|Let's Get Sandy
||[Feb. 23rd, 2010|07:04 pm]
|||||The Broken by Coheed and Cambria||]|
Yo, I wrote something. A completed something, too. Believe it.
My friends and I began our pilgrimage through the Arizona desert with one goal in mind. We were heading out to find the fabled Prickly Cactus QuickCost. It was like other QuickCost stores, but it was in the middle of the desert, according to scribbled-inside-schooldesk lore.
Of course, none of us really believed it was real, except for Zach. It was his idea that we should come out here and search for it. Day Two had arrived, and the hunt had been fruitless.
The riotous chatter inside the vehicle had slowed to a stop. I was driving, Sarah was doing homework in the seat next to me, and Padma and Zach were being quiet in the back seat. A glance in the rearview mirror revealed that Padma had fallen asleep on Zach’s shoulder, and he seemed to be asleep as well.
Let me tell you about my friends. Zach is, in general, a pretty outgoing guy. The kind of outgoing that stands on lunch tables, says everything really loudly, and is somehow widely loved despite his obnoxiousness. I held the privileged position of taciturn best friend to this man.
Padma is a jittery Indian sophomore whose fashion sense can be summed up as “explosion at the mall,” and who sits at our lunch table. Her energy is nearly limitless, which was why it was so strange to see her sleeping.
And Sarah, she’s a Mathlete who sits next to me… in math class. The only person I’ve ever seen her act friendly with, besides me, is this girl Vicky who sits with her at lunch. I was pretty sure she hated the other people going on this expedition, but she agreed to it. Well, more like, she heard about it and specifically asked me if she could come along. It was one of the most shocking events of my life. I hadn’t thought that the conversations we had while she attempted to help me with trigonometry meant anything to her.
So, with Zach’s van (which I had been tasked with driving, being much better at it than him) and a secret notebook-paper map he had found in an abandoned locker, we had set out on the road, motoring through the desert, pumping a mix CD of pop and screamo tunes burned by Padma. With Zach constantly yammering on, Padma playing her Game Boy, and Sarah writing in her math notebook at all times, there was sufficient entertainment for everyone. I was content to just drive and think.
Last night had been quite the experience. It was obvious that Zach and Padma were no use at setting up the tent, so it was just Sarah and me. The tent was surprisingly spacious and featured some pretty impressive security measures against uninvited animal guests. Under the warm midnight, we each staked out our own corner and engaged in half-lucid sleep-talk.
“I really want a hot dog,” Padma had whimpered.
After a contemplative pause, the words “I’ve got one right here” drifted over from Zach’s corner of the tent. This was met with silence.
Finally, Sarah spoke. “That’s disgusting.”
Sarah was just full of surprises, it seemed. Barely knowing Zach, I wouldn’t have expected her to bother responding. I suppose he was awestruck, too, because he didn’t say anything. One by one, we fell asleep.
The next day, though, I really understood Padma’s desire for real food. We were living on Chex Mix, Little Debbie brownies, and a cooler full of beer and soda. After a breakfast of a mix of the above, we were on the road again. Zach initiated a game of Never Have I Ever, which Sarah was seemingly winning, though I wasn’t sure if she was actually participating.
Since there was nothing on the road ahead, I took a look at Sarah. She was the owner of some ponytailed blonde hair and some wire-frame glasses. Occasionally she would look up from writing in her math notebook and gaze out the window, watching sand and distant mountains go by. I suspected she might be uncomfortable, just silently writing equations or whatever, and being the only person awake in the car besides me. Well, if she was, it was her fault for volunteering to go on a meaningless expedition with a kid she sits next to in math class and two of his crazy friends. I wondered what explanation she had given her parents for this overnight foray into the desert. No matter what kind of people they were, they definitely wouldn’t approve if they knew what we were really doing.
Looking back at the road, I wondered when all this would end. I severely doubted the existence of the Prickly Cactus QuickCost, so how far would we drive before we would turn around and head home? Zach wasn’t the kind of guy to ever give up on what he was chasing, but what would he say if we were out here for days and days, running out of food and clean clothes? I was already feeling pretty grungy.
