Montesano vs. Raymond

Ed note:  while going through an old box,  I realized that the following was never turned in.  It is a half century late, but a commitment to the Montesano High School English Department is a commitment. 

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Montesano vs. Raymond  Spring 1969

THE ASSIGNMENT

The meeting was at noon.  “Good,” I said to myself.  “This gives me time to prepare for the old bastard”.

I had long ago figured out where the bottle of peach schnapps was hidden.  Up behind the oatmeal box my mother fostered on us poor kids at every opportunity.  I had been watering it down so much lately that you really had to commit to the bottle and not half-ass the effort.  A little strained after shave chaser…… and I was ready to go to my interview at the Vidette.

It was a short walk from my house on Marcy and my mind kept running to Revelations.  “I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution …”    Were the end times here?   Was I being tested?  I thought about blowing he whole thing off and returning home, but It was too late.   I was at the office.

“Close the damn door!” were the first, and almost last,  words the editor ever said to me.  What  15 year old would be all that excited about dealing with the situation in the first place.  If it wasn’t for the constant relentless nagging from my English Teacher Mrs. Savage,  and threats over my grade,  I would never have walked through that cursed door.  I was sure that old woman hated me and was taking some sort of perverse pleasure in my suffering sending me down here.  

A stuffy old office smelling like paper and photographic chemicals,  The Vidette had been around for going on a hundred years and it reeked of it.  Old moldy papers everywhere supporting what I can only assume were the remnants of discarded lunches and dashed dreams.  “Reporters, ”  I shrugged under my breath.  “Nothing but animals”.

“Mind if I smoke?”  I said,  reaching into a shirt pocket.  “You’re a kid, of course I freaking mind you smoke!”    After offering the pack in his direction,  we lit up and settled down into the soft faux leather chairs of the lobby.  An evil eyed wench, who I was sure practiced magic arts,  peering over undersized glasses casting darts in my direction from the reception area.  She  distracted most of what the old windbag was saying,  but I got the jist.  Even through the stale schnapps haze I was in.

I looked at the odd clock on the wall and was more interested in why it didn’t tick as the second hand moved along than what this old bastard was saying.  I did get that he needed someone to cover the Monte/Raymond basketball game that night.  Something about his guy off with some big bottomed woman.  He bummed another cigarette and we agreed that I would attend the game and file a report.  Satisfying that teacher who was single handedly ruining my well laid out plans for high school.  1.  Do as little as possible.  2.  Find a girlfriend with a job.  That was it.  Pretty simple, I thought.  Never ever let a teacher see something in you.  They won’t let go of you.  Best to hide in the back of the class.

The more he talked, the more I could smell his after shave and wanted to get out of there and strain a bit more at home before running back to school.   As his hand reached for the ashtray,  I saw my chance and lunged for it with the speed of a politician after a cash envelope.  “What about the cost of the ticket?”  “Should I see the old lady over there?”   He grumbled a bit saying something about receipts and fished a five out of his oversized pocket.  All sorts of things came  tumbling out with it.  Disgusting bits of used tissue, candy wrappers.  “Reporters,”  I was thinking shaking my head.

As I was leaving,  the fiver felt pretty good in my hand, I knew It would find a use before the day was over.  There wouldn’t be any change.

I’d read the Vidette, who didn’t if you lived in the town?  There wasn’t much in there of interest.  No cartoons or anything else that would keep people coming back to it. 

There were local tie-in stories about the upcoming moon landing that summer.   Man on the street reaction type of thing.   Ya, like that was really going to happen.  More likely that rocket would fire off, sail past the moon and head out forever into the deep maw of blackness and nothingness.  Poor dumb bastards.

The paper talked a lot about Nixon and his new Vietnamization program ramping up.  That, we paid attention to.  It was really starting to fire up and all of us in school knew we had a first class ticket to watch the show in person.  It was our duty to kill that Commie scum.  The Great Red Dragon itself.  That seven headed foul spirited Communist beast spewing from hell ready to devour us.  Hell yes, we were ready to fight.  Damn it!.

Our biggest fear was there wasn’t going to be anything left for us!  Dick Nixon was already hard at wiping this threat to humanity off the map.   Lucky bastards in the classes in front of us were going to be binding those devils and getting all the glory.

