Mary Jane’s Last Dance

“This is Cynthia, isn’t she pretty?” Asked the little girl, holding up a Troll figurine with spiked green hair.
I was leaning against the tree in my sandals and sunglasses with an orange vest that said ‘SECURITY’ over my t-shirt and shorts, all the kids were running around screaming and playing with a few parents standing around keeping close watch, except this little girl who’d come up to me.
“She’s lovely-”
“We got a suspicious looking blonde with tiggol bitties just passing the face painting stand, do you got visual, Pearl Necklace, over?” crackled the radio on my hip before I could turn the volume down.
“Sorry Emily, I’m afraid I have to have a talk with my colleague here. Why don’t you go take a turn on the tire swing?”
“Ok!” Emily said running off to join her friends.
“Saul, someone is going to come on this channel and you’re going to get us both fired and kicked out. Over.” I spoke into the radio.
“…I won’t acknowledge you unless you use my callsign.”
I rolled my eyes, I don’t know why he gave me my stupid callsign, but I couldn’t decide if I’d rather have his.
“Ok, Dirty Sanchez, chupas mis pedos de mi culo, cabron. If John comes on this channel we are so fucked. Over and out.”
John had gotten us these jobs. The festival tickets had all sold out early, but then I got wind that John was managing the security. He was one of those neighborhood watch, volunteer, always wore a cowboy hat, sunglasses with his mustache, a wannabe police officer type that always got involved in these types of things. An old friend of my Dad’s. It was basically a huge hippie love-fest out in the middle of nowhere deep in the forest in the mountains near an Indian reservation, thousands of people all camping, a big fair, and live music all day, and jamming around the campfires, smoking dope and drinking with strangers all night. During the day, Saul and I had to put on orange security vests and keep our radios on. I was assigned to watch the kids area where parents would drop their kids off to run their energy off on a makeshift playground in the woods just outside the fair. Saul had been assigned to merchant security, but he did little but comment on every pair of tits and ass he saw. The biggest thing that happened was the lady at the bead shop would call us to complain about unsavory urchins lighting off fireworks near her stand a couple times a day. We’d investigate, but never did catch the culprits.

It was 95 degrees in the shade that day, so I was grateful when Ted dropped by with a tall glass of Ocean Spray from the cooler. We had setup our campsite with Ted and Sam, Saul and I sharing a tent, Ted sleeping in his pickup truck, and Sam didn’t seem to sleep, just passed out in a chair next to the fire pit, he was always up when I got up to unload a full bladder of booze at 3 am. He’d usually be drumming on his djembe deep into the night. Our camping neighbor would walk over and yell at him periodically, “Your drumming is reverberating through our campsite!” to which Sam would reply “Yeah, reverberating through your ASSHOLE.” Before stopping for a bit. Sam was a jerk when he drank. I took a drink of the beverage and got a little surprise when it burned on the way down.
“What percentage of vodka is this?” I asked.
“Just 50/50, not our usual 75/25. What do you take me for, I know you gotta work! Have fun dude, don’t lose any of the kids, we are off to see this dope ska band.” Ted said as he joined Sam carrying their lawn chairs off to the grassy concert area, the deep bass of the current band finishing their set echoing through the trees.
I leaned back against the tree and took another sip. I better take it slow with this one, can’t be getting hammered while on the job.
“Can I have some of your juice?” Asked Emily skipping over.
“Sorry sweetheart, you wouldn’t like it, I think your mommy has a drink box for ya.”

As night fell Saul and I had to go to the entrance of the concert arena for bag and cooler checking detail. We drank our vodka-cranberries and told people they couldn’t take anything made of glass into the arena. They finally let us off for the headliner. We joined Sam and Ted at the spots they’d saved for us at the front row, it was Arlo Gutherie that night, with his daughter Sarah-Lee. Half way through Alice’s Restaurant, Sam starting yelling, “We love you, Arlo Gutherie’s daughter!” We had to restrain him from charging the stage.

