For a guy who hates the sun, I sure found myself smiling this morning while standing beneath it. At 08:45 in the morning, lounging in my backyard, tea in hand, I could already feel the dense heat of an approaching summer’s afternoon. And despite my historical distaste of summer and sun, I couldn’t wrestle the tickle of an emerging smile.
I was struck by a sudden and charming rumination. As of late, schedules have permitted that my best friend and I spend more time together. Drew and I grew up alongside one another, meeting in grade six and shortly thereafter becoming zealously inseparable. And now, in our adult lives, we live in relative proximity to each other. However, as happens in adulthood, the bustle of parenting, work, work and more work dictates that we don’t get to spend as much time with one another as we’d likely enjoy to.
But as of late, life has seen fit to throw us a reprieve of sorts, and we have been taking mini-road trips together, touring around the mountains, lakes and desert lands of our province; it’s been pretty fantastic! But that’s not the rumination that was causing my sudden bout of levity…
When Drew and I were fourteen, we were… well… for lack of better terms — little shits! During that time in our lives, a rebellious call to action had taken hold of our adolescent brains. You would often find us tossing rocks at passing trains, mooning conductors of those said trains, swiping beers from my older brother, playing gags on unsuspecting people, making outrageous prank calls to one-eight hundred numbers, and of course a bevy of other mischievous undertakings. All in the pursuit of delinquent dopamine.
So then, what was it? What had me near to audible laughter while standing alone outside in the backyard? A simple remembrance of an old beat-up shopping cart that lamented rusted wails during any form of movement, and boasted a questionable front wheel…
Some years ago (too many at this point) on an unforgiving summer day when Drew and I were still recalcitrant young lads, we found ourselves lumbering about town in search of things to do, as well as some shade. We’d been to the local store, gotten some slushies, candies and a host of other cavity causing necessities, but we still had nothing to do on that dog day of summer.
Drew made the suggestion of going to the wharf, our town’s landmark destination. A beautiful place to enjoy, no matter one’s station in life, but the wharf was a place we frequented with tremendous repetition, so the prospect of once again traipsing around the lush emerald greens and wooden planks of that place hardly ignited enthusiastic gait from either of us. But on we went.
While meandering from sidewalk to alleyways, we exchanged in colloquial ballets that seemed important to us back then. We talked about girls, wrestling, girls, hockey, girls that play hockey, and other unquestionably critical topics — like girls!
Neither of us had much in the way of confidence when speaking to the fairer sex, but we always had great ideas of what we WOULD say, should the opportunity arise.
*SIDEBAR — The opportunity arose plenty of times during our formative years… we literally said nothing — OKAY, BACK TO THE STORY…*
Drew and I made it to the wharf, and by then the sun was hanging high in the sky, a sky baron of any cloud. It was so hot out you could almost hear the heat. Our slushies, or what was left of them, had turned to coloured sugar water, so we disposed of the plastic cups and made our way toward the boat launch next to the wharf. We were greeted by a sibilant orchestra of vibrating insects and other grass dwelling creatures. Drew and I cast our respective gaze toward the horizon, which was melting into a wabble in the distance.
“Man, there’s nothing to do in this town.” I bemoaned pitifully. Drew acknowledged, but he was always happy no matter where he was or what he was doing. It’s a gifted disposition that I have always admired. He began walking along one of the trails that hugged the waterline, I followed in behind. We talked wistfully about how cool living in a big city like New York would be. Believing that all of life’s answers resided outside the crawling pines of our humble abode. As we traversed deeper into the wooded area around the lake, something caused a stillness to our movement, something totally out of place and not at all native to the area — a glint just off to our left. Unable to make out what it was, even when squinting hard, and being motivated by myopic curiosity, we trundled through the overgrowth toward the sparkling mystery. I’m not sure why we were so drawn to it, but if you ask me now, I’d say it was fate! Resting several feet from the pathway now behind us was an aging metal shopping cart, hastily discarded by some unknown entity. How it got out there was anyone’s guess.
“What the heck is this doing way out here?” I asked. Drew shrugged his shoulders as we transformed into investigative super sleuths. This ole girl has seen many a produce and aisle before her unfortunate banishment to the forest floor. Vines and nature had started to reclaim her. I reached down and picked it up, situating it upright with wheels down. She stood on her own.
I’m not sure why what happened next unfolded the way it did, perhaps it was the heat, or maybe the adolescent pococurantism, whatever it was, the following sequence of events would go down in subjective history as the stuff of legend…
“Dude, lets take this thing for a rip, see if we can get through the drive-thru of Timmies?!” I queried gleefully. Remember when I said that Drew as always happy, no matter what we were doing or where we were? Yeah, well this was no different, he was all too happy to go along with the fatuous idea.
We picked it up and began struggling our way out of the bush. Once back on paved land, Drew hopped in and I pushed, a true dry-run to see how ole Carty would hold up — she did just fine. The front wheel was a little wonky and thus pulled heavily to the right, but nothing a little oversteer couldn’t correct.
While on our way to the Timmies downtown, I was struck, almost as if to have been by lightening, and stopped dead in my tracks. Drew turned around to observe my halted frame. “What?” He asked.
