A line of police cars tear down the double yellow with sirens blaring, shoving all the townsfolk to the sides of the roads. Sidney, his cell phone dropped into his lap, pulls into the parking lot of a deli named after who else but Stewart O. Bashby.
“Sidney? You still there?”
“Yeah ‘man, sorry,” Sidney says when the phone is pressed back against his ear. “Bunch’a cops just flew up the road.”
“Oh damn,” Keaton says. “Good call droppin’ your shit.”
“Thanks! So, like I was saying, I’m try’n’a go camping tonight at The True Commons. You wan’a come? I dug out the old tent, it says it’s big enough for two bodies.”
“Yeah, I’ll come out for a little,” Keaton says. “I’m not try’n’a stay out overnight, though. ‘Tis a bit chilly for your dude this time of year.”
“Word, works for me,” Sidney says, not at all surprised. He doesn’t blame the ‘man, it’s go’n’a be cold as shit tonight. “What time can you come out? I’ll meet you at the trail. You know where it is, right?”
“Yeah, like halfway down Sawblade Lane. Hold on though, le’me ask Harry.”
“Harry?” Sidney asks, not hiding his shock.
“Harry,” Keaton confirms. “We’re out on One’One’Five right now, makin’ a run to pick up some printing supplies for the Gazette racket.”
“Oh word,” Sidney says, trying to cover for himself. “Tell him I say hey.”
“Sidney says hey,” Keaton says to Harry. Sidney hears Harry say sup. “Harry says sup.”
“Does Harry want to come too?” Sidney asks, as to make this ruse more convincing. “He’s more than welcome.”
Keaton asks Harry if he wants to go out to The True Commons for a night of smoking and hotdogs. “He says nah, when it gets warmer for sure though.”
“Word. So uh, what time do you think you’ll meet me over there?”
Keaton asks what time they’ll be back. “He says he’s not sure, but he’ll drop me off. I can just text you when we’re on our way back into town, cool?”
“Yeah, hit me when you’re a half hour out,” Sidney says. “Trail’s kind of long.”
“Oh I know, you and I have gone out there before,” Keaton reminds him. “Word, Sidney Blake. I’ll catch you later.”
“See ya then, Keaton.”
“That’s kind of perfect,” Sidney reasons, pocketing his phone. “I can just give Harry the book when he drops Keaton off, don’t need to have an actual conversation with him. Hell yeah.”
With that Sidney gets out of his sedan, wallet in hand, and starts across the parking lot towards the old delicatessen. The air is slightly muggy inside, heavy with the scent of sliced meats.
“Hey bud,” says the guy behind the counter. “What can I get you?”
“You guys got hotdogs?” Sidney asks. “I’m goin’ camping tonight, go’n’a roast ‘em over a fire.”
“Camping, huh?” the guy says, eying Sidney up. “Whereabouts?”
“Over on Sawblade Lane,” he tells him. “I live back there with my folks, built myself a little campsite. Breakin’ it in tonight.”
“Sawblade Lane?” he says. “Say… you ain’t Sidney Blake, are ya?”
“I am,” Sidney says to this stranger. “How’d ya know?”
“It’s me, ‘man, Tyler! Tyler Burril, from high school! We had math with Mister Bennat together our senior year.”
“Ohhh shit, what’s up dude,” Sidney says. “I didn’t even recognize you! How’ve you been? How’s Danielle?”
“Ugh, that bitch,” Tyler growls. “I knocked her up our junior year, I don’t know if you remember–”
Sidney remembers, but doesn’t say so.
“–but uh, she ran out on me! Disappeared with some older dude, never found out who he was. Took the kid, haven’t seen either of ‘em since.”
“Holy shit, ‘man,” Sidney says, floored. “That’s terrible. How long ago?”
“Few years. About a month after graduation, actually.”
Putting two and two together and getting four, Sidney opts not to bring up the fiasco of Mister Bennat marrying one of his ex-students. “Jesus Chrsit. I’m really sorry, Tyler. That blows. She got you payin’ child support?”
“Nope,” Tyler says contentedly, “and that’s the only reason I ain’t gone lookin’ for them. You said you needed hotdogs, right? We don’t usually sell ‘em cold, but I got a pack in the back, I’ll hook you up.”
“Yeah? No shit, thanks a lot, dude.”
“Yeah, no problem,” as he disappears into the back. “So what you been doin’ with yourself, Sidney? You went off to college, right?”
“I did,” Sidney says, slightly embarrassed. “Louberg University in Colorado.”
“How’s that goin’?”
“Wound up flunkin’, actually,” Sidney says sheepishly as Tyler comes back to the front. “But I just finished writing a novel, got it out on Amazon.”
“You’re kidding,” Tyler says with an open smile.
“No sir,” Sidney assures him. “I’m even talking to a guy with a big publishing company, we might work out a deal.”
“Sidney, that’s incredible!” Tyler says, offering a handshake over the counter which Sidney accepts with slightly rosy cheeks. Imagine this shit, huh? “Congrats, ‘man! Hey, if I buy a copy will you autograph it for me?”
“Yeah ‘man, no doubt! Here, le’me give you my cell number.” They exchange phone numbers. “Hit me up when you get it, I’ll definitely come through and sign it.”
“Good lookin’, bro! Damn, Sidney Blake the author.” He shakes his head with pride. “You should be proud of yourself, ‘man. Not too many authors come out of this town. Hell, not too many folks get out of this town in general.”
“Ah, thanks ‘man. I appreciate the hell out of that.”
“Don’t mention it,” Tyler says with a wink. “You need anything else with these dogs? I don’t want to hold you up.”
