Robert Tolkien Plays Hooky (Part II) – A Team PCPB Original Story

Be sure to check out Part 1

“Bye sweetie, I’m off to work. Try to feel better” Mother said from a distance. And just like that she was gone. I don’t mind admitting I was a little worried about Mom having the day off. As a dental assistant, she didn’t take work off a whole lot, but every now and then these things happen. Sometimes patients cancel and they just don’t need her. Sometimes, even she got sick. These days were rare, but they happened. There was this subconscious feeling that something like that may happen and my day off would be spent all day in bed.

Luckily, that didn’t happen, and Robert Tolkien’s day of freedom was about to begin. With the coast clear, I picked up the horn and gave Simon a ring. “Hey Simon, my mom’s gone. Why don’t you head on over here so we can go out?”

Simon croaked out in a grim, gravelly tone, “Dude, I’m sick.”

“Your mom’s still around? I guess I need to be quieter.”

“No man, I’m really sick.”

I was honestly at a loss of words. I stood silent for what must have felt like minutes, even though it was only a few seconds. “You are shitting me!”

“No, I’m really sick. I got strep throat.”

In an instant I actually considered egging him on to drive me out to Cleveland anyway, but I sure as hell didn’t want strep. I’m sure school or mom or someone would figure I cried wolf. There was another part of me that wanted to yell at Simon, but it wasn’t his fault. He didn’t want to be sick. I was angry, but at the situation – not at Simon. All my frustration at finding out my perfect day being flushed down the toilet came out in a sighed “Fine.”

I decided at the very least, I’d still try to salvage my day off and still have a fun day – at least as fun as I could have with Carrie Reinhold. I didn’t mind her being part of a trio with me and Simon, but I hated the idea of it being just the two of us. Still, a day on the town with Carrie was better than a day cooped up indoors. I gave her a ring (calling her was the ONLY way I’d ever give Carrie a ring) and told her what was up.

“Aw, I’m sorry to hear about Simon! But we can still go out right? We can still go do things? We can…?”

“Yes!” Talking to Carrie left me breathless sometimes. “We can still go out! I’ll come on over.”

“Cool, I’ll be waiting for you. Don’t worry, my parents aren’t around so you can just come on over.”

Being a man of my word, I was on my way. I often lamented being born down in a dead man’s town as the Boss once put it, but living in such a dead neighborhood finally had an advantage. I could walk to the Reinhold homestead without drawing attention.When I made it there and was greeted by Carrie. Judging by her rank odor, I had a feeling she didn’t have to struggle too hard to convince her parents she was ill.

“Hey Robert, excited for our day on the town?”

I could tell Carrie was ecstatic about spending the day with yours truly. Then again, I’d be excited about spending a day alone with me too. Oh wait, I DO spend every day with me – and it is quite a thrill! Carrie and I were off.

Carrie decided to address the elephant in the room, “Without Simon, how are we going to get to the city?”

“I guess we’ll have to take the bus. Don’t worry, there’s one within walking distance.”

Within walking distance it was, and we were at the bus station quickly. Unfortunately, the bus was not at the bus station and would not be there quickly. There weren’t a whole of other people at the station. While waiting for the bus, I figured I’d at least make conversation with Carrie. I asked her, “So how did you get off?”

“My aunt died, but my mom said I could still hang out with you.”

“What?”

“No, I just faked a stomach ache.” I sat there with my mouth agape. “Come on, that was a joke!”

“Oh… Yeah, that was funny…”

Luckily, we didn’t have to wait TOO long for the bus. We weren’t on there long before I was reminded of why I wanted a real ride for the two of us. The bus was lonely. Carrie and I were the only teens on there, which makes sense because I’m sure everybody else our age was in school. These were people that looked lonely but had no desire to talk to us. This was a bus filled with broken dreams, and broken people. Forget our youth, Carrie and I must have stuck out because we still had hope in our eyes and dreams in our heart.

Most of them were just people who were probably on their way to work, but had been broken down by life, but a lot of them were creeps. The irony hadn’t exactly escaped me. I skipped school so I wouldn’t have to see the creeps on the bus. All of a sudden, I was surrounded by characters far creepier, weirder and even a little scarier than ANYONE I’d see on the school bus.

I was wearing my Black Sabbath shirt. Some creepy guy approached us. Ever see old TV shows where guys someone has a tooth blacked out to look like they were missing a tooth? This guy didn’t need that. He already had a black tooth. He was dressed so shabbily he made Carrie look like a runway model. Something tells me his shredded jeans weren’t a tribute to Wayne’s World. If this guy wasn’t homeless, he probably lived in squalor. This man smelled of booze, BO, trash, skunk and David Crosby.

Whenever I see scary derelicts like this, I become concerned that Carrie and I might become a feature on To Catch a Predator or Making a Murderer – on the losing end. Of course, with me, it was more likely to feature me as “Badass high school student fights off creepy homeless man.” However, it didn’t look like I’d be a victim or a hero in this story. This guy wasn’t here to kill us, he was there to annoy us.

“Hi, I see you like Black Sabbath?” This crazy weirdo asked me.

I wanted to chime in and give some terse reply like “yes” just to get the conversation over. Unfortunately, “terse” is not in Carrie’s vocabulary. With the way she could babble, it seems to be one of the few words that’s not in her vocabulary. “Oh yeah, he loves all the old bands: Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Aerosmith. That’s not my kind of music though. I tend to like poppier stuff like Paramore and Taylor Swift. Well, that’s not completely true. I like some Aerosmith songs.”

“I don’t know a lot of those other songs, but I can do a little Black Sabbath.”

Oh, just do it and get it over with.

The lunatic started singing, “Generals gather in black masters… Just like wiccans, I mean witches at black masters! Devil minds plaque con-strushin” (Pauses to think) “Sources of death’s con… con… construction!”

As someone who can sing “War Pigs” with perfect pitch and key, I found this mongrel’s quote-unquote performance to be unacceptable. However, I was afraid this guy might have a knife on him. I gave a polite golfer’s clap. Carrie on the other hand went whole hog and applauded like she just saw a performance by Ozzy in his prime. Was she really impressed or just that convincing of an actress? The world may never know.

“Hey, I do stuff like that all the time. I’m a slam poet. But I do it for money. You got any?”

Carrie reached for her money from her purse. I grabbed her arm. “Carrie,” I whispered. “Do not give this creep money!”

“Why?”

“Because he is a derelict who will buy booze with it!”

“So?”

I never knew Carrie was capable of such brevity, but she had a point. Who cares if this guy was drinking? If I were homeless, I’d get drunk all the time too. I was just worried because I’ve read If you Give a Mouse a Cookie enough. That’s one of my favorite kids’ books because it teaches a valuable lesson. If you give to moochers, they just want more.

“I really appreciate this. You got any more?” (Told ya) “I got a daughter at home. She’d really appreciate this.”

Once again, I couldn’t tell if Carrie was that generous or that much of a sucker, but she forked over a little more cash.

The freak on the bus showed us a picture of his daughter. There went the theoretical five bucks I would have put on his daughter being a figment of his imagination.

“Your daughter is so cute! What’s her name?” Carrie asked.

“Chlamydia – like the flower!” And I thought Carrie had it bad… “But thanks for the money. God bless, God bless! You know, God is going to look out for you two. I go to church over there at Precious Mary the Blessed Church. You from around here?”

Carrie tried to answer, “No, we’re from…”

“We’re from Canton.” We weren’t but I did not want this guy knowing anything about us.

“You two should come out to the church sometime. You can hear my slam poetry. Here, because you gave me so much money, I want you to have one of my postcards.” Good to his word, he gave us a postcard. That was definitely a thing. This nut job gave us fist bumps. I badly wanted some hand cleanser. Expecting Carrie to have some of that was akin to expecting Patrick Stewart to have a comb. And I was monitoring how close we were to the city.

When we arrived at the bus stop in Cleveland, Carrie and I immediately thought about what we could do to have some fun.

“Alright, Bobby, this is your big day off, what are we going to do?” Carrie Reinhold might be the only person I know who would ask that question without an iota of irony in her voice.

“That is a great question. We’re in the city. Pretty much anything we want is within our reach. Check your phone. What’s in the area?”

“I don’t have a phone.”

“You don’t have a phone? What do you do in emergencies?”

“I have a phone. It’s just not a smart phone.” Carrie pulled her phone of her pocket, it was just one of those old, basic phones. Did she live in the time of Charlemagne or something?

I handed Carrie my phone. “Here, check Google Maps. See what’s around here.”

Carrie was browsing my phone to see what was nearby. “The 16-Bit Arcade is around here.”

“Great, how far away?”

“45 minutes… Oh wait, that’s driving… Twelve hours on foot.” If we left then and there…

To be concluded…

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