Chapter 22 - The River and the Moonlight
The next night, Dean didn't go to the baseball game. Almost everybody else in Concord did though. There was something inside of him that made him want to avoid contact with people, so he bought a six pack of Miller and went and sat by himself at the side of the river.
It was a perfect night for river sitting. The full moon hung in the sky like a big neon sign, silvering the water and everything else it touched. Dean had borrowed one of the lawn chairs from Danny's house. He slouched in the chair and tossed his empties into a white painter's bucket. He also fired up a joint. In less than a minute his mind was flowing as silvered as the passing water.
"Oh God, why?" It was one of those types of evenings, one of those rare nights where he felt like questioning the whose and whys of a life he knew for certain he was surely misspending. Moments like this for Dean were very rare, and because of their rarity he played them to the bone, sometimes becoming as melodramatic as a Silent Movie Era ingenue.
He wasn't feeling anywhere close to being in the neighborhood of his normal insouciant self. The battle at the bowling alley the night before had knocked something loose on the inside.
He had gone home after the celebration and upon entering into the house, sat down at the table where his father had always tossed his keys, wallet, cigarettes, and poker winnings and just started crying. He didn't know why and couldn't even explain what was happening to himself but knew it had something to do with swinging a bat hard into the side of Randy Ellis. Randy had once been his friend in elementary school but now sided with Mickey, Moose and the boys on the Northside.
Once, he had peed himself in Mrs. Olson's first grade class, and it had been Randy who made sure that nobody laughed, and it was Randy who had walked him to the office talking and laughing like it was no big deal. Yet, it was also Randy who dropped like a rock unto the paved alleyway behind the bowling alley, and that picture just didn't sit right and made Dean feel like clutching his own ribs.
There was picture on the wall behind the table where he sat of him and his once happy family. His father had never taken it down after his mother left. Dean would catch him dusting it every now and then and often saw him staring at it while he smoked a cigarette and thought no one else was looking.
The picture always made Dean sad. It would catch at his heart whenever he entered the house. He remembered clearly the day that it was taken. It was at a picture stall at the county fair in Hartford. He had had to wipe the lipstick off his cheek from one of his mom's spontaneous kisses, and as they posed, his father tousled his hair. There was so much joy and love that night, and it had all disappeared so quickly. One night, his dad lost half his pay check in a card game, and there was never any peace or love inside their house after that night.
The river always gave him peace. He liked it when Danny was there with him because he could always ask his friend's advice and not have to worry if it was the truth or not. Sometimes, he and Danny would sit silently for hours each wrapped in the cocoon of their own thinking. But, when they got tired of sitting, they would jump back in the car and talk like a couple of middle school girls all the way back to town.
"What were you thinking about, Danny. You were a lot quieter than usual tonight," Dean asked.
" I don't know really, it was kind of stream of conscious thinking ,and it went sort of went every which way. I was thinking about that time my mom spanked me for a mistake that Glen made, and the next thing you know I'd be thinking about a dead horse floating feet up in the water."
"Shit, I don't know for sure if that's even possible."
"A dead horse floating feet up in the water."
"Possibility ain't even the fucking point, Dean. I was thinking about the unfairness of life and suddenly I'm thinking about a back stroking dead horse."
" Well which one is it, a floating dead horse, or a backstroking dead horse? I figure that'd make a difference and just how quickly did you get from your mom whipping you to the dead horse?"
Danny just stared at him. " Damn, I swear Dean, if I didn't know that Billy Ames picked his nose and salted his boogers before eating them, I'd be willing to swear that you were the dumbest sumbitch between Stockton and Tehachapi."
They rode in silence for time before Danny added, "It took awhile though."
Dean was confused, "Huh?"
"I didn't just go from my mom whacking me to the dead horse. I didn't just go from point A to point B; I went the scenic route. I thought about a lot of other stuff on the way."
"Now that makes sense. I mean going from a undeserved whipping to dead horse kind of threw me." Dean had answered before he rolled down the the driver's side window and spit into the wind rushing by.
When Dean got back into Concord about 10:00 PM. The lights on the baseball diamond were off, so the game was over. He was out of Miller, so he decided to stop at the Rub a Dub and grab a six pack. Technically, the store was on the north side of town, But it was far enough out North of town that the rich folks didn't frequent the place. It was out by the highway, and it's usual cliental was truck drivers and people passing by Concord on the highway.
The Rub a Dub had truck stop ambience to spare and then some. It was so well lit with green, yellow, blue, and red neon that you could probably see it from outer space. The owner was a balding, bespectacled, middle age Punjabi named Amis Kapoor. Dean liked him a lot. Amis was cool as the underside of the pillow. His son Druva was even cooler. Droov had played baseball with Dean in high school and often snuck beer out of his father's store for after game celebrations.
The speakers by the gas tank were blasting Humble Pie's Hot and Nasty from speakers by the gas pumps when Dean stepped out of the car, slammed the door, and sauntered through the door.
"Amis, my man! What's up, Dude!"
"Mister Deano! What for are you doing out this late in the evening?"
"It's only ten, Buddy. I was out fishing and I ran completely out of beer."
Droov came shuffling out of the inside of the beer cooler when Dean spoke. Dean nodded to him, but something was strange. Droov didn't say anything, but his eyes pointed toward the dining tables at the rear of the store.
The couple sitting there at one of the red topped tables had their back turned to the counter, but Dean could see their faces reflected in the plate glass window to their left. It was Mickey Porcine sitting side by side with Jill Booth, and they were both laughing.