One of my favorite Stephen King stories is "The Body", which was originally published in "Different Seasons" -- a collection of four novellas. This story of four boys coming of age in the early 1960's was the source for the outstanding motion picture "Stand By Me". I have to wonder, though, how this story might have been different had it taken place in 2011 . . .
The set up in the garage was awesome. Two comfortable-but-beat-up couches, a recliner, and eight or so throw pillows where we could flop down in front of the Sony 47-inch flat screen. There was a fridge in the corner that mom always kept stocked with Dr. Pepper and Coke, and even a few bottles of Arrowhead water in case Billy Greer showed up. We never knew why, but Billy hated soda. Some dudes are just weird.
Teddy and Chris and I were in the garage on that Friday morning, bitching about school starting up soon and playing a two-on-one game of Madden '10. I was the Jets, Teddy and Chris joined forces as the friggin' New England Patriots. Mom had just brought in a fresh bowl of popcorn, and we'd helped ourselves to another round of sodas. On the screen, my Jets had a first and goal at the Pats' three, ready to tie the game before halftime. I called a safe running play up the middle, Sanchez handing off to Greene.
"FUMBLE!" shouted Chris.
"Our ball, our ball! Gordie's Jets just screwed the pooch and drug their sorry asses to the sideline," Teddy howled and then gave out with his patented Teddy Duchamp laugh -- Eeeee-eee-eee, like the sirens in True Crime: Streets of L.A. Teddy was a strange kid, no question. He was almost thirteen like the rest of us, but his thick glasses and the ridiculous plaid shirts he always wore made him look like someone's grandfather. Teddy lived with his mom and a seemingly endless parade of "step-dads" although no one could remember him talking about his mom actually getting remarried. Every now and then she'd hook up with some asshole who'd try to "teach that punk Teddy some manners" and smack him around a bit. Teddy would take off and spend the night at my house, or maybe over at Chris's, until things cooled down or, more likely, his mom sent the bastard packing.
He was the dumbest guy we hung around with, I guess, and crazy. He'd do the craziest things you could think of without even thinking twice about it. Like when everyone and their brother thought it was cool to put Mentos in a bottle of soda and watch it erupt all over the place, Teddy had to take it a step further. We were in his living room watching Jackass: The Movie and without any warning he went to the kitchen and got a two-liter of Coke and a pack of Mentos. He brought it all into the living room and told us he was going to drop in the candy and chug the soda like you'd shotgun a beer. Sure enough, he wrapped his lips around the bottle opening, and before anyone really knew what was happening, Coke was spurting out of Teddy's nose and the corners of his mouth, basically spraying everywhere. And you know what Numb-nuts did? He gripped the bottle tighter and kept gagging and leaking all over the place. Damn fool nearly drowned himself. When his step-dad-of-the-month got home and saw the living room carpet, Teddy got an ass-whipping for his trouble. This time, his mother was fine with it.
"First down, Patriots, eeee-eee-eee!"
"Shit," I said, as my defense took the field. There was only about a minute left in the first half, so Teddy and Chris didn't have much of a chance to capitalize on the Greene fumble. They tried a couple of desperation passes without any success and the half ended with me still down by seven. My cell phone beeped with a text message.
DUDE ITS VERN LET ME IN
I hit the button to open the garage door and as it rumbled up, Vern Tessio, one of the other regulars, bounced in. He was sweating like a pig, his Green Day t-shirt completely soaked and his hair matted down like he'd just stepped out of the shower.
"Holy crap, guys, wait'll you hear this."
"Hear what?" I asked.
"Lemme get my breath. I ran all the way from my house."
"I ran, I ran so far a-waaaaaaay," Teddy sang out. We looked at him like he was nuts.
"What the hell song is that?" asked Chris.
"I Ran. Flock of Seagulls?" said Teddy.
"Who are the Flock of Seagulls?" I asked.
"Eighties band, lead singer had a weird hair-do that looked like a bird."
"Never heard of them."
"My mom loves that shit," said Teddy.
"Uh, excuse me, guys," said Vern. "You wanna hear this or what?"
"Sorry Vern," said Chris. "Go ahead."
"Can you guys camp out tonight?" Vern was looking at us with anticipation. See, Vern was kind of new to the neighborhood, he'd only lived here about a year or so. His family moved to Castle Rock from somewhere in the mid-west, Illinois or Indiana, I think. Vern's family didn't have much money, so he didn't grow up with video games or electronic gadgets. In fact, the rest of us thought it was a damn miracle that his folks broke down and bought him his piece of crap Nokia cell phone. He was always making lame suggestions like "Let's go out and play some Wiffle Ball," whatever that is, or "What do you guys think about riding bikes down to the river and doing a little fishing?" Right. When we've got X-Box 360 and all the snacks we can eat, right here in my garage? I don't think so, pal.
"Camp out?" said Chris. "You mean like in an RV or something?"
"No, dumbass, we'll get some sleeping bags and camp out under the stars."
"I'm gonna have to pass," said Teddy. "I can't sleep without my memory foam mattress and pillow."
"Yeah, Vern, I don't think so either," I said. "I'm allergic to bug bites."
Seriously, if I asked my folks if I could take a sleeping bag, which I don't even own in the first place, and sleep outside all night, they'd probably have a collective brain aneurysm. My father's idea of roughing it is staying in a hotel that doesn't offer 24-hour room service. Vern looked disappointed, but what are you gonna do?
"Okay, time for the second half kickoff," said Chris.
Vern stood behind us and watched as I guided Jets' kick returner Brad Smith through the Patriots' coverage team, scoring an amazing 97-yard touchdown to tie the game.
Right in the middle of my celebratory touchdown dance, Vern Tessio said: "You guys want to go see a dead body?"
Everybody stopped. Chris, Teddy and I all looked at each other, absorbing the impact of what Vern had just said.
We handed Vern a controller, he shrugged his shoulders and joined in the game.
Round three of Knucklehead's Blog-Off 2011 continues through Wednesday this week. For links to the contestants' entries and the voting ballot, see the sidebar to your right.