Chris Till

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2. Kreepy Krawlers

In christy canyon, glen ellyn, glenbard west, grateful dead, iggy and the stooges, jim morrison, jodie foster army, marijuana, Stoner Noir on April 28, 2010 at 2:59 pm

      On May 13, 1985, Philadelphia police bombed a row house in a crowded neighborhood from a helicopter. The resulting inferno destroyed 61 houses and killed 11, including five children. The residents of the targeted house called themselves MOVE, a small local religious fellowship.

Mole City

      “We should do something crazy tonight,” said Angela, squatting on the concrete floor of Mole City with Nick and Rose. Mole City was a tiny concrete room fifteen feet below a manhole cover in an old suburban neighborhood in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. By climbing into the dry storm sewer outlet at a small lake and walking hunched over for about a block, enterprising youths could enter Mole City. Colorfully spray painted, it was a tiny underground party club. In 1985, it was punk rock heaven.

      “Like what?” asked Nick, sitting in front of a pair of votive candles.

      “Ummm… we could put crazy glue in the door locks of the police cars over at the Civic Center or…”

      “Me and Oreo put glue in the locks at the bank once,” interrupted Nick, scraping his metal pipe for resin. “I ain’t going anywhere near the cop shop tonight. There’s probably a warrant on me for missing the court date on that weed possession thing.”

      “I know!” said Angela, nudging Rose. “Let’s trip tonight! Who’s got acid?”

      “What?” asked Rose, a mile away. “I was spacing out.”

      “Let’s trip tonight,” insisted Angela. “Nicky 666 is gonna turn us on.”

      “Nicky 666. Ha,” said Rose without laughing.

      “If I had acid, we’d all be tripping right now,” he said. “How about let’s just get super stoned and sneak into some rich folks’ house and creep around?”

      “That’d be trippy…” Angela said, as Nick lit a Marlboro Red.

Ox and Amber

      “Try that convenience store in Lombard just down from that bar,” said Ox.

      “Okay,” replied Amber. “But I don’t really care if we drink tonight or not.” Like Ox, a high school senior, she was driving her mom’s white ’81 Chevette hatchback late on a Monday night.

      “Well I told Nick and Angela and them all that I’d try to get some wine,” said Ox. They’d already tried one store in Glen Ellyn and now drove down Crescent Boulevard out of town.

      “Oh great,” she said sarcastically. “Well, then, we must drink tonight. Of course. I mean, do we really have to party every night? We could just go to my mom’s house and like bake cookies.”

      “Bake cookies? Come on Amber. It’s a kick ass night out. There’s a party in Mole City. It’ll be fun. Where’s your smokes?”

      “I’m out,” she said, as Ox rummaged through her purse, finding a half pack of Newports. “Nick is creepy. He looks at me in a disgusting way, like leering and laughing. And Rose just sits there, looking depressed and weird. You know?”

      “Baby, why you smoke menthol?” he said, lighting one. “They are disgusting.”

      “And Angela just totally flirts with you right in front of me.”

      “That’s totally not true. Anyway, it’s like whatever you wanna do, do it. I wanna party a little, I’m gonna party. It’ll be fun. Nick is cool. He laughs at everybody… Ernie’s supposed to be bringing some kick ass new weed too. You like him, right?”

      “No. He’s stoned all the time. He’s all right, I guess. I just… Are you directing me? ‘Cause I don’t really know where to go.”

      “Yeah, just keep going straight,” he said, as they drove past the dark hollow of the Churchill Woods. Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” played on the radio.

      Glen Ellyn was a terrifyingly wealthy old suburb west of Chicago and Amber and Ox were two of its children. Their bodies looked full grown, but their minds were as gullible as new born kittens. That particular evening, the night felt young, but was filled with just enough reckless energy that a single heedless decision could derail it forever into uncharted territory.

      “Ox, it’s just… I feel like they’re your friends, not mine.”

      “God, Amber. They’re your friends too. Why does everything have to be so difficult all the time?”