“Dude… how are we going to mimic the sound of a car? They are going to know that we aren’t in a vehicle and they’ll tell us to get lost!” Back then, at least in our town, drive-thru’s were not the biggest fans of adolescent bodies scurrying through their drive-thru lanes.
“I’ll just make truck noises, like this…” Drew proceeded to purse his lips together before having them vibrate in a violent oration of spittle and spatter, mimicking what he believed to be a facsimile of some form of motorized vehicle. And as funny as it was, I didn’t think that our two-lip cylinder cart car was going to be believable enough to make it through — and I wanted an Ice-Cap! While standing on the sidewalk, my hands on the handle and Drew’s teenage frame contorted within the metal cart, we garnered some inquisitive visual attention from those passing by. Before long I was once again stricken, but this time by an ingenious idea.
Without telling Drew, I just started driving the cart in a full sprint toward my place. By some miraculous gift from the universe, I was able to navigate the rolling hills of town with relative ease and skillful maneuvering. Drew held on for dear life, and before too long resumed his salivatory truck noises. He had no idea what we were doing, but also held not a care in the world.
After several inclines, twists and turns, we crested the final hill before my place. I stopped to catch my breath. Drew turned around, smiling. “That was fun… do it again!” He remarked. I returned a smile, unable to speak just yet. When able, I informed Drew of my master plan; now, this is where I might lose an audience of a younger disposition. Back in the day, there were these things called, boomboxes, and during my day, they even played C.D.’s (Don’t ask me what a C.D. is, please?! Just listen…)
I relayed to Drew that we were going to grab my boombox, microphone and a blank tape, go outside and record some idling engines as well as some roaring motors as they passed on by. The more I divulged to him, the more his smile grew — he knew exactly what I had planned…
I began pushing the cart for the final stretch, but Drew suddenly called out, halting me in place. “What is it? What’s wrong?” I asked, genuinely concerned.
“Let it go…” Drew said softly.
“Let it go… let the cart go.”
“Down the hill?”
“Yeah! I’ll steer it.”
My brow fell into apprehension at what Drew was suggesting. “Dude, there’s no steering wheel” I said. Drew then examined the interior of the cart and the area around where he was seated.
“Fuck it — I’ll lean. Let ‘er rip!”
That was all the convincing I needed. An inane smile had wiggled onto my big dumb face, and I gave the cart a slight push and then watched as it began to pick up speed while gravity and momentum guided it down the hill. Drew could be heard shouting, “Yippy! Wooooo!!” As he flew down in a poor man’s lethal bobsled. To my surprise, He had managed to maintain control for a lot longer than I had imagined he would. He had essentially made it to the bottom of the hill, but was now careening hard to the left toward some prickle bushes at the base of the hill. I stood and watched helplessly as my friend and his trusty steed sped ever closer to certain peril. And just like that, BOOM! Drew crashed into the bushes. I called out to him before taking off in a gallop down the hill.
“Drew! Drew…! Are you alright?” My final query came as I reached the crash site. Lain intertwined by a host of skin stabbing thorns was my best friend and his now overturned chassis. “Drew….” I said once more. He looked up at me, removed some foliage from the corner of his lips, and said…
“Worth it!” And with that, relief befell me. So did laughter. I helped he and the cart out of the bush and we resumed our trek. We would get the boombox from my house and manage to capture the recordings we were after. And once that was done, we situated the boombox in the cart with Drew, and made our way to Timmies — it was Ice-Cap time!
By way of fate, there were no vehicle ahead or behind us, so we maneuvered the cantankerous jalopy into place and pushed toward the intercom. Once close, I pressed the play button on the boombox and slowly raised the volume. The muffled sounds of motor began to emit through the crackling speakers, and as it did, we heard it…
“Welcome to Timmies, may I take your order?”
IT WORKED!!! Drew and I struggled to contain our laughter as we battled through our order, but we managed to do it. Once again by way of serendipity, the idle truck noise transitioned into movement perfectly in sync with us as we pulled to the drive-thru window. The lady at the window hadn’t taken visual note of us as of yet, but when she opened the window to hand us our order, she was met with the sight of two dumb kids, one of which was crumpled into a beat-up old shopping cart, smiling like a fool, and me, giggling helplessly while an idling truck engine played through a couple of aging speakers. I can’t quite describe the expression on her face, but reluctance was definitely within the mixture of her obfuscation.
We paid for our order and then I pressed fast-forward so as to get to the roaring engine part of the recording. It worked. As it played, we made our triumphant exit. Drew and I went to the only place we could think of to enjoy our freshly procured Iced Cappuccinos — the wharf.
We sat down at a picnic table and guffawed for hours at what we had just done. Every now and then, I’d tap the frame of the cart, and croon, “atta girl, Carty… atta girl.”
That’s what had me smiling. A playful memory of simpler times. And that’s how I get by the harder moments of life, it’s how I navigate the elongated months of summer, I accept them for what they are, and I make the best of it by remembering the good amidst the bad.
So, with that, I’ll say this… enjoy the rest of your summer.
A big dumb kid.