by William Arthur “Bill” Holmes. © Copyright 1990
I pulled into Angel's Camp around noon. I was supposed to be meeting my brother Don and his wife Diane there … somewhere. We hadn't actually decided on a meeting place. That would have been too easy.
I drove south on the main street through town (probably Main Street, though I'm not quite sure). Parked along either side of the street were at least a hundred motorcycles, mostly Harleys, hovered over by their mostly leather-clad owners and passengers. I was supposed to find Don and Diane's motorcycle out of all these?
Don made it easy for me. He stepped out in front of my car as I made my way down the street. I was looking left and he came at me from the right. I could tell it was Don by the sound of his screams as I ran him over.
I pulled into the parking lot and parked my car. Don, limping, and Diane, also limping though I'm not sure why, met me there.
“You just ran over my foot, Bill,” he said in disbelief.
“I know,” I said. “I'm sorry. Have you eaten yet?”
“No. Have you?” he replied.
“There's a restaurant just up the street,” Diane offered.
I wanted to order French toast, but was afraid it wouldn't fill me up.
“Always go with your first instinct,” Don advised.
“You're right, of course,” I said. And I ordered the French toast. Don and Diane both ordered eggs over-medium with a side of wheat toast. We all drank coffee. Black.
After breakfast, it was time to go to the fairgrounds, Don and Diane on their motorcycle, me in my truck. At least, that's what I assumed until Diane said she wanted to drive my pickup.
“Why?” I asked.
“After two hours on the back of a motorcycle, I need to sit on a car seat for a while,” she explained.
“You don't love me anymore,” Don said bitterly.
I talked Diane into letting me drive and she rode with me.
There was a line of cars at the fairgrounds gate. The entrance was on a hill, and my car is a stick shift. I have an irrational fear of stopping on hills with a car that has a stick shift. I mentioned this to Diane, but she didn't seem to care. I told her about the time I ran a red light in Ossining, New York because it was at the top of a steep hill and my truck had a stick shift.
She looked at me sideways, yawned, and said, “That's against the law, isn't it?”
I didn't answer. I was suddenly deep in concentration. As we approached the fairgrounds entrance, the hill got steeper and steeper. My left foot was getting sore from constantly pushing down and letting go of the clutch pedal. I was really getting nervous. Tiny droplets of sweat dotted my upper lip.
“You want me to drive?” Diane asked helpfully.
“No,” I said. “This is something I have to do myself.”
Don then pulled up beside us on his motorcycle.
“Pay my parking,” he shouted, and sped on up ahead and out of sight. He reappeared a few minutes later after I parked my truck.
“How's your butt?” he asked.
“Fine, thanks,” I said.
“I was talking to Diane,” he sneered.
“Just fine,” Diane answered.
“I want to see the frogs,” I shouted, once we were through the gates and in the fair.
“Look in the mirror,” Don snapped.
“You're still mad because I ran over your foot, aren't you?” I asked.
And that's when Don pulled out his knife and began whipping it back and forth in front of my face. He stood with his feet wide apart, his body leaning slightly forward as he bobbed and weaved and stabbed at the air. The long, sharp blade glinted menacingly in the sun.
“Nice knife, huh?” Don laughed excitedly.
“Uh, yeah. Real nice,” I said as I backed away. Then, as quickly as he had produced the knife, he put it away and never mentioned it again.
“He's been under some stress lately,” Diane explained.
“Ah,” I said.
The frogs were located near the rodeo. The frog jockeys were stamping their feet and slapping the ground, whatever it took to get their frogs to jump. It was pretty boring. So, we watched the rodeo.
“What makes the horses buck?” Diane asked.
“Well, they take a corn cob …” Don began to explain.
“A bucking strap,” I interjected.
“What's a bucking strap?” Diane asked.
“A marital aid,” Don said. I laughed. Don didn't. I thought he was kidding. Apparently, he wasn't.
We left the rodeo before the barrel racing started. We weren't interested. Pig racing! Now, that's another matter. Unfortunately, we missed it. Diane was pretty broken up over it, too. I had no idea she felt so strongly about pigs. Her whining and complaining finally got so bad, I had to get a beer. I was going to get a beer, anyway. But this gave me a valid excuse.
When I returned with my beer, Don and Diane were gone. I searched the fairgrounds for at least five minutes before finally giving up and returning to my car. I found a note on my window. Spray-painted across the glass it said, “WE LEFT.”
“Ah,” I said to no one in particular as I finished my beer.