Best not to think about it too much.  I had a basketball game to cover.

After a quick stop at home, I hot-footed it back to the high school,  stopping behind the big tree near the West entrance for a smoke.  I needed to calm down a bit as I had no plan as to how I was going to actually cover this monumental major story.  Lives could be depending on the success of this mission.  A plan was needed.

Julieanna was behind the tree when I got there.  Crying and constantly pushing her owl-like glasses up and honking into what I hoped was a handkerchief and not her sleeve.  “Bad day Julie?” I asked her, which made her start bawling even more.  She had been sent home as her skirt was more than four inches above her knee when she kneeled down.   I tried to make her feel better and offered to re measure.  Anything to help.  She was a good kid.

“Another reason we were fighting the Communists,” I thought.  Protecting the morality of the nation!  There was talk of letting the female teachers in the school start wearing pants to work.  Pants!  Thank God Nixon had won.

I thought about inviting her along, but didn’t want to deal with her drama.  There was enough going on.  I gave her a smoke and took off for the door.

A PLOT IS HATCHED

It was just past 1:00 and I knew it was a waste of time to go to class and instead decided to sneak up to the top floor detention section.  I needed to slide up the West stairs and past the principal’s office.   They were too stupid to leave the door open, most of the time,  and figured there was a good fifty fifty chance of not being seen.   The schnapps had warn off and I was feeling a little shaky,  but eventually made it past the office and found Roger pretending to be reading a book in the back of the room.

I knew  Roger was needed as he was the only one I knew I could get on such short notice that was old enough – that had actually gotten a drivers license.  

A sickly skinny type of kid that figeted with his hands way too much, but Roger was all right.  He had hurt himself with some weight lifting contraption he bought from the back of a comic book a couple of years earlier and never really healed right.  Stealing a car was much too risky for this adventure.  Roger also hated Montesano and would do anything to get out of town.  Even if it was just for an evening.

Roger had escaped several times, once making it all the way to Portland.  I would need to keep and eye on him in case he got any bright ideas.

After explaining the earth shaking gravity of importance of this situation, we figured that he could go down to Whitney’s and get his mother’s Ford station wagon that was in for an oil change and lube.  Telling them he was there to pick it up early instead of waiting till the next morning.  I would be standing by a phone to act as the responsible adult vehicle owner in case some do gooding bastard at the dealership decided to check out the story.

Our transportation secured, we turned our attention to supplies.  

“It’s a long way there and back,” Roger said.  “We have to be prepared”.   I couldn’t have agreed with him more.   

As he closed up his book to go deal with the station wagon,  I reminded him….”make sure they fill it with gas, wash it,  and charge it to the bill”.  I then turned my attention to gathering supplies.

Next, we needed a bit of muscle.  Raymond wasn’t like the sophisticated folk here in Montesano.  It was a rough town where the ships that weren’t good enough to port at Aberdeen went.  Manned by grizzly men who would tear your worthless soul from your body just for looking at them.  The townsfolk confused weak-minded chumps who voted for that Communist loving Humphrey!  We couldn’t take any chances with our safety.  Not with people like that!

BIG MIKE

I found Big Mike down at Fleet park.  He sat there most afternoons hawking his supply of so-so weed.  Big Mike was a reservation kid whose father had gotten a job up at the county offices and was going to a private school.  He had a bad attitude and didn’t think much of the kids here….even less of the kids in other towns.  After a bit of coaxing and explaining the marketing opportunities of expansion of his business outside of town, he agreed to join us and bring along plenty of samples.

I should say that although he was an astute businessman, his product leaved something to be desired.  Big Mike had a nasty habit of cutting the already dry Mexican shake he had his hands on with his uncle’s pipe tobacco and whatever else he was able to sprinkle into the mix for a kick.  You never knew what you were going to get, or where it was going to take you.    Which is why he had such a successful business.    

Three O’clock.  Panic was setting in as I was running out of time.   We had to be on the road by 5:30 at the latest if we were going to have any chance at all of making it to the game.  There were a couple of stops out of town we had to make as well.  I could feel the anxiety building like an explosion.