“Oh, uh,” Sidney says, then spins to look at the wall of snacks. He grabs two bags of chips – one ranch Doritos, one Funyons – and two bags of candy – one sweet’n’sour snakes, one peach gummies – and drops the haul on the counter. “You guys got cases of water here, by chance?”
“Yeah,” Tyler says, pointing to the front of the store. “Over in the corner. You don’t have to bring it over here, I’ll just ring it up.”
Tyler rings Sidney up. The total is more than Sidney cares to pay attention to, but less than twenty. Sidney pays with one bill and tells Tyler to keep the change, and so Tyler keeps the change, bills and all, and puts Sidney’s haul into a brown paper bag.
“Thanks a lot, Tyler,” Sidney says as he takes the bag to the water cases in the front of the store.
“You too, Sidney. Good seeing ya, and congrats again on the book!”
“Thanks!” Sidney says, lifting the case of water bottles with the bag of junk food on top of it. “See you around, ‘man!”
Traffic has returned to its normal Mane Road crawl. Sidney loads his foodstuffs into the back seat of his car and plops himself into the front with a big smile on his face. “Well that was fuckin’ wild,” he tells himself as he pushes the start button. “Never talked to that dude in school. Surprised he recognized me.” Pulls onto Mane Road. “I guess that might start happening, especially if I get that publishing deal…”
But that’s still a ways off; Sidney has one thing on his mind today and one thing only: camping trip. It’s about half past three now, Tori’s on her way home so there’s no sense in stopping back at the library. Fuck it, he may as well just go back down Sawblade and start ferrying the stuff to the spot. He’d do well to collect a bunch of firewood while there’s still some daylight, too.
‘Man, this is turning out to be a pretty great day, and it’s looking like it’ll be an even better night. Part of Sidney wishes Victoria and Carl were able to come, but most of him tries to avoid focusing on the negatives. No sense in it.
Sidney parks in the dirt shoulder on the side of Sawblade Lane and steps out the car, takes in a deep breath of that forest air. He looks into his back window and sees the case of water bottles very well.
“Shit, that’s going to be a pain to carry all the way back there,” he realizes. “Maybe I don’t need to bring ‘em all.”
Mayhap not, but he should definitely bring a bunch. Although he only has the one joint rolled, Sidney Blake plans on smoking a hell of a lot more than one joint tonight.
“Fuck it, I might as well. I have time to kill, anyway.”
And so Sidney Blake, all by himself, carries the case of water, the bag full of junk food, the sleeping bag full of contraband, the pillow, and the old tent back to The True Commons. It takes two trips, one of which took almost twice as long as the other, and Sidney decides to set up the tent before collecting firewood, as his legs are exhausted and he needs the momentary reprieve. Setting the tent up turns out to be a whole ordeal – the collapsible poles keep collapsing while he’s trying to work them through the slots, and every time he tries to drive a stake into the ground it hits a rock; dude moves the thing four times before he finally finds a good spot, and of course that spot has a bunch of rocks underneath it… whatever, he has the sleeping bag, he’ll be fine – and only serves to further exhaust him, but that’s okay. Sidney has the ultimate remedy to exhaustion: a marijuana cigarette, one he rolled many moons ago, the crutch of which is laced with enough dry spittle to convince Sidney that Keaton won’t mind him smoking it without him.
The smoke is dry, harsh, and burns Sidney’s throat. He coughs so much that tears fall down his cheeks and he starts to drool.
“Jesus Christ,” he scolds himself. “Why was I so excited to smoke this shit?”
The answer comes a few seconds later in a wave of highness, so gentle and soft and wonderful, so peaceful, so very zen. Yes, his throat hurts, and yes, he’s shaking a tiny bit from the exertion it took to bring everything out here and all, but he’s high. Sidney Blake is high in the woods and he doesn’t think the Dark Tower is a prophecy of his life. He wrote a book, Sidney Blake did; after flunking out of college Sidney wrote a novel and is probably going to get a publishing deal, and for that reason Sidney is high today. He earned this high, and it feels so, so lovely. Not as lovely as Victoria’s method of convincing him not to smoke, of course, but lovely nonetheless.
“Aahhhhh,” Sidney says as he lays back on the sleeping bag in his tent, his jammer pinched between fingers middle and pointer. “Just, aahhhhh.”
Time passes as the smoke billows. The sun sets and the air gets chillier. Sidney still doesn’t have any firewood gathered.
“Oh shit,” Sidney realizes long after the roach was flicked into the firepit. “I still need to get firewood.”
So Sidney gets firewood and piles it in a large mound across the firepit from his tent. He returns to his tent after the fourth armful and plops down on the sleeping bag.
“Kind’a wish I had some chairs back here,” Sidney says. Shrugs. “Oh well, there are leaves on the ground. Plenty of coverage.”
A few minutes – could be an hour, honestly; Sidney’s concept of time burned off with the pot – later, Sidney gets a text from Keaton. They’re heading back down 115 now, should be at the library in ten minutes, should be done hauling all the shit inside in another twenty. Word. Only one question remains: should Sidney light the fire now or when he gets back here with Keaton?
“When I get back,” Sidney decides as he’s zipping his tent shut, as to protect the cannabis. “No sense in burning the forest down. I doubt Keaton will mind a few minutes of darkness.”
Speakin’a’which, it’s hella dark right now. Sidney unzips the tent, grabs his phone, and zips it back up again. Flashlight on and pointed at the ground, he ambles across The True Commons, steps over the border ring of puddingstones, and starts down the game trail.
Three birds home and two to go; with some luck–
‘the word ‘mans of poor hearts use for ka’
–they’ll both be felled with one bloody stone.
This has been the fourth subchapter of the last chapter of Untitled Bigfoot Project. Here is everything you need to know about it:
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~