The Cast: Cody (the Wild Card), Curt (the Backbone), Dallas (the Reason), Erich (the Muscle), Myself (the Driver), and Richard (quiet—well he was).
If you’ve ever lived in a small town then you probably understand that there isn’t much to do in the form of premade entertainment. So, the kids gotta get creative. I think that’s why small towns can develop reputations for mischief. I’d like to think that it isn’t always meant to start out that way, but it usually ends up that way. Like when you only have one movie theater, with one screen and they play that movie for a month… Friday nights can get restless. That’s when stupid surfaces. Boredom and stupidity go hand-in-hand like peanut butter and jelly. Oh, sure you can have just jelly on bread, or just peanut butter on bread, but when the two combine: YEAH!!! Wait, I was talking about how boredom and stupidity together are bad. And they are. yeah…
So, it was a Thursday night and I decided I was going to go for a late night drive. I didn’t have a car… But my sister had a car! I could borrow hers. What’s the worst that could happen? Um, it could roll into a ditch and I could drown. Duh. (for the record that almost did happen about a year later—the drowning I mean, the car did find itself upside down in a ditch, but it wasn’t my fault, really)
It always starts off so simple. The intentions are good. The plan is good. It should all be good. Right? Right.
Like I said, it was a Thursday night and I was aching to go for a drive. I had nowhere to be, and no real reason for it, other than just to go for a drive. This whole thing was unusual, mostly because I really didn’t care about driving. In my small town I could walk everywhere I wanted to go, and if I needed to go somewhere farther away someone else was already going that way and I would just catch a ride with them and chip-in for the gas. It always worked out. I didn’t need a driver’s license so I didn’t have one, but that night I really needed to get behind the wheel of a car and go. Somewhere. Anywhere. So I did.
One of the ‘fun’ activities of our fair town was to Drag Main. Now, if you don’t know what that is, good for you. I say “good for you” because either you’ve lived in a town large enough that you had other options for entertainment, or you lived in a town so small that main street was just a footpath. Either way, “Good for you.”
For the uneducated: To Drag Main you simply collect your friends and place them all inside one of the friends cars. Ideally you want enough room to stash a few more people than you should, but not too many extra so as to draw negative attention from the local law enforcement. Then you drive said vehicle onto the main street of your town and drive to one end of it, turn around, and drive to the opposite end, turn around and repeat as often as necessary. If done correctly, all the kids at school will talk about it the next day and how they saw you “…Dragging Main last night.” and your social status goes up. You can earn more social points by having the right combination of people in the car. Some examples are: Jocks and a weirdo (getting along, not a hostage situation). Cheerleaders and a younger sibling of one of those cheerleaders. Someone’s grandma in the car. Bonus points for having grandma driving the car and making more noise than anyone else in the car. (Listen, I didn’t make the rules, I’m just reporting)
Okay, so it’s Thursday night and I needed out of the house. Desperately. Both my mom and dad had a rough day and I was really counting on them dropping off to sleep and hitting that deep, deep, super deep, the-dead-can’t-even-wake-me-up sort of sleep. As well as my sister—since it was her car I was
stealing (correction) borrowing. I wanted to borrow my sister’s car. Jolene was always a super deep sleeper, so I knew that was a shoe-in.
About 11:00 was when I knew I had to try. If I headed out too late, all my friends would be asleep. Too early, and the trip would be over before I could reach the end of the driveway (although, we did have a long driveway so I would at least have that). Strangely enough, I don’t recall how I got outside and to the car. I’m pretty sure I just crept down the stairs. But it is also just as probable that I jumped off the balcony that was adjacent to my room, on the second story. Either way I moved through the shadows that spotted our yard like… like something that is spotted in shadow, and reached my target: My sister’s lime-green old hand-me-down ‘boat’ of a car (this was the 80’s people). It had two bench-seats big enough to fit six to eight people, total. This was going to be a night to remember. Oh, yeah!
Now all I had to do was quietly start it up. It wasn’t a loud car, but I needed every advantage to make this work. Insert key, turn, ignition. Quiet ignition?!? YES!!! Next step: Carefully drive off the property. And I could do that because my property had a back access to our lot, so I wouldn’t have to drive past my parents window. Score!