I guess Zach and Padma woke up, because I heard a rustling of paper from the back seat. When I looked in the rearview mirror, they were huddling in opposite corners of the car, Padma fumbling for her Game Boy under the seat and Zach unfolding the map to the QuickCost.
“Hey!” he exclaimed, jolting Sarah from her math-notebook reverie. “We’re almost there!”
I wasn’t sure how he could tell. I hadn’t noticed any landmarks, but I guess I was pretty spaced out as I drove. “Yeah? Like how close?”
“Extremely close!” I could hear him rummaging around in the cooler for a beer. The only soda drinkers here were Sarah and myself.
Actually, it was probably just a mirage, but I thought I glimpsed something in the distance. We seemed to be progressing pretty quickly. Well, we were in the middle of the desert, with no police around, so I stepped on the gas. The car accelerated up to 70, then 75. Sarah flashed me an alarmed look, Zach was like “WHOOOOO!”, and Padma didn’t seem to notice.
The mirage came closer, closer, until it took on the boxy shape of a building. I was a little too sleepy to be as shocked as I normally would be. Still, I couldn’t make out any signs or anything, so there was no proof that it was really a QuickCost location. While it was weird that there was a building out here, I could see there being a little house, or a police station, or something.
Well, as we reached the building, my mind was blown. A tall, dingy-looking sign came into focus and read “Prickly Cactus QuickCost” in bold white letters. For effect, a tumbleweed rolled across the road ahead of us. A ringing of disbelief sounded off inside my ears, but I could barely make out Zach and Padma whooping and cheering in the back seat. I glanced over at Sarah, who had closed her math notebook and had a small smile creeping across her face.
The QuickCost barely had a parking lot- just five or six angled parking spaces in front of the building. I slowed the car to a stop within the lines, and before I had even put it in park, Padma and Zach were flying out of the back seat like pilgrims whose year-long journey had reached an end. Zach even jumped in the air and kicked his heels as he raced toward the door.
Even more surprising than the QuickCost’s existence was the fact that it was open and the lights were on. Zach and Padma were already inside, and Sarah was unbuckling her seatbelt. With a fraction of a smirk that made me feel like she knew something I didn’t, she turned to me and asked: “Can you open the trunk?”
“Uh, sure.” I didn’t ask why, but Sarah was going around to the back of the van to get her duffel bag of stuff. While she was back there, I took a quick peek inside the math notebook that she had left sitting on her seat. Instead of the equations I had been expecting, it was a detailed journal, the margins lined with doodles and side commentary, the main section a lengthy narrative of our journey. I noticed my name popping up a lot, which made me wonder, because I was definitely the second least talkative out of everyone, next only to Sarah herself.
Sarah had claimed her luggage pretty quickly, so I hastily let the math notebook fall shut. When she came back to get it she snatched it away protectively. I didn’t think she had seen me look inside it, but I guess she really didn’t want me to, in any case.
I turned the car off and got out, stretching my legs before I ambled into the store. The place was very well stocked, with three times the variety of any normal QuickCost store. In addition to the expected array of chips, soda, lottery tickets, and whatnot, I spied oddities unlikely to be found elsewhere. A hat rack boasting an array of multicolored fedoras. A stack of Easy-Bake ovens. A cardboard box of mewing kittens.
Sarah followed a few feet behind me as we entered the doorway, then immediately headed for the counter. I took a look at where she was headed. Behind the counter, snapping gum and periodically finger-combing her hair, was Vicky- Sarah’s friend from school.
“You’re late!” Vicky ejaculated in her high-pitched, raspy voice upon seeing Sarah. “And Bob wouldn’t let me leave! My shift ended like two hours ago!”
“Yeah, I know,” Sarah sighed. “Well, my car wouldn’t start, and it’s still in the shop.” She grabbed a green QuickCost apron from a rack behind the counter.
Turning to me with a radiant smile, Sarah said, “Thanks for the ride, Chris.”