It was the summer before high school; I was 16 years old. I sat with Slurpee in hand, cogitating about how things were about to change. You see, up to that point in my life, I had never felt it necessary to ponder on the segue from boyhood to manhood. That is to say, that I was blissfully enamoured by living in the moment. Sure, my teenage, wayfarer mind trundled the contemplative cobble stone of fantasy from time to time. But outside of wishing to marry Jordana Brewster or Katie Holmes, my thinking space was typically manacled to the immediate of my surroundings. But, on that quiet summer evening, whilst parked atop a picnic table, sipping chilled sugar and syrup, I observed as the daytime blue gave way to the violet of a June night, and was helpless against the anxious ponderances of change.
Entering high school (at least, to my urchin brain) meant that it was time for all things deemed “immature” to end. The remaining two years of scholastic responsibility were for hardnosed studying and adherence to curriculum. A task I was less than stellar at by that time in my schoolboy career. Something about the idea of high school simply made me feel as though it was now time to really settle in and get things done. Because after this, there were no mulligans. Only mistakes. And mistakes in the real world can be rather costly.
The sun and its warmth continue to recede behind the forested pines of overlooking mountains. I tossed a hoodie on and remounted my bike. The six-speed silver bullet of adolescent independence. I began to meander my way back home. My mind, still weighted in thought. I stopped by the fairgrounds, resting my hand against the chain-link fence, peering in at the empty lot. My minds eye could re-create where all the rides were going to be come this fall. The Fall Fair was a staple of our town. It was also the first major event to happen after school had started back up. A place where all the teens would go to find respite from both books, and parents.
Got into a fight there, once. It was more of a shoving match, but back then, that was a big deal. I still say that I won… she wasn’t even that tough. KIDDING! I didn’t fight a girl—I ran away! Moving on…
Night had fully washed over me now. I knew it was time to start heading back home. Whilst my unwavering legs powered my bike, my brain was struck by a sudden jolt of juvenile brilliance! My eyes widened, I leaned further forward on my push bike and began hastily racing toward home. I didn’t even wait for the momentum of the bike to come to a complete stop before dismounting and hurdling in through the door and up to my room.
I grabbed the cordless phone and dialed the most important number stored in memory—my buddy Drew’s place. The phone rang once or twice, I exchanged cordialities with Drew’s mom before she handed the phone to my very best friend.
“Bro, I have an idea. A god damn stroke of genius, I’m tellin ya!” By the end of this pontification, I heard a sliver of doubt accompany Drew’s response. This was likely because all my previous mastermind ideas had landed us in some form of trouble or another. But this one was flawless! It was not only going to work, but it would become the stuff of legend!!!
“Drew… okay… we go to high school in a few weeks, right?”
“Far as I’m aware, yep.”
“Right! So, kinda means we need to grow up a little and buckle down, so on and so forth.”
“Well… what if we dedicate these remaining few months to adolescent delinquency?”
“I like where your head’s at. Go on…”
“You, me, Robbie, Steve, and Dom; we all get together as much as we can for these remaining days of summer—my house can be the base of operations—and we go full-out doing the shit we have always wanted to do. I’m talking more prank calls, more Nicky-Nine door and yes, more huckin’ rocks at semi trailers and trains! One last ride of idiocy! Whaddaya say?”
“Firstly, that’s not genius. It’s just like all the stuff we do now, but on a shortened timeframe.” I could always count on Drew to rip the wind out of my sails. “But… sounds fuckin awesome! Let’s do it!!” And I could also count on him to be right beside me through all things thick and dumb!
“YES! Okay, ask your mom if you can sleep over at my place tomorrow. I’ll ring the boys and get them to do the same. I’ll call you back later!”
And that’s exactly what I did; I called Steve, Robbie, and Dom. Robbie and Dom were good to go, but Steve was going to be out of town until the end of summer. He would be missed, but idiocy waits for no man!
The next night, the boys and I all got together and while playing videogames in my room, discussed the course of action. Each of us flying high on the rush of sugar and snacks. Our speech was fast and intensified. I heard muffled shouts, laden in British inflection seep in through the floor from downstairs—it was my mum—she demanded quietude from us. We obliged the best we could.
Act one of our fatuity was about to unfold; “Boys, Miss Cleo… lets call the psychics!” Dom’s baritone halted each of us.
“Yes! Robbie, switch the channel, find the number.” Around 10 p.m. each night, infomercials for Miss Cleo’s psychic hotline would grace television screens everywhere, and if my friends and I were around, we would not miss and opportunity to put their clairvoyant capabilities to the test.
Now, keep in mind, to speak to an actual psychic cost money. Money we did not have. So, we would keep the call-taker on the line with us for as long as they could bear. I went first. My fingers danced atop the alphanumeric pads of the phone and after placing the receiver to my ear, I heard that glorious, automated introduction; You have questions… I have the answers! Miss Cleo’s voice assured.
After a couple of rings, a teleoperator answered the line…
“Hello, welcome to Miss Cleo’s Psychic hotline. May I start with your name and address, please?” Lowering my chin and disguising my voice in hopes of sounding more adult, I would respond.
“Yes. Yes… sure. My name is… wait… aren’t you supposed to already know that?” I could always feel the person on the other end of the phone, their annoyance and forced stoicism.
“Sir, I am just the intermediary, I get the information for our psychics. Now, may I please have your name and address?”
“So… you’re not a psychic? But… you work at a psychic hotline?”
“I see. Well, I bet you wish you were… because then you’d have been able to see this coming…” After espousing my ambiguous statement, I handed the phone off to, Dom, who was waiting with stored fart halted in the chamber. He grabbed the handheld and placed it… well—you know where—and proceeded to detonate a rectal clapper that can best be described as a poorly tuned helicopter flying through water!
We disintegrated into untamed laughter and hung up the phone. This is an act that would repeat itself throughout the night. Back then there was always a risk that my mum would pick up the phone downstairs in hopes of making a call, only to hear an enraged call-taker followed by cackling teenagers.
Eventually, even for us, the tomfoolery had to come to an end. We now lay in our respective sleeping areas whispering and confabulating about what and where we could go next. During that sleeping bag roundtable, the idea was born that we should all sleep over at Drew’s place. He lived a little way out of town, and we knew that with summer in full effect, asking his parents to let us sleep in a tent in the backyard would be no problem. This would allow us to use the cover of night to slink off and stand by the highway, concealed by foliage local to the area. And from hidden fortification, we could chuck stones at unsuspecting semi trailers.
Now, yes, we were little assholes. But we never aimed at the cab of any vehicle. It was always the trailer itself. Hitting a palm sized rock against the broadside of fast-moving metal always gave ignition to a mischievous sound our rabble had grown to love. We were seemingly addicted to it.
The next morning, Drew had gotten the greenlight to bring us all home with him. Knowing this would likely be the last time all of us would have collective permission to do something, especially before school started back up, we knew we had to make the most of this. So, we broke off into teams to make procurements. Dom decided that no debauchery was complete without the introduction of Mr. Greenside… some weed. So, off he went, along with Robbie. Drew and I placed snacks and carbonated beverages on the pedestal of importance, and off we went. Later in the afternoon, with a relentless summer sun beating down on us all, we regrouped and piled into Drew’s 1983 Honda civic and began making trek to his place.
On arrival, we wasted no time; we set up the tent, sleeping arrangements and collected wood for a fire later that night. And then, Dom surprised us all…
“Boys… who wants… a beer?!”
“Beer?” I squawked, with zeal?
“Yessir. Copped em from my old man’s fridge. Now who wants one?”
The answer was obviously, all of us. So, we obliged his generosity. That afternoon, we scouted out our hiding place and gathered a heaping helping of baseball sized rocks, piling them in behind the bush where we were going to hide out when night fell.
In memory, this was one of the more splendid afternoons of my life. Just a carefree experience with my closest friends of that time. No worries of job, money, commitment or anything really. Just me and the boys, swigging beers, smoking joints and laughing the ticking seconds of time away.
Night would eventually come. And again, the sky was glittered with an infinite expanse of sparkling jewels. With bellies full of booze, weed and some questionable gas station food, we made our way to the bushes across the street and down the road from Drew’s place. We waited for everyone in Drew’s house to fall asleep before sneaking out from the tent. Moving like skillful soldier’s, we navigated the dark as though it was our ally. Which it would turn out to be…
When we got to the bushes, we cracked our remaining beers, downing them quickly and then waited for our first motorized victim. It didn’t take long before our ears alerted us of an oncoming beast. That unmistakable, low hum of weighted steel slithering along winding road neared ever closer. Our heads turned at the same time and met with the glowing eyes of our target. The engine, snarling and rattling in its cage. It was almost time. A sudden woosh of fast-moving rubber and metal began to speed past, and as it did, we each cocked our arms back and volleyed a jubilant cascade of rocks toward its ass end.
Boom! Clap! Smack!! Wham!!! Direct hit!
We sunk in behind the bush and started howling in delight. Why we found this so amusing, I’ll never truly know. But, had we stopped there, who knows if we’d learn our lesson. A lesson forthcoming.
We repeated this sneak-attack several more times before Dom’s eyes caught sight of a target of opportunity—a bus! We had never thrown at anything other than semi-trailers and trains, so we assumed he was merely joking when he introduced the idea of tossing a rock at it—surely he was not that crazy? So, Drew, Rob and I stayed crouched beneath our cascara and arbutus concealment, while Dom readied himself. Unbeknown to us. By the time we realized that he was actually gonna do it, it was too late. Dom stretched his arm back as though he was pitching in the last inning of the big game, curled his upper lip and raised his left leg, bending at the knee to provide more torque. In one fluid motion, he sent forth a most triumphant of throws. Sending the rock on a one-way destination to passing glass and metal.
