Chapter 1 -- Prelude
"Hey, Clark..." Someone whispered behind me. I turned around to see that it was Will Graham, someone I don't normally talk to.
"Yeah?" I said softly.
"What's number 34?" Of course, he wanted an answer from me, not to chat, or talk about anything else. He wanted an answer from me cause I was a nerd.
"B" I said.
"Thanks." I wasn't mad though, I was used to it. Since this year started, my sophmore year, I have been unsuccessful at becoming popular. I wish I could be like Will, then I could do the cool things that him and his friends do, like go to the partys I hear about on mondays. I was just a nerd...
Algebra ended and I gathered up my books and walked out to my locker, weaving in and out of the rest of the students and catching small bits of conversation here and there. I got to my locker, opened it, put in my math book and got my gym clothes out. I closed the locker and began to walk downstairs to the gym. On the way, I saw Will talking to some of his buddies, laughing and making plans and talking to girls. I knew their names, but I never really talked to any of them because I was too scared, and shy. I just walked right past them and walked downstairs to the locker room.
I always got to the locker room early, mainly because I didn't have anybody to talk to in the halls, and plus I wanted to get dressed as quickly as possible. I was a little ashamed about my body. I stand about 5'7" and only weigh 115 lbs. I was so skinny, without an ounce of fat on me and no muscle to speak of either. I longed to be a little bigger, with more muscle, like... Will. I changed clothes and began to think about how I was obcessing over Will, he was in my every train of thought. I wanted to be like him so bad, he was popular, funny, he had lots of friends, and he was at every party... he was cute too. I caught myself saynig that, and stopped. I thought Will was cute? Not in a gay way though, I just meant that the ladies must really go after him.
For some dumb reason, after you get dressed, you sit in the hall betweent he locker room and the gym and wait for everybody to finish getting dressed. I got into my usual space, leaned against the wall, arms crossed and watched the rest of the people trickle in. A few seconds before the late bell, Will came running in. He was in the weightlifting class, and I was in one of the PE classes. There were two PE classes, a weightlifting class and something called "Sporting for life" all at the same time. Will ran into the locker room and was the last person to come out before we all went into the gym. We all got into our spaces on the floor in front of our particular coach and stretched while they took attendence. After he took the roll, the weightlifting teacher, and athletic director announced to everyone in the gym; "Today we shoot the rock, if you don't want to play basketball, sit in the stands." Great, 90 minutes of sitting around by myself. I sauntered up the the stands as they distributed the balls. The sounds of balls smacking the floor as they were being dribbled suddenly broke the silence and people started shouting as they got into their games. I watched, looking for Will. I saw him, and he was running up to where I was sitting, with a ball in his hands, dribbling it comfortably. Some of his friends gravitated towards him, the ones he usually plays ball with on days like this. The began picking teams when they realized that one of them was out.
"Where's Dim?" Will asked the group.
"He's out today, I don't know why" Barry Dorris answered him.
"Well... we need a sixth... Clark!... Clark!" I looked at him, waiting. "You wanna play basketball with us?" He was asking me. I was flooded with two emotions, one was fear, that I wont be any good and the other was elation. Fuck it, I said to myself.
"Sure" I said, getting up and joining them. We shot for captains and Will and John got it. John picked Barry, then Will picked Sam. John picked Forrest and I ended up on Will's team, along with Sam. We played pretty well, and my fear of being bad dissappeared. These guys were real jocks. They lifted weights, played football and wrestled. Basketball was only something fun to do for them, because they held some animosity for the people who actually played it as a real sport. I had a goal at home and before I moved here, I used to play basketball with the kids in the neighborhood. I wasn't that good, but I was good enough to keep up with them. We didn't keep score and we played the entire period, until it was time to get dressed.
"Get dressed!" The coaches shouted and the students all milled back to the locker rooms. On the way, Will walked next to me and started talking to me.
"Good game out there, you're not that bad."
"Thanks." I said.
"How much do you weigh?" He asked me, deadpanned. What kind of question is that for casual conversation?
"About 115 lbs." I said.
"You ever think about wrestling? We could use a guy like you on the team this year." He said.
"I don't know, I don't think I'd be any good at it." I didn't want to get my ass kicked every day.
