(OR Not Another 90s Nostalgia Story)
By: Guest Writer Nick Dominic
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FL – Three boys are brunching on Bagel Bites. Their names are Alex, Jason, and Nick. They just had a sleepover at Alex’s house.
Alex is thick and sassy. The front of his hair looks like a tidal wave. He is wearing a Spawn t-shirt and the same giant Gap cargo shorts in which he occasionally stores Miami Subs sandwiches. He was the first to pack his school lunches with arugula and prosciutto, he uses a cologne that smells of cilantro, and his most prized possession is a phantom mask autographed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. He is the only one in school who has yet to begin masturbating. Never too late to make up for lost time, though.
Jason is of average height and solid build. He’s wearing basketball shorts and a Gators 1996 National Champions t-shirt. He is still adjusting to contact lenses, so he spends a lot of time squinting or just wearing his thick old lenses. Today he’s got his goggles on.
On his last birthday, he kissed a girl right in the mouth. He was playing an innocent game of “suck and blow,” sitting in a boy-girl-boy-girl circle on the floor, exchanging a slip of paper clockwise with only their mouths. A girl had deliberately dropped the soggy paper slip, letting it noiselessly fall onto the blue carpet of his bedroom floor. Then she’d laid a wet one on him, nice and wet and gross, right in his mouth, Coca Cola fizz tongue swirling like a blender on a slow setting, and ever since, he’s been brimming obnoxiously with testosterone, charging his formerly saturnine countenance with a more bullish demeanor.
Nick is petite, wiry. Attractive. He wears Converse, way before everyone else makes it bandwagon. Furtively shaggy hair yearns to be a Beatlesesque mop-top. He wears the same sleeveless AC/DC shirt and jeans every day (and smells like it, too).
They’re tan, they’re in middle school, and they’re all wearing fanny packs.
They are also joined by Bongo, who technically shouldn’t be born for a couple years, but poof! Now he’s a healthy two-year old Labrador, weighing 120 pounds American. He is steel muscle incased in silky, bulletproof blonde fur. He has a noble visage and his voice resembles a young James Earl Jones. He is currently stretched out and snoring softly on a corner futon.
The sleepover was a success. They played Monopoly, where Nick cheated. They played Nerf war, where Alex cheated. Then they played Goldeneye, where Jason repeatedly beat them even with Alex and Nick both cheating.
No one else is home. “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies is playing on a Casio stereo. Alex’s sisters are at dance-fighting camp. All parents are working hard making that money, chasing the Cuban-American Dream. The boys noisily scarf scalding Bagel Bites and wash it down with Farm Stores milk in big plastic Flanigan’s cups. They’re in Alex’s dad’s architecture office, so there are paintings of old buildings and naked people. They hang out here when they want to use the best computer in the house to surf The Web (Pentium II processor, baby). Alex is loading numerous Bagel Bites at a time into his cavernous mouth while his other hand effortlessly types, scrolls, and clicks. Jason is using his non-feeding hand to leaf through issue #98 of Nintendo Power magazine. Star Fox is on the cover (and, amazingly, Falco, too, even though everyone knows he’s an ungrateful pile of shit scumbag). In any case, according to the illustrious editing staff of this issue, Mario 64 is still rated as the very best N64 game, and customers are still salivating over the relatively new marvel known as the “rumble pak” (game-changer), but perhaps more importunely, an upcoming game is also mentioned: Zelda 64.
The computer’s dial-up internet is making a racket. Nick continues a thread from before brunch— “Pokémon is a fuckin fad, dude. People are going to forget all about it.”
Alex shrugs. “I don’t care. I like it.”
Jason adds, “Your mom likes it.”
All three guffaw vigorously. ‘Your mom’ jokes are still fairly novel to them.
“Anyway,” Nick continues, “let me check my AOL when you have a chance. I wanna see if she wrote me back.”
Jason snorts, “Ah, here we go.”
Nick tries to slap him, but Jason catches the hand mid-strike and kisses it tenderly. Nick shudders and says, “I hate it when you do that.”
Alex chuckles good-naturedly, rolling his desk chair from the keyboard. “All you, pal.”
