Excerpts from The Drake Raft Field Trip
(BeaconWay Press, 352 pps. $12.00)
© 1996 Elliot McGucken & jollyroger.com
plot summary

They denied the beautiful and the true,
There was nothing else I wanted to do.
They told me there was nothing left to tell,
So I burned their words and created hell.
--Drake Raft


Like I thought that everything would've made a pretty cool video, but Cliff said that the whole video industry thing sucks, and by the time they got anything of ours out on the air over MTV our story will have evaporated, even if we laid down some cool riffs with it all. It'd have to have a bunch of those swimsuit super models on fire, like the chick who graduated early from Chapel Hill High and scored herself a Porsche. You probably caught her in Sports Illustrated-- they put her in even though she has red hair. Or else it'd end up on VH1, and even MTV'd throw a flock of dolphins and environmental stuff in for balance to offset the sex and fire and death, all of which sounded pretty cool to me. I pointed out that one proverb thing, that a picture's worth a thousand words, and Cliff said yeah sure, if the picture's of a face or a barn or something, but when it comes down to pictures of the ungraspable phantom of life or whatever, words are priceless. So Cliff figured we'd write a book. Plus that way no one could ruin it, Cliff said, unless they read it wrong, and then it'd only be ruined in a private sort of way. But there's not much danger of that-- nobody I know reads.

Now I won't be able to say everything exactly as it happened, but Cliff said that that's no big deal, and I shouldn't worry about it; just as long as we get it all down before it escapes our heads, and then if there're any holes we can fill them in with whatever we feel. My verbal handling skills are about as good as Cliff's Rhandy Rhodes guitar solos, so you know Cliff should be the one recording all this in ink and stuff, knowin' all the bigger words that he's always learning out of those thick banned books he's always reading. But he's been shipped off to some camp in California where he's supposed to find God or somebody. You know how the whole book thing was his idea, but soon as he got out West, he wigged out on me. He sent me a post-card of the Rainbow saying how he's got no time for words, 'cause he's on to some combination unification thing of quantum mechanics and relativity and stuff, which he says came out of either side of Einstein's brain and have hated each-other ever since. He's putting all that stuff in our physics appendix thing, if you're in to science fiction. Plus he says he's too much afflicted and stuff by Drake's poems to write straight, except for to write out all the speech things we heard-- he keeps rhyming by mistake. He said he trusted my talents and abilities, but that's mostly 'cause he doesn't wanna do it himself-- usually when Cliff trusts your abilities it's 'cause he doesn't feel like doin' it himself.

But I have to admit that this time he might really be pretty tied up, 'cause on top of everything else, his dad's forcing him to take some classes that're gonna make him ace his SAT test things so he can get into the college of his dad's choice for real, even though we already just got into Princeton this past April, as like these phony people. We sent away for application things, and we made up some fake names like River and Cloudy Meadows, and we filled 'em out saying how we were two orphaned brothers who'd been adopted by some charitable Black Sabbath roadies. We wrote it down in the spaces provided for events which changed our lives about how we'd traveled the world and been cultured by our roady family, having seen the Mardis Gras in the French Quarter, up in France, and Liverpool too, where Ozzy was born. We said we'd watched Bloody Stonehard sell out the Tokyo Dome four nights down in South Europe as a cultural diversity exchange program, and we'd even seen like the historical sights where Pink Floyd rocked down the Wall in Berlin and kicked face-ism's ass for good and cured AIDS too, for Kurt Cobain's benefit, 'cause he's like dead.

They'd changed the rules on the SAT things and let you take calculators in, 'cause they don't teach math in high school anymore. So Cliff got his soldering iron out and souped up these two old calculators he had lyin' around and made 'em so they could cruise the information super highway. That way I could look up all the words and things while he worked on the math parts. Then we like interacted some on the WWW and emailed each-other the information we'd found. I even had some time left over to look up the lyrics to What's the Frequency Kenneth? 'cause I never could figure out what was gettin' said, but seein' em didn't help much.

I guess it was cheating, as we were both working on the same test, and it could've been a federal bust, 'cause we were violating the FCC rules, but hey, we were taking them as a joke, OK? And besides, Cliff said it wasn't anymore cheating than memorizing the words before the test was. If anything, our way was more honest and on the level, 'cause we just went in knowing what we knew and didn't spend months preparing some eminent front to fool people that we knew more than we really did. But I did learn something-- I'll never get into college, as the only word I knew on the test on my own was "estranged," 'cause Guns and Roses throw up the definition in that old video-- you know, the cool one where Axl jumps off an Oil Tanker and like Slash floats in front of the Rainbow and walks on water and stuff each time his solo comes up, like he's God or somebody. Plus our way was more efficient too, 'cause we weren't filling up our heads with words that referred to nothing in reality, and wasting good space that could be used to know real stuff, like how to play the new Bloody Stonehard riffs.

Cliff put some serious time in on our recommendations from our teachers, which was the toughest part he said, because he had to climb inside the mind of Mrs. Jackson, this one English teacher we both had, though he had her for honors, and I had her for challenged; and to authentisize them he spiced the recommendations up with a few words borrowed from the coolest contemporary literature, like Miss America and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and from that huge brick-like book he kept getting detentions for having in the school-- the one which'd been banned for promoting violence against whales, Moby Dick.

He said it would help us if we like lied and checked the minority box, which I thought we were already, there being only two of us. But he explained the meaning of the word, so I thought some about it and concluded to him that it would be a good thing to say we were like Chinese, as Greg Shimaku was the smartest in our grade and always showing up on the honor rolls. But Cliff told me I was a dumb-ass, and it was no wonder I never showed up on the honor rolls or anything, and that anyone in our position needed to stick with a sure-fire minority, so he put down that we were rich. For our essay questions Cliff borrowed some old poems from that dead dude Shake-a-spear, and he set them down as our own and told the admissions people we were two expiring poets or something. I thought it was a dumb-assed thing to do, so sure I was that we'd be busted for copy-writing, and they'd trash our application, as that's like playin' a gig and introducing Knockin' on Heaven's Door as a song you wrote for some friend who died from a heroin overdose-- like Axl would beat the crap out of you. But Cliff said not to worry, because he'd been talking with his brother Drake who'd been going to Princeton, and before he'd wigged out up there and took to livin' in the woods and killed himself, sort of, Drake'd told him that they don't read Shake-a-spear there anymore. But like all this stuff is of no matter, really. We got in and won us some scholarships too. We could've gone, but Cliff messed up. He tried to have them fax us the five-hundred dollar check for our books and stuff, 'cause we needed the dough pretty bad to pay off Columbia House-- they'd been sending around this third party dude to collect. But anyway, the admissions people checked us out or something and threatened to prostitute us in a court of law, just like those ones on cable, Cliff said. It would've been cool if we were out in California, 'cause nobody gets convicted of anything there, ever, and they hang the juries instead, but we were livin' in lynchville USA, Cliff said, so we wrote 'em the letter they wanted saying how we were just kidding, and they could keep their scholarship and give it to someone who deserved it for real, and we weren't prostituted.

But what I really want to-- I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Timber. What I really want to tell you about is our whacked out post-postmodern secret society adventure that started back in June, right the same day when we graduated from the tenth grade, and Chapel Hill High let out early, right after lunch, 'cause Travance and Jeremihah had these guns and stuff. Vance had pulled this .45 revolver on Mr. Dehaven, our head principal, when Dehaven'd told him to turn down his Cop Molester, even though it wasn't Snoop. It was their own original stuff, which's twenty times cooler. You weren't even supposed to have boxes in the school, but because it was the last day, people weren't hidin' 'em in their book bags like usual and stickin' with the headphones up under your cap trick. They were sharin' the music with everyone. The whole thing'd gone down right in the commons, during second period lunch. All the sophomore chicks-- the fluff chicks is what my sister and her friends call 'em, 'cause they're stupid, or something-- they started freakin' and cryin', and Patty called her mom on her car phone before Mr. Dehaven or anyone could stop her. So they kicked us out before all the TV people showed up, like usual. Patty's mom is a cop, but that never stopped her from grindin' up her Ritalin to make a buck. But anyways, it was cool 'cause we were set free as the wind for the summer and everything. I was, anyway, but Cliff had to serve his detentions, even in spite of all the machine gun stuff going down. Dehaven had snagged him on his way out the door to freedom. He had ten racked up, all 'cause of that same whale dissin' book. His tenth grade report card was going to be held 'til he served them, or until he helped a homeless person and wrote a report about it, but Cliff didn't know any homeless people, well enough to bother them anyway, so he was stuck serving the detentions on this totally immaculate day. That's a Cliff word-- immaculate.


I had a gig that night at the Cat's Cradle with the Feminine Napkin Holders, 'cause I was subbin' for Travis Hinton who was going to Raleigh to play lead for the Three Flaming Monkey Bunns at the Ritz. Such a beautiful early June afternoon it was, with all the leaves that full bright late spring green, etched against the Carolina blue sky and stuff. I was just sittin' up in a great old maple tree up on the front part of the college campus next to that confederate Silent Sam soldier statue-thing which stood for all the soldiers who died for our country in that one historical war-- the civilized one. In my head I was goin' over all the songs for the gig and the chord progressions and stuff. I couldn't remember about half of 'em, but I was pretty sure I'd know 'em that night when I had my Les Paul in my hand. There were like three chords to choose form.

Cliff'd told me to wait for him up here in Quequeg's Tree, as he called it, for fifteen minutes or so, just on case he escaped out of his five hour detention when Mr. Dehaven went to go empty the morning money out of his Coke machine. There were a bunch of eighth grade skaters whizzing along the brick walkways, baggy pants and flappin' flannel and stuff, and a college girl was leadin' a campus tour on by. She told all the people that Silent Sam shot his gun off whenever a virgin walked by, but like of course he just stayed silent as ever. Everybody was over ten, it looked. It'd been awhile more than fifteen minutes, and I was thinkin' they probably had Cliff in high security, as usually he'd always busted out by now. But I didn't mind so much, 'cause it's an awesome high when like school's just let out for the summer, and you're away up in a tree, just sittin' and watchin' some chicks grabbin' the first rays of June and some dudes tossin' an aerobe around.

"Riff!" I recognized the one aerobe dude closer to me. He had on my jeans jacket. It'd been missing for three weeks, ever since the Preppy Death show at the Cradle. "Riff!" He turned but he didn't see me, so I called out again. "Up here!"

"Timber, yo, dude, what's up?" He strutted on up, real slow, looking side to side to count the people watching him walk.

"Where'd you find my jacket?"

"Say what?" His Metallica hair floated on the breeze.

"My jeans jacket." He just gave me this blank look. "Like the one you're wearin'." I told him.

"Yo man." He said, looking down at it like to show for sure we were talking about the same jacket. "This is mine."

"Where'd you get that Screaming Trees patch?"

"Chill, man." He looked me straight in the eye-- at least his sunglasses did. "My sister gave it to me, got the whole gig last Christmas." He walked right up to the tree, and kind of looked around. "Are you still in for some Brownstone tonight?"

"No." He was wearing my rebel flag bandanna too. He'd pulled it from the inside pocket where I kept it stashed.

"Change your mind?"

"I never was."

"Why's your name on the smack list?"

"'Cause you put it there."

"What is up with you, dude?"

I didn't say anything.

"All I'm sayin' is it'd help you take command at tonight's show. Check you later man. Yo."

Riff tossed his hair and went on back to his aerobe game with my jeans jacket. I'd just snag it back at the show tonight, and then when he saw me with it next he'd just pretend like he'd never had it in the first place, and like that'd be the end of it. He's OK, really, even though he's a total thief. He's the best lead guitarist around Chapel Hill, though-- the total best in our high school, and he probably would be for awhile-- he'd just finished his third try at eleventh grade. But he's already had both a single and a CD cut with the Bloody Watermelon label, and he's been getting all this significant air-play on the Trash hour. If he stays alive it's only a matter of time 'til he's the next Hendrix or something-- no kidding. We were opening for his band Preppy Death which was head linin' at the Cradle that night.

Though the sort of annoying thing about Riff, I have to say, is how he's always rippin' off everything from everyone 'cause he never has any money-- it all goes for all the flour and heroin you've got to take to be good at guitar and stuff and amplify your stage presence or something. One night he ripped the E-string right off of my guitar during a break-- I saw him break one on stage, and then later on mine was gone. He gets all the chicks too, and a lot of people have it in for him, 'cause he's always hitting on everyone else's chicks, which wouldn't be so bad except his technique's pretty good, and it usually works, and like he gets 'em to do these things-- things I don't like talking about, and stuff. Things that you only ever see in sex-ed. He has none of those moral things or anything else. His last girlfriend is in this mental institution thing out in California-- sex rehab or something. Mindy said he gets you going on this power trip or something, but I can't picture how it works: like Riff saying, "hey smoke this, it'll make you as cool as me, and like let me do this, too." I guess girls just don't get the joke. Most likely some-one's goin' to beat the crap out of him before he O'D's, but boy, does he whale with an ax in his hand. He even ripped off Drake's band, Drake's Raft. When Drake quit, like a couple years ago, Riff kept performing all the songs, but like everyone knew he was posing, so then he changed the name to Preppy Death, but he kept all the songs. He kept 'em all 'ca use even though he knew where to go with a guitar in his hand, he couldn't write a song that said something.

