

Round 1:  Trailer 1, Gary 0.

Sort of like this, but worse…
Or this…
Oh Good God!
I could watch these all night!

“All right Gary, no big deal.  Keep calm; try again.”  Gary pulled the truck back into the road, a conservative effort to straighten the trailer for another go.  “Just a little farther… a little farther—what? Wait a minute, who does this guy think he is?”  The truck behind him inched up, nearly putting the block on Gary’s park job. Only a few more feet were needed to ensure the trailer was completely straightened; a few feet Gary could not afford to give.  “Take my parking spot?  I don’t think so!”

Gary popped the car back into reverse and cranked the wheel once again, this time towards the curb. The driver behind him backed up, reluctantly… wisely.  Yea… that’s what I thought.  This is my parking spot.  My park.  I’m about to back this truck up, real good.  Slide it right in just like—Oh, what the hell?

Gary slammed on the brakes and jerked his head left to right, enough to make observation of the crowd drawing interest.  Just like his wavy hair, his truck rocked from front to back as it came to an abrupt stop, shooting high stress loads through the suspension.  It was little concern to Gary, already dealing with a trailer/truck combo sprawled in a shallow V across the road.  Without hesitation and a proper look forward, he shifted into drive and stepped on the gas.

“Oh Jesus,” cried Bill with a clear vision of disaster in his head.

Once again, the hairline and trailer/truck combo swung forward and back as the truck stopped mere inches from the bus in front of it.

“What the hell is this guy doing?” asked one of the patrons.

“Yea guy, what’s the big idea!” yelled the driver behind him, adding a few honks into the mix. Though many kept to themselves, the driver was not alone in his sentiments.

Heavy beads of sweat grew across Gary’s brow.  Each draw of breath was short and heavy.  Panic had set in, an emotion that could no longer be concealed.  “Hey, I remember the first time I parked a trailer… Hey Jim, get a load at trailer guy over here… I swear to God, if you don’t park this damn trailer…” People were talking, talk that Gary could no longer ignore.  He glanced into his rearview mirror.  The line, several cars back, was growing.  C’mon, get it together man.  Just pull out and move along.  There’ll be another day, another chance—

“C’mon Gary… C’mon!” pleaded Gretch in a soft whisper, holding back the tears.

He froze at the sight of Scotty standing near their raft.  Scotty watched his dad with concern, unsure if he was the man to complete the task.  “Scotty…” mutter Gary.  He looked back at the driver’s behind, their frustrations ostensible. All were insignificant; nothing of concern, for there was only one who truly mattered…

His heartbeat slowed and his breaths drew long and deep once again.  This… this is nothing.  None of this matters.  Parking a trailer is easy—child’s play!  He threw out a chuckle and slapped the steering wheel, turning back to the concerned crowd as if Marvin Gaye was pumping through the speakers.  He threw his arm out of the window and let it hang down the side.  Before backing up, he gave a quick check into the rearview mirror, exposing a reflection of himself. “Man, Gary, you’re looking good these days.  Have you been losing weight?  How about we back this trailer up, right here, right now and call it a day? Put the kids to bed, treat the wife to a romantic evening… yea, I like that.  And what are all these turkey’s worried about, getting all worked up over a parked trailer?  I got this all under control… That’s right Gary.  You the man.  Just take your time and back this thing up.  Nice and easy.  Nice and smooth.  Show these people how it’s done.  Do it. Do it for Scotty.  For— “Damnit!“

The return of heavy sweat, short breaths, and whipped hair was nearly instantaneous.  As part of a brilliant execution, the truck had rolled up perfectly parallel along the curb, separated by a regulation standard 8 inches of space.  Perfectly perpendicular was the trailer, an L across the width of the street serving as a roadblock for the rest of traffic.

“Hey, watch it!” screamed an angry motorist.

“Sorry buddy!” yipped Gary.

“I’m not your buddy!” Oh God, not this again…

Gary cranked the wheel and popped the truck back into drive and pulled forward far enough so that the truck and trailer were in line with one another, leaving a good, 20 feet of space between him and the open spot.  He shot a glance into the rearview mirror, the driver behind him once again inching closer.  Oh, I don’t think so!

“Oh, you got to be kidding me!” screamed the driver, adding a few select adjectives between words. He threw his hands up in disbelief, watching Gary pop his head out the window and slither his way back and forth across the road, vying his way into the open spot.

