Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Trip in the Way-Back Machine: Paying a Visit to "Drunk D"

Today I saw a maroon '68 Ford F-250 Custom Cab. That alone gets me excited. I don't know if it had a 390 Effie in it, but I could imagine it in my head: dual side exhausts blowing through a set of Cherry Bombs, popping out an extinct fuel of high octane and lead. The suck of the Holley can be heard when mashing the throttle. Fuel tank sloshing right behind the seat; no concern for safety at all. Those Fords had the horizontal gauges and thin dashboard that just make every thing feel so big. Tractor feel shifting, with what seems like eye-level throws, and a suicide knob to make up for the lack of power steering. To top it all off, you have an old AM transistor radio blowing that wiry buzz of news and old tunes into your ears.

I shared a paper route when I was twelve with my best friend at the time. It was a big weekly route, so we usually had his dad drive us around while we threw papers. I didn't like the days that his dad drove their Datsun station wagon. It was too cramped and the top hatch would sometimes swing down and smack you on the head. The best was when we used their old 1970 F-250 Ford truck. It was similar to the one that I described above: it was maroon as well, but given the year it probably had a 351 Cleveland, and it was a juice tranny. Juicers are easier to drive, but where's the fun in easy?

I got one side of the truck bed, sitting on the wheel arch, hucking either side-arm, over-hand, or over the back when I felt like showing off. Having virtually no obstructions, we could stop in the middle of a cul-de-sac and throw a star pattern, covering bases in an instant. The best and worst was when my friend's big brother "Big D" drove us. This depended if he was drunk or not. His drink of choice was a malt liquor with a wide mouth bottle called a Mickey. While that might of been his drink of choice, it usually was whatever wouldn't make him blind or sterile and that was readily available.

When Big D was sober, he was cool and friendly. When he was drunk, he was funny, but insane. Big D would let us listen to "evil" music which would've been Judas Priest--before he went all mid-80's waver dude on us. Big D would also let us stand upright behind the cab. We would line up a bunch of papers on top of the cab and launch them hard into the oncoming driveways. The only thing that kept us from falling off the side was holding to the side of the open slider window. Drunk D tried to kill us.

I knew that there was trouble when they came to pick me up. I could smell that sick, sweet smell of alcohol blasting me in the face when he said, "Get back there short f--k!" He could say shit like that as if he was the friendliest guy in the world. It was hurtful, but at the same time you felt like he was allowing you to at least hang out with him, so that made it cool. However, this time he seemed past lightly buzzed and his profane remark was more belligerent than usual.

Getting to the route was making me sick. Drunk D kept swerving and stopping real hard. When we started our route, we had a hard time hitting our marks because of the speeds Drunk D was hitting. Every now and again, Drunk D would deliberately slam the brakes so that we would fly into the front of the bed. We could tell that he thought the whole thing was so damn funny. He was cursing and laughing at us practically the whole time. The real "moment" of this day occurred when we hit a steep decline that was cross-cut by a couple of roads.

Drunk D wasn't slowing down at all. As we picked up speed, I could feel my testes rising up into my diaphram. I was pretty sure that he was going to blow the first stop sign, so I dove into the pile of papers. My friend was kneeling, holding onto the front of the bed trying to shout "STOP" into the cab. When we hit the first cross-cut, the truck's suspension bottomed out, then it recoiled and launched upward. This double action catapulted both of us in the bed up into the air. There was a moment where I viewed my friend hovering in mid-air with folded up papers surrounding him like weightless drops of water in a space capsule. I felt a strange mixed-up feeling of euphoric doom.

I landed hard on my tailbone; my friend hit the passenger-side wheel arch with a meaty thud. Both of us started shouting and crying, trying to get Drunk D to stop. He wouldn't respond. I could see in the rear view mirror a reflection of a hollow-green smirk, his eyes glassed over. He kept accelerating, heading for the next cross-cut. My friend and I hunkered down flat to a pile of papers, hoping to make with a better re-entry this time around. Fully expecting to have another trip skywards, we weren't prepared for his next trick.

Drunk D threw a curve ball at us, instead of going straight, he made a fast left, though this was through a yield sign this time. The truck bed slid, but not smoothly. It skipped and bounced violently sideways. The papers and the two paperboys collected in a dense pile to the right side of the bed. After, this fun-go-round, we had enough, and jumped out of the bed when Drunk D finally stopped down the road. The rest of the day was us trying to run away from Drunk D. Drunk D finally caught us, and promised to buy us a pizza and drive nice, if we got back in the truck. We agreed and finished our route. When a sobering-up D dropped me off, he opened the cab door and spewed out watery sick right on my curb. I quit that paper route that day, leaving it all to my friend. I had enough of that.

Big D later would struggle with substance abuse and die a gruesome death from his friend's Nova. His funeral was an open casket. It shouldn't have been, though. His last gasp occurred while being thrown from a car doing 90 MPH off of an embankment. Apparently being too high to make sense of oncoming car lights, the driver swerved right across the opposing lane and through the guardrail, jumping off a steep bank. Big D ended up head first into a tree, splitting him from the crown to his spine. So, given this, it's easy to see that he weren't very pretty: and all the king's horses and all the king's men, couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again. They tried to, at least.

When I came to his casket, there were polaroids of his wife and his baby boy stuffed into his folded in catapillar-like fingers. I looked at his face and noticed something wrong; it was a twisted smirk almost like the one he had on his face while going down that hill. I even expected to hear his laugh and a few profanities fly out of his stitched-shut gob. But, he was just deader than hell. It sucked everything out of my friend. We stopped hanging out after that. It might seem corny to you, but it's strange to me how seeing an old Ford pickup can bring back all of that time and those memories to mind again.

1 comment:

NYD said...

Now that was a tale that started me off with a giggle and left me in the dark.

Have you ever seen the movie Catch 22?