Our first idea was the water tower. Sneak out, meet up and all drive
together, park somewhere inconspicuous, get over or under or through
the boundary fence, climb the attached metal ladder, and leave our
might have to use paint cans and rollers?
someone wondered. We didn't know. Not just spray-paint?
We went back and forth. Class of 'XX,
we'd tag. And maybe our initials, our initials in hearts or next to
addition signs, and the initials of our girlfriends. Or, not our
girlfriends, but the girls we wished were our girlfriends. Or, not our
initials, and not hearts or math symbols, but the initials of
classmates we didn't like, because we didn't want to get in trouble and
thought it funny to blame and incriminate others, but then again we
didn't want to not get credit, didn't want to go through all that
trouble and then give the glory to our enemies. It was a dilemma.
Our second idea was the parking lot. Pour out big lines and globs of
celebration, splatter the tarmac, empty while everyone was home,
asleep. That was what they'd done the year before, so it wasn't really our
idea, per se. But the water tower was a tradition going back as far as
we knew, so that wasn't really ours
either. We were helping continue something new or reestablishing the
old, one way or the other. These ideas, these traditions, had been
passed down to us and so now were ours, was how we felt. We owned them.
Some say that isn't how ideas work, there isn't any such thing as idea
ownership, though that argument can cut either way. Semantics. But that
isn't really what's important.
We got together, drank. We could climb onto the
roof and paint all the skylights black?
could bring screwdrivers and socket wrenches, hammers; remove all the
signs on the premises—parking and various prohibitions
(drugs, firearms, skateboarding, etc.)?
We argued semantics, upsides, downsides, whether or not we'd be able to
follow through with idea one or two, or four or nine, when it finally
came to it.
Another idea wasn't really an idea. We snuck out, met up and drove to
the school, parked in the empty parking lot, and climbed onto the roof,
but without paint (cans or spray). We brought beer. We brought a
one-hitter, though not really enough pot to go around. We brought
handfuls of rocks, pocketfuls, to throw at empties we'd left on the
ground. To throw at the imaginary car windows of the classmates we
didn't like. Our enemies. I can't wait until this
year is over and we can get out of here,
someone said. We all said. We drank some more.
Tom wasn't there because Mary's mom found a condom in her bathroom that
hadn't flushed and now they were both on lockdown. Jim wasn't there
because Tom was always his ride; he didn't drive and lived too out of
the way for any of us to ever pick him up. We turned our bottles upside
down, poured beer out over the skylights like pouring paint, but the
beer rolled off clear, didn't blackout the windows like paint. Or maybe
Tom was there. Or maybe he wasn't, but only because he didn't want to
be. The found condom is the one detail I remember about him,
regardless. We threw our empties into the empty lot, watched them arc
through the sky before crashing into the ground, shattering like
was supposed to bring the paint?
someone asked. We all asked. We all knew that hadn't been the plan, the
idea. We brainstormed, had more ideas, ideas for ideas.
Barry shrugged, said he was going to miss it here. Tom agreed. We threw
more empties, emptied everything we had.
Aaron Burch's debut collection of stories is HOW TO PREDICT THE WEATHER. He edits Hobart.
Read more of his work in the archive.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
of T. Magnum.
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