It was cool watchin' the Aerobe. Riff would whip it, and the pink circle would shrink as it sliced on through the air fifty million yards off into the distance, not wobbling in the least, as there wasn't a breath of wind at all anywheres. Riff'd sold some bad stuff, or something, to Jeremy Christianson who'd like O'D'd again last week out back behind the school. He had come back into the cafeteria for help or whatever, and at first Mr. Strickland tried to kick him out 'cause he was wearing his bandanna, but like then he went down and started jerking all over the place, right in the middle of the caf. Colby had to get stitches after he'd been elbowed trying to get a good position up front. He and everyone else had thought it was a fight. Jeremy died, though, like right there, and the police all came down to question people, and there were five million mini-vans out front with radio dishes on top of 'em, and we got the rest of the day off, just like today. We always get off for drugs, guns and death, and sometimes when it snows, too, though the White House effect is kind of ruining that. Nobody busted on Riff, though, 'cause it wasn't his fault. He didn't know the stuff was laced with Plutonium or something. He's not that way.

Nobody was supposed to know Travis was blowin' off the Napkin Holders, 'cause it wasn't out yet that he was plannin' on ditchin' them, if the Three Flaming Monkey Buns took him up as their new rhythm guitar, now that Fizzy had dumped them for Fluorescent Gorilla Queen. He was being all gay about it, 'cause he thought he was like moving up, or something, though he was only moving sideways, pretty much. He was no Riff, and he never would be, no matter how much he shot up. Cliff and I played in the Wandering Road Warriors, but we couldn't gig too much lately 'cause Cliff'd been getting grounded a lot on the weekends, though really the truth is Cliff could've snuck out pretty easy to play, if he'd wanted to, but mostly he's just not into the scene, so much. He'd rather read a book, or something. Ever since his brother flipped out at Princeton and took to living in the woods and committed hary cary, his dad's been constantly pissed off at him for participating in any cultural events. All the negative vibes have kind of been getting to him, psychologically and stuff.

I'd promised I'd go help Dan pick up the kegs for Jay's bash, as his parents had taken off just today, and I got to hopin' Cliff would show up before soon so we'd have time to get down to the Robert Lee Country Club and go golf-ball hunting before I had to split to warm up with Preppy Death at the Cradle. I remember how crystal clear and sharp it all was, the view from up there in the tree, like the most normal things can suddenly become so perfectly vivid and acquire a haunting sort of magic, or whatever, when there's no more school: a freeze-frame of all the high-schooler people laying out, soaking up the sun and sipping out of their coolers, with the Frisbees and aerobes hangin' motionless. It was a trip. But pretty soon like my butt fell asleep, and I had to start shifting about to get comfortable on the branch, but it didn't help at all for more than a second or two before I had to do it again; and while I was busy doing that, I got to thinking about just how long the summer stretched before me, and how it was just going to be so hot and humid all the time, and how the air down around here always hung heavy when the sun went straight up, and how it like made it all so itchy and hard to breathe, even in the shade; and how lonely the afternoons were when everyone else was swimmin', and how this year I wouldn't be able to sneak in the Robert Lee Country Club pool any more, on account of that new barbed-wire they got strung up around it, and with my mother being married to like the club president dude now. I got to thinking how it could all really suck in a way, and it made me sad and all heavy and low; for like just a moment ago I'd been so high and looking so forward to it all, but now I'd lost that high feeling, and my heart was all of a sudden breaking, and the more I thought about how I had no reason to be feeling down, the lower and lower I sank; and wouldn't you know that when I looked up my eyes were greeted by a long, dark cloud comin' down away off on the horizon-- right behind the spire of the main Chapel. The long dark cloud made the spire look bone white and brought out all the details. I noticed these little polished brass statues up there of like angels or something which I'd never seen before. There was a jet black crow perched on one to match the incoming thunderhead demons, and another roostin' away up on top of the cross shootin' out of the spire's tip. There was no denying it was an omen of like portentous consequence and things. Like I was ready to cry, and I would've too, probably, but I heard someone yellin' out my name. There was Cliff away off in the far distance! He was running towards me with that big back cloud rising over him, cutting out across the blue sky, and this gust of wind suddenly ripped through the leaves and like about tore my shirt off-- I'm not kidding. Cliff once told me I was some kind of manic, or something. He said he was too.

Before I could dismount out of the tree, he booked on by and yelled, "To Death Swamp!" And there, not so far off in the distance, hot on his trail, I saw Mr. Broder, our swim coach, going off in full sprint, and hot on his trail was Mr. Janovic too, the school gynecologist, and I didn't have much to say to them, so I was down out of the tree and after Cliff!

Well soon as we made it to the Ghimghoul woods we knew we were home free without even trying. All we did is do what we always did when Cliff's big brother Drake and his friends used to chase us home. We made a left behind these pine trees, but soon as that was done, we hit the creek; then we ducked down low and hung a left and doubled on back through where the creek had sawed away the land. We heard 'em go on by, like so close to where we were pressed up against the bank that we could've reached out and touched 'em. Off into the distance down the trail they ran. We listened to 'em fadin' through the brush, and then we made our way on back towards Cliff's house.

"Dude, you crazy?" I caught my breath. "They're gonna kick your ass next time they see you."

"Yeah, really?" He laughed and skipped a stone along up the creek. "Maybe they won't see me again. But check this out-- this is totally profound. You know how this is Drake's jacket here-- I told you how all the stuff that got sent home." He was wearin' Drake's jeans jacket. Drake used to freak out on him for wearin' it all the time. It still had Drake's Raft painted on it, with like a skull and bones-- that was Drake's old band which I told you about. "So there I was in Dehaven's office, wit h Travance and Jeremihah, and Dehaven and Janovic were just sitting there watching, like fags or something, and they dogged on me when I brought out my book-- they'd just banned Lord Jim too, and it's all I had on me, but then I saw my confiscated copy of Moby Dick on Dehaven's shelf-- you know, and it's not banned anymore, since they found out last week that Herman Melville was a lesbian trapped inside a man's body, so I went for it, but they were being like pricks. So there I was dude, bored dead, fumbling through all the pockets, lookin' for money or gum or somethin', and check out what I found!" He shoved this crumpled piece of paper at me which had this skull and cross bone pirate stuff all over it. "And there was this key in it." He held up one of those old keys with like the two teeth away at the end.

"These skulls and crossbones are pretty cool. How'd you get out?"

"Just read the poem, dude."

There was a poem on it, and I read it out loud:

The wicked witch murdered me Uncle Walt,
For beauty is in the beholder's look,
And her lack of beauty put him at fault;
She made it look like his own life he took,
So she could rule the English department,
Vengeance on God for the natural way,
They hate democracy, like government,
For Truth's desecration yer taxes pay.
Here's the map of where I buried me wealth,
Sonnets only gave her an illusion,
In night's shadow I haunt these woods with stealth;
For I'll be dead 'til I earn religion.
We lost our way in this postmodern land,
Nobody told her when I took her hand.