Nick pecks animatedly at the keys, clack-clack-clack-clickety-clickety, having to utilize backspace more than most. He is desperate to “hook up” so that he can definitively know what that even means. His love is as fierce as it is aimless. His recent attention to a “QTgrrly305” is only the latest installment in a series of unwise romantic decisions. If he’d spent more time reading Fitzgerald and Hemingway instead of Clancy and Coonts, he’d fucking know better.
“Aha!” he shouts triumphantly. “She responded! And…she…she wants to meet! Oh, but it has to be today. Fuck. She leaves town this afternoon for family vacay in Key Largo. They’re seeing a movie at the Falls first, and she says they always go to the Haagen-Dazs after, and I can see her there for a little while.”
Jason muses, “Likely story.”
Alex asks, “What movie are they seeing?”
Nick reads again and answers, “Blade.”
Alex nods approvingly. “Well, maybe she’s cool.”
Jason shrugs and says, “These dubious circumstances bode ill, but either way, sorry about your dilemma. Now can I get a chance to check my email, too, please?” Nick scooches over and agonizes audibly as to what to do. Alex mocks Jason for having a Yahoo account instead of an AOL account like normal people.
Nick moans, “Guys, she says she looks like a combination of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Elizabeth Hurley. Why does fate tease me so? With salvation so close, yet so far, far away? If there were a car here, I’d steal it. If we still had bikes, I’d ride like American hero Lance Armstrong straight to that mall…but it’s just way too far a walk. I’d never make it there and back in time not to get in trouble with mom.”
Jason interrupts— “Whoa—hold on just a fuckin minute,” and gestures for the other two to look at the screen. He continues: “So yesterday I put some feelers out to see if there was just the slightest chance of getting an early copy of Zelda 64, rumored to have the working title, ‘Ocarina of Time.’ It isn’t scheduled for release until November, in time for the holidays. Well, fuck my face if I didn’t get a response, apparently sent in the middle of the night by an insomniac.”
Alex observes, “Many hackers are insomniacs.”
Nick nods superfluously.
Jason booms, “LET ME FINISH!” He settles down again, his forehead and window glasses reflecting the computer screen’s light. “So not only does this guy say he has a copy…”
Nick says, “How do you know it’s a guy? Maybe it’s not. That’s racist.”
“ENOUGH!” Jason puts his hand over Nick’s mouth. Nick turns to Alex, who says, “Sorry, but it’s for your own good, buddy.” Jason blurts—“Here’s the part that’s nuttier than squirrel scat: the seller wants to meet at the Falls. Small world, eh? He also made a point that the longer I wait, the likelier another buyer steps in and pees in my coffee, so to speak.”
Alex grimaces. Nick, seeing his chance, pulls away and postulates, “Look, your thing might sound pretty sketch, but it’s still worth trying. If he doesn’t have it, you just don’t pay him, right? We might as well find a way over there. You both get your Princess Zelda, I get Princess QTgrrly305, and we all live happily ever after, just like the Cosby family.”
“Well,” Jason starts, “here’s the thing. As you know, N64 games are usually $50-$60 these days. However, this one is $80. It’s a big deal.”
Alex nods in agreement. “Some say this is going to be the greatest video game of all time. I planned to split the cost with Jay, but I don’t get my birthday money until September.”
Jason collapses into an acute state of fidgeting fantods. “And I burned the rest of my birthday money on…Mario Party.”
The other two laugh openly at Jason’s folly, but he counters defensively, “Shut up, Alex! You love Mario Party! You told me last night after Nick fell asleep,” to which Alex parries, “Sure, but not birthday money good.”
Nick interjects, “Guys, I just got my birthday money. I’ll make up the difference if you agree to immediately get to the Falls somehow so that I can finally be loved like I deserve and I can stop hearing you bitching about the slings and arrows of middle-class fortune. Plus, I’ll want to play the game when you’re done with it. Now that’s a fair deal. Si, o no?”
The other two look at each other. Nick implores Jason, “Jay, what would Link do? Alex—” he turns desperately/pathetically to Alex— “dude, amigo, we can do this. We just need to solve transportation. It’s a short enough drive, but we’re sans wheeled vehicles. Thoughts?”
But Alex has already stood up, walking quietly to the window facing out back toward the yard, treehouse, and canal. Horizontal blinds from Pier 1 cast dramatic film noir stripes across his pensive, nascently adult face and formidable figure. He whispers, almost to himself, “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”
. . . . .
