We went out to the Dunes Apartments. Gar dimmed, then cut the lights. We blackened our faces, hoisted the gas can and walked in the dark all the way out to where the bonfire was waiting, dry and thirsty. It was autumn in Texas, but the night air was still plenty sticky.
“Do you think they’ll figure it was us?” I asked.
Gar looked at me, a slow smile formed on his lips. “Maybe, but if nobody sees us, they got nothin’.”
The woodpile rose up in front of us like an ancient funeral pyre revamped for the Gods of Football. Without this traditional sacrifice, our enemies would not be able to hold their major university event. The Sigs would not be able to deliver their speeches in their golf shirts. The girls who wouldn’t talk to us would have nothing to replace their Look-At-Me I’m A Football Queen calling card, the ROTC might fall silent. As for the cowboy rednecks, I guessed, it would give them some criminals to hunt.
“We gotta get this thing done!” said Gar, and he started pouring gas.
When it was fully saturated, I took the matches and Whoosh! The massive pyre went up in flames that exploded into the night, and presto, it was more like daylight than the day itself. We were fully illuminated there, we could see each other perfectly, staring back, eye to eye.
“Run!” said Gar, and we took off.
Sirens sounded instantly. We headed to the adjacent corn field. Fire trucks, cops, and ambulances immediately descended upon the scene in absolutely no time. We lay face down out there in the field. Somewhere they began small planes overhead. Spotlights circled around. It all happened so fast. We could hear them talking about us. My feeling of euphoria turned slightly sick.
“Gar,” I whispered. “What do you think our chances are?”
“If we are smart, then pretty good,” he whispered back.
The spotlights stopped above us and went in a different direction, then we were up and running. Periodically we dove face down in the field as if we were on military maneuvers. A car headed our way. Up and down, we zigged and zagged. Finally, we made it to Salt Creek Bridge. We were about to cross when we saw what looked like a convoy coming toward us.
“Quick, go down!” said Gar.
“The water?” I asked.
“No, under the bridge, quick!” Gar hissed as he was already over the rail with me right in behind him.
The convoy rolled straight onto the bridge and stopped. I couldn’t breathe. Sweat poured from every single pore in my body. If they caught us, it would be jail for sure.
“They couldn’t have gotten that far,” said a voice.
Lights hit the water. This was going to be it, I could feel it.
“They could be in the water,” said another. They widened the scope of the spotlight.
“They might have crossed over, they could still be up there ahead,” said a deputy sheriff.
Their boots hit the top of the bridge and sounded like a Stampede to Righteousness.
“Want me to take Clem and look under the bridge?” asked a searcher.
“No, no need in that, we’re losing time. They are getting away. Let’s go!”
We heard the clip-clopping of boots as they got into their vehicles, the rumble of their ignitions, then they vanished like searchers of a fireball into the night. Gar and I looked at each other and finally breathed.
“Ok, let’s go,” he said. Then we were off across the bridge.
It was smooth for a long time, although cars, lights, and voices sent us into the brush. Finally, at about 3:30 in the morning, we arrived at The Dunes to apartment #65 and beat on the door. Sharla Hanson was Ben D.’s girlfriend. The one he had sliced up our lobby for. She shuffled to the door and looked through the door hole.
“What are you two doing?” Sharla asked.
“Hide us!” I said.
“It was you two?” she asked incredulously.
“It was,” said Gar looking as though he had just escaped from a Vietnam Jungle.
“Yep,” I said. “The Phi Sigs are gonna be pissed.”
“That isn’t even the word for it!” Sharla said as she tried to shake the sleep clouding her head.
“Ben here?” asked Gar.
“Uh no,” said Sharla.
“Good, he’s half-way a traitor. We might have to kill him.” Gar smirked.
I looked down. The truth is hard. You wake up one day and all your heroes are gone.
“Got any food?” asked Gar.
“You guys! Geez! I’m gonna feel like crap tomorrow,” said Sharla.
There was bologna and pressed ham, lots of water and three sandwiches later, we cleaned up and somewhere in there Gar and I dozed off like two convicts on a watch which we kinda were.
Sharla had an 8 o’clock meeting for the honor society and she dropped us at the frat house. The first person we met up with was no less than Alton Fields.
He looked at us. The distaste literally oozed from his eyes like a Yellow Belly Infection.
“Aren’t you two late for class somewhere?” he asked.
“Yep,” said Gar as I was shaking my head.
People were always asking me about my classes when I hadn’t been in any of them in weeks. “How’s your classes?” “Oh, just great,” I’d answer “I hate Biology,” they would say, and I would just nod. Pretending all the time like I actually went to classes. I kinda knew where my lot was ending.
“Gar,” I’m going to take a nap.”
“Sure thing,” he said.
“Lay low for awhile, that’s what I’m gonna do.”
He headed for the door and looked back at me, raising his hand like a victorious warrior.
I slept that afternoon and dreamed of spotlights and jail time, but when I awoke, the officials were still looking for the culprits who smoked all the fun out of Bonfire Night. Today there would be classes and papers, and outlines and speeches, homework and science experiments. But not for me. I had decided to take Alton’s advice and pack up my guitar, my amp, and just go and see where the music might take me, you know, just soar into the Eighties.