'Til I am redeemed I cannot avenge,
For the soiled hand cannot wash the other,
It weighs upon me, Uncle Walt's revenge,
There's just one more thing to tell my brother.
For if I never find my way back home,
If I never make it to Chapel Hill,
Here's the map of where I buried a poem,
See that her Carolina blue eyes will.
For these Permanent Things shall never die,
They'll be resurrected, returned underground,
Fishing for men with the net in the sky,
Across the whole wide world they shall resound.
Words mean nothing to me 'til my deed's done,
It's by action alone that Truth is won.


"What's this thingy?"

"That's a URL, dude."

"A what?"

"A WWW address. C'mon, let's check it out." I'd never seen Cliff so totally up. "Dude, when I pulled this out of Drake's jacket, I knew I had to bust out of that office. So check out how I got past Janovic. The cops came in to bust Jeremihah and Travance, but just then some executive lawyer dude from Rap'n'Rape Records showed up-- you know, the ones they just got signed by-- just to make sure the arrest went down right, so that they'd get to be on TV and stuff, and get an authentic clip of them gettin' cuffs slapped on 'em for their video, but still be out on time for their show. The executive dude hit Dehaven and Janovic and the cops up with some hundred dollars bills, and like the cops handcuffed 'em with the cameras rollin', and they were gonna handcuff me, but Dehaven told 'em I wasn't part of the band, and he and Janovic told me to scat and forget what I saw. So I grabbed the dough when they weren't lookin', and I scatted and forgot what I saw."


"Drake's alive!" He hugged me, lifting me off the ground, and twirling me around. "C'mon, the rain's gonna start. Let's check out the web page before we go up there."

"Up where?" I called after him, hopping the same rocks he used as I 'crossed Water Strider creek.

About a month back there'd been a note on this bridge-- this one cool suspension bridge over a gorge out in these woods at Princeton. It'd been Drake's suicide note, only they'd never found the body while dragging the lake, and nothing'd ever floated up. But nobody'd seen hide nor hair of him since. And the note'd been in his handwriting and all. Cliff'd showed it to me.

It was sprinklin' a bit by the time we made it back to Cliff's house over on Ghimghoul road, and the wind was totally ragin' and rippin' off the leaves and branches. You'd almost think it was fall, 'cept that the leaves were all a bright June green. There was that warm, new rain misty smell risin' up from the first few drops hittin' the pavement which'd been heatin' up all day long in the sun.

Cliff's house was the prettiest and best house around, pretty much, I'd have to say. Not that it was huge or had a lot of moshing going on in the front yard or anything, but it was sizable all right, like brick and painted white with a stone fence the whole way around. That afternoon the way it stood out against the huge grey sky made it look like it'd been polished with Turtle Wax. Stone fences are cool. At any rate, it was a castle compared to the shack I lived in over in Carroboro. You see, Cl iff's dad worked for the main church at the top of the hill-- fort God, while my dad worked for the Lighthouse church away out in Chatham county-- the one for all the black people. My dad's also like the assistant to the head groundskeeper at the Robert Lee Country Club, but I still don't think he hauled it in anywhere close to what Cliff's dad did. He'd just been voted Chapel Hill's Confederate son for the second year in a row. Cliff's dad I mean.

Anyways, there was Tammy, Cliff's girlfriend or something, sitting out on a rocking chair on the porch in her spandex and stuff, listening to her Sony Sportman. It was cool 'cause all the other chairs were rockin' along with her in the wind, like all her ghost friends were there. She was always in spandex.

"Hey y'all, ready to go running?" She was trying to tie her hair back 'cause it was blowing all over the place. She was really athletic-- she's on the wrestling team at Chapel Hill High.

"You'll get hit by lightning."

"Oh C'mon! Just around, with me and Megan. There's a tornado watch too."

"Can't." Cliff said, like walking by her, and she grabbed his hand.

"Well look, I know you've probably got fifty million plans, but you've got to come on over to Jennifer's tonight. You too, Timber." She smiled at me. "Especially you, Timber-- I think you'll want to go. Christy said something about a dream about you, I think." She had a pretty cool smile, Tammy did, but her hair was kind of red.

"All right, cool."

"Catch you there," Cliff said. "We've gotta go."

"Megan's dad just harvested his latest crop." A blue flash ignited the sky, and the thunder rolled on overhead like a fleet of freight trains.

"All right," Cliff nodded. "We're there." We went on into his Dad's study and fired up the computer. Cliff hit the Netscape Icon, and he typed in, "http://www.jollyroger.com/treasuremap.html," and like we were there. It asked for the password and Cliff typed it in. Drake's guitar was in the study , and Cliff took it out of the case while we were waitin'. He said his dad was puttin' it in the classifieds. It was a sixties Gibson Les Paul, and Cliff wouldn't have minded holdin' on to it, but like his dad wouldn't let him.


The page was a treasure map you could tell, for it had a big X with a skull marking the spot. I scoped it some. It was a double treasure map, actually, 'cause there were two X's marking the spot-- three actually, but one was pretty small.

"Do you think it's real?" I asked.

"Hell yeah- dude! Look at these whacked-out places on it! There's the Pirate's Cove by a Carnegie sea, and The Wise Old Owl Nest out past Relativity Ridge, and here's Blue-Beard Run, and the Red-Avenger's Cavern, and the Sudden-Death Green and Sin ner's Sand Trap out on the golf course, and this whole region here's Sycorax's Swamp, and over here, all these building are part of the Prince's After Dark Kingdom. And here, all these French-looking things, like there're just English written backwards; Night-Hawk Hill and the unnamed-soldier's tavern out here by the Final Mansion With No Home, and out in the field here, standing all alone, the Oak of Death, and these two points up along this road, both have the Bronzed Truth Seekers of Uassan Dlo."

"Is this of 'round here, you figure? Never heard of like an Oak of Death or anything."

"It's Princeton man! What the hell are these?" There were like these unlabeled binary files layin' on the desktop. Cliff clicked on 'em. "I told Travis not to do this crap here."

They were like these pictures of naked chicks and things doing like things with things that you wouldn't generally want to do things with, or anything. "Travis is such a flamer." Cliff'd had people over the other night, and Travis and Dave and Jeff and Mandy had all been in here, like surfin' the net or something. "The perverts could've at least cleaned off the desktop. They know my dad would kill--"

A hand came down on Cliff's shoulder. Hard. It was Cliff's dad! He was pretty tall and kind of looked like Clint Eastwood with a beard-- you know the type. He looked at me. "I'll give you a moment to get your uninvited influence beyond the boundaries of these walls."