The salesman had told Alex’s dad that since 1994, Sea Doo had been helming “a revolution of fun.” This was in reference to the widely popular Sea Doo Sportster series. These craft look like either wave-runners on steroids or prop boats on a diet. A bit like a floating white sedan convertible, or the white underbelly of a humpback whale. It has three cushioned seats in a row along the stern, with a console and steering wheel at starboard midships, and another seat facing aft from the snug bow. At 14.5’ long, with an 85” beam and top speed of about 36 mph, Alex’s dad was sold. His wife had disagreed. “We could have gone on a trip, or at least I could have gone on a trip.” This flagged not Alex’s dad’s stalwart enthusiasm for even a moment. “Watch,” he reckoned, “These bad boys will completely replace outboard motor boats. Propellers are dangerous and bad for manatees. Everyone’s gonna have one of these by 2000. You’ll see.” A romantic, he even christened it the Rocinante, like Don Quixote and John Steinbeck.
Bongo and the boys now stand on the narrow wooden dock on the canal. They are gazing at the Sea Doo diffidently. It had been fun to ride in the past, but that was always with an adult driving and supervising.
Jay asks, “Are you sure you can navigate accurately?”
Alex says, “I printed a color map from MapQuest just in case. Here, wanna take it and make sure I go the right way?”
Nick, eager to contribute, says, “I can help navigate if you don’t want to, Jay.”
Alex laughs, “Thanks, but last time you navigated, we ended up at BT’s and got our bikes taken away…”
“Fine, point taken. But ending up at BT’s was no accident.”
Jason takes the map, which is so fresh that some of the ink rubs off on his super sweaty hands. The boys take a deep breath, glance at each other with a thin mask of roguishness, playing cavalier, feeling slightly queasy, and board the vessel one at a time so as not to cause undo pitch or roll. Alex holds the brass key just in front of the ignition, lingering for a moment of doubt in this idiotic plan, but he sees his friends in his periphery, and he thrusts the key home. The Sportster’s Rotax engine abruptly barks alive, which makes them all jump a bit. They laugh at their own nerves, and the subdued throb of the inboard motor both soothes and energizes them. Their plan suddenly feels way more real. Alex steers and throttles her slowly away, and calls out, “Bongo, we’ll be back soon, buddy!”
But Bongo shouts, “Fuck that!” and leaps meters through the bright summer heat and safely crash-lands onto Alex’s copious lap. Before anyone says anything, Bongo licks Alex’s face. Alex sighs and says, “Well, I suppose you can stay. But you’ll have to stay on the boat the whole time. People will freak out if they see a dog in a mall.”
The very first thing they do is go the wrong way. To be fair, 90s printers basically used spray paint, and Jason’s palms produce mucho saline. Fortunately, a simple U-turn remedies their trajectory post haste. They pass the time listening to Will Smith’s Big Willy Style CD. Nick knows “Miami” verbatim, but the others pretend not to be impressed. They also sneak peeks into people’s yards and see some street traffic when the canal rises slightly higher to street level. They see so many people gesticulating wildly with their hands while they drive, it’s a wonder there aren’t more accidents. They pray not to see any police, but there’s such constant car honking that they realize police officers probably have much more to focus on in the street than some doofy boys carving two-inch waves at 5 mph (they figure low velocity, low profile).
Presently they see the tall white tower with the words “The FALLS” writ in cobalt blue, palm trees at its feet, and the boys give a cheer. Nick says the structure is an obelisk. Alex says it isn’t. Jason says it’s an albino phallus. Who is to say?
In this area, not far from US1, the canal is sunken in enough below the street that people would have to practically lean over the guard rail to see them, an advantage for their stealth. Bongo points his snout to indicate a small clearing, a patch of upward sloping grass that seems like a promising parking spot. Jason verifies with the smudgy map that one of the mall parking lots should be just over the ridge. Alex maneuvers the Sportster up to the makeshift dock, Jason grunts and grips the edge, steadying the boat along the quiet shore, and Nick scampers over and upward, peeks over the ridge below a metal guard rail, and confirms that they’ve landed on the southeast side of mall property. The other two tie up the boat and take turns egressing over the starboard gunwale. Alex calmly instructs Bongo, “OK, buddy, stay and guard the Sea Doo. You know where the flares are. Should something go awry, please fire a flare over the mall yonder, and we’ll try and keep an eye on the sky. OK?”
