Henry's Re-entry

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Chapter 19

Henry sat down at the picnic table outside fort drift.

Two ruts ran through the dirt and gravel from the picnic table to the next parking area thirty or so feet down the way. He wondered why they hadn’t just moved the van down there instead of dragging the table all the way up here. Looked like it would’ve been a hell of a lot easier.

They were in an official camping area that ran along the river. Odd he hadn’t noticed it earlier. He also hadn’t noticed the massive iron firepit squatting between the van and the river. It looked like it could hold a fire big enough to be seen from space. He wondered how safe a fire that size could be.

A couple ropes stretched between a couple more anemic pines off to the left side of the camp. A few sleeping bags hung over them with the flannel side exposed. He wondered if that was his fault. He couldn’t possibly have smelled that bad, could he have?

Nancy was sizzling bacon over a camp stove down at the other end of the picnic table from him, standing in full sun. He wore a wifebeater that was so white it was nearly too bright to look at. It was also two sizes too tight and didn’t much flatter his man-tits. He remembered Alice wearing hers last night. She’d looked damned good in it, too. It was a sorry thing that Nancy had pretty effectively ruined wifebeaters for him now.

Nancy laid his spatula down on a fold of newspaper and looked at Henry. He dug a cigarette out from the maze of frosted hair above his ear, stuck it in his mouth and lit it without ever taking his eyes from him. Henry thought it was probably similar to the look serial killers give when marking someone for entertainment later.

Alice walked up just in time. She still wore her towel. “Bacon smells like heaven, Nan,” she said, slapping the back of his head and taking the cigarette from his mouth in the same move, “Don’t overcook it.”

“Blow me,” he snapped.

She set a small black case on the table next to Henry. “Hello, there,” she said, rubbing his hair, “Ooh, nice and clean.”

Henry cringed. “Is that going to be the theme of the day?” he said, irritated.

Alice lifted her head to the sky and freed a stream of smoke, then looked back at him and said, “You were pretty ripe, my little friend.” She punctuated that statement with a wink.

“I’m well aware of that, thanks.” He’d had about as much of ‘Henry smells like shit’ as he cared to hear for the week. A punch line only works once.

Alice took another hit and handed the cigarette back to Nancy. “The kids are sleeping again?”

Nance stuck the cigarette back in his mouth. “Is the door open?”

Henry looked back at the van in tandem with Alice. A couple pairs of legs and feet were visible through the side door. All the feet pointed up.

“It is,” Alice said.

“Then they’re sleeping,” Nancy said, squinting through the cigarette smoke, “If it’s closed, there’s ninety-four per cent probability they’re doing the horizontal waltz.” He glanced over at the van and added, “Well, it’s usually horizontal. They’re as athletic as a couple spider monkeys.”

“You boys are getting along well, I hope?” Alice said as she poured a plastic cup of orange juice from a beat-up pitcher.

“Like a fresh pair of BFFs,” Nancy said with an unhealthy dose of cute, “Why, the conversation’s been simply riveting. Wouldn’t you say so, Henry, dear?”

“And how,” Henry said. The guy was a serious dipshit.

He picked at the graffiti scars on the wood and wondered how far away the highway was. Someone had carved Joanie sucks dick right below Eat Shit. One or both of them appeared to have been carved in ’03. He thought back to the rest area kiosk. Bloody assholes were everywhere, and they were apparently timeless.

Alice put a glass of juice in front of him, complete with a look of instruction that required no translation. It was probably best not to ignore it. He lifted the glass as she watched and took a conservative sip.

“You’re a wise man, Henry,” she said with another wink.

“Yeah, I’m the very pinnacle of prudence and good judgment,” he said, taking another drink. It actually tasted pretty damned good. It’d be perfect with some vodka in it.

“Your clothes are drying. I brought my box.”

“Your box?”

“My sewing equipment.” She patted the black case affectionately.

“Sewing?” He looked over at Nancy.

“Oh, it’s true,” Nancy said, “Our sweet Alice is a seamstress extraordinaire. Why, she could rival the most skilled eleven year olds Asian sweatshops have to offer.”

Alice punched him. Hard. “I’m a fashion designer, asshole.”

“Ow,” Nancy cried, “Bitch.”

Alice bent over Henry and pecked him on the cheek. “After I pee, we’ll work on fixing up your fashionable duds. How’s that sound?”

“Fixing them up?” he said.

“Gotta pee. Be right back.”

Henry watched her walking away. “You don’t have to go hide,” he called to her, “Whatever happened to ‘it’s the most natural thing in the world’?”

Alice sent him back a finger.

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