A Ranger is Cool
June 1st, 2015. 2:04 PM.
“Oh my God! The trailer is gone!” Hawkins exclaims in a poorly-rehearsed tone for the third time during the four hour drive. Turbo Cakes twitches next to me, and I give him a pat on the knee to assure him the trailer is, indeed, still hitched to the back of the renovated church van.
Uncle Ruckus, whose acne-covered face is equivalent to a teenage Freddy Krueger, uses his best tattle-voice, “Mr. B, Hawkins is taking the Lord’s name in vain again!”
Shovel not-so-casually explores the interior of the van with his eyes. Like a broken bobble-head, the new kid’s blond, buzz-cut head swivels around to goggle at the trailer.
I shrink down, knowing what comes next as Hawkins dives two seats forward, swinging his arm toward his target. The most impressive part about the whole thing is the finesse with which Hawkins’ swings, missing every other kid crammed in their seats like sardines to land a hit on Shovel’s tiny bicep, the same place it struck the last two times on the ride.
Turbo Cakes reacts late and covers his head with his hands as Hawkins sits back in his seat. Uncle Ruckus sits on Turbo’s other side with a stupid smile on his face, like he enjoys conflict of any kind.
“OUCH!” Shovel squeals, throwing his arms up to ward off further blows. He turns around in the seat and gets on his knees, his head inches away from the ceiling. I see tears well up in his eyes as he thrusts a finger over my head at Hawkins, “You JERK! You,” he hesitates and juts the finger further, “ass!”
Mr. B slams on the breaks. I brace myself against the seat in front of me with my legs, so I look unfazed by the sudden shift in acceleration. It’s kind of a macho thing, if you looked like you were struggling to stay in your seat, you’d look weak. Turbo lurches forward against his seatbelt, Uncle Ruckus jams his foot against the floor and tries to look chill. Shovel lets out a yelp and hugs the seat for dear life. Four seconds later, we stop. The weight of the trailer jostling behind the van doing its best to follow Newton’s first law on the gravel road. As soon as it does, we all scramble to buckle in. All except Turbo Cakes, who snaps his seatbelt against his chest with a smug look on his face.
Without air-conditioning, the inside of the van is a hotbox of chicken nuggets and Axe body spray failing to cover up the teen body odor. As the stocky, red-faced man glares at us, I try to avoid his gaze, turning to keep everyone in my periphery.
I don’t respect the man; I respect the thick, trimmed black mustache on his lip. The facial hair dances as Mr. B talks, “We’ve got half an hour left to drive, don’t make me bury one of you in the backwoods.” Everybody, even Shovel’s dad in the passenger seat, nods.
Mr. B says, “Hawkins,” the bully is more arms and legs than boy. “Put the seatbelt on; I’m tired of the trailer game.” Hawkins throws his whole head into an exaggerated eye roll, but none of the older guys notice his efforts.
Mr. B continues down his shit list. “Shovel, if I hear another curse word out of you, you’ll be cleaning the bolos for the whole week. Treb…”
Treb looks up from his Encyclopedia of Medieval Siege Weapons, dark hair obscuring his eyes.
“It’s been two hours,” Mr. B continues. “Finish. The. Chicken. Nuggets. Our Class A uniforms are going to smell like they were ironed by the Hamburglar.” Reluctantly, Treb puts the half-eaten chicken nugget he had been nibbling on for a good 45 minutes in his mouth and begins a slow chew. Mr. B points, “Whatever you don’t eat, I’m throwing out when we get to camp. The next Ranger on my radar cleans the bolos tonight. What are we going to earn this year?”
“The Golden Plunger,” everybody says.
With that, Mr. B throws the vehicle in drive, hits the gas, and the van once again bumps down the makeshift road. Individual trees blur woodsy colors as they streak past outside the window.
We all shut up. Nobody wants to clean the bolos; it’s the worst threat Mr. B has in his arsenal.
