Monday, May 17, 2010

Reflections In Red #1

We sit by the bonfire, the ocean crashing down on the beach. The last remaining rays of sunlight nothing but the faintest of inverse shadows on the canopy of the night sky. The Northern California summer night far cooler than any kid from North Dakota would ever suspect hovers about the perimeter of our meeting of the minds and dreams, souls and assumptions, held at bay by the blazing heat of 30 pallets letting loose all the rage and potential gone unused lo these many years.

I sip my first beer of the night, delighting in the magnificence that only under-aged drinking can provide. I'm 15 and my first trip to the Pacific Northwest has been far more intoxicating than any libation. It is here at the beach that I realize how close the chaps that invented Manifest Destiny were to the truth of the whole matter. Three years later I will move here and begin manhood or a fair approximation. My mind wanders, no doubt fleeing towards some burlesque fantasy or pulp comic dream sequence.

As I sit there, gazing at the stars through the wispy clouds and smoke, Red speaks to me. Red lives down the alley from my sister. Their collective households often gather for revelry. Even though I'm 15 and he the average participant in tonight's festivities is 25, it's Red who really stands out from the crowd.

He's 5'4" or so and easily weighs 250 pounds. He has moderate acne, the effects enhanced by the sheer force of his rage. Red might have been a handsome man once, might have, or had the chance to evolve to the Swan Stage. But long ago he succumbed to the teasing and degrading nature of his peers. Atop his battered, angry face sits a pate resembling the decharicaturized image of Bozo T. Clown. Balding but not graying, one can see where Red has received his nickname (Lawrence, his given name, doesn't seem to fit this angry gnome).

Without introducing himself to me, without a, "Hello," nor a, "Nice night, huh?" Red turns to me and says, "What'cha' do is, you take a light bulb and you unscrew the metal from the glass, but you have be careful to keep the filament in tact. Then you fill the glass half with diesel fuel and half with laundry detergent. Then you screw the metal back to the glass and then you put the bulb back where ever you want it to go off. Then, when They come in and turn on the light, they get fucked up 'cause they just ignited and blew up the fuckin' napalm you mixed in the bulb."

I stared at Red and he looked back at me, beady, black eyes reflecting my own fear. There aren't many things you can say to a man like Red that will make him leave you alone. Even at 15 I know this. He's the same creepy, military- and death-obsessed kid we all knew in high school. But I know of one trick that always works on these types: because they have hidden their homosexuality so deep, guarded with such tenacity, they will do anything to avoid any comment, deed or action that could be construed as gay. Even at 15 I know it's true.

This all occurs to me in the span of half a second, the beat of a humming bird's wings. I know action must be taken. So I hop deftly to my feet, hook a thumb at the tall grass beyond the dunes and say, "I'm gonna' go take a piss, you wanna' watch?"

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