“Good boy.” Bongo is in ecstasy. Alex turns to the others, “OK, what now?”
Jay begins, “Our objectives are at two different areas of the mall. There’s an ever-closing window for us to reach the Zelda seller before someone else, and Nick’s fake internet girlfriend’s movie might be done, meaning she could leave the mall any second…I think we should split up.”
Nick nods. “Divide and conquer. Also, she’s super real, and you’ll be so jealous when I’m getting so much play. Just sayin’.”
Alex says, “Alright, just in case, let’s make sure to be back here in no more than an hour. I don’t want anything happening to Bongo or my parents’ Sea Doo.”
Jason says, “Synchronize watches…ready…now.” They all set timers on their elegant Nike watches, which everyone has unless they’re poor. Then they put their lightsaber hands together and, in unison, say, “Hold onto yo’ butts!”
They spring forth toward the mall with the purposefulness of Navy SEALs. Bongo watches, puts on a different CD, then settles across the stern vinyl seats by the console. He is being watched.
. . . . .
Jason and Alex are standing in Radio Shack in an aisle lined with beepers and Discman headphones. Customers love turning on different sound systems and changing stations and twisting the volume to the max before walking out. Sometimes TVs and Boomboxes from different areas of the store seem to be dueling like a battle of the bands. Jason and Alex are aurally bearing witness to a feud between “I Only Wanna Be with You” by Hootie and the Blowfish and “Dragula” by Rob Zombie. The cacophony is giving Jason the nervous fantods again. He bitterly tells Alex, “This is where he said to meet. I swear, if this turns out to be—”
But then he arrives. His age is unclear, but he’s definitely a high schooler (it’s Evan). He is only slightly taller than the other two, but he has a George Jetson five o’clock shadow and a dingy Sublime shirt, which the boys find vaguely intimidating. There is also a Hot Topic-bought metal chain menacingly tethering his wide leather belt to a mysterious who-knows-what in the back pocket of his giant JNCO jeans.
Jason, remembering the prize, gets a grip, and says, “I’m not sure what to call you. I only know you by your screenname—”
“Don’t worry about that,” the high schooler (Evan) says rather brusquely. “We needn’t swap real names. I have the item. Now I need the dinero. Comprende, ese?”
Alex whispers, “Can he say that? He doesn’t look Hispanic. Is he allowed to say that?”
Jason and the high schooler have not broken eye contact. They peer with the quiet intensity of gunslingers ‘round lunchtime. Jason says, all raspy-like, “Talk is cheap. Let’s see the item.”
The high schooler glances around, unzips his fanny pack, and seductively reveals a typical gray N64 cartridge, a palm-sized rectangle with rounded shoulders, and as they peer more closely, sure enough, they see bold red letters spelling “Zelda” across Link’s patented shield and Master Sword. The high schooler notes their zombic gazes, says, “Well? The cashish, please!”
Jason slides his sweaty hand into his front pocket and draws out the birthday money. Outside, a stiff breeze rolls a plastic shopping bag like a tumbleweed. He says, “Same time.”
The high schooler rolls his eyes, but knows some cliches exist for a reason. They approach each other slowly, eyes darting back and forth, poor Alex feeling like he has to pee and fart at the same time, and then it’s done, Jason holding the cartridge up not unlike a trophy, the high schooler counting the fragrant dollar bills. Jason and Alex smile broadly, when the high schooler says, “Whoa, this is eighty. The game costs a hundred, turds.”
Jason goes nuclear: “That was not the fucking deal, viejo!”
The high schooler huffs. “That thing was not easy to come by, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turdles! This is a great offer. You will not find one like it, but I can find an older buyer with some fucking income that can maybe vote and wouldn’t mind paying a little tax for the fucking effort! Plus, you two are clearly splitting the cost. C’mon, get real!”
Jason and Alex are fully having internal fantods. They can’t tell if they’re boldly standing their ground or merely frozen in panic. Then the high schooler starts reaching behind him for his back pocket.
. . . . .