"You'd only be wrestling guys in your weight class, I think you would be pretty good." He said. "The season starts Monday, after school, you should be there."
"I think I might, if you really think I should."
"Yeah, we always need guys your size." He said.
"I'll be there then." By this time we were in the locker room, changing clothes.
"Hey, what are you doing after school today?" He asked, after we had changed and were walking out to the gym again.
"I didn't have any plans, why?"
"Well, since football is over, and wrestling starts monday, some of us were going to throw down a little, get it out of our system before wrestling season starts. You want to go?" Hell yeah I wanted to go! I can't believe he just asked me to go with him!
"Sure, what time?" I said, as if this was normal.
"Right after school, until we run out of gas, beer or money. You can tell your parents you are staying with me tonight. It'd be a good way to meet the guys too." We were standing near the exit to the parking lot. Gym was my last class of the day, and I was just invited to be with the popular kids, for a whole night!
"Cool." I said as Forrest and John walked up to us.
"You chillin with us today Clark?" Forrest asked me.
"Yeah, I guess, I have to call my mom though." I sounded like such a dork, I bet they never had to call their moms.
"Here, go ahead." John handed me his cell phone. "Just put the number in and hit the green button."
I never used a cell phone before. "You sure?"
"Yeah, that's what I got it for." John said. I started dialing and the bell rang. I followed them out to the parking lot, and finished dialing, hit the green button and waited. It took a few seconds, and it began to ring. After the third ring, my mom picked up.
"Hello" She said.
"Mom, this is Clark."
"OK, what are you calling for, you aren't in trouble are you?"
"No, I was just wondernig if I could stay with Will tonight."
"Will Graham, he's a junior."
"Is this ok with his parents?"
""Hold on..." I put my hand over the receiver and asked Will. "Will, my mom wants to know if it's ok with your parents."
Will reached for the phone, "Let me talk to her." I
gave it to him, not knowing what to expect.
"This is Will Graham, how are you doing?"
"I'm fine, thanks... It's fine with my parents if Clark stays with me tonight..."
I didn't hear the rest of the conversation, because Will wondered off while talking to my mom. This was weird, I woke up this morning just a skinny nerd, and now Will Graham was talking to my MOM on a cell phone, so that I could hang out with him and his friends. Strange.
Will walked back up to us and handed the phone to John and looked at me, "It's cool, your mom is nice" We were all standing in the parking lot next to a blue Blazer, and Will opened the driver's side door, pulled the seat forward and spoke to me again, "Hop in, let's go for a ride." I climbed in and I heard Forrest and John yell 'SHOTGUN' at the same time, then they argued a bit and finally, Forrest got in back with me and John sat up front with Will.
Forrest was the biggest of all of them, I'd guess around 215 lbs and about 6 feet tall. He wasn't fat though, he was strong and you could tell by the muscles that showed through his shirt. He looked at me as the Blazer started moving. "You're Clark?" He said, hand extended.
I shook his hand, "Yeah, Clark Knight."
He shook my hand back, gripping it rather tightly. "Nice to meet you Clark, I'm Jack Forrester, but everybody calls me Forrest."
"Don't call him Gump, only Stacy can call him that." John said from the front. They all laughed at that, I didn't get it, but I remembered to find out who Stacy was so I could know what was so funny about it.
"So where to fellas?" Will asked when we were stopped at a stop light.
"The lake! Let's go swimming." Forrest suggested. I didn't know of any lakes around here, and it wasn't what I would call swimming weather. It was nice outside, maybe 70 degrees, but I thought you only swam when it was hotter.
"Fuck the lake, lets go bogging." John said.
"Well, since I don't care, and you two can't agree... Clark, which one do we do?" Will said turning to me.
"I don't know..." I said.
"The light's turning green, make up your mind!" John said.
"Uhhh... Bogging!" I didn't even know what that was, but it just came out of my mouth the second the light turned green.
"Bogging it is!" Will floored the gas pedal, and jerked his foot off of the clutch, making the tires spin wildly as we peeled to the right. We were going out of town, so whatever boggin was, you did it in the country I assumed. We drove for a while, and they cracked jokes about things I had no clue about and horsed around while we rode by farms and forrests. We got to a house on a hill with a long paved driveway and we slowed and turned into it. At the top of the driveway, was a small parking lot with at least 10 vehicles parked. We pulled up into the left side of the garage and everybody got out.
