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            The empty Long Hammer IPA’s clanked together loudly on the backseat floor of Parker’s VW. Through my half drunk eyes I saw the mountains reaching for the fluffiest clouds I had noticed in a long time, in the Wyoming sky.

            The destination was Dubois – a ranch were a friend of Parker’s was working as a hand for the summer – the reason was twofold; Parker’s quest for the warmth that only a woman can give, and my 28th birthday. We waited till about 200 miles into the almost 430 mile drive – after a stop for burritos in Laramie, and a move from I-80 to the much less open 287 – before we cracked open the first beer.

            Presently we were 150 miles from our destination, riding a nice buzz, and discussing the word gelatinous.

            “It means from gel,” Parker informed us as he navigated Adolph past a hay tuck, topping one hundred miles per hour for the third time that night.

            “I don’t really care what it means.” I was beginning to slur my speech. “ It’s more fun to use it if it doesn’t make any sense.”

            Janis sat quietly in the back, nursing a warm beer, her green eyes red with anger over a comment I had made an hour or so earlier. Occasionally I would turn to face her and smile a sarcastic grin or make some kind of glib comment in her direction. I subscribed to the Homer Simpson school of thought; if I could make her laugh, the fight was over and I was the victor. This particular evening it wasn’t working, so I turned my attention back to Parker, who was driving with both hand on the wheel, his thin hair blowing in the wind as he tried to determine if he had time to pass the Subaru we were quickly gaining on before what was attached to the oncoming headlights killed all of us.

            When he brought his head back inside and closed his window I said to him, “We’re only an hour and a half away; are you nervous?”

            Parker is a self proclaimed nerd, who had a hard time meeting and bedding women throughout his twenties. Presently 32, living in Boulder and being the front man for an up and coming band, his luck had been changing. Vikki, the girl we were on our way to see, was a 21 year old from Wisconsin who was attending Colorado State University and had met Parker while playing in a pick up stick tournament in Ward.

            “I am a little bit.” Parker had no problems being open with me; we hadn’t been friends for long, but we both felt like we could be thoroughly sincere with each other. He continued, “I feel like we talk on the phone with ease, but since she’s so far away we haven’t seen each other in months. I think it might be a little awkward at first.”

            “If I were you, here’s what I would do,” I told him in my best ‘experienced ladies man’ voice. “I would compliment her on something, like her eyes or whatever she’s wearing, and then when she smiles and lets her guard down just grab her pussy as hard as you can with both hands.”

            Parker, who had just finished passing the previously mentioned Subaru, let loose a laugh much heartier than one would expect from a man of his stature; although the depths from which the laughs came seemed to increase with the expanding of his beer belly. Normally after one of my sexist or racist comments I would get a pinch or gentle punch from my wife, and I braced myself in anticipation, but it never came.

            I lit an organic American Sprit and rolled down my window to let the polluted air out and the crisp clean country air in. After I was one stick of tobacco closer to dying, we pulled into a general store for more beer. While there I bit down hard and apologized to Janis for my off-color comment (which I no longer even remembered), the agon was finished and we were in love again. We climbed back into the car, turned onto the windy roads, and headed down the home stretch.

            A half an hour (and another beer) later we made the left onto the unnamed dirt road that would lead us to the cabin. The red dot that represented our car on the satellite system I had leant Parker – which, thanks to the most recent shot of tequila, had become quite blurry – seemed to be in the middle of a dark green pasture and we were informed by the navigator (en Español) that we had reached our destination. Unfortunately for us, the road divided into two, blackness mocking us in each direction, and Verizon didn’t offer service on ranches in Wyoming. Despite what one might think, the convivialness didn’t dissipate as Parker directed the silver sled to the left. After getting lost and receiving directions from a smirking rancher out walking his Golden Retriever, we were met at the gate by Vikki and her gelatinous friend.

            “We saw you drive by three times,” the big breasted Vikki said in a throaty voice. “I guess Tom-Tom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

            Parker let loose a ‘I have no quick witted response’ laugh while I bit my tongue. This was coming from a girl who directed us to take 287 instead of I-25 from Boulder to Ft. Collins because it would shave an hour off our time; the way we went only took us 55 minutes, so either she knew of a warp zone or was a moron. Since the last time I had been through a warp zone was when I was a princess, I opted for the latter. Also, I tend to get defensive when people put down my prize possessions.

            Parker hungrily jumped out of the car, and with a smile on his face and arms extended took big steps towards Vikki. The top buttons of his blue and white striped cotton shirt were undone, revealing a bit of curly chest hair. Despite his half Mexican, half Welsh background, he looked like one of the Greek characters from The Postman Always Rings Twice.

