"So, what say you and me have an adventure?"
He took a second to think, laughed, and said, "What kind of adventure?"
He paused, static filling the void where his voice was. It reminded me of someone scratching their nails over the mesh screen of a window. Finally, he spoke again, "Hot dogs?"
"Okay, listen. Big Bob said that there was this hot dog place—the Hut, I think it's called—somewhere behind Target. He said he used to go there all the time. I asked my parents about it, they knew it too. I say we go there."
Big Bob. He was my boss at the cemetery. Of all the summer jobs a college student could land, I got the one that involved dead people. I mean, I guess its okay. They're all sick fucks there anyway, so in a way, I blend in.
My friend—Joey—was speaking again, "Hmm…let me ask my parents, I'll call you back." Click. The line disconnected and I closed my cell phone.
I leaned back in my chair and thought about work while I waited for Joey to call me back. Whenever we weren't working, Big Bob told me stories from his life. 'Nam, being a cop, beating people senseless, being a biker. You name it, he had a story. Even the ones I had heard repeatedly didn't get old. I guess it was because they were so sick or twisted. His latest story was about the use of a PVC pipe in a fight.
"The sound it makes…man, that's a good sound," he had said with a laugh. I laughed too, trying to imagine the sound. Thwack? Thump? Whooshp? I just couldn't quite picture it. Oh well.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow began to play. My phone lit up and began to vibrate at the same time. I picked it up.
"I'm in, give me ten."
"Okay, be over."
Finishing up my conversations online, I threw a fresh shirt on—it was somewhere between one hundred degrees and hot-as-fucking-hell-degrees and the one I had on was just an undershirt that was already sweat-stained—I wanted to look semi-decent if I was going out. For the time being, I was content ignoring the sparse hairs that had grown on my cheekbones. So I looked a little dirty, so what?
I told my dad where I was going and drove over to pick Joey up. He didn't live far and I made it in a little under three minutes, even though I had to stop at a light. If I hadn't I think my old record of a minute and fifteen seconds could've been challenged.
Beeping the horn, I turned up the music I had on while I waited. It was some sort of German techno that I didn't understand. Skipping through the tracks I watched as Joey's little sister walked in front of the car carrying the hose and a sprinkler in her little hands. She was seven, or eight, or nine, I don't remember. His dad pulled into the driveway next to me and I waved. He returned the wave then went inside.
Joey came out after that, aviator sunglasses and all. As he got into the car I said, "Hmm, I can't tell if those make you look dashing, or gay. I'm leaning towards gay though. Yea, definitely gay."
I laughed and we drove off.
"So, do you know where you're going?"
"Well, it is an adventure."
"You are correct, sir. Hence why we don't need to know exactly where we're going. I should've paid better attention to Big Bob when he was giving me the directions but whatever."
Bob Marley pumped through the car's speakers as we passed Target and made our first turn, the only one I knew for sure.
"Okay, so, I know now we have to make a right…is it this one?" I watched as a street passed by.
"Too late now," Joey commented, "If that was it, we can always come back, but that sign said it led to Route 3."
"Yea, okay we'll keep going a bit."
We drove in silence till we go to an intersection where the road in front of us ended.
"Hey, guess we're making that right turn here," I said. Joey nodded.
I continued driving. As we drove along, not quite sure where we were, we passed a strange looking building. It was made out of brick like some of the other houses in the area but out of the side, a turret was built.
"A fucking castle!" I said, laughing.
"Holy shit, dude, it is!"
"What the hell…why is there a castle there?" I said. We craned our necks to get one last look at it as we rolled by. Luckily, there wasn't any traffic behind us, so we slowed down a bit as we passed.
"That is amazing," Joey said.
"Yea, we definitely need a picture of that when…if…we come back this way."
The road we were on, much like the road before the one we were on, dead-ended in a T-intersection. I slowed to a stop at the sign.
"So…where now? Right?" I said.
"If we get lost we'll just come back this way I guess."
I had barely turned onto the road when Joey's hand shot out, pointing at a building across the street.
"The Hut! The Hut! We found it!"
"Shit, we're fucking amazing!" I said as I made the turn into the parking lot.
The sign that Joey had seen looked to be the original. Where the white paint of the sign wasn't chipped away, it was covered by rust. The letters of the sign were also a reddish brown, differing from the background of the sign by only a shade or two. We drove slowly down the side of the building, looking for other cars.
