“Dude! Did you see that thing? It was a fucking grizzly bear, man!”
Jude was, for the third time this week, stoned out of his mind. He was hanging onto the side of the purple Volkswagen van as I drove, swinging his shirt over his head.
“Wooooo!” Jude howled at nobody in particular.
“Okay dude, get back in the car before one of those tree branches takes your head off. You can’t go to art school without a head, ya know, ” I called out the open window.
“Dammit Beck, don’t be such a killjoy,” Jude whined as he shuffled into the shotgun seat. He swept his long, tangled hair back and put it up in a ponytail. “And it’s not an art school, Mr. ‘I got accepted into Yale.’ It’s an art institute, get your facts straight.” We both laughed.
Jude and I had decided back in our freshman year of high school that we would go to Yellowstone National Park for our senior trip. By the time we had finally graduated, we had forgotten all about our Yellowstone plan. That is, until Jude suddenly remembered about a month before, during one of our weekly bake sessions in my parents’ basement. Even in my cannabis-induced haze, I could tell that there were some major holes in Jude’s proposal.
“Dude, that sounds cool and all, but we don’t have the money for plane tickets,” I had told him “I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but I’m afraid we’re stuck in this basement for the summer.”
“Aw, come on! That’s no way for a Yale-bound man like yourself to speak, Becky.”
Jude leapt onto the table, and pointed down at me with the tip of his still-smoking joint. His mangy brown locks were covering the majority of his face, but I could still see that glint in his eyes. The one he gets when he’s hell-bent on making another hair-brained adventure come to pass.
“This summer is our final chance for freedom, man. Before we get sent packing into the harshness of the real world. Now you can sit in this dank basement and get high, or you can get your *** in the van with me, go to Yellowstone like we always wanted, and meet Yogi the fucking Bear! AND GET HIGH!”
As much as I hated to admit it, Jude’s speech had actually turned me on to the idea.
“Okay, man, I’m sold. Just one problem: what’re we gonna do about lodging? We can’t afford to rent a cabin or anything.”
“Dude, we’ll just sleep in the van!”
“What? I’m pretty sure that’s illegal, Jude.”
“Well ****, so is marijuana, at least for the moment.”
So there we were, in Wyoming, getting high in some van from the seventies and screaming about every form of wildlife we spot. Beck had the radio on full blast, banging his head and spilling his beer all over the shag carpet. We were living it up on the open road, screaming along to surfer rock and cracking bad jokes, when we finally passed a large wooden sign that read, “Yellowstone National Park,” and featured a crudely carved picture of a conifer with a mountain in the background. Jude’s exuberant gaze met with my own, and we cried out in unison with a mighty “Awwww, YEAH!”
We drove on the same path for about an hour, with few notable sights being seen, save for the occasional wolf or especially tall tree. Eventually we came up to a fork in the road. There was a sign posted between the two paths, but it was impossible to read, due to years of weather damage.
“Hey navigator, which way to Old Faithful?” I asked.
Jude, in his blazed state, fumbled with the folded map for a moment until he found the path we were on. He continued to squint at the map for a good five minutes before speaking up.
“Uhhmmm, that way,” He said without specification.
“Which way,” I inquired further. “This way?” I asked, pointing to the path on the left.
“M’kay,” Jude replied, nuzzling into his seat for a nap.
Good enough. I turned the van down the left path and continued driving. It was getting dark at this point, and I had absolutely no idea where I was going. I seemed to be getting even deeper into uncharted territory, as the forest became more and more dense by the minute. As the woods grew darker, my nerves tensed and I began to feel a deep sense of dread. I would’ve given anything for a long drag from a blunt in that moment. Suddenly, a dry sputtering came from the van’s engine and it slowly lurched to a complete stop.
We were out of gas.
“****!” I hissed through my teeth. “****, ****, holy ****!” Terror welled up inside me, and I started to breathe heavily. I punched Jude on the shoulder. “Jude! Jude, wake up! We’re out of fucking gas, man!”
Jude lazily began to stir. “Wha? Huh…?” He stared at me with tired, red eyes for a moment. Then he realized what I had told him, and his eyes grew wide.”
I begin cursing again, banging on the steering wheel. I got out of the car and kicked the front tire, still shouting profanities. Jude scrambled out of the car after me, and grabbed ahold of my shoulders, making me face him.
“Beck, chill! Look, I know this seems bad, but all we gotta do is walk back the way we came and see if there’s another person driving this way who could help us out.”
I decided that Jude was right. We trekked all the way back to the fork in the road, which took nearly an hour. After waiting for another half hour for another car to show up, we decided that our best bet would be to go back to the van and phone for help. It must have been close to midnight when we got back to the van. Not that I could have known for sure, Jude had left the only cell phone we had brought in the van.
“Okay dude, get the phone. I’ll wait out here,” Jude said. I complied and reached over into the passenger seat.
“I can’t find it,” I called back to him.
“It’s in there,” Jude replied. “Try checking under the seat.”
I sighed, and felt around under the seat. To my surprise, my hand ended up brushing over something… fuzzy. That’s when I heard a menacing growl coming from the back of the van. I timidly peer over the carseat, and I’m greeted with the teeth-baring snouts of five grey wolves.
I froze in place. “H-hey Jude?” I called over my shoulder.
“I, uh, think we should run.” The largest of the wolves, presumably the alpha male, brought its face closer to my own and snarled.
“What?” Jude shouted back.
