Fin hung up the phone and looked at me “He wants us to meet him at the hockey rink in a half an hour.”
“What time is it?”
“About 9 I think.” He said as he hoisted himself up off the floor of the living room to sit on the couch. I rolled over from my spot on the floor and sat up. Leaning against the wall under the windows of the living room and scratched my head trying to get rid of the nights cobwebs.
The diffused morning light penetrating the windows above my head gave us a false sense of twilight and it wasn’t until we made our way into the kitchen did we realize how late it truly was. The clock on the stove read 9:15 and we needed to hurry, daylight was wasting. We each got ourselves a glass of orange juice, some toast with peanut butter, got dressed and headed out to meet Fish.
It didn’t take us long to meet up with Fish at the now unused hockey rink at Allouez park. He was sitting on the boards working his way through a cigarette. “Where you guys been?” He shouted, as we approached.
“Relax man; we got all day and the bike aint going nowhere. Got a smoke?” I replied.
Fish jumped off the boards, pulled out the smokes and we all headed towards the dump. “What’d you all do last night?”
Fin finally piped up “Nothin’. Watched Creature from the Black Lagoon on T.J. and the ANT. Skip fell asleep halfway through. My mom got home around 3 I think.”
“I saw that was coming on but I couldn’t stay up. My parents came home and we all sat around playing Monopoly for a while. My dad wouldn’t let me stay up to watch that movie. Shit, I should have come over to your house Fin. We could have hung out all night and watched the movie.”
“Yeah, that would have been cool. And, we could have snuck next door and spied on Skip’s sisters.” Fin brainstormed.
“Leave my sisters out of this would you guys? I really get sick of you two talking about them.”
And with that comment the ribbing and smack talk began full force. Fin bragging about how he and my sister Debbie kissed. Fish saying how it should be him who is Debbie’s boyfriend. Just basic harassment that I tried to tune out, I was mostly successful.
By the time we got to the junk yard behind the cemetery on Webster Ave their enthusiasm had waned to just an occasional verbal jab. The truth was, I had started to become numb to all the comments, wisecracks and jabs my buddies had been making about my two older sisters over the past couple of years. It’s not that I didn’t care, I did, but with no new material for me to hear or any falsehoods to correct I just let the comments roll off my back like water on a duck.
We stood at the edge of the cemetery looking down into what we called the “Junk Yard”. It was really just an unauthorized dump site. A place where people would take all of their broken household appliances, used mattresses, boxes of old books, shopping carts and crates of secrets, dump them and then leave. Hoping, trusting and believing no one would find their unwanted trash and secrets. But we did.
We’d been scrounging there for years and had built up quite a collection of go-kart parts, tools, magazines, books and fort supplies. The place was a treasure trove for any kid with an imagination and a tool kit. It also served as a great hide out when any one or all of us were being chased by one or more of the multitude of school bullies we encountered. I used it occasionally as a place to sleep when my home life was a bit too stressful and Fin or Fish’s places were unavailable.
“I’ll start near Riverside Road and head toward our fort.” I volunteered, knowing that the largest concentration of refrigerators, washers, dryers and stoves were located there and that it would be the most difficult terrain to navigate. “Fin, why don’t you start over to the left and Fish you start near the road on the right and we’ll meet at the fort.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Fish said and headed out. Fin just shrugged and walked off mumbling under his breath.
We spent most of the day combing through the debris and rubbish. I was successful in finding a set of handlebars and a broken peddle which I brought up to the fort. When I arrived, Fish was sitting on a wooden fruit crate trying to straighten a rear wheel. “Skip! Man, check it out, I got a set of wheels, we just need some tires for them. They aint in bad shape but we have to straighten them out. What’d you find?” He peppered at me.
“Uh, I found a broken peddle and handle bars.” I stated as I tossed my treasure in the middle of the makeshift shack and sat on another discarded fruit crate and leaned against the wall. “You heard from Fin?”
“Nope, sure haven’t but I’m sure he’ll be along soon. Shoot, we’ve been here for a couple hours at least.”
