Reckless Abandon: Idiots
An intentionally arranged series of words by Zachary Elmblad ZachElmblad.COM “Reckless Abandon” is a collection of short stories pertaining to the characters, events, and backstory of the upcoming book, “Borderline Vagabond.” These stories are written for the vagabond in us all. Indulge it every once in a while; be safe, be smart, be alive, and have fun out there. Screw plagiarism, and FUCK censorship. Copyright 2011 by The New Scum Productions Kalamazoo, MI TheNewScum.ORG Also by Zach Elmblad: “Borderline Vagabond” - Coming 2012 “Whatever Happens Happens” “A New Way Home” “A Puzzle of Squares”
I was fighting the urge to spit right in this guy's face. All I wanted to do was buy some booze, but it was quickly becoming a memorable and miserable struggle. As I popped two thirty-racks of High Life on the counter; I asked politely for a fifth of Svedka, a fifth of Jagermeister, and a fifth of Jose Cuervo. You see, the Jager is for coffee in the morning, and shots after dinner. The Vodka is for mixing with juices to drink throughout the day, and the Cuervo is for drinking with other people. The beer is just what you drink in between. Better than water, you know. That's boring. Passe. I had some drinking to do. The extended, days long, kind of drinking. The kind of drinking you do to get something off your mind, or in my case, to put something there. I get in the habit of becoming a normal person, and sometimes I have to get back in touch with the raving lunatic that lurks in wait for my first guzzle of fermented grain. So there I am, hundred dollar bill in hand, and he stands there like a lump of mayo that fell out of my lunch. Another useless maladroit running the cash register of another stupid liquor store in Northern Indiana. I wish I could make alcohol magically appear in my hand. I hate going to liquor stores. If it isn't the idiot drunks it's the
idiot cashiers. “Let me see some I.D.,” he says, and I hand it over. “Here ya go, buddy.” “This isn't you.” “What?” “It's not you. This guy has long hair.” “I... um... cut... it? Isn't that allowed?”
“Got anything else with your name on it?” I gave him my two debit cards, three credit cards, and and expired college ID from five years ago that I had with me for some reason. If he wasn't convinced, I had my social security card, my birth certificate, and my passport with me in the car. Just in case the mood struck me to get out of the country, you know. Best to always be prepared. I guess you could say I'm still a Boy Scout at heart.
“Will this do? Are you convinced?”
“Sorry, man, I don't want to get stung.” “Dude, I'm going bald. Definitely not eighteen anymore.” “Whatever. Ninety three eighty six.” “Here, man.” I handed over the hundred dollar bill. “I can't break a hundred.” “But the change is only six fourteen!” “Did you do that in your head?” He looked at me, visibly astonished. “Yes, dude. High school. I went.” At this point, I became the enemy. I could see it in his face. “You've got twenties in your wallet, why don't you use those?”
“Because then I'd have to break a hundred somewhere else. It's cash, dude, any bank will take this.”
“I can't break a hundred.” He stared blankly forward, avoiding eye contact. “Look, dude, you're not breaking a hundred. You're TAKING a hundred. There's a difference. I'm not buying something that costs ten dollars, I'm using a denomination that is applicable to the cost of the goods. You don't have to give me a bunch of twenties, you know. Just a five, a one, a dime, and four pennies. As a matter of fact- “ I reached into my pocket and grabbed a penny. “Here's a penny. One five, a one, a dime, and a nickel. Easy. Not gonna mess up your drawer at all.” He took the penny, looked at it, cocked his head to the right, set it down, and said: “Hold on, I have to get my manager.” Rage. Fury. A deep breath, then patience.
“Are you serious?” I felt like I might have to beat it into him. “Hey Crystal, this guy wants to break a hundred.”
“We can't break a hundred,” I heard a scratchy old woman's voice bark from the partially open office door. “See? Can't break a hundred.” He put up his arms in a shrug. “I'm not asking you to BREAK a hundred, I'm asking you to TAKE a hundred.” “Can I take a hundred, Crystal?” “For what?” I could see her stare vapidly into a computer monitor. “For this guy's liquor.” “How much is it?” “Almost a hundred bucks.”
“Yeah, we can take a hundred if the change isn't too much.” “See?” I said, “Cash for booze, dude, I'm not playing games with you, I promise!”
“Ok, sir. Six fourteen is your change.” “But I gave you a... ah, nevermind. Have a good night, man, take it easy.” I gave up on the penny. C'est la vie. I left, but at least I left with my booze in tow. I was getting ready to just walk away and hold out until I found another liquor store. Couldn't stay too hung up on that idiot, though, he wasn't even worth dedicating brain time to. I was on a mission. It was a simple mission, but an important one to me. I had two days to get to North Carolina, come hell or high water. Seeing as how it's only something like a twelve hour drive, two days was plenty of time to find some mischief along the way.
After my difficulty dealing with the Northern Indiana locals, I opted to find a place further East, a touch closer to my destination, and as far away from Indiana as I could get before I had a drink. Ohio isn't much of a better option, but it's a marked improvement in comparison to Indiana. There's a reason Indiana is the crossroads of America, you
know. Nobody every wants to do anything but get the hell out of there. I simply followed suit. I traveled the I-90 turnpike, like I have a hundred times before. It seems like I've driven the Ohio turnpike more than I've driven any other stretch of highway. When you're coming from Northern Indiana, and you're headed East, you can't really avoid it unless you really go out of the way. I cracked open the first of my beers parked at the second rest stop East of the state line. The first one sucks, unless you're trying to score gross coffee and a Cinnabon, otherwise you're boned. The bigger rest stops are for people watching. After that first one is a series of deckedout rest stops, some of the finest in the Country. The food court is open, like a mall, letting the light flood in as you watch the employees and customers of a wide array of recognizable fast food establishments. Each building is only very slightly different from the last one you saw.