Bongo is lounging comfortably across the aft seats of the Sea Doo Sportster, facing starboard. His CD ran out, so he’s vibing out to 94.9 Zeta FM. A raccoon has been creeping steadily and stealthily along the gray canal wall, so as to both be noticeable, but not attract excess attention. He wears a fanny pack hanging diagonally from his shoulder and across his torso, making him resemble a two-foot-tall Chewbacca. He’s got a gray spot on his cute little tummy, and his fur is poky and scruffy but shines brilliantly, betraying a perfectly hale mammal. He appears to have a perpetual squint, blinking as little as possible and taking cautious though confident steps with a gait both meek and deliberate. Bongo has been keeping a casual, unaffected eye on him for a while. If he’s cool, he’s cool, and if he’s not, he’s lunch. The raccoon loiters several meters from the Sportster now, in the cool shade of some bushes above.
Then, “Yo, how’d a dog get this sick ride?” and sniffs (unpretentiously).
Bongo sits up a bit for a subtle show of both his size and his relaxed, disarming confidence, and rejoinders, “It’s not mine, per se. It is my charge, certainly. Yet it is no more my possession than any other possession belonging to my human family, whom I love and honor dearly.”
The raccoon blinks and says, “Oh I feel you, bro. Family is…well, better or worse, family is a permanent part of us, with which we must reckon if ever we’re to foster a sense of self. Ja feel?”
Bongo says nothing, but politely indicates that the raccoon may continue if he wishes. The raccoon obliges, “I actually literally left my own biological family and even my whole tribe—except Tribe Called Quest, they’re the truth—but no, it was not an easy decision, but try as I might, I did not fit in with their so-called values and hypocrisy. So, I up and left. If fear won’t claim me, fate won’t contain me. Word? You know, Raccoons are like Cuban bread: we’re here for a good time, not a long time. So, I was like, I better fulfill my dream and be a pirate, and ever since I left Florida, I been making my way down rivers, beaches, and canals…”
Bongo feels compelled now to speak, both for the speech’s pathos and that last line. “I beg your pardon, but we’re in Florida now.”
The raccoon waved his hand, explaining, “Yes, the state, but I’m from Florida, Missouri.”
Bongo’s tail wags unconsciously. He discretely sniffs the raccoon. He detects ample evidence of a hard life, as well as an undeniable, unlikely mixture of innocence and experience.
“My name is Bongo.”
“Hello, Bongo. My given name is Sam, but since I’m more my own person and all on account of my leaving behind being just another ignorant trash panda and upgrading to classy pirate, now I like being called Huck.”
Bongo smiles and invites Huck onto the Sportster to hang out comfortably. Huck nimbly navigates the craft’s starboard gunwale, hops gingerly atop the steering console, then pitter-patters down into the port seat beside Bongo. “I see you’re listening to Zeta. I like Zeta when they ain’t playin’ a heap of commercials. Here,” and he unzips his fanny pack, removes a CD and slides it into the player below the wheel and throttle. “This is Beck’s last album, Odelay.”
The disc emits a low whir, and “Devil’s Haircut” commences buzzing from the mediocre speakers. Still, Bongo’s ears prick up gently, twitch tellingly. Huck continues digging around in his fanny pack and soon produces an old roach and a greasy Zippo lighter. He lights the roach, takes a polite little baby-toke, then offers it to Bongo. Bongo hesitates, then leans in and lets Huck carefully place the roach to his lips. Inhalation is attempted, but errant slobber extinguishes the tiny flame.
Bongo, embarrassed, spurts, “Oh, I’m terribly sorry!”
Huck patiently mollifies, “Bro, no worries! I slobber when I smell Sergio’s! I got you.” He draws out a “fresh” roach from his pack, explaining, “I got a ton of these. Waste not, want not: an immigrant motto for resourcefulness and survival!” Huck edges closer to Bongo, their proximity now as close as it’s been. Huck assuages, “I know a trick…” the raccoon then takes an absolutely heroic rip of literal street weed, Johnny Cashing the roach, then holding the smoke in his invisibly steel lungs, carefully lifts Bongo’s left ear and issues smoke softly into the canine’s ear canal. Bongo twitches briefly, but not painfully; more like the initial spray of a hot shower. He shivers, then settles. Huck grins knowingly and, fishing for a “new” roach, sings, “Now wait, and let destiny gradually reveal itself.”