"Where are we?" I asked, crawling out from the backseat.
"My house, John and Forresrt are going to get their trucks and we are going to hit the trails. Come on in and you can meet my mom." We walked to the door inside the garage and walked inside to a kitchen.
"Mom!... I'm home!" Will yelled as he walked in. I heard footsteps coming down some stairs that I couldn't see.
John and Forrest came in behind me and started helping themselves to the snacks in the cupboards and fridge like they lived there. Will's mom came walked into the kitchen.
"Forrest, don't eat all those cookies, save some for the kids. Will, you have got to bring your laundry up, I am not doing it for you this time. Hi, John."
"Hi Mrs. Graham." John said, pouring himself a drink.
"Will, where are you manners! Aren't you going to introduce me to your new friend?" She walked up to where I was standing, next to Will and held her hand out.
"Mom, this is Clark, Clark this is Mom." Will said as I shook her hand.
"Nice to meet you Clark, are you hungry? You want something to drink?" I was, but I declined politely.
"Nonsense, here eat these and get a soda from the bottom drawer in the fridge." She handed me a bag of chips and I got a soda. We chatted for a little while, she asked about me and my family and when we finished eating, John, Forrest and Will made for the door. "Where are you going now?" She asked, stopping them in their tracks.
"To the lake" Will said.
"Be careful." His mom cautioned as we walked out.
I climbed into the front seat of Will's blazer, and John climbed into a white truck with Forrest. "I thought we were going bogging? You told your mom we were going to the lake." I said as we started down the driveway.
"We probably are going to do both, it's only 4 o'clock, and we are going all night tonight." Will said. We turned right out of his driveway with Forrest right behind us. About five or six miles down the road, we pulled into a country store.
Parking the car, Will asked me, "How much beer do you want?"
I had never drank beer before, and I had no idea. "I have no idea, I have never drank beer before." I said.
"OK, you will tonight, be right back." Will got out and walked into the store. A few minutes later, he walked out with two cases of beer, one he gave to Forrest and one he brought back with him as he got back into the car. He ripped the top off of the case and handed me a beer and cracked one open for himself. I opened mine and took a sip. It didn't taste as bad as I thought it would, I had heard people talking about how bad it tastes, but it was actually pretty good.
We spun tires out of the store and drove back up the rode about a mile and turned left onto a dirt rode. "This is cotton road, just so you know, and it had some of the best mudholes around." Will explained. The road wasn't that bad, just dry dirt, and it was pretty flat. Well, at first. We turned a curve and stopped. In front of us was a huge mud puddle, it had water standing in it and you could see where people had tried to drive through it.
"What do we do now?" I asked, figuring that it was impassable.
"We run it." Will said. We went into it slowly, creeping in on it almost. When we got to the middle of it, the tires started spinning and we were't moving at all. Will slammed the gas and we flew mud all over Forrest who was behind us. The spedometer went crazy, but we inched along through it and were eventually clear of it. It was cool feeling the power of the vehicle slign mud every which way, and I was amazed at how fun it was just going through that one mud hole.
"That was cool, can we do it again?" I said, taking another sip of my beer.
"Oh that was nothing, wait till we get closer to the lake." I suddenly got afraid, realizing what we were doing. We were drinking and driving, in the middle of nowhere, going through mudholes. This was against everything I had been told in my life. Besides that, I was almost done with my beer and I was feeling a little woozy, I guess that it what being drunk is.
"Is this safe? I mean with the beer and all?" I asked.
"Don't worry, the law doesn't even know about this road, and we aren't leaving the area for a while." He said.
"What about you driving like that?" I asked timidly.
"Don't worry about it, we only have a case, I can handle my beer. Why? You feeling it yet?"
"Yeah, a little." I finished off my beer, and Will promtly handed me another one. I hoped he was right about being able to handle himself.