“I said, I think we should--” Suddenly, the alpha male pounced, nearly driving its fangs into my throat. I ducked for cover, then dove hands-first out of the van, scrambled to my feet, and slammed the car door shut. “RUN!” I shouted, and sprinted past Jude further into the woods. I heard he glass of the car door shatter behind me, along with a vicious snarling, and soon enough Jude was sprinting right beside me.
We continued running until we were out of the woods, certain that we had lost our canine pursuers. The sky was a light indigo color, not quite dawn yet. We appeared to be in some sort of valley, with the woods behind us and the great expanse of the Rocky Mountains before us.
“Haha! Phew! That was a close one, huh?” Jude chuckled.
I couldn’t believe it. After all of that, he was laughing? My fists balled up involuntarily and tears of rage began to well up in my eyes. Then, I just lost it.
“Are you kidding me, Jude? You think this is funny?! We almost died back there. And, if you haven’t noticed, we’re in the middle of fucking nowhere! So we’re probably still gonna die, and this is all you’re goddamn fault!”
Now it was Jude’s turn to be angry. “My fault?” he protested. “How is any of this my fault? You were the one driving. I guess Mister Yale doesn’t know that you’re supposed to check the fuel gauge now and then! And it’s your fault those fucking wolves got in the van, I told you to stay with the van! But nooo, you were too much of a ***** to stay in the big ol’ scary woods by yourself!”
“I could’ve been eaten, you ****! It was you who left the car unlocked, and gave me the wrong directions, and lost our only phone! And all of that might have been forgivable if you weren’t stoned out of your mind this entire trip! Yeah, I like to have a toke now and then, but you can’t even function! I’ve let you drag me down all these years, I even let you get me hooked on weed! You realize that would ruin my chances with Yale if they found out I do that ****, right? Well, you know what? I’m tired of your crap, Jude! I swear, once we get out of this mess, I never wanna see you again. I go live my ivy league dream, you go ham it up as some art school reject. End of story.”
We stood there staring at each other for what felt like an eternity. I was panting with rage, and Jude was just standing there, with a blank expression. Then, he smirked and held up a baggie of hemp.
“Dude, calm down. Wanna have a
smoke?” He dangled the baggie in the air, giggling.
I snapped. Screaming wildly, I charged at Jude and tackled him to the ground. I violently swung my fists down at his head. Jude grabbed my arms and rolled, then he was on top. He grabbed the collar of my shirt and began shaking me around. We continued roll downhill, until we stopped at the edge of a large fissure.
We continued to beat each other senseless until the sun came up. By that point we were both black and blue, lying on the ground and wheezing.
Jude was the first one to speak. “I’m sorry, man. You were right about me. All I’ve ever done is slack off and get into trouble, and I’ve always dragged you down with me. Now we’re gonna die, and it’s all because of me.”
“Dude, that’s not true,” I consoled. “I’m just as much to blame as you are here.”
“Oh come on, you’re just saying that to make me feel better. Truth is, I think I’ve never really minded being a failure, as long as I had a best friend to fail with me. Then you got accepted to Yale, and that kind of scared me, man. I just thought if we could have one more stupid adventure before we went our separate ways, maybe I could feel a little better about being stuck as a lonely loser forever.”
I sat up. “Judas, you are not a loser. I’m sorry I said those things before. Look, you’re gonna be a great artist, okay? And I might be going to Yale, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not still your best bro for life.”
Jude smiled. He stood up, then helped me to my feet. “Glad to hear it, man. I promise that once we get outta here, I’ma throw you the best going away party our town has ever known. And I’ll be painting you some mad **** when I’m in art sch--institute.” We both chuckled.
“So…” I held out my arms. “Best bro hug?”
Jude grinned. “Yeah man. Best bro hug.”
As we held each other in a manly embrace, I noticed that a crowd of tourists had formed around us.
“Hey Jude, check it out. I guess we’re not lost anymore!”
“Dude! That’s hella convenient!” Jude exclaimed.
“Hey, you kids!” a chubby middle aged man called out. “Get away from there!”
Jude peered over his shoulder. “What, you mean this hole in the ground? Is it dangerous?”
The man called out again, “No, that’s not just some hole! That’s--” The man was cut off by a loud rumbling. The ground began to shake violently. I realized with shock where exactly we were standing, and I grabbed Jude and began to run. Suddenly, a burst of boiling water violently shot out of the ground. All of the onlookers sang a chorus of “Ooh’s” and “Aah’s,” while Jude and I were covered in first-degree burns.
We finally reached the crowd, our skin scorched and our clothes soaked. After that, everything went black. Jude and I later woke came to in the Tourist Information building, while a park ranger treated our burns with a first aid kit.
“You kids are lucky to be alive right now. I’ve never seen anyone go a whole night in the forest without being mauled or eaten. By the way, we found a van in the woods. We found a couple wallets. Would you boys happen to be Judas Baldwin and Beck Fishburne?”
We nodded, both of us were too weak and groggy to answer verbally.
“Well, you’re van’s not in great shape, but we managed to chase the wolves out before they did any serious damage. It pretty easy actually, those critters were acting sorta loopy. Say, you kids didn’t have any substances in your car that those wolves could’ve gotten into, did you?”
We shook our heads frantically.
“Anyway, we filled your car up with a full tank of gas, so you fellas can leave as soon as you feel up to it. Y’all come back to Yellowstone any time you like.” The man smiled, and left the room.
Jude snickered and pulled the bag of hemp out of his pocket.
“Dude. Wanna have a smoke?”
Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb.