Yesterday I spent 14 hours in the company of one Julio Andre Sanchez. It started with a half-baked plan to go for a walk somewhere, preferably a wooded path. I got to his place a little after nine in the morning and I was pretty hyped up on coffee and energy drinks (two for $3 this month at Royal Farms, Amps & Rockstars, all flavors — woot woot). He was engaged with cleaning his sidearm but was in no hurry and in my frenzied caffeinated state his every movement seemed exceedingly slow. We shot the shit for an hour and a half and it was nearing eleven when we stopped at Royal Farms for energy drinks and at Subway for $5 footlongs. We sat in the parking lot scarfing the load and I remarked that there were absolutely no attractive people coming or going from the cigarette outlet next to Subway in Milford, then we made our way to Redden.
At Redden Forest we walked briskly through gravel and dirt and mud and pond scum and horse shit. Mosquitoes were especially bad in a couple of spots and that was when we ran and I learned that if I ever needed to chase Andre for some reason I could probably catch him without too much fuss. The only other people we saw on the trail were some young girls with an older woman blowing bubbles into the wind and and old guy on horseback trying to keep his horse from plunging itself into the muddy ditch at the sight of two oncoming caffeine-crazed nefarious trolls. Our conversation wound like the path, every which way. We talked about sex in marriage and exercise and relationships. I think we even found some skeletal remains of a human arm. The trail was a loop, perhaps four or five miles, and it got progressively hotter until we were both sweating profusely. My balls felt like they were hanging into a can of Dinty Moore beef stew. Toward the end of the trail, Daniell called Dre’s cell and said she’d be getting off from work early, by three instead of seven. This turn of events led Andre to verbalize a new half-baked plan about maybe having a cookout or something later in the day, perhaps at Trap Pond in Laurel.
We got back to the truck and rode back toward Milford with me driving and him saying “Turn here, go left, keep straight” and me feeling lost as a pagan until we were on a dead end street and Dre picked up his phone and talked to someone. Turned out we were on Brett Sherwood’s road and Dre was calling to see if he was home and could we stop in and say hey since we were sitting right outside of his house, practically staring in his front windows. Brett said Sure, stalker creeps.
Brett’s house was really dark compared with the sunny day. He looked kind of feral and scruffy and was eating two massive cheeseburgers. He said he’d been reading Chuck Palaniuk’s latest book and playing video games all morning. We sat in his dining room and he told us several interesting stories about his life, both past and present.
It was about three when we took leave of Brett. I felt a nap coming on. Time to go home, watch a movie, take a snooze, follow that up with a shower, eat something good, put the kids to bed, put Ryan to bed another 10 or 20 times and hope for the best as far as gettin’ lucky went.
Daniell wasn’t home yet when we got back to Andre’s. We had a drink and I called Jess to see if she wanted to have a cookout that evening. She said she was up for whatever but didn’t want to be up late. Daniell got home and said basically the same thing. Dre called Brett and he was on board, too. Jessica called Matt and Julia and invited them to tag along too but they had some prior family plans. Even though I felt really tired I didn’t want to be the party pooper and tell everyone I wanted to zone out, so the seals were broken and the plan of God unfolded.
In this global, gilded age where we are all catching VD from Babylon the Great and the American Dream, one cannot recount any story without some mention of WalMart, but I won’t mention details here except to say, Yeah, we partook. After hitting WalMart, we picked Brett up and drove to my place. When we pulled into the driveway, Matt and Julia were futzing around outside and I introduced Brett and gave Matt hell for having freakishly long toes and for not making his family totally available to our whimsical, no-notice plans.
Once we were all settled and buckled in, we realized we’d forgotten lighter fluid so we stopped at Sandy Fork store. I bought some nightcrawlers, too. Brett used 3/4 of the lighter fluid to engulf about six briquettes of charcoal (so it seemed) and I tossed the worms into the pond when I realized Jessica had taken my tackle and fishing license out of the truck and hadn’t mentioned it until right then. The kids went nuts catching tadpoles and minnows; at one point a water mocassin got molested. After we ate, Brett, Andre, Jessica and Rebekah got on the swings and competed to see who could get the most air. I suggested to Daniell that we run between them, like a gauntlet, but she didn’t seem overly thrilled about the idea.
At sunset a ranger rolled up in an Expedition and eyeballed us impatiently. It was obvious he wanted to close shop for the night. I yelled like a redneck, “WE’RE LEAVING!” and he waved. In the parking lot I suggested beer and Daniell said, “Yeah man!” On the way to the liquor store Brett and I had this great conversation about truth, about how all truth is spiritual. I was saying I thought a lot of Christians were very lazy about how they handled truth, like in terms of practical things like contraception and homosexuality, how folks really don’t know why they believe a certain thing and how slogans and misquoted Scriptures so often prevail over the Bible or science or common sense, and how we seem to be afraid of having our beliefs challenged or questioned.
Back at the homestead we marveled at how hot it was. I turned on the A/C. We had some brews and talked about life. Jessica made me mad on two occasions when she sort of stepped outside the bounds of what I consider to be right and proper and hospitable when we have guests in our home, which became a good conversation for us today. Somewhere around 11, Dre and Daniell and Brett got up to leave.
I’m sitting here on the next evening with a mild sunburn and several itchy mosquito bites to detail the events of this one day as a example of what Christian fellowship should be like, in my mind. There were many laughs and jibes and poignant thoughts and farts and crashes and frenzies. It was life. Shared life, that simple. I was tired and cranky at different moments during the day — just like I am every day — but if I had rushed home and watched that movie I would have never seen the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a long time. The iconic moment for me was seeing friends and family — people I love — on that playground in those swings, smiling and playing and laughing and goofing around like little children. It was a pause-and-rewind image in my heart. That normal, carefree environment is where the roots are put down that allow people to weather storms together. Besides that, it makes folks just plain happy to let their hair down and be themselves.