Snorky made the buy as we waited behind the Dugout Bar. Chuck had been feeling low since he’d been dumped by his girl. We’d worked a long day harvesting in the August heat. I hoped a night of drinking and swimming would do us both good. “Where you boys headed?” Snorky asked, putting the beer and whiskey in the truck bed.
“You taking any girls or you homos just getting it on together?” Chuck’s grip on the steering wheel tightened. I wasn’t in the mood for a fight.
“Lay off, Snorky. You don’t have to be a prick every day of your life.” Snorky’s face went dark. He slapped his hands on the roof and backed away.
“You assholes want a buyer again, you look to someone else. And you get caught with that, remember . . . .”
“Yeah, yeah, we don’t know you. Sheriff never gives it a second look, Snorky, don’t you worry that empty little head of yours.”
“Yep, just a couple of peckerheads. Get the fuck outta here before I call the sheriff on ya myself.”
“Real smart, Snorky. Who you think will be in jail longer, you or us?” Snorky started back toward the truck but Chuck had had enough and hit the gas, kicking up gravel and dust with spinning tires.
We stopped by the Dairy Queen for footlong dawgs with barbeque and the works. Angela was working and she whipped up two freebie chocolate shakes without us even asking. We wolfed down the chow while we flirted with a carload of girls from Vesleyville. They told us there’d be a party at the old boxcar, that we should come by, and we said we just might, knowing we wouldn’t.
Load Road was a seldom-used gravel road that disappeared down a coulee before coming to a dead end at an abandoned farmstead a mile on the other side. The road had a bridge straddling the small stream running through the bottom of the coulee. Kids had been damming it for years, creating a swimming hole sometimes deep enough to where we could jump off the bridge and not break our necks.
We had the place to ourselves. I slammed another beer and listened to the sounds of grasshoppers, flies, birds, and frogs. I’d seen the movie The Karate Kid at the Lyric Theater in Park River last Friday with my girlfriend. I didn’t give a shit about karate and kinda thought the kid was a douchebag, but living by the ocean and partying on the beach looked pretty swell. Our swimming hole, full of skeeters and leeches, was no ocean, not by a long shot. I had been here hundreds of times. It was starting to feel small.
Chuck was already in the water. I stripped down and waded in.
“Where do you wanna go after graduation?” I asked.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I like it right here.”
“What are you going to do here?”
“Same stuff I’m doing now. Work a shitty job, drink, fuck.”
“You could do all that somewhere else,” I said.
“Why would I go someplace else?”
“How ‘bout for new girls?”
“I’m gonna get her back, man.”
“Dude, she’s done. She’s probably going to marry Travis. You need to let her go.”
“I can’t. It’s her. She’s the one.” We got out and lay shivering on the grass. We each took another pull from the bottle.
“I’m going to California,” I said. “You should come with me.”
“What the fuck’s so great about California?”
“Nothing. Everything. Shit, I don’t care, pick somewhere. I just want to go somewhere new for a while. How about Montana?”
“Everyone I’ve met from Montana is a dickhead. Cham-peen, world class dickhead.”
“Takes one to know one.” His mood was wearing on me. I pulled on my jeans and t-shirt, grabbed another beer. I looked at Chuck as he lay naked, eyes closed, silent. He’d be the next Snorky, buying booze for minors, going nowhere.
The mud at the edge of the hole grabbed my toes, then sucked my feet in deeper. Small minnows darted beneath shadows of water bugs.
“Why don’t you stay here with me?” he said.
The sounds of night thickened, a prairie with so much to say. His question seemed unanswerable.
Tayo Basquiat is from the northern plains of North Dakota but currently resides in Laramie, WY where he is a candidate in the MFA creative writing program at the University of Wyoming. He teaches philosophy and religion classes for Bismarck State College, is an avid adventurer, and a champion of public humanities programming. His work has appeared in On Second Thought, Northern Plains Ethics Journal, and as producer for Wyoming Public Media’s “Spoken Words” podcast.