"We weren't lookin' at 'em." Cliff said. "I was cleanin' . . ." Cliff's dad tightened his grip on his shoulder, and Cliff like grimaced and fell silent. Cliff's dad had a way without words.

So I took off out of there into the slanting river of rain, and WCKCHNG! It was so close the thunder came before the lightning and rocked and rattled my bones. I felt it more than I heard it. I realized I'd forgotten my distortion pedal again, for like the fiftieth time-- the one I left there like two months ago in Cliff's basement. So after I hid my stuff under the shed, where it wouldn't get wet in the rain, I snuck back into Cliff's, but like not after some serious contemplation on it. His dad was a total hard-ass, you see, and there's no tellin' what he'd do if he caught a hippie sneakin' around, which is what I was, basically, 'cause I had this long hair. Their old dog Hamlet 'roused up, but I knew he wouldn't bark or anything, 'cause he'd seen it all before, and nothing excited him enough to make him bark anymore, 'cept for the neighbors Siamese cat, Muffin. I stopped by the kitchen to get an apple when all of a sudden I heard them walking down the hall, so I ducked in the pantry and had a seat on the barrel of apples they always had in there, only it was about empty, it being late spring and all.

"Be seated Clifford and lend an ear to your father. As you know I'm never angry, but only deeply concerned. Very deeply-- especially in light of the recent incidents."

"Yes sir."

"I feel we're growing apart. . . I see you have great difficulty resisting the temptations of the morbid, aging Hollywood executives. You've heard me say that they tempt the young of the world with their jungle rhythms and bared flesh, long before y' all have had a chance to develop a sense of judgment of your own. I don't want you playin' that guitar. It was Drake's. Do you hear me?"

"Yes." Cliff sort of mumbled.

"Do you understand me?"

"You're born with a sense of judgment, dad-- you're talking about colonization in like my mind and stuff, with like family values and things. Like I've got my own mind."

I could hear Cliff's dad nodding and frowning for like five minutes, before he fired back:

"So that's what they're teaching y'all in that public school? I would like to meet the man who plunders my tax dollars so. For I'm not talking about any sense of judgment. I'm talking about a rational sense of judgment-- the cornerstone of Western Civilization which is rooted in the mind-- in the silent part of the soul. And while you're yet down here upon this earth and beneath my roof, I'll do my duty to the Lord and instill it within you. I hope a day doesn't pass where you don't read a moral tale from The Book of Virtues."

"Like it was plagiarized-- I'd already read all those things elsewhere--"

"Eradicate that distracting habit of saying like every other word! It's painful to hear y'all's generation speak, boy-- it echoes of all those relativistic intellectual cowards. Nothing is anything, it is only like something. But words mean things, I tell you. You really did cheat yourself by getting expelled from Exeter, more than you'll ever know." I heard his dad get up and start pacing about the kitchen. "Had I only known the extent to which the baser forces of man have overtaken this besieg ed culture! Uncle Walt was a brilliant poet of the highest moral character. He'd been--"

"Uncle Walt?"

"I've spoken many times of Uncle Walt, my spiritual mentor at Princeton-- the professor of all professors. Walter Ghimgoul-- from the Ghimgoul family who used to--"

"You mean the Ghimghouls? Like the ones who lived in the castle?"

"Yes-- the founders of the original Chapel on the hill. Uncle Walt was the great grandson of Warren Ghimghoul. He was the greatest teacher I've ever had. He opened my eyes to the eternity in a grain of sand. And when a soul as noble as his draws the sword of imagination and turns upon itself-- it's a sign of the times, a sign of the times up there. And now that debased feminist Sycorax has become the head of the English department. Princeton's been sold to hell-- those liberals got to him, they did. Replacing poetry with politics--"

"Did Drake know Uncle Walt?"

"I arranged to have dinner with Uncle Walt on Drake's first night of Princeton. Almost four years ago. And they became great friends. It was Uncle Walt's passing away that sent Drake into his downward spiral." I like heard Mr. Raft swallow. "I believed I had sent Drake to the Princeton that I had once attended-- a gentleman's school, where words yet meant things. Where we voyaged to learn of knowledge for the sake of knowledge, not for mere empowerment. Where the idea of a truth yet existed and formed the inspiration and guiding light for all of our endeavors. We were driven by the notion that the truth could be obtained-- not by a senseless political panic for power which the resentniks have devoted themselves to at the modern Princeton; where the weak minded, having no intrinsic moral beauty, destroy all sense of intellectual beauty for all others and eradicate all standards, for their nihilistic creations would be dwarfed in the context of the Greats. The socialists institute bureaucracies where it is more important who you know than what you know. And thus amoral mediocrity is empowered while the righteous individual is castigated, impugned, slandered, and dismissed. I believed I had sent Drake to an institution where men were yet men, and a man's word was more important than the diploma he bought, and where women were yet women, my son, and something beautiful and feminine and inspirational, to be honored and placed upon a pedestal, rather than the paranoid temptresses and objects of our desire which they have been cast as in this degraded society. But where we once had our spiritual dignity and our soul's integrity, y'all now have but your appearance and your material possessions, reflecting the fact that where once the leaders of these institutions were good Presbyterians, they are now intellectually indifferent economists." Like suddenly there came this humungous thunderclap which rattled all the jars and cans in the pantry where I'd stationed myself. Mr. Raft faded back in as the thunder rolled on across the sky, like it was a duet. "I know it must be hard for y'all to conceive of a world where truth and duty dictated a man's life, where enduring romance and eternal love were valued over fleeting lust, for the Hollywood elite and liberals rape your souls at such an early age. It's no wonder y'all are, you're all-- what do they say-- slackers. But they don't teach the Declaration of Independence anymore. Instead they teach you that there is nothing to be taught." The thunder shuddered again, but his dad was up to the challenge and like his voice boomed over it. "Oh, free enterprise and liberty are great things, but I fear them in a moral void! In the name of peace and freedom they have rampaged across the fields, uprooted all higher culture, razed the individual's sense of responsibility towards higher truths, pillaged man's monuments of rationale, burned his religion, and the thick smoke, ash, and soot have risen to the sky, blocking the white light of our Lord, and a darkness has fallen across this land-- but this is not the worst son! This is not yet the worst! My greatest fear is yet to be realized: a beast, shrouded by night, shall be free to take root and spring from these barren fields of man's tempted soul. He g rows now, in the silence and darkness, in the shadows of man's perceptions, unheard and unseen in this deep, dark, impenetrable and unfathomable midnight in mankind's soul."

