1/25/2015

Field Trip (Short Story)

Field Trip

    In the top drawer of the desk in Franklin’s room, there are two hits of acid. Franklin got the acid when he had a party at the house, and some kid showed up with a bunch of it. The kid gave Franklin a couple of hits for free as a thanks for throwing the party. Franklin has taken acid several times before, but he has never taken it by himself. He has been saving these two hits for the entire summer, waiting for the perfect day to trip alone.
    It’s a beautiful Saturday in the middle of July, and Franklin has the day off. Last night, before he left the restaurant, Franklin’s boss told him that he was let go due to his recent lack of focus. In truth, Franklin had been crying in the bathroom in between waiting tables. Ever since things fell apart with Sarah, he hasn’t been able to keep his composure. He was working overtime to keep his mind off her, but it’s hard to keep a job when radio pop songs cause mental breakdowns.
    Franklin would have slept past noon, but just after ten his roommate, Joe busted into the room with a fresh McGriddle and a lit joint.
    “Dude. That chick pissed in my bed again, so I made her buy me breakfast.”
    Joe exhales a puff of smoke into Franklin’s room. He waves the joint in front of Franklin’s face.
    Franklin groans. He had hoped that sleep was the answer to this nagging depression, but he woke up in a room that is just as dark as it was before. The room was never dark when Sarah was around, even when Franklin and Sarah turned the lights out. They created their own light, but it was a flame that burned out of control, and it destroyed everything between them. Franklin takes the joint.
    “Did you clean it up?”
    “Hold on. I gotta take a shit.”
    Joe runs out of the room, tripping over Franklin’s lacrosse stick along the way.
    Franklin gets out of bed, exhaling smoke and realizing that today is not going to be any better than yesterday. He can’t talk to Joe about any of his problems, because Joe doesn’t even have a grasp on what his own problems are. Joe is sitting on the toilet with the door wide open, cranking Phish through his laptop speakers. He is shirtless and eating a McGriddle. Syrup drips all over his gut and laptop keyboard. Franklin tries to cover his eyes as he passes the joint to Joe.


    “Our rent is two weeks late,” Franklin says.
     Joe shuts the bathroom door and flushes the toilet. He doesn’t bother to wash his hands or look at himself in the mirror. He walks out of the bathroom, still smoking the joint and eating the McGriddle.
    “Corporate’s got me by the balls, man.”
    He waves his hand over his nuts and squints at his tiny green plastic watch. It takes him thirty seconds to find out that he is two hours late to work. He shrugs, passing the joint. Joe grabs the collared Riverdogs shirt out of his dirty laundry pile, noticing a large pizza grease stain on the front. He grabs a half-empty beer bottle off the ground and splashes some of it on the stain, and then takes some of his one-ply toilet paper to dry it a bit. Shreds of paper are left behind on his shirt, and he wipes some of them away. Then he chugs the rest of the beer.
    “Learned this one from my old man.”
    Another drop of syrup drips from the McGriddle to his shirt, but he doesn’t notice. Franklin laughs, wondering if anybody else could survive living Joe’s way.
    Joe is an intern at the Riverdogs stadium. He gets paid to dress up as their mascot and dance around the field during their baseball games. There isn’t a game today, so he’s just going sit in the box office and answer phone calls for no pay. What he’s really going to do is eat painkillers and send goofy pictures of himself to all of his friends. He grabs his keys and hurries out the door.
    The house is located next to an empty lot that is about the size of two football fields, and there are no neighbors on either side. The land below the field is sinking, and by now part of it sits below sea level. At high tide, the underground water seeps to the surface and turns the lawn into a muddy lake. Even if it hasn’t rained for a week, there will still be puddles. The place looks and smells like a clogged toilet. The part closest to the porch is scattered with empty beer cans and broken lawn chairs, some of which are floating in the sewage. Further away from the porch is where the lawn opens up into a big field, and in the middle of the field is an old lacrosse net.