Mr. McNitt twists in the passenger seat to address the Rangers. “Come on guys, thirty minutes. We’re almost there. Let’s get off to a good start. Troop 100 usually wins The Golden Plunger, this could be our year!”
The air feels like a cotton ball and Mr. McNitt’s too-cheery words hang over us. The tires kick up pieces of gravel that ping off the trailer and do Shovel a belated favor, continually reminding us of its presence.
Mr. McNitt starts leaning back in his seat when Shovel whines, “But, Dad. He hit me!”
“That’s the game, son. They play every trip.” Mr. McNitt lowers his voice, but it doesn’t make a difference in the silent car, “You’re new to this troop, bud. Let’s try to fit in, huh? What if you try to get Hawkins every once in a while? Then you can punch him in the arm.”
Shovel’s brow furrows as Mr. McNitt turns back to the front, “Eyes on the prize fellas, Golden Plunger.”
I tuck some of my red hair into my hat, “You’d think they could afford a nicer van.”
“How are you wearing that?” I ask.
Uncle Ruckus gestures to his oversized, inside-out, splotchy black hoodie, “What, this?”
“It’s comfy stuff, my man. This sweatshirt is the big spit.” He says.
Hawkins leans forward, his thin nose curled into a sneer, “Does your family even own a washing machine? You look stupid wearing that thing inside-out. I can’t believe the troop lets people in who don’t even go to St. George’s. Maybe if you weren’t a leech, they’d have the money to fix the air conditioning.”
I inch away from Tri-Clops towards Turbo who fell asleep on my shoulder at some point. I don’t know how he can just fall asleep like that. On my left, Tri-Clops sits in the window seat entranced with a ball of yellow, crusty foam in his hand.
“Yeah, or maybe if some of us treated it better,” I say.
The van hits a pot-hole, Turbo Cake’s head slips off my shoulder, and he jerks awake. Drool seeps from the corner of his mouth onto my khaki uniform.
“Sorry,” Turbo Cakes murmurs, swiping the glob of spit off my shoulder and using it to style his moussed black hair. It looks the same once he is done playing with it.
I want to detach my shoulder. “Awake from your shortcut,” I observe.
Turbo stretches and his little oval face yawns wide, “Always makes the drive go by faster.” His eyes focus on Tri-Clops picking seat stuffing out of the hole in front of him. “What a waste of a window seat…” Turbo Cakes says. “You might wanna stop. This van’s a relic. You’re destroying history.”
Tri-Clops keeps on picking.
I rub my drool shoulder against Turbo. “Yeah, well, you’re destroying my ears with voice cracks.”
Turbo plays his trump card, “At least I have facial hair.” Like Vanna White revealing a clue on Wheel of Fortune, his fingers slide down a lone black hair jutting out from his chin. “Talk to me when you weigh more than ninety pounds soaking wet, Do-Over. This baby is ni--”
“9.398 centimeters long.” The van drones in unison.
Turbo Cakes wilts, “It’s eight repeating…”
“You got a disease, Turbo,” I say.
“Tell that to AIDS face over there.” Turbo Cakes points at Uncle Ruckus. He’s been a little too quiet, he doesn’t look so good either. I guess Mr. B’s threat really spooked him.
Uncle Ruckus rolls his eyes, “Yeah, everybody make fun of the guy with acne. Claps for you, bud.” He claps for emphasis, “Turbo, if you can’t play nice we’re gonna put you down for another nap. I brought my special chloroform hanky!” A soiled Kleenex appears in his hand. Uncle Ruckus blows his nose and shivers.
“Do you have a cold?” I ask.
“N-nah dude. I’m good…” Uncle Ruckus pulls the front of his sweatshirt, so it makes a big tent. He tucks his legs and arms inside, looking much more comfortable now. “Camp Winnebago,” Uncle Ruckus emphasizes the vowels, “Who the heck names a camp after the home Treb lives in?”
