Ten miles beyond the Asphalt
With a sigh, I shifted my cup of coffee to the other hand and dug my phone out my pocket. Tapping the screen, I shifted to my messages and looked at the one waiting.
Two waiting. Sigh. Tap.
~ Mom: You father broke his hip on the riding lawn mower. Call me!!~
Eyes wide, I absently opened the second message.
Looking at the screen, I noticed my dorm mate Kevin was watching me over the top of his Chem1 book. I mouthed the word “Mom” and he rolled his eyes to the ceiling. Two years sharing a room with me at college had given Kevin about the same appreciation of my family that I had.
“Alright already, give me half a chance,” I muttered to myself as I brought up Mom’s cell phone number and dialed her.
One ring-a-dingy, two ring-a …
“From State Farm, how can I help you?” Holding the phone in the crook of my wrist, I keyed the speaker’s phone for Kevin’s benefit.
“Not funny. Today least of all.” The annoyance in my mom’s voice was the exact tone I expected. “I need your help, Jake.”
“Ah … how about the ‘How’s dad’ report first?” Hearing an exasperated huff from her, I decided this was going to be a conversation requiring more coffee so I took a sip. “The lawn mower?”
Huge sigh. “Yes, the mower. Your father was cutting the side of Mr. Philip’s yard, got too far up on that steep incline and it rolled over on top of him. We’re here at County Memorial; he’s in surgery right now. They’re putting a pin in there or something. Then he’s going to be in a cast. Jake, your dad made a promise to your Uncle Tim and Aunty Elena that they can use the winter cabin. You know the shape it’s in after the spring storms. Your dad was frantic that I call you and get you to go make the summer repairs.”
Across the room, Kevin dropped his textbook to the bed beside him and rolled up on his side gripping his belly he was laughing so hard. Silently laughing, true, but hard. Ignoring him, I glanced at the wall calendar by the closet door. With a terrible upwelling of sadness the picture of me at the beach–from last year, surrounded by girls that I had pinned to it– seemed to fade into the distance. Almost as if the wall of the dorm room was rushing off into that beautiful Florida sunset behind my happy image.
Grasping at straws, I tossed out the only idea I had. “Is there a reason that Uncle Tim can’t make the repairs? Him and his clan of misguided children.”
“Jake! Do not talk about your cousins that way. And no, Tim is out on the platform. 20 days on then 10 days off, all the way till September. And your Dad said he didn’t trust any of his nephews to be there with his brother off drilling oil.”
I nodded the truth of that. I wouldn’t trust them there with their dad. Uncle Tim’s just as likely to get ….
“Jake, yes or no? I have to tell your dad,” My mom’s voice nearly got drowned out by an approaching ambulance’s siren. I could easily picture her standing outside by the ER at the hospital. “We can’t really afford to hire someone but you know how your dad is when it comes to a promise. So?”
With a sigh for the guilt trip and for my lost summer vacation, I resigned myself to it. “Yeah. Sure. Tell Dad I’ve got it handled.”
“Excellent. I’ll let him know.” I heard her pass through a doorway and the sound of wind died. “Be sure to stop by the house; the truck and trailer was already packed with the supplies. I’ll be here till they release him so I might not be home yet; the truck key is by the light switch in the living room.”
“On the hook where it always hangs, yeah mom I know,” I thought but didn’t say. Rolling my eyes, I looked at Kevin who had finally contained his laughter and was just shaking his head at me. “Tell Dad I said to get better and that I also said maybe he need to go back to dirt track racing and leave landscaping to the pros. “
“Ha, Ha. ” Her tone, dry humorless laughter aside, conveyed that she was going to not tell him. “I’ll tell him you love him and to get well. Okay, I’ve got to go; they just called for the Reese family. Bye.”
Looking at the call disconnected signal banner I keyed the phone off. When I looked up, Kevin was giving me a disgusted smirk.
“Your family is a Shakespearian tragedy,” he said.
“Really? I’ve always seen us more as a Mel Brooks movie. But then I’ve had ringside seats for twenty years.”
He sat up and put his book on the desk next to him. “How exactly does an ex-champion motocross racer like Dan Danger Reese manage to break a hip cutting grass?” Kevin pointed to the laptop. “Dude, I’ve seen the videos of him racing; the man was insanity on two wheels.”
