May Long Part 4
The brakes on the RV squealed in protest as it slid to a halt at the intersection of Railway and Main. The streets of Canmore looked lifeless as the last of the grey, morning fog began to slowly burn away.
Paco Villa Lobos cranked the shifter into “park,” then reached into his back pocket for his wallet.
Sara stepped up to the cockpit, as Bill was releasing his seatbelt. It had been a bit of a harrowing journey as Paco had taken them at what Bill thought were excessive speeds down dirt roads from their campsite, then eventually to the highway, then into town.
“All righeet guys! What’s the plan?” Sara wanted to know.
“Okay, you two,” Paco grumbled, pulling two twenty-dollar bills from his ancient, well used, brown leather wallet, “I want you to go to that grocery store,” he nodded with his head toward a building across from where they were stopped, “and get us some food for tonight and breakfast tomorrow.”
Bill deftly snatched the cash from Paco’s fingers, “What kind of food?”
“What the fakk do I care what kind of fakking food you get? Just get something we can cook on the fire!” Paco answered impatiently.
“So,” Bill began, “what are you gonna do?”
Paco put his wallet back in his pocket, “Try to find someone to fix the water in here.”
“So what then, we just wait for you? Possibly all day?”
Paco drummed his fingers on the steering wheel in annoyance, “No for fakksakes! Meet me back here in two hours!”
Bill and Sara hopped out of the RV and watched Paco pull away from the curb and disappear down the road. He held the two twenties up in front of Sara, “A pair of greens.”
Sara slid one from his fingers and said, “One each!”
Bill held a hand up to his brow to shelter his eyes from the growing intensity of the sun, and looked down the road towards the so-called “grocery store” Paco had pointed out. It didn’t look much like the places he was used to shopping at. In fact it looked to Bill like some kind of organic, hippy food joint! He imagined the inside to be decorated in boring beiges and greys, and the smell of patchouli, and unwashed hippies to have permeated every nook and cranny. He also knew that Sara and himself probably both stank like campfire, bug spray, and who the hell knew what else. A decision had to be made, so he made it.
“We’re not going for groceries. We’re going for a drink.”
“Whuuut?” Sara was confused.
Bill pointed across the parking lot they happened to be standing in front of.
“I think an afternoon at the Rose and Crown!”
The Rose and Crown was teeming with noise and life as was usual for a long weekend, and as Bill and Sara’s eyes adjusted from the brightness outside to the gloom inside he realized why the streets of Canmore appeared so deserted; apparently everybody in town was in the pub! A sandwich board near the entrance advertised a “brunch special” in bright pastel coloured chalk letters: $2.50 Sausage, Egg, and Chips. As Bill looked around it seemed nearly everybody inside was partaking in the special, and no wonder, it looked fantastic but they weren't in there to eat, they were in there to get wrecked.
They moved through the fog of cigarette, cigar, and pipe (who smokes a pipe?) smoke that enshrouded the pub, Sara elbowed Bill in the ribs and pointed out two stools at the bar in the centre of the room. Bill nodded and the two of them made a bee-line towards what seemed like the only empty seats in the whole place. Bill pulled out one of the stools for Sara and waited until she was seated, before sitting himself. They were between two burly men in lumberjack coats whose sheer massive size made Bill almost feel like a runt. They both seemed to be crushing identical plates of the “brunch special” of banger, egg, and chips. The sight and smell of the food made Sara’s stomach tighten uncomfortably and give a little growl. She flushed pink for a second and looked sideways at Bill who didn’t seem to notice over the din of patrons and televisions.
Bill signalled the bartender and ordered them each a pint of Strongbow Cider and a pair of double “house” whiskeys.
Sara looked around through the blue-grey haze of the smoke-filled public house and leaned back against the wooden slats of her stool. This was better. This was where she was more comfortable. If she was honest, she never really liked camping, not in the least, but apparently Kate, Bill, Hunter and Paco did so she was willing to suck it up for one weekend if it meant she could spend some time with her friends. Something she felt she didn’t do nearly enough of these days, what with her new job, and the travel that came with it.
“So, what you been up to lately darlin’?” Bill wanted to know.
“Uh…” Sara hesitated for a moment. She and Bill had known each other since high school and at that time they had been very, very close. She might have called them best friends, but she knew he always wanted to be more than that. Even now, years later Sara still felt Bill might have feelings for her simmering under the surface, another reason why she preferred to hang out in a group of friends rather than one on one with him. Not because she was uncomfortable with any feelings he might have for her, but because she might have feelings for him beyond friendship, and that scared the shit out of her. Bill was looking at her, awaiting her answer to his inquiry, she had to say something, but felt she had to think about every syllable before answering him, lest something she said gave him the wrong impression, or the right one.
The bartender placed two shot glasses in front of Bill and Sara and quickly poured out the shots for them. “Sorry guys, the Strongbow keg needs changing! It should be just a few minutes! You guys wanna order something else instead?”
“Oh that’s fine! We’ll wait!” Sara said louder than she had intended. Bill looked at her for a moment, then back to the bartender who seemed to waiting for his answer as well.