With Big Mike in toe,  I started walking in the direction of Main Street and the payphone next to the Bee Hive to wait for Roger’s dealership call.   All while trying to not look suspicious.  This was difficult, as on the way from the park, we sparked up what Big Mike referred to as “something that would change everything”.  

For a little while it did.   Swirilling  little clouds of fire started to follow our footsteps.  No matter how fast we moved they were following us.  It took about twenty minutes standing on the war memorial stature by the post office for what I assume was  some sort of evil mescaline based concoction kicker Big Mike had put in that damn pot to wear off enough to even attempt the walk to the pay phone again.  We moved more slowly this time, taking advantage of available cover along Pioneer Avenue and eventually made it there.

Big Mike and I waited for what seemed an eternity, but the phone never rang.  Eventually Roger pulled up in the freshly washed two toned nut brown beast of a vehicle.  Its duel barrel carburetor dripping gasoline faster than the engine could consume it and filling the air with a hot tint of smoke and fire.  God it was huge and demanded respect.  

Grinning, Roger shouted “get in,  I don’t want anybody to see me”.

“I got the front seat” and jumped quickly through the door that Roger had leaned over to open.  Apparently his little brother had broken the window and door lock after reading a book on auto mechanics and taking the tinkering a bit too far. 

Big Mike took stock of the back seat and carefully situated himself behind us.  The car had power seats and Roger cranked it full up to make room for Big Mike.   I already told you he was big. Not fat, just big.  Where a seat like that would comfortably hold three people, Big Mike took most of the real estate.  He didn’t like to be touched either.  I knew what was coming and only hoped I could manage the situation.  Our knees damn near pushed up to our chest, we lumbered off.

DON

The next stop was the Thriftway parking lot.  There was always some pathetic town rummy hanging around who had run out of money and would be willing to go in and get us a case of Olympia.  It took less than ten minutes to find one and secure the transaction.  One dollar and six cigarettes got us the go between.  “Finally something going right,” I said to myself.  Even Roger was starting to man up and take this assignment seriously.  “I’m just sticking to speed”  “I want to stay sharp”.    “Good for you Roger,”  I was thinking to myself.  We needed a responsible driver for this trip.  

We were on our way to our last supply stop now.  Up the Satsop to Don’s house.  Nobody in the car was looking forward to this.

It was about a fifteen minute drive up there and gave us time to acquaint ourselves with the vehicle.  Cigarette lighter…check.  Radio…..check.  We were all quite pleased and complimented  Roger on acquiring such a fine and comfortable example of true American craftsmanship.  Roger wasn’t used to compliments and really began to get into his driver role.  Asking if everyone was “comfortable”, offering to adjust the temperature.  Nobody would say it, but we were all glad for him.  Life hadn’t been easy for him.  He was happy now, even if it involved sort-or stealing his mother’s car.  Sort of.

Don was a great kid.  Energetic and full of life.  You just knew he was going to go on to great things.  He was short, real short, but that didn’t seem to bother him and it was infectious.  After a while you didn’t even notice it.    He lived with a couple of older cousins who were making most of their money from moonshine in the shed out back of his house.  Don was ok, but those cousins thought everyone was either a Government spy or someone trying to steal their shit.  They had a lot of guns and liked to shoot them.  Spent cartridges and shot gun shells were all over the driveway leading up to the front door.  It was like walking on popcorn.  

You had to go through two gates and past a couple of chained dogs just to knock on the door.  They were feeding road kill to the dogs and there were bones from horribly twisted animal carcasses of all sorts littering the area.  I didn’t want to come here and involve Don, but damn it, I needed a camera.

I didn’t have a camera but knew Don did.   This was an important stop.   I might want a picture of the game for the newspaper.  I was a professional journalist.

Roger wouldn’t get out of the car.  We had taken him there recently after reading about the Chinese using a water-drip on the forehead method to torture our fighting men over in Viet Nam for information.  We wanted to know if it worked.  