Sam and Ted had volunteered as well to get free tickets, they had stage and concert area  cleanup every evening after the last set, but Saul and I were free to go back to the campsite, get our guitars and find a jam session to join. We found a good one that night, we killed the most interesting version of Octopus’s Garden I’d ever heard, with 3 guitars, a mandolin, a banjo, and a pair of spoons for percussion. Saul and I would introduce folks to our renditions of Devil Makes Three and Tenacious D songs. After our fingers were sore and voices tired, we returned to the campsite, Sam and Ted had just returned and were passing a bottle of brandy.
“Where’d you guys get brandy?” I asked, unstrapping my guitar and slumping into a chair next to the fire which was just beginning to grow in the pit.
The cooler was practically empty at this point, the handles of vodka were discarded, no more cranberry juice, the corpses of several 36 packs of beer and accompanying cans littered the campsite, you couldn’t walk anywhere without stepping on a piece of aluminum.
“Dude, this is fuckin’ Arlo Gutherie’s brandy! We stole it from his tent! Here, take a pull!” Ted handed me the bottle.
“Seriously guys? What the fuck.” I took the fifth from him.
“Well, may as well drink it, can’t bring it back now.” Sam said smiling ear to ear.
I shrugged, yeah, it was a bit late. I took a pull.
“It’s the last night, what are we gonna do?” Asked Ted as I passed the bottle to Saul.
“We are going to play pass Arlo Gutherie’s brandy until the bottle is empty and jam of course!” Said Saul as he took a pull.
With the empty bottle resting in the grass by the tree, we played and sang around the campfire, four old friends since high school.
“Ok, last song. What’s it gonna be?” I asked.
Everyone was stoned and drunk out of their minds, so the stares were blank as could be, Sam looked like he could fall out of his chair at any moment. Fine, I strummed the opening on my Martin. A minor with a hammer on, G, D, back to A minor. On cue Saul perked up, added depth to the guitar line on his Fender, Sam started drumming. Ted came in with the lead vocal “She grew up in an Indiana town, had a good lookin’ momma who never was around, but she grew up tall and she grew up right with them Indiana boys on an Indiana night” he got up and danced around and blew his harmonica as he finished the verse. We jammed until we ran out of lyrics and kept going, solos and all. I don’t remember the song ending. But, I woke up on top of my sleeping bag in the tent, flaps open. Saul was in the bushes next to the car. Sam was in his chair, and Ted was lying in the bed of his truck. I got up early enough to see our camping neighbors, who’d just finished packing their RV, sneak through the bushes and trees with pots and pans, right up to the edge of our campsite and begin banging them together and shouting. Sam mumbled and snorted before going back to sleep, Saul didn’t stir, Ted sat up for a second before lying back down. The neighbors, satisfied that they’d taught us a lesson for all the late night and early morning hell we’d given them ran back to their RV, the dust swirling from hundreds of RV’s, trucks, and cars abandoning the place while my friends slept. That was the last time we were all together. Ted got married and moved away, Sam is living with a girlfriend somewhere, Saul is a drifter, and I’m a married philanderer.

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7 thoughts on “Mary Jane’s Last Dance

    1. Indeed, it really sticks out in my mind sometimes. We used to go to this festival yearly when we were just out of high school, it kind of culminated in this the final year and then we all went our separate ways. I figured my posts had been a bit depressing lately, had to switch it up a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. This was almost a decade ago now, lol. I don’t think any of us can even play anymore. I stopped playing guitar over 5 years ago, I can only remember the chords to maybe half a dozen songs now, it would take weeks of bloody fingers to regain the calluses to be able to play all night. It might be nice, but I’ve lost touch with all of these guys, sadly. Ted has a kid, I did get to see him and his wife last year, but we never talk. Saul did come back to town last year too, so I have gotten to reconnect with him. I don’t know. It would be nice I guess, but we’ve all moved on. It would take so much effort just to learn to play again and with busy schedules and lives… Kind of sad when you think about it. We definitely don’t drink like we used to either, lol, sometimes I wonder how we all survived it, nobody I knew ever got alcohol poisoning or killed in a drunk driving accident. It seemed it was just a stage of life, I wonder if we’ll ever get back there again. I do want to setup a music room in the house when my Grandmother, bless her heart, bequeaths her piano to me as she said she would. So, maybe those days will return. Or maybe we’ll take our kids to this festival when they grow. Sometimes it all seems like doom and gloom with how I’m living my life at the moment, just out looking for love in all the wrong places.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I definitely think you should pick up the guitar again and see if you still get joy out of it. It sounds like a good way to destress, just strumming away on your own time…. And I think my friends are still at the heavy drinking stage – not sure we’ll ever grow out of it; nearly got clobbered by a flying wine bottle on Saturday so apparently it’s still a dangerous activity in large groups!

        Liked by 1 person

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