Mudding With Rednecks: A Good Diversion (Book Excerpt)


This is taken from chapter 33 of my book, where some old friends try to rescue my character from an early marriage to a girl named Amy, by having a good redneck time.    
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black and white image blowing smoke into someones face cigarette
I hate second hand exorcist smoke. 
Another unfamiliar car was parked in the driveway as I returned home, and before I could get angry, I realized it was my high school friends Steven and Zack. Both were smoking a cigarette, and apparently waiting for me to return home. They left just enough room for me to park, and as I opened my door, Steven blew a a cubic foot of carcinogenic smoke into my face. 

“Hey fatty.  We knew you were coming home soon.  Your roommates said you usually get home around this time,” said Steven.  
           
“How did you know I didn’t have anything else to do after school?”
           
“Because you’re a loser…”  Steven started to say.
           
Zack, the more pragmatic of the two, interrupted, “Well, I called Amy, just to make sure you didn’t have anything planned tonight. And you don’t have any other friends, so we knew you had to come home eventually. We figured you would probably go get some food, cause, you know, your fat…but we’ve only been waiting here like fifteen minutes.” 
           
Camel cigarette Merry Christmas for every smoker historic 1960s 1950s advertisement ad
Santa, all I want for Christmas
is lung cancer.  
They were mostly right.  I did have other friends, but not the kind I could just call up and go skiing with, more like the kind that I could barely talk to in social settings when somebody else set up the event.  Even while breathing in the toxic air, as their newfound enjoyment of getting cancer was something I was just getting used to, I was actually excited to see them.  We hung out a lot during my freshman year of college, but with Amy, the youth group, and our work schedules, we had been losing touch this last year.  Zack was now blowing smoke in my face, as if following some bureaucratic protocol handed down by Steve. 
           
“Oh, is that the sweet smell of Camels? Is smoking helping you two maintain your anorexic body types?” I said playfully (as they were both barely 140 pounds, and as I was closer to 200, the joke had always been that I was chunky, and they were malnourished, even if nobody actually believed these observations to be true). 
           
“Yeah, actually, I don’t think I’m the one who’s addicted to nicotine, rather it's my tapeworm…cause when I haven’t smoked in a while, I get all grumbly tumbly down in my tummy,” Steve said, the last part in the voice of Winnie the Pooh. 
           
Zack added on, “I’ve been using the money that “Feed the Children” sends to me each month to buy my smokes. All I have to do is send a picture of myself eating canned ravioli back to the donating family, and the money just keeps rolling in…” 
           
I forgot about how genuinely funny we all were together. Amy, as much as I loved her, had almost no sense of humor, which was mildly frustrating. Sure, she was amused at some of my antics or jokes, but she rarely offered anything that made me laugh. Already in one minute with my non-Christian high school friends, I had laughed more than I had in weeks.  
           
“What’s up guys?  I take it you didn’t drive all the way over here to make fun of my weight and smoke in my driveway like greaser thugs?” 
           
“We’re going golfing, and then you’re spending the night at our house.” Steve said, as if there was no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
           
“Oh, I am, are I? What if I have a date later tonight?”
           
“I called Amy,” Zack said, all proud of himself, “she said you guys aren’t doing anything today or tomorrow, and that we should go out and do “manly” stuff; so get your clubs and crap, and get in the car.” 
           
There really was no choice. I don’t know why I’m one of those people who instantaneously tries to come up with excuses to not do an opportunity. I guess I like to think it is my idea, and not somebody else’s, that makes me a willing participant. But, after nothing popped into my head as to why I shouldn’t be doing this with them, I grabbed my stuff. I saw Ben inside, and asked if he wanted to go golfing with us, and I saw that same genetic ‘excuse mechanism’ materializing in his mind and words.  “It’s cool, dude, just thought I’d throw it out there, we haven’t hung out much lately,” I said as I walked out with my backpack and clubs.  He agreed, and said we would hang out soon in the future.  
           
“So, this golf, this is “manly” stuff, huh?” I lobbed at Zack
           
“It will be manly, when I beat you to a bloody pulp on the 5th green with my three wood, then bury you up to your neck in the bunker, and spray sand in your face as I practice my outs with my pitching wedge,” Steve said, making his innocent face as maniacal as possible.
           