. . . . .
Nick is in a fix. A pickle, even. After separating from the others, he’d checked his look in a mirror (dashing as ever), and headed straight to Haagen Dazs, located directly beside the Regal Cinema. He had walked past large looming posters heralding Armageddon, Saving Private Ryan, and Fear and Loathing in Last Vegas, listening to mall speakers hidden in rafters reverberating “Fly Away” by Lenny Kravitz, which might have been his first clue of impending doom were he the superstitious sort. Standing around not far from the ice cream dispensary’s entrance, Nick could not identify anyone even remotely matching the description he’d been provided. However, after just a minute of romantic fantods, his shoulder was tapped, and a feminine voice squeaked, “JesusPresley@AOL.com?”
He turns around as cool-looking as humanly possible, only to discover the fateful inaccuracy of the physical description recently mentioned. She is not deformed in any way, but her stature (diminutive), figure (or lack thereof), attire (unspeakable Lisa Frank abortion), and finally, cherubic face, all culminate in a hellish orchestra of alarms in Nick’s airy head. He feels the pain of years of humiliation and/or prison all compressed into two surreal seconds, and with horror in his heart, confronts the sad, pathetic truth that this girl might be in elementary school.
Her Christian name is Caro Isa Conchita Perez Lopez, and ever since she saw Can’t Hardly Wait, she knows how incomplete her human experience has been for its lack of a dramatic pre-credits kiss ala Jennifer Love Hewitt with that guy from Empire Records and Vegas Vacation. She had somehow sensed—or projected—a similar sensitivity from Nick’s emails as that portrayed by all the sweet, socially awkward unlaid guys Hollywood champions in the movies she watches.
Before Nick can say anything, two boys twice his size approach, not walking so much as devouring the space before them, and one abrasively blurts, “Yo, is this boy bothering you, sis?”
While Nick ponders a solid hook for his apology paragraph, she answers excitedly, “This is my new online boyfriend! We’re on our first date!”
Not even when the tides turned at Waterloo did Napoleon gulp as hard as Nick is doing right now. The Goliath twins’ eyes are cinders of homicidal lust. Nick performs an about-face and then his best Roadrunner impression (in that order).
QTgrrly305 watches all the silly boys flying away, just like Lenny Kravitz mentioned earlier. The big boys are clearly into sports, but Nick is amply motivated. They throw the rest of their ice cream cones at his back. She slams the dilapidated dregs of her own cone into the trash, kicks the bin, and mutters, “Ugh, I hate it when they do that.”
. . . . .
They have moved on from Beck to Jamiroquai’s Travelling Without Moving. A proud little pile of roaches sits on the port gunwale, waiting to be deposited in a trash receptacle not on the craft. Critters don’t litter, but they can still make messes, as evidenced by the open bags of chips that lay about crumpled on the deck. With Bongo’s blessing, Huck and his enviably opposing thumbs had ransacked all the coolers and leftover food containers forgotten from the boat’s last family excursion.
The sun’s afternoon rays glaze beneficently. Bongo and Huck are intermittently listening to music and exchanging rapid-fire hot takes on nothing and everything, omniscient oblivion, y todo. They listen to “Virtual Insanity” (which is an egregiously underrated track, by the way). After sating their munchies with stale Cheetos, they stumble gracefully through a hazy reverie of soul-searching banter.
Bongo: “Change is the most inevitable quality of the universe.”
Huck, nodding: “Enlightenment tends to be transferred in ounces, not pounds.”
Bongo: “Imagination is a garden that begs tending.”
Huck: “Progress, whether micro or macro, is slow and steady…like my piss.”
Bongo, eagerly: “And perseverance is not a gene or a breed…it is a personal decision.”
Huck: “Communication does not just help a relationship…it is the relationship.”
Bongo, with a paw over his heart: “The right to think freely can only be protected by its vigorous use.”
Huck: “THC is a vitamin for the soul.”
Bongo: “A part of me just can’t believe that submarines are real. Like, people pulled that shit off before television. What the actual fuck?”
Huck chortles… “Yo…my favorite contraction is ‘we’d.’”
Bongo: “Our conscious minds are just tiny blurry peepholes through which we supposedly see the universe, guessing at meanings and occurrences lurking around the corners of time.”