"But yesterday we had World War II-- you know? There were a bunch of white men shooting each other, and throwin' people in ovens. Like mom's whole family. And before that you had--"

"And the Godless Nazis were defeated-- were they not? By the combined Judeo-Christian faiths of the world. For without faith, look to the depths to which one might fall in these callous days! Look what happened to Russia, look what happened to Ital y, and look at what's happening to us today! We are but a hair's breadth from tyranny, where the conceited liberal liars prosper, where those lacking depth of soul and aptitude for meaning are running the world with their brutal jungle music and shallow displays of flesh. Look at the filth on y'alls TV! On y'alls' MTV! At this, y'alls' Beatrice and Bum-head! Is not tyranny the next logical step in a moral vacuum? If you succumb to the forces of what the Hollywood elite tempt you with; if you succumb to their wicked dealings, you shall lose your way and then your soul, as did your brother! You'd better pray to the Lord that Rush restores democracy! For as Twain once said, a man without a faith is a walking corpse."

"I think Dylan said that."

"The soul is a reality, I tell you. As much as this table here." He like pounded on the table. "A reality which the materialist scientists and biopsychiatrists and what have you try to deny me-- running wild in their gangs through the palace of noble culture, wielding their PhD's like clubs, smashing the printed page of the Book down to its constitutent atoms. And then trying to do the same to my soul! They reduce the human to chemicals and then try to cure him with chemicals. But the whole is greater than the sum! The human soul cannot be understood by reducing it to that which can be understood!" His dad paused to like take a breath. "My words fall upon deaf ears! Your generation has become jaded by the technological assault on your senses, immune to the wonders of the written word, and without that sacred megaphones of the Lord's to awaken you to the morning light, your consciences have withered, and you reside but in the shadowlands, where there no longer exists any sense of personal responsibility as Rush was saying today. You are taught that all is motivated by oppression, all art and greatness and genius is but the patriarchy's plot to dominate the earth. All superior thought is seen as demonic, and one must never think, but only fee l. Such a bleak, nihilistic picture of humanity the liberals paint, where man is so fundamentally evil that a government must be instituted to restrain him."

"Like and conservatives have never restrained anybody."

"Yes-- the conservatives constrain you to hard work, and honor, and duty and cheerful optimism, viewing men's quests in a noble light, humble before God, whereas the liberals constrain you to a world of darkness, to a world where the only noble act is to escape the reality, to lose yourself in the pseudo peace and love of drug-induced nihilism, and to forfeit your natural rights to a government bureaucracy. Know this my son: that while the West has time and again strayed from the two pillars of moral responsibility and freedom, those two pillars were erected by the West. And I don't know how good an influence that Timber character is-- with that long hair and the broken family he's come from. Drugs are a one way road to perdition. Who's that spokesman of your generation-- Kurt Cocaine."

"Timber's pretty cool."

"I've met his mother. She's joined the congregation. And I've heard stories about that his father. He sings in his sermons."

"She cheated on him."

"Take a sane man, son, take a sane, honest man and place him in this structureless context; will he not become mad without a faith? Without a system of justice? Without an order in which to develop that rewards strength of character and integrity and shuns vacillating liars? It's by our faith in the Great God absolute, our faith in the Truth, our faith in a right and a wrong that man gains his meaning, his sanity, and the strength of will to persist in. . ." His dad sort of sobbed or something. "in life." Mr. Raft was like breaking down. "If only I could have taught this to Drake."

"I don't think Drake's dead."

"Nor do I son! The better part of him!" He cried. "A man's mind needs a place to sleep, a shelter from the cold November rain, a place where his soul can pause on its trek and rest in peace, and this, my son, is what faith provides. And in religion we find the home port of first principles. Otherwise he will seek the sleep by more drastic means. But there's hope son, for your generation to gain faith. Just always be true to thyself, and then as night follows day, so too it follows that you can't be false to any other man. I tried to make Drake understand--" Then his dad kind of half whispered. "An angel. Now lets get that guitar in the classifieds. And I took those New York catch books to the used bookstore. Catcher in the Rye and Catch 22. I traded 'em for some Kirk and T.S. Eliot's collected works."

"No!" Cliff said. With that I heard Cliff scoot his chair back and book out of the room. He slammed the kitchen door so totally hard that I expected to hear the glass shattering, only it didn't. Those catch books were like Cliff's favorite. He was always tryin' to get me to read 'em, but I'm the type who'd rather play sports then watch 'em, or read about 'em. Like the whole thing was pretty wild, though, in a father and son sort of way-- my dad's never said that much to me in my entire life. After a bit I heard Mr. Raft sighing and muttering something to himself, and then I heard him walk out and start the Mercedes up, to head on back to his wedding rehearsal or whatever. I took off down to the Waterfall fort, through the rain and all, as I knew that's where Cliff would surely be. The worst of the storm had passed on by, and there was just that steady and warm, windless rain. Some random lighting tagged on behind, streaking down here and there, but I didn't worry so much about it. Either it had my number on it or it didn't. It felt pretty cool, so I just walked, catching rain drops in my mouth.


The Waterfall fort is down underneath where Sand Run flows over a sort of overhang rock. It's pretty neat. It's always perfectly bone dry there, and everything, even when it's raining. Cliff was there, watching the white sheet of water tumble over the edge. He offered me the can of Skoal without looking up to greet me.

"What's up, dude?" I like yelled over the rushing water.

"Nothing man."


He just sat there awhile, looking straight ahead. "Just thinking, and stuff."

"Yeah? Like what."

"Nothing really. Just about how everything sucks."

"Yeah." We sat there a bit, not saying anything.

"Like Chapel Hill."

"Yeah-- your dad bummin' ya?"

"A bit, but mostly it's just the whole Chapel Hill scene." He shook his head. "Who's anyone trying to kid anymore? It makes me puke, with everyone getting Gibson Les Pauls from their mothers for Christmas, and flannel shirts, or whatever, growing g oatees, and then like thinking they're like rebels or something. I mean all this alternative crap-- alternative to what? To suck is to be cool. You know? Rolling Stone could take absolutely any band and make 'em famous."

"Some of 'em are OK."

"You ever read any of their lyrics? They suck. Don't call me daughter. Nothing means anything-- intrinsically at least."

"Yeah, kind of, I guess. But something new--"

"Beavis and Butthead-- I mean they're twenty times more original than any of the bands these days-- Kurt couldn't compete. I mean the irony of them watching that Aerosmith video in total reverent silence, and Butthead saying, 'this is the coolest vid eo I've ever seen.'"

"Yeah, Rag Doll's a cool video."

"They were cool and all, for like a day, but that aint' us Timber. It's what adults want us to be, or like what they expect us to be, so they can get us to but their porn. They're the one's creating it. Greenday's them, not me."

"They're funny, like when they told everyone at Lollapalooza to--"

"How'll you ever be able to tell if you're original or if you're just the ultimate non-conforming conformist? The thing is you won't. And that's why all these new rock stars get like all these complexes and shoot themselves, 'cause they know they didn't invent anything-- the whole corporate industry was already set up, and they tried out and got hired for the spot 'cause some fifty-year-old bald-pony-tailed butt pirate thought they were cute."