Don rigged up a contraption from old still equipment in one of the sheds and we tied Roger up to test it.  We strapped him to a lawn chair, leaned it back and put a bright light on him.  Then started the drip drip drip.  It didn’t work as Roger was too quick to start confessing.  Don and I figured he just wanted to confess.  We had come up with a better plan and Roger knew it….he wasn’t taking any chances that this trip wasn’t just a ruse to get him there and perfect our interrogation techniques.  

Mao’s  cultural revolution program was only a couple of years old but really ramping up.  None of us wanted this red menace forcing our mothers into the fields so everyone was on edge.  Roger shouted out the window “I’ve already told you everything I know”…….”we’ll see about that Roger…..we’ll see,”  I was thinking to myself.

Avoiding the door, I knocked on Don’s window and he quickly slid it up.  Grinning, he whispered and pointed “wait there, I’ll come out”.  I didn’t want to wait there, the thought of ending up in that pile of road kill was on my mind.  The stale mescaline from Big Mike’s pot wasn’t making my paranoia any less easy to manage.  By the time I had decided to creep back to the car, Don ran around the back corner of the house.  

“I hate to bother you Don, but I need you.  The town needs you”.  I related what was going on and how desperately we needed to borrow his camera.  

True to his nature, Don was more than willing to loan me the polaroid camera.  It only had two pictures left from the ten pack he had put in it about a year ago, still, it should be enough.  Even if the flash was broken.   Don insisted that he come along as it was a technical piece of photographic equipment and only he was trained in its operation.   I knew he would.  He was just that kind of guy.  

“Wait here,”  he yelled,  and disappeared into a side shed by a dog chewing on a bone bigger than it was.  I was running over the possible creatures that would make up a road kill diet and couldn’t think of an animal that would produce a bone of that size.  At least not one you would find in the road.  Before I could zero in on what animal it came from,  Don came running up with a red plastic milk crate full of quart sized soda bottles that he had filled with his cousin’s best shine.  “These will fool anybody, trust me,”  he said,  as he lifted the tailgate out and shoved the case in the back.

With the grace of a dancer, Don slid into the small open pocket in the back seat with Big Mike.  Careful to arrange himself so he didn’t touch him, and we were off!

We knew it was a long drive of a good forty-five minutes or so and made a pack to lay off everything but the beer until we got close to Raymond.

THE EDITOR’S HOUSE

About this time,  we realized we had spent most everything we had on supplies and needed money.  The only thing we could think of was fleecing that old geezer editor out of a few more bucks for the road.

He had gone home for the day, but Don knew where he lived, so we stopped by his house. 

Roger and I got out to knock on his door.  Roger was nervous,  so I told him to keep those fidgety hands of his in his pockets and let me do the talking.  “He knows me,”  I told Roger.  “We work together, everything will be fine”.

Before I could knock, the door swung open suddenly – “What the hell are you freaking kids doing here?”  he shouted.  My Editor, yes, he was my Editor now…. was wearing a too tight wife beater tee shirt and the same pathetic baggy editor pants he was wearing in the office.  “Newspaper people,”  I muttered to myself.   I couldn’t help but wonder if there was more money in those pockets.

“Look,”  I said still standing in the doorway, “I hate to bother you but I know how important this story is to you and my English Teacher.”  I  introduced him to Roger,  as my driver,  and everything seemed to calm down a bit.  “It’s getting late in the day and we were wondering if the newspaper could spring for a couple of meals for us on the road?”   

Like the whistle on a cartoon steam train he reared back for a minute and proceeded to shout, spit, and scream about personal responsibility and the duties of a reporter.  I wasn’t sure if he was drunk or not, but right then, I knew….he wasn’t a Communist sympathizer and someone who deserved a bit of respect.  Maybe I had been wrong about him.

He settled down enough after I offered him a cigarette that Roger asked him to use the bathroom.  This gave me the time to drive home how important it was to me, the entire Montesano High School English Department, and the town…. to complete this assignment professionally.    I also told him that I realized the weight and reputation of the entire paper was resting on my shoulders at the moment.

He only had another five bucks on him but he did add a half bag of sugar cookies and full bag of potato chips for the road.   I thought about asking for some of that fruit I saw on the living room table.  God knew we could use the vitamin C after the mescaline.  Not wanting to be a bother,  we just apologized again for the disturbance  Roger and I waving and relating that we only wanted to do a proper job that the paper would be proud of as we walked to the curb and the waiting brown beast.  

THE DRIVE

Our plan was to take the longer way and go through Central Park and into Aberdeen to cut over to Raymond and see if anyone was hanging around outside the drive in.  We figured we could make a few bucks on the shine and weed.  That was cut short though.  As soon as we crossed the Wynoochee, there was a state cop on our tail.

These state police were serious business.  Not like the Montesano cops, who were more likely to just make you pour your beer out and walk home.   And then call your dad.   They were ok though. There were only two of them and they stayed mostly in their office.

Roger was in a full panic and it was all we could do to keep him calm and not constantly looking in the mirror.  “Drive natural,”  Don was whispering.  “I’ve been driving for a week, what’s natural?”  Roger shot back through a clenched jaw.  Everyone was sitting perfectly still while Roger maintained the speed to one mile per hour under the speed limit.  Our drivers ed teacher, Mr. Izzi, told us this would make us too boring and the cop would eventually move on.  And he was right.

Unfortunately we were followed for way too long and missed the turn into the drive inn.  Damn it!

We were exhausted.  Roger pulled over off the hwy and we broke out the shine.  We need to calm down.  Damn the pact!  Big Mike fired up a monster joint and we felt somewhat better by the time we rolled into Aberdeen.

We figured the best way to go through town is if the three of us ducked down so that it looked less suspicious.  This really freaked Roger out and he kept looking over at me crouched on the floor and over his shoulder to the back seat.   The more we told him to look straight ahead the more he kept looking at us.  Talking out of the side of his mouth.

The wagon fell in behind some truck with a bumper sticker telling him to  “Get Back”.  That was it for poor Roger.  He was sure it was a sign and started crying.  Not out and out balling, but definitely crying.  He was losing it.  The stress, the speed, everything.  And now this bumper sticker telling him to “Get Back”.  “ Get back where and to who?” he side mouthed me.  

The more we tried to tell him to act natural and ignore the truck, the more he was sure fate was playing with him.  And then the truck pulled off.  “See Roger, thats a sign to go forward,”  Don said from the back floor.  

About the time we figured he was never going to make it, the wagon started an up hill climb and we knew we were coming out of Cosi and away from civilization.   It was a straight shot to Raymond.   We made it through.

The smell was god-awful in that wagon.  Roger’s brother had been using the back like a pick up truck to haul fertilizer for a few extra bucks and the leftover odor just kept getting worse.  Everyone had a window they could roll down except me.  Between the horse crap and the stench of Big Mike’s pipe tobacco pot it was all I could do to keep from puking.

I thought I would distract my mind and tried to find a radio station.  We were pretty remote by then and all I could get on that crappy AM radio was a signal that bounced up the coast after the sun went down.   A preacher named Billy Wyatt Goodson.  We all knew who he was, there weren’t many stations broadcasting at night and he was always on with “5,000 watts of God’s Power”.  

The Reverend preached about sin mostly,  when he wasn’t begging for money.   Billy was on a role this night.  “And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone”……screaming on the end times of man and our rightful demise from this borrowed paradise we lived in.  We assumed he meant Montesano.

It was rough on all of us considering our mental state, but we listened anyway.  Popping Olympia beers and chasing with Big Mikes brew.  About half way down the road and another dose of the Right Reverand Billy  “And he removed that day the goats that were ringstreaked and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted,  every one that had white in it, and all the brown among the sheep”.

That was it for us.  All this talk about she goats and brown sheep wasn’t playing well with the mescaline.  We broke out Don’s shine and decided to sit silently and drink.  A lot.

Roger was getting more squirilly by the minute and all this talk about weird farm animals wasn’t sitting well with the speed he had been popping like candy.   He had grown up on a farm up the Wynoochee and kept muttering about how spotted goats aren’t natural.

We still had ten miles to go and everything depended on bringing Roger down.  We could feel the car starting to swerve and speed up.  Roger was muttering about how much he hated it here and he had to get away. “Get away,”  He was yelling now.   Don and I were frantically talking to him.  “Slow down”  “Pull over…..”Roger….Roger”.   Faster in the dark the headlights bouncing off the jagged deadfall tree lined two lane road.  The white stripes of the road moving faster and faster blurring into a single white line.

