By the time the sun had crested the horizon; a plan had taken root in the mind of someone close the Gardener, and was beginning to spread around the remaining revelers. To suggest that everyone had fallen asleep, and then, promptly and productively risen at those early hours would be an utter fallacy. No one had slept, and all of us were reacting to the lack of sleep in our own unique ways. Myself, I was lounging in the kitchen, watching the time pass – slowly – on a large clock, much as a lizard in a sluggish torpor waits for the sun to warm his body.
I’m not sure who suggested the plan; it doesn’t really matter who authored the plan. In fact, I’m sure of one thing: based on the innate stupidity of the plan, I am sure he is glad that time has forgotten his role. If I had to guess, it was probably the Slacker who suggested it. There isn’t much to say about the Slacker, except he was a year older than the Gardener, the Doctor and I, and he was a friend of my connection, Mr. Sarcastro. Sarcastro, on the other hand, was quite a character. He was about my height, with brown wavy hair, a quick and keen wit, and piercing eyes. At least that was what the ladies told me. It was always, “Oh, Sarcastro has such beautiful eyes” and so on, and so on in a similar vein that ultimately, I found quite boring. It wasn’t that I was jealous, mind you, it was more the fact that I had accepted it and moved on. I didn’t want to date Sarcastro, so it was really immaterial to me in the end. Besides, since I had known Sarcastro since Cub Scouts, and spent many a day in a tent with him, I could tell a few stories about certain unsavory habits of his as well. All in all, however, he was a good guy – a good guy who, sometimes, did manage to get himself and his friends in small amounts of trouble.
In any case, the Slacker had probably made the suggestion about the plan that was breathlessly relayed to me in the kitchen by the Gardener soon after he had heard about it, and had been easily influenced to do it, because the sad truth was that you could talk the Gardener into doing just about anything. The Gardener had not dealt with the lack of sleep well. Not everyone does. He was pastier than usual, with dark bags under his eyes, and his manic tendencies were evident as he raced around the kitchen, trying to expound the plan to me while at the same time preparing for the plan. Or maybe with the Gardener, it wasn’t the lack of sleep that was the problem at that moment, but the fact that someone had given him coffee; he didn’t deal well with strong stimulants either.
As he raced around, he laid the plan out for me. It went something like this: “Wouldn’t it be really cool if we filled up a bunch of water balloons, and then drove them over to a park, and either – well, we could throw them at each other, but then we’d get wet, and – or we could use the water balloon launcher to throw them at rocks – or cars – but that’s dangerous – but it’d be exciting; anyhow…”. To this statement I had several responses. First, no, that it would not be cool; and second; that it was actually a really stupid idea. However, my responses were not met by a reasoning powerhouse from the Gardener, and the preparations for the plan – namely, filling lots and lots of water balloons continued unabated. As the plan was embraced to a lesser extent by most other people than the Gardener and the Slacker, most people took the preparation time as their cue to leave, as in their opinion, the party had definitely hit rock bottom.
I’m not sure why I didn’t leave – I think that I was waiting for a ride, or something – but its also possible that I had a gut feeling that everything was going to end badly, and I wanted to see it. In any case, I ended up outside next to the Doctor’s white pickup listening to the plan proponents argue with the Doctor and the remaining logical thinkers about how the plethora of balloons would be transported. Somehow, the Doctor was convinced that he would transport four people plus himself and the balloons to our destination.
This was surprising, because in order to transport four people plus himself, the Doctor would have to let three people ride in the bed of his truck to the destination. Surprising, because in California, it is illegal to have passengers in the bed of a pickup truck. And also surprising because in California at the time, a driver under the age of seventeen could not allow other minors to be in the vehicle without a supervising driver over the age of twenty-one. Therefore, by even loading up the truck, the Doctor was committing several crimes of pure evilness, which was very unlike his normally cautious and rational personality. I chalked up his dashing risk-taking persona to lack of sleep, and volunteered to drive with him, out of a sense of solidarity, even though I could have ridden safely in another car, say with the Gardener, the Slacker, or even Mr. Sarcastro.
As I sidled up to the Doctor while the others were bickering about the remaining seat assignments, I whispered, “This is going to end badly” to him. To which he could only look at me and nod. In the end, the other occupants of the truck are not important to the story, so we’ll call them this: Biscuit, Cracker, and Mr. Hush. I didn’t know Hush well; he was more of a friend of a friend to the others, and he seemed awfully jumpy to me about the whole event. Biscuit and Cracker I knew well; but they were a little boring, and their role in this story is akin to that of a place-holder: they merely were in the back of the truck with me, while Hush rode in the cab with the Doctor.
The plan was for the truck driven by the Doctor to rendezvous with the others at a location that I had never heard of. I, Biscuit and Cracker were told to do two things during this trip. One, to lie down in the bed, so as not to be seen by the general public and as an added benefit, would be thrown from the truck easier in the event of an accident. The second commandment was to not throw any balloons from the bed of the truck on the trip to our destination. The Doctor admonished us quite severely about the latter.
Finally, the truck started, we were concealed lying down, and we were off to fulfill the plan. Once on the road, an intoxicating cocktail of danger, testosterone, lack of sleep and much more overwhelmed our senses in the back of the truck. In a stealthy manner, I saw Biscuit reach into the bin of balloons, and lob one over the side of the truck. All three of us laughed and laughed. The Doctor then immediately pulled the truck over and was quite wroth with all of us. Despite our ministrations, we had to promise not to do anything like that again.
Which, of course meant that once he started the truck again, we were quiet at first; but then, as we noticed an approaching car, we lobbed balloons at it. Now, as we were traveling in one direction, the balloons traveled with our momentum – and as the opposing car was traveling in the other, the balloons, while easily lobbed, had quite a bit of force – enough for a good problem on any physics test. Us reprobates in the bed immediately saw the car pull over and laughed at our own foolishness. This led the Doctor to speed up and once at the next stop sign, start to chastise us, but the fever of danger was on us, and we would brook no interference. As the Doctor and Hush were yelling at us from the cab, another truck pulled up behind us. We promptly festooned his hood with water balloons; a feat not nearly as bad as the prior incident, as both cars were at a stop. Unlike the first car, the truck’s driver was a young, mid-twentyish male who now had his dander up. As he rolled down his window to yell at us to pull over in not so pleasant tones, we pounded on the cab to signal the Doctor to drive as fast as the wind, no matter the consequences. The Doctor, although quite sore about the turn of the events quickly made the only good decision of the day – and hit the gas, leaving our irate second victim quickly behind us.