I nodded, and he turned and looked at me and spat out his dip.

"You feel it too? Timber, man-- I don't know what I'm sayin'. It's just this restless feelin' I've been gettin'. It's borin' around here. You could go trip on acid at Dave's tonight or somethin', or smoke Jennifer's dad's latest crop, or go high-five everyone at Ray's frat house, or whatever, and like drive around in Susan's Cabriolet or stand and stare at Preppy Death at the cradle, only I'd have to shoot up if I wanted to enjoy 'em any, but we'd just be kidding ourselves. You can kid away a whole summer, and then slack away another, and another, and you would never even know it until you were like ninety five, or something-- summer could really suck, if we let it." Cliff laughed. "Hey, that sort of rhymes-- no one makes Rock 'n Roll anymore, you can buy it in a store."

"Yeah, but like what else?"

"Hell yeah what else, let's get out of here."

"Yeah, but like where? Seattle?" I joked him.

"We could discover some fundamental law of nature this summer, if we set out right now to do it, or we could write a book." He stood up and walked over to the edge. "You know what would be cool? You know what would be totally cool? To make this ge neration think."

We just sat there awhile, staring into the clear sheet of water, and like if you let your eyes kind of go out of focus, you could like pretend that all the water was like this window, and it was really cool, 'cause like the way off distant lightning would turn the whole sheet an electric blue, now and then. The whole thing would light up like a neon sign, only cooler.

"About what?" I asked.

"About life. We could become the minds of our generation."

"You mean like the voices?"

"I mean the mind" He looked at me like I was insane. "We already have eight million voices-- every day the Hollywood elite's out marketing a new one naked on some magazine cover in Food Lion for you. I'm tired of poser punk heroin addicts bein' my voice. But like who's gonna span the depth of this culture? And don't give me that line like that this culture's shallow, 'cause here I am, and there's more to me than shampoo. And don't give me that other line either that great thinkers never get recognized 'til after they're dead. Where's the Shakespeare of our day? Wh o's the Plato? Who's gonna be like the Aristotle? Where's the Einstein of our generation-- that could be us, man. We could do what Rock is too old and sick with cancer to do-- we c ould give our generation a vision. We could write the Moby Dick of like our generation. I'm a loser-- why don't you kill me. That's not my anthem, it's my parent's. I don't have lowered expectations. I hate to disappoint everyone. It's like I'm lettin' my generation down by thinkin'. Whuddayah say? You wannna do something-- something cool?"

"Yeah-- but like I'm not so good at this vision thing. I wouldn't know what to write about."

Cliff jumped up. "We'll start a WWW magazine."

"A what?"

"That's it! We'll like publish the Truth on the WWW! That way we won't have to go through all the high school administration and everything. It's been gettin' on my nerves how the intellectually indifferent bureaucracy's burying everything cool under all that multicultural crap."

"The who?"

"The bureaucracy. You know-- the people who hate people doin' things on their own 'cause it makes 'em look bad. Dude-- we'll have a world wide audience! "

"What're we gonna tell 'em?"

"We can give our generation all the cool sacred stuff they've been denied! We'll find a story! Road trip on up to Princeton with me and we'll dig up this treasure thing. It's cool up there, the people are. They're all loaded and we could probably raise some money for our WWW site. There's something going down man, and it's not happenin' here-- you feel that callin'?"

"Uh-- not really, too much, I guess."

"We're there dude. It's different-- People read."

"Like what?"

"Books. Oh yeah, I hear her callin'. And plus they've got the smartest men alive up there at Princeton, and an awesome library up there I've been wanting to check out. There's this one dude I really want to talk to-- he's the modern day Einstein. He knows things like why we exist."

"I thought you just said we don't have an Einstein."

"We don't-- this guy's practicality as old as Einstein-- you know, he's so old he was never assaulted by rock'n roll-- not even Elvis or the BG's. His mind developed totally intact. He built an atomic bomb when he was fifteen is how smart he is. Bu t anyway-- this poem is the coolest thing that's visited here in Chapel Hill in over a century-- don't you see?" He had it out again. "It has all the markings of a top-notch adventure on it: travel, mystery, and death. If we just set out for some stran ge land somewhere, go forth and look death in the eye without blinking and speak the truth, we'll have a book! Twain had the Mississippi, Conrad had the Congo, Melville rampaged the seven seas, and like what do we have?"

"The Cat's Cradle."

Cliff almost hit me. "Dude-- now look. We could catch that five-thirty Friday freighter, like the one that goes to Durham which we used hop on down by the Jordan Bluffs where it slows down. It runs all the way up to New York. I've checked it befor e on a map. We've got about an hour." He looked at his watch. "An hour and a half. Whuddaya say? Yes or no? In or out for something which won't suck?"

"So Drake's really alive you think."

"Hell yeah he's alive. Like where's his ghost if he's dead?"

I laughed.

"What's so funny?" Cliff looked at me.

"Ghosts." It was funny seeing Cliff like so serious about something like ghosts.

"Yeah?" He looked at me. "So?"

"You don't believe in ghosts." I told him.

"Hell yes I believe in ghosts."

"OK dude."

"I saw one."

"Uh huh."

"Yeah, dude." He nodded. "I saw one haunting around Ghimghoul castle. I was short-cutting on back home last night, and there it was. I didn't hang out or talk to it or anything. I just got the hell out of there. And you know what? I bet it's Un cle Walt's."

"Is that right?" I straight-faced him.

"There's more in this heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy, dude. There's God and destiny and things. C'mon man-- Princeton's callin'."

"My dad was like planning on my help this weekend-- building the deck, like that carpentry stuff he's doin' this summer."

"Tell him you're goin' on a fishing trip, with me, or something. Tell him I'll help you guys when we get back."

"OK dude."

"C'mon man-- there's just this feeling I have. Like now-- these spirits don't hang around, and if ya hesitate and miss the tide, you'll be grounded for eternity in Chapel Hill. I mean dude-- grunge is dead. But if like you ride the high tide out over those treacherous rocks in the first few hundred yards, then the seven seas are yours-- we could get stranded in the shallow waters here, man. Let the generation-x-slackers inherit all that is slack, pot and all the left-over seventies crap that the boomers suck us dry with. Have you been in a bookstore lately?"


"They've inundated 'em with their neon novels. It's gettin' to the point that it's hard to find any decent literature under all the gay and lesbian handbooks. They buried all the spiritual treasures 'neath postmodernism so that we wouldn't have an alternative to the alternative crap they sell us. Think about it-- only if we resign ourselves to beingslackers, only if we wallow in grunge, only if we say we have no identity and accept the nihilistic generation-x label will the liberal elite acknowled ge us. And thus to be is not to be. They're denyin' us our meanin'. You see it? The WWW's gonna let us liberate our souls from the pernicious postmodern tyrants. We're gonna be the new minds of the new medium. It's gonna be a renaissance dude."