Huck: “A mind that doesn’t change much isn’t much of a mind at all.”
Bongo: “Ooh. Nice chiasmus.”
Huck: “Why thank you, good sir. Yo, hey, Bongo…I’mma call you Bong, bro! Ha ha ha…yo, Bong, my boy, beat box for me, dog. I feel like rhyming.”
Bongo shrugs: “I’m not sure…how?”
Huck: “No worries, B, I’ll show you, my young Jedi apprentice.”
Huck successfully instructs Bongo how to beat box. Bongo begins to passably beat box (if it helps, he sounds exactly like the kids who do it during lunch at school sometimes). He occasionally drops a heavy paw for percussive effect.
Huck closes his eyes, sways side to side to Bongo’s tempo, looks down, puffs his chest a bit, and says—
Yo—yo—yo, check this out.
I’m gonna spit some rhymes now (with my mouth).
I pledge allegiance to Adventure.
No one contains me, get the picture?
Read examples from my diary
Of life’s infinite inherent irony.
Sometimes I’m sunlight, sometimes, seed;
Sometimes you sell what I don’t need, and
Sometimes you tell what I can’t heed!
Humans are certainly a peculiar species,
Filled with ‘idears’—and with feces.
Hope you understand the way I talk.
It’s my ‘barbaric YAWP’ (like Whitman, Walt).
I had to escape from the fam that named me ‘Sam,’
But now I’m just a plucky Huck who don’t give a fuck!
Bongo howls with pleasure. Full on wolf shit. Huskies, eat your heart out. He starts panting, and says, “Dude…that was sick.”
Huck bows playfully. “I’m but a wise fool, and a wise fool from the river, at that.” He pauses, looks at Bongo, and says, “You know, B, part of why I left my people was because my main guy, Tom, was a total sapingo. It’s been kind of difficult to trust people since.”
Bongo gazes earnestly into Huck’s beady, frail little eyes, delicately resplendent with wanderlust, rugged hope, brimming good will, and says, “I’ll be your friend, bro.”
Huck tears up. “Bro. For real, though?”
Bongo nods, leans over, and licks the side of Huck’s face. Huck is somewhat taken aback, but after a moment he reaches almost familiarly toward Bongo’s head and scratches behind his ears. Bongo relaxes his pose, head on his paws. Their tails wag as they watch the sun come down.
. . . . .
Jason and Alex are sweating profusely. They have put a lot on the line for middle schoolers. Yes, they’re nervous, yes, this guy is being a dick, but…what would Link do? Immediately wuss out to this Ganondorf Pretender? To quote Bongo: “Fuck that.”
Jason and Alex make eye-contact and communicate telepathically with the Force. Then Jason whips out a batarang from his fanny pack and in one well-practiced fluid motion scores a direct hit to Evan’s forehead (forever plaguing him with memory issues), then sprints for the exit. Alex follows suit whilst removing a legit flashbang from his fanny pack and dropping it over his shoulder, scooting past the beepers and headphones toward freedom and safety.
As they rush out into the courtyard, they spot Nick putting on a fight-or-flight clinic, sprinting at full speed toward them. The mall speakers have been playing “The Rockafeller Skank” by Fat Boy Slim. Dozens of pedestrians have burst into a spontaneous professional synchronized dance routine. Time slows down—the three comemierdas make eye contact, then Nick hurdles like Hercules over a hideous Brito fountain, and as Nick soars mid-air at an impossible height, the flashbang explodes, shattered glass and plastic electronics spray out from the Radio Shack, which vomits debris and detritus without seriously harming anyone besides Evan, the high schooler, who is writhing and moaning on the ground, the flashbang having erupted directly beneath his chode. Nick executes a flawless landing between Alex and Jason as they simultaneously alter course toward the parking lot situated between them and the Sea Doo. Nonplussed shoppers gawk and gaze hither and thither with big dumb WTF faces. No one appears to notice the three boys absconding beyond the gleaming sea of cars, some of which are Saturns (remember those fuckin things?). Nick hopes at least one girl saw his impossible leap of faith. Probably not, though.
