133 / 365 – Tailgating

FINN TILLARY

In April, the sun sets after eight, way after eight. As soon as it starts to get warm, the first evening when it starts to just pretend it was warm, you’d start to find groups of kids parked somewhere, sitting in the backs of pickups, going through cases of beer. Supposedly you couldn’t get beer in town. Older guys would talk about when they raised the drinking age, back in the 80s or sometime, and you had to drive up over the border to Manitoba. Guys would drive on the county roads, the farm roads, look for a place to cross over into someone’s farmland, where hopefully they hadn’t turned the soil yet or planted. Keeping the lights off until you were on a highway and watching for the mounted police. Those guys talked like it was some kind of wild adventure to go do that. I don’t know, if you’ve ever been up there, the crossing has a big fence and big lights but you can go a hundred yards in either direction and there’s nothing. My dad told me once they used to drive across it all the time, wherever they wanted. 

I don’t know why you’d have to go to all that trouble, unless what you were after was some kind of adrenalin rush from trying to dodge the police in another country. Supposedly you couldn’t get alcohol in Jericho if you didn’t have an ID, that’s what Chief Stave used to say. But people would show up all the time with whole cases. Nobody seemed to have trouble getting a case of beer. 

It wasn’t like people would arrange anything. We’d be driving around as the sun was setting, maybe three or four of us packed in a truck — me, Laura, Chris. Sometimes Mark Timms. Sometimes Cross. Driving around town, going nowhere, listening to the radio or a cassette of music from somewhere. We always brought Timms because he had new music we’d never heard of. Sometimes people would say, “What did you bring him for?” and then we’d crank up the tunes and they’d shut up.

On the north-south highway down toward Devil’s Lake, there’s the C-store, and behind it there were a few old trees. Mr. Vanek told us once when he first came to Jericho, right after the war, the guy who owned the C-store, who had started it when it was just a gas station then, lived in a little trailer behind there. Those trees made his yard, a little shelterbelt. The C-store had gotten a lot bigger since then and the trailer had moved away but we used to sometimes drive by and you might see someone sitting there in another pickup truck, or maybe a couple of cars. Pretty soon it would be ten or fifteen cars and trucks all around there, people leaning against them or sitting in the truck beds. Just hanging out. We couldn’t crank the music up there, though, because it was too close to town.

Sometimes we’d go from there out to the lake. Sometimes we’d just end up out at the lake. There’s a place over on the far side of it, on the other side from where Laura and I always went. You could build a bonfire out there and nobody would bother us, at least not most of the time. Laura didn’t really like going over there. After awhile, when the fire was dying down and the beer was mostly gone, people would peel off and disappear into cars, or somewhere else in the dark. Laura used to say, “Does everyone like to grope in public?” I’d say, “I don’t think groping is what they’re doing.” She’d say, “Well, even worse then. If I was going to fuck someone, I wouldn’t do it where other people are around.” That was a new word then, “fuck.” People said “fuck this” and “fuck that” but they didn’t mean fucking. We had been together for a long time but it had only been a little while that we had been doing something where you could use that word. It still felt a little dangerous or something.

Laura didn’t like “groping” over there because it was the easiest place to get to the lakeshore, pretty near the picnic area, and once we were there in my truck and suddenly a spotlight came on right in my face. A cop had pulled up right next to me and I hadn’t noticed it. It must have been winter. I must have had the windows up and the engine running. Neither of us had our pants on. The guy pretended he was gonna give us a ticket or something. Took down our names. I think Laura thought they were going to call her parents. She was afraid for weeks. Then she got afraid that she was pregnant, even though, back then, we hadn’t … done anything to make her pregnant. 

Being around other people making out made her uncomfortable. When it was just us, it didn’t seem to matter, but being around other people made her self-conscious, or uncomfortable. I don’t know. I’d get sad. It would remind me that this wasn’t going to last forever. It was OK for her for that time and then it wouldn’t be. And I didn’t understand why, why if it could last a day it couldn’t last forever. Maybe I still don’t.

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