“Bring out the tires and open fires…for the snow that’s headed here.
Bring out that one last drink…before I take on life’s frontier.”
“Clear skies for Silver City tonight so far, but not too late after midnight we will be hit hard with one of the most dangerous blizzards we’ve had in, what Bob, a decade? It should be just over southeast Iowa right now, headed for our part of Illinois.” “Oh yes, yes I do believe so Richard,” the other low pitched radio personality agreed automatically as if reading from a script. “Send the South American immigrants back where they came from—at least, those who weren’t deported this past year.” “…Oh yeah, that 1996 deportation bill. Not working out the way those immigrants expected, eh? At least the cold front will change their mind about where their loyalties lie…”
“Yes, yes I do believe so.” Adrian mimicked the monotonous voice as the dry highway passed underneath him at thirty-five miles an hour, while strip malls and gas stations seemed to walk past him. “Clear skies alright. Bring on the good stuff.” He said to himself as he changed the radio station from talk to alternative rock, and immediately started nodding his head to The Strokes. “And what a great night this is to party with your friends as well.” He added to himself in the same radio personality voice.
He made a quick left turn at the Speedy Market and whipped his car around making a perfect parking job in front of the gas station. Inside, two smartly-dressed men chatted about the very subject just being discussed on the radio station. “Yes, not in the least bit surprising for the sort of Midwestern spring patterns we’ve had in past years—”
“The whole constarn Mississippi River will be frozen over tonight with those kind of temperatures—”
“Let’s hope the Silver City fish market likes frozen trout…”
“Don’t forget the frozen fishers…”
“It’d be a great fishing opportunity for those Wisconsin Eskimos…no competition.”
The only thing Adrian could think about was the spring break party he was to attend at a very close friend’s house in the far, northwestern farming hamlets of Silver City. His friend once had lived but a mile and a half away from Adrian’s place, but when his last living grandparent passed away, his family had subsequently inherited a house in the quaint stone quarry village of Little Granite. It was a village where the police officers were busy drinking their problems away at a quaint coffee shop on High Street, while the seniors were busy elsewhere in warm basements biting time with a nice bottle of Smirnoff. That’s where Adrian was headed to, and when the time permitted, he had something very important to talk about with his best friend.
He swiftly picked out a nice two-liter bottle of Hawaiian Punch which was a great mixer for a chilly night like this—and took it directly to the counter. “Workin’ the night shift?” He asked the good-looking cashier woman, who seemed to be in her early twenties—not much older than he. Talking about work to an eleven o’clock gas station clerk was always an excellent ice breaker, as boring as it seemed. The woman looked up from the touch screen and smiled.
“Thank the almighty no.” She said and laughed. “For once I am lucky to be off as early as one tonight.” She scanned the two-liter of fruit punch.
“Seems to be your lucky day then eh?” He slid his debit card, eyeing the woman the whole conversation.
“You headed somewhere warm?” She asked.
“You better believe it. I’m getting some friends together, playing some games, you wanna join after one o’clock?”
“I’m sorry kid.” She smiled. “My boyfriend is preparing some nice hot chocolate for my return.”
He winced. “I got something better.”
“I know you do. But that’s why I have this.” She held up a ringed finger. “I’ve got promises to keep, you follow?” She grinned.
“Well, thanks a lot. Drive safe, I hope you’ve kept your snow tires on for the season.” Adrian laughed sarcastically and walked out the door to the sharp, chilly wind that had recently arrived while he was inside. The cold front was right on its way. For once, the weather predictions were right on target.
Never in his high school career did Adrian ever have real luck at talking like this to random girls he met Sweet-talking gas station clerks was no professional’s game, but it was a great way to keep him in good shape. Most girls could not resist Adrian’s wavy, brown hair and his muddy brown eyes, his perfect height of five feet ten inches and certain scrawny build. But he had told himself he was going to forget dating for a while until after he graduated. He felt that all high school girls were too inexperienced and too immature for his taste. He put all his hopes on college girls—and if he had a choice, European ones. But that was only a fantasy. Adrian had never traveled more and one hundred miles away from Silver City, and he didn’t expect that he would ever have the chance.
The suburban highway soon turned into a country turnpike over a few more slow rock songs. After a few exits, he made his last turn onto a two-lane highway that rode him north a few miles to the village of Little Granite. In a quiet neighborhood just off of the main highway, Adrian pulled in front of an old-looking, two-story stone house. As he got out of his car, the clouds started to sprinkle little confetti snowflakes that melted as soon as they hit his black, woolen coat.
Adrian approached the house up on a slight hill and just let himself in through the back screen door. As he thumped down the stairs carrying the two-liter of fruit punch, he noticed that the basement had suddenly gone quiet.
“Guys it’s only me. No worries.” Adrian assured the six who populated the bar counter area of the basement. They had all frozen looks of worry on their faces.