      Finally, they pulled into the White Hen parking lot as a loud yellow-jacket ’72 Chevelle Malibu pulled out. The big-haired strawberry blonde at the wheel eyed Ox as she passed. For a moment the AM radios in each car synched up, both tuned to WLS.

      “More more more, more more more!

      “Cool car,” said Ox, adjusting the rear view mirror and trying to flatten his thick mullet with his hands. Wearing a black Led Zeppelin t-shirt and a cut-off Levis vest, he looked like a typical teenage burnout. Yet, due to his almost giant size, he could sometimes pass for older.

      “You wait here,” said Ox, getting out and slamming the car door.

      “Yes sir,” said Amber, sulking and hiding her cigarettes under her car seat. The WLS news came on. Police in Philadelphia had firebombed a cult house, starting an inferno that burned two city blocks and killed a dozen people. Amber changed the station.

      Trying to look tough, Ox carried two bottles of Boone’s Farm wine to the counter. Over the radio, the middle-aged cashier listened to the same radio broadcast of the police bombing.

      “Crazy,” he said to Ox, squinting. “MOVE? Radio said they’re some kind of Negro back-to-the-land anti-government cult. Still I don’t see why the police have a right to bomb their house like that. It don’t seem… Hey, you’re Ox Lancaster.”

      “No,” said Ox glumly.

      “Yes you are. Why didn’t you go out for football this year? I mean, last year, you started on a team that won state. This year, you might of could of got a college scholarship. I seen you play Proviso Black your junior year and you done…”

      “Hey look,” Ox interrupted. “I’m kind of in a hurry here. Gimme a box of Marlboro Red.”

      “Ox Lancaster, how ’bout that? Look, Ox, I can’t sell you no liquor. You ain’t of age. I’ll sell you the smokes but…”

      “Whatever. Stupid laws. How much?”

      “See right there? Lombard Police. Two ninety for the smokes.” A patrol car had pulled into the parking lot in front of the store.

      “Damn police state,” said Ox, paying the cashier and leaving. The cashier watched Ox leave and shook his head in doubt.

      “Youth is wasted on the young,” said the cashier, frowning and waving a greeting at the cop in his car.

Mole City, Part Two

      “I am gonna get messed up tonight,” said Angela. “And seduce Ox.”

      “Yeah right,” said Rose. High school juniors, Angela and Rose could pass for twin sisters. Skinny shapeless blondes with identical puffed-up fried fluffy hair and black eye shadow, they both wore loose black t-shirts and tight stone-washed jeans. Yet, their personalities were opposites. While Rose was dark and quiet, Angela was sassy and loud.

      “Do it,” said Nick, three years older, sticking a homemade mix tape into his cassette deck. Wiry, Nick had a shaggy mohawk and wore ripped jeans with a studded belt, an old flannel shirt with a skull stenciled on the back, and a studded collar.

      “You jump him and I’ll jump Amber,” he said. “She wants me.”

      “You wish. Nick, you know you’re the only one I want,” cooed Angela fakely.
      “Yeah right,” he said. “This tape is kick ass.”

      “She’s serious,” said Rose, fixing her intense eyes on Nick. Shadows from the candles danced dully on the sewer walls. One graffito read: ALIEN SEX KITTEN.

      Joy Division’s “Transmission” played on the tape deck. Nick scraped resin from his little metal pot pipe with a butterfly knife.

      “When’s Ernesto getting here?” he asked.

      “I don’t know,” said Angela. “That boy operates outside of time. Rose, when’s your true love getting here?”

      “About ten, he said,” replied Rose. “It’s supposed to be totally seedless weed. Naperville Windowbox.”

      “Naperville Windowbox? That stuff sucks,” said Nick, taking a resin hit and coughing.

      “Well I could call out when the going gets tough, the things that we’ve learned are no longer enough,” he sang along to the tape.

Amber and Ox, Part Two

      “Just let me off here if you don’t wanna go,” said Ox, sitting in the passenger seat. Amber had parked behind the football bleachers by the lake.

      “And you don’t care if I don’t go? I mean, we’ve got school tomorrow. Look, if you wanna see Angela that bad, why don’t…”

      “Amber,” interrupted Ox. “I don’t care if Angela is there. You’re just making that stuff up. Anyway, your mom doesn’t care what time you get home. I mean if you wanna go home and bake cookies, be my guest, I’ll just see you to…”

      “Okay I’ll go,” she interrupted, getting out and slamming the car door. “Come on, your buddies are waiting for the great Ox Lancaster.”

      Short and very busty, Amber wore a ripped denim mini-skirt, old green Converse, and a black leather jacket over a tight orange Reeces Peanut Butter Cups t-shirt. She walked quickly, leaving Ox to catch up with her.

      “That’s right, me and my boyfriend are going on a date in the sewers tonight,” she said. “You better not let your buddy Nick drool on me, Ox.”

      Ox shook his head and stuck his hands in his pockets. They walked the rest of the block to the Mole City entrance in silence.

Partytime

      “Just Say ‘NO’ to Nancy” by the local hardcore punk band, Slave Revolt, played on the cassette deck. In a moment, Nick, Angela, and Rose all stopped moving or speaking. Nick turned off the tape deck.

      “Friend or foe?” he called down the sewer pipe.

      “It’s Officer Mike Hunt of the Glen Ellyn Police Department,” replied Ox, in a deep voice. “Come out with your hands up and your pants down.”

      “You’ll never take us alive, pig!” shouted Angela, as Nick turned the tape back on. “Unless you got liquor!”

      “Maybe he’s got some weed,” Nick whispered to Angela. With Nick’s face close to hers, she quickly kissed him on the cheek. He looked at her quizzically.

      “She loves you, Nick,” said Rose somberly.

      “Shut up, Rose,” said Angela. “Ox, sweetie, hurry up, I’m thirsty.”

      Ox and Amber kept walking hunched over down the storm sewer pipe towards the candle glow.

      “I should have brought a flashlight,” said Amber.

      “It’s fine,” said Ox. “I can see the candlelight up there.”

      Nick whispered to Rose and Angela. Angela snickered. As soon as Ox and Amber made it to Mole City, Nick blew out the candles and Rose shrieked.

      “Come on dude!” exclaimed Ox, searching his pocket for a lighter. Coolly, Amber lit her lighter, reached down and relit the candles.

      “Welcome to the afterworld,” said Angela, imitating Count Dracula. “You get me something to drink, Oxie?”

      “We tried, but no luck. This cop in Lombard was like staking out the White Hen. I got some weed, though. And smokes.”

      Nick, Angela, and Rose ignored Amber. She sat in the sewer pipe on the edge of the main chamber.

      “You got weed, dude?” said Nick. “Let’s smoke out. We’re thinking about getting super stoned and doing something freaky.”

      “Yeah, like what?” asked Ox, settling down on the floor and fishing a plastic sandwich bag of weed out of his front pocket.

      “Like… sneaking into some rich folks’ house and just creeping around.”

      “Kreepy krawling!” said Angela snickering. “Freaky, man. Right, Rose?”

      Rose just shook her head, off in her own world. Glen Ellyn had two classes of kids: those who lived in houses and those who lived in apartments. Most of the kids who lived in houses didn’t even realize the depth of this class divide, but those who lived in apartments certainly did. Amber and Ox grew up in houses, the others in apartments.

      “Where’s Ernie and Isaiah and them all?” asked Ox, fidgeting with his weed bag.

      “You wanna roll a joint, dude?” asked Nick, passing him some Zigzags.

      “Uh, I haven’t seen Isaiah since Maureen the Beauty Queen tried to kill herself, but he supposedly just split for California or something,” said Angela.

      “That’s what he told me. He went to see his Uncle Zen or something. Angela, may I have a cigarette?” asked Rose.

      “Maureen’s out of the mental hospital,” Amber said. “She’s okay.”

      “How you doin’, Am?” asked Angela, smiling faux-pleasantly at Amber and handing a Marlboro Light to Rose.

      “Fine thanks, Angela. Another day in paradise. Yourself?”

      “Okay. I like your jacket.”

      “Sure, man, it’s hump day,” said Ox, taking the papers from Nick.

      “Thanks,” said Amber. “My mom’s boyfriend gave it to me.”

      “Oh yeah?” said Angela. “I wish one of my mom’s boyfriends would give me a leather jacket instead of a…”

      “Y’all hear about the police bombing them black people in Philly?” interrupted Nick. “Bombed their house from a helicopter and burned down the whole damn neighborhood. Pigs. Oh here’s the tune.”

      “When they kick out your front door, how you gonna come?” sang Nick, turning up The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton.”

      “Great song,” said Ox, rolling a joint with difficulty over his baggie. “The only rock band that matters. I heard something about it on the radio.”

      “Come the revolution, that’s the only way they’ll get us out of Mole City,” said Nick dramatically. “Pigs’ll drop explosives on us through that manhole cover up there.”

      “What?” asked Ox. Nick chuckled.

      “So, Am, you miss cheerleading?” asked Angela, casting a sideways glance at Rose.

      “Hell no,” lied Amber. “It’s totally superficial. Me and Ox both decided we’re done with all that fake stuff.”

      “Oh hey, speaking of which, you hear they’re gonna make a movie in town this summer?” said Angela. “Like a Hollywood movie filmed at the high school. We should all go be extras in it. We’ll be like the mean stoner kids.”

      “With your hands on your head or on the trigger of your gun,” sang Nick to the tape.

      Ox lit the fat joint, took a big hit, and handed it to Nick. Nick raised the joint in the air, said “hail Satan,” and hit it.

      “Yeah,” says Ox, exhaling. “It’s good. You gonna smoke tonight, Amber?”

      “No,” she said, hitting the joint after Nick handed it to her.

      “Cool. You’re hilarious when you get high,” said Ox.

      “They’re fake,” said Nick to Angela, taking the joint from Amber.

      “I thought so,” said Angela, looking at Amber.

      “What?” asked Amber.

      “Uh, your boobs,” said Angela.

      “Yes, you’re right. They’re just balloons I tape to my chest,” said Amber. “Very clever of you to figure it out.”

      “This smoke is good,” said Nick, taking a hit while holding his butterfly knife in his other hand.

      “Boobs are just fat anyway,” said Angela. Rose nodded.

      “You two are just jealous ’cause you don’t have any,” cackled Nick, looking Amber up and down appraisingly. Amber looked at him disdainfully and zipped up the front of her leather jacket.

      “I love me some Reeces Peanut Butter Cups,” said Nick. “Don’t you, Oxford? Oh yeah. We is gonna get super st-st-stoned tonight…”

A Very Dark Night

      A second joint later, the five teenagers made their way back down the storm sewer pipe. Hunching their way through the pipe, the faint circular light of the outside world was visible ahead.

      “Damn, I scraped my head again,” swore Ox. “Damn it.”

      “Get lower, big boy,” said Angela.

      Making their way out of the sewer pipe onto the grassy shore of Lake Ellyn, the night was dark. Foreboding clouds covered the sky with no moon visible. The lake was absolutely still and perfectly reflected the thick cloud cover.

      “It is exactly midnight,” intoned Angela, doing her Dracula imitation again. “Children of the night, awake.”

      “I am st-st-stoned,” slurred Ox, imitating Nick. The five began walking aimlessly along the east shore of the small lake.

      “Ox?” asked Amber quietly, pulling him aside as the others walked ahead. “I’m kind of tired. You wanna go back to my mom’s house maybe and…?”

      “Baby, come on,” Ox interrupted. “You still wanna make cookies or something? Let’s keep hanging out. I mean, if you wanna…”

      “Oh never mind,” she said, shaking her head.

      “So?”

      “I’m not leaving you alone with…”

      “You two lovebirds coming?” interrupted Angela, looking back at Amber and Ox.

      Ox took Amber’s hand and led her back to the group. Just then a police car came down a cross street towards the lake.

      “Pigs!” Angela called.

      In an instant, they all went down, flat on their stomachs, laying on the grass by the lake. The police car drove slowly down Lake Road and passed them. Rolling onto their backs and watching the impenetrable midnight sky, they waited for a minute to get up.

      “Damn pigs,” said Nick, getting up with his tape deck. “I ain’t goin’ to jail tonight. Screw it.”

      “Damn, it’s dark,” said Angela.

      “It’s almost new moon,” said Rose quietly. “In Taurus. The Bull. It’s a night for breaking through barriers.”

      “Breaking through barriers?” said Nick. “Rose, you is one trippy gal. And that’s just one reason why I love you. Hey, you know that funky old mansion on Crescent with the brass lions in front of it? Some super old dude lives in there by himself. He’s like a 100. Let’s go hang out with him.”

      “You know him?” asked Ox.

      “Hell no. Well, I used to mow his lawn way back when. He never used to lock his doors. Follow me, my pretties. And once we start climbing the hill, let’s be real quiet.”

      “Angela, maybe we should just go home,” said Rose. “I’m feeling kinda tired.”

      “You ain’t going nowhere,” said Angela, taking Rose by the hand and pulling her foreward. “Your mom don’t care when you get home and neither does mine for that matter. Let’s keep partying.”  

      Nick led the gang down Lake Road and cut up the hill on a wooded private drive, quietly singing “Guns of Brixton.”

      “You can crush us, you can bruise us, but you’ll have to answer to, Oh the guns of Brixton.”

The Dark Mansion

      Silently, the gang approached a dark two-story Spanish Colonial mansion just on the other side of the hill. They stood among the trees in the back of unfenced yard, looking across the wide rear lawn.

      “There it is,” whispered Nick. “It’s just one old dude, about a 100 years old. Let’s just go in and move some furniture around to freak him out.”

      “Freaky,” whispered Angela, grinning.

      “I am not burglarizing someone’s house,” whispered Amber. “Right, Ox?”

      “What are you talking about? It’s not burglary if you don’t take anything,” whispered Nick. “Come on, Ox. I’ll bet you five bucks the doors are open.”

      Uncertain, Ox looked from face to face. Rose looked terrified and Amber shook her head with disapproval.

      “I’m telling you, it’s a trip,” whispered Nick. “Just to go to in there and feel the fear. It’s like butt hole surfing down a hill of pure fear.”

      “Oh man man man,” whispered Angela. “You’re coming with, Rose. Let’s just go in for a minute.”

      “Ox, this is stupid,” whispered Amber. “Let’s just go home.”

      “Oxie’s coming with me,” whispered Angela, taking him by the elbow and leading him towards the house.

      “Hell yeah,” whispered Nick, wide eyed. “Okay, Amber, you’re the lookout. If anybody comes or anything, just whistle as loud as you can. And guard my tape deck.”

      “You guys are idiots,” whispered Amber. Nick handed her his tape deck and the four crept towards the house. When they got up to the back door, Nick turned to them.

      “Okay,” he whispered. “If we have to make a run for it, everyone split up and meet back at Mole City. Okay?”

      “I can’t move,” whispered Rose. Nick tiptoed up to the back door and turned the doorknob with his flannel shirt covering his hand. The door was unlocked.

      “You punks owe me five bucks,” he whispered. “You first, Ox.”

      With hesitation, Ox stepped towards the door. Suddenly, Angela pushed him into the house in front of her. Ox tripped over the sill of the door and almost fell into the house. Angela grabbed Rose’s hand and pulled her into the house with her. Nick followed them, shutting the door quietly.

      Cursing Nick and Ox and all of them, Amber crouched in the furthest recess of the backyard. She could hear her own heart beating.

      The four kreepy krawlers stood on the carpet just inside the dark house. Waiting for his eyes to adjust, Nick sat down on the sofa and Ox sat next to him. Angela nestled down between Nick and Ox and put a hand on each boy’s knee. Rose stood still as a statue just inside the door. Gradually, their eyes adjusted somewhat. Smelling of leather, the room appeared to be a well-appointed living room.

      After sitting in silence for a minute, Nick stood up and signaled with his head for the others to follow him. Angela pulled Rose with her. The next room was the kitchen. Without the others noticing, Nick picked up a butter knife and slid it into his back pocket.

      They crept into the dining room. The dining room opened onto a grand stairway.

      “Move the chairs around,” Nick whispered. As Angela and Ox quietly began to move the dining room chairs around, Nick silently darted up the stairs when they weren’t looking. At the top of the stairs, he could faintly hear snoring.

      Creeping towards the snoring, he found the old man’s open bedroom door. Reaching just inside the doorway, Nick flicked on the light switch on the  bedroom wall. In a flash, the old man’s eyes opened and Nick silently slipped back down the stairs.

      Instead of turning towards the dining room where the others were, Nick took the other way around to the back door. Quickly slipping out, he shoved the butter knife into the bottom of the exterior door casing to prevent the door from being opened from the inside, then sprinted towards Amber in the back yard.

      “A light just came on upstairs,” whispered Angela to Rose and Ox, in the dining room. “I think somebody just woke up. Where’s Nick?”

      “He’s not here?” whispered Ox. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

      The old man sat up in his king-sized oak bed and slid his feet into his slippers. In the light, his bedroom was luxurious and wood-paneled. Tastefully framed woodcuts of American pioneers hung from the walls. In one, mohawked and shirtless Indians lay the woods outside a pioneer log cabin, tomahawks in hand, getting ready for a terrorist attack.

      A World War One veteran, he kept his old service pistol in his night stand. He slid open the drawer and pulled out the gun.

      “No good thieves,” he grunted, picking up his phone and dialing 469-3131.

      “Amber, come on!” whispered Nick, rushing up to Amber in the backyard. “The old dude woke up. Where’s Ox and Angela and uh…? We’re all meeting at the Bahas. Come on!”

      He took his tape deck from her, grabbed her hand, and ran with her by the side of the house to the front yard. Heading in the opposite direction of Mole City, he led her down the driveway to Crescent Boulevard.

      “Where’s Ox and the girls?” she whispered to him, once they reached the street, both still running.

      “I don’t know,” replied Nick. “They must have come out before me. I thought they would have gone to you first, but they must be ahead of us.”

      Inside the dark mansion, Ox tried to open the back door, but he shook so much he couldn’t get the door open. Rose stood paralyzed in the dining room, beginning to cry. Angela grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the back door.

      “I’ve got intruders at 722 Crescent Boulevard in Glen Ellyn. Come immediately,” the old man gruffly told the 911 operator. He hung up, turned out the bedroom light, and walked out of his bedroom, pistol in hand. Hearing noise from the back of the first floor, he slid open the second-floor hallway window and intently watched his backyard with his pistol ready.

      Nick and Amber ran down the sidewalk along Crescent Avenue. Not talking now, they headed for the Taylor Avenue Underpass and the dark safety of the railroad tracks, the Prairie Path bike path, and the Bahas. In the distance, a police siren began to wail.

      Angela pushed Ox aside and tried to open the back door. Turning the door knob and pushing the door with her slight shoulder, she couldn’t get the door to move. It was solidly stuck shut.

      “Bust it down, dude,” she whispered to Ox. Ox, almost a giant, lifted his right leg and smashed the doorknob with the bottom of his foot. With a loud crash, the door flew open. Pulling Rose, Angela ran out first and Ox followed.

      The old man saw his prey from the window: three dark figures fleeing across his back lawn. As a teenage American soldier in 1918, he had killed six Germans in France with this gun. He raised the pistol and set his sights on the thick body of the largest of the three fleeing thieves. The gun was a Colt .45 semi-automatic, blue steel with a walnut grip.