"Um…Joey, this doesn't look so safe."
"You're right, you sure this is it?"
"Yea, it says 'The Hut'. It's gotta be it."
We pulled around and found a spot next to some other cars. I made sure all of my valuables were hidden before I got out and locked the doors. Joey stood next to me as we surveyed the building.
It was made of brick and overlooked Route 3. The brick was chipped in places and probably hadn't been replaced or fixed since the place was first built. God knows when that was.
Walking slowly, we looked for an entrance. To the far left side, a sign read "Bar and Dining Room Entrance". On the side we were on, there was a single glass door. Through it, we could see some guys eating at chest high tables.
"I'm scared, Zach."
"Me too, Joey, me too," Joey had his had on the handle of the door when I spoke again, "But hey, if we die, we die with full stomachs."
He laughed, nodded, and we went in. The counter ran the length of the small room. Behind it, a woman and a man worked to fill people's orders. There was a smattering of people at the chest high counters. We looked up at the menu above the counter.
"Holy shit, this stuff's cheap," Joey whispered out of the side of his mouth to me.
"Damn, yea, it is."
We got our food, ate at the counters and left. The food was good and we vowed to come back, only during daylight though. I think we both knew it might not be as safe at night. We took the same way back as we came. When we got to the castle I pulled off the side of the road, took my camera that I had just gotten out of the glove compartment, and handed it to Matt.
"Go," I motioned for him to get out, "Take a picture."
"Okay, but be ready for a quick getaway. Who knows, these people could have, like, crossbows or something. They do live in a castle."
"Touché. Don't worry, I'll be ready."
He took the camera and got out, snapping a picture fairly quickly. As he sat back down he tossed me the camera.
"It came out pretty nice."
I took a look. "Yea, you're right, it did, now let's get the fuck out of here. How bout some soccer?"
We liked to talk like pirates. I was in love with pirates and their ways, and Joey had an obsession. We talked like we were pirates often.
On the way home, we discussed what we'd do with a castle. This led to discussing how both of us would rather own an island, which led to the decision to buy an island and construct a pirate ship for it. So we could be pirates, of course. Not evil ones, like real ones, but more like, the cool pirates. We'd wear the cool hats, talk like them, drink rum, and sail around. We just wouldn't kill anyone. Yet.
For the next few hours, we wasted our time talking and playing video games. The soccer games were riotous, the fighting game was punch-tastic, and the party game had a pirate level, so we ended our stint with the video games happy. Midway through the party game, we heard some crashing outside.
"That thunder?"I said.
We waited and listened. It seemed to stop.
"Guess, not probably Mike's Harley, or something." Mike's my neighbor. He's a mechanic, I think. If he's not, then I think he might have an unhealthy obsession with things that have wheels.
I got up to go to the bathroom and heard the rain crashing against the siding of my house. It sounded like something being fried in a frying pan, the grease bubbling and popping as it cooks the food. Looking out a window, I saw the sky light up. Lightning. Sweet.
"Well, that sure is thunder, all right."
"Yea, I see the lightning now, do you fucking see it? It's like, I don't even know!" Joey said. He had this look on his face that was somewhere between delirium and bliss. I couldn't tell if he liked the lightning or not. Either that, or he was taking drugs and not sharing.
We finished the game and continued to sit in my blue bean bag chairs staring at the screen. The Nintendo logo bounced around the screen like it was made of rubber.
"So…what now?" he asked.
"Let's get food," I said as I stood up to stretch. My neck, knuckles, and back all cracked as I stretched. It felt good. I don't care if I get arthritis later in life, it feels good now.
Joey followed me out of my room and into my mom's office to tell her of our plans.
"We're going…out… then I'm taking Joey home."
"Okay, behave. I love you.
"Love you too, mom."
We were standing on my porch when the lightning started up again. Well, maybe it didn't start up again but we saw it again. It went off more often now. It was like the sky was one big strobe light. Streak after streak of lightning lit up the sky. As we drove to 7-11, we watched the lightning.
"So, does lightning always touch down or can it go sideways?" Joey asked.
"I think it can go sideways, that one right there looked like it went across. It looked like a seam or something in the sky."
That's what it was, a seam, trying to break apart, to rip the sky open. Then the sky would spill out everything it had in it—whatever that would be.
"Holy shit, it doesn't stop!" he said.
"This is fucking nuts." I replied. I kept both hands on the wheel and kept driving.
I got a Hawaiian Punch Slurpee and a lottery scratch off ticket at 7-11. I didn't win. We got back in the car. Sipping my drink, I commented, "This tastes like my puke after I drink jungle juice."
"Do you know what jungle juice is?"
"Good. Where to now?"
"Ooh, yea that sounds good. I could go for some nuggets."
As we drove, the rain picked up. It became a torrential downpour. All the while, the lightning was still trying to split the sky open. I couldn't remember any other time lightning had struck this much. It was beautiful, in the scary kind of way.
"You know what would be cool? Well, it would be horrible, but I'd still want to see." Joey said.
"Seeing something, or someone get struck by lightning. They'd, like, blow up."
"You sick fuck," I said with a laugh. That comment coming from the kid who worked in a cemetery. Who made his money by handling dead people. Who got tipped for burying someone.
As we drove the wind picked up. Leaves and branches whipped across the road horizontally in front of us. The instrumental music Joey had chosen gave the whole thing an end of the world feel to it. Lightning cracked in the sky above us. Rain pounded down on our car, and even at the highest speed, the windshield wipers were doing a shitty job.
There were no other cars out on the road. They were all too smart to be out when the world looked like it was ending. The road was strewn with broken twigs and branches, as well as other debris from who know what. Something under my car cracked.
"Mother fucker. Goddamn branches," I cursed.
Finally, we got to Wendy's.
"I don't want to get out, we might get shot or something." I swear I'm not racist or stereotypical or anything, I just calls them like I sees them.
"Yea, drive thru?" Joey said.
We placed our order. It was simple—an order of nuggets and a spicy chicken sandwich combo. Oh, can't forget the Coke. When we got up to the window, the woman, the same one that had a second ago left me with my window down so she could yell something in Spanish to the other people, double checked our order.
"Spicy chicken combo?" broken English. And she was working the drive thru. Am I the only one who sees something wrong with that?
She closed the window on me again. This time, I wised up and closed my own window, waiting for her. A few minutes later, she gave us our bag and I pulled up and towards the exit.
"Wait a sec," Joey said. He shuffled through the bag, "They gave us the wrong stuff. And there aren't any fries."
"Fuck. Okay, we'll swing into line again."
I turned the car around and snuck in behind the person who was at the window currently. As we waited, we schemed.
"Joey, keep one of the burgers, they fucked up our order, badly at that, the least they could do is give us that."
"True that," he said he put a burger down by his feet. As he did that I took a nugget out of the bag and popped it into my mouth.
There was another car ordering and he probably didn't like the fact I cut him. Oh well, it was Wendy's' fault. Back at the window, I handed the bag—one nugget and one burger less—back, saying, "Um, yea, we asked for the number six, this is a burger."
Again, the window closed on me. I could see their lips moving rapidly. Spanish again. The window opened.
"Spicy chicken is cooking, please wait."
"Bitches," Joey said as I pulled into the spot we had been in before to check our food.
After another five minutes Joey decided to go inside to get his food instead of waiting outside for it. I wished him luck and he ran inside, getting drenched along the way.
Taking a too big sip of my Slurpee, my right temple began to hurt. Brain freeze.
"Fuckkkk," I moaned, banging one hand against the arm rest and holding the other to my temple, rubbing furiously. I locked the doors and put my head down on the armrest. If I wasn't looking, I didn't want to get fucking robbed.
The pain had just started to subside when I heard a banging on my window. I screamed as I bolted upright. It wasn't a girly scream... it was more of the scream like when a guy gets hit in the genitals really hard and the pain goes directly to his stomach. The pain that makes that guy want to throw up blood.
After I screamed, Joey screamed, I think. He opened his mouth at least but with all the rain, I couldn't hear him. I unlocked the doors and let him in.
He gave me my nuggets saying, "Finally, they got it fucking right. Hey, I think they gave you six nuggets."
"Haha, sweet. There was only four in there when we sent it back."
"Shit, really?" he was laughing.I laughed too.
"Dude, we were so Wendy's pirates!" there was a hint of victory in his voice.
"You're right! We were fucking pirates, dude!"
Suddenly, driving through the end of the world didn't seem so bad.