And then it happened.  Like a miracle that the Reverend Billy always talked about.

With the wind blowing through the car everyone went silent ready for the end, accepting of it…..and then Big Mike started to sing.

Now when I say sing, I mean it in the strongest way I can express.  As an Angel itself had taken him over it was so pure and sweet.  Deep from the lungs and with his big arms still crossed over his chest.  “Why do you build me up (build me up) buttercup, baby Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around?”  Don and I sat slack jawed looking at each other and Big Mike just kept singing…..

“And then worst of all (worst of all) you never call, baby

When you say you will (say you will) but I love you still

I need you (I need you) more than anyone, darlin’

You know that I have from the start

So build me up (build me up) buttercup, don’t break my heart”

By the time Big Mike was breaking into the chorus both Don and I could see that Roger was calming down.  The car was slowing down, the white stripes were starting to appear normal and his heart rate was dropping under 200.  We joined in at the top of our lungs:

“(Big Mike solo)“I’ll be over at ten, ” you told me time and again

But you’re late, I wait around and then (Don and I – bah dah dah)

I went to the door, I can’t take any more

It’s not you, you let me down again

baby, baby, try to find

(Don and I – Hey, hey, hey) a little time and I’ll make you mine

(Don and I – Hey, hey, hey) I’ll be home

I’ll be beside the phone waiting for you

(all, even Roger was all in at this point ) Ooh ooh ooh, ooh ooh ooh”

Thankfully,  we crested the hill and were dropping down into the welcoming lights of Raymond.  

THE GAME

We arrived at the school after the game had started and there wasn’t a line at the ticket table.  That was a good thing as the last thing we needed was a crowd around us.    The plan was for Don and I to go into the game while Big Mike and Roger worked the parking lot trying to drum up some cash.  It was a good plan.

I was really sweating.  Probably due to the dehydration from all the shine and whatever the hell Big Mike was sprinkling into that weed.  We walked up to the table trying to hold our composure.  I had no money left to get into the game.

Clearing my throat and staring that red shirt wearing Communist in the eye with all the forced hate I could muster I said, “I am a reporter, and this is my photographer here to cover the game for the Montesano Vidette.  Is this where I pick up my press pass?” …. my hand out.

This Raymond clown obviously had never dealt with a big city newspaper before and started telling us that we had to pay.  I cut him off.  We didn’t come all this way to not cover the game.  “Look you moronic cashier,” I started shouting.  “I am a professional reporter here doing a job that people are dying for right now.    Get your supervisor over here so our attorney knows who to sue for infringement of the press”.   “Damn it!”.  I wasn’t going to let this smiling bastard stop us. Not now.  Not this close.  

I reminded him that for two hundred years Americans have fought and died for the right of a free unrestricted press.  Women have lost husbands, children their fathers and they damn sure didn’t do it so some mealy mouthed Communist could sit there in a red shirt and keep me and my news crew out of that gymnasium.  I wouldn’t stand for it!  America wouldn’t stand for it! 

We were taken in and given press seating as well as two complimentary programs.

It was raucous.  Having missed the start of the game, Don and I were thrown into pure chaos.  The old gym hosting a display of small town pent up spirit and frustration.  Half the crowd were on their feet screaming in displeasure, the other half stomping their feet like frenzied cave men after a hunt.  At any moment  all remnants of polite civilization could break down resulting in a mad frenzy of carnage.  I thought to myself, “thank god people don’t bring weapons to these things”.  

Montesano was well represented.  Parents and students cheering on the team.  You could tell the Montesano kids apart.  Well dressed, the girls in the beehive hairdos.

The referees, obvious Communist sympathizers, were under constant attack by the enraged Montesano fans who had traveled to the game.  Some even leaving the visitor benches to walk on the floor and offer their eyeglasses to the striped arbitrators of court justice.  It was so obvious that the game was being stolen from Montesano that they might as well had worn a red star over their hearts.  If those striped bastards had one that is.

Montesano had a decent team going.  Not state championship material, but Coach Willis had put together a good workhorse group of men.  On any given day they could win….or lose…depending on the breaks and ball going this way or that.  They represented the school and town admirably.  On this night they fell short, 47 – 56, but played well.  

