Zane’s Big Day! pt. 2

Relatively speaking, Floyd was a wealthy man. He owned a modest used car lot which provided substantial income; but the amount of money he piled up by selling turquoise was nearly obscene. He drove a brand-new Ford F-150, and he also had his own small private plane. Floyd loved the six-year-old because Zane reminded him of the son that he had lost in a fatal accident. Floyd was joyfully shooting the breeze with the young prodigy while apprehensively studying his father through the corner of his eye. Floyd was concerned for Zane’s safety because it was payday, and the white boys were restless. It wasn’t uncommon to hear random gunshots at the flea-market. There was always at least one firearms vendor, and they used the vast junkyard behind the butcher shop as an impromptu firing range to prove the reliability of their goods.

After completing his rounds, Zane returned to his father, who had the bus partly unloaded. “Have you seen Hector,” Zane asked. Charlie knew that Hector was the leader of the pack which consisted of a group of local kids who would free-roam the entire property. “Hector is at the butcher-shop with his Dad.” Charlie said. “After you help me finish setting up you can go play.” Upon the completion of his task, Zane sauntered over to the butcher shop, which doubled as seedy convenience store of sorts. There was a sign over the threshold that read, “Welcome to the Sweet-Meat.” Zane went inside the dimly lit shop in order to locate his friend who was sitting behind the deli-counter on a barstool. As per usual, the two children began to pack their bags. Hector’s Dad owned the place and would let the kids take expired breads and lunchmeats with them on their journeys. Today’s voyage would lead Hector, and his small expedition to the play fort, which was located about a mile and a half due east. The two-lane blacktop that led to the local power plant was the only boundary set by the adults. By this time the sun was brightly shining, but it was still early yet, and Hector had to work. Zane decided to use the time wisely and set up his own stall. Charlie allocated to his boy a cardboard box filled with miscellaneous trinkets and bric-a-brac. It was Zane’s responsibly to ‘practice selling his own stuff.’ The previous day, Zane found some red crayons and scribed the word “B-A-R-G-I-N-S” on the side of the paper box. The operation was akin to a lemonade stand meaning that Zane had his own cashbox and everything. Zane was on his hands and knees spreading out a small blanket on the hard packed dirt. As he continued to set up his display, he heard a strangely soothing voice emanate from behind him. “You spelled bargains wrong,” said the voice in flirty tone. Monica Hunt, who was also Hector’s cousin, lived in the huge white house that lie across the imaginary boundary that made up the flea-market. Zane was too young to know what love was about; but he did know that Monica made him feel “funny.” Just as soon as she had appeared, she was gone. Monica was an elusive being in Zane’s mind, meaning that she only made an appearance once in a blue moon. She was not accepted by the boys and spent most of her time in the big white house.

Zane was becoming restless as he waited for Hector to finish his chores.  To bide his time, he was sitting ‘crisscross-apple-sauce’ on the blanket as he pretended to ‘peddle his merchandise.’  Finally, Hector appeared from out of nowhere! “Let’s go!” he said. “I’ve got luncheon meats and Twinkies!!” Zane knew he had permission, but he always asked his Dad anyways. “You kids stay on this side of the Highway!” I mean it he continued. “If I find out you’ve been putting rocks in the road, I’ll Bust Your Butts!”  Charlie suspected that Hector was a bad influence, and because of this he intended to strike fear into eight-year-old’s heart; and that’s exactly what he did.  Hector listened to Charlie in the same way he obeyed his own father.

By this time the remaining kids had joined the group. They numbered six in total. The young flock of Native explorers voyaged to their private clubhouse that was constructed from ram-shackle corrugated tin scraps and busted up wooden pallets. The interior of the fort measured about six feet square, but it only had three walls. The corrugated tin roof provided shade from the blistering sun as the youngsters divided up their loot. Zane and his small crew thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. They would sit and talk and eat for hours. The fact that he was a white boy never entered into the equation. After a while Hector said, “I’m bored. Let’s go to the highway now.” He stuck his head out into the daylight and motioned for the boys to come along. Being the intellectual of the group, Zane reminded them of Charlie’s stark warning. Hector argued that it would be okay as long as they didn’t cross the highway. It was a loophole.

The group of six agreed, so they gathered up their supplies and hastily embarked on the final leg of the voyage. They were talking and laughing and enjoying themselves as they trekked through the desert heat. By the time they had reached the crossroads it was high noon, and the bright sunlight reverberated up from the hard packed dirt in a way that forced rational adults to beg forgiveness.

“I’ve got an idea!” Hector declared in an informative tone. “Let’s make bets on who can throw the largest rocks.” The young crew immediately went about the task of gathering stones, when they heard the rumble of an approaching motorcycle in the far distance of the blistering hellscape. “I’ll bet it’s the Bandidos,” Hector noted as he stopped right in his tracks! Suddenly the contest was put on hold, because in all of the excitement they forgot about their previous scheme. The tension mounted as the ‘hard-tail’ rumbled closer to the intersection. Straddled upon the hog was large man with gin on his breath.  It was obvious that he had been drinking by the way he struggled to handle his heavy machine. It wasn’t uncommon to witness random bikers in the vicinity because they were known to frequent the Sweet-Meat on occasion as well. Charlie correctly assumed the outlaws congregated in the open wilderness in order to ‘peddle their own wares.’ Bikers preferred to conduct their business in the absence of prying eyes.

Charlie abhorred illegal drugs, and he would instruct his children that “Drugs are the worst thing that had ever come down the pike!” Zane didn’t know what a pike was, but he knew that Dad was serious when he warned his children about drug use. On more than one occasion Charlie lectured his children of the dangers of narcotics. With a bone-chilling stare, Charlie explained how ‘drugs will ruin your life.’ He would go on to explain in an authoritative tone that “if I ever catch you kids doing drugs, I’ll kill you myself…because you’re just throwing your life away anyway.”  

As the inebriated biker approached the dusty intersection, he noticed the small group of children who were by this time dancing, jumping, and waving! They were trying to get his attention he noted, as he struggled to keep his balance. “What the fuck is all this shit?” the lone biker thought as he wrestled the heavy bike to a stop. He was a big man, but not in any muscular sense of the word. The biker sported a huge beer belly. His greasy unkempt hair was subdued by a soiled red bandana that had been fastened into a makeshift headband. He wore a tattered jean jacket with hastily cut-off sleeves. Zane couldn’t help but notice how the blazing sun was reflected from his mirrored sunglasses. Stitched to the back of the blue denim vest was a very large, embroidered patch which was intended to identify himself as an outlaw. Clearly, the man was not to be trifled with. His jack boots were scuffed and un-loved. The machine was tattered and unwashed. The distinct smell of burning motor oil was accompanied by small whisps of translucent smoke that emanated from the engine bay. This was due to a failing gasket which allowed black liquid to seep out onto the exhaust pipe. The dripping oil would instantly evaporate as it came into contact with the blistering chrome.

“You kids need to get out of the God-Damned road!” the biker shouted in no uncertain terms. “Don’t you know the shift is over at the plant?” “They’re all going to get runned over,” The biker thought to himself as he struggled to drop the shifter into first gear with his left foot. Upon engaging the transmission the biker dumped the clutch. The meaty rear tire spun out for a second as it desperately sought to gain traction against the scorching asphalt. The clumsy biker negotiated the left turn that led back into civilization as the boys stood there in silent awe.

By the time they returned to the flea-market, it was going on three o’clock. Zane and the boys noticed a small commotion erupting around the tailgate of Floyds F-150. There was a faint smell of spilled whiskey in the air, and people had gathered around. “This is what happens to people when they act like assholes,” Charlie explained as the crowd quietly listened. Zane instantly absorbed the grotesque vision that had manifest before his innocent eyes. George had been beaten to a bloody pulp by some rough boys who were previously test firing their newly purchased revolvers. Apparently, George had gotten himself drunk, and provoked the Natives who promptly returned the favor with a crushing blow to his head. The incessant ethnic slurs were too much for the Natives, so one of them grabbed a two-by-four from the bed of Floyd’s pick-up. The impromptu weapon struck George directly across his forehead while impacting the upper portion of his nose in the process. Zane’s rational mind told him to run away, but he couldn’t summon the will to stop looking! By this time the bleeding had stopped, and his left eye was already swollen shut. His right eye could only open wide enough to manage an eerie slit. The upper portion of George’s western styled shirt was still damp with blood as the man sobbed uncontrollably.  “Your nose is broken,” Floyd explained to the man as he wailed in agonizing shame. Charlie agreed and calmly stated, “He’s going to need a doctor.”

To be continued…

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