    Joe’s 2006 Toyota Corolla is parked between two puddles. His parents bought the car as Joe’s high school graduation gift when an old woman on their street died. Her name was Martha. Martha’s family held an auction for all of her stuff, and Joe’s parents bought her car at the auction. Joe says that the old woman still lives in the car. He often has engine troubles, for which he blames Martha. He says it’s bad luck to change the oil, so the car still runs on whatever Martha put into it.
    Joe gets in the car, starts the engine, and rolls down his window.
    “Yo Frank, pass me that joint real quick.”
    Franklin is wary of broken glass as he walks across the lawn to Joe’s car. Mud squishes up between his toes with every step. He passes the joint to Joe through his open car window.
    “I’m gonna take some acid today” He says.
    Joe takes one large pull from the nearly finished joint before tossing it into a puddle. The joint sizzles when it hits the water.
    “Safety first!”
    Joe fastens his seatbelt. His eyes are only half open. With one hand he gives a military salute and with the other he rolls up the window. He mashes the gas and his wheels spin, shooting grass and mud from all four tires. Joe takes a deep breath and pauses for a moment before pressing the gas again, this time with light pressure. His car moves forward and off the property, leaving Franklin covered in mud.
    Joe will be at work until his boss decides that he has done enough of nothing to fulfill his internship requirements. Franklin enjoys having the house to himself. It’s quiet and peaceful, and he can take acid without anybody finding out that he’s gone insane.
    There are certain mental preparations that one must make before going on an acid trip, and especially before going on a solo acid trip. Franklin knows that this is going to be one hell of a ride. He wants to look inside his mind, try and close up the dark hole in the corner that keeps on getting bigger and bigger. The dark corner is a terrifying place. Franklin doesn’t want to be stuck in that corner today. He knows that the trick is to stay relaxed and let the energy flow through him, but it is much easier to know how to fix a problem than to really fix the problem.
    He grabs his toothbrush out of the bottom of the sink and slobbers it with toothpaste. He starts brushing his teeth and walks over to take a piss in the toilet. While pissing, he reaches over to turn the shower on. Startled by the sound of running water, a cockroach runs out from behind the toilet on the beeline for the bathroom door. Franklin crushes the roach with his bare foot and kicks the dead body back behind the toilet. He spits in the sink and goes back to his room to grab the acid. The acid is absorbed into a small piece of white paper, about the size of a child’s fingernail. Franklin puts the tasteless piece of paper on his tongue and grabs a towel from his room before heading back to the bathroom. Franklin will keep the paper on his tongue until he starts to feel the effects of the drug.
    Franklin shuts the door, and the room begins to fill with steam. The shower is a place where his thoughts can roam free. The warm water running over his body helps to calm him down. This is exactly what he needed before this internal journey. Memories of Sarah come floating towards him. He remembers meeting her, how he held a door and smiled at her. He saw her again later that night, and he remembered holding the door for her. He introduced himself and she pretended to think he was weird. Things were going well, but there was an unspoken friction that built between them. The memory that haunts Franklin is from the last time that they spoke, about three months ago.
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    It is late at night, and Franklin is sitting on his porch. Sarah is standing in front of him, waving her hands and screaming. He feels deeper for her than he has ever felt for any other girl, and ever since he told her about it, she has been acting much differently. Franklin worries that he might have made a mistake by letting her know that he thought it would to cool to spend the rest of their lives together. Sarah is very upset, and Franklin does not know how to handle it. This altercation has been brewing for a few weeks, as she doubts his intentions.
    “If you loved me, you wouldn’t be so selfish.”
    “Sarah, you make me crazy.”
    “You only care about yourself.”
    “If you don’t believe me, you might as well just leave.”
    “How can’t you see this?” Sarah’s eyes are filled with tears.
    Franklin looks down. He just wants her to be happy, but he’s not sure he can make her happy until she believes him. He wants her to stop crying and know that he cares about her. He doesn’t realize that telling her to leave is solidifying her ideas about his intentions. Franklin is hurt, and he can no longer bear to look into her disapproving eyes.
