Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Quarry by Patrick Trotti


They went because they couldn’t say no to him. He was a terrifying figure, one that nobody wanted to anger. Physically bigger than the rest, and much more intelligent, he was the easy choice for group leader. He wielded his power silently, only speaking up if the situation warranted it. He projected confidence, refusing to let weakness or doubt invade. His word was absolute. It had been that way since grade school. The rest of them fell in line, devouring every word, every move he made. They were anxious for a leader, something to fill their lives with meaning. Something to plug the void.

They went because they had nowhere else to go. No home to speak of, no family awaiting their arrival. Their collective emptiness sustained them, bringing them closer together. It lifted them up. They had to create their own family, their own sense of love through brotherhood. No one was going to provide for them. They were latch key kids, free to roam the neighborhood. All of their fathers worked at the local plant and many of their mothers worked odd jobs as waitresses or secretaries when they could. Their houses were small and decrepit. The rooms were full of outdated appliances and secondhand knickknacks, fearful to part with anything of potential future worth. They’d been taught to repurpose things. Frugalness reigned supreme. Survival was their religion. The ability to get through another day was the only trait passed down. Arguments filled the house, erupting at a moment’s notice. It drowned out the television, bouncing off the walls, echoing late into the night. Money and bad luck were the topics of choice. It played routinely in front of them as if it were a taped soap opera. To their parents they were nothing more than a burden, another mouth to feed.

They went because they were bored. Seeking adventure, trying to create excitement out of nothing. Their neighborhood weighed down all of the inhabitants, slowly eroding their confidence. It eventually got the better of them too. Youthful exuberance was no match for generations of disappointments. It was in the air, quietly hovering over all of them. You could see it in their eyes. Dreams were delayed in favor of an unspoken feeling of settling for what they had. No one told them could have something, anything more. An attitude of being inferior lingered. They perpetuated the myth by making it their reality. They passed the day by chugging forties of stolen malt liquor and smoking their father’s cigarettes. Boredom was filled with fights amongst themselves. The outcomes were pre determined, a hierarchy had already been set within their own group. Clenched fists were their secret handshake. They longed for the taste of blood on their lip and looked forward to bruises forming on their faces. It awoke them, brought them together and kept the outside world at a distance.

They went because they were curious. Their hangouts were limited to the bodega, the basketball court and the quarry. It was the nicest thing that came out of the town. A historical oasis among the modern ruins. People spoke about it in hushed tones. Teachers warned students about it. The cops routinely patrolled it, somehow justifying their job. It was a rite of passage for all of the young boys since the First World War. It represented an escape from the cracked sidewalks, boarded up houses on Main Street and empty parking lots. It was illegal and considered trespassing because it was owned by the local power plant. That just further fueled the desire, the need to explore. Fenced off and surrounded by large, overgrown brush and trees, the site had multiple entryways. If examined thoroughly, determined not to refuse denial of admittance, it was easy enough. They had built a vision of it in their heads over the years. Each time the structure loomed larger, became more monumental. They were anxious to see if it lived up to years of expectation fueled by the legends recounted by their older brothers.

They went, finally. It was the beginning of summer, the first really hot day of the year. Dressed in cut off jean shorts because they couldn’t afford their own swimwear. Hand me downs from older siblings or raided from their father’s wardrobe. They scraped together enough money for pot and beer. This was a celebration, their white trash Bar Mitzvah. Everyone wanted to replicate the adventures overheard by their brothers. To somehow outdo what they did previously. They followed their leader, walking in silence. The only sounds audible were their worn shoes hitting the pavement. The gravel changed to dirt as they followed the worn path to the fence. The opening in the fence was big enough for just one at a time.

They went to the edge of the cliffs. The dirt morphed to pure white sand beneath them. The density of the brush and trees slowly evaporated as they neared. It was really as high as they had been told, maybe higher. As they reached the edge of the first cliff they stood in wonder by the sight below them. The coral blue water was unlike anything they had ever seen before. Never had they imagined their neighborhood being capable of producing something so gorgeous. They could see straight through to the bottom. It looked shallow, too shallow to jump in. They were buoyed by thoughts of previous generations haven taken the plunge before them. The first overhang was sixty feet high. They only needed a few drinks to produce the courage to leap. The leader went first, casually falling off the lip. He emerged from the water with a smirk. Beads of water ran down his face. The others fought to follow him in, down into the water below, away from their troubles on the mainland.

They went not knowing what they were in for. They skipped the second cliff at the leader’s request. The highest one was well over one hundred feet tall. Confidence oozed from his pores. He was drunk with poise, eager to impress his brothers. It was much steeper than he expected. This time he jumped forward, leaping off the edge with a giant push that began at the bend in his knees. Then time. Stood. Still. He stayed in the air for ten seconds. The group shuffled to the verge, excited to witness, to be a part of. He hit the water on his side, ribs exposed. The water smashed against his body seemingly unwilling to accept his arrival. The others remained quiet, looking on, waiting for him to re-emerge. Any moment now. He never did. Minutes passed. The group was frozen, paralyzed without their leader. The next oldest ran down to the first cliff and plunged in head first.

They went home changed forever. Their leader never came out of the water. The youngest one panicked and called the cops. No one had time to clean up their mess. Full on beer and pot, empty of feeling, they sat and waited, listening, as the sirens grew louder. The police led them back onto the street, hands gripped tightly around their wrists, making sure they wouldn’t try and run. Firemen, paramedics and a search and rescue diving team ran by, plowing through the fence, moving quickly through the brush. It all happened so fast. People formed a crowd across the street in the parking lot of the church. They found him later that afternoon. It took three divers to pull him up from the bottom. He broke his neck, shattered his ribcage and punctured a lung on impact. He died instantly.

They went home in cop cars. Silent and leaderless, the boys tried to hold back their tears. This was it. Nothing would ever be the same again. It was the end of their group. Their father’s were ready for them at home, belts in hand, waiting for the cops to leave and the door to close. The rest of the summer went by in a quