The tavern was closed, so we all wandered over to Derby Brown’s place, just after lunch on Wednesday. His driveway was pretty soggy, and it didn’t look as if the six pickups did it much good. Earlier in the day, the driveway sported a little definition and a slight smattering of gravel. In the past half hour, it had taken to looking like a chocolate pudding truck had spewed forth its load, followed by a full-on assault by a herd of stampeding, fear-crazed mud turtles.
Driving up the road had been a little challenging. Driving back down promised to be more than a little terrifying.
Derby had started a wood fire just outside the garage door to provide a little warmth, and we all stood around it, spitting into the flames. It’s a manly thing—spitting into the flames—women seldom participate in, or condone the activity. Go figure.
Scooter James was reminiscing about his only high school touchdown, just 4 short decades ago. “I knew I could beat the d-back, but that middle linebacker looked as big as a pickup, and faster than ol’ man Gerdner’s daughter, Edna. I sorta dangled my right leg out as bait for the d-back, and made him miss. Then I just ate up the yards, a’fore lowering my head and blasting right through that linebacker. It was poetry. Sixty-four yards in a punishing rainstorm, as I remember it.”
Dexter Green launched a man-sized goober towards the fire. It drifted a squeench* long, and Farley McVee unsuccessfully attempted to dance out of the splash pattern. “Sorry Farley…my bad. Scooter, we was all at that damn game. I damn well remember it taking you all four damn downs to move the damn ball from the damn one inch line into the damn end zone. I’m still not too damn sure the damn ball ever crossed the damn goal line. Never really cared for them damn Harrisburg boys, but I suspect even they damn well took some damn pity on you scrawny ass and let you in the damn end zone. Even them damn refs were laughing. Damn embarrassing display, if you ask me.”
Apparently Dex was feeling pretty compassionate today. He neglected to mention the fact that Scooter scored his lone touchdown as a 6th year Senior against a badly depleted, junior varsity second string.
Still, a touchdown is a touchdown.
Things quieted down as we all pawed though our memories of some of the girls we knew in high school. We were collectively known as a ‘rough’ group, which translated into bad grades, crappy cars and dating the third string and walk-ons.
Al Taylor, whose voice didn’t change until he was 34, observed, “Went on down to the school the other day, to look in on my grandboy’s science project. It had a battery, some wires, two mice and a blender. If they’d a’ let him fire it up, he might have won.
“Things have changed down yonder, fellers. There’s some lady teachers with tattoos and a bunch of young ‘uns wearin’ nothing but black. Some of ‘em has blue hair. I asked. They call theyselves ‘emus.’ Black clothes, black/blue hair, all weepy and sad lookin.’ Damn depressin.’
“I thought emus were them big-ass birds, but I was wrong.”
We silently envisioned ourselves as high school students. Quasi-clean, pimply, greased back hair and pimples. Letterman jackets, unopened books and steely-eyed woman melting stares. The way things ought to be. Pimply.
“Kids these days are different,” observed Farley. “They got more money, more time, more options and the internet.”
Al’s voice trembled. “They’s girls with tattoos, fellers with makeup and lots of metal stickin’ out of faces. They cuss like sailors and dress like...well, I don’t know what the hell they dress like. It’s scary. They’s all wearin’ Chuck Taylors, and I don’t think a one of them plays one lick of basketball. It’s confusing. Sorta like when the milk cow quits.”
The increase in traffic out on the road meant the mill was changing shifts. The world, in spite of the changes, continues to move on.
“Damn, fellers,” remarked Dex, “we was the last of our damn kind. Everydamnthing is changing, and I for one, don’t damn well like it.”
Dex drained his beer and launched another drool-infused load towards the flames. The trajectory and combined aero/hydrodynamics refused to mesh, and, as before, Farley McVee was caught in the splatter pattern. “Damnit, Farley, I’m sorry…my bad,” said Dex. “Gotta get outta here, boys. Ellen’s on in a few minutes, and I hear she’s gonna have Ryan Seacrest on. I bet he’s gonna talk about Idol.”
*squeench (adj) an incredibly small amount (one of my Dad’s favorite words)