As I drove away into late night freedom, I wondered who I should pick-up first. No I didn’t. I went and got Erich. It was easy, I drove up to his house, lightly honked the horn and he came running out. Like it was preplanned. Then, as we thought about who to get next. We simultaneously faced each other and said, “Curt.” After Curt, we picked up Richard (Cox not the Sanderson one—the Sanderson one was out of town) on the way to get Dallas (another Cox, unrelated to the Richard—Cox or Sanderson). Each stop was similar to the first: Pull up to the house, flash the lights and the person we wanted came running out. We only need one more fellow to make the group complete: Our Wild Card.
Every group has a Wild Card. That ‘special’ person that comes up with insane ideas, steals things, or is willing to try anything once—or more than once. Ours was Cody. We found Cody walking into town, almost like he knew we needed him. When asked about why he was wandering around town at 11:30 at night he responded with, “I was looking for you guys.” Alright. The Plan That Never Was a Plan, was coming together. All we needed now was snackage.
The only place open at that hour was the local gas station on Main Street: Top Stop. Fortunately for us, late-night convenience store clerks don’t care why you are there to shop. They only care if you’re going to rob them. We were shopping, not robbing. And shop we did. We bought sodas, chips, candy bars, I think there might have nachos…(?) and as was our tradition: Fist fulls of sour penny candies (these were candies that cost a penny and were sour, not candies that were sour and shaped like a penny—but that would be cool). Then this crazed half-dozen of mayhem climbed back into my sister’s car and drove off, once again, into the night.
I was prepared for something to happen while we Dragged Main. Like the one time, when in a friend’s car, we pulled along side of another friend’s car and I threw Oreo cookies to them through their open window. They responded by passing a Pringles can to us through that same open window. That went on for about eight to ten blocks. Yeah, nothing like that happened. Nothing crazy happened at all that night. We weren’t even trying to make it happen. We just drove and had fun.
As the hours—and laps of town—passed, we also passed around the junk food and stories, jokes, teasing of each other, and just good old-fashion bonding. It was one of the best nights of my life. Eventually, as we found the bottoms of the chip bags and soda bottles we also found we had all had enough fun and should get back to our homes. After all, we still had school the next day.
With everyone dropped off at their houses—except Cody (he wanted to walk home, so we left him with Dallas)—it was up to me to sneak the car back onto my lot, clean up any
trace evidence wrappers (I ment wrappers), and still get back inside unnoticed. No problem.
I entered my property the way I had left, via the secret entrance—lights off, parked, cleaned out the car, quietly closed the door (you can get good at it when practicing breaking and entering—don’t judge me, you gotta know that stuff to sneak up on bad guys), and then entered my house through the back door.
Once inside I took off my Reebok high-tops and stashed them out of sight, messed up my hair and clothes, then pretend-sleepy walked through the kitchen to reach the stairs so I could go up to my room for a few hours sleep.
All this was done in case my mother found me along my way. And she did. But, thanks to Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future, so that my actions might not be suspicious activity, I often just slept in my clothes. This had been a years long practiced strategy for just such a situation. My reason for being downstairs was further supported by the sound of a toilet tank refilling with water (as I had taken the time to stop and flush it as I passed the bathroom—again to throw suspicion away from any possible negative nocturnal enterprise). Very much a Ferris Bueller kind of moment.
7:00 A.M. comes way too early when you have gone to bed just three hours before. But I didn’t care. I was pumped from the night before. My buddies and I had had an amazing fun time and I almost couldn’t wait to reminisce with them about it, during class, all. day. long.
As I walked to school my mind started to replay the previous nights events: How I had collected everyone, without incident. How we had just drove around talking, listening to the radio and having fun, without anything stupid happening. Where everyone had sat: In the back seat (from left to right) there was Cody, Dallas, then Richard. In the front there had been Eirch to my right, and Curt to my left, while I had drove the car from the center of the seat.
It then hit me. It had been a dream. The whole thing had been a dream. There was nothing about the dream, during the dream, that said, “Hey, buddy. Pssst. This is a dream.” Besides the steering wheel being set in the center of the dashboard. It didn’t even start there! It just sort of moved to there when we picked up Curt, and somehow I hadn’t noticed. The dashboard even looked normal. Well, I mean, as normal as a dashboard can look when there’s a steering wheel designed into the center of it. The junk food was normal. The conversation had been normal teenage-boy-stupid conversation. The radio had played the regular normal songs we all liked and had even had bad reception once in a while. I was so blown away by this revelation I could do nothing. Nothing but stand there, mesmerized by the whole Matrix-like reality of it all. In fact I was so spellbound that I just stood, rooted to my spot in the middle of the street and ended up missing First Period.