The headlights of Kenny’s F150 burned like stars in my rearview mirror and I reached up and nudged it slightly, trying to alleviate the glare. The inside of my little ‘73 Bug was a hot cocoon, the vinyl seats sticking to my thighs. Ryan gripped the passenger door, his excitement stabbing out into the cramped space. I took the corner fast, jerking the gear shift down and quick-swift pressing the gas and clutch. Ahead of us, in the widening triangle of light was a lone port-o-potty standing like a neon blue sentinel before the new-construction houses. The street was dark and empty, the windows of the houses blank. We had spent hours roaming through the skeletal buildings in all stages of construction and now that they were done, I felt a kinship with these monuments to American suburbia. Brown stone, brown wood, brown grass. Only the model home at the front of the street had sprinklers.
I braked, skidding to a stop in front of the port-o-potty. Ryan let out a whoop and threw open the door, exploding out into the street. I heard the boys in the truck behind me laughing and carrying on. I took a drag from my cigarette and watched as Ryan launched himself at the blue plastic box, waiting for the satisfying moment when it would topple like a felled tree. His body hit the side and it swayed for a moment, tipping to one side before coming back and landing solidly where it had sat a moment before.
“What the fuck?!”
Kenny was halfway out his truck window. He waved his arms at his brother, the tip of his cigarette diving like a lightning bug. Ryan circled the port-o-potty, running his hands along the side.
“It’s tied to the damn light post!”
I laughed sharply, loudly. They had finally caught on to us, realized it wasn’t wind that was knocking over every port-o-potty in the new neighborhood being built over the railroad tracks. I had always wondered how many mornings of discovering the spreading pools of refuse seeping out from under a tipped port-o-can it would take before they wised up.
“Leave it! Let’s hit the next one.”
Ryan stood for a moment, lit by the two sets of headlights. He dug in his pockets and pulled out a cigarette lighter. Reaching over, he lit the rope and waited. A movement to my right, a quick blur of light and then Kenny was screaming. The truck engine revved and he passed us, the boys waving their arms.
“Go, Molly! Go! Go!”
The lights were coming on in the house beside us, the door opened onto a lit foyer and the shadow of a man emerged. I yelled at Ryan, let’s go hurry up, and the rope snapped. He threw himself against the port-o-potty again, and this time it fell, smacking the asphalt with that familiar weight. It lay low on the street as Ryan crowed victory to the black sky.
I hit the gas and the car sputtered to life, darting forward like a wounded animal. The passenger door was still open and Ryan was running, sprinting forward and then beside it. He threw his arms out, catching the frame of the door and behind him I could see the man. He ran down the walk in his bathrobe, waving a shotgun in the air.
“Get in the car!”
My voice was high and tight and Ryan swung himself in. The man was yelling, chasing after us as the car limped down the road. The car door slammed shut, an ending. In my rearview mirror that man ran, robe billowing out behind him, and his mouth open and wide like a tunnel, a road, a bottomless pit.
Story Song: "Saints" by The Breeders