This page copyright 1998 The Shrubbery
Shucksters On the Road
Part 1 of 3
Fiction by Adam Bresson
I met him my first year of college. We thought the same way. He didn't care if I told jokes about handicapped people. In fact, he even thought up a clever name so that we could say things about them and their caretakers wouldn't know what we were talking about. We'd travel late night to Ben Frank's and get worked up over almost stars like Rosie Perez and Bill Maher. Regular buddies. But this was a different sort of undertaking.
Our f**kin' brilliant plan was to travel around the Western states for a week-and-a-half as restaurant reviewers to fill up on gourmet food and fatty deserts. For free of course. I had made up some business cards that said "Scott Bishop, Arts and Leisure, College Magazine." He was my co-writer.
And there's the rub. We were just two middle-rangers in the social class of our West Coast university but on the road we'd become defenders of the poor and unfed. We'd fake our way into eateries, meet local people, party, sleep on their floors and take off the next morning. Free spirits. There was even a little bit of truth in our fakeness: there is a real College Magazine, Bishop is the last name of a bastard, and we both love to eat.
Up until now, our scams had been relatively low key. We'd go to Target and return something off the shelf to get a check for a couple of hundred dollars sent to us ten days later. We'd cut whitespace out of newspaper and print pizza coupons on them from my dot matrix printer and then order up for the whole dorm floor. We'd make fake ID's from 3M Matte and video store membership cards. Nothing in another state.
One week before, we had very scientifically picked the cities we'd visit. We sat in a booth at a twenty-four hour German place on Route 22 with a big map spread in front of us. I dipped a straw in ketchup and blindly threw it at the Western states. One locale. He'd do it and so it was. Cosmically, we would visit Arizona, Mexico, New Mexico and then snake our way back into California.
Packing for the trip in my beat up Tempo was tough. We knew what we didn't need but didn't know what we needed. We packed some sparkling cider to celebrate my friend's birthday during the trip. We packed a tent. We packed a s**tload of music. We drove off early in the morning feeling not like ourselves. We were Scott Bishop and Jeff Johnson.
The drive out on the 10 East was blissful desert. Not many trees or streams to tarnish the bronzed skin of the land. Jeff and I talked about college and women--we didn't miss anything yet. We had ten CD's of music as a soundtrack to our journey.
I was unshaven, feeling like a rogue. Around Blythe I realized that my Don Johnson circa Miami Vice look would make it harder to pass off our little pranks so we peeled into the driveway of a truck stop pushed right up against an exit. Every truck stop is about fifteen times larger than it needs to be and bright as a bastard. That way, when you're traveling the lonely road at night you can see Eden. The bathrooms, however, are not anywhere close to the birthplace of civilization. I shaved in a sink and could see only half my face in the cracked mirror. But I looked like a million dollars and swaggered out.
Gas was going to be a big concern. The heat and gas. No problem. Let's keep the costs down. We had a plan for it. When you get into Arizona, all of the gas stations except for the ones in the big cities let you pump before paying. So we'd pump, fill 'er up. Then we'd shut the trunk of the car on a blanket that just happened to cover up our license plate and drive on out. Part way out of town, we'd uncover the plate so the cops wouldn't bust us and then drive into the sunset. We'd always hit one of the big ones like BP or Conoco with their damn, precocious dinosaur logo that way we'd only hurt the greedy corporations.
To pass the time away on the road, we came up with a few clever games. The first and by far most entertaining were roadsigns. Not like Stop or Yield but like "Do you know where your daughter is? In the backseat!" These really got great responses. But it was all about the audience. If you showed that sign to a bunch of college guys (other than us, of course) they'd probably display their own captive daughter int he backseat. Uh, uh. You have to share your stuff with 40ish salesman and couples. That'll get them. By far the most effective was "Seventeen miles until I f**k your mom!" A cheery little sentiment. Not even ironic but downright mean. But remember, we were protected by the common decency of driving and the steel cage of my Ford.
Then, there was the shoe sketch. A simple diversion. I would remove my shoe, Jeff would pull up to a family van and we would begin. At first, I would display my shoe and wave my hands around calling for the father's attention. Then, the daughters in the backseat would start to watch. I'd proudly display my shoe, turn it around, look in wonder. When the moment was just right I'd perform oral sex on it. Stick my tongue right into the open area. The Dad would look in horror, the girls would laugh and the Mom would freeze in shock. Then we'd drive off.
In Phoenix it was blazing hot. We stopped at an AM/PM and grabbed some ice out of the cooler. It was outside so we assumed it was free. I rubbed it all over me, held the bag against me but couldn't cool down. We were heading to Tuscon where we'd pull our first scam so we'd better be calm, cool and relaxed.
Then, another driving idea caught me. This one had the same elements as the shoe sketch but would challenge the conservative minded Arizona folk in another way. I'd pull up to a car, drive right next to them at the same speed, catch their attention and wave and then Jeff would bounce up and down in and out of view in my lap like he was pleasuring me. I'd just smile and keep driving. Then, Jeff would surface after a couple of pounces and smile at the other car, wipe his mouth and get back to work. This ruse had them petrified. Not only were we gay but we were doing it while driving. God have mercy!
We hit Tuscon in the evening. It was about to go down. We began by grabbing the name of a pizza place out of the phonebook. Papa Giorno's, a university hangout since 1967. Jeff would call them up and say that he was the Chief Editor of College Magazine and that he had two writers in the area who were writing about cross-country eateries and if they could sample a complimentary bit of their cuisine. They said sure. We were half way there.
We waited for an hour and then showed up. We spoke to the person we talked to on the phone and sat down for a feast. Delicious pizza covered with thick meat toppings and a tangy tomato sauce propped up with a liberal mixture of spices. We ate, talked to the manager and played some pool. He wanted to talk to us about the magazine. We handed him a business card. Then the all important moment. The bill.
He brought it to us. Oh my god, we're gonna have to pay! No, no, no. He just wanted to give us a sense of the cost of the place, the food was on the house. Jeff and I smiled behind his back. It worked. And it would work again and again, except for a Texas-style BBQ joint.
The second installment of this 3-part series will be in the next issue of
The Shrubbery (Oct. 98). You may contact Mr. Bresson via firstname.lastname@example.org