    “Sarah, just get out of here.”
    Sarah looks at him, tears running down her face.
    “You are blind, Franklin.”
    When Sarah leaves, she vows that she will never speak to Franklin again. Franklin is dumbfounded, he wishes that he could understand the way that Sarah’s mind works. He walks inside and goes straight for the bong. He packs it up fatter than usual and takes a rip before collapsing on his bed. He sits there with his eyes closed for a while, sinking far below the surface of his mind. The dark corner has become his home.
    It is around two in the morning now, and Franklin is engulfed in dark depression. He gets up off the bed and walks outside, holding a big garbage bag. He wanders around the lawn, gathering up all of the glass bottles and throwing them into the trash bag. His anger and frustration are building. Sarah is gone. He needs to find a way to let this energy out.
————————————————————————————————————————
    By the time Franklin has finished showering, his perception is starting to change. The walls are beginning to vibrate, and he can hear echoes from the creaking floorboards beneath his feet. There are thoughts pouring out of his ears, dripping to the floor and evaporating in puffs of black steam. The acid paper still sits on his tongue as he makes his way down the hall towards his room. He dresses himself comfortably in a t-shirt and athletic shorts. Its important to be comfortable, because discomfort breeds negativity.
    Franklin is inspired by the sight of the gorgeous day through his window. The sound of birds chirping outside fills Franklin with excitement. He sees the lacrosse net and grabs his stick off the floor, ready to go outside and shoot around. This time, he is sure to wear shoes before leaving the house. Broken glass and bare feet don’t mix well with acid.
    Franklin makes a pit stop in the bathroom before going outside. He takes a sip from the sink and swallows the acid paper in a gulp of cold tap water. He locks eyes with himself in the mirror again. Franklin’s pupils have become small black marbles.
    “Well, here it goes again.”    
    The sunlight smacks him in the face when he opens the front door. He stands there for awhile leaning on his lacrosse stick, looking around at his property. The beams of light shining down through the clouds grab Franklin’s attention. He notices patterns and faces in the shapeshifting clouds and gets lost in the maze of the sky. He follows a beam of light down to the ground to see the shadow of a cloud drifting across the lawn. His glare traces the shadow as it floats over to the old lacrosse net.
    The sight of the net brings Franklin back to reality, back to the idea of playing lacrosse on this beautiful day. Franklin jumps off the porch and dodges puddles on his way out into the field. The wind tastes like candy, and it flows through Franklin’s hair as he runs toward the net in the middle of the field.
    Franklin checks the back of the net for a ball to shoot with, but of course there isn’t a ball in the net. Joe must have shot all of the balls into the bushes again. Joe shoots the balls away and never goes searching for them, so whenever Franklin comes outside to shoot, it always involves looking for a ball. This usually annoys him, but right now the thought of searching for a ball sounds to Franklin like the most epic of adventures. Franklin drudges through the field.
    In some places, the grass is long enough to cover his shoes. The dew wets his ankles as he pushes aside the grass with his stick, trying to reveal a ball. A bird flies down from a tree and lands on the brick fence that surrounds the empty lot. Bushes and trees line most of the fence, but in the corner there is an open space between two trees. The trees stop sunlight from reaching the corner. Many drunk nights have ended with a group of friends smashing bottles in the corner. There is an ocean of broken glass sitting with the leaves, because instead of recycling, Franklin, Joe and company pitch their bottles at the wall. Hundreds of bottles have been broken on that wall, and none of it has ever been cleaned up. When the leaves fall they cover some of the glass, but there’s always more glass to break.
    Franklin sees the gap between the trees and wanders over to the corner. He hardly remembers the fun times spent shattering bottles. His mind is clogged by a more recent memory. He stares at the broken glass and remembers the night when he was stuck in the corner alone. He and Sarah had been fighting over the distance between them, and when she left she said that it was the end for them.
