We shivered in the night. The buzz of street lamps charged the air while you shot puffs of breath.
“Do you think he meant it?” you whispered.
“Meant what?” I asked. You crumpled your chin and searched for an answer in the dark.
“That illuminati shit, man. I mean, he went off on it for like at least half an hour. It must’ve been. Bumbling on about pyramids and the Jews and the concentration of wealth and Jay-Z.” You bent your blonde brows. “It’s like…fuck man, I don’t give a shit if The Blueprint trilogy was about how Hov cracked the code and joined the freemasons and shit. Just pass the fucking blunt.”
“I gave you a look, dude.” I huffed out my own cloud and rocked my head like a pendulum, checking to make sure no headlights had crept up onto the cracked concrete.
“Yeah, I saw. I think everyone in the neighborhood caught your stare. Leaving the dome light on. Jeez. That’s some petty shit. Some high school shit. As if my ass wasn’t already paranoid enough…” Your thin sweatshirt wrapped tight across your forearms, as if wound for a round or two in a boxing ring. A few summers and a few dozen miles from Juno had prepped them for battle and built them thick. Still, with your arms crossed, the pale street light flexed and your sleeves twitched. “Are you done in there?”
Bryan shimmied out the passenger’s seat, a wide grin and low eyelids beamed off his face.
“Fun fact: That’s how DJ and Goofy got caught,” Bryan chimed. “Leaving the dome light on in their car.”
“I thought they decided to chief in the same cul de sac, in the same spot, every day, for two weeks straight.”
“I mean, sure. That definitely didn’t help. But it’s the dome light that did ‘em in.” His finger raced circles like a ceiling fan.
“Yeah, how so?” you asked through a clenched jaw.
“So they got caught you know, and when the cop rolled up, he asked, ‘Can I help you boys?’ or something like that. And Goofy, coasting in the driver’s seat and knowing the gig is up, considering the Civic is all loud and shit, puts on the dumbest smile you’ve ever seen and goes, ‘Not really, sir, but if you happen to carry a spare lighter you’re willing to share, that’d be real key.’”
“Goofy said that? Goofy told you he said that?”
“Goofy told me he said that.” Bryan raised an eyebrow and you lowered yours.
“And nothing happened to him?” we asked.
“No shit something happened to him. He got caught with weed by a cop, dude. You thought nothing was gonna happen to him? No, he was just being a smartass. Slapping the pig with a quick one before getting railed by the badge.”
“Well, it must’ve not been that bad. Didn’t get kicked out or anything. Still got to walk at graduation.”
“Yeah, the school didn’t care. His parents own the place we had prom at. Big donors, there’s nothing that they could’ve done.”
“What’s that have to do with the police?”
“You know what I’m saying. Cops didn’t do shit. School didn’t do shit. Their dumbasses were back in the halls the following Monday, proud as fuck. What I’m saying is a light sentence. A slap on the wrist. A minor fine. I don’t know, man. His parents got pull.” Bryan scanned the frosty lawns. I rocked my head back and you must’ve buckled your knees. “Why are your legs shaking?”
“Why are my legs shaking?” You pumped both fists towards the buzzing overhead. “Dude, you made us wait outside your car in the middle of fucking winter while your high-ass tried to find the keys you managed to drop between the seats.”
“Yeah, but we just hotboxed this piece of junk,” he said, slapping the metal husk.
“It’s been that long!”
“It has been a minute,” I added. My own knees tightened and fell in step to the fluorescent beat.
“It’s been so long, I’m not even high anymore!”
“Okay, it hasn’t been that long.” Bryan folded his arms too and the three of us stood there, wrapped in ourselves and in the dark. Somewhere in the neighborhood, a dog barked.
“Did we have to smoke there?”
“Where? The dugout?”
“Yeah, I know it’s a tradition and shit, but-”
“You’re goddamn right. If I’m gonna be in town, I’m taking at least one trip out to the bases and lighting up in the dugout. We’ve been at it for a while now.”
