Authors: Tim Mettey
“Are we allowed to be there?” I asked.
“No, not exactly, but Filler’s Quarry has been shut down for a long time. There are over 1,000 acres of quarry, so each year the varsity football captain picks where in the quarry the party will be held. This year Oliver has picked a part of the quarry where there is a cool man-made lake with a long dock. This place is great for the rite of passage.” When Eric said “rite of passage” his eyes lit up.
“Eric, what’s the rite of passage?”
Before I could finish the question he started talking. He was just dying for me to ask him. “The varsity captain also picks a player from the team to compete in some sort of challenge called the ‘rite of passage.’ Last year the varsity captain, David Jones, set up a cage. He filled it with water to make mud. Then he put a greased pig in it, and the first one to catch it won. At the first party he challenged his twin brother, John Jones, and at the second party he challenged Oliver.
“There are two of these parties?”
“Yeah, there are two; I already said that. Come on, Keller. Keep up. One in the summer and one in the spring. At the summer party he challenged his brother, like I said. It was more like a pro-wrestling match between the brothers. But, when Oliver was challenged at the spring quarry party, it was definitely a match to see who could win. Oliver was a sophomore and David was the outgoing senior captain. The spring party is when the senior captain challenges the next possible captain, or if he is a junior captain, he challenges the next strongest player to prove he is still worthy of being the captain.”
I looked around. Everyone was hanging on his every word, and Eric loved every bit of it. Eric continued, “When David and Oliver started the challenge they both tried to corner the pig, but when David realized that Oliver was faster, he tried to wrestle Oliver away from the pig. But David wasn’t able to catch Oliver; he was too fast for him. Finally, Oliver got past David and pinned the pig against the fence, catching it. I’m sure Oliver has something crazy in store for one of the varsity guys tonight. I think he challenged Chad.”
Eric took a deep breath and looked back at me. “So what time do you want me to pick you up?”
Everyone was staring at me. Unfortunately, this time blending in with the crowd involved me going to a party. If not, it would definitely draw more unwanted attention.
“What time does it start?” I asked.
“9:00,” Eric answered.
“Pick me up at 8:00.”
“Great! We need to make sure we get there early enough to get front row seats for the night’s festivities.”
On the car ride home, I thought of how to convince Cora to let me go, that I
to go because it was the only way for me to blend in. To my surprise, Cora agreed with me with no arguing or convincing. She even threw in “Have fun at the party,” and “You did great in the game today!” I thought about asking her who she had been talking with in the stands, but instead I ran upstairs quickly to get ready, not wanting to press my luck.
As much as I wasn’t looking forward to going, a part of me was curious to see what this quarry party was all about. I had never been to a party before except for the one that Andy and I had crashed before I moved here. But, this time I was actually invited.
Cora prepared a sandwich and left it on the table with a note saying, “Have fun tonight. Don’t stay out too late. Love, Cora.” I ate the sandwich in my room and listened to music until Eric showed up.
Eric blew his car horn right at 8:00 p.m. I ran down the stairs and out the front door, just in case Cora had changed her mind. Eric was sitting in his Beetle with his music blaring. The base was thumping and rattling his little car. After five minutes in there, I couldn’t take it anymore. I turned down the music.
“How do you still have your hearing after listening to music so loud?”
“Did you say something?” he asked, pretending like he couldn’t hear me.
He turned the music back up again and started to head bang. He definitely had the right hair for it. His long brown hair danced around to the beat of the music. I wished he’d pay more attention to the road than the music.
We spent the drive listening to the deafening rock music. When we got to the first gravel road outside of town, right off the main street, Eric turned down the radio. There was a worn out wooden sign that read, “Filler’s Quarry.” Eric pulled out a piece of paper. On it were handwritten directions and a crudely drawn map.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Directions to the party.”
“You need a map?”
“Yeah, there are over a hundred roads throughout the quarry and as many entrances. This makes it impossible for anyone like parents or cops to crash it without a map, even though almost everyone in town knows we’re having the party tonight. These quarry parties have been going on since my dad played football. I think my dad was jealous. He would have come if I’d invited him or if he’d found the map. I had to hide it in my boxers. He’s having a midlife crisis.”
We drove up and down gravel roads that all looked the same for ten minutes. Never once did I see a sign of another car, but just when I thought we were completely lost, I saw the glow of lights up ahead. There were at least a hundred cars parked all around a lake. Eric turned up his music again and we rattled into a parking spot. I got out quickly.
A group of JV football players were standing next to an old wooden dock that reached to the middle of the lake. This was no average lake that you would find out in the woods. It had been dug out and filled with water over time. The lake was enormous. There were a couple hundred people surrounding the lake next to the parked cars. There were several large lights on poles around the lake and some stretched over the water. The water was grey and murky. There were piles of rocks all around the lake, blocking all of the other possible entrances. There was only one way in and out.
Eric and I walked up to the group of JV guys at the end of the dock. Eric blurted out, “So what’s the rite of passage and who did he challenge?”
A guy I barely recognized from the team spoke up.
“Oliver challenged Chad, and you will never believe what they have to do! Oliver got an old car and they are going to drive down the dock. The last one to jump out before the car hits the water wins!”
“No way!” Eric said. “The dock will barely fit a car. Where are they supposed to land when they jump?”
“They are going to jump into the water.”
“No way!” Eric said again, even more excited. “Where did he get the car?”
“He bought the car from the junk car dealer in Alexandria. You know, the one with the big chicken out front.”
In an even louder voice, Eric shouted, “This is going to be the best rite of passage challenge ever!”