Mr. B slow-claps as he steers the van, “Ruckus! Guess who cleans toilets tonight? Bolo duty, my friend! Look, boys! Let’s read the Ranger Rules as we drive past!” Each sign outlines part of the Ranger Rules and Mr. B, Shovel, and the other little Tenderboots shout-read them. Every. Single. One.
“A Ranger is…”
“Cordial! Compliant! Devout! Honest! Ardent…”
I slip my earbuds in and start listening to some Weird Al. Sucks to be everyone else. I play it cool as White and Nerdy finishes and Mr. B stops in the camp parking lot with one last Plink.
“I know you guys are sick of hearing about the rules.” Mr. B says, “But I want to win The Golden Plunger this year. I’ll only say this one more time: if anyone thought breaking the rules and bringing electronics was a good idea, let’s go ahead and hand them over once we get to the campsite.”
The earbuds in my ears weigh a million pounds. I yank on the cord and tuck them into my pocket as Amish Paradise starts playing. I stealth pause the music on my phone protected by a military-grade case as Mr. B fumbles with his seatbelt. The troop leader tells Mr. McNitt “Stay put, Joe. Watch them,” and heads into the Administration Building.
Shovel squints, “What’s that place?”
“That,” Uncle Ruckus points with his middle finger, “is pretty much the Mordor of camp. Nothing in there but rules, paperwork, and punishment.”
“I don’t remember any paperwork in Mordor,” Shovel mutters, face scrunching in concentration.
“And that.” Uncle Ruckus rotates his hand palm-side towards his face, finger pointing up. “Is the ceiling.”
Ha. Nice one.
Shovel looks up at the ceiling. He gives a slow nod at the truthfulness of the statement and turns to face the front of the van. Everything is still.
The van is parked in the middle of a sparsely populated gravel parking lot. I look out the window. Some old guy is milling around the Parade Field picking the dandelions poking up in the otherwise perfect field of grass. The Administration Building sits on the far end of the Parade Field next to the Infirmary. Tonight we’ll all be standing in the middle of that field at attention while the lucky troop of the day raises the colors on the flagpole in front of the Dining Hall. It’s the same way every year. Past the Parade Field is Cardiac Hill. I can’t remember anybody actually having a heart attack climbing it, but every time I do I feel like I’m going to have one, and I’m only fifteen.
Shovel breaks the silence, stifling a laugh. “Hey Hawkins, I think the trailer is gone.” Shovel’s nostrils flare, and a half-smile flicks back and forth across his pale, pre-pubescent face. Hawkins rolls his eyes, not turning around to look.
“Screw this.” Ducky, one of the older guys, says.
The hierarchy of coolness went into effect as each age group waits for their elders to get out. The back row of seats populated by all the “men” in the troop, like Ducky, get out first. Hawkins and the other high school sophomores and juniors follow. Tri-Clops, Turbo Cakes, myself, and Uncle Ruckus all get out next. The little kids- Treb and all the other middle-schoolers- try to follow pecking order. The twelve Adventure Rangers know the drill and wait their respective turns to leave the van.
Everyone except Shovel, who slings the sliding door open and jumps out as soon as the older boys start shuffling around. Did this kid want a target painted on his back from the moment he stepped out of the van on his very first campout? Who does this kid think he is? I bet he doesn’t last the day. After Shovel, each Ranger waits his turn to explode out of the van. We all breathe deep, thankful to be free of the Ronald McDonald/Blazing Phoenix scented cell on wheels.
Once outside, I go stand next to Shovel who is kicking gravel around with a dopey grin on his face. “Dude,” I say, “you’re gonna get your teeth kicked in.” Shovel’s restless feet stop, and his smugness wavers. I continue, “If you don’t respect the older guys, they’re going to get pissed. Have you learned about graphs in school?”
