Ranch Dressing, Part 2. Part 1 is Found Here.
Cars pulled off of roadways. Modular homes filled up without babysitters, the drug not safe for those under age 8. They watched impassively as rows upon ballpoint pen rows filled up on legal pads, and people joined together for protection, uncertain what their parents or sisters or guardians were doing out there.
I swallowed the small blue pill, expecting sleep. Instead I saw space in five dimensions, rainbow trails, ROY G. BIV and all those things I’ve half-learned in middle school chemistry. There were no videos. There was something not interactive about this medication, if it was medication, something that hearkened back to simple times. They gave us scores of charts, which we filled in like math students at some college worksheet.
Every so often, a military GI with a tommy gun opened up a door to a modular home or a real home made out of our famous red clay. What was today? What was tomorrow? Did any of it really matter? I saw everyone’s paint-by-number dreams, like a modern day Jackson Browne. They took sheet after sheets. The Clutters looked the same. The Smiths looked the same. The Johnsons looked the same. Even the Maranpolas, the Greeks down the way looked the same as us, but theirs was in red, blood red.
It was just Crayola’s, markers and crayons and colored pencils. Nothing serious. The way the papers were collected was with deadly seriousness, as though someone had died. They even gave it to the same guy, this little fella with fewer stars on his epaulets, who acted like he was due twice as much for duty this profane.
“One more tomorrow, yes?” And we all smiled the smiled of the stoned and the preoccupied. It was almost like speed, but it wasn’t quite that way either. No grinding of teeth. A nice mellow, highly tested chemical that dissolved rapidly and had no need to measure weight or blood pressure, or even pulse rate. You’d swear at the end you’d had a religious experience and maybe you had. You’d brag about it over the school lunch table.
And amid thermos and lunchboxes, the talk was the same the next day. One more day of the mystical pill. Whatever will they think of next? We didn’t much talk about what they wanted from us. It gave us a break from the hunger and the Russians and the Iranians and the fifty minutes if we wanted gasoline. You could skim it off the line if you got desperate and some of us did, but the behavior was discouraged, but the poorest among us had no such reservation. Ever tried to get mineral spirits out of a grey flannel shirt?
And then the military brass started walking all slow-like around 2 pm. We weren’t supposed to be at school, but we knew that. And all the time, they kept walking lolly-gag style with a plastic bag full of those same little blue pills. Round two, said some widow, and so we prepared for round two. It was our last go-round with the U.S. Army and nobody was afraid to look a gift horse in the mouth, it was two days where we weren’t worried about being poached across the river to the next grist mill.
They started knocking on doors like before, pouring pills into cupped hands into small circular paper contains containers of water. Plastic cups from all over creation. Free somewhere, once. They drank them down with haste, ready to begin, to learn the meaning of life, even ordinary people who never had no book learnin’ like James Franklin Jamison, the town mentally challenged individual, who you used to call the village idiot.
He was rubbing out answers and blue boxes with his elbows, which soon grew blue. I wonder what his answers said. Could they be what we were looking for all along. As it turns out, there was to go before the Minnesota border and here were in northern Michigan. Not close to nothin’ as the neighbors would say.
The bullhorns let us know they were leaving soon and for us to dose or forget about it. So I opened up the gate to the bridge and off they sped. As for me, I walked back to the campsite to see what everyone was doing. They kept drawing boxes and talking frantically. I wish I knew that universe they inhabited individually. Was it different from mine?