“Are you watching this guy?” asked Gretch.

Bill scoffed. Feeling embarrassed for him, he wanted to look away.  But like the rest of us, he simply could not.  “He’s drunker than a pig!”

You got this Gary.  You got this… He repeated the incantation several times, the trailer finally working in total cooperation.  Gary gave the wheel a final crank as the trailer settled towards the curb. “Now would you look at that,” he said, straightening the wheel to line the truck up with the trailer.  “Scotty, I’m a make you proud my boy!”  The trailer came to a gradual stop 2 feet from the vehicle behind him, perfectly straight.  The only thing Gary was unsuccessful at was containing his smile—or humility.  You must be so proud, Scotty.  So proud—

“You call that a park job?” screamed a driver behind him.

“What are you talking about?” Gary yelled back.  “The truck and trailer are perfectly straight—”  Much to Gary’s chagrin, several feet of asphalt stretched between his truck and the curb, the trailer/truck combo pultruding halfway between the curb and the middle of the road.  “…Ahhhhh crap…”

“Jesus Christ!” screamed the angry motorist behind him while laying into his horn.  He squeezed by, the delivery of his headshake and loud diesel engine beyond merciless.  Gary peered into the rearview mirror, exposing a line of cars far beyond the focal points of his deteriorated eyesight—not what he needed to see.  He shuffled about his seat in a panic; another task was before him, an episode of swift action, precise maneuvers.  “Just one more try,” Gary thought to himself.  He grabbed at the rearview mirror and readjusted his view.  “If I watch my corners, turn sharper, I can get it.  Just one more…”

A body revealed itself in the rearview mirror.  It’s muscle composition worn, a flimsy abdomen bulging with flab, the face drooped and wrinkled, all consequences of age and parenthood.  For a brief second, Gary stared at this reflection, sitting alone in his outdated truck, peering back into a weary set of eyes that had receded into submission behind a cloudy set of spectacles.  “Gary, it’s the best you’re ever going to do…”

 “Dad…” a voice cried out from the distance.  Nothing registered.  “Dad?”

“Damnit, snap out of it Gary,” muttered Gretch, words that could very well have come from any one of us.

“Dad!”

“Scotty!”  Gary jolted in his seat then swung his door open. The driver behind him reacted with a screeching stop, nearly ripping the door off its hinges.

“What the Hell are you doing?” he screamed, unable to make the pass.  Gary shut the door and waved him over, like an amicable traffic director.  The driver sped past, unamused.

“Scotty, where’s the raft?” asked Gary.  Scotty stood still, blindsided.  “Damnit Scotty!  I told you to bring the raft!”

“Dad, I can’t… it’s too big!”

“Arrrrrgh… Sco—“  Gary stopped mid-grunt, swung the door open and jumped out of the truck.  “If you want something done right, you might as well do it yourself—“

“HONK!” The horn blistered Gary’s ears.  “Get out of the way!” yelled the passing driver.  Gary waved and chuckled as if he were acknowledging an old friend who was giving him a hard time, then waddled over to his son.  

“Scotty!  You, here.  NOW!” he screamed, no longer holding the charade.  Scotty, head down, shuffled toward his father and did as he was told.  “Scot—“ ok Gary, calm it down.  You’re in public for God’s sake.  “Scotty,” he said with a reassessed tone.  “Grab your sister so we can load the raft.”  Scotty stared at his father with a blank stare.  “Scotty, what happened to the raft?  Where is your sister—SCOTTY!

Angry Gary reemerged. Scotty acted accordingly, joining his father by scouring the park like it was a world championship Easter egg hunt. “Son, when we get home you’re going to have to learn a few lessons in responsibility.”

“But dad—“

“Someday, you’re going to have to be accountable for your actions,” he continued.

“Dad, over here… Dad?!”

“Scotty! I told you,” he yelled, oblivious to his son’s proximity.  “You’re on thin ice, boy!”

“But dad, it’s right here!”

“Damnit Scotty! How many times… oh.”  Head down and arms lightly flinging, Gary waddled over to his son standing next to the raft, the only sign of acknowledgment of a good deed.

