So, there I was chatting with former classmate John Brinley when he let slip the astonishing theory that back in high school I was considered a member of the “in-crowd.” It was the first time ever that anyone has ever made such an accusation. Fact is, where I grew up there was no such thing as an in-crowd. Whether we knew it or not, all of us were losers.
That said, I suppose it could be argued that some of us were better off than others. For instance, my family’s home didn’t rest on wheels, and it was at the north end of town, well above the water table. However, following a summertime cloudburst, the ditch out front would become a raging torrent fed by runoff from the surrounding foothills. The street culvert would become plugged with flotsam; neighborhood menfolk wearing hip waders and wielding shovels would wade out to break up the logjam. Meantime, a lake would form on our front lawn. Basement window wells would become aquariums. Salamanders would emerge from our basement floor drain. I loved it!
John’s family lived farther downstream, alongside a topographical feature known as Mead’s Wash. A wash is basically a waterway with no water in it, except immediately following a cloudburst. At such times you do not want to be living anywhere near a wash.
The problem with washes is that they are continually growing wider with each flash flood. In order to stem erosion along Mead’s Wash, someone came up with the idea of shoring up the embankments with old automobiles. “Riprap” is the technical term for the process; however, I prefer “Fording a stream.”
John tells me he spent a lot of his youth playing among those discarded cars; in fact, he was the only teenager in our town who didn’t own a functioning set of wheels. So instead of driving up and down Main Street all night long in hopes of impressing girls, John spent his nights in the pubic library, with his nose buried in a book. In other words, he was an egghead, which isn’t a tag you’d wish to wear if you hoped to become a member of the in-crowd. Only once did young John ever attract favorable attention, that being the time he brought a sawed-off .22 rifle to school, with which he emptied a full magazine into his French textbook. Why? Because his impending D in Mr. Powell’s French class was about to drag down his grade point average.
Happily, John’s shooting spree didn’t land him in jail, nor did his failure to master French keep him out of college. In fact, he went on to earn a doctorate, and today a tombstone in the graveyard that abuts Carbon High School bears the inscription of some of John’s favorite reads—none of them French textbooks.
My question: WHY does John own a plot in the city cemetery when he isn’t even dead? I’m guessing he enjoys owning property at the north end of town, well above the water table and upstream from Mead’s Wash—where at long last he can claim to be a member of the in-crowd.