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Cruising

Seventy-eight dollars was a pretty good haul today. The promotion from busboy to a server is what I needed. Now I'm making more in one night than I did in a weekend of cleaning tables at the Catfish House. Luckily Mrs. Ellis gave me a shot because I always thought I was too clumsy to carry all of those dishes up my arm. Some of the regulars who request me when they stop by are pretty cool and good tippers. It's not a bad job, but I don't see myself here much longer.


"The floor needs to dry a little more, Chris," Mrs. Ellis tells me as I attempt to wrap up prematurely. At least the little dining room is finished. We knocked that out about an hour before we closed. Mr. Ellis always lets us get a head start on a few things because I don't think he likes to hang out very long either. For the longest time, I didn't feel like he enjoyed having me around.


I overheard him telling Dicky a story when I first got the job. I've always been a little hard of hearing, and when Mr. Ellis doesn't have his teeth in, he can be challenging to follow. Typically when I can't understand someone, I instinctively giggle, and it usually works out in the end, and everyone is happy; not this time. The story wrapped up, and my southern belly chortle kicked into high gear; then Mr. Ellis looked at Dicky and said, "I don't think that was funny, do you?" Dicky's eyes widened, and he said, "No sir, I do not," as our chief walked away and disappeared into the kitchen.

It turns out Mr. Ellis was telling the tale of when some thief stole his class ring at school. Thankfully he forgave me, and we grew pretty close after the misunderstanding.


"Momma, this floor's dry," Mr. Ellis belts out across the empty dining room to his wife.


Mrs. Ellis smiles at me and says, "go ahead and finish up, sweetie." She continued closing out the register.


My friends are starting to accumulate outside. As soon as these chairs are down, I'm out the door. Luckily a couple of guys stuck around to help, so it'll go fast. My buddies and I will cruise Riverside for a couple of hours before we end up at someone's house. That's what we do most nights. There isn't much else going on in Clarksville by the time I get off work. The evening always begins with high aspirations that we'll meet a few girls, but despair sets in when things wind down, then we give up. It's a weekly cycle.


After changing my shirt and grabbing my coat, I head out to the parking lot to meet yet another Chris we'll call Chris G; then there's Kevin, Don, and Matt. I'm attempting to catch as many moments as possible with this group of guys because I know these adventures won't last forever. Sooner or later, we'll all drive around together for the last time, and none of us will even realize it's over. All Chris G and Kev talk about is moving to Alaska so they can get rich. They're planning on leaving as early as next year. Matt's obligations on the farm are his number one priority, so he'll be taking on more responsibility soon. Don's future is up in the air right now, but my best guess is that he'll follow in his parents' footsteps and join the military.




For now, we're all together, and the night is young. About the time my pals pile in the Cutlass, George Michael blasts through my speakers, encouraging us with his song Faith. Everyone sings along, and we make up our own words if we don't know the lyrics. Once the song cools down, the conversation fires up.


"Man, we need girls," Matt says from the backseat as we see a carload drive past.


"We wouldn't know what to do with them if we did meet any," Kevin announces.


"Don should clearly talk to them first," was my recommendation.


Chris G concurred, "Yeah, they'll love Don's eyes; they always do."


Matt perked up, "The problem with that is when they see Don, the bar is too high, and the rest of us are out of luck."


I suggested, "We should just stop bringing Don along then. It'll improve our chances."


"You guys really suck," was Don's comeback.


Every group has that one guy who is ridiculously good-looking. Don is that guy in our circle. The rest of us can pull every trick in the book to meet a girl, but Don doesn't even have to try. He flashes his ice-blue eyes, and it's game over for everybody else. Kevin is always too hard on himself; Chris G is currently heartbroken; Matt and I would appreciate a tiny bit of excitement, so hope lives within us two. We're an odd group, but we are the best of friends. High school has its share of clicks, but none of us ever quite fit into any of them. It's probably why we all get along.


The cruise route starts by turning in by Funland arcade, and then we drive past the movie theater and back onto Riverside Drive. We follow the Cumberland River to the last light and use Burger Kings' parking lot to redirect and repeat. Cars are bumper to bumper at least until around one in the morning. I'm good to go all night because my job doesn't start until three tomorrow afternoon. Some of the guys have to get up early, but most of us get to sleep in on Saturday.

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Horns honk, and the sound of blaring music blends with squealing tires and powerful engines. The crisp air forces us to keep the windows up during the ride. Each red light gives us a chance to roll them down and hopefully make eye contact with a beautiful girl. Some magic moments materialize before being snuffed out by an annoyed look from an overbearing boyfriend in the driver's seat. Laughter takes over as we prepare for the next stop.


"That hot girl next to us just smiled at me; catch up to her," Matt sounded out.


"Pretty sure she was looking at Don," uttered Kevin.


Chris G chimed in, "Now she's rolling her eyes and speeding up."


"Guessing she's not into a car full of desperate boys," I proclaimed.


"It's a sausage party every night," Don added.


We smiled and decided to check out Buffalo Brady's and maybe play a game of pool. None of us are professionals, but again, it's more about meeting the opposite sex and less about showing off any game-related skills. We filed in, past the cigarette machine in the foyer, and took a table. Guns N' Roses filled the dining room with one of my favorite tunes, Paradise City. Matt and Don headed to the billiards while the rest of us ordered a couple of sodas.


I told Kevin that I thought that brunette we passed on the way in might be into me. Chris G told me I should forget about it because she's already talking to Don. We changed the conversation and moved on because she was a lost cause at that point. We slid into deep dialogue mode in no time because that's what happens around midnight. The crowd began to thin out as our two buddies returned to join in the discussion.


We sat around that table, looking at each other wrapped in the innocence of youthful bliss. The late hours made no difference because none of us thought too far past the moment. One of us would take the floor to speak while the rest would intently listen until it was our turn. Chuckling until we couldn't breathe or crying until our tear ducts were empty wasn't uncommon at all. We'd become friends long ago, but it was times like this that cemented our friendship for a lifetime.


On the way back to the Catfish House, the guys made me sing Chantilly Lace because I could make myself sound just like The Big Bopper. They'd all cackle out loud while I did my best to keep from cracking up. Everyone complained about how we were a bunch of failures every time we went out. Of course, that won't keep us from trying the next day all over again. Tomorrows are abundant for now, so our group of lovable losers will make the most of them.

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