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    Franklin is in the corner by the brick fence just after two in the morning. There is a garbage bag filled with empty bottles beside him, and he reaches into the bag, pulling out bottles one-by-one. He throws each bottle with as much force as he can muster, watching it shatter on the wall with tremendous fury. He reaches into the bag and pulls out an empty wine bottle, the last bottle in the bag. He takes the wine bottle and grips it above his head with both hands. His hands swing over and he lets the bottle fly at the wall, covering his face with his hands to shield himself from the shards of glass flying in his direction.
    The shattering glass wakes up a neighborhood dog, who begins barking at the sound of exploding glass. Franklin stands there, silent and alone in the midst of the night. He has broken all of the glass, and he still doesn’t feel any better. He thinks about Sarah, wondering why she doesn’t believe him. All the broken glass in the world is not enough to mend his broken heart.
———————————————————————————————————————
    Franklin is tripping balls on acid in the middle of the day, staring at the pile of broken glass. He notices a white lacrosse ball floating in the ocean of broken glass. He reaches with his stick to try and scoop the ball, but it is just out of reach. Losing balance, he taps it with the stick and sends it rolling deeper into the sea of glass before falling to his knees. Franklin cringes as his knees crash into the broken glass, slicing them to shreds immediately. The acid allows him to channel the pain into focus, and he remembers that his mission is to get that ball. Being this low to the ground gives him more reach with his stick, and he is able to reach the ball. With his stick he rolls the ball behind him away from the broken glass. Then, he uses his stick as a cane to prop himself up and out of the glass. His whole body shakes in pain.
    There is an outline of Franklin’s knees in the ocean of glass where he had just been kneeling. Shards of glass are stuck in his bloody knees, and he sits down in the leaves away from the ocean of glass to pull the bits of glass from his legs. Rivers of blood run down his legs to his shoes. The pain is felt as a subtle buzz, and he likes it because it helps to distract him from the more painful thoughts of his broken relationship. He feels a desperate anger building inside of him. The wind in the corner blows cold across Franklin’s back.
    Franklin picks up his lacrosse stick with the ball and runs over to the front of the net. He continues until he is about ten yards past the net and turns around. Franklin stands up straight, takes a deep breath, and gets ready to shoot the ball. He can see the top-right corner. With the precision of a cat on the prowl he shoots the ball with as much force as he can get behind it. Franklin feels the darkness leaving him as the ball goes flying towards the net. The shot hits the crossbar with a ding and bounces down into the corner of the net. Goal.
    Franklin gets into a routine of shooting, scoring, and picking up the ball in the net. He hasn’t missed the net in ten shots. For a brief time he is able to forget the about the dark corner, the broken glass, and Sarah. He is alone with his lacrosse stick, picking corners to hone his skills at being happy. He has never been able to shoot this well in the past. He continues shooting without missing the net, and with each successive goal the dark hole in his mind becomes smaller
    Sarah is walking her dog, Sprinkles, around the neighborhood. They only live a few houses apart, so she is forced to walk past his house every time she walks her dog. She has not seen him all summer, and she has been walking the dog past his house every day. Sprinkles is a chubby dog with a distinct waddle and the attitude of a rich princess. Most people that meet Sprinkles laugh at his attempts to intimidate them. She hopes that while walking the dog she will see Franklin outside and have a chance to talk with him. Sarah can’t stop thinking about the words that Franklin said to her. She doesn’t know what they meant, and she didn’t know how to respond, so she got frustrated. It happened months ago, but she still replays the scene to herself in her head almost every day. She still wishes that she knew the words to express the way that she feels. She looks at the sky and watches the clouds float past, much faster than usual.
    Her daze is broken when Sprinkles barks in recognition of Franklin.
    Franklin has just released another top-right zinger when he hears the dog barking. He assumes that it’s just the acid playing games with his head, and takes another shot. The ball flies wide of the net and rolls into the corner of the brick fence. Franklin turns around to see Sarah standing at the edge of his lawn. His heart sinks deep into his stomach.