“Okay, well, imagine the y-axis is coolness, and the x-axis is your age,” I demonstrate each axis with my arms. “There is a perfect linear equation for the age to coolness ratio.” I draw an imaginary diagonal line in the air in front of Shovel’s blank face.
“Get it? You’re just a little kid, so you aren’t cool, so you get out of the bus AFTER everyone older than you. That’s after Ducky’s gang, after Hawkins and the 10th and 11th graders, after the freshmen,” I gesture to myself and my friends, “and the nose pickers are over there living out Lord of the Flies.” I conclude, sweeping my arm to include Shovel and the other Tenderboot Rangers.
Shovel’s eyes track to Tri-Clops, who is balling up seat-foam in his fist.
“He’s older, yeah, but he’s an outlier,” I explain, “outliers are really bad. It means you’re weird. This stuff isn’t an exact science. Just don’t be weird and don’t die and one day you’ll be cool.”
I pat Shovel’s head and go stand with my friends. I look back at the van, staring at Mr. McNitt who is still sitting in shotgun reading the Ranger’s Life magazine. Maybe he’s missing some brain cells and likes the van’s hotbox? I can’t help but wonder if Shovel is a chip off the old block, that maybe he’ll never be cool. Looking at his dad, there’s no way that guy was ever cool.
“What was that all about?” Turbo Cakes gestures towards Shovel who is staring up at the sun like he’s trying to figure out its color. Well… At least he’ll be protected by his disability if he ends up blind, maybe it’s for the best this way, nobody picks on blind kids. I mean, probably.
“Just trying to help him survive the first week at least,” I say.
“I don’t think it worked,” Uncle Ruckus nods toward Shovel.
I watch in horror as Shovel dances up with a stupid-ass smile on his face and punches Hawkins in the arm. Hawkins spins, spit slinging from his mouth in a snarl.
“Gonna bruise, Hawkins?” calls Uncle Ruckus, “I’ve seen Treb close books harder than that.”
Treb doesn’t notice the jab. He’s too busy half-cradling his book as he attempts to coerce what looks like a half-dozen chicken nuggets into the already-full pocket of his khakis.
“Shut up,” Hawkins spits. He shoves Uncle Ruckus into me and stomps back over to Shovel. This kid is so stupid, why didn’t he run when he had the chance? Hawkins delivers two punches to the already-forming bruise on Shovel’s bicep. “You don’t get to punch if I don’t look, retard.”
Hawkins starts walking away when Shovel sputters, “But you did look. You looked at the trailer, as soon as you got out of the van. I saw you.” A chorus of exclamation goes up from the group of older boys; a mish-mash of ooh’s, cuss words, and other unintelligible sounds come together to play one of Bach’s unreleased symphonies: Masses, Humiliations, Hawkins.
“You’re an outlier, Hawkins!”
I smack a palm to my face. Shovel doesn’t get it. He doesn’t know when to stop. I crack my fingers to see everyone else look at each other, their faces asking a silent, “What?”
The summer sun glints off the rows of aluminum sheets drilled into the side of the trailer. Each dent and imperfection serving as reflective jump-off points for the rays of light seeking to photo-bleach the eyes of all those who look at the giant tin can.
Shovel sniffs, “You looked. I saw you.”
Hawkins whirls and grabs Shovel by the scruff of his uniform collar and jerks him to face the trailer attached to the rear of the van.
“Let me explain. The point of the game…” Each word flicks off Hawkin’s tongue like boiling venom. “…is to trick little idiots like you into thinking the trailer came loose from the van while it’s driving. You see the van? All your stuff is in there.” Hawkins jerks Shovel’s collar forward forcing him to take a step towards the van. “If it came detached, all the stuff would be gone. So. The. Point. Of. The. Game.” He forces Shovel to take a step with each word until he is inches away from the trailer. “Is not to look when the van is moving. What am I supposed to do, live my whole life without looking at the trailer again?”