“That’s half the problem. He has no ‘stop should I do this’ button.” Swallowing the last cold coffee dregs I tossed the cup into the black wire trash can by my desk. Brown circle stains instantly appeared on the crumpled, discarded, copies of my latest attempts at a new hobby.
Haiku poems should not sound like knock-knock tuzla escort jokes.
Getting up, I moved over to the window and looked out at the rain-drenched campus. “Dad helps out in the neighborhood cutting grass for the people too old to do it. One of them, Mr. Philips, lives on the hill at the end of the street. Half his yard is steep; the other half could be called a cliff.”
“And you dad, who spent years going up far worse, doesn’t give it a thought.” He grinned. “And now, because of that, you’re not going to get to go to the beach and get laid all summer.”
“Nope. Joy thy name is me.” I absently watched a trail of rainwater leak in through the window’s crappy seals and run down the inside of the glass to stain the already stained wall. “Instead, I will be fixing broken door hinges, patching missing cedar shingles and, my personal favorite, painting an entire cabin with Thompson’s water seal. Three coats minimum, every year.”
There was a chuckle behind me. “Dude, that sucks balls.”
Looking at my own reflection in the crying glass, I could only agree.
~Rain weeps, glass melts
Tall grass shatters hope
Summer dreams die unborn~
** ** ** ** ** ** **
Every year the roads up to the family’s cabin look a little different. Civilization trying it’s damnedest to claw its way up the road towards Reese Mountain. A new road sign or maybe the power line poles will have inched another post further. This year it was a place where someone had clear cut some timber. A huge square of tree stumps where hundred-year-old trees had stood the winter before. Through that break in the foliage, I saw the cloud scrapping rocky spire that has born my family name, in one spelling or another, for about two centuries.
Great, great, great, whatever granddad bought it from the French fur trader/owner who held claim to it before him. The family story says it was bought for two bundles of buffalo hides and five pounds of tobacco.
The fur trader got the better deal.
Oh, not that there is anything wrong with the mountain. No Indian burial grounds, no visiting alien mother ships playing music and flashing lights. Nope, not one thing wrong with a lump of granite and quartz in the backside of nowhere, that spends more than half the year topped with snow. Except that, there is no one that lives even fucking close to it. Not full time anyway. Like us, there are a few people that keep winter cabins up in the tree edge. The skiing is truly awesome come November. Snowmobiling, snowboarding, snowman making, snow cone selling … hell, if it has the word snow tacked to it you can do it here from late fall to late spring.
And the nearest thing female at this time of year is an hour back down the road I’m driving on and her name is Imogen Frump. Now the chance of bumping genitals with an eighty-year-old, prune-faced, disgruntled postal worker aside, shall we call it fairer-gender-challenged around here. Can you tell I’m a little pissed that my nose isn’t buried in some Coppertone smelling girl’s ass about now? Is it obvious?
Turning the old Ford up Quarry Road, (the very last road with a name on this trip); I downshifted as the gradient increased twice in the next hundred feet. All uphill both ways from here on out. Behind me, the trailer loaded with supplies bounced over rocks the truck cleared. Remember the year dad spent two hours backtracking to get a trailer tire fixed; I slowed down and stopped musing on lost pussy. Someone badly needed to get a road grader out of storage and give this damn patch of compacted ground masquerading as a road a good scraping.
Cussing the potholes that jarred my fillings, I fought the steering wheel back straight.
“So it begins.”
** ** ** ** ** **
A unicycle with a foot long dildo attached would have done less damage to my prostate than that fucking road. I bounced the last half mile, driving past thinner and thinner trees. And as always there were some foolish saplings trying to take root in the middle of the road. I took out my grievances by maliciously grinding their young lives away under my tires. Vengeance is mine so sayeth the Lord my ass! And Smokey the Bear can go fuck himself, I’ll burn all these mother fuckers given a chance. I’ve fucking had it, already. Die you tree from hell. DIE!
I rounded the last turn, circling around the big bristlecone pine that my younger sister Megan broke her arm against when she ran her sled into it at fourteen, and there it was. The Reese Winter Palace, in all its sprawling glory. Two stories, with the bottom made of foot thick stone walls and the top of huge cedar logs, it rose from the stony crag my grandfather built it on. The step angled roof, pitched to shed snow, was already making my ankles hurt at the thought of days of crawling around on it checking for loose cedar shakes.
