Here is the second and final installment of Dirt Soda. Read Part 1 to catch up. Also, the hawk is now a vulture. No mysticism, just an edit.
Thoughts of the day swirled in his mind with past sleeps and forgotten dreams. Trees from distant hikes stood over waters of nearby desires. Sunrays met moonshines and rained leaves onto a grassy lawn. He had a blanket there and two bottles. One was half-empty and the other full. A wind ruffled the ripped edges of the fabric, shade came from beyond and draped the scene in cool swiftness. It darkened everything until even the yellow and white dots of the sun/moon reflection on the bottles could not be seen. Burt’s mind escaped him and left him cavernous. Twinkles and sparks filled him and silence absorbed him.
He opened his eyes and felt the dull sting of sunburn on his cheeks. The cloud of dust had moved him closer to town and the vulture had followed it. He was near the chain link fence of Gilmore’s Auto when he began to feel the scratch of his floating dust bed. He shifted around a bit and tried to find a comfortable, fluffy-feeling position but with every little jostle, his flannel sail would deflate and leave him stranded. He gave in to the irritation for a while, focusing on the circles of the vulture instead, but soon it overwhelmed him and he started scratching his back. He scraped at his shoulders and rubbed behind his ribs all while unsettling the dust bed. Eventually, as he itched away at his skin, the dust bed crumbled out from beneath him and dropped him onto the ground.
Burt sat and collected his senses. He felt a slight pain in his ass from the drop, smelled the dust caked to the inner walls of his nose, he tasted the thick mucus layering his mouth and heard the swooshing of the vulture’s wings as it once again landed beside him. Then he looked up and saw Gilmore’s, a whopping hundred yards away. Burt picked himself up and walked towards the gas station. The bald bird bobbled behind him.
The gas station rested alongside the main drag and had a dirt driveway. Two pumps serviced the whole town in front of the sundries and automotive shop. Inside the repair station old Roadmasters, Studebakers, Model T’s and DeSotos sat on platforms stacked against the wall. It was a museum of old relics of transportation. Their curves and cutouts were testaments to the original promise of the automobile. Burt admired them shortly and then walked into the sundries shop.
A small bell tinkled his presence and alerted the old clerk. “Hey, hey. Welcome. Lookin’ like you need a moonbath.” The old man wore brown suspenders fastened on a white shirt and a sweat-stained trucker hat.
“Huh?” was Burt’s reply.
“Wipe that pink off yer face. That’ll red up nicely without a moonbath. Bad news for you is there ain’t gonna be a moon tonight. But I do have some liquid moonshine in a bottle. That’ll cure anything straight up.” The old man let out a whistling laugh that ended abruptly with sharp guffaw.
The old man pulled a bottle with an orange label from the shelf behind him and presented it to Burt. “Real quick I gotta check. You got ID?”
Burt checked his pockets even though he knew he didn’t have his ID and shrugged at the old man.
“Guess I didn’t bring it with me.”
The old man wrapped his hands around the bottle and pulled it closer to him. “Sorry young man, but I can’t sell it to ya’. I’d like to but rules is rules. You could be 12 years old and I wouldn’t know any better. I can’t go sell you dirty cures for your troubles. You ain’t old enough to have any troubles.”
“Well, I am of age.”
“I bet you are friend, but until you can prove it I ain’t sellin’ it.”
Burt could recite to the old man the number of his ID, the day and time when he was born. He could even recite the top five songs of the month and the headlines from the newspaper from that celestial morning. But instead of proving his age he gave up and asked the man what else he had to drink.
“Well water ain’t gonna do you no good, and it ain’t whiskey but its a close sixth. Soda. I got lotsa soda. Check out that back wall and pick yerself out something’. I’ll cut ya a deal on account of this missin’ ID.”
Burt walked to the back of the shop past the candy bars and chips. He glanced at the sports and energy drinks but those didn’t interest him. He was curious about those sodas the old man mentioned and moved further along the glass until he came to the mammoth selection.