“Jeez Adrian, at least whistle before you come down, so we know it’s you?” Cried his friend Steve, who was scrawny with flaming red hair and freckles
“C’mon guys, it’s not like the Vine’s don’t even know that we were gonna be drinking tonight.”
“They know?” asked Jesse, Adrian’s best friend and also the party host.
“Well,” Adrian scoffed, “I don’t know if they know, but I think I know they’d be smart enough to know what we know…you know?”
“Lost me there.”
“After all,” Steve said with a grin, “it is you two’s birthdays one after another this coming weekend am I right or am I right? And look, Jesse’s mom even made us cupcakes, Adrian. Cupcakes. Eighteen of them, how appropriate. Now tell me, would they really do that if they knew what we were into tonight?”
“Well then!” Adrian laughed. “I can say one thing. If his parents really do know what we are up to tonight, then we fellas are being pampered…like kings.”
“Who needs parents to be pampered when you got this?” Jesse grinned, and pulled the winner out from under the bar counter. “Steve, get a piece of paper, it’s time to make new rules for our little drinking games.”
About twenty minutes had passed, and most of them already had a few shots.
“No Jesse, I refuse to drink on a game that you’ve invented. You call taking three shots of straight Smirnoff after rolling a seven a fair rule? There’s ten million freaking ways to role a flippin’ seven!” Steve complained after already six shots.
“It’s not our fault you only weigh a buck-twenty and still seventeen.”
“Hey and it’s not my fault my parents got busy later than all of y’all’s parents and didn’t eat no calories the following nine months neither.”
“You’ve been drinking way longer than any of us put together. And fix your grammar please!”
“I believe Adrian hasn’t had even four shots yet.” Jesse said, breaking the string of arguments. Adrian’s heart skipped a beat. He had hoped to be the last to get drunk so he could create the illusion of having the strongest stomach.
“Steve, let’s make a few new rules, shall we?” Jesse said with an evil grin aimed at Adrian.
“Why yes, Jesse. What a capital idea.” Steve grinned as well. “Every single person who roles a seven…Adrian does three shots.”
“C’mon Steve, that’s like suicide.” Adrian complained.
“Now that I think about it—I believe it’s only fair that we both have to take three shots at every seven rolled.” Jesse piped in. “It’s a birthday party for the both of us, you remember that. If he gets drunk, so be it…I do too.”
“Aw Jesse you were always such a great friend, seeing as how you weigh more than me and all, right? Better metabolism, hmmm?” Adrian cooed. “I bet you could take Hurricane Smirnoff if you wanted.”
“Yeah that’s right; I will always be there for my birthday twin.”
“Well then, bring on the rules, why not!” Adrian cheered, and Jesse and Steve got to work writing down some new rules for their drinking game.
One by one, Jesse Vine and Adrian Swanson’s friends retired drunkenly for the night, sprawled over the multiple couches and sleeping pads on the basement floor. Adrian and Jesse were the only ones awake, and swaying dangerously.
“What you say we go outside on your back patio eh Jesse?” Adrian asked, clutching his head. “Some fresh blizzard air will be great for the both of us.”
“I agree… I can't believe we are still alive after the last of that bottle. I feel like a patient about to have the plug pulled.”
Adrian helped Jesse up out of his cushioned seat and after grabbing their warm jackets, hats and gloves, they both staggered towards the stairs and slowly made the trip up and outside to the back patio.
“Woah!” Adrian exclaimed at the Hallmark Christmas card scene outside. The entire sky was washed out with light bluish gray hues and the pines lining the border of the back yard were barely visible through the thick clouds of snow falling down onto the white blanket covering the ground.
“And to think we were getting busy with that bottle downstairs… but little did we know that upstairs, Mother Nature was getting busy with hers as well!” Jesse uttered slowly. Adrian laughed at this with narrow eyes. At this point, anything was funny. He was, however, very capable of remaining standing upright, as tipsy as he might have been. He then stopped his brain at a certain train of thought that had just entered. He had been meaning to say something the whole night and he had just remembered.
“Jesse you got any squares I can bum from you?” He asked.
“You got somethin’ to say Adrian?” Jesse asked, slurring his talk. He reached into his deep pockets and pulled out a half-empty pack of Camels. Jesse knew his best friend too well; Adrian only asked to bum a cigarette when he had something important to talk about. He could always tell when thoughts were brewing inside Adrian’s head. Smoking was Adrian’s way of reorganizing his brain through all the nicotine so he could utter out all his thoughts in one uniform and meaningful order.
“Here.” Jesse handed him a cigarette and his lighter.
“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about it all night since I got here.” Adrian said as he exhaled a bit of smoke with the cold visible vapor that followed behind from the temperature. Jesse lit one too.
“You’ve been thinking a bit tonight? ‘Bout what?”
“What about it?”
“After graduation.” Adrian replied slowly.
“Yeah?” Jesse Vine egged on.
Adrian may have realized he was more drunk than he had thought, otherwise Jesse figured he was trying to think of a way to break the news—whatever it may be.
“Did you ever know that the Swanson’s…they’re not my real parents.”
“Bro, of course I’ve known that, like the past seven years I have. You’re just drunk bro.”
“Well, we will both be eighteen this weekend. That means we will be adults. Eighteen year olds gotta think about grownup stuff, what they wanna do after they graduate.”
“You’ve been thinking that, haven’t you?” Jesse said after another hit off his cigarette.
“Yeah, being almost eighteen makes you think a lot about that, especially when you’re an adopted child.”
“What’s your point?”
He paused, finished his cigarette and continued. “Dude…I gotta work on finding my real parents. They never died. I just gotta do my homework, see where they are, how they’re doing. I gotta find answers man. I gotta find out why they let me go when I was only eight.”
“Dude, I find it extremely hard to feel what you’re going through right now…” Jesse started, “but man, you’ve got a great life right now. You’ve got some awesome scholarships lined up for the technical college, here in Silver City. You’ll get to be in the city instead of the suburbs. Isn’t that what you always wanted?”
“Well dude, who says I can't have that sort of life and not look into my heritage at the same time? I got a whole history that I don’t even know about, waiting to be discovered through my parents, who are both from who knows where? A state somewhere out on the east coast? I don’t know.” Jesse tried to find words to say and failed. Adrian continued. “For all I know, they’re most likely just two high-schoolers from Silver City that got busy a bit too early—child support draining the bank account.”
“Where else would they be from besides Silver City, anyways?” Jesse asked.
“Who am I kidding Jesse? I live in a nice, quiet middle-class suburb with anything that an eighteen-year-old could want. Who said anything about heritage…or adventure even?” Adrian said sullenly. “I’m sure as hellfire better off living with the Swanson’s than with two unemployed welfare snitchers.”
“Dude, you gotta pull yourself together mate.” Jesse said. “Nobody said anything about having a boring life after graduation. And who ever said your real parents were welfare snitchers?” Adrian said nothing. He continued to stare at the fluffy golf balls descending slowly down from the blue-grayish heavens. Jesse began to pull his own composure together, as the strong effects of the alcohol ever so slowly faded. “I mean, man, come on; at least you have an excuse for an exciting life. Look at me, I already know who my parents are, and I live in Little Granite. C’mon, how boring is that?!”
“I guess what I’m really saying is…I want to help you in your quest. I want to be there beside you, giving my full support. That’s what best friends are for, right?” Adrian took his eyes off the heavy snowfall and looked back at his friend, smiling.
“Thanks Jesse, you always know what to say.”
“It’s all those rolled sevens talking. Usually I would never say something as touching as that.” Jesse uttered.
“But I know you’re always thinking it, no matter how drunk or sober you are.” Adrian said, putting Jesse into a headlock.
“You’re crazy!” Jesse exclaimed, trying to get out of the lock.
“You’re drunk.” Adrian replied, letting go of his head.
“That doesn’t mean we can't just have one more.” Jesse said, grinning as he took out a water bottle with a little bit of liquor left. “Dude, this is to the both of us, to our eighteenth birthday, and to this crazy blizzard.” Jesse toasted, filling both glasses.
“This is to you, Jesse, who has never failed at making a great party; no matter what kind of weather we have outside, your basement still makes a great crash place. To your basement!”
“One last toast,” Jesse added, “to you, Adrian, and may you have a successful life after graduation. Here’s to us.” Their shot glasses clinked, and their night expired.
That next morning, the boys woke up to the smell of bacon, sausages and pancakes, bright and early at ten a.m. “Boys, I made breakfast!” Mrs. Vine yelled from the top of the stairs. After ten minutes of groggy groaning and stretching, clasping stomachs, complaining about bladders, Steve finally uttered with a grin: “Pampered…like kings.”
After a short breakfast, (none of them had the right state of stomach for a full course, only pot after pot of hot coffee and lots of cream), they all grabbed their coats and groaned at the sight of all their cars outside covered in two feet of wet snow. (“I knew I should have taken dad’s truck!”) came from Steve’s ungrateful mouth.
“Drive safe boys, plows haven’t even hit Little Granite’s streets yet.” Jesse’s mother warned them as they all groggily filed out the back door. (“We’ll never make it outta the neighborhood.”) (“I’ll be in the ditches within ten minutes!”)
“Adrian, wait.” Jesse grabbed him before he left the warm house. He stopped before he stepped out onto the snowy porch.
“It’s about what I finally told you last night, about after graduation. Take my advice dude, will you? Have a little adventure. Take some time to discover yourself. Remember, I’ll always be there right beside you.” Jesse said.
“Thanks man. I’ll be letting the Swanson’s know right after graduation.”
Adrian planned on executing his after-graduation plans, as long as Jesse held true to his word… there was no way he’d be able to do it alone.