The boys hurdle the low metal guard rail bordering the lot, wheezing haggard from exertion, trudge/fall down the few meters of sloping grass to the Sportster. Bongo is already sitting pert and alert in the driver’s seat, the motor humming and gurgling as hot and ready as a Little Caesar’s $5 pizza. Sitting in the middle seat astern is Huck the raccoon. The air stanks of chronic. The boys clumsily plop kerplunk in, huffing and puffing and discombobulated, awkwardly rolling the craft to a precarious angle. The boys bitch and untangle themselves. Alex sputters: “Bongo—”
Bongo winks, “On it, boss!” and punches the throttle yeetward. The vessel makes the highest-crested waves the canal has seen since Hurricane Andrew. Waves splash up against walls, then into yards. The motor begins to sound ornery, like a whale shark with blue balls. The boys had cheered when clear of the mall, but suddenly the motor burps something awful, and the bewildered, beleaguered little rebels realize they’ve run out of gas. They all shudder and sigh, except Alex, who reaches down to a lengthwise locker in the deck that reveals stored collapsible oars. He pops them open and distributes them, explaining, “This happens to my dad all the time.”
The oarsmen and oarsanimals hustle and heave fiercely and sweat profusely. They must ensure they arrive home before the moms all get there to pick them up. As their muscles all strain and plead like they want to give it up and just die, they see Alex’s family’s private dock. This image inspires the final necessary measure of grit, and they bump rudely (if not thankfully) into the wooden dock, clamber up, tie it off, and ejaculate: “Cowabunga!!!”
Alex’s mom flatly says, “What are you doing?”
The boys turn around. She’s standing between Jason’s mom and Nick’s mom. They are all standing just inside the house’s sliding glass door, which is wide open. Three moms or more together in the same place have the potential to create a very volatile vortex of unstoppable destructive power, and must always be approached with requisite caution. Thus, the boys are as silent as a church fart. Huck is hidden behind Bongo. Nick’s mom asks, “Nick, what’s on your shirt?”
Nick sniffs himself. “Mango ice cream.”
Jason’s mom says, “Jason, why are you so…wet?”
The boys are in fact sopping drenched with sweat.
Alex, inspired, states, “We’re practicing the Luke-Vader scene from Empire Strikes Back.”
The moms look at their sons in silence. Nick offers, “I’m Luke.”
Jason adjusts his glasses and corrects, “Well, actually we’re taking turns being Luke.”
Alex’s mom, bemused, skeptical, shakes her head, and starts, “You boys…”
And Nick’s mom concludes “…are fucking nerds.”
The moms all laugh, exchange high fives, and walk back inside the house. Sometimes, being a mom entails teaching your sons that all men are pathetic and should therefore take themselves with a grain of salt. Over her shoulder, Nick’s mom says, “Nick, go put your shit in the car, please. Thanks.” The nerds look at each other, look at Bongo, scratch his back, and look at Huck. Jason says, “Where the hell did this raccoon come from?”
Nick says, “From where the fuck did this raccoon come?”
With respect to proper denouement, no witnesses could credibly identify the boys due as much to their prudentially swift flight from the premises of the crime as with the half luck (half audacity) that the flashbang produced, having hampered the sensitive Radio Shack CCTV network. High school Evan’s violently-induced memory loss essentially wiped out his recollection of everything leading up to the blast, a rare but previously documented phenomenon sometimes occurring due to extreme proximity to these devices when triggered. They’re actually all friends today, though Alex and Jason have declined to be as forthright with the preservation and dissemination of personal histories as others from their friend group.
Evan did have the last laugh, though, as—you may have guessed—the copy of Ocarina was a fake. He printed the cartridge labels using school property and slapped them onto copies of Pilot Wings, which were procured for a song, widening profit margins. Still, the boys got their copies of Zelda in November with the rest of the world and played deep through the holidays. It took Jason and Alex a couple months to finish. Nick never beat it.
Huck stuck around for a while and crashed in the treehouse out back, but like he said, he wouldn’t be contained. He still visits, of course, and of course nothing lasts, but eventually, no one really knows what happens. Nothing is less reliable than memory. Sometimes that feels like betrayal, other times like a blessing. Whichever fits your survival style. Maybe the occasional, deliberate misremembering of things offers the soothing illusion of redemption for no more payment than its imagining. If only one thing is certain, it’s that irony will always be stylish, because it goes with everything.
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