We came upon a few more mudholes no more worse than the first one, and I quickly became addicted to the rush that I get from going through one. We had gone down the road quite a ways when we came to something I was sure we weren't going to get past. It was a hill, quite steep, and muddy all the way. The tracks in it looked like many had tried to make it, but few hade made it. I grabbed onto the bar above my window, and shut my eyes. Will noticed this and tried to calm me down. "Don't worry, I go up this hill all the time, we will make it no problem." That didn't help much, but I did open my eyes. My adreneline level went up as we shot up the hill, sliding left and right, spinning tires all the way. A few times it felt like we were going to slide right back down the hill. My heart was racing as we got up to the top, still on a steep incline, and Will stopped the blazer. We were on mud, on a hill, stopped. It felt as if we were going to fall backwards, flipping end over end. Somehow though, it stayed there.
"See? No problem." Will said, reaching back for another beer for both of us. He spun the tires and we went up the rest of the hill with no problems. I felt incredible, the beer coupled with the danger of what we just did was a rush like no other I had ever experienced.
"That, is boggin." Will said. Good, finally I knew what that was. We stopped above the hill and got out, to watch Forrest get up the hill. He was a little wilder than Will had been, going up it wide open, swaying drastically, spaying mud like a lawn sprinkler, in long arc's. He pulled next to where we were standing, and John rolled down his window.
"You want to hit the other trails or the rope swing?" John asked.
Will looked at me to make the descision. "What do you want to do Clark?"
"Let's go to the rope swing." I said, swimming sounded really good right then.
"Alrighty then." John said as they sqealed away from us. "See you there!" he yelled just before he was out of earshot.
Will and I climbed back into his blazer, and we both got yet another beer. "I have some shorts you can wear, if you want to."
"Thanks, that'd be great." We went about two more miles down the road and came to dead end. There was a hint of a trail to the left and we took it, and soon we were able to see where Forrest and John had ridden through there not very long ago. A half a mile down that trail and we stopped. "Do we walk from here?" I asked.
"Yeah, it not far, just under that hill." Will had opened the tailgate of his blazer and was rumageing through a gym bag. He tossed me a pair of yellow shorts, got a blue pair for himself, closed it and led the way down the hill. When we got down to that bottom, there was a clearing and a platform about 12 feet high. John was on it, holding onto a stick that was attached to the end of a rope that came all the way down from a thick branch of a very tall tree. John jump from the platform, swung down and out, let go, did a flip and landed in the water with a big splash.
"This is awesome." I said, watching Forrest and Will climb up the ladder to the top of the platform.
"Well get on up here, it's even better when you use it." Forrest said, grabbing the stick that had swung back to him.
I went over the the tree where the others had changed, and stripped down to my underwear and put on the shorts that Will gave me. They were a little loose, but they fit alright. I made my way to the platform and climbed the ladder. When I got the the top, I realized that it wasn't very sturdy, and I was a little drunk and I stumbled a little. "Woah" Will said, catching me from almost embarrassing myself. "You alright?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"Good, give it a shot." Will handed me the stick. I had to stand on my tippy toes to get a good grip on it. Looking down, it was pretty far to the lake, but I decided to just go with it, and I jumped, hanging on for dear life. I swooped down and swung out pretty far into the lake and let go. It felt like I dropped forever, until BAM! I smacked the water with more force than I though I would. I instantly sank, thrashing wildly to get the surface. I couldn't see or breathe, and it was starting to look pretty bleak for me. I becamse severly disoriented and soon lost track of which way was up, and which way was down. I slipped into unconsicoisness just as I felt someone else grab me from above.
I thought I was dreaming when I opened my eyes, and Will had his lips locked on mine. For some reason it didn't seem to be real. He took his mouth away from mine, and saw that my eyes were open. "Hey there buddy, we thought we lost you there for a second." His speech was slurred, or seemed so to me, and I responded to him by trying to sit up, and coughing water up onto the ground next to me. "Take it easy, you're going to be alright." Will said.
I slowly became more aware of what was going on. My breathing became less forced, and my head and vision cleared up a little bit. "You saved my life didn't you?" I sat up, feeling the dirt stick to my bare back.
"Yeah, but it isn't that big of a deal, you should wade in and get washed off."
"It is a big deal, I almost died!"
"Yeah, but it's ok, you're not dead, and there is a party tonight, so go wash yourself off." Forrest said, grabbing me by the shoulders and lifting me off the ground. I was silent as they helped me to the lake, and as I washed the dirt off of me. Pretty soon I was clean enough, and I walked out of the lake. John threw his towel at me.