“Oh, for god’s sake.” Groaning, I shifted my butt trying to find some place less saddle sore. Some pitifully small inch of my bruised ass that didn’t feel like I was a pledging a frat. “Thank you, sir, may tuzla escort bayan I have another?”
Parking the truck in front of the cabin, I shut off the motor with relief. I leaned my head back against the headrest. Oh blessed relief, to not feel anything, to not hear anything, to not see anything, to not smell …
Puzzled, with a hint of fear growing quickly, I opened the truck door and jumped out. My mind racing to where the fire extinguishers were. Sure in my head that the cabin had taken this, the very moment of my arrival, to catch fire. I had not noticed even a hint of smoke on the long drive up, this wasn’t a forest fire. I stopped my headlong plunge towards the cabin in mid-step. Two slow steps then I paused completely still.
The smoke was drifting up from one of the many red terracotta clay chimneys. One to the back of the cabin, near the kitchen.
Fear flowed away, a deep rage that someone dared to trespass arose. With a half snarl, I started forwards but then common sense stopped me again in my tracks. Leaning back into the truck I popped the glove box and pulled out my father’s gun metal blue .45, M1911 Colt. I loaded it, racked back the slide and started towards the front door. Thumbing the safety off, I placed a hand on the doorknob and gave it a testing turn. It wasn’t locked and the double click, when it opened, seemed loud as a marching band’s cymbal.
Then I saw it.
Parked to the side of the porch under the shed–one of the ones where we store firewood out the snow–was a very familiar motorcycle. Twice my age, and then some, this 400cc Husqvarna Cross was spanking new in 1971. My dad fell in love with it watching Steve McQueen ride one in the motorcycle documentary “On Any Sunday.” When other guys his age were working all summer and saving their pennies for a car dad was driving grandpa nuts about getting a bike. This bike.
There are only two people in the world that have ever graced the leather seat of this bike with their butts. One of those has a broken hip. The other is my sister.
“Megan!” Throwing open the cabin door; thumbing the safety on the gun and sticking it into my belt at the small of my back, I yelled again. My voice echoed through the cabin. “Megan, where the hell are you?”
When my sister stuck first her head, then the rest of her around the corner from the kitchen hallway, I slammed the door behind me. “Do you have any idea how close I came to shooting you? If I hadn’t seen Husky parked out front, and realized it was you that was here I might have shot you!”
“You would never pull a trigger until you saw the target clearly, brother. Dad taught us both too well for that.”
After a second, I nodded the truth of that. “What are you doing up here? Aren’t you supposed to be starting your summer semester?” Lifting my eyebrow I looked over her outfit, cutoff shorts and a worn-to-woof t-shirt with a barely legible Metallica pic. “Hardly what a freshman should be wearing, yes?”
“Depends on the college,” she said.
Crossing her arms under her breasts, my sister shifted her footing till she had one foot supporting most of her weight. “I quit.”
For several seconds I just stood there unable to believe what I had just heard. Then at the look she was giving me as if daring me to question what she had done, I shrugged. “Well don’t that beat the mousy band.”
“Shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in this family.” She chewed her bottom lip. “Those that have ever taken the time to listen to me.”
Shaking my head, I massaged my temples. Cupping my elbow, I pressed my thumbs into the bridge of my nose. “So? What’s the big plan now? Oh, let me guess, you’re going to go ride motocross.”
“Yes. Just like Daddy did.” She uncrossed her arms and moved closer to me. “I’ve been saying for years that’s what I wanted to do. I said I never wanted to go to college; hell I didn’t even see the point of my last two years of high school. None of that Spanish conquistador or dissecting frogs is going to help me ride better. I needed to be on the track!”
“You needed to be on medication. Have you never listened to Mom talk about trying to pay bills on $2.75 an hour plus tips as a waitress because Dad was barely making enough money to put gas in the bike to race?” I honestly wanted something to throw at her at that point but all I had was my phone and the gun, neither is flight rated. “How about all the times he had to beg a ride home from a track because he didn’t even get that much?”
Megan gave me a snarky look. “That was when he was an unknown. As his daughter I could avoid all of that; I’m a legacy rider. I can get a ride with Honda at any time just on Daddy’s name alone.”
I chuckled in disgust. “Dan Danger’s daughter, The Daughter of Danger! I can see the headlines now. I’ve got to unload the truck.”