"What's postmodern?"

"How can I explain this to ya?" Cliff put in a wad of Skoal. "You know Courtney's pony-keg parties? And how they're always playin' that same Beastie Boys CD, and the scene gets on your nerves after about ten minutes? Like the way Casey has that attitude because Riff's talkin' to her? Have you ever looked over and wondered what the hell they're talkin' about, with like those totally serious expressions, like they've just discovered the meaning of life in a joint or something? And like they're debating whether or not to let everyone else in on it? You know what I mean?"


"Well that's postmodern. The world's declining dude, but I'm not the world, so don't confuse me with it. I'm fifteen and I'm goin'. You in or out?"

"I really am supposed to help and stuff."

"Yeah, I know." He got up. "Like you've got to help the Feminine Napkin Holders open for Preppy Death-- where would they find another rhythm guitarist in this town?" Cliff laughed. "But seriously-- like Christy had a dream about you. Cool stuff to check out. So I'll catch ya later this summer. I'll look for you on the cover of Rolling Stone. But Ahab's Ahab, dude." And he took off. I watched his blurred silhouette through the waterfall, jogging on down the trail.

So I headed on home, but halfway there I remembered my distortion pedal which was still at Cliff's, and there was no way I could play without it, so I had to double on back. On the way I swung a short cut through the Ghimghoul woods, so I had to go on by Ghimghoul Castle. The clouds were breakin' some, with great huge silver linings glidin' 'cross the sky, 'growin' brightly as they passed 'neath the sun, and then fadin' back to gray. A tiny hole appeared for a second, and a shaft of sunlight solid as a gold bar shot on through, and the hole closed up again quick as it'd appeared. All the clouds and everything had that strange kind of deep sea green light to them, and it painted the stones in Ghimghoul's Castle a kind of greenish color. The castle was some type of underground society thing for the Carolina college kids, and Cliff and I had snuck in there once 'cause we'd heard they had these sacrificial ceremonies and stuff, but all it really turned out to be was about thirty guys with like six cases of beer watching a video tape of the Duke basketball game. But the castle itself is pretty cool-- it actually looks like a castle, with the type of stone walls that are good for climbin'. Then I saw something. I saw this tiny flickering light-- two tiny flickerings of light behind one of the windows, like eyes, and I braced myself, ready to take the hell off! Then what happened is the lights started moving-- moving on closer towards the window! And like I saw it was this snow white old man with like glowing eyes! A ghost! It had a long white beard, and like it kind of raised its hand towards me. I was frozen in my tracks, my heart pounding. Then like it opened it's mouth, and like it said something, and like this peal of thunder tumbled across the sky!

"Avenge me."

Whoa! It was if the thunder had spoken! I booked through the woods all the way back to Cliff's house, and I got sopping wet even though the rain had stopped. The leaves on all the bushes and brushin' stuff painted me 'til I was soaked. I'll admit I was totally freakin', 'cause like of course I believe in ghosts, even though I'd never seen one before. I yelled out for Cliff, upstairs and downstairs, in the garage and in his shed, but he wasn't anywhere around, so I just went downstairs to pick u p my pedal, and there was a note there from Riff.

Saw your pedal hear and pikked it up for the gig 2nite. Life'd suck without distorshion, and so wood u. --Riff.

I ran the long way home, around the Ghimghoul woods, so I didn't have to see that crazy castle anymore. I couldn't figure out what the hell Riff had been doing in Cliff's basement, though, unless like he was stealing stuff, but he'd left a note, so most likely he wasn't swiping anything-- unless he'd scored Drake's guitar. And all of a sudden this feeling hit me and I broke into a walk. One of those feelings that kind of hits you off guard, and it's strange and new, so like you have to take some time out to figure out what's up with it. I didn't feel so much like playin' the gig tonight, and it wasn't just because of what Cliff'd said, either. I liked Bloody Stonehard, at least their first album, even though they like ripped off Nirvana-- I like Lit hium, and Rape me is a cool song too, even though they're both the same song, kind of, like all their songs are, really, but still, there's something cool about them. I mean Cliff's right and stuff, about a lot of it, but it wasn't like I was thinkin' wh at I was thinkin' just 'cause of what he said. No, it was somethin' in the air, and I would've been feeling this way anyways. Like either it's raining or it's not, and eventually you'll know which one no matter what anyone says, depending on whether or not you get wet when you walk outside. The thing that sucked about the gig that night was that I could already picture it all perfectly, and whenever you can picture things perfectly before they happen, and they suck in the picture, then they almost alwa ys suck a bit more than what was in your head-- at least things like gigs. I mean it's always worse than what you imagine, and all I could imagine was all the regulars hangin' out in the smoky room with the low rock-like ceilings and everything, spray pa inted brown and black with that insulation stuff poking through here and there, and you could bet like the one chick with the purple hair would be there, and her friend who looked like always faked stage fright pretty good and sang at the open mike nights these songs about sex in the chapel, who totally sucked-- and like that one kind of pretty pretty one, only she always murdered her face with black lipstick on her upper lip and red on her lower. You could bet they'd all be standing in the front row for the Feminine Napkin Holders. And the Moran brothers, and their whole crowd with all those spiked mohawks and nose rings and stuff, who were always in the front row for the bands that had the chick bassists. They'd all be doing bongs out back in Steve's Cherokee before the show, sandpaperin' hole into their jeans, or something, and I'd get the same old lines from Melina, on how I'm missing out on the higher reality 'cause I never drop acid anymore, or anything. Actually I never did. Anyway, playin' a guitar didn't give me the freedom it did yesterday.

I drew the cool early evening air in through my nose, and it had that fresh smell to it-- you know, that one fresh springy smell that doesn't really smell like anything except for itself. You know the kind I mean, and if you don't, you're missing out , so first chance you have, go out sometime right after an afternoon June thunderstorm, and breathe deeply, and then you'll know what I mean. There was still a whole lot of daylight left, but the sun had crossed that point of no return, there was no deny in'. It sent the creepy crawlies up my spine, along with this premonition feeling of the mystic dusk, and in my mind I pictured the risin' moon over a wide opened field-- I dunno, but I have a feelin' it's somethin' that only happens in Chapel Hill, and probably only if some pretty girl had dreamed about you the night before. But this time something'd blown in with the storm, or it was more like something'd blown out with the storm, is what it was, or had gotten washed away down the storm sewers with it, like colored chalk drawings on the street, 'cause intertwined along with the cool freshness, there had come along a hollowness to haunt the air, or something.

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