"Here ya go, dry off and get dressed, we are meeting some ladies in a little while."
"Thanks." I dried off and put my clothes back on, carrying Will's shorts and John's towel, I walked back up the trail to where that vehicles where parked. John and Forrest were already in the their truck, talking to Will, who was standing by his Blazer. Whatever they were talking about, it stopped when I came up to them, and they all gave me a strange look.
"Well, we'll see you guys at the party." Forrest said as he drove off.
Will looked at the ground silently. I felt out of place, as if they now dissapproved of me. I am sure they thought that it was a mistake bringing me along. Will, still silent climbed into the driver seat of the Blazer. I got into the passenger side, I guess Will was going to drop me off at home so he could hang out with people who don't drown. He put the key in the ignition, but didn't turn it on, sat back, hands over his face. Uh-oh. I was going to get it now. He removed his hands, and looked a me.
"Damn Clark." He said, I was ready to tell him where I live so he could go ahead and take me home, but Will interupted me.
"You scared the shit out of me!" Will said, laughingly. He was smiling.
"Sorry about that, I guess I messed up." I said.
"Don't worry about it, you should have seen Forrest the first time he drank, he fell off of the roof of a pizza hut! Have another beer." Will said as he handed me another beer, and cranked the car. I guess they weren't that mad at me. Maybe I can't swim, but I sure as hell didn't fall off the roof of a pizza hut.
"Where are we going now?" I asked, cracking open my third beer.
"I don't know, where do you want to go?" Will asked, as we back tracked through the mudholes.
"Where can we go?"
"Depends on what you want to do. If you want to go somewhere and chill until that party, we can go to my brother's house. If you want to go swimming again, we can turn..."
"Let's go to your brother's house, I don't really feel like swimming." I said.
"Alrighty then. Good thing I am a lifeguard during the summer, and I know cpr, or you would have been a goner!"
"I can't thank you enough for that, you saved my life."
"Seriously, don't worry about it, ancient history." Will said.
We got back to that main road, and took a right. A few miles down the road and we pulled into a gravel driveway that lead to a small two story white house. We parked, got out and went to the door. Will didn't knock, but just walked in, taking his shoes off in the entrance. I took mine off, and we walked into the living room. I could smell something being cooked. "Chance!, are you here?" Will yelled.
"I'm in the kitchen" Came a voice from, I guessed, the kitchen. We walked through a small hallway into a kitchen/dining room where a very tall man was at the stove, stirring a pot. "Who you got there?" The man asked, wiping his hand off on a small towel and stretching it out for me.
"Clark Knight." I said, shaking his hand.
"Chance Graham, nice to meet you." He said. Chance was very tall and thin, with short brown hair that turned into a rugged beard. "Did you move here from Massechucets?"
"Yeah, how did you know?" This was a little weird.
"Well, first off, you don't talk like you were from here, and I work in the cubicle next to your mom, Pam, right?"
"Yeah, wow, that is cool."
"Yeah, she's nice, I hope you guys are hungry, and I hope you like tofu chili." Chance said.
"I've never had tofu before, isn't that just for vegitarians?" I said.
"Well, I'm a vegan, which is like a vegitarian without dairy or eggs, I'll explain it to you at dinner. Will, why don't you give him the grand tour while I finish up here?" Chance said.
"Alrighty then, come on Clark." Will led me back into the hallway to the stairs. "You've pretty much seen the downstairs, except for the bathroom, which isn't as exciting as you'd think it is, and Chance's room. " We got to the top of the stairs and saw a small hallway with three rooms off of it. The first one was a bedroom, a spare that looked like it didn't get much use. There was a bed, a dresser and a couch. "That's where we might be staying tonight, that couch folds out into a bed."
"Cool" I said.
"Very." We moved onto the next room. "This, is the smoke loung." I was a small room, with two couches, and three chairs all arranged around a coffee table. On the coffee table was a tall glass object, that looked like a big hollow tube with a sphere at the bottom.
"What's that?" I asked, pointing to it.
Will looked at me strangly. "You don't know what a bong is?"
"I guess not."
"You will find out, we will hit that before we go to the party." The other room was a bathroom, and after that we headed back downstairs. Back in the kitchen, Chance was dishing out bowls of tofu chili. We all sat down, and Chance and Will began eating right away. This was strange for me becasue we always prayed at home before dinner. I sat there, and they noticed that I wasn't eating right away.