    Their eyes lock from across the field. He freezes up. Sprinkles keeps barking. She tugs on the leash, trying to run over and greet Franklin, but Sarah holds her still.
    Franklin is sweaty and shaking. He didn't sign up for this. Seeing her right now is way too much for him to handle. They stare across the field in silence, each one waiting for the other to make the first move.
    Sarah moves first. When she starts walking towards Franklin, she notices the blood dripping down his legs. She gets closer and notices the size of his pupils. Sprinkles keeps pulling at the leash, frantically trying to get closer to Franklin. When they are close enough, Sprinkles jumps up and starts licking the blood from Franklin’s legs. She pulls the dog off him, confused about his bloody legs.
    Franklin is more afraid than he has ever been.
    “Did you fall on your knees in a pile of broken glass?”
    Franklin wants to tell her about the dark corner, but he doesn’t mention it. Sweat drips down his face. He looks down at his bloody legs.
    “I was — um, looking for a ball.”
    Franklin shuffles his feet and puts his hands in his pockets.
    Sarah looks at him from head to toe, waiting for him to say something else. The endless silence continues. She has never seen Franklin act so nervous. He was always a little fidgety, but in the past she found it charming. Right now, Franklin is in a state of panic. He is trembling and looking at everything except Sarah.
    Sarah sighs.
    “I’m right in front of your face, Franklin.”
    Sprinkles is still trying to get at the cuts on Franklin’s legs. Sarah looks at his eyes. She can see her reflection in his enlarged pupils.
    “I don’t even know why I came here.” She says.
    Franklin manages to maintain eye contact for long enough to notice that her eyes are filled with tears.
    “Do you believe me yet?” He says.
    A single tear rolls down Sarah’s face. She turns to leave, pulling her dog further away from Franklin. Her thoughts are racing, and she doesn’t understand why Franklin can’t see her side of things.
    Franklin knows that he needs to stop her. He can’t let her walk away.
    “Wait, Sarah.”
    She pretends not to hear and continues towards the edge of the property, and when she is about halfway there she stops walking and turns around. They stand there, staring at each other from across the field. Sarah is waiting for Franklin to do something, anything. To reassure her of the way that he says she makes him feel. But he stands there motionless, and she decides to leave.
    Joe has gotten off work early, and he pulls up to the house to see Franklin and Sarah standing with locked eyes from across the field. Sarah sees him pull up and leaves with her dog, red in the face and streaming with tears. When Joe gets out of his car, Franklin is still standing motionless in the field. He is in a trance, feeling his relationship with Sarah flutter away from him. The wind in his ears sounds like listening to the inside of a conch shell. The sound of the empty conch shell in his ears isn’t enough to muffle the raging sounds of his thoughts. Franklin’s mind screams obscenities. 
     Joe knows that Franklin is on acid, so he isn’t surprised to see him looking like an escaped mental patient. It looks like Franklin has just been fighting off some prison guards with his lacrosse stick. Joe doesn’t even bother to ask Franklin about his bloody legs. He just walks over and waves his hand in front of Franklin’s shaken-up face.
    Franklin snaps out of it and looks at his roommate. His words are mumbled.
    “I have no idea what’s going on.”
    “You wanna smoke a joint?” Joe shrugs. Franklin nods.
    Once inside, Joe gathers the materials to roll a joint and plops himself down on the couch. Franklin heads straight for the bathroom.
    Joe’s buddy at work gave him an anxiety pill to help him wind down for the evening. He finishes rolling the joint and begins crushing up the pill.
    Franklin walks through the bathroom door without turning the lights on. The mirror looks to be made of water, and Franklin watches his reflection stir like a pot of sauce. Over the sound of his thoughts, he can hear Joe snort the pill and then yell from outside the bathroom.
    “Dude, hurry up. You’re missing Jeopardy!”


   

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