Hawkins is hunched over jutting a finger into Shovel’s red, wet face. He jerks Shovel’s collar again, smooshing his face against the shiny metallic trailer. I feel the heat radiating off the glorified dumpster on wheels even from where I’m standing. Bright red letters above Hawkins' head read, “Troop 99, Property of the St. George Catholic Academy.”
“Now, I think - if you wanna be tough - we’d better toughen you up.”
Shovel’s chubby cheek smears against the trailer. Tiny beads of sweat sizzle as they stream down his face toward the metal sheets. Static shoots down my forearms and pools in my hands.
“It’s hot! Stop, stop, it’s hot!”
Hawkins presses harder, “You got it, retard?”
Shovel’s tears slip down his face to join the beads of sweat. They sizzle in harmony as his chubby cheek fills in the dents and imperfections on the trailer. I shift my stance.
Shovel’s pre-teen falsetto rises to a scream as he flails against the older boy’s push, “Hawkins, stop! Please stop, stop!”
All the muscles in my wrist tingle. My fingers tingle.
Hawkins grins, “You little dipshit tard-monkey.”
I take a measured step past Uncle Ruckus, my trembling right hand sinks into my pocket. I take slow steps until I’m within arm’s reach of the pair, holding my cell phone nestled inside the military-grade phone case. I reach out to grab Hawkins with an unsteady hand, raising my brick of a phone in the other.
“Hey boys!” Mr. McNitt gets out of the car.
I drop my hands to my sides, tucking the phone back into my pocket. Shovel, his cheek an angry Van Gogh painting, pulls away from Hawkins as his dad walks up.
Mr. McNitt surveys the group. “Never seen y’all so quiet before. Out of the way boys, let me get the trailer open.” He makes his way through the troop and starts unlocking it, “I know I can trust Moon Rangers. Go ahead and get your stuff and head down to Campsite 21. Tenderboot, Bear, and Pine Rangers stay here.” Mr. McNitt throws the trailer doors wide. The older boys swarm around their sleeping bags and luggage as it tumbles to the ground.
In the midst of the commotion, Ducky - who has so much testosterone at seventeen he’s already showing signs of male pattern baldness - leans down to Hawkins. Ducky is wearing a bandanna over his bald spot, and his beard is an unkempt mess. He is the spitting image of John Cena dressed up like a badass pirate.
“Next time you look at the trailer, and you don’t play right,” Ducky reveals his clenched teeth. “I’ll punch you.” With his two hundred pounds of muscle, he pushes past Hawkins to pick up his pack.
I stare at my shoes like I’ve never seen them before as Ducky walked past. Yikes, a threat like that is enough to scare the shit out of anybody.
Hawkins hefts his stuff onto his shoulder and blends in with the rest of the older guys under Mr. McNitt’s lax eye.
Mr. McNitt says, “I know I don’t have to tell y’all, but please, for the love of—” his eyes dart away from the accusing red letters on the side of the trailer, “St. George, walk down the hill.”
The older rangers were already out of earshot and halfway across the parade field.
Mr. McNitt walks past a crying Shovel towards a porta-potty ten feet away up against the Administration building. It’s East Tennessee Football orange, and the graffiti on the side reads: MAYBE IF THE VOLUNTEERS USED ME MORE OFTEN THEY WOULDN’T SHIT THE BED SO MUCH. Pfft. Amateur level graffiti.
Mr. McNitt chuckles, “Some things never change.” He resumes his monologue to the already-gone rangers, “…It’s a steep mile downhill. If you run, you’ll fall, and you probably won’t stop rolling until you hit the lake and even then…” He closes the porta-potty door, and his speech muffles. The other Adventure Rangers stand around socializing. But Uncle Ruckus, Turbo Cakes, myself, and Shovel, none of whom go to St. George’s Catholic Academy, stand off to the side.
Uncle Ruckus pats Shovel on the head. “You’re gonna die, dude.” He eyes me. “Well, both of you, probably.”
