Every buddy movie
has the following elements: cars
, random excessive violence
, loose money
, sex threats
, narrow escapes from nothing
. I offer no excuses. It goes this way for all of us, sometimes.
We were six miles from her house, on Egan Drive near the Fred Meyer. We were on our way back from picking up cheese and sauce to make pizza. My culinary specialty. Or perhaps my only-ty. Because life in Alaska can never follow a linear route, my friend decided it was a good moment to change my life.
She said, "We're going to pick up these hitchhikers," and veered toward the curb.
I didn't even see the people standing there with their thumbs out. I was fiddling with the radio deciding between Black Sabbath and The Carpenters. Juneau, Alaska doesn't have the same media selection we have down here in the real world. I settled on classic Ozzie.
We got caught at a red light. While we waited her reality seeped into me. I saw the couple. Their clothes were rumpled. She was holding a big white styrofoam box, the kind modern day doggie bag you get at a restaurant when you need to bring home a turkey carcass. She was the size of an adult black bear and there was some of her dinner remaining on her chin. The man's hair was wild. His hands were covered in something black and greasy. The muscles in his face contorted his expression to one seen rarely in the living. He looked like he was witnessing a crucifixion he'd arranged. I knew he was in the grip of a combination of crystal meth and a strong opiate. He'd have a hard time distinguishing the car that approached him from an alien vessel.
I'm from the east. We know these things instinctually. And I have different senses than my Alaskan friend.
"What are you doing?" I said, in the hope that by forcing her to restate her intention she'd rethink her decision.
No such luck. She said, "I'm picking them up."
"Look at them. They're wearing their last victim's clothes."
"They're probably coming home from work."
"From work in the Steven King dimension? Darling, I realize you've been up here a while so your sense of self-preservation may be stunted. Any New Yorker will tell you these people are on drugs. They're serial killers. They've probably just eaten someone. She's carrying a doggie bag the size of a human head. In fact--"
"I just want to show you the way it is here."
"I'm okay with hearing it without living it. Totally. Why can't we go home and make pizza without having to defend ourselves from the Silence of the Lambs duo over there? What kind of weapons do you have here?" At my feet there was an empty bottle from an Arizona Iced Tea I'd just finished. I picked it up by the neck as nonchalantly as I could. Unfortunately, I had to take off my seat belt to do it. She caught me. Shook her head. I dropped the bottle.
"I can't be held responsible for your safety," I said, feeling under the seat, hoping that in this land full of guns there was one handy. The hitchhikers would surely have at least one between them. "Just remember that they'll kill me first so they can have their way with you. Goddamn me for not picking up that wheel gun at Fred Meyer when I had the chance. You got a house full of guns and nothing in your vehicle. How safe is that?"
The light changed. She headed straight toward them. The woman dropped her thumb. The man drooled.
I made one last run at it, "Darling, look in their eyes. These people hate everything we stand for. Can't we just leave them here? The law will deal with them in good time."
"What did you just call me?" she said, fast.
"I'm taking liberties in my last hour."
The woman opened the back door and slid in. The Toyota sank to the leaf springs. Our gas mileage had just gone to hell. The man slipped in behind me. I could feel his eyes on the back of my neck, staining my soul. Even though I outweighed him, I'd never be able to take him. In his drug-induced stupor his pain tolerance would be off the scale. I'd cut his arms off and he'd still be able bite me to death.
"Where are you going?" my friend asked them.
"Up to Auke Bay. You know DeHart's?" the woman said. The location was less than a 1/4 mile away from my friend's home. I looked at her, mentally begging her not to say it.
It was not my lucky day. She said, "Great. That's where we're going. I live right there on Fritz Cove Road."
"Cool," said the guy. Then, "Oh this is such a great ride." I saw him in the mirror. His eyes were red and yellow. He'd probably contracted hepetitis C from sharing his heroin needles. We'd be infected the moment the battle began. Even if we survived there would be no redemption for any of us.
My friend eased us onto the highway. The man behind me was snapping his fingers and began singing along with the radio.
"Finished with my woman cuz she couldn't help me with my mind
Think I'll lose my mind if I don't find something to satisfy."
"Ozzie rules," he said. "Usually when people pick us up they're listening to NPR."
"They had the Carpenters," I said. I had to keep his mind occupied and wreck his timing.
"The Carpenters. If I hear 'Close to You' one more time I'm going to kill someone."
"Me, too," I said, and I casually opened the glove compartment. Found the tire gauge. Imagined I could plunge it into his neck if I had to.
My friend knew what I was thinking. Her eyes wide she said, "Are you crazy?" But I didn't know who she was saying it to.
"I get crazy sometimes, too, dude," the guy said. He kicked the back of my seat to accentuate the point.
"I'm from Fresno," said the big woman, shifting her weight. "I love it here. All the rain. It's great. I was so sick of sunshine all the time. Sun sun sun. Why do people need sun all the time? I think sunshine is overrated, don't you?"
My friend agreed. They got exactly six sunny days a year in Juneau and as far as she was concerned that was six too many.
The man said, "Yeah. It's not like we're -- not like -- I mean we're not fucking plants or anything." He giggled.
The woman kicked him. Admonished him to watch his language. He apologized.
I turned in my seat. Seething, I couldn't stop myself from precipitating the attack right there and then.
I said, "I've never done that. What's it like -- fucking plants?"
It took about fifteen seconds for the words to get past the drugs and during that time I saw him calculating. Would he try to tear out my eyeballs? Would he jump out of the car? Would he swallow his own tongue?
Wrong on all counts. "Oh I get it," he said, and started laughing. And then the woman started laughing and then I caught a contact high and started laughing uncontrollably myself. The three of us were nearly in apopleptic shock when we got to where we were going.
The only person who wasn't laughing was my friend, who simply pulled over at the destination and let the couple out. When they were gone she asked me, "What's wrong with you?"
"Keeping you from winding up a limbless torso floating in Auke Bay," I said.
"You're sick. And call me 'Darling' one more time and you'll wind up floating in Auke Bay. Who do you think owns all those guns?"
I said, "You do, Pookie," because I'm me.