“Gary…” hollered his wife from across the park.  Gary ignored her nagging tone.  “Gary, grab the cooler!  Gary? Gary, you need to carry the cooler! You don’t want to forget your wine coolers—”

“Honey!”  Gary tensed his face toward his wife and mouthed a vicious phrase as he sharply pointed at the raft.

“Gary…  the cooler.  NOW!”

With a will suppressed and a conviction overruled, Gary dropped the raft and obeyed his wife’s orders. The lack of enthusiasm portrayed in his shuffle did not match the urgency required to decongest traffic.

“What the hell’s going on?” mouthed a passing driver to his friends standing next to the curb, having just squeezed through the narrowed lane.  They pointed to Gary on his second trip across the park, cooler in hand. Several times he changed directions, arms flinging, hair flapping, sweat dripping and glasses nearly falling before reaching the raft.  Little Scotty followed behind his father like an obedient puppy.  The driver shook his head and drove onward.

“Ready Scotty,” asked Gary, now in position at each side of the raft after several attempts to herd the family.  “Let’s go!” he commanded.  They marched on, Gary’s arm swinging as his hunched body pulled the raft across the lawn and towards the truck.

“Hold on…” cried Gary, a mere five feet from the truck.

Oh Gary, you were so close…” mentioned Bill.

Gary took a double walk around and fondled the raft, sticking his fingers in cracks, crevices, and other various places that bordered the line of inappropriateness before making his way back to the helm.   The violating procedure proved to be nothing short of pointless, except to add another car to the bottlenecked line.

“Ok, let’s lift,” said Gary, abruptly ending his inspection.  “One, two, Scott—SCOTTY!”  Scotty, his attention diverted, jolted into position.  “Three!”

With him and Scotty on one end, his wife and daughter on the other, they threw the raft on top of the trailer.  Laying crooked and unstrapped, Gary gave the raft a quick shake and walked away.  Surely the weight of the life vests and paddles will provide sufficient stability at highway speeds.

“Dad… dad, it’s not on…” warned Scotty.

“It’s on enough,” barked Gary back without hesitation.

“But dad—“

“It’s on enough.  Let’s go!”  Again, Gary’s words were terse; no eye-contact afforded. Gary, a man on a mission, would not be held back, not even by the plea of his own blood.  “Scotty, In the truck.  We’re leaving.”

“But dad, it’s locked—“

“SCOTTY!”

Gary hopped in the front seat and reached for the ignition—his keys were not there.  His head whipped forward, backward—in any and every direction possible.  Beads of sweat dripped onto the car’s upholstery like a sidewalk stained by the early drops of a spring shower.  He reached about, grabbing at any piece of the car he could put his hands on—the steering wheel, dashboard, seats, center console and more with no effort to hide his frantic state of existence.

“Damn it, what the hell’s the matter with you,” screamed another passing driver as Gary jumped out of the car.  Gary ignored him—didn’t even care, and speed-walked around to the passenger side.

He reached for the door—locked.  He tugged on the handle, then tugged some more.  Unconvinced, he gave it a hard yank, nearly ripping the handle of the hinges. “Okay Gary, I think it’s locked.  Think, plan B.”  He raised his head, giving notice to the open window.  “That gives me an idea!  His arm went through the open window and pulled the lever from the inside.  …Still locked.  Think Gary, think…”

3 seconds passed. “Aha!”  He lifted the lock on the door and presto, the door opened with a simple lift of the handle.  “Bingo!”

Anticipating another scolding, Scotty squeezed passed his father and jumped in the car before being told. Gary’s nostrils flared as a deep breath forced its way through the nasal cavity, his mouth sealed shut to prevent another outburst as he continued the search for the missing keys.  After another minute of finger-blasting the car’s interior, he stepped away, enraged, yet too baffled to scream.

“I give up,” said Gary as a plea to God, throwing his hands up in the air.  They fell freely, slapping at the sides of his trunks and hanging like two lifeless souls at the gallows.  “Wait a minute…”  He slapped around his pockets, the lightbulb flashing inside his head.  “Of course!”  He reached into his pocket and pulled out the prized possession, flaunting his discovery as though he was Albert Einstein the moment he solved the Theory of Relativity.  “Ok, gang, everybody in the car, let’s go!”

“Honey, where’s the cooler?” his wife asked.  “…Did you leave the cooler?”  Gary, sitting in the driver’s seat, hands at 12:00 on the steering wheel remained still for a moment, head forward, eyes dimmed, anger sulking.

