They called it the Truckalypse, the Devil’s Rapture, the Forever Road Trip. Those who refused the call began to gather together…
Saturday, September 17, 2011
“Tell me why we’re doing this again, Mom?”
“Well, for one,” Tina said, standing to pedal up the incline to the pool parking lot, “it’s a beautiful day, and we’ve got the place to ourselves. Two, if there’s anyone else around, they’ll be here or maybe in the clubhouse. And three, if they’re not here but they smell us grilling burgers, maybe they’ll come get some. We’ll never eat this much meat ourselves.”
They heard a rolling noise, then a splash, from behind the fence as they stopped in front of the pool gate. No other vehicles to be seen. They chained the bikes to the lightpost then peeked into the pool area, just in time to see a kid in bright orange swim trunks and a black t-shirt ride his skateboard into the pool. As he went over the edge, he and the skateboard jumped; the skateboard rolled under his feet and came back upright just in time for the kid’s feet to land on the board and then in the water.
Tina and Kelly picked up the coolers and grill and opened the gate. The kid was just climbing out of the pool; he saw Tina and Kelly and gaped for a moment before grabbing his board and standing.
“Sorry,” he said, shaking the water out of his long black hair, “I didn’t think anyone else was around. You’re still real, right?”
“Real?” Kelly asked. “You mean, not tooling around in a white pickup?”
“Yeah. I’m Cody Sifko. I live down on Crepe Myrtle.”
“I’m Tina Ball, and this is my daughter Kelly. Would you like to join us for lunch?”
“Sure! You grillin’ burgers? Anything beats peanut butter, I’ve been livin’ off peanut butter and cereal since Thursday.”
“So why didn’t you just drive away?” Kelly asked, fishing a Diet Coke out of the larger cooler.
“I heard it talking to me,” Cody said, “I just ignored it. The rest of my family, though…” he looked down, which made his hair fall over one eye.
“Ignored it. Just like that.” Kelly crossed her arms and glared.
“Sure.” Then seeing Kelly’s look, “But I had lots of practice. I mean, all my dam’ life, it’s been ‘why can’t you be like XYZ’ or ‘you need to be this or that’ — don’t even get me started about high school. Everyone’s wanted me to be anyone but me, and that’s what the truck said: be one of us. F— forget that, why can’t I just be who I am?”
“We had some trouble yesterday, Cody,” Tina said, trying to smooth things over. “It shook us both up pretty bad. But we decided we’re here, and even if we didn’t sleep too well last night, we’re going to try to find out what happened and see how many people are… left. Are you any good with a grill? I haven’t done it much.”
“Yeah, my dad made me help him a few times,” Cody said. “You stack the charcoal in a pyramid — here, let me — then hit it with some lighter fluid.” He piled up the charcoal then squirted on a generous helping of lighter fluid. “You really don’t need that much, but I like a big poof when you light it. That’s how I always did it when my dad wasn’t watching.” He grinned. “Match? Okay, stand back…” he struck a match and tossed it into the grill from a few feet away; it barked and shot a small ball of flame into the air. “Yeah, good one! Now you open a beer and let it sit for 20 minutes or so until the charcoal turns white. You got a beer?”
Tina shook her had. “Sorry. Just soft drinks.”
“I figured. No problem.” He walked around the pool and took a Bud from a small soft-sided cooler before rejoining them. “Either of you guys want one? Dad always had a few cases around.”
“No thanks,” Tina said for them both. “Cody? Do you still hear it calling you?”
“No… they called me to come work Thursday night — I worked at Breakbeat Music, in the mall — and when I came out, Mom’s car was gone and the truck was sitting out there at the curb. It started talking to me, I flipped it off and went back inside. I called Breakbeat and told them my car wouldn’t start, and fooled around the rest of the evening. It was gone the next morning.”
“That’s why I didn’t sleep last night,” Kelly admitted. “Ours is still in the garage. You think if we got it out of there somehow, it would go away too?”
“It might. I guess we could try it.” Cody put his beer can next to the grill, then jumped back into the pool. “It’s a little cold, but it feels good when you get used to it! You guys might as well jump in while we’re waiting for the grill to warm up.”
“Oh, why not?” Kelly said, removing her shorts and t-shirt to reveal the one-piece suit beneath. “It’ll be too cold to swim pretty soon anyway.” She dived in from the side.
“Hey, you ever ride a skateboard? Landing it in the pool’s a trip!” Cody grinned.
Conversations: Cody Sifko