Chapter Nine - Winkin’ Blinkin’ and Nod
“You were worried about me forgetting things? Shit, Sparky, how could you forget the damn map?”
“I don’t know Doc, with everything that’s happened, I guess I just forgot to take it out of the car. Shoot me.”
“So it’s at Bill’s Wreck Yard? Well Bill’s will be closed by the time we get back there. Great! We couldn’t get it even if we wanted to. I don’t want to end this day wrestling with a Rottweiler, or whatever dog he might have patrolling his compound. Oh this is just lovely.”
“There are certain words men should never say and 'lovely' is one of them Doc, unless you say fuckin’ in front of it.”
“Shut-up and drive Wally. Who asked you for your opinion?”
“I think I can remember the way, Doc.”
“Sparky you’re horrible when it comes to directions. We used to get lost every time you navigated.”
“Doc, that was then. This is now. I do have a memory. I did look at the map.”
“Why, because it wasn’t a contract?”
“I said I would read the damn contract when we got to the studio, back off! Right now, I just want to get there. Any more questions?”
“Not from me.” Wally growled.
“Let’s call the studio.”
“That’s a great idea Doc except . . . ”
“...The number was on the map with the directions gotcha.”
“Call directory assistance and get the number,” Wally urged.
Doc drew out his cell phone and began dialing. He pulled it away from his ear to the audible seesaw tones. “I can’t get a good signal. Piece of crap phone!”
“Look.” I pointed to a sign. It said Entering Ernie’s Bay. “The directions said there is a dirt road just up on the right where we need to turn. I remember that much. Turn here Wally.”
“Are you sure Sparky? We could always just stop somewhere and ask for directions.”
“I’m sure we could, but we’re men. We don’t ask for directions. Besides we’re late enough Doc. We don’t have anymore time. We should’ve been there hours ago.”
Wally slowed, and took the turn.
“And then it’s the third dirt road on the right. No left! About two miles from the junction. Yes, yes. It’s all coming back to me now. Third on the left . . . I think.”
“Left? Are you sure?”
“Yes left. I’m sure of it.”
“You better be right, Sparky.”
Wally slowed the Honey wagon down to a crawl as we approached the third dirt road. It was a tight squeeze but he managed to get all the wheels onto the path. On we pressed with the occasional tree branch whipping the windshield, slapping the side of the truck’s metal tank and scraping along the length of it.
“I got a bad feeling about this Sparky.”
“Just drive Wally. These are the directions I was given.”
Wally turned on the headlights to cut through the encroaching gloom. There was a sharp turn up ahead where the road became increasingly narrow and the foliage seemed to smoother us on all sides at once, in a dense green carpet of shadow. I could see in the rear view mirror as the branches snapped back conspiring with the darkness to swallow the road behind us. Wally turned on the wipers.
“What do you hope to accomplish by doing that Wally?” Doc said.
“Keep the trees out of my way.”
“You’re kidding right?”
“They are only big-leaf small trees.”
Doc’s words dripped sarcasm. “Thank heavens they aren’t the small-leaf big trees, or we’d be in real trouble Mr. Woodsman.”
“This can’t be right, Sparky.”
“I assure you Wally. This is the . . . Stop the truck now!” I shouted.
Wally twisted the Honey wagon around the bend and then put his foot down to halt the truck. He shifted into neutral and lifted the emergency brake. “There! You happy, Sparky? There’s no more road anyways. At least nothing we could drive.”
“Where did the road go?” Doc blurted.
“I don’t know. The directions were very specific. They say the studio should be about a couple of hundred yards beyond the turn. I’m sure that’s what I remembered?”
“Well it’s not!”
“How do you know Doc. We can’t see far ahead especially in the dusk.”
“Are you sure this is the right way?”
“I’m sure. Third dirt road on the left, after the turn off the highway. Two miles from the junction. Guys according to the directions I was given, this is the correct place.”
“But without the map we don’t know for sure do we?”
“Oh this is just great. We’re lost,” Wally moaned. “What elks can go wrong?”
“Well they said it was secluded?”
“Secluded is one thing Sparky. Having to hack our way through the underbrush with machetes is quite another. Aw this is lovely,” Doc yammered. He turned to Wally. “Just fuckin’ lovely.”
“Well maybe they haven’t had time to cut it back.”
“Oh right, and the grounds keepers don’t do that til Wednesday,” Doc spouted. “What do you want to do Sparky?”
“We obviously can’t drive any further. I say we walk. It can’t be far.”
“It better not be. It’s getting late and I’m hungry.”
“It’s being around Wally constantly. He gets you thinking about food on a subconscious level.”
I also started to feel the grumbling of a cavernous stomach. I hadn’t eaten since well before Doc had arrived at my place. I hadn’t thought of it until Barlow reminded me of his own pangs. Wally shut off the engine and we all tunneled out, pushing various tree branches out of our way. The air around us was cooling but maintained the languid aroma of sunbaked vegetation. Wally started to inch toward the bags and guitars to unhook them.
“Wally not yet.”
“Yeah, let the Bellhop get them.” Doc said.
Wally squeezed his way back and we all convened on the dirt road ahead in a small triangle.
“If these are the wrong directions, we shouldn’t take any chances. We have to find the studio before we go hauling the instruments with us. I suggest that we put all the stuff in the cab and lock it for now. We can always come back when we confirm our position. It’s getting dark quickly. Do you have a flashlight in the truck?”