Drinking in public is painfully easy. All you have to remember to do is switch containers. If you drink out of a can of beer, everyone knows that you're the wandering drunk of the day. You'll blow your cover that way. You'll get kicked out in no time. Pour that same beer in a coffee mug, and no one's the wiser. You can drink beer anywhere, and I mean ANYWHERE, so long as it's in a coffee mug. No
one will ever bother you. You just have to remember not to spill, and not to get close enough for anyone to smell your breath. That might blow your cover. There's nothing worse than the eighteen year old girl running the cash register at McDonald's saying, “Wow, your breath smells like BEER!” at six in the morning, as all the adults eye you suspiciously knowing that this is a rest stop on a major highway. You have to stay low key. You have to stink. Either don't shower, or wear a few sprays of strong cologne. No one wants to be near a guy that stinks, whether it's like an armpit, like patchouli, like an ashtray, or like expensive department store cologne. They'll stay away from you. That's what I wanted anyway. I learned my lessons with people. I just watch them now, I don't bother trying to talk to them. It just gets... weird.
It's not that I don't like people, I mean, I AM a person. It's true. It just seems like everybody else pisses me off until I know who they are. I don't really have anything against them, I just don't like interacting with strangers in a public context like that. I don't like to small talk. I'll talk your ear off, but only if I know it's going to be worth my time. I'll talk to anyone that doesn't start a conversation with, “did you see (insert any television show) last night?”
I took a seat in the dead center of the sea of tables in the rest area food court. I slowly ate some french fries, gingerly sipping my beer, as I watched the first group. It was a quartet of painfully Midwestern geriatrics that were trying to figure out how to read the McDonald's breakfast menu. Two men, two women. Couple's morning out, I guess. “Coffee is two dollars!” the lady in the flower print blouse said to the man in the tan suit. “What?” he said, leaning closer, as the woman in the pink sweater stared blankly at the menu. “I said the coffee is two dollars!” “What?” He leaned in, closer still, with his hand cupped to his ear. “I said the coffee is two dollars! Don't you listen?” “The coffee is two dollars?! That's outrageous?” “It's WHAT?” “I said that's outrageous.”
“It sure is! Two dollars, just for a coffee! I remember when it used to cost fifteen cents!” “How much does a coffee cost?” said the man in the pastel blue suit. “What?” said the woman in the pink sweater. “I said how much does a coffee cost?” The poor girl behind the register just stared, with her mouth open a little, knowing what was coming. I smiled, and I drank another sip of my beer as I glanced over at the table a few rows down from me. There was a mother, easily four hundred pounds, breast feeding an infant for all to see and wish they hadn't. “Stop pulling your sister's hair!” She shrieked at the blond haired boy. “She won't stop touching me!” he moaned. “Stop touching your brother or we aren't going to the toy store!” “NO! I WANNA GO TO THE TOY STOOOOORE!” cried
the boy. Now she'd done it. The boy continued to howl, and I pulled my iPod out of my pocket. Sweet distraction. I listened to Strapping Young Lad's self-titled record, very, very loud. I watched the boy's mouth quiver and shake along to the demonic sounds of Devin Townsend screaming in my ears. The mother detached the infant, pulled her meat flop back into her shirt, set the spawn down in the baby carrier thing, and grabbed the boy by the wrist.
I imagined what she might be saying to him. Something to the effect of “stop screaming! I told you not to behave like this, didn't I tell you not to behave like this? Why are you being a bad boy? Why won't you do what mommy says?” The boy wriggled and shook and flailed about like a fish out of water, eventually knocking over mommy's chocolate milkshake, which really got her upset. Upset enough for the fatty to stand up before her meal was over, no less. She picked him up out of his seat, sat down on a seat at the adjacent table, put him over her knee, and spanked him right there in the rest stop.
I was trying to decide if people would think that was child abuse, or just a due punishment from a lengthy span of misbehavior we hadn't been privy to. Hard to say. I happened a glance to my left, catching the gaze of a girl my age, similarly headphone laden. I reached my coffee cup up toward her in a 'cheers' motion. She nodded and smiled.
I looked at the condiment station, where a homely looking girl with black hair was changing the garbage can. I thought about how many times I had changed a restaurant garbage can and wondered who was watching me change the garbage, thinking about the guy changing garbage at the restaurant. Weird things to think about when you're people watching. There was a well-dressed brown-haired woman that looked to be about thirty waiting in line, patiently I might add, behind the group of geriatrics. She kept nervously checking the her phone, and I assumed it was because she was running late to wherever it was she was going. I
imagined it might be to catch a flight. She had a really nice dress on. It looked like it might have been fitted for her, instead of bought off of a rack. I wish I could afford tailored suits, man. Then again, if I had that much money, I probably wouldn't spend it on expensive clothes when my cheap clothes seem to work just fine. I would probably spend it on booze. Then again, again, maybe I would be rich enough to buy a tailored suit if I stopped drinking. That, though, is pretty much impossible.
I decided I should get back on the road. Better not to waste time, I figured. Even though that was kind of the point of this whole exercise. Two days for a twelve hour journey. Getting into North Carolina to visit my buddy Hooper was the primary motivating factor in getting back on the road, but I wanted the trip to be as fun as the destination. If you've got to drive the entire expanse of the state of Ohio, you'd better know how to entertain yourself. Luckily, I can entertain myself for hours on end just by remembering the past. It's easy to regret the things you've done, but the real challenge is using that knowledge to guide your
decisions in the future. We all act like idiots from time to time, but on this particular day the problem seemed to be widespread and of staggering magnitude. Transgression is forgivable, even repeatedly, but it must be said: Human beings, In their natural habitat, sort of disgust me.
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