Good to Go
As soon as Winfield said, "I don't fear death one bit," I knew a drunken lecture was going to take place. I watched as he leaned left. tilting toward the fire, positioning himself to unleash some semblance of knowledge. As he moved, a trail of colors followed slowly and jaggedly behind him. I knew the shrooms were starting to take effect and I hoped I could handle what he was about to deliver. Positioned to preach, he stared into the flames, readying his arsenal of beliefs. I studied his pinched lips, awed by the way they burned dark red in the firelight and smoke. Winfield's lips parted and he started to speak, but his mouth froze. He swung his right arm down, and grabbed the fifth of Jim Beam he'd been working on for the last hour. The half-empty bottle sloshed vividly before my eyes. I glanced at Jake, hoping to see some sign that his shrooms were taking effect as well. As Winfield sipped viciously, Jake squirmed about in his lawn chair with uncapped nervous energy, displaying outwardly the change in his state of mind.
"What about you, Jake? Do you fear death?" said Winfield, breaking the silence and pulling my eyes back to his face. "Do you fear God?"
Jake shifted in his chair, halted suddenly, and stared straight into the fire. Winfield stared at Jake, waiting for a response to discredit. "Hell no!" Jake said, not looking at Winfield. "I don't fear God. Why should I? God is my man. He's there for me, waiting to see me in heaven, where I'll get to see all the people who have died before me."
"You think God is with you?" asked Winfield, smiling in astonishment.
"Of course! God is with all of us all of the time, man. He's watching us right now. He's watching over you right now."
"You really believe that?"
"Sure I do. I mean...how else did we get here?" replied Jake, defensively. "How else did man come about? And the planet? And the universe? And the stars? And..."
"We came about through evolution, you fucking idiot!" Winfield told him. "You know, monkeys and apes and what not. We started there and evolved." Jake's mouth was open, but he uttered no words or sounds. "Darwin?" added Winfield after a moment. "Ever heard of him?"
"I'm just saying I believe in God, that's all," Jake said, fidgeting uncomfortably. Jake talked about God, the Bible, and Heaven, but his everyday actions spoke a lot more about Hell. I knew that Winfield was tripping him out; he was tripping me out too.
"I believe in God, too," I stated, trying to take some pressure off Jake. " But I believe in evolution also."
"You know," Winfield started, as he stood up amid the crackle of firewood and flames. My eyes dawdled upwards, over his black clothes, to his face. His cheeks and brow were illuminated in the fire's glow, and shadows fell over the folds of his face as the flames danced sideways. He stared back at me, his brow curved down, almost hiding his eyes. His dark eyebrows seemed doubled in thickness and deepened in color by the shadows. His nose melted into the flesh between his eyes, which blazed red and orange reflecting the firelight. His lips spread in a red line across his face, opening to reveal blackness and words. "I read somewhere ... this theory about how man came about. The theory said it was possible that man ... this is hella freaky when you think about it ... that man was created by water as a means of travel -- a way for water to move from one place to another. Think about it. There's a lot of water on Earth!""Wow," I said. "That is pretty insane when you think about it."
"I still say God created us all!" snapped Jake. "You're an idiot if you don't believe that."
"What are you talking about?" grumbled Winfield. "Man, the Bible is nothing but a well-written book. Whoever wrote that did a fine job, making people believe it was real."
I watched Jake's face go tight and his eyes flicked around madly. He jumped up, pissed off. I had to intervene. "Dude, listen to this one," I yelled, hoping to cool things down. "You know that bitch I've been talking to? She tells me this morning that she wants to see somebody that's more devoted to Christianity than me. Somebody that goes to church. Can you believe that shit?"
Jake clapped his hands together and bent over laughing. "What a bunch of shit, man!" He seemed to have forgotten his allegiance to God.
"Tell me about it! I started laughing when she told me that. I mean, fuck that!" I laughed, as Winfield raised his bottle in honor of me. Jake sat back down, and I was ready to discuss something new.
"Winfield, you ever gonna get with that broad in your classes you're always talking about so much? Your little intellectual college partner. Or is she a Christian, too?" tempted Jake, for reasons I could not understand.
"Fuck you! You asshole!" He bent over, and again I marveled at the colorful shadows that followed him. When he straightened, he held the whiskey bottle in his hand. He started to drink, but stopped halfway to his mouth and jerked the bottle backward over his head, flinging it into the fire. It burst like a bomb, shattering on the rocks, and it was beautiful. "I'm never gonna get with her! She's too good for me! I'm just a Goddamned fuck-up!"
Winfield turned quickly, leaving a yellow hurricane in his wake as he stomped to the car. I looked at Jake."Wow!" he yelled. "Wow! Jesus Christ All Mighty! Wow!"
Winfield slammed the car door. He marched back past the fire; I watched purple, blue, and red shadows follow in succession. The brush heaved and tree branches popped in the darkness around the fire as Winfield trudged off alone.
"Wow! He's like a fucking bear, man! A bear!" shouted Jake.
We laughed together. "He looked like the Devil when he was carrying on about us and water. I swear man, the Devil. His eyes were red!" I added.
"I'm losing it, man. I swear to God, I'm losing it. He's driving me crazy with his arrogant shit. He thinks he's better than me, man. He thinks that. So what, I don't have any college education. Who cares? He ain't that smart. He ain't."
Jake's words were muffled and I looked at the stars, marvelling at their brightness and the great number of them. One moved across the sky, leaving behind a long trail. I wondered where it was going. Then I heard the ground crunching. Winfield strolled back into camp and eased down into his lawn chair. I had lost track of how much time had passed.
"Where's that bottle of whiskey at?" he demanded.
"You broke it," I answered.
"Shit! That fucking sucks. I could use a drink."
"Where'd you go?" asked Jake.
"I was thinking about shit. Don't you worry," said Winfield. "You know, you never answered me?"
"What?" said Jake. "What's your drunk ass talking about?"
"Do you fear death?"
"I don't want to die, if that's what you're asking me," answered Jake, with an attitude.
"Really? I'm good to go!" smiled Winfield. I watched him recline in his chair and lift his shirt, pulling out the .38 revolver Jake kept in his glove compartment. I panicked. I was frozen. I didn't know if it was all part of the shrooms. Winfield leaned forward again and sat motionless, gazing into the fire. His lips smirked, his hand jumped to his temple, and the barrel flashed in the firelight. My heart stopped and the hammer banged six times. Winfield's laugh reverberated in the night. Jake didn't move. I took a deep breath.
"Just like that. Good to go!" boomed Winfield, grinning.
"Fuck," I whispered to myself."You got the bullets?" asked Jake.
"Yeah. Right here." Winfield pulled them from his pocket.
"Hey, man. Let me have the bullets and you can keep the gun."
"Yeah. Let Jake have the bullets," I said. "That way one guy doesn't have all the power."
"Fuck it! I don't care. Take em both," he said, tossing them in the dirt at Jake's feet. "I don't care. I don't care at all. I don't have anything anyway. I got nothing. I'm worthless. Just a fuck-up!"
Winfield leaned forward, wrapping his arms around himself, and studied the fire. Jake hid the gun in his bag. I sat, shaking, and watched Winfield's eyes. They were empty.***
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