By the time it was 9:00, it looked like most of the school had shown up. I stayed with the pack of JV guys who were standing close to the dock, so I wouldn’t be noticed in the crowd. All of the varsity squad was standing where the dock connected to the gravel road. It was incredible that this many people were here.
“Eric, what do we do now? Are we just supposed to stand around and wait for this challenge thing?” I asked.
He looked at me shocked. “Of course and . . . we look for hot girls!” He brushed his hair out of his eyes like he was in a shampoo commercial.
There was a loud sound from behind us. I swung around, and at the entrance to the lake was a late model primer grey car with one of the headlights out. The car revved its engine and backfired. Thick black smoke plumed out of the tail pipe. The guys around the dock scattered. The crowd began to cheer. The car’s wheels began to spin, shooting rocks backward. For so much revving and spinning of its wheels, it didn’t go very fast.
As soon as the car hit the dock, both car doors flew open. The car looked like a plane going down the runway. The car was quickly running out of dock to drive on. A group of varsity players raced behind the car. With about half of the dock left, the passenger in the car jumped and landed feet first into the water with a big splash. The driver was still inside. Half of the guys chasing the car stopped to help Chad up onto the dock. Then, with barely any dock left before the car plunged into the water, Oliver dove out of the car head first, entering the water in a perfect dive. The car went off the edge of the dock and hit the water with a large splash. The car’s engine gurgled and sputtered, then died. The car sank into the depths of the lake in a matter of seconds.
The crowd roared to life. The rest of the varsity team pulled Oliver out of the water. He threw both arms up in the air, and the crowd cheered even louder like he was their king who was about to address his loyal subjects.
Oliver was eating up the attention. I thought I could actually see his head getting bigger. I looked around the lake at the cheering crowd. I noticed one person who wasn’t cheering in the middle of a group of girls. She was very noticeable, sitting on the hood of a blue sports car with her arms folded. I moved through the crowd of cheering JV guys to get a better look at the one other person who didn’t buy into the Oliver hype. Maybe she could be an ally or a friend. To my surprise, it was the girl from the stands, my angel, and she was no illusion. She looked mad, arms crossed, but still as beautiful as she was earlier at the football game. Even with such an obvious disapproval for what was going on, she still was a bright light in these dark surroundings. Eric hit me on the arm.
“Dude that was incredible, wasn’t it?”
“She sure is,” I said under my breath.
“Oliver is definitely the big man on campus now! There is no doubt about it!”
he beginning of my first day at school went by quickly, but now I was trapped in fourth period biology with two of Eric’s friends. The two girls, whose names I didn’t catch, couldn’t believe I was playing varsity. I tried to diffuse them by emphasizing that I had only played in a scrimmage, but it didn’t work. All they wanted to do was talk about it. Mrs. Bellhorn, our teacher, had to be over a hundred years old and completely deaf. They talked straight through her entire “Welcome to Science” speech without her giving any reaction to the talking. The bell finally rang, setting me free. I hurried out of the classroom and lost them in the crowd of people in the halls.
My first day of school was almost over, but still no angel. I recognized some of the guys from the football team. It still amazed me how many people went to this school. I wondered why Cora hadn’t picked a large school like this before. It was so easy to blend in and get lost in the crowd.
“Excuse me. Excuse me. Can I have your attention, you busy little bees?” I recognized that person’s voice; it was my counselor, Joy Lemmins. She was being broadcast throughout the entire school using hundreds of small TVs mounted in the halls. She was wearing a flashy pink-plaid jacket. Her glasses were pulled down to read the announcements that were in front of her on a table.
“If everyone could report to their homeroomies,” she laughed at her little joke. “I know you were just there this morning, but we need to have our annual 10-10 Earthquake drill. Earthquakes are serious, so please listen to your teacher carefully so that we can keep you safe. Please go there now.”
She smiled at the camera for a second. A voice from outside of the viewing area said, “Cut,” but she was still on the TVs. She stood up and got her large jacket button caught on the table. She tugged so hard to free herself that she broke the button, and the force sent her falling backwards into the backdrop. She landed on her back, feet straight up in the air. She started to scream a high-pitched squeal. Then the screen went blank. The students all around me were laughing at her.
I didn’t feel like laughing; I wanted to escape this horror. I didn’t want to take part in this earthquake drill. The thought of it made me sick to my stomach. I swallowed almost an entire pack of Tic Tacs on my way to homeroom, but I still felt sick. I sat down in Mr. Nickel’s class. He was a very tall man who looked like an eagle with his pronounced nose and little hair. He showed no emotion, so when he spoke it sounded robotic like he was reading a speech for the first time. He proceeded to talk about why earthquake safety was important, and coming from him it sounded even worse. I tried to block out everything he was saying. I didn’t want to hear it; it hurt too much. It hurt too much to remember. After his speech, he instructed us on how to protect ourselves from an earthquake.
“If we have another earthquake like the one on 10-10, the safest place is under your desk. So do it now and put your hands over your head until the bell rings. When the bell rings, you can go to your fifth bell class,” he squawked.
I curled up in a ball under my desk with my hands over my head, and I tried to fight the voices from the past coming back to haunt me, reminding me of everything I was trying to forget.
“Jim, I got back as soon as I could.”
“Is he okay?”
“He’ll be fine.”
“Dave, what’s going on out there? It’s been too quiet here.”
“The quake leveled the city like we thought it did, and most of the neighboring towns, too. Most of the buildings in town are destroyed or are on fire. There are people searching frantically for friends and family in what is left of the town. Some of the firefighters are trying to fight the fire. I saw Jacob, Mason, and Lear from the department, but that was it. Isn’t the boy’s dad a firefighter?”