Scherzo in C Minor for Bb Clarinet by Paul Koepke
The three of them walked all the way out to the oxbow pond on the Iowa River together, but Billy was really dragging his feet.
“Why so slow, Billy boy?” Ricky asked.
“Well, um… you know she’s gonna make us get naked out at the skinny-dipping pond, right?”
“Val? You haven’t forgotten about that by now? It’s damned cold, you know.” All three of them wore jackets as the October air turned chilly.
“I haven’t forgotten. We’ll do that eventually. Naked honesty, like in gazebo at Celephais. But not yet today.”
“I… I can’t do the naked thing, Valerie,” Billy complained.
“Yes, you can. You did it with Francois, Giselle, and I before Francoise died.”
“That dream stuff never really happened, you know. People can’t share dreams. Not really. We just remember talking about it with Francois. We just convinced ourselves we all had the same dreams.”
The three of them climbed through the barbed-wire fence around the pasture bordering the oxbow as Billy complained.
“It was real enough, no matter the actual truth of it. I remember it so vividly, it’s real now even if it wasn’t real then.”
They moved down to the flattened area of grass by the banks of the pond. They each selected a spot to sit where they could talk without making actual eye contact.
“Val, we heard about the dance. Billy, Terry, and me, we all decided we’d figure out some way to bring you out of your great sadness.”
“Yeah,” said Billy. “We know how dangerous depression is. And we don’t want you to miss another week of school.”
“Guys, what you’re doing about it here is enough. A place to talk… a place to say what’s true without any interference… That’s what I really need.”
“One thing that’s true is that I don’t want to take my clothes off while talking.”
“Shut up, Billy,” Ricky said. “When the time comes, I’ll strip you myself if I need to.”
Billy looked huffy and about to get mad, a rare thing for the skinny boy.
Valerie quickly interceded. “Nobody will make you do anything you don’t really want to do. Besides, I’ve already seen you naked, so there’s nothing to fret yourself about.”
“No, you haven’t! Celephais is not real. That was just in your dream.”
“Then how do I know your cute little thing was completely hairless back in the seventh grade?”
Billy swallowed audibly. “You’re just guessing.”
“Well, maybe so. But you don’t know for sure.”
It was quiet between the three of them for several long minutes.
“All I really need is someone to actually listen to me,” Valerie finally said. “You can both do that for me, can’t you?”
“Yeah,” they both said.
“In fact, I thought of something else that might help all three of us.” Ricky’s face was totally serious for a change.
“What’s that?” Val asked.
“Marahoochie cigarettes…” Ricky said.
“Marijuana. You know, the goof sticks. We three can get high together. It’ll make us get more creative like John Lennon did.”
“No, you can’t!” Billy said.
“It’s illegal. And your adopted dad is a cop. How will that look when Cliff has to put you in jail?”
“Ah, we don’t have to get caught. We’re smart enough to get away with it.”
“But it’s a gateway drug. We’ll end up on heroine, or maybe dead.”
“It’s not like that. Terry and I tried it. People don’t die from overdoses of marijuana. And it’s easy to control. It’s less addictive than regular cigarettes.”
“It’s my decision, isn’t it?” asked Valerie. “We’re here because of me, right?”
“But I don’t want to smoke anything.”
“We don’t have to smoke it. Terry and I can bake it into brownies.”
“Where are you gonna get it?” asked Billy. “You know any drug dealers around here?”
“Uncle Harker does.”
“Harker Dawes? Terry’s Uncle Harker?” Val was astounded.
“How does Harker Dawes know a drug dealer?”
“Well… you see… Harker runs Kingman’s Grocery Store now, since he lost the hardware store. And he has trouble dealing with the usual suppliers. So, he tried this new guy. And this new guy sold him some new-fangled health foods, you see. And the Mexican carrot greens were really marijuana.”
“Harker bought actual marijuana?” Billy asked.
“He did. But, of course, he didn’t know it was marijuana. He thought they were actually Mexican carrot greens.”
“You are trying to say Harker Dawes is that dumb? Or the food supplier?”
“The supply guy was using code for selling the drug. He thought Harker knew what it really was. But you know Harker. He believes whatever he’s told, even if it is a criminal telling him.”
“But he knows it now?” asked Val.
“Well… no. Terry wanted to tell him, but he doesn’t know any sign for marijuana. And he only speaks sign language.”
“Why didn’t you tell him?”
“Um, yeah… that’s how I’m gonna hook you up with some good weed. I already tried to smoke it. But it really worked best when we got Ma Dawes to bake some brownies with it inside. We told her Mexican carrot greens make good spice for brownies. Everybody really loves her brownies now.”
Billy and Valerie both stared in amazement at Ricky’s sneakers. They knew enough about the Dawes family, the family that adopted Terry during the blizzard, to know the story was absolutely true. But they were both too stunned to laugh.
“You’ll bring some brownies here, then?” Valerie asked.
Billy glared at the both of them. “You don’t expect me to break the law with you like that, do you?”
“Yes. And naked while you do it,” said Valerie.
“I could just report you both to Cliff and get you arrested.”
“But you won’t do that. You are too kind-hearted and too good of a friend,” said Valerie.
“I suppose you are right. But not naked, though.”
“Right. Not naked. For now.”