            I put my exposed, scarred feet onto the tiny pebbles that made up the driveway and stepped drunkenly – beer in hand of course – out of the car. I like to study hugs and so was interested to see what kind of greeting Parker got after traveling almost six hours to see this long faced girl. I was distracted by what I thought were two watermelons crammed down her shirt. I’m not normally a breast man, per se, and so I wasn’t staring in a lustful way, but rather in the way I would stare at a thirteen inch penis.

            I broke my stare away long enough to ask Janis – who was presently wiping the drool off of her reddish brown lips and checking her Boulder 180 shirt for stains – to pass me the twelve pack we had picked up in whatevertown. She hesitated for a brief second as she often does when I ask her for something, making sure she wouldn’t lose any ground by obeying, reached over her green and black backpack where her poetry was stashed and grabbed the Bitch Creek sampler pack. I grabbed it with my free hand and turned around to see Parker and Vikki only three feet from me.

            “I’m Vikki,” she said, outstretching her right hand.

            I managed to avoid her breasts and look in her deep set brown eyes. “I’m Joe, nice to meet you,” I said and I meant it.

            Janis wiped the sweat from her hand onto her faded torn blue jeans, also looked Vikki in her eyes – although I could tell by her half smile that she too had noticed the double d’s – and introduced herself.

            Vikki turned around, nodded at the girl who was nervously toeing the dirt with her pink payless shoes, and said, “that’s something.” I took no notice of her name, it wasn’t and isn’t important. The three of us shot her different variations of the same nod as she looked up and awkwardly smiled.

            “Lets go into the cabin that I helped build,” Vikki said more to Janis and me than to Parker as she began to lead the way through the true darkness one only sees hundreds of miles from the nearest city.

            Parker, Janis, and I walked triple file about five feet behind Vikki, while the fat girl ran to catch up, tripped over a tree root, hit her head on a rock, and lay motionless as the four of us breathed a sigh of relief and climbed up the stairs leading to the porch. We stopped for a minute to listen to the creek, not fifty yards away, before going inside.

            The cabin (which we later discovered Vikki had not helped build, but instead leant a hand in replacing a screen the previous summer) was the most striking I had ever seen. I don’t mean that it was big or modern, but quaint and ranch like. While far from being one of those 20,000 square foot, pre-made eye sores that seem to be popping up every couple miles along the Rockies, it was by no means dilapidated. Repairs were made when needed, there were no holes in the roof, walls or floors, there was hot water, and the shower was clean. Most importantly when heavy drinking is planned at high elevations, the tap water was cleaner than Aquafina.

            “There is plenty to do out here,” Vikki informed us. She didn’t seem to be even slightly concerned over her friend, who was now being towered over by a deer who appeared to be licking the dried blood off her forehead.

            ”Do you have any drugs, by chance?” I asked her. I had been feinding for some kind of hallucinogen as of late, and being in such a serene place made the desire even stronger.

            “What kind of drugs,” she asked me. I was distracted momentarily by her chin; something was strange about it, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Nor did I want to. I was brought back to reality by the gurgled moans of the obese girl as she limped through the front door. Her beige shirt had turned a darkish pink after being soaked through with blood. The four of us stared at her as she plopped herself down on the handmade wooden rocking chair in the far corner and said something to the effect of, “I think I fractured my skull.”

            After staring at her for fifteen or twenty seconds and thinking of nothing to say that wouldn’t be offensive, I turned my attention back to Vikki who had already focused her slightly bi-leveled eyes in my direction.

            “I’ll pretty much do anything, but crack, meth, and heroin,” I told her. “Although I’ve always been very curious about the white pony.”

            “Is that slang for something?”

            I thought of a few jokes I could throw at her, but realized it might not be a great idea; her arms were bigger than mine. I also didn’t want to insult the girl whose cabin we were staying at, had a hole my friend drove eight hours for, and – most importantly – was a potential drug hookup. “I just meant that I would try heroin maybe… probably… I think.”

            “Don’t joke about that,” she began to lecture, her voice obnoxiously squeaky all off a sudden. “I had a friend Jimmy, whose other friend Alex…”

            I stopped listening. I knew her type; she had some kind of dramatic story involving herself about every topic humanly possible. I glanced at Parker, hanging on her every word, looking at her with puppy dog eyes. I looked at the wood burning stove set up in the middle of the living room and wished it was winter. There was something about having a fire going that made things feel contented, no matter where I was. I noticed Janis also wasn’t paying attention to Vikki’s comatose provoking story. Although she was known for going into her own world quite often, I could tell that she too was bored and annoyed by the fable Vikki was spinning towards us. I found it a bit ironic that Parker was the only one paying attention to her, yet she was directing her story to us; oblivious to the fact that we hadn’t heard a word in almost two full minutes. I was debating whether to make myself throw up or punch Vikki in the throat when she stopped talking and starred at me quizzingly. Parker was also looking at me as though he expected an answer and Janis was no help as she looked even more mystified than me.