“Six fucking years, dude. No question.”
“Yeah, but if we get our asses handed to us? My parents are teachers. They don’t have pull like DJ or Goofy’s. No friend on the force or anything like that. If my ass gets caught, I’m donezo.”
“And you’re gonna bail now? After all this time?”
“Not necessarily.” You pulled at your patches of wild scruff. “I’m just saying our parents know we smoke.”
“Yeah, great idea. How about you walk into my house right now and ask my parents if it’d be cool to light a fat blunt in the basement? They’re usually up at this time anyway.…” Bryan flicked his wrist, rubbed it a little, and connected two moles with a finger.
“I dont know. Bridget, Dave, and I are pretty chill.”
“Yeah, we hang out on the weekends,” you said, smiling. Your stubby canine teeth never caught up to the front two. “Actually, I tried hitting them up first, but they had a swinger’s convention to go to, so I had to settle for second best.”
“Second best, huh?” Bryan scratched at his neck. “Is that so?”
“Yeah, dude. Couldn’t get the real thing, so I had to settle with what was available.”
“Fuck you, dude. Maybe you can get Bridget and Dave to smoke you down next time.”
“Yo, I offered to match.”
“I don’t want your Alaskan ditch weed, bro.”
“I’m telling you. The stuff I got is fresh. Seen it grow out the planters. No one’s keeping an eye out there. Way better than this bullshit Midwest brick weed.”
“Woah, woah, woah, dude. Don’t bad mouth the bud that got you lifted.” Palms up, Bryan raised spirits with his fingers, the ones that weren’t numb at least.
‘You know what? You’re right.” You buried your hands in your pits. “Not a good look. I appreciate it.” Your cheeks burned. “Yo, hold up.”
Bryan asked for what, but by then, a finger was up to your lips. A car rounded the corner, lights chopping the blackness as it rolled through the sprawl. We shivered and tried to hold our breath as it passed. Bryan nodded at the aluminum beast and it strolled on through.
“Alaska give you a spidey-sense, bro? A year and some in the wilderness and you get some sort of super hearing?”
“Eh, I just notice things more,” you replied. “When you’re out looking for loose dogs or keeping an eye on the park’s reindeer, you kinda have to.” The car turned. Bryan slapped his soles against the blacktop. Somewhere in the neighborhood, the dog stopped.
“How long you all here for?”
“I’m here until Sunday, dude. Got that early morning flight to make it back for my shift.”
“Straight to the park, huh?”
“Well, a layover in Montana, but then afterwards, yeah. Landing in Juno, a few hours drive, then sure, straight to the park.”
“Can’t stop the hustle.”
The clatter of our teeth chipped at still air.
“Yo, you ever see those lights up there, man? The ones that wave across the sky and look like an EDM concert or some shit?”
“Aurora borealis? Yeah, sure. Not like everyday. Sometimes you have to take a good two, three hour trip to catch ‘em. But yeah, you can get a glimpse of them every now and again.” You arched your back and clawed at your chest, fingers stunted in the air’s chilly grip. “Stunning. Beautiful. You have to see ‘em at least once, man. If you ever wanna peep ‘em for yourself, you know where I hang.”
“Yeah? You’ve gotta keep an eye out on that shit. You know what I mean?” We swapped glances.
“What do you mean?”
“That light show don’t come out of nowhere is what I’m saying.” Bryan rubbed his pale lips with a stiff finger and stared past rows of houses, straight through the sprawl. “Someone’s always pulling the strings.”
“Oh, no, man. This has, like, always been a thing. Something about the magnetic field and shit, right?”
“Yeah,” you jumped in. “When the solar winds and shit interact with-”
“Nah, man,” Bryan pulled at the patches of hair on his face. “Nah, just think about it-”
Your pants vibrated. You pulled out a flip phone; pale dull blue flooded your face. Your scanning eyes and full beard and short teeth hung without context.