We hung out for a while wasting our time bullshitting about how cool the bike was going to be, what color we were going to paint it, how high we were gonna be able to jump it and whether or not we would be successful in completing it in time for our camping trip. Fish was quite confident we’d finish in time. I voiced some concerns which he shot down with just a look. A look that said “C’mon man, stop being such a whiny bitch, you know it’ll get done.” We stopped talking only to have a smoke in silence.
The sounds of the dump invaded our thoughts and made it impossible to think. The clicking noises of settling metal, the dripping sounds of liquid leaking out of half empty trash bags, the chatter of squirrels and rats, the hissing of feral cats on the hunt all made for a symphonic blend of industrial and wildlife I’ve rarely experienced since in my life.
After we extinguished our cigarettes I pulled out the parts checklist from my pocket and crossed off the wheels, handlebars and added tires to the list. “I really don’t think this peddle is a good find. I think I’ll keep looking for a better set.” And I tossed the broken piece of metal to the side.
“Sounds good. Hm, maybe we should try to get a matched set off a bike.”
It was at about that moment we heard Fin crashing towards us. The noise he was making was drowned out only by the slew of cussing he was proclaiming towards every creature under heaven and above hell. “Fin! Calm down!” I shouted, as Fish and I stood up and headed toward the front of the fort. I got to the doorway first and stepped out to see Fin dragging two bike frames that looked as if they’d been run over by a train.
“Get over here and help me dammit!” Fin ordered.
Fish came out behind me and we headed towards Fin, we got to him just as he fell into a pile of trash bags. The cussing commenced in earnest. Fish and I slowed, paused and looked at each other, and then we busted out laughing. Fish was laughing so hard he doubled over and fell to his knees holding his sides. I fell backward and landed on a pile of pallets, gasping for breath I looked down at Fin as he tried to pick himself up. He looked like a turtle stuck on his back. Only he had two twisted, rusty, broken bike frames on top of his chest and tangled up with his arms and legs. His screaming at us to stop laughing and help him, made the whole situation that much funnier.
Out of frustration, defeat or just plain exhaustion Fin stopped yelling and moving. Fish and I got ourselves under control and got up to help him. Fish grabbed one of the bikes and I grabbed the other and within a few moments Fin was standing on his feet, smoking a cigarette and complaining about dragging the newfound frames halfway across the dump.
“Fin, you ever have anything good to say about any project we do? Hell, last summer you bitched about building the go-kart and the summer before that you complained when we built this fort. I’m not even going to go into all the crap you said about playing baseball.”
Fin and I just stood there staring at Fish. You see, Fish and I had pretty much come to ignore Fin’s negativity and outbursts over the past few years. Fish and I even had a long talk about it one night in his basement about what caused Fin to act the way he did. Our conclusion was a simple one, he was an only child, and he lived with his mom, saw his father once or twice a year and only talked with his mom once a day. He had a lot to be bitter about. On the up-side, he had everything he ever wanted. Both his parents over-compensated for their absence in his life by spending money on toys.
In truth, we were jealous of his toys but not his loneliness. Fish, I believe, actually envied Fin’s loneliness from time to time since he had two sisters he was usually looking after or doing things for. On the rare occasion when we hung out in Fish’s basement we were usually interrupted by their persistent chattering and incessant questions of what we were doing. I suppose we were all conflicted from time to time about our own particular family issues.
Fin brushed himself off as Fish and I started to drag the frames the 20 feet to the fort. Walking behind Fish, I noticed the frame he had in his hands had a set of matched peddles and chain. Both peddles and chain were rusted but I believed they could be salvaged. I looked down at the frame I was dragging and noticed it had a good front sprocket, front and rear cantilever brakes. Hell, we really scored on Fin’s find.
When all three of us got into the fort we sat around starring at Fin’s frames. Fish spoke first. “Good catch man, lots of good stuff we can use here. Hell, you even got a chain we can use. Just have to soak it in oil for a day or two.”
“Yeah, Fin, good find. Man, where did you find these?”
“Shit, they were under a bunch of crap. But, I did find a box of Playboy’s as well.”