27 March 2006

Chapter 3. A kind tradesman gives us a ride

“I’m starving!” A.J. announced as our buzz started to wear off. The problem was, there was not much opportunity to buy food between Monmouth and Amity, save a diner in Rickreall, which was unlikely to provide much food at one in the morning in exchange for some love beads, a few packs of condoms and an eighth ounce rather sticky bud that we had found stashed in the robes. A.J. turned to Franklin. "The cheese..."

Franklin clenched the softening cheese to his bosom and bared his teeth. “No!” he hissed. “This is for later!”

“Well, we need to do something.” A.J. replied. He turned to gain my support.

I wasn’t there. I had seen a fish hatchery.

I can tell you now, that fish are easier to catch with the proper tools; poles, nets, dynamite, etc., and we spent quite a long time cursing and splashing (once I almost achieved Nirvana when a few thousand fingerlings got trapped immediately below my waist sash) but soon we had caught enough for a fine dinner and slunk of to a nearby barn. It was there that we discovered nobody had any matches. It was also were we discovered that there is a very good reason why nobody serves catfish sushi.

Come the morning, we dusted the hay, fish bones and barn cats off of our robes and set out to hitchhike. We stood, ripening in the sun for almost three hours before anyone stopped. It turned out to be a septic tank pumping truck driven by an elderly gentleman. “Hop in, Boys!” he said cheerfully.

The morning’s Monmouth Examiner lay on the passenger seat, with the main headline proclaiming “Hare Krishna Convention Marred by Indecent Exposure Arrests” and a smaller one saying “Locals Claim Don Ho Visiting Area”.

As there was only room for two more in the cabin, we decided that Franklin and his cheese would ride on a rumble seat located at the back of the tank.

“Yup.” the old fellow stated with pride as ha ground through the gears, “Honey Dippers, Inc. are number one in the number two business! In thirty years of service, I’ll bet there’s not a septic tank in three counties that I haven’t pumped dry with this here rig.” Judging from our low speed, it hadn't been emptied in that time either. We crept along at barely 25MPH until noon.

About that time, we heard Franklin singing from the back of the truck. In retrospect we should have stopped and flogged some sense into him, but as long as he was happy, he wasn’t bothering us. The truth was, he had smoked all the weed and was operating the load release lever like an engine telegraph. “Damn the torpedoes!” He’d roar between snatches of H.M.S. Pinafore. “Full speed ahead!” He’d slam the ‘engine telegraph’ fully forward and leave a brown streak on the road before signaling ‘full astern’ a few hundred yards later and cutting off the flow. We had a long way to go and he wanted to conserve his ‘bunker oil’.

Now, all this wouldn’t have mattered too much as the residents of Rickreall are used to such behavior being located fairly close to a University, but the governor was up to visit a vandalized fish hatchery and Franklin managed to douse the gubernatorial limo.

“Yarr!” Franklin screamed delightedly. “Swab down your poop-deck ya scury dog!”

The state troopers had no trouble catching up to us.

I wasn’t too worried, mind you. After all, Oregon’s state motto is “Don’t harsh my buzz, man!” and the state officials mean it (unlike Missouri; the “Show me!” state, where if you do show them, they immediately cart you off to the slammer. Bastards.)

A.J. and I decided to let Franklin do the talking. If he aroused the trooper’s suspicion, we could claim that we were kidnapped by a dangerous, cheese-molesting lunatic.

“Hi gents!” the trooper said genially, eying up our robes. “You wouldn’t have been involved in that riot in Monmouth last night, would you?”

We assured him that we were just your average fun-loving blue-skinned teenagers in fishy smelling, orange robes and knew nothing about any riots.

“Them are you boys dressed up early for Halloween?” asked the state trooper, not unkindly.

“No, we’re physics students.” Franklin answered in a churlish tone.

“And what, pray tell is that?” asked the trooper, pointing to the wheel of gorgonzola that had seen better days.

“It’s my cheese!”Franklin responded hotly. “And please keep that mountainous Samoan away from it!”

There are watershed moments in one’s life. Times when you attempt to cross the Rubicon but are swept away to places unexpected. Instances that you can look back upon and say things like: “Yup, that’s exactly when the trooper decided to take us to the mental hospital for observation”, or “Gosh, Franklin is truly an idiot.”

This instant was a convolution of the two.

Before the trooper closed the door on us, he gently placed the cheese on my lap.

It squirmed like a clutch of hatching cobra eggs, and gurgled ominously.

And that's the way I likes it.