“Damn, dude. I gotta dip.”
“You sure?” I asked.
“Yeah, breakfast with my grandpa and grandma tomorrow. Dad wants me home; probably doesn’t me to sleep straight through it or something.”
“Damn, right when you were about to get woke as fuck, too.” I shook my head.
“The powers that be always trying to keep us ignorant, man.” Bryan wagged a lonely finger, swollen and red.
“And the cycle continues,” you grinned, mixing the stale breeze with a long white nail.
We waited for another car to wander by and somewhere in the neighborhood, the dog started up again.
“Right. Then it’s back to the shipping container.”
“Not like an actual one though, right?
“I meant the plane. But, eh, kinda. It’s a big rectangle box made out of tin. There’s no running water.”
“Where do you shit?” Bryan asked.
“I’ve got an outhouse, bathe in a creek.”
“Really roughin’ it, huh? Dope.”
“Not very. For sure wakes you up, though.” Your unsheathed canines framed a smile.
“Gotcha. So, Sunday, then.”
“Maybe we can squeeze one more sesh in there, right quick. Maybe get you blazed for a visit to grandma’s.”
Bryan fondled his chin and nodded from pure momentum, like an empty rocking chair left to shift its weight.
“Wake and bake. I can dig.”
A second story light glowed behind a curtain.
“Fuck, they’re up,” Bryan said.
The three of us, with our arms twisted and bound to our chest, traded flickered glimpses under the blanched lamps. I saw Bryan’s patchy face, slicked back hair, and drifting pupils. I caught your mane and your fangs and golden brows. I couldn’t find your eyes.
Bryan took us both by the hand and slid us a quick grip, capping it with a pat on the back.
“See ya boys,” he waved, leaping across the glimmering grass. You turned, spread your wings at a slant, and hugged me. I held you back.
“Let me know, okay? I love you, man.”
“For sure. Yeah, I’ll keep you posted.”
We dissolved and scattered into our respective cars parked on the curb. I flipped some switches and the beast creaked to life. I aimed the rush of cool air down and slid my fingers beneath my thighs. A glassy sheet filtered my trunk window, but your headlights poured through and your car groaned the same. Feeling eased back into my fingers and the fresh blood pulsed through my quads. My phone rang.
“Yo, it’s takin’ a minute, huh?” You asked.
“Yeah, this piece of shit takes forever to heat back up. What’s going on?”
“You think the shit we smoked was laced?”
“I mean, my heart’s racing right now, man. I don’t know if it was Bryan’s bud we smoked or what. You don’t think he’d do that, huh? Like you know he’s out there and shit. He’d let us know if he got it laced or what. I definitely don’t think he’d lace it himself, you know? It’s just that-”
“Chill, you’re just paranoid,” I said. “You think he wouldn’t tell us if we were fucking with some other shit? No way. Kid’s weird, but he’s not some sort of fiend. Call him if you want. Probably just tell you that’d be a waste of drugs.” My breath filled the cabin. The sheet on the back window retreated. I watched you rattle in place.
“You’re probably right…it’s just that shit he spouts puts me off. The Northern lights shit. It’s like, ‘What is that,’ you know?”
“I feel ya. Sometimes you just gotta let him put it out there. People just wanna be heard.”
“Right.” Through the thawing glass, I could make the scrappy flow from your face.
“Okay. Sunday, you said, right?”
“Yup, let me know, man. Got family stuff obviously, but I’m not too sure when I’ll be back again. So, you know, let’s figure it out.”
“Deal, we’ll set it up.”
“Dope.” The glass cleared; your mane and and your fangs and your brows flashed back into focus. My tail lights bounced off your eyes. I watched you watch me through the mirror. Somewhere in the neighborhood, the dog stopped. Then you said it again.
“I love you too, man,” I said. “Good night.”
We hung up. Traffic coursed through my fingers. I shifted to drive and rolled forward. In the mirror, you pulled a U-ie and drove straight through.