Jason paced himself with the surrounding traffic as he drove on one of the valley freeways during a sunny late afternoon. Vehicles moved in sync as cars sped around semi trucks. More vehicles entered and exited from on-ramps and off-ramps. Randy sat in the passenger seat talking while Brian was in the back seat, his head nodded back in sleep.
“So the whole day was kind of a blur,” Randy continued, “but what I do remember is that me, Brian, Darren and Greg were just hanging out at the beach, tossing around the Frisbee, rapping with some bitches, pounding some brews, we were making a day of it.”
“Did you guys go to the Boardwalk?” Jason asked.
“Nah, we went to that beach that’s at the end of Twenty Sixth Ave, away from the tourists.”
“Yeah, because then a couple of other guys show up, and one of them had an entire case in his backpack, so we partied with them. It was live,” Randy said as he reminisced. “When it got dark we tried to get a fire going, but no luck. It got late so we finally decided to head back, and I ended up having to drive because I was the least wasted.”
“That’s unusual,” Jason kidded.
“Yeah, well no thanks to this pussy,” Randy said as he pointed back to Brian. “Anyways, I made it over the 17 in record time, and when we got to Jamie’s, the whole place was raging, an insane fucking party. It took me all of yesterday to recover.” Randy looked again toward Brian. “I don’t know what this animal here did yesterday, but he was the life of the party at Jamie’s.” Brian remained asleep.
“You were partying and you didn’t even call me,” Jason said. “What gives?”
“Aw, man, I’m sorry. I just figured you were busy with your family because your sister’s in
“Yeah, but, you know…maybe I needed to get away.” Jason said to Randy, and they laughed to themselves familiarly.
“So how’s Kathy doing?”
“Doing well, living the college life.”
“Good for her, I’m really proud of her,” Randy said sincerely. “She’ll go far.”
“Yeah she will,” Jason agreed. “She’ll end up supporting the rest of the family,” he joked. They laughed some more and enjoyed the moment.
“That was a good movie,” Randy finally said and broke the silence. “But you know what would have made it better? If Clint Eastwood had starred in it.”
“Sean Connery did a good job.”
“Yeah, but couldn’t you see Clint in charge of a submarine? He wouldn’t have to take any shit from anybody.”
“I don’t know if it’d be right if Clint played a Russian,” Jason said. “That would be like John Wayne playing a Nazi. And could you imagine how funny he’d sound if he tried to talk like a Russian.”
“He’s Clint Eastwood, he doesn’t have to say anything,” Randy said. “All he has to do is give you that don’t-fuck-with-me look.” Jason sped up as he changed lanes and drove past a tanker truck. “Hey, thanks for covering me. I owe you.”
“No problem,” Jason said.
“Movies sure got more expensive,” Randy bemoaned.
“Tell me about it.”
“I mean, when did it go up to five bucks a ticket? You can rent a movie for half that.”
“What gets me is that they have the balls to charge you two fifty for a cup of ice that maybe has a couple of ounces of coke,” Jason said.
“Highway fucking robbery!” Randy fumed. “Remember when we used go to the UA, only pay a dollar, and then sneak from movie to movie?”
“Or play video games out in the lobby,” Jason said. “A whole weekend of fun with nothing but a pocketful of change.”
“The place we were just at had at least ten screens,” Randy pointed out, “we should have sneaked into another movie just to get our money’s worth.”
“I would’ve loved to, but you know, I’ve got things to do.” Jason drove quickly to keep up with the rapid, weekend traffic.
“Right, family stuff,” Randy assumed. “Doesn’t your dad work on parts that go into submarines?”
“He used to,” Jason answered. “I’m not sure what they’re having him do now, but he’s going to retire pretty soon anyways.”
“Did he get to work on anything that had to do with torpedoes?”
“Possibly,” Jason said. “But he wasn’t much into talking about his job. Whenever any of us asked what he did, he would say that when he was home that was his time, and he didn’t want to spoil it by talking about work.”
“That’s because work sucks.”
“Right,” Jason agreed dubiously. “How’s that coming along?”
“Aw, more problems with the boss,” Randy said.
“Same old problems?”
“He’s not giving me enough work. I keep telling him that I could use some more hours, but he says he doesn’t have anything for me.”
“It’s summer,” Jason said, “this is the busy time of the year for landscaping.”
“Lots of competition out there,” Randy countered, “at least that’s what he tells me.”
“Sounds like he’s jerking you around.”
“The guy is a prick anyhow,” Randy said, “one of those anal retentive types who has to manage every little detail of your job, a real pain in the ass.”
“Yeah, micro managers are the worst.”
“And he’s so into micro managing that he forgets to look for new customers.”
“Maybe you should try to drum up some business,” Jason suggested.
“Me?” Randy laughed.
“You’re an outgoing guy,” Jason pointed out, “and you have the personality for it.”
“Not sure I’m the guy who should be the face of the company,” Randy continued jocularly. “He needs to learn how to schedule appointment first. One time when we were done for the day and getting ready to leave ready, but that fucker wanted us to keep working just as it was getting get dark. How the fuck are we supposed to work in the dark?”
“Dude, you don’t need that headache,” Jason agreed. “There’s got to be something better out there for you.”
“Sure, but you know what? I don’t need a lot to be happy, just the essentials. Why do I got to bust my ass for?”