      In the back of the backyard, Ox, Angela, and Rose paused for a moment looking for Amber. In the distance, they could hear the police siren wailing.

      When the thieves paused in his backyard, the old man set his sight on the big head of the largest of them. He intended to just shoot through the window screen.

      “Where the hell is Amber?” whispered Ox, looking back at the dark mansion. “And Nick? Let’s get the hell outta here.”

      The old man pulled the trigger. The hammer rose. The hammer fell. Click. The gun was not loaded.

      “No good rotten thieves,” the old man said, watching them run away, disappearing over the back of the hill, towards the lake.

The Prairie Path After Midnight

      A warm spring night, Nick and Amber walked east along the crushed white limestone gravel of the Prairie Path. Both tried to catch their breath from the run. The siren had stopped.

      “Those guys probably got ahead of us and already got a fire started at the Bahas,” Nick said, no longer whispering. “That was one trippy scene inside that house.”

      “That was stupid. Why do you even want to do stuff like that? And I’ve got school tomorrow,” Amber said petulantly.

      “Yeah, well… Hoowee,” said Nick, exhaling deeply. “The old dude must have heard us. I don’t know. Ox bumped into a chair and knocked it over, that must have woken him up. You got a smoke?”

      “No,” she replied, digging in her jacket pocket and handing him a Newport. He lit it and watched across the railroad tracks as the dark blanket of clouds began to peel back.

      “Thanks, I’ve actually been liking menthol lately,” Nick said, exhaling. “Check it out, the stars are coming out.”

      “Nice,” said Amber, looking up and across the tracks. “So, like where do you live anyway?”

      “Nowhere, really, I got a fort over on the other side of St. Charles Road mostly.”

      “A fort?”

      “Yeah, there’s a big empty field behind those tracks on the other side of Ackerman Park and… yeah, I just live out there pioneer-style.”

      “Crazy.”

      “Hey, it’s this society that’s crazy, not me.”

      “I didn’t mean crazy-bad. I just meant crazy-different. You’re different, that’s all. Like in a good way, probably, okay?”

      “Yeah? Hey, you wanna know what’s crazy that I noticed? Like, in this town, of all the people I know, like nobody has a dad. Nobody. Think about it. You, Ox, Angela, Rose. Me? None of us. Ernie. Isaiah. Maureen. No dads. Talk about crazy.”

      “That is messed up.” Smoking, the two walked quickly down the dark bike path.

Mole City, Part Three

      Ox, Angela, and Amber sat in the main chamber of Mole City, panting. Angela lit the two votive candles, which cast strange shadows on the spray-painted walls. One graffito read: RISE.

      “That was freaky,” giggled Angela, eyes shining. “Like it was scary as hell, but you gotta admit, you felt totally alive in there.”

      “I am never doing anything like that ever again,” said Rose, pale and trembling. “I have never been so terrified in my life.”

      Ox started cackling. Angela joined him. Both felt exhilarated.

      “What a trip,” he said. “It was like…like…I don’t know. I just felt like… Hey, where the hell is Amber and Nick anyway?”

      “I hope he got out of there, but it looks like…” said Angela.

      “It was like…” Ox interrupted. “I mean, like yeah, I was scared but it was like I was totally aware of like every little…”

      “Total awareness, man,” interrupted Angela, sarcastic but grinning. “Looks like Amber-ger blew you off, huh?”

      “I guess,” he said.

      “Her loss,” said Angela, getting up and sitting in his lap. Rose was rocking back and forth on the floor, holding onto her knees.

      “Roll us a joint, big boy,” whispered Angela, biting his ear.

The Bahas

      East of the Underpass, the Prairie Path gradually diverged from the railroad tracks. In that divergence, several acres of woods grew between the bike path and the tracks, hidden by a steep ridge that rose along the path. Another secret party spot, local youths called those woods “The Bahas.”

