Back To Bethlehem
Jimmy navigated a sharp curve. Hair pin curves had now become the new norm. As well as the sheer rock walls on either side of us. A few more logging trucks to pass, a few more curves to navigate and finally; a little oasis aptly named The Hide-A-Way. Years later I would stop here on my own. The Hide-A-Way would become the Haida Way. And somebody thought they could pass off frozen cod as fresh salmon or sturgeon. A wink from Captain Highliner.
Jimmy eased Queenie up to the pumps and put her in park. He gunned the engine twice and then turned her off. Queenie protested briefly and then was silent. Jimmy turned with a slight scowl and said "She needs a tune-up but she's a damn fine girl". I couldn't argue the point, we'd been making excellent time. I vowed silently to myself that if everything worked out okay I'd shoot him a hundred bucks and pay for the gas as well.
"Stay here and mind Queenie for a bit", he said, "and tell the old-timer there to fill 'er up while I grab us some cold ones from inside. I'd ask you to go but you don't look no twenty-one". I reminded him the drinking age here was nineteen. "You don't look no nineteen either". We laughed at that. I asked him if he had any rolling papers or a pipe. Preferably a pipe. Jimmy shook his head no so I asked him if he'd grab an apple or an orange while he was inside. "Sure", he said, not knowing what I had in mind.
I rooted around and managed to find the essentials. Queenie's floor provided me with tin foil from an empty cigarette pack. Her glove compartment provided me with a clear Bic pen. To my added delight, my A Foot In Coldwater pin was still securely anchored to my Levi jean jacket. They were the only band I had a chance to see this summer and the show they put on that night was amazing. And thoughts of Lolly saved me from the Mayor's daughter after the show. She promised to do unspeakable things to me if I went home with her. She listed the pluses with great enthusiasm. Let's see; a swimming pool, hot tub, guest house and skimpy bikini. I ended up going back to my Uncle's place. We would be working the next morning and I was here to work, not to let my uncle down. That was last weekend. I've got two weeks to burn before my final year of high school begins.
I was secretly hoping Jimmy would bring back an orange. I said nothing. Just in case. I didn't want Jimmy to come out empty handed. I had perfected the art of fruit pipe making last year in high school; skipping a few classes here and there and getting high with my buddy Shane in his Fiat ragtop. Usually in the school parking lot. One fateful October afternoon we ran out of rolling papers after picking magic mushrooms at Fry's Corner. We found a withered apple in the glove compartment and set to work on our prototype. I poked a hole in the top of the apple with my finger. There's the bowl. Shane took the refill out of his clear Bic pen and jammed the now hollowed pen into the side of the apple. Voila. There's your draw. We found some tin foil and poked small holes in it. We used a toothpick. Then I moulded it to fit the top of the apple. Your pipe's ready …
We tried a few varieties of apples. Granny Smith proved to be the best of the bunch. Red Delicious and MacIntosh seemed to start falling apart after a few bowls. You need a hard apple for this type of work. Of course we experimented. The grapefruit provided a cool smoke but was too awkward. We downsized. In the end it was the orange that took top spot. I thought about the orange as I struggled with the pin on my jean jacket. I was tugging on it and my fingers slipped. My elbow hit the dashboard and a bolt of pain shot through me. And for the first time since Jimmy picked me up I checked the extent of my injuries. The right arm of my jean jacket was ripped and clotted stiff with dried flesh and blood. My right knee wasn't too bad. I could see exposed scrapes and cuts on my knee. The knee of my faded jeans were ripped in a fashion that would later resurface in the eighties as being somewhat hip.
"What do you need"? No mistaking that voice. I turn sideways to look at it. That voice is Chief Dan George. I'm starting to feel like I'm playing a role in Little Big Man. The voice is big, rich and wise. I'm surprised when I see his face. It's wrinkle free although his long hair is pure white. I stared for a second and then spoke up. "Could we get a fill-up please? My buddy's inside paying". He nodded his head and then disappeared behind the gas pumps. He returned a few minutes later. I was feeling a bit dizzy and had my head stuck out the open window. The fresh air was working wonders. The attendant approached me and spoke softly. But the words were like a club. "The young man you are with does not belong, muh gawh". My father often called me that. It's Cree and roughly means 'my boy'. I'm not sure of the spelling. It's the only word I really know. "He does not belong, be careful". And with that he trotted off as another car pulled up to the pumps. Jimmy came out of the restaurant just then, waving an orange triumphantly above his head with one hand while holding a case of beer with the other. A quick burn out in the parking lot then back to the highway. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. About three miles up the road we pulled over at the edge of a side road and Jimmy handed me an ice cold beer. "I only drink long necks. Cans and stubbies are for sissies". I showed him the pipe I had assembled from the orange, the hollow pen and the tinfoil. Thanks to the pin, the screen was almost a proper one. A picture of perfection awaited, SunKist label attached.
"Are you sure this thing's gonna work"? Jimmy was sceptical. Until he took his first hit from the Orange and almost coughed his brains out. I'm sure Jimmy never thought of oranges the same way again. A few more hits off the orange had Jimmy and I laughing hysterically. The radio had been on. Just static. The Doors changed that. Riders On The Storm came in. Faintly at first and then loudly. Canyon walls sang to each other. There's a killer on the road …
Reception had been bad since we left The Hide-A-Way and it had started to spit rain a few minutes ago. "This song always reminds me of Mexico". And as Jimmy said that, the radio was silent once again. The fading voice of the lizard king bouncing off the canyon walls. We looked at each other. Then Jimmy's face brightened up. Once I got to know him better I called it the party look. Like something big and cool is coming. "You ever drink Mescal"? I wasn't sure what he'd just asked. The combination of great hash, his American accent and the word itself had me at odds. Jimmy repeated the question and added "Reach into my backpack on the backseat and you'll find a bottle of Mescal". I shifted around carefully. No more sudden jolts for this boy. I started rummaging through his leather backpack and saw the business end of a 38 revolver long before I saw the bottle of Mescal.
There's a killer on the road. And he does not belong.