I push past the sixth grader to watch the older guys retreat into the distance. I feel rather than see Shovel walk up next to me.
He asks, “Why do you guys let Hawkins be so mean?”
Turbo Cakes pipes up behind us. “The old guy named Hawkins before him was worse than new Hawkins is. Every troop needs an asshole, and he’s ours I guess. Whenever the last Hawkins left the troop, we had no asshole.”
“Speak for yourself,” Uncle Ruckus says, sucking on a hoodie string. “My asshole has always been intact. If you’re missing yours, that explains why you’re so full of it.”
Poor Turbo Cakes, Uncle Ruckus never lays off the guy. To be fair though, he kind of sets himself up for it.
“Cute,” Turbo Cakes replies with a bead of sweat rolling down his forehead. “How can you wear that over your uniform? It’s hotter than Hell out here.” He casts a nervous glance at the glaring letters on the trailer.
“I thrive on your weakness and use it to keep myself cool,” Uncle Ruckus says.
We all stare at him.
Emotionless, Uncle Ruckus’s eyes fix on Turbo Cakes as he slides a pair of sunglasses over his eyes and says, “Keep myself cool as a cucumber.” He pulls on the other sweatshirt string and puts it in his mouth.
I gnarl my face in disgust. “You’re a weird dude sometimes.” I swat at the strings in Uncle Ruckus’ mouth. “You freaky little outlier. That’s nasty.”
“Anyway.” Turbo Cakes draws out the word and leans against a bulletin board. “Without the old Hawkins, the new Hawkins kind of just stepped up and donned the mantle, and we called him Hawkins ever since.”
“And he’s been a jerk ever since,” I say. “Now that you’ve royally pissed him off, we’ll all suffer for it the entire time at summer camp.” I slump to the ground. “Thanks.”
Uncle Ruckus starts throwing rocks, and the other two sit down on the gravel. One hits the trailer.
We all pick at the weeds peeking up between each piece of gravel until Shovel’s dad comes out of the porta-potty. He saunters up to the vending machines outside the Administration Building.
“I’ve never been camping before,” Shovel offers.
“Don’t care,” Uncle Ruckus shoots him a pair of finger-guns and puts his sweatshirt string back in his mouth.
“You gave me my nickname, right?” Shovel asks.
“Mmm-hmm,” Uncle Ruckus adds a handful of green weeds to the pile.
“Why did you pick Shovel?”
Uncle Ruckus, Turbo Cakes, and I exchange a glance. I don’t approve of the nickname, but it’s easier to just let Uncle Ruckus have his fun. If you leave Uncle Ruckus alone, he won’t set his sights on you. It’s his problem now, and there’s nothing more entertaining than watching Uncle Ruckus try to get himself out of a problem. It would be so choice if Shovel goes and cries to his dad about it when he finds out the truth. I figure it’s good for everybody. Shovel gets thicker skin, and Uncle Ruckus might learn a thing or two.
“Because,” Turbo Cakes draws the word out, “of that game you like to play so much. The one with all the blocks and you dig with a shovel?” Each word after the first tumbles out a little faster than the one before.
“Oh.” Shovel looks perplexed, then smiles. “Cool!”
Leave it to Turbo to bail out Ruckus even after he gives him shit all day. Oh well, probably better for everyone this way.
Shovel squints, “How about him? Why’s he called Treb?”
Treb is sitting next to Tri-Clops in the van; looking at the encyclopedia together. A chicken nugget teeters on the edge of Treb’s pocket, and he offers the one he’s nibbling on to Tri-Clops who gratefully eats the whole thing in one bite.
Before Uncle Ruckus spouts anything hateful, I say, “It’s because he likes all that old stuff so much. He takes that book around with him everywhere, it’s got knights and castles in it.”
“I don’t get it,” Shovel says.
“Trebuchet,” Uncle Ruckus blurts. “It’s short for trebuchet, you moron.”