“Believe me, I wish I could do the same,” Jason said, “but prices keep going up. Rent, gas,
Randy turned toward Jason. “You know what we should do? We should just say the hell with it and go live on a beach somewhere. We could do that. Who needs all that rat race bullshit?”
“I can’t do that. What would Christine say?”
“Bring her along.”
“Serious?” Jason laughed.
“Why not? We used to do stuff like that all the time, remember?”
“Yeah, when we were kids,” Jason reminded. “But things change, and sometimes you got to change along with them. It’s all about growing up.”
Randy stared at Jason. “You used to never talk like that.”
“C’mon, Randy, you know I didn’t mean anything.”
“Yeah, I know,” Randy said as he looked back ahead, “just looking out for me.” He kept staring ahead as the pavement quickly disappeared under them. “I’ve been hearing that straighten up and fly right talk from teachers, principals, and bosses for as long as I can remember. You know I don’t sweat that stuff. Why worry about getting ahead or any of that? It’s all bullshit anyways.”
Jason noticed wisps of steam from the front of the car, then a steady vapor rose from
underneath the hood and blew over the windshield. “Aw, shit.”
“Uh oh,” Randy said. “Looks like we’re going to need a ride.”
Jason decelerated and coasted to the right onto the shoulder of the freeway. “The last fucking thing I need,” he complained. He came to a stop and turned the ignition off. The engine hissed and steam wafted from underneath the hood. “We home yet?” Brian asked groggily from the backseat.
“No, go back to sleep,” Randy said. Jason reached under the left side of the dashboard, pulled a
handle, and the front of the hood popped up. He got out and walked to the front of the car. He carefully reached underneath the front of the hood while trying not to burn his hand. He found the metal lever, pushed it aside and lifted the hood all the way up as it released a cloud of steam.
“Hope it’s not the water pump,” Randy said as he looked down into the engine from the side.
Jason noticed Randy after not seeing him at first. “Probably just a hose.” He looked down behind the radiator and saw a thin jet of steam hissing out of the thick, black hose that connected the bottom of the radiator to the lower engine block. He leaned downward to get a better look.
“Yeah, looks like a hose,” Randy said as he also leaned in closer, “at least they’re cheap to replace, could be worse.”
Brian wandered up to the front of the car. “What happened?” he asked.
“We’re going to have a picnic,” Randy joked, “right here next to the freeway.” While they were all looking under the hood the vehicles sped by in a constant coming and going hum of tires spinning on pavement. The sun glared down on the arid landscape and baked the freeway asphalt and the dry dirt and weeds alongside. Smog and haze permeated the hot, dry air.
“I got some rags in the trunk,” Jason said. “I think I can tie it around the leak and get us to a gas station. Then I can put more water in the radiator.”
“Electrical tape would be better,” Randy said.
“Well, unless you can cough up a roll we’ll just have to make do with what we got.” Jason walked to the back of the car, opened the trunk, reached in and found a rag, closed the trunk, and returned to the front of the car. Randy surveyed the scene with a beer in his hand while Brian stood around lethargically.
“Let’s find a pay phone and call Todd or someone and get a ride,” Randy suggested. “No, we’ll
call Stu. He’s got Brian’s van.”
“What’s he doing with Brian’s van,” Jason asked.
Randy looked to Brian. “Why did you let Stu borrow your van?”
“He had to move some shit,” Brian answered tiredly.
“He had to move some shit,” Randy reported to Jason.
“I’ve got ears, Randy,” Jason said.
“So I guess there’s no way to get a hold of Stu,” Randy said.
“We’ll make it home,” Jason assured. “There should be a gas station at the next exit.” He went under the hood.
“Maybe you can get a new hose there,” Randy said.
“If they have the right one.” Jason found the steam sputtering pinhole size leak on the hose and began to tie a rag around it. He tried to avoid getting grime on himself as he reached down between the radiator and engine and worked the rag into a knot. “If they don’t, I’ll probably have to get one from a dealership, and those places love to rip you off.” The rag became wet as it minimized the leak.
“For sure,” Randy said as he sipped his beer. “We should get into that kind of business, something a little shady.”
“Nah,” Jason said as he closed the hood, “too messy. I don’t think Christine wants to see me with grease underneath my fingernails.” He looked over at Randy and Brian as they stood around by the car. “Thanks for the help, guys.”
“Anytime,” Randy said. Brian crawled into the backseat and Randy got in after him into the
passenger seat while Jason got into the driver’s seat. “Look, about what you were saying. I know
you’re just trying to help, and I appreciate it, really.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jason said.
“Tell you what, since you paid my way, I should do something for you.”
“Now, I know you love Christine,” Randy said, “but maybe sometimes you get a little curious as to what you’re missing out on.”
“Thanks, but I don’t need any of your ho’s.”
“No, I’m talking about Brian,” Randy kidded as he pointed to the backseat. “Serious, I’m going into the pimping business, and Brian’s going to be my first ho,” he laughed. Jason was unmoved. “Hey, lighten up, man. No need to get all serious.”
Jason shook his head as he tried to remain upset, then finally relented and laughed along with Randy as he started the car.
“Hey, what are you guys talking about?” Brian asked.
“Quiet, bitch!” Randy ordered.
©2017 Robert Kirkendall