            “That sucks,” I said with feigned sadness, figuring that the story probably ended on a sad note.

            “Huh?” she rather loudly exclaimed.

            “What?” I asked her back, just as loud, trying to make a game out of it.

            “I asked if you wanted your birthday surprise now,” she said a wee bit annoyed. Obviously it had been longer than I thought since my attention had wandered.

            “Yes I do,” I said in a goofy, don’t be made at me voice while flashing a giant yellow, somewhat slick grin.

            “It’s back at my cabin,” she said; seeming a little happier. “ Help me with whatsherface and I’ll go up to get it.”

            After Parker and I hoisted the girl (who I was pretty sure was dead) into the trunk of Vikki’s red Subaru, Parker got in the car to ride with her and I lit another cigarette and walked towards Janis, who was sitting on the stairs outside.

            “She seems alright,” I said to Janis, while lighting the cigarette I had just handed to her. I had pretty much forgotten the violence I felt towards Vikki just ten minutes earlier; I was pretty drunk, on the verge of dizziness. Therefore, everyone was OK in my book.

            “I don’t really care about her heroin addicted friends though,” Janis informed me. She held her American Spirit all the way in the webbing between the first and second fingers of her right hand, brought it into the leftmost corner of her mouth, inhaled deeply, held it for a count of three, and exhaled a wonderful stream of fluffy smoke. I watched it become part of the atmosphere and then took a pull of my own.

            “Look at where we are though,” I practically yelled. Obviously she wasn’t as drunk as me, so I felt it my obligation to bring her to my level. Her squinting glare let me know that she was expecting a drunken rant about how great life is. I gave I to her, “You gotta love it here. I work for a week here and a week there, you’re practically part time, and we don’t save yet we live in what I thought – till tonight – was the most beautiful place in the country. Sure, we worry sometimes, but shit keeps getting better and better. Look where the fuck we are!” With this last sentence I almost fell backwards into a pile of rocks, but managed to grab on to Janis’ fluffy hair.

            After punching me in the midsection she asked me, “How long will it last though?” skeptical as usual.

            “As long I as we want it to,” I told her, quick as a fox. “Clearly we can’t just sit at home and expect money to fall from the sky, but if we work just as much as we have to and concentrate on our passions, the rest will fall into place.”

            It was getting through to her; her eyebrows had risen from the you’re-full-of-shit position to the you-are-making-some-valid-points level. However, I had to stop because of the oncoming headlights of the now empty trunk’d Subaru.

            “Sorry about the other girl,” Vikki said as she was approaching. She had put on a bright pink sweatshirt with STOOPID written in yellow letters across the front.

            “No worries,” I said, and then realized I hadn’t had a beer in my hand in nearly twenty minutes. I quickly turned and ran for the mini-fridge in the kitchen.

            I grabbed a beer and turned around to see the three of them standing in a row, Vikki holding a plate of cupcakes with flaming candles (obviously my surprise). They began to sing happy birthday with Parker changing the words to call me a monkey and tell me that I belong in a zoo- ahh, male bonding.

            After I had blown out the candles, I noticed that Vikki’s lipstick was smeared. I put my hand on my chin and glanced at the ground to think over what this could mean. On the way to the ground, my gaze caught Parker’s pants (don’t ask why) and I noticed that his zipper was down. I pointed it out with my eyes, to Janis and she seemed a bit more shocked than I was.

            The cupcakes were good- a lot better than the tequila we used to wash them down. It was only Parker and myself drinking the Patrón, as Janis had reached her limit and Vikki was sipping some homemade punch with a gallimaufries amount of ingredients; the kind we all drank at twenty.

            After the fourth hit from the Patrón, I was feeling well on my way to the land of vertigo. I could tell Parker was feeling the same, as he stumbled over to the kitchen counter to put more music on his I-Pod. As Date Rape played in the background, the topic of age was brought up.

            “Don’t you feel old?” Vikki inquired. I was only about twenty five minutes into my twenty ninth year.

            “Nah. I feel better than I did when I was your age, whatever that means,” I told her.

            “I had a friend, Anos, who-“

            “It’s kind of nice getting older,” I cut her ff. Although she amused me, I was in no mood to listen to another dreadful tale about some friend whose name I didn’t care to know- let alone his life story. “Obviously – to speak a cliché – I wouldn’t mind being your age, knowing what I know now and having had the same experiences. But that’s impossible, so I’m perfectly happy being twenty eight.”

            Janis – seeing I was pausing to think, and not wanting Vikki to interpret that as a sign to butt in – continued my thoughts for me. “Thinking about the past and what you would do different or not do at all has no point but to make you crazy. Everything you’ve done – even the mistakes – got you to this exact moment, and as long as you’re happy here then everything was worth it.”