Leaving my sister, I stormed back out to the old Ford and began to unhook the ratchet straps holding things on the trailer. I had that half done when Megan came out in a huff herself, went past me like I wasn’t even there escort tuzla and rolled Huffy out from under the shed. She cranked the old Husqvarna, pulled her blue metal flake helmet on and was down the road and half out of sight before I could say a thing. The sound of the bike fading and growing as she took the many turns down the mountain.
Unloading the various supplies, I fumed back and forth being mad at myself or at my sister. Each trip into the house or the shed was a different, self-depreciation or sister-bashing, trip going over of our argument. It was a given, of course, that my sister is a complete twit and that her plans for the future were based on that mental level, but my main problem was figuring out my own level of sphincter-ness. Had I really been that much of an asshole or was I within acceptable older-brother-advising-life-facts to said twit of a younger sister levels.
Reluctantly, I was coming around to accept that I had been a complete ass when I heard the first rumble. Looking to the west–all storms here come from the west–I saw the darkening of the sky above the trees. Have I mentioned that the same weather that brings such perfect snow to this mountain in the winter also brings storms from hell all spring and even into mid-summer? I gave up on thinking and let my feet do the talking. A rapid patter in and out the house, across the wooden porch, my arms overloaded. I ran the last trip, my black nylon bag full of clothes over my shoulder, rain spattering in huge drops all around me. I got inside with damp hair and thunder in my ears.
As always, when surrounded by generations of family memorabilia, I feel more alone and like an orphan than at any time else in my life. Granddad’s dusty hunting trophy’s adorned the walls with a small herd of mule deer, an elk with ancient velvet antlers and Moose the Mighty in his place of pride above the fireplace. Their painted glass eyes staring, with pitied hate and accusing contempt, at the descendant of their killer. Family pictures looked at me with the same eyes.
I didn’t dare look in a mirror at the moment.
What sort of man drives his sister out into a storm by being an asshole to her when she needs her brother the most? What the fuck was I thinking jumping down her throat? Fuck, I sounded like Mom.
The thunder that rumbled the windows sounded like laughter to my ears.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
The main fireplace eats logs like a wood chipper but the warmth of it will drive the dampness out the air faster than anything else. Least way that’s the lie I told myself when I filled it with wood and got the logs burning. I transferred the coals from the fireplace Megan had been using in a metal bucket to get it going. Then, since it was raining so heavily I did a tour of the house, checking all the windows and the upstairs for leaking. There were a few, but then there always are a few. In the bedroom, I normally use while here I found Megan’s backpack with her clothes.
“So, she is coming back,” I thought as I checked the windows in there. Looking out into the rain, I hoped she would have the sense to not try the road back up here in the rain.
Then I saw the single headlight through that clear cut break in the trees.
Going to the bathroom closest I grabbed a couple of towels and then one of the old bathrobes the cabin seems to acquire more of every year. I think this one belonged to Aunty Elena once upon a time. By the time I was downstairs the old bike was spewing a rooster tail of mud behind it and Megan, standing on the pegs, fought the rear end wanting to slip every inch of the hill. I will have to give it to her; she really can ride.
Megan also, when my sister rode her bike in under the shed, looked like she was one of the mud people from Woodstock 99. In fact, the only clean thing about her was her hair under her helmet when she took it off. Stepping out from under the shed she saw me standing there. She stopped and turned her face to the sky and let the rain clean her face.
“No judgment. No more crap or I will ride out of here and stay gone this time,” she said not looking at me. When she finally looked down she looked like she was crying mud tears. “I’m going to have years of that shit from Mom to have to live with, fuck it coming from you too.”
I nodded. “Agreed. Come in out the rain.”
She took one of the towels and dried her face. I had to keep my eyes on her face; she was doing the whole wet t-shirt contest/mud wrestling thing and while Megan has not been blessed with huge breasts she wasn’t exactly small either.
“Hungry? I’ve got some dinner going.” I shrugged. “It’s just chili with hot dogs, but it’s hot.”
“Let me get a shower, then yeah.”
She took the robe and headed towards the back of the house. When I checked the house earlier I saw that she had de-winterized that bathroom alone. She also had the propane water heater lit. Between that, and the amount of trash in the kitchen, I had guessed my sister had been here for a few days. From the look of it, she had been eating mostly chips and sandwiches. Never the greatest cook in the world, my sister. As she walked off I couldn’t help but watch her ass, those cutoffs were way too short and her long legs were mud brown all the way up to the ragged stringed edges.