Bippin’ – Bum In Public – Day ? – Excerpt
Panting and slobber filled the air early morning. As Pam stretched her hind legs and limbered up, the rest of the crew tried to squeeze out a few last minutes of sleep, before giving into the blistering heat. I lay there half-zonked pulling my sleeping bag over my head to savor my last minutes of comfort while the others started to pack up. Todd pulled his tent stakes out of the ground, and broke down his tent poles, while Doug knelt on the ground cocooning his bedroll. His grunting forced his bottom lip to curl out as he wrestled to quickly bungee it to his pack. I shook my head holding back laughter, squinting into the sinister sky, rubbing my eyes one last time. I did not know who looked goofier, him working over an inanimate object like an oaf or his dog drooling with her red, fruit roll-up tongue that dangled between her toothless canal.
“How’d you hold up last night Todd,” I muttered tilting my head back towards him.
“Meh…not too shabby…was fuckin’ cold last night though bro, but thanks for the tent. It helped a lot since I only got this one blanket…still pissed those fuckers stranded me and took everythin’,” ranted Todd in a heated voice.
“Eh…don’t thank me bud…Doug gave me the tent yesterday outside the Love’s. Figured I could use it, but you needed it more…so it’s all good.”
“Well, thanks bro…preciate it.”
Then, there sat Doug by the far end of the store. He huddled up by the only trashcan in walking distance to the front entrance, hoping to stir up a quick conversation with any passerby. He hunched over with his back curved against the wall in a scoliosis-manner, smiling through jagged pits of decayed teeth. His glasses gave him a googly-eyed look making him rather unapproachable and scary-looking, but his dog always eased him into conversation with his typical ice-breaker. Pam lay there sprawled out along the cool concrete sidewalk, her tongue slung out of her mouth like a red carpet, drooling profusely. Doug leaned his sign against the wall which simply read, “EAST” and just waited to interact with any person within eye-contact. He twiddled his thumbs and at the soonest glance he always stuttered, “Hiii…” Sometimes people sped by with a slight head-nod and muttered nothing. Other times they stopped, completely exasperated by the dog and her sunglasses and as soon as a word rolled off their tongue of any vernacular, English, Spanish, it did not matter. Off Doug yammered onto his story.
“Ohhh how cute…she has glasses,” they’d say with a slight sparkle in their faces.
And there went Doug again runnin’ his mouth with his usual antics, a real raconteur.
“Well ya see…she has the glasses for a reason…see when she was young she was kicked in the face by a moose…almost lost her…I made em myself from supplies at the Home Depot. See we’re from North Pole, Alaska,” he’d mumble, fixing the bridge of his glasses with his index finger as he spoke in a grungy voice.
Last, there was I, who sat Indian-style between Todd and Doug with my sign stuck to the window of the store. It read, “EAST,” in as big of letters as I could fit on my piece of cardboard. I did not crack spange as Todd started to do, harassing the customers for spare change to buy food. I also did not embark on fairy-tales of magical moose stories where little dogs survived the thrust of their hooves. Instead I sat there making eye-contact with the customers I thought might extend their sympathies to my situation. Often I kept strong posture, maintaining a bit of sadness in my eyes to look desperate, but not too desperate, and with a slight head-nod I sounded off a, “Hello there sir or ma’am,” in a friendly voice. People remained courteous, but rarely extended any offers for rides, except a few select hippies, but they all drove westbound for a festival.
“Man…dooooood…no waaaayyyy…all you guys are hitchin’ outta here? Doooood…you guys know where we can get any buds at maaaaan? We’re goin’ to this festival in Cali and all eight of us ran outta ganja bro. We’re fuckin’ desperate…how am I gonna make the drive there sober maaannn? Shit dooood…if we were headin’ east, we’d grab all of ya…sorry doood.”
“Uhhh…there’s a border patrol checkpoint like 20ish miles down the road dude. Probably don’t wanna be drivin’ with any type of fuckin’ drugs on you unless ya wanna end up in jail. So, I’d say hold off on the weed til you pass it,” I pontificated in a gruff tone.
“Thaaanks dooood…kinda forgot how close we were to the border ya know…bein stoned and all. Safe travels brothers.”
Our heads all shifted back-and-forth blinking furiously at each other in stupefaction.
We cheered our malt beverages and passed around the box, biting into the freshly cooked pizza, gulping it down as it singed the tips of our tongues with melted cheese. Each morsel tasted stupendous, like the best pie ever made, but only because of our hunger. Living on gas station food for multiple days did not really give us fuel, not that pizza was any more nutritious, but it sure felt filling, piling into our empty stomachs. Every last crumb, piece of crust, bits of cheese and pepperoni crunched in our mouths leaving the box empty with a circle of only pizza grease left behind.
I finished my steelie, and even with a plump gut, I felt a little woozy from the alcohol, but I stopped at the last drop. Overindulgence in a new group of people never appealed to me. Besides I overheard Doug rambling on about catchin’ out on a train.
“Train stopped just long enough last night few signals back…just long enough to hop onto…think me and Pam gonna check er out tonight boys. I wanna get outta here…if I gotta spend another day here tomorrow I’m hitchin’ back west to go east…this gas station just ain’t cuttin’ it…not makin’ any money or gettin’ no rides too,” mumbled Doug with a pouty face.
“Where did it stop man? I’ve heard trains fly through here all day, but I never saw one stop on the main line by a signal…not really any reason to…” I questioned him.
“Well…I’m tellin’ you it stopped richboy…You can do with that what ya want…my ears heard her…Pam’s ears heard her…and we’re gonna check er out.”
“Whatever dude, I just asked a fuckin’ question…no need to be a dick. Todd and Brian, you guys comin’ then? It looks like we’re gonna go full-out Dirty Kid status, try an hop out 4-deep with a dog on a train along the sunset line…you in?”
Brian staggered out of the store slamming down his third steelie, completely inebriated and slurring his words with a big grin shining through his red beard.
“Fuucck yeaah dude…I always..hiccup…wanted to ride…hiccup…a traaain. I gotta…hiccup…call my cousin…hiccup…he never…hiccup…believe me…”
“And you Todd,” I asked?
“I mean…well…we ain’t get no rides outta this shithole today…what makes me think we’re gonna get a fuckin’ ride out tomorrow? It’s like I said…people don’t fuckin’ pick you up in Texas, but they’ll give ya food…Yeah, I’m in…longs as I feel safe,” he groaned.
The mounds of ballast crunched beneath our footsteps, as we scampered along, following the shiny steel beams towards the next signal, drifting a few miles from the gas station. Doug seemed unconfident and lost, questioning his whereabouts on where the signal stood, or if even one existed. I questioned myself and why I followed this buffoon, but here I stood wandering along the train tracks with two guys and a dog. I only hoped that Border Patrol did not monitor these areas because if they did I put myself back in the same situation as my first day in Sierra Blanca, TX.
As I squinted, I witnessed the slight presence of red shone a few feet off the ground among a post. Doug confirmed it; so we ventured off to the side of the tracks, hiding behind barren brush as the tumble weeds bounced by with the whirring wind. We waited for hours. Would I ever get the fuck outta dodge? Who knew?