A stomach-churning clump was heard collectively by us all. Dom immediately fell to the ground, guffaw and all, shouting, “holy shit, there were sparks! There were sparks!! Did you all see that?”
“Dom, you fucking idiot! I told you not to throw at a bus!!” Drew commanded. Drew partook in all of our shenanigans, but he staved off getting in any trouble over the years because he was able to think ahead and plan accordingly. Tossing rocks at metal was one thing—tossing rocks where people might be sat was another thing entirely. Each of us, still speaking at whisper’s hush, took turns scolding Dom. I almost felt bad because Dom took this pretty personally. So, when seeing that, we all laughed it off and made him feel as though it was alright. And like a dog who had recently been scorned, but realizing he still loved, he began to reanimate.
We threw rocks at a few more semi’s and as our petrologic ammunition began to dwindle, we had thoughts of calling it a night and heading back to the tent. But, as fate would have it, that was not to be the plan. You see, Dom really did hit a bus… a Greyhound passenger bus! It shattered a window and covered some poor unsuspecting patron of travel in a shower of glass. The bus driver must have radioed this in and through subsequent channels, the police were called.
“Holy shit, duck!” Drew said, tugging on my shoulder and pulling me down to the earth.
“What? What the fuck, bro?”
“A cop! There’s a cop on the other side of the street!”
My eyes widened in worry. I used my fingers to protrude through the foliage of which we used as refuge. Through a tiny gap, I saw the police cruiser, its lights were off, and it was parked facing us. No doubt he had been watching us perform our destructive sybaritism.
No sooner after observing the police cruiser, it came to life, nictating and yelling metallic wails in our direction. In a burst of adrenaline filled thought, we ran! Yes, we ran from the police! With no clear destination in mind, we just sprinted as fast as we had ever ran. Drew, the fastest of all of us, disappeared into the black of night. Dom veered off to my right and now Robbie and I were left darting straight ahead with a police car rapidly gaining on us. To my right, the corner of my eye saw a dirt road. Not knowing nor caring where it led, I grabbed Robbie by the shirt and shouted, “this way!” As soon as I made the turn, I gasped in horror; it led to an encased power box for railyard use—a dead end. Not knowing what else to do, I once again grabbed Robbie and hurled both he and I into the dense, forested brush beside us. We ran, snapping through twigs, branches and knee-high overgrowth.
I could hear pointed demands for our cessation of movement, but my legs would not stop. Once sufficiently in the dense brush, both Robbie and I fell to our backs and began covering ourselves with dirt, leaves and whatever else nature had for us to use. An officer’s light crawled atop of the leaves and through the thick, high-reaching pines. This is one of the most ominous of images my mind holds through to this very day.
The cop was unable to find us. For a split moment in time, I began to think that we had gotten away with it. But that phantasmal dream rapidly fell apart upon hearing the voices of Drew’s parents calling our names. They were up on the highway with the officers. The jig was up, and we were screwed!
It’s funny to say, but in that moment, an ephemeral wave of tranquility and acceptance washed over me. I sat up, assuring Robbie that everything was going to be alright. Together, we made the decision to climb the steep embankment leading to the highway, and turn ourselves in. So that’s what we did.
I was arrested that night. We all were. Handcuffs and all. I was taken to the police station and placed in a room where I was to await the arrival of one angry mother—mine. I asked the officer if I could stay in jail…
I wouldn’t see nor speak to my friends again until the very last day of junior high. A day where seniors were to pick up their belongings and sign out of the system on the march toward high school. We met out front of the school. Each of us donning apprehensive grins of acknowledgment at what had transpired mere days before. It was strange, but my friends all looked older to me now. And I felt older. Its as though unwittingly, and unceremoniously, we had completed exactly what we set out to do; end our delinquency with a bang. Or a smash, as it were.
In the days and weeks that followed, my friends and I would have to apologize for what we did. We had to do community service and pay a steep fine. My community service was done at no other place, than the fall fair. And that’s where I fell in love with a lady clown. But that’s a story for another time…
For now, lets all just revel in the mulligan that I was gifted at 16.
Oh! And you may be wondering… did we stop being little shits? Was that reality check enough of a wake-up call to smarten us up? Short answer? No. No it wasn’t. But it was the last time that we threw rocks at anything. Our illegal exploits had seemingly been put to bed. But, like I said, I fell in love with a lady clown, so, how much could I really have learned…?
Anyway, that was the story of our last summer. The summer of lasts. And the summer, before high school.