            Parker nodded his head in agreement while young Vikki looked dejected at having been interrupted. I slurridly continued the conversation, “Before you realize it, you’re sixty years old and your entire life has been wasted thinking about what could or should have been.”

            There were a few seconds of dead air while we all thought this over. Unfortunately, Vikki mistook our ruminating for boredom and decided that she would put her two cents in, “ I love my life and where I am and I don’t think I would change anything about the present. Growing up in shitty North Dakota, I never thought I would end up in this amazing place.”

            I was in a good mood, so I decided to allow her to join the conversation. “It is the most beautiful state I’ve seen.” Smirking at Parker and then turning my attention back to Vikki, I said “The only word I can think of to describe it is gelatinous.”

            Janis chuckled and Vikki countered, “That’s the perfect word,” in an attempt at an educated tone.

            Parker, who seemed rather amused, turned to Vikki, straightened his gray cotton vest he had just zippered up and looked as though he would call her on her lack of vocabulary. I, however, thought it would be funnier if the joke stayed between the three of us, so I cut him off.

            “On that note, I think it’s time for a cigarette and bed. My old ass can’t handle this much excitement.”

            I grabbed Janis with my left hand, while showing the way with my right. From the porch we could see Parker and Vikki clearing and washing the dishes and recycling the empty beer bottles. It appeared that Parker was telling a story, but Vikki didn’t seem to be paying him any mind.

            “She doesn’t seem to like him,” Janis started. I knew that she had already analyzed the whole situation in her head, which always seemed to be working overtime. “And yet, when they got back from her cabin it appeared that he had been felated.”

            “Maybe she’s just crazy,” I suggested. “But check it out; Parker followed his passion 400 miles and it has already paid off.”

            “He’s not like that.”

            “We’re all like that, hun.” I gave her my shit eating grin that she so despises.

            Vikki came outside to say goodbye to Janis and I, and then began to walk away. Parker followed, obviously hoping to get a goodnight taste of the sperm still lingering in her mouth. Halfway to the car, however, she said “Goodnight Parker,” without even turning around. He walked back to us with a half sad, half confused look on his face, and went inside.

            I could tell that Janis had more to say on the topic, but I was beginning to feel sick and dizzy, so I started to walk through the grass.

            “Have a seat with me,” I invitingly said to the love of my life, as I plopped myself down on the soft grass. “Look at the stars, the sky is fucking huge.”

            “It’s too dirty to sit, we can come out here tomorrow night,” she rationed with me, like I was one of the three year olds she taught.

            “But hun!,” I exclaimed to her in the exited way I tend to have about me sometimes; magnified presently because of my drunken state. “Don’t you understand? We need to sleep in the dirt, roll in it even.” I’m no hippie; when I walk around Boulder and see some white kid with dreadlocks down to his ass, smelling like patchouli and wearing a $300 outfit, on the way to his job at the BMW dealership I become very violent. I want to slash the tires of his VW van  and rip the World Peace sticker off the dirty back window. I also don’t understand science very well; I get (I think) that we’re made up of the same stuff as the stars, but I’m not sure what it is or exactly what that means. Atoms and stuff? Despite this, as I laid there – my first night as a twenty eight year old – surrounded by the most beautiful range of mountains I had ever seen, listening to the creek rush by a hundred feet away, and staring at the only human being I have ever let inside of me (and I’m not just talking about the time I let her finger my ass), I began to cry.

            “Can you imagine this place a thousand or million years ago? The animals running free, people more spread out and – I believe anyway – much happier. “

            “I think I can,” Janis said, submitting to my request to join me on the ground. She wiped the still flowing tears from my eyes and said, “we’re like a disease. We become civilized and all of a sudden the rest of the world has to suffer. Animals become extinct much quicker and more frequent, we rape the earth constantly, and – like you said – I don’t think the majority of mankind is truly happy.”

            “Well how can we be? Do most of us even know what it would take to make us actually happy? We’re told from the time we can absorb information that getting married, having a lot of friends, and working hard in order to buy lots of stuff is the only normal dream, so we acquire, acquire, acquire and at the same time go more and more into debt and have less time to think about what we really want. That’s why so many people are addicted to drugs or alcohol or jumping out of planes and shit. How can we ever find out what our true passions are, let alone pursue them?”

            I laid flat on my back, feeling the texture of the mud with my half frozen fingers. I saw for the millionth and first time the mountains and stars and felt smaller than I ever had. I glanced at all the open space and thought about Montana and Wyoming and how they are the closest window we have into the way things were and I felt ashamed to be a part of this society. This society of billions, represented by thousands, owned by hundreds; everyone using the rationales, “It’s always been like this,” “It’s too late to change now,” or “It’s human nature, it’s the way things are.” I screamed at top of my lungs, felt even smaller (since a maximum of 10 people heard me), and passed out next to a giant pile of horse shit.

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