There was a bigger subtext on the floor, in the stands, and waiting in the parking lot.  It was everywhere.

Hell, half of players on both sides were eighteen and already had draft numbers,  just waiting till the end of the school year to report.  Most would be in Viet Nam by Christmas .   Off in one of those spanking new Boeing 747s that came off the line in February.  Now they could get more of us faster over there.  It was glorious!  “One, two, three, what are we fighting for…..”. 

It would be anyone’s guess which of those out there wouldn’t be back – here in the stands  to cheer on the team in a few years.  It would be Don and my turn in a couple of years to step up, put a dollar down, and spin the Wheel o’ Fate.  “Put down your books and pick up a gun we’re Gonna have a whole lotta fun”.

The girls were nice to us boys too.  Everyone grew up together.  They knew the score, even if it wasn’t talked about.  None of them knew it, but we saw it in their eyes.  Their mothers had been through both WWII and the Korean War.  They knew what was coming, and what the new war was going to be taking and spitting back.  I’m sure there were many quiet talks with their daughers…..when the men folk weren’t around.

Everyone was going through the motions.  

There was a lot of running up the court this way and down the court that way, and my mind was wandering to the recent arrest of the Doors Jim Morrison for exposing himself to thousands on stage.  About the time I had convinced myself that this would be a good time to follow in his footsteps to show support and solidarity, I heard the whir of Don’s polaroid spitting out a photograph.

“What the hell are you doing?”  I shouted over the roar of another bad call by the refs.  Don just pointed to a pair of Raymond girls in matching blue jackets.  They could have been sisters they looked so much alike.  Beautiful.  Long straight brown hair and wide smiles.  I wondered if their parents were Humphrey voters.  Was it too late to save them?

The girls were moving toward the exit, each with a snow cone in their hands.  Don held my shoulder and shouted in my ear “I’m wanting a snow cone, you need anything?”    Before I could tell him to sit down and get me a picture of the game he was bounding like a spotted goat, down the rows of benches and out the door.  Waving the still developing photo in the air.  

I sat there alone for as long as I could stand it.  The paranoia was really setting in.  I was sure the refs had zeroed in on me and were plotting while they stood in their little group.  Try as I did, I couldn’t read their lips enough to quell my fear.  “out”  “not today”  “keep an eye on him”…that was all I cold get.  Is this what that pisspot editor had sent me to discover?  It was a complete waste of my talent as a journalist to just cover the game.  It was all becoming clear.  Now.  Were those sleeper-agent referees talking about me?  I wasn’t taking any chances, not with these red bastards.

I went looking for Don and the safety of the darkness away from that bright gym. 

EXIT

Don was off in a corner of the back parking lot with the snow cone sisters.  Deftly pouring some shine from his soda bottle over the ice the girls were holding out.   Judging by the blue tint around his lips, he was doing pretty well too.   “that’ll spark it up, ”  I heard him say as I got closer.  He was pretty jumpy and I was sure he had broken out the blotter acid that we all knew he had on him….. and denied.   

Both of the girls were holding a polaroid so I knew there wasn’t going to be any picture for my report.  Damm it!    I still had work to do and needed to finish it.  I was a professional journalist!  

I grabbed him by his collar and started walking toward the station wagon shouting “sorry ladies, bar is closed”.  We still had important work to do and was a little concerned that I hadn’t seen anything of Big Mike and Roger.    Don was tripping, I was holding my hallucinations  in check, Big Mike could take care of himself in any situation…. but Roger wasn’t equipped for this.

The parking lot had descended into a drunken pit of baseless humanity and the book of Revelations started really pushing back to my mind.  “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur”.    Fist fights off in the dark, bodies passed out in the grass,  lost twisted souls running to and fro each escaping the snapping creatures gathering around them that only they could see……..and music coming from everywhere and nowhere with “Time of the Season” by the Zombies thumping from a pick up truck at full volume keeping the rhythm – the sound held to the ground by the heavy fog coming in from the bay.    