"Don't worry, it's good." Will said somehow between slurps.
It looked like regular chili, but with white chunks of tofu floating in it. I ate a spoonful, making sute to get a little bit of tofu in it, and it was pretty good. Seeing that I liked it, they continued eating.
"So, you gonna go to the party tonight Chance?" Will asked.
"I was thinking about it, why you guys want a ride?" Chance said.
"Would you mind?" Will asked.
"Not at all, we can ride in the buick." Chance said. We were all almost done eating, and Chanced asked us a question. "Do you guys want to hit the bong and then go?"
"Would you believe that Clark here has never even heard of a bong?" Will said.
"Well, I think it is time you found out." Chance said, as he put the dishes in the sink and made his way to the stairs. "Don't worry, pot is the safest drug you can take, you won't go crazy or lose touch with reality or anything." Pot?!?!?! Ever since DARE in 5th grade I always vowed never to use that stuff. Not that I really even knew what it looked like. But Will did it, and he is cool, Chance does it, he works with my mom! It can't be that bad. We went upstairs and into the 'smoking lounge' and all took seats around the table with the bong in the middle of it. Chance pulled a plastic baggie from his pocket and began stuffing the pot into a metal pipe towards the bottome of the bong. "It is good that for your first time, you are smoking kind bud."
"What's that?" I asked.
"With pot, there is shwag and dank. Shwag is what most people smoke, and they have to smoke joints or blunts of it to get high, and it's a real sloppy high. With dank, which is also called kind bud, you don't need as much, and it's a much cleaner high." Chance said.
"Oh." What and education I was getting.
Chance was done stuffing the pot into the metal tube. "This," he said pointing to the metal tube, "is the bowl. You suck on the top, light the bowl and fill the bong up with smoke, when it's full, you take out the bowl and inhale as deeply as possible." He handed the bong to me. "You get first hit, here, I'll light it for you.."
I put my mouth on the top peice and watch him light the bowl. It glowed red as I pulled with my lungs until the bong was filled with white smoke. He then pulled out the bowl, and told me to suck in as well as I could. I breathed in as hard as I could but it was choking me and I blew it back out in a coughing fit. "Yeah!" Will and Chance both said. My eyes were watering, and I was having trouble getting my breath back. I watch as Chance, then Will hit the bong with much more grace than I did. After Will hit it, Chance announced that it was cashed and dumped the contents of the bowl into an ashtray on the coffee table. As he dumped the ashes, I soon realized that my mind was going crazy. Things were swirling in and out of my mind at lightning speed, but somehow I was able to manage it. I was high, and stoned and all of the sudden those words fit so well to what I was feeling. We all sat there for some amount of time. It was hard to tell if we were there for an hour or 10 minutes, but we were all silent, enjoying the buzz.
"Lets go to the living room, and turn on the strobe light!" Will said, excitedly. Chance nodded his head, and we went back downstairs. In the living room, Chance closed the door to the hallway adn shut the blinds and it was completely dark.
"I got a new techno CD Will, you guys can listen to that, I need to go to the liqour store before they close, I will be back in a little bit, and then we will go to the party." Chance said, putting a CD in, and turning the strobe light on. He then grabbed his coat and headed out. Will and I both sat back on the couch, watching the strobe light flash quickly, sedating us, and within a few seconds huge booming bass bumped out of speakers too big for a house scattered around the living room. Every single bump of the music resonated in my chest cavity, and I felt the music like I have never felt music before.
We sat there, on the couch, silent as the music flowed thorugh us and the lights enthralled us. After what seemed like an eternity, Will turned to me and smiled. "Do you want to know why I invited you to come with me tonight?" He leaned in on me as he spoke, and stared right through my eyes.
"Why?" I asked.
He stared as me for a little bit, not just looking at my eyes, but looking at my whole body, eyeing me up and down. He opened his mouth to speack; "Because I..." He broke it off when he heard the door open, and the light turn on. Chance was back.
"Party time!" Chance said, holding a large brown bag.
"Because you what Will?" I asked as Will stood up.
"I'll tell you later Clark, lets go to this party." Will said.
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