As we settled into our lawn chairs around the blazing fire, one of our guests from the previous night appeared. She was not in Hecklebitch’s contingent, and so we welcomed her. After a couple of beers, she started to cry. “You can’t believe what Cora’s had to go through,” she said.
We sipped on our beer. She sobbed some more. Then T-Dub said, “Uh, who’s Cora?”
“She’s the transgender racer who raced with the women today.”
We looked at each other. “You mean that dude down at your camp site?”
“Cora is not a dude!” said Tammy. “She is a woman!”
We sipped on our beer some more and no one said anything. Three old guys who just finished recovering from a bad race and a worse hangover who are chilling around a campfire after a good dinner usually have a hard time getting it up for a meaty discussion on gender politics. Rob sighed and tried.
“So, what did Cora have to go through?” he asked.
“Some of the other women are complaining about her, claiming that it’s unfair for them to have to race against a man,” said Tammy.
“They kind of have a point,” said Mike, which sent Tammy off onto another crying jag.
“But she’s a woman!” wailed Tammy.
“Is she?” I asked.
“Of course she is! She’s taking all of the treatments!”
This was clearly one of those deals where our desire to slowly get plastered was going to be thwarted by arguing about whether or not Cora was a he or a she. “Tell her to come on over and have a beer with us,” I offered.
“This isn’t about beer!” wailed Tammy some more.
By now it was pitch dark, and it looked like we were in for the night from hell. I’d been mercilessly heckled. I’d finished DFL. I had the slowest lap of the day except for a kid in the 12-year old boys’ race. My new drunk hadn’t completely chased away my old hangover. My legs, neck, and shoulders hurt, along with my internal organs and most of my skin. And now we were stuck with someone who wanted us to argue about something that didn’t really matter to us. We were just guys having a beer.
And then magic happened. Someone said, “Well, we’re dudes racing in the dude division, so I guess you girls will have to work it out yourselves,” and Tammy ran off, sobbing.
After a few moments of silence, people began wandering over to our campfire, and by “people” I mean two beautiful women, and one of them sat next to me. Now, when you are an aged, wrinkly, stinky old dude who hasn’t bathed for two days after a hard race in the dirt, and you’re still wearing the same crusty underwear from Thursday, and you haven’t brushed your teeth, cleaned your ears, or combed the food out of your beard for 48 hours, the last thing in the world you expect is to have two beautiful women join your campfire. Hecklebitch, sure. These two? Nooooooo way.
So we all perked right up and thanked dog that it was too dark for them to see us properly. In addition to bringing themselves, which was gift enough, they also brought beer, good beer, which we swilled right away. As things started getting better and friendlier, the cute blonde next to me reached into her coat pocket and brought out a bottle of Fireball, a delicate mixture of cinnamon, gasoline, sulfuric acid, and whiskey. “Last time I drank this shit, someone got married,” muttered Mike as the sledgehammer started to hit.
Then a couple of guys came up to our fire. “Hey,” said the tall one, “can you give us some firewood?”
We only had a few logs left, perhaps enough to last past midnight, and we’d had to fork out good money and carefully tend our fire all night long. “Fuck no,” I said, “but pull up a chair and you can have a beer.”
“Thanks,” said Tallboy, and they sat down.
This was the mistake of the night. He took a swig of beer and began to brag, but not before telling the lovely brunette that “psychology is crap.” She was training to be one, of course.
When Blondie told him she used musical therapy to work with disturbed children and adults, he informed her that that, too was “crap.” In other words, he knew everything, which was impressive since he was only 21 and a chemical engineering student at Cal Poly there in SLO. He was camping for the weekend with some friends and they had obviously run him out of their campsite due to his incredible talents as an instant buzzkill.
The one thing he hadn’t learned much about in engineering class, though, was ‘cross racing, and in particular about aged, wrinkly ‘cross racers with crusty underwear who had just gotten through a conversation about gender equality, three cases of IPA, most of a bottle of rotgut, and were very focused on talking to pretty women. Within ten minutes he had done the unthinkable: Thanks to him, our women got up and left. Our two other guests left. Mike the cop had wandered off to retrieve his spare wheels from the pit and to keep from busting Tallboy in the face.
A brief pause ensued as Tallboy gathered his breath to tell us more about how much money he had, about how smart he was, and about all of his worldly success. “Son,” I said, “hold that next thought, would you?”
“Sure,” he said. Our voices carried over the entire campground, and people were listening.
“Because I want to tell you that you are the most obnoxious, arrogant little fuck I’ve ever met.”
“Yeah. You come to our campsite. You drink our fuggin’ beer. You insult three old dudes, one of whom’s a cop, the other works for the power company, and the other is a former middleweight boxer. You run off our fuggin’ women. So you know what happens next?”
“If you were my son, I’d hang my head in shame and ask you to change your last name. But since you aren’t, someone, probably the ex-boxer there, is probably gonna get up and knock out all your fuggin’ teeth.”
Tallboy stood up, his lower lip quivering. “I don’t like the way this conversation is going,” he said, as he strode off into the darkness.
“We didn’t like the way it started, asshole!” someone shouted after him.
The campground’s silence was broken by the sound of muffled laughter coming from various tables, benches, and tents. After five or ten minutes, people began appearing out of the darkness, laughing and pulling up a chair. Miracle of miracles, our two beauties returned as well.
As the fire died down to its embers and the Fireball whiskey burned down to our entrails, we looked up at the stars and beheld the brilliance of the Milky Way. “This ‘cross racing,” said Mike, “is pretty darned good.”
No one disagreed.
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