“There’s one in the tool box, but if we’re that close— ”
“— Just in case Wally.”
“I agree with Sparky. I’m beginning to think someone doesn’t want us to get through this weekend.”
“Maybe the ghost of Wires Whitmire?” Wally offered, and added at scary woooo to the end of his statement.
“Don’t be stupid. Even if there was such an entity, why would Wires want to hinder our efforts? He’s responsible for us being here in the first place.”
However, Wally’s words had made me shiver. I’d seen Wires in my dreams of late. It was always the same. He was standing near a doorway, blocking it perhaps? His mouth was moving as if he was trying to tell me, or warn me about something, but I couldn’t hear any words. Then he’d put his smouldering cigarette in his mouth and draw the smoke deep into his lungs before blowing it out in a huge gust that enveloped him. When I ran to him, waving my arms frantically to clear the cloud, he was gone and so was the doorway.
We worked together stowing the rest of our belongings on the front seat and gathered what we needed before starting off.
Wally seemed concerned. “I should put on the four way flashers before we leave.”
“Good idea Wally. You don’t want on coming traffic to slam into you,” Doc bemoaned. “Then after that, we can all forage for berries in case we’re gone longer than ten minutes. Get your ass over here and let’s get started.”
We could only walk in single file as the tree branches badgered us from both sides leaving little trail to follow. I took the lead stabbing through the growing darkness with the flashlight, while Doc followed up the rear.
“This night time trek seems too familiar. As I recall it wasn’t all shits and giggles last time either. We’re getting too old to be wandering around in the middle of nowhere like Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod.”
“Look ahead Doc there’s a fork in the trail. It can’t be far now.”
“I can’t see anything with Wally in front of me. It’s like following a huge yellow transport truck with wide load written across the back of it.”
“What are you tryin’ to say, Doc?”
“I think it was self-explanatory with the wide load comment, Wally.”
We reached the fork. On closer inspection there were three possible ways to choose from.
“Oh great! What now?”
“That way. To the right.” I said with conviction. After a few minutes there was another divide in the trail.
“Which way now?”
“To the right.” I said again.
“Sparky if we keep making rights, we’ll end up back at the Honey wagon.”
“Ok Doc let’s take the left and forge on.”
“Did you know that if you put a tiny amount of liquor on a scorpion it will go mad and sting itself to death?”
After a few minutes more, the path divided again.
“Oh...my back,” Wally bellyached. “It’s like a frickin’ maze in here. Shit I hope we get to the cheese soon. I’m getting hungry too.”
Doc slapped his neck. “So are the mosquitos.”
“How many insects did you say for each person Doc?”
“If I had my fishin’ gear we could catch dinner.”
“Je-sus Wally the last stream I saw was an hour ago when we were on the interstate. Just exactly where were you planing on fishing . . . Shit!”
“Well it is Ernie’s Bay. Logic dictates there would be a body of water around here somewheres.”
“Why am I even talking to you? You have no pole other than the rod and tackle box between your legs and you probably haven’t seen them in years. What would you use for bait, mosquitos? You know what? If we have to resort to cannibalism, you’re the first to go.”
“Me! Why not Sparky? He wanted to walk. Now we’re lost. Don’t blame me, Doc. All this walking isn’t good for someone in my condition.”
“Why Wally? Cause you might lose some weight? Cause you water might break?”
“Guys! Stop it. Christ, Grub was right. All this band ever did was bicker. We have to stick together on this.”
“I say we go back to the truck. We can’t keep wandering around here all night.”
“Yeah Sparky, For a change I agree with Wally. It’s obvious. These are the wrong directions. We need to get help.”
“Ok let’s head back . . . wait! Look!”
Through the trees, down the path there was a twinkling light. With renewed vigor, we pressed on like the journey of the Magi following the star to the manger. The underbrush began to clear and soon we found ourselves on the edge of a field looking up to a hill top on which stood a dark structure.
“The studio! See I told you. There it is.”
“Thank blubbering Jesus H. Christopher.”
The path wound up a hillside through the thick matted grass on the far recess of a meadow. Atop there stood a dilapidated house and a barn in not much better condition. A winding road of gravel led off in the other direction toward a distant tree line. It appeared to be holding onto a balloon of an orange moon as the glow of the setting sun faded and was snuffed out.
“That’s not the studio. Or at least I hope it isn’t. You said it was state of the art.”
“It is . . . I was told it was.”
“Well that place shouldn’t even be in the state.”
“It’s giving me the creeps. I’ve got a bad feeling about this Sparky.”
“You keep saying that. Stop it.”
“Let’s go back to the truck and wait it out til morning. Maybe it’ll look better in the daylight?”
“But the lights are on Wally. Someone’s home. If that’s not the studio, we can at least find out where we are. Where the studio really is. Get some food. Maybe even sleep here tonight.”
“There’s a lot of maybe in your statement Sparky.” Wally said.
Doc protested. “I’m not sleepin’ in that place even if they roll out the red carpet.”
“Anyone see the Texas Chainsaw Massacre?”
“Wally, please! — Do you really want to keep walking guys, or go back to the truck hungry, sit there and smell shit all night? Do you know how long it will take to get the Honey wagon back up the dirt road in the dark? And then where will we be? Any town within a hundred miles of this place will be asleep by then. Let’s at least check it out. We’ve come this far. We can’t turn back now.”