9/03/2012

Laughing Sam's Dice - Chapter 2: Valleys of Neptune




A half hour passed once Sixeye arrived at Chalkface's house.  His parents were still asleep but their friend, Talon had previously spent the night there and once Sixeye, and later Chalkface's cousin, had arrived, they were wide awake and helping the two pack their supplies into what they called the Shaggin' Wagon.  This was a traditional "Hippie" volkswagon van, which had been given an elaborate paint job and outfitted with a decal of an American flag fixed behind the peace symbol in the front.  There was also a large sticker placed on the back window that stated "IF THIS VAN'S ROCKIN', DON'T BOTHER KNOCKIN'."  It belonged to Chalkface's cousin, Fritz Sheppard, a so-called "hippie" who chose hold on to the last of what was left of the culture.  Sixeye himself was a hippie of sorts, not being able to truly delve ino the culture when it was thriving, since he was only a kid when it took the world by storm.  He mainly stuck with it because of its acceptance of people from all backgrounds and the concepts of free love, which interested him growing up as he dealt with the racial tension that were prevalent in Ladyland as well as the rest of the world during the Civil Rights Movement.  Now that the time of "peace" was over, he considered himself to be the last of a dying breed, being one of the only hippies left around since they were so scarce these days, especially in Ladyland.

This was particularly difficult, as it was a regular occurence to see a black (or in his case, mixed) person thrown in with the other hippies, but in today's time, the concept of a black guy like himself being interested in the growing metal and punk fads that were currently sweeping through California was rare to say the least, which made him even more unique than he'd originally thought.  Chalkface himself said when he first got to know Sixeye that he had originally percieved him to be "one of those Disco-loving black dudes who kept to themselves."  Sixeye didn't have as much of a problem with Disco music as Chalkface did, but it was still surprising for him and the rest of their, now close, friends, when they discovered that a black guy was interested in their favorite genre of music.

Fritz Sheppard, however, at the ripe old age of 29, was about as far from a hippie as a hippie could get.  He wore the right clothing and had the right unkempt heavily bearded appearance, complete with a pair of huge round glasses and a large curly jew 'fro with a suit tie tied tightly around it.  He had the right posture, smoked the right cannabis, drove a hippie's van, and spoke the same hippie slang.  The one inconsistency was that he wasn't exactly into the free love.  To sum it up, he was a douchebag of the worst kind.  An anti-hippie in attitude.  He wasn't a nice person in the least and hardly treated anyone with respect, even his fellow peers.  It was a wonder how he had any kind of social life at all.  He had originally neglected to take Chalkface's friends with them to the festival from the start, but after some consoling and bribery (but mostly bribery), he finally came around to their side.  For the most part.  It was apparent, however, that the slightest mistake could and would change his mind, so they all decided to be on their absolute best behavior to avoid the risk of striking a chord and ruining their chances of going to the show.  Once they were there, he could fuck off.

Accompanying them was an old friend of theirs, Talon.  His real name was Mitch Whitley, but no one, not even Talon himself, could recall the origin of his nickname.  He had owned it since before he knew Sixeye or Chalkface and even his parents called him by it.  Sixeye had known Talon since Elementary, before he'd even met Chalkface.  The two weren't close or even friends for that matter; they'd both been put in the same class in the 3rd grade during a time when no white students interacted with black students, being that the Civil Rights Movement had brought a new beginning to integrated schools but tension was still thick in the air.  Talon didn't start interacting with Sixeye until their middle school years, during which time Talon was finding his own identity through the emergence of punk rock, a style of which he quickly adapted to.  Talon was skinny with curly black hair and skin that was slightly pale but not even close when compared to Chalkface's.  He always sported a pair of spikey wrist bands, as well as sleeveless shirts, cut by himself and a pair of skinny jeans torn at the knees.

As dawn began to approach and the sky was lightening up in the distance, the boys took turns packing their bags and other supplies into the back of Fritz Sheppard's Wagon.  Fritz leaned onto the driver's side door, smoking a cigarette as he waited for the others to get their things ready.

"You guys need to pick up the pace," Fritz Sheppard noted lazily.  "If it were just me and Noel Nelson, we'd be gone by now.  And be careful where you throw your shit too, I don't want you spilling liquids in the back.  Its a bitch to clean out."

"Gotcha," Sixeye muttered as he threw in the last bag.  "I appreciate you taking us, Fritz Sheppard.  That was pretty solid of you"-

"Hey," Fritz Sheppard called, turning to him with a sour look.  "Don't talk to me."

Sixeye put up his hands defensively and backed off.  Fritz Sheppard, as they had been told earlier by Chalkface, didn't like to be called anything other than "Fritz Sheppard."  Not even the shortened "Fritz."  He wanted to be called by his full name at all times; arguing some point about it being lazy or disrespectful to shorten his name, seeing as he was given a last one for a reason.  The explaination came out slightly clearer in his own words, but the fact of the matter was that if one were to simply just call him Fritz, he was prone to throwing a fit and going on a tyrade, ruthelessly explaining the purpose of being called by his full name, Fritz Sheppard, in full detail at very high volume.  And no one wanted that.

Sixeye circled around the van and walked back into the house just as Fritz Sheppard shouted back another request for them to "hurry the hell up."  He walked into the house and headed for the kitchen where he saw Chalkface and Talon horseplaying around as they wrestled each other to the floor.  Sixeye smirked and leaned against the wall post.

"You guys never take a break, do you?" he asked.

"Not enough time left on earth to do that," Talon strained, struggling his way out of Chalkface's tight grip around his arm as Chalkface dug his chin into the small of his back.  Talon cried out in a mixture of pain and laughter.

"Yeah, well we better head out, dudes.  Your brother's been calling us for like an hour and I think he's probably seconds away from leaving us.  Seriously Chalkface, you need to tell your brother to mellow out,* for real."

"Cousin, Sixeye," Chalkface said loudly pushing himself off of Talon and helping him to his feet.  "Cousin.  And do you really think I should take that chance?  We should probably save any complaints we have for when we're behind those fences at Villanova Junction, or else risk getting our asses thrown out of the van in the middle of nowhere."

"Wait, Villanova Junction?" Sixeye said with worry.  "I thought it was going to be at Shire Village like its always been."

"No, didn't I tell you?  They moved it to Villanova Junction as part of the legal agreement from the trial."

"That's totally jive,* man," Talon said, walking over to Chalkface's side.  "Villanova Junction is all the way in Black Gold County.  That's like 3 hours away."

"Yeah, that's why we're leaving so early," Chalkface said, heading for the refrigerator.  He reached in and grabbed a few cans of Minute Maid, handing two of them to the boys.

"Do you really think Blackhorse's mom is going to let him go all the way to Black Gold County for the weekend?" Sixeye asked, cracking open his can and taking a sip.

"Nope," Chalkface replied as he grabbed the last two of the Minute Maid cans and closed the refridgerator.  "Which is why I'm not telling him until after we pick him up."

"This is already not going to end well," Sixeye muttered as he folllowed Chalkface out of the house.

"Quit talking all that static* and focus on the possibilities."  Chalkface let the two walk through the door before closing it behind them.  "They call this thing the Rite of Passage Festival for a reason.  We're going to go into that place as boys.  By the end of the weekend, we'll be coming out of it as men."

"I pay bills," Sixeye shrugged.  "So I figure I'm already a man."

"No, you're still a boy with man responsibilites.  We'll all make that transition by the end of the week.  Besides, it'll be an even bigger accomplishment to get these Silver Bullets to pop their cherries."

"Hey!" Talon shouted with offense as Sixeye and Chalkface laughed.  Talon and Blackhorse were both Silver Bullets, meaning they were still virgins.  As part of their initial agreement, Chalkface made a bet with the two of them that if they were to come to this Festival, they would both have to lose their virginities within the weekend or else they'd owe him $500 bucks.  This was also a connected bet, meaning that they BOTH lose their virginities or they BOTH owe him $500 bucks.  If Talon were to lose his and Blackhorse didn't, they'd both still have to pay up.  That meant it would have to be a team effort.  If they both won, however, Chalkface would owe them both $100 dollars, as per terms of the bet.

"No fucking way!" Fritz Sheppard exclaimed, nearly screaming from the van.  "You gave them the last of the Minute Maid?!"

"It was either that or mom's Tab and I'm sure they didn't want that.  Relax, I brought you one too."

"You better had," he responded poisonously as he headed back to the van and stepped in through the driver's side.  "We're already late as it is."

"What does being late have to do with you getting the last of the Minute Maid?" Talon asked, scratching through his wool-like hair.

"I don't know, but when you're working on Fritz's logic, you pretty much have to go with whatever he says."

Suddenly, Fritz Sheppard stepped out of the van and circled to the front of it with an antagonizing demeanor.  "What the fuck did you just call me?"

"I said Fritz Sheppard!"

Fritz Sheppard squinted his eyes and jabbed his finger at Chalkface threateningly.  "Watch yourself," he muttered as he got back into the van, his eyes fixed on the three of them.

"How the hell did he hear you?" Sixeye asked with surprise, turning to Chalkface.

He shook his head and walked toward the van.  "Let's just get in the car before he changes his mind.  Again."

--------------------------------------------------

It took quite a bit of consulting to get Fritz Sheppard to agree to pick up Blackhorse, since he had been under the impression that all of the friends that would be accompanying them on the trip would be at Chalkface's house when he arrived. When he figured out that he would have to pick up Blackhorse on the way there, he initially had a fit and refused to do it, but after Chalkface convinced him otherwise, he relunctantly took the path to his place, mumbling his disapproval very audibly on the way there.  The reason why Blackhorse hadn't been able to sleepover at Chalkface's house with Talon in the first place was because of his mother.  To say she was overprotective was the understatement of the century; she might as well have had him on a leash.  Or worse even, a chain.  Or chains.  The extent of her influence was bad.  Very bad.

When the Wagon pulled up in front of his house.  The three of them extted the vehicle and walked across his shrub-covered yard up to the doorstep, ignoring Fritz Sheppard's threats to hurry.  Chalkface knocked rather loudly to get his attention and didn't let up until he heard someone on the other side scream back at him.

"All right all right, I'm coming!" called a deep voice from behind the door.

Chalkface turned to the others.  "Pretty soon that's what half the girls at the festival will be screaming when I get in there."  Sixeye reached up and slapped him on the back of the head just as the door opened.  There stood a lanky teenager with dark russet skin, his silk Native American hair down to his shoulders.  He gazed sleeply through the screen door between him and his friends.  His name was Dakota Blackhorse and he was the fourth and final member of their quartet.  He was also the only member that graduated from high school, since his mother caught on fairly quickly around the time he tried to dropout with the others.  Now with a GED and a college already chosen and lined up for the future, it would most likely mean that he would be the first of them to leave Ladyland and the group behind; And with that, probably become the most successful out of the bunch.  Out of the three of his friends, Sixeye knew Blackhorse the most.  They had been buddies since as far back as Elementary.  Out of the wide range of groups that the two had coincided with in their time of growing up, Sixeye and Blackhorse were always the constants that existed in each of them.  But the fact that he would be heading off to Columbia University in only two or three months made his inclusion on this trip a neccessity, which was the main argument Chalkface used to convince Fritz Sheppard to bring him along.

"You guys had to come over this early, huh?" Blackhorse asked in exhaustion, rubbing the back of his head as he began to yawn.

"Don't complain," Chalkface replied irritably.  "We almost didn't come at all.  Fritz Sheppard is getting on my last nerve."

"Can we come in?" Sixeye asked.

"Yeah, sure.  Just keep it down.  My mom is probably still asleep"-

"Dakota," called a voice from down the hall.  Blackhorse turned to see his mother peering out of her room at him.  "I hope you checked to see who it was before you answered it."

"I did, mom," he said unlocking the screen door and letting the trio in.  "It's the guys, here to pick me up."

"Why so early?" She asked worriedly as they began to step inside.  "I thought the Festival doesn't start until 8am.  Shire Village is only a few miles away."

The three of them exchanged nervous glances before Sixeye decided to address her.  "Uh, yeah we just wanted to get everybody together so we could get some breakfast and hang out before the show."

"Oh," his mother said, taking a breath of relief.  "I thought you were going to tell me they moved it farther away and you guys were leaving early because of the long distance.  I was going to say, the whole thing would have to be stopped there."

"Yeah," Chalkface chuckled nervously before his smile disappeared and he tapped Blackhorse on his shoulder.  "Get your stuff and let's go."

Blackhorse led the way down through the house, which was outfitted with various Native American trinkets that had been passed down from each generation and provided for a nice unique decorative interior to their home.  He led the three of his visitors into his room, which contrasted drastically with the rest of the house.  It was covered in a wide array of rock memorabilia, including posters, autographed records, and cassette tapes skewed across the floor with various chicken scratch marker labels across them.  On one side of the room, there was a rather large poster of five females posing seductively in front of a dark city with a black cadillac's headlights illuminating behind them.  The females were wearing massive amounts of make-up and tight clothing.

"So I've got a plan for this thing," Blackhorse said while grabbing some of his clothes and shoving them into the bag on his bed.

"First of all, I want to ask you a question," Chalkface said sternly, watching him pack his things.  "Why aren't you packed yet?"

Blackhorse turned to him and shrugged.  "I forgot.  Sorry."

Chalkface sighed with annoyance.  He knew that Fritz Sheppard wouldn't be waiting long for them.  "Anyway, continue."

"Yeah, I was saying I've got a plan."

"For what, the Festival?"

"Well yeah.  But its a little deeper than that.  Its about your bet."

"Which bet?" Sixeye asked.  "We have a dozen bets going on at once."  This was true.  In the span of a couple of hours, the three of them had been able to accumulate a plethora of wagers based on various circumstances that were bound to arise at this event, kept track of by a gambling Bet List that Talon kept in his pocket.

"The Silver Bullet Bet," Blackhorse answered.  "The one about Talon and I losing our virginity."

"Losing your what?!" shouted Blackhorse's mother as she leaned into the room with shock.

"Losing our Sanity, mom," Blackhorse responded nonchalantly, as if he had handled damage control of this kind many times before.  "Its an expression we use.  You heard wrong."

"I could have sworn you said"-

"I didn't, mom.  You can relax now."

Blackhorse's mother softened a bit and finally stepped away from the doorway.  "Close my door please," Blackhorse said politely, as Talon reached over and shut it for him.

"Your mom needs to take a chill pill*," Talon said as he walked back to the group.

"Yeah.  As I was saying, I've picked my target."

"Your target?" Chalkface repeated suspiciously.

"Yeah.  As in who I will be losing my virginity too."

"You know somebody that's going to be there?"

"You could say that," Blackhorse shrugged, edging his head over at the poster of girls on the wall behind him.  The three of them looked over at it curiously.

"The Punchlines," Sixeye said plainly, referring to the All-girl rock band of which they were all aware that Blackhorse was a big fan.  "They're going to be at the Fesitval?"

"Yes.  And their lead singer, Cherie?"  Blackhorse turned and pointed to the blonde girl in the center of the poster.  "That's my target."

As if on cue, Sixeye and Chalkface looked at each other and burst into hysterical laughter, Talon following after them as he finally caught on, though his was very obviously forced.  Blackhorse rolled his eyes and turned back to stuff the rest of his things into his bag.

"Who, what, when, where, and how the fuck do you expect to do that?" Chalkface asked, holding his mouth as he stifled his laughter to speak.  "Come on man, look at you."

"Well, jeez, just stab me in the chest and twist it 360, why don't you?" Blackhorse said, whipping toward him in offense.

"I don't mean it like that, I mean look at all of us.  None of us are exactly the David Cassidy type."

"What makes you think she'd want to be with the David Cassidy type?  You don't know her."

"Yeah but Cherie's famous, dude," Sixeye countered.  "Chances of her NOT wanting a guy like that are pretty low.  I mean, she's at the point where she could get any guy she wants."

"I heard she's dating that John Travolta cat from that Grease movie that's supposed to be coming out next week," Talon interjected.

"Listen," Blackhorse said, turning to them.  "I don't care what's been heard, what's been said, or what you guys think she might be like.  I'm just telling you what my plans are."

Chalkface snorted.  "Okay dude."

"You know what?" Blackhorse said with a smirk, stepping toward him.  "How about this?  I counter bet your Silver Bullet bet."

"Ooooh," Sixeye and Talon exclaimed simultaneously, exchanging looks as Chalkface smirked back, standing his ground.

"Okay," he said, unphased.  "Write it down, Talon."

Talon pulled the Bet List from his pocket and unfolded it, grabbing hold of the pen clamped over his shirt.  He readied it as Blackhorse stated the terms.

"Noel 'Chalkface' Nelson, I counter bet your bet for me to lose my virginity at the Rite of Passage Rock Festival with a bet for me to lose my virginity to Cherie Madness, lead singer of the Punchlines at the same festival within the course of the 3 days that we'll be there.  The counter bet toll will be $400 dollars."

"Holy shit," Sixeye exclaimed.  "That means if Blackhorse loses his virginity to Cherie, you'll owe him $500 dollars."

"And in the agreement of the Silver Bullet bet, which pulls Talon into this, he'll owe an additional $500 dollars to him too," Blackhorse declared.

"Wow," Talon said with surprise.  "So if Blackhorse loses his virginity to Cherie and I also lose my virginity, Chalkface will owe us both $500 dollars, meaning he'd have to cough up a grand in total."

"That's fine with me," Chalkface shrugged with a devious grin.  "But let's get this straight.  Based on the terms you've just set, if you lose your virginity to Cherie and Talon doesn't lose his virginity at all, you get nothing.  And if you both lose your virginities but yours is not to Cherie, you get nothing.  In fact, you'll both owe me a total of $900 bucks cash, in both circumstances."

"Wait, that can't be right," Talon intervened.  "If we lose our virginities but Blackhorse doesn't to Cherie, we would just owe you $300.  That is if the terms of the original bet still stand."

"Do they, Blackhorse?"

Blackhorse swallowed hard but held his ground.  "The circumstances do, the money doesn't."

"Oh jeez," Sixeye said, rubbing the back of his head.  "Are you that sure of yourself, Blackhorse?"

"Yeah I am," he muttered.  "Keeping the original bet in makes it too complicated, the only thing kept the same is the added bet toll.  That settles it.  We both lose our virginities, mine to Cherie, Chalkface owes us both $500.  If either doesn't happens, we owe him $900."

"Each," Chalkface said plainly.  "Either way, somebody's getting paid by the end of this weekend."

"I honestly have no idea how you guys are getting the money," Sixeye replied, shaking his head.  "Because I'm not lending anybody anything."

"No need.  I've got my funds and I'm willing to work out a payment plan for these bozos once I win.  Now keep it moving, Blackhorse, we've got to get going really soon or Fritz Sheppard is going to leave us.  By the way, just so you know, they moved the Festival to Villanova Junction in Black Gold County, which is why we got here so early.  Its going to be a long drive so bring all you want for the trip."

"Right, okay," he said turning back around to tend to his bags.  As the others lounged around the room, waiting for him to finish, a small brownish cat crept from under Blackhorse's bed and walked by them.  Talon spotted it first and picked it up gingerly.

"Aw, kitty," he said softly, holding it up to his face before it lost its temper and began to repeatedly slap its claws across his face.  "Aw fuck!"

He dropped the cat quickly and watched it scurry back under the bed as Talon rubbed the blood from his cheeks.  "Dude, your cat just tried to kill me."

"When did you get a cat anyway?" Sixeye asked.  "I don't remember you having one the last time we were over here."

"Yeah, we just came home one day and he was in the house," Blackhorse answered.  "He didn't try to kill us like he did Talon so we let him stay around, bought food for him and everything.  Talon, there are some bandaids in the bathroom, go fix yourself up."

"Stupid pussy," Talon said angrily, walking out of the room.

"He should have known better," Chalkface said pitifully, shaking his head.  "He knows animals hate him.  Its going to be that much harder for him to get laid with all those bandaids on his face."

"Alright, I'm ready," Blackhorse confirmed, slinging his bag over his shoulder.  "Let's get out of here."

Sixeye led the way out of the room and they headed for the door, Talon accompanying him when he was finally patched up.  Before they left, Blackhorse stopped by his mother's room to bid her farewell.

"Remember what I told you," she said sternly before he exited her room.  "I only let you go to this festival if you promised to find a payphone to call me every twelve hours.  Don't break your promise, Dakota."

"Mom, I won't, okay?  Take care of yourself.  I'll be back on Monday."

"Alright honey.  I love you.  And be careful."

"Love you too, mom."

"Aw," Chalkface teased as Blackhorse led the way to the front door and opened it for them.  He rolled his eyes, stepping outside but as he walked off of the porch, a confused look rested on his face.

"Um," he muttered as he looked out on the frontyard for the van that was currently not parked in front of the house where it should have been.  "Where's your cousin's van, Chalkface?"

"Ah shit," he swore aloud as he scanned the road in front of the house.

"He didn't actually leave us, did he?" Sixeye asked, walking up beside the others and surveying the area for any sign of the missing van.

"Ah shit!" Chalkface said, this time with force.

"What's wrong, man?" Talon asked with worry.

Chalkface walked forward and turned back to them with anguish in his eyes.  "He did leave us."

There was silence in the group as a deep sense of realization hit them.  "He even left you?" Blackhorse asked, feeling the guilt creep upon him.

"Of course he left me.  He doesn't like me anymore than he likes you guys.  The only reason why he agreed to take me this year was because his dad made him do it as punishment for some shit he did to get arrested last Christmas.  We took too long inside and he probably got impatient."

"Dude," Blackhorse said genuinely.  "I am so sorry.  I had no clue he was going to do that."

"Its casual,* man, he probably left the moment we stepped inside the house."

"So what do we do now?" Sixeye asked, at a lost for a plan.

"I don't know.  But I'll tell you one damn thing.  We're going to that festival.  Somehow.  With or without him."

Valleys of Neptune by Jimi Hendrix

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