Wow. He almost made it through that sentence without being an asshat.
“Oh, okay. What about—”
“Even you aren’t dumb enough to be confused about Tri-Clops’s nickname. Did you see that thing on his forehead?” Uncle Ruckus asks, letting one of the spit-saturated strings fall from his mouth.
“Right.” Shovel says, reaffirming his suspicions with a nod. “Is everyone’s nickname that simple?”
“No,” I say.
“Well, how about yours, Do-Over?” Shovel asks.
“Kid,” Turbo Cakes says, “asking about nicknames is a good way to get beat up. Alright? There’s just some stuff guys don’t talk about, and nicknames is one of ‘em. Once you’ve been around longer than one campout,” he tilts his head. “Then maybe we’ll tell you. You joined last week, dude. Either figure it out, wait, or ask and die.”
“Seems like a weird rule…” Shovel mumbles.
“I got snacks and Coke!” Mr. McNitt has an armload of sodas, pop-tarts, and skittles.
Uncle Ruckus’ head snaps up, “Thank God, a nice kilo is going to make this camp out so much more bearable. You generous man, I can’t imagine why you would offer to share with – oh you mean like the drink.” He concludes with a frown.
“Sorry, no white powder here, Adventure Rangers! Pass ‘em around, will you Ruckus?”
“That’s Uncle Ruckus to you, sir.”
“Just seems weird to call somebody a third of my age ‘Uncle,’” Mr. McNitt says.
Uncle Ruckus cracks open his Coke. “Seems weird to offer drugs to minors.”
Mr. McNitt passes out the drinks to the whole troop, “Good thing we got rid of those older guys, huh? Would’ve been another twenty dollars, probably.”
Turbo Cakes fingers the Coke’s lid with distaste, “Does this man not know about proper hydration?”
“My Dad doesn’t know what?” Shovel pipes up. Mr. McNitt looks up at his son and saunters over to us.
“Know,” Turbo Cakes says in a long breath, “about Shovel’s injury! He’s got a sunburn already!”
Mr. McNitt frowns, “Son, I thought I told you to put on sunscreen!”
“Gee, Mr. McNitt,” I say, an idea forming. “He looks pretty bad; maybe we should take him to the infirmary?” Mr. McNitt squints at his son and adjusts his glasses.
“Well… Maybe... But I don’t know where—”
“Don’t worry, Mr. McNitt! We know where it is! We’ll take excellent care of him, won’t we guys?” Turbo Cakes and Uncle Ruckus nod. The pair of them grab the dazed-looking Shovel by his sweaty arms and hoist him to his feet. Shovel chugs the rest of his soda, grabs a third pack of pop-tarts, and follows us like a good little Tenderboot.
“All good, Mr. McNitt!” I assure him.
We half-drag, half-carry Shovel down the parking lot until we’re out of sight.
⚜ ⚜ ⚜
May 31st, 2015. 10:36 PM.
Uncle Ruckus cackled at the little notification that read, “Do-Over has left the party” in the corner of his TV screen. The condo walls rattled causing dust to flit down from the popcorn ceiling. Tiny specks fluttered down, settling around the rim of a day-old green soda. He stretched, grabbed a sharpie, and changed the name on the can. Uncle Ruckus took a big glug of flat Mountain Poo. Then, he grabbed the bulky black garbage bag from last year.
Holding his breath, he stuffed the concentrated Ruckus reek into a different garbage bag, tied it with a knot previously unknown to mankind, and sat back down on the orange shag carpet in his room. The game un-paused as Uncle Ruckus resumed his genocide of the gory aliens. Faint yelling crept through the floor. Uncle Ruckus ignored the sounds along with the smell seeping out of his garbage bag of camp gear. Coated with orange chip dust, the buttons crunched every time he unleashed a barrage of gunfire. He turned up the volume on the TV and drowned out the rest of the world.