It was a comment that needed no retort. We simply got in the car and left. The golf was fun, although in early February, we were plugging balls on perfect shots. Golf, in Oregon, like any other sport, is almost impossible in the winter months. While it may appear to be sunny and dry, it probably rained the whole day and night before. Like people probably anywhere else on earth, we were used to our bizarre weather, but it didn’t mean we couldn’t curse it for wreaking havoc on our good intentions. 
           
Steve beat me by a stroke, and I beat Zack by two. We were always similar golfers, even when we played on the high school team. Quite frankly, we were hacks, but we got a lot of enjoyment out of it; and frustration, but mostly kept good spirits throughout--even when our ball disappeared into somebody’s yard, or plopped down straight into the earth as if swallowed by a vengeful fairway. 
           
The Suzuki Samurai: When you want four more horsepower than a quad.
We drove the fifteen miles back to my quaint redneck hometown in Steve’s new Suzuki Samurai. I rode in the backseat, which doesn’t exist in a Samurai, so in actuality I sat on the spare tire and held onto the roll bars with all my strength during shift changes and corners. Steve, seemingly enjoying my discomfort, tried to find every speed bump and pot hole all the way out to their house. But we didn’t turn down the road to their house.  Instead we drove another ten minutes and turned up a road leading to an old hillside cemetery. I was beginning to get the feeling that I had been abducted; hopefully no harm would come my way. 
           
The cemetery was clearly not visited often, as not a single gravestone looked newer than fifty years, but the area was filled with the mourning and cries of nature. Outside the fenced graveyard was vast acreage adorned with deep ruts, mud patches, paths carved with the uneven hand of off road vehicles cut through the forest, and the remains of human’s society were everywhere: litter, discarded tires, skeletal remains of old vehicles, random clothing, even old diapers.  And we weren’t alone in this wasteland. The deep guttural sounds of a neglected 350 engine was met by the intermittent rumble of a Cummins Diesel knocking on death’s door from different sides of the hill. They both came barreling out of the festooned forest riding askew, turning corkscrew, never looking in control, spraying topsoil, earth, and small vegetation into a parabolic arc behind. The trees shook in anger, but were unable to save their groundcover brethren from the fates of these gaseous predators. 
           
Old Chevy truck mudding 4-wheel-drive four wheeling
Pretty much half the student parking lot at my H.S. 
Steve stopped his little 4-wheel-drive toddler in the field just off the main gravel road. The two trucks rode now almost parallel in a controlled chaos down to where we sat like frozen prey. If these trucks had had their fill of game, most assuredly the passenger’s inside would eat us alive. 
           
“Steve, bringing this vehicle up here is like flashing the wrong gang sign in Compton,” I said, getting more nervous each second. 
           
One of the trucks flew towards us, and at the last second turned hard, spraying the entire driver’s side with cubic yards worth of silt. The second truck slid to a stop so close that Steve had to get out from the passenger side. I thought about curling up around the spare tire and pretending that I wasn’t there. 
           
“Hey Sludge,” I heard Zack say. 
           
Turns out the whole group up there were guys we went to school with. The real backwoods guys.  Kids who were chewing tobacco when they were in 6th grade. Guys who used to come to high school with dead deer in their payloads. Guys who challenged the administration when the district outlawed hunting rifles from being mounted on gun-racks in their back windows. Guys I never really hit it off with, and for good reason. They were always one step away from getting incarcerated for assault, MIPs, or poaching. 
           
The guys outside looked forty years old. Being only half that, they showed the early aging signs of hard work and hard partying. Some already had beer guts.  Their clothes were in tatters.  What once might have been red flannel, would almost pass as desert camouflage. Their jeans or Carhartts were covered in layers of earth. I wondered if deodorant would mask any smells they created. I stepped out of the car, and all eyes fell on me like I was a supermodel entering the classroom as the substitute teacher. 'Course their eyes weren’t filled with lust, but rather awe.
           
“Well, what the hell, Plumb? I thought I’d never see you again, you stupid bastard,” one of them said to me. 
           
“Yeah, good to see you too,” I replied to a few chuckles. 
           
Turns out these guys are up here almost every Friday after work, plowing up the landscape until late in the dark. Both trucks showed signs of tangles with branches, dents where trees intervened on behalf of the forest. Neither truck looked like it should still be running, yet both were their owner’s daily vehicles. These "people" were my daily interactions in high school. God love them, they are fun in their ignorance, but they don’t exactly have qualities I find endearing. 
           