“Yeah, that’s fine… whatever.” This annoyed Bill, as it seemed Sara had already answered his question.
The lumberjack next to Bill stood up, shoving his stool back with a loud scrape, and patting his mouth with a paper napkin. Bill watched the huge, massive, downright Brobdingnagian man as he sauntered slowly over to the cigarette machine, the floor creaking with every step, and started plugging one-dollar coins and quarters into it. This gave Bill an idea and he reached into his back pocket, then cursed remembering the last of the partially crushed cigarettes had met their fiery doom just a few hours earlier. In the short time they had been in the pub, the blue haze, and toasty smell of the cigarette smoke wafting about the place was making him ache for a ciggie. He gave the bartender a wave, but could see he was busy serving other customers.
Sara caught wind of his distress, “Whatssup Billy?”
‘Hmm,” he looked at her as if seeing her for the first time, “oh sorry darlin’ I was just trying to get the barman’s attention to get some change for the smoke machine.” He jerked his thumb toward where the vending machine sat in the corner of the room next to a pair of pay phones.
Sara was relieved that was all it was, “Oh, it’s all good Billy, you can bum one off me!” She reached into a pocket on her black West Beach hoodie and pulled a practically new packet of duMaurier Lights.
This seemed to relax him, he could feel his blood pressure lowering as he reached for the red coloured packet. Bill slid the filtered treasure from its foil papered slot and slowly, hand trembling ever so slightly, brought the cigarette to his lips. Sara flicked her orange coloured Bic lighter and had the smoke lit before he could reach for his own lighter. He nodded a “thanks” to her as he drew that first puff down into his lungs. Suddenly nothing else mattered, he closed his eyes, thinking to himself, Oh sweet mother, once again I suckle at your fiery, tar oozing teat!
“That’s better, thanks darlin’!” Bill smiled at Sara, as she lit one for herself.
The bartender returned with two frosty pints of cider filled to overflowing, “Sorry about the wait folks!”
Sara and Bill each took a sip, first slurping the meniscus of cider from the top of the overly full pint glasses, then a proper long drink.
“Oh, that’s just what I needed…” Sara smiled.
Bill picked up his shot glass of whiskey when they were both about halfway through their first pints. Sara butted out her cigarette and picked hers up as well.
“Chin chin!” Bill said as they touched glasses, touched them to the bar top, then slammed them back in one.
Bill pinched his face in a horrible grimace as the cheap house whiskey burned its way down his gullet.
“Gaaa!!” Sara had one eye screwed shut and was pounding the bar with her free hand.
“A little cider to put out the fire!” Bill said as both he and Sara picked up their pint glasses and finished them off like it was a race.
“Awesome,” Sara said before letting out a tremendous belch.
Bill smiled, “That’s more like it!”
The bartender was on it, grabbing up their glasses, “Same again?”
“Absolutely sir!” Bill stood up. He always felt more comfortable standing at the bar when he was getting stuck in down the pub. He never could seem to get comfortable on hard wooden stools. Hunter never let up on him when they went down to The Unicorn to drink, always asking if he could fetch him a pillow…
The bartender returned with their drinks, and this time Bill took his whiskey by the sip, followed by a quick swig o’ cider to chase it back. Then with one final puff, he finished his cigarette, having smoked it right to the filter. He exhaled and steeled himself. He had wanted to get Sara alone to talk for a while, and now seemed the perfect opportunity.
“Sara,” he looked at her, not just in her general direction, but into her brown eyes.
She could see he looked serious, this was the moment she had been dreading. What was she going to say? It wasn’t as if she hadn’t ever thought about the two of them together, but right now? With the both of them stinking and grubby from camping? No, she had to nip this in the bud before it went too far…
“I’m not good at this so I’m just gonna come out with it,” Bill started.
“Wait,” she said, “I know what you’re gonna say so let me stop you. When we get back to the city, and we’ve has a couple days to recover from the camping, I’ll give you a call and we can talk.”
Bill stood for a moment, mouth half formed around his next syllable, “Oh, uh all right.” He didn’t know what else to say.
This seemed to satisfy Sara, “Alright! Lets get some drinking done!”
Paco was blasting away at the side of the RV with the high-pressure water wand, soaping it up good and proper. One of the requisites for taking his parent’s Winnebago out for the weekend was that he give it a good wash, and since he couldn’t seem to find anybody in town too check the potable water tank, he decided to use the time to give it a decent wash. It took him a while but he finally found a place on the edge of town.
An alarm started binging away signifying to Paco he only had thirty seconds left before running out of credits. He cursed and stomped over to the little box on the wall. He cranked the toggle over to “RINSE” then fished around in his pocket for another couple of quarters. At ten seconds the alarm grew louder and even more annoying. With five seconds left Paco finally got two more quarters into the box for an extra three minutes. He turned back to the RV and began spraying. Soapy water was still spewing from the end of the wand.
“FAAKKKK you you fakking FAKKER!!!” He shouted to nobody in particular. Within seconds of his rage-fuelled swearing, the water ran clear, and the rinsing could begin. Paco smiled to himself convinced that sometimes all you needed to do to get your way was to try a little angry shouting…
Sara was good and wrecked. She looked up at Bill, towering beside her, “Whut time is it?”
Bill shook his wrist, making a deliberate show of it before looking down at his grey Swatch brand wristwatch. “Well darlin’ it looks to be about twenty to one.”
She brushed a loose lock of hair from her eyes and said matter of factly, “So it’s been about an hour and a half.”
“So, we have to work fast then,” Sara got the bartender’s attention, “Another two whiskeys and another pair of pints!”
* * *
Paco was smoking a cigarette and standing beside the Winnebago when Bill and Sara stepped out of the gloom of the pub and into the bright light of day.
“Heyyyy, it’s Paco!” Sara said, dreamily as she waved in his direction.
“Oh, he looks none too pleased!” Bill observed.
Sara stumbled a bit and caught on to Bill’s arm before she could fall over, “The camper is all clean! That’s sooo awesome!”
Paco threw his cigarette to the ground and stomped it savagely with a steel toed boot. The look on Paco’s face suggested to Bill that he may have wanted to do the same to Bill’s face…
* * *
Hunter was sitting on top of the picnic table in a sour mood, "Drawing Flies" by Soundgarden blasting from the beat-up stereo tape player. Catelyn was standing near the dying fire, white gloves on, smoking another Pall Mall. Hunter looked up to a familiar sound as the Winnebago rolled just past the campsite, stopped, then began backing up into the gravely pad.
Bill and Sara stumbled out the side door, and it was obvious to Hunter and Catelyn that they were both soused to the eyes. Sara stumbled over to Paco’s lawn chair recliner and flopped down into it. Bill walked straight over to Hunter and dropped a paper bag into his lap.
“What’s all this then?” Hunter demanded.
Hunter looked doubtful, but opened the bag and reached inside anyway. He sniffed, “Is that patchouli?”
Catelyn threw her cigarette butt into the fire then silently stalked over to the RV, slamming the door behind her.
Hunter was looking at the two things that were in the bag, “Tofu Dogs and Flat Whole Wheat Wraps. What the hell is this shit?”
Bill smiled, “I told you, food. What’s with Kate?”
Hunter didn’t feel like answering that question just yet, “So when the fuck are we leaving, cause I’m absolutely ready to head back to the city.”
Bill sat down beside Hunter on the top of the table, “And why is that exactly?”
“Because I never liked camping. I like it even less the longer I’m out here.”
“Outhouse, bugs, being outside all the time, take your pick.” Hunter grumbled.
“Okay, that’s fine. Now why don’t you tell me the real reason your in such a pissy fucking mood?”
Hunter was annoyed, he never could hide anything from Bill, he knew him too well, and he had a way of cutting through Hunter’s layer of bullshit.
“Kate told me she’s getting married for fuck sakes!”
Bill reached down to the cooler that Hunter had dragged over to the picnic table at some point in the morning. He flipped open the lid and grabbed a beer from the water that was all that remained of the ice from two days past. “You know I hate to be a dick, but so what?”
Hunter hopped off the table and grabbed a beer for himself, “What do you mean ‘so what’?”
Bill popped the top of the can, “I mean, so what do you care? Jesus Hunter, you really need to get over this because I can guaranfuckentee you she is not wasting even a second of her time worrying about your feelings.”
Hunter opened his beer and drank down the first half of it in one draught, “Yeah, maybe…”
“No maybe about it. Now cook us up some tofu dogs, bitch!”
Hunter smiled, “Cook your own tofu dogs bitch!”
Bill laughed, “Ah, now that’s the Hunter I remember!”
The side door to the RV burst open and Paco stepped out and stomped over to the table. Bill stiffened, Paco hadn’t said a word to him or Sara the whole way back to camp, and he was worried that Paco might be coming over for some comeuppance. Without saying a word, Paco stopped Hunter’s Soundgarden, and put something else in. "Break My Face" by Pixies started up when Paco pressed play. Hunter was unfamiliar with the song.
“Paco, what is this man?”
“PIXIES! The GREATEST FAKKING BAND!”
As Paco stalked back to the RV, Sara sat up in the lounger, stood up and took a few quick steps towards the bushes, then promptly threw up.
It was Hunter’s turn to sleep in the “over cockpit” bed in the RV that night so he took advantage and went to bed early. He thought he would be up all night, but was asleep in under ten minutes. Hunter didn’t know what time it was when he woke up, but knew it must not have too early as he could hear activity outside the Winnebago. He began rolling over and stopped dead. Someone was on the bunk with him, under the covers. There was an arm wrapped around him. An arm that terminated in black fingernail polish. He turned over to see Sara, in a black sports bra and low riding pyjama shorts. She yawned, then cuddled in closer, pulling up the covers. Hunter’s mind reeled.
Bet you didn’t see that coming! Be here in April for the thrilling conclusion of Lond Ho Adventures: May Long!
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