Flash Fiction

The Scouts

Freeman had a good idea of what was going to go on later that night, but didn't let on until he was sure his father had passed out in the living room from a twelve pack of Lowenbrau Dark and the stress that comes from designing nuclear weapons for a living.

He crept out into the garage, yanked down the back gate of the old man's red and white FJ55 and dragged the inflatable raft out the storage bay. Duck feathers and dog hair went flying everywhere, but finally the raft was on the cement floor.

He went back in for a moment and made sure Harold was comfortable, threw a blanket over him for effect, while the old master snored and snored away. Then he got on the phone, dragging the handset—and the ten foot coiled plastic cord that followed it everywhere—into a pantry by the kitchen, for privacy.

On the other end of a connection made possible by manipulating a rotating plastic wheel with the index finger, Alexander listened intently while Freeman layed out his idea: They were going to climb up on top of the big water tank that was nestled in the foothills by the high school.

Using stealth, a pair of bolt cutters taken from shop class—while Mr. Duran was hamming it up on the table saw—and of course, Harold's prized hunting raft, they were going to float around and maybe even take a swim in the largest artificial body of water either Eagle Scout could ever imagine.

Alexander's folks were running some sort of high-gravity-atomic-laser experiment at the lab on that particular evening, so he saw absolutely nothing wrong with the plan, and in fact sort of admired its simplicity.

Alex locked Arcoiris the retriever in the back bedroom and grabbed the keys to his van. It was a forest green Dodge that comfortably sat eight. Alexander and his friends called it the Congo van, mostly because they imagined one day taking it on a road trip to Africa or somewhere thereabouts.

Before he got to Freeman's pad, he stopped at Sherri's place, which was only two doors down. It was a sprawling ranch-style with a weeping willow and heaps of lava rock in front. He convinced Sherri and her pal Barbara to join in on the action. The two gals climbed out a bedroom window.

Both of them lit up Salems as they took a seat in the very back of the Dodge. Put on KFMG Sherri said, they are playing a special on the new Pink Floyd album. Alexander grimaced and spit out the window. He already heard Animals; it sucked. So, he tuned the radio to KRST instead, and started headbanging to some song or other about a Green Manalishi. The group drove by Allsups and picked up a dozen burritos and a twelve pack of Jolt Cola for luck.

By this time, Freeman was waiting out in the drive way, had folded the inflatable raft into a lumpy bundle. He was anxious to get going and when Alexander arrived, ran up to the Congo van and started shouting about how they didn't have all night and for crissakes, why'd he bring Sherri and Barbara along?

Just in case the unexpected happens, said Alexander, plus which, both of them can drive a five speed and that ought to count for something.

It was no trouble climbing up to the top of the water tank, hell there was even a staircase. Sherri and Barbara stayed in the van with a walkie talkie, six of the Jolts, and all of the burritos. That was meant to be a reward to be bestowed when Alexander and Freeman returned, wetly triumphant.

As Freeman cut the chains that locked the door at the very top of the tank, Alexander dragged the raft into position. Once past the gate, they lugged the raft and a 50 foot rappelling rope over the top. At the center of the tank there was a simple but awfully large metal grate. They struggled to lift the grate. Finally it gave way and rolled off the tower, clanging and tolling like a church bell when it hit the asphalt below.

Alexander made a bowline knot around one of the stair-railings and threw the rope down into the dark hole. Freeman hit the inflate button and tossed the raft down there too. Both of the scouts activated their flashlights and left their hiking boots at the edge of the water tower's maw. Freeman stared at his watch.

Alexander got on the walkie talkie. Barbara and Sherri were on the other side, parked down the road a ways, by the Temple of the Nazarene. He told them if they didn't hear back in exactly two minutes, one of them ought to come up the stairs with the flare gun while the other drives over to Fire Station 16 to tell what happened.