Judgment was not mine to have on this evening, though, as my friends and the redneck posse forced me out of my comfort zone, and into a mode of idiotic destructive glee. 
           
Steve’s tiny Suzuki mocked the larger American made rigs on a number of occasions. Its light frame, and large tires allowed it to pass through a number of puddles that other vehicles needed winched out of. The thin plastic shell that separated myself in the backseat from the outside world looked dipped in milk chocolate. I felt shaken like a chocolate milkshake in the backseat. The tire was not a good seat, and my rear end never found a notch to stay positioned. I had smacked the roll-bar with arms, legs, and head. Yet, this, was living. This stupidity was exactly what I needed. 
           
Mud trail deep ruts in forest four wheeling
One road was drudged from the woods, and I
I drove the road less driven on,
and that is why I'm calling AAA.  
The final act was an ascent down the steep slope, where previous morons had cut crisscrossing ruts, sometimes three feet deep into the soil. Remnants of undercarriages of vehicles that bottomed out and left their intestines to rust in the open air were scattered to the sides. This was the ultimate challenge of a vehicles integrity. No shame in avoiding the trial: the course was clearly not OSHA approved. 
           
Steve turned into a favorable starting spot, looking down into the descent of death, and flashed us a fiendish grin, “Into the valley of death they rode…”
           
I had no idea Steve knew Lord Tennyson, or any poet… “Steve, I don’t have a seatbelt, and aren’t these Samurai’s known for flipping over?”
           
Highway Safety images of Suzuki flipping over
Steve actually liked to make his Suzuki go on two wheels for brief seconds.  Funny to him, terrifying to me.

“Quit being a fatty.  This thing aint flipping…”  and with that, Steve gunned the engine, shooting debris behind us for a full second before we leapt forward. 
           
The first few seconds were euphoric. Like a well designed roller coaster, the inertia of the vehicle, the ruts, and the skidding had us all feeling that great queasy gravity-free feeling. But then the coaster jumped track. Suddenly, my head smacked the roll bar violently, and I felt like I was floating in midair. The bumps and jostling continued for a few seconds, but I never saw what was happening. Finally we came to a rest, and I opened my eyes to see Steve’s foot next to the gas pedal. I turned my head upward to see Steve look down at me, almost as shocked to see a human head where his foot space should be. My body was precariously laying on the mid-console, my feet splayed upward, one touching Zack’s shoulder. 
           
Zack, in both a condescending and near hysterical manner, said, “Uh, you mind moving your shoe, its got mud on it.” 
           
I started to feel the pain and discomfort of the situation. “It’s a little hard to move in my present condition, if you wouldn’t mind helping a fatty out, please!!” 
           
What could've happened if I was ejected from the truck.
Zack and Steve exited the vehicle and I could hear them laughing while they helped me avoid the steering wheel and nearly slide out the driver side door. I quickly checked my body, and nothing was broken. Maybe a few bruises, and a bump on my head, but I was fine. 
           
“If you wanted to drive, you could’ve just asked,” Steve mischievously said. 
           
“Thanks for the concern. I’m not riding in the back of that thing ever again. Can we go home now?”
           
“Well, I wanted to do like five more runs down the hill. Get back on the tire, fatty.” 
           
I knew Steve was kidding, but it didn’t stop of slew of nasty words aimed in his direction from leaving my mouth. I forced Zack to sit in the back on the way back to their house. 
           
We grabbed a pizza at Figaro’s before heading back to their house. At some point Steve admitted that the vehicle was completely out of control at one point, and he thought we might have got four feet off the ground midway through the run. He was legitimately worried that the vehicle was going to flip, but he regained control right in time. Nice. Glad to be the test dummy in the back seat.  

2 comments:

  1. I think the history these characters have is well illustrated. The bantering dialogue, the ease with which they fall back into old patterns and nicknames really colors in home the protagonist's relationship with them. Also, the distance between him and some of the rednecks is nicely handled. Love seeing some fiction from you!

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    1. Thanks Natalie.

      This comes late in my novel, and has only had a few edits, whereas the beginning of my book has had six or seven. Just rereading this makes me want to change so much in terms of sentence structure and grammar. But I do think the characters are real (they are based on real friends, so...), and hopefully that adds some authenticity to the whole story.

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