“Scotty.  Out of the car!”

“Bud dad, you just—“

“OUT OF THE CAR!”

Scotty shuffled his way out of the car and followed his waddling father, preventing further admonishment his sole motivation.  Though flustered, he was still unable to shake his business casual approach to the exigency that the traffic jam demanded.  “Dad, where are the towels?”

“How would I know? Ask your mother!”  Gary grabbed the cooler and headed back to the car.

“Gary, you do this every time,” nagged his wife.

“Honey, I don’t want to talk about it,” he replied, throwing the cooler into the raft as if it were throwing a garbage bag into the dumpster.

“Every time!  And I told you to go easy on the cooler!”

“We’ll talk about it when we get home—“

“You’re so unorganized! And look at you!  You’re sweating again!  Didn’t the doctor say you should lose some weight?”

“Honey…”

“And why did you park so far away from the curb?”

“Hun!” responded Gary sharply.

“Yes, Gary?” she replied, oblivious.

“Shhhhhhhut up!!!” The world stopped.  If only for a few short moments, Gary’s criticism silenced the park.  He waddled his way into the driver’s side and hopped in the car.  His wife followed.  “What do you want me to do, huh?  What can I possibly do at this moment?  Please, tell me,” excoriated Gary as he twisted the keys and ignited the engine.

“Well, Gary, I was just observing that your park job could’ve been a little better…”

“What’s wrong with my park job?”

“Do you really want me to go there, Gary?”

“Ok, I have an idea. How about next time, youpark the truck!”  Gary thrusted the truck into drive and pulled out.  A passing car honked.  “Ah, screw you!” yelled Gary, continuing down the road.

“Well, certainly I couldn’t do any worse!”

“I happened to think I did a halfway decent job!  And you know what, I bet you Scotty agrees.  What do you think Scotty, is your old man a pretty decent driver?” There was no response. “…Scotty?”  Gary and his wife swung their heads, left, right—behind them. Their daughter sat, content in her corner of the backseat.  But Scotty… “OH SCOTTY!”  

It was the epitome of a Chinese fire drill.  The car came to a screeching halt and the family jumped out, waving their arms in wild hysteria.  Gary and his wife looked everywhere, the trailer, raft, street, underneath the car, anywhere they could think.  Their desperation landed them back to the park.  Scotty stood helplessly, all humanity removed, seconds from bursting into tears.  “Oh Scotty!” cried Gary, running towards his forgotten son. “I’m so sorry my sweet Scotty!” he pleaded, embracing his son and carrying him in his arms.

“Oh dad—“

“My Angel Boy!” screamed Gary, nearly dropping to his knees with little concern to a public persona that was already severed.  Gary threw Scotty into the car, waddled his way to the driver side and hopped back in.  The truck shook as it shifted into drive, and the family drove away to a sonata of blasting horns.

…It was that last we ever saw of old Gary.

“…What, in the hell, just happened?” asked Gretch.  Bill and sat back in silence, shock… horror.  It was a question neither of us could answer—a minimum of years before we could even begin to understand.  We sat and watched, ready for the next driver’s attempt at parking… to suffer the same fate all over again.

FYI, that’s how you back up a trailer!

***

“Ah, what’s up guys? I bet you had such an awesome time sitting in the park,” quipped Josh a few minutes later as he pulled in.  None of us made eye-contact.  Not a word had been spoken, not since the incident.  Gretch, also silent, hopped into Megan Mills car to hitch a ride back home.  “Anything exciting happen?  Bill and I gave each other a glare.  “Zack? Bill?”

“Nope.  Nothing too exciting,” said Bill.  “…Nothing exciting at all.”  Bill and I glared again.  Not even worth explaining.

“Well, that’s too bad,” replied Josh.  I couldn’t quite tell, but there seemed to be a hint of insincerity within his voice. “Dude, you realize your hotel’s only a few blocks away, right?”

“What!?” I exclaimed.

“Um, yea…” said Josh. “Like a quarter mile.  You still want a ride?”

“…Yea…”  We followed Josh to his car.  I looked over to Bill, his head down; he already knew. “Damnit,” I muttered after a deep sigh.  I threw my head towards the window, clout with despair as the last spread of Ann Morrison Park faded into obscurity.  Totally missed out on a Greenbelt run…

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