In front of him were hundreds of brown, green and clear bottles filled with bubbly refreshment. Their labels were a jumble of simple texts printed on the bottle and colorful drawings advertising the wonders the liquids capped within. Fancy letters proclaimed the age and authenticity of the recipe while others bespoke of reasons to enjoy.
Burt opened the giant cooler and let his head fall in. While he let it dangle there a cool wave of air met his face and closed his eyes. The door’s bells chimed and he barely heard the man say, “new recipes back there for ya’, Shelley-“ A woman’s voice rang back, “tired of all that same old-“ But Burt paid them no mind and just let the coolness sweep over him. All he cared about at the time was his own energy, of which there were a few drops.
“You know, you can read the labels just as well from outside the cooler,” he heard the woman’s voice closer. “In fact, it lessens the fog so others can see too.”
He turned around and saw the woman of the voice standing there. Her long, black hair tousled by the wind and her face was lowered a bit so her teasing eyes were looking directly at his over her glasses.
“Looking for anything in particular?”
“No, I, uh, I’m, uh, getting this one.” Without much thought, Burt reached through fog and grabbed a Coca-Cola. He passed up all of the birch beers and sasparillas, the old-fashioned cream sodas and Nehi varieties. He skipped the Moxies, Cheerwines, Bubble-ups, and Kick-a-Poos. He ignored the ginger beers and the root beers. Like an undiscerning metal detector he grabbed for what he recognized and not what he could have discovered.
“Not a bad choice, I suppose. Kinda worn out though, yeah?” The girls untainted lips flashed him a smile. “I’m going for…” she said and reeled around his waist. “Excuse me…”
Burt woke up and stepped out of the way. He caught another look of her sultry stare as she grabbed for her soda. She held up her bottle.
“Huckleberry. Old Gilmore’s been tormenting me and holding out.”
“Don’t you go spreading untruths about me, missy,” called Gilmore. “I do a nice thing for you and this is what I get back?”
“Whatever Gilmore. You know I’m the only customer worth supplying. Look what this guy picked up.”
Burt twisted his hands around the red label guiltily and listened to them go back and forth, but mostly he watched the girl. The way she held herself so easily, didn’t mind or notice that there was somebody else witnessing her exchange with Gilmore. She gripped her bottle loosely by its thin neck and swung it near her legs. There was some dirt on her jeans. Burt wanted to ask her is she had floated in on a dust cloud too but had forgotten how to phrase a question.
“You should try the Ting next time you come in here. First time I had that one was on a beach in the Caribbean. Almost as if it came out of some magical carbonated grapefruit, know what I mean?” she said to him and laughed a little.
Burt raised his eyebrows and smiled back at her.
She bent down to look at the warm sodas kept outside the glass on a shelf. “Take a look at this one. Never heard of this one before. Mr. Frosty. What do you think is tastes like?” She smirked at him bewildered, and looked above her glasses again and pointed to a blue beverage.
Burt blinked his eyes and looked at the bottle. “Blue?” he said.
She closed her eyes and nodded. “Blue, huh. Maybe I’ll try that next time. Well you take care, huh. Dusty.”
She got up, paid for her soda, quipped with Gilmore some more and left. The bells signalled her exit.
Burt looked at his Coca-Cola which suddenly appeared so boring and grabbed a bottle of Mr. Frostie. Gilmore gave him his discount and he walked out the door into the sun. Burt looked up into the sky and shielded with the soda bottle. The vulture was up there circling around. Burt turned to walk towards his home and cracked open the drink. He tasted the blue bubbles as they tickled his tongue. He was disappointed. He didn’t even get the woman’s name. He was so tired and lazy he had missed an opportunity.
Burt’s shoulders slumped and he trudged on home. The vulture swooped down onto Burt’s shoulder. Time felt so slow that it could go backwards. He wished it would.