      ” Ox? Angela? Rose? What the hell?” called Nick, walking down the ridge into the dark Bahas. “If you guys are hiding, I’m gonna kick your asses.”

      Amber followed him, feeling uncertain. She zipped her leather jacket all the way up.

      “Ox?” she called. “Ox? This isn’t funny.”

      Nick started picking up small branches as they approached the cold fire pit. He broke up the branches and dropped them into the pit.

      “Rip up that box, Amber,” he commanded, pointing to an empty Miller bottles 12-pack box in the pit. “Please. Maybe they’re behind us. Maybe they took the tracks or are coming through the back way, by Jenny Bell’s house.”

      Soon, they had a small fire going. Nick found more branches and broke them up, building up the fire.

      “I used to be a boy scout,” said Nick, as Amber raised her eyebrows. “Yeah, I know.”     

      Amber sat on a large log used as a fire-side bench and lit a Newport. Nick turned on his tape deck: the Replacements “Androgynous:” “now something meets boy and something meets girl, they both look the same, they’re overjoyed in this world.”

      “You thirsty?” Nick asked, offering her a silver flask. “Good stuff.”

      “What is it?”

      “Like whiskey. Mostly. Try it. It’s good for the nerves.”

      “Holding out on us, huh? I see the way you are.”

      “Well, there ain’t much. If I shared with everyone… you know.” With the fire burning, he sat next to her on the log bench.

      “I like this song, Nick,” she said. “It’s sweet.”

      Hesitating, she took a small swig from the flask and handed it back. Nick just held it between his hands without taking a sip.

      “Hey Amber, I know I been kinda rough on you. Like hazing you and all. I’m just not used to hanging out with girls of like your caliber. I guess you used to kinda scare me a little.”

      “Thanks, I guess, but I scare you? Now that is weird. You’re like the scariest guy in town and I scare you? Huh.” Nick handed her back the flask and she took another small swig.

      “Yeah, right, well, like I’ve never hung out with a cheerleader before, I’m like a total burnout freak and you’re like the hottest girl in town, going out with Mr. Football Star and all.”

      “Hey, I’m not a cheerleader anymore and, thanks, but I really don’t think I’m the hottest girl in town either.”

      “To me, you are.” Nick turned and faced Amber, gently taking both of her hands in his. “I would kill for your love.”

      “Oh my god, you are totally freaking me out,” Amber said, taking another swig from the flask and feeling a bit woozy.

Mole City, Part Three

      As Rose lay curled on her side on the concrete floor, hands folded beneath her head, Ox took off his jean vest and laid it across her small body. Angela still sat in his lap, rubbing his back.

      “Ox, I love the way you feel. Like a man. Not like a skinny little stoner boy.”

      “I thought you loved Nick?”

      “Well, all the girls love Nick, right? I guess I’ve always loved him and all… probably always will. But! I think it’s really actually probably like brother-sister love, you know, not boyfriend-girlfriend love.”

      Angela kissed him quickly on his lips. He hugged her. She bit his lip.

      “Ouch, that hurt,” he said, feigning pain. She ran a hand under the back of his t-shirt and scratched his back. Rose appeared to be asleep or at least pretending to be.

      “Oxford Lancaster,” Angela cooed in his ear. “Looks like you’re all mine tonight.”

The Bahas, Part Two

      As the midnight stars spangled above the dim trees, Nick stared into Amber’s eyes. Leaning forward, he kissed her once, softly, on her lips. With hesitation, she kissed him back. From the tape deck, the Replacements played “Sixteen Blue:” “your age is the hardest age, everything drags and drags…

      Tenderly, he ran his hands through her hair and down her cheeks. For a moment, his body trembled. Finally, in the May firelight, he kissed her again, deeply, and unzipped the front of her leather jacket.

      Running both hands inside the front of her orange t-shirt, he cupped her bare breasts. Both Amber and Nick let out a deep sigh. A tiny breeze passed and the two teenagers fell into each other.