The smell of weed in the air was thick, but that just told me that Big Mike had been doing well.  What worried me was the mescaline mix in the situation.  Could these Raymond kids handle it?  They weren’t as savoir faire  as we were in Montesano.

I was having a hard enough time dealing with the dripping colors and small creatures myself, if these Raymond kids broke the wrong way, it could become a maddening nightmare of screaming stabbing carnage.  Just what those Communists wanted!  Sneaky red bastards!

“Come on Don, it’s time to go”.   I pulled harder, ever closer to the safety of Big Mike and the station wagon.  

We found Roger slumped over in the front seat.  We could tell he had been crying.  While Roger had been true to his driver status and stuck to the speed, we forgot to account for all the second hand smoke and mescaline.  It had all been too much for him and he was lost in a state of circular fear, anxiety and euphoria.  I made a mental note to take the situation under consideration in the information extraction experiments Don and I were currently conducting.

We poured some shine down Roger to even the poor kid out enough to tell us what happened to Big Mike.  He told a story of winged Angels in hats coming to carry him away in a chariot.

We figured he got himself arrested.  Not taking any chances that there might actually be Angels in the area,  what with all the Revelations talk going on between me and Don we all thought we should get out of there.  Fast. 

We pulled on the feet of the guy that had passed out in the back of the station wagon, laid him gently in the grass next to a girl who was babbling about not being able to find her shoes. 

I tied up Don with some wire we found on the floor.  For his own safety.  He was really out of it now and wanted to see the secret commie submarine base at the port.  That greedy little bastard had indeed taken two tabs of blotter acid he was hiding and it was really kicking in.  

With Don tied up in the back seat and Roger on the floor boards hiding from Angels, that left me as the driver.  It was now after 11:00 and we had eight hours to get the wagon back to the dealership before Roger’s mother came in looking for it.  Get past the fences and dogs without getting shot to drop Don off at home, stop by that editor’s house to make the report of the game,  and see about an expense report.  We had been picking up receipts off the ground and were pretty sure we could turn them all in to the paper.  We also had a couple of stops to make on the way back to Montesano.

I didn’t like having to drive.  I sure as hell wouldn’t pass the sobriety test if we got pulled over.  Don’s shine would see to that.  I didn’t want to have to pay the $195.00 fine either, but it was a risk that had to be taken.  I was sure the editor knew someone in the Nixon administration to report the threat we had discovered.  It had to be reported immediately!  If Raymond fell, the other cities in the county would fall like dominos to the communist scum.

We only had a few hours, one bottle of hooch, two cans of Olympia,  whatever Big Mike had left in the ashtray, and a pack of cigarettes left.  Ya, it was going to be a hellish forty miles,  still……I liked my chances.  Besides that, we had to get going….. it was a school night.

____________

ED NOTES:  For Esther with a tip of the hat to the Gonzo himself H.S.T.  That drunk bastard!

Don and I did indeed end up in Viet Nam but that isn’t a story I plan to write until I get my bad chest x-ray.  Should be any year now.  Names here have changed to protect the innocent.  Don isn’t alive anymore and enlisted to get ahead of the draft as I did.  Both of our draft numbers were under 20.  We went into the Air Force.  We were even stationed together overseas for a while and have a doozy of a story to tell about another pair of sisters and a motorcycle with a side car.  Don spent his life helping people in a social services position.   Roger ended up in finance and has a bunch of grand  and grand grand children.   Big Mike disappeared at the end of the school year. 

I hear he went into law enforcement and saved a whole family from a fire and suffered severe burns.  That old bastard editor was probably one of the biggest influences on my life.  I own his old desk and this was written on it.    Esther Savage?   A good deal of debate in town about her.  She was tough.   A finer teacher never walked the face of this earth and everyone my age or older walking around this town with an ounce of intelligence has her to thank for it.  

Me – Photo by Don

In 1973 I had a chance to tell President Nixon in person about the red menace we had discovered  that night while assigned to a perimeter guard of Marine 1.  I thought better of it though when I saw him coming down the staging area….by then he could have been turned!  Damn it!!  

Lyrics:  Country Joe and the Fish,  I Feel Like I’m Fixin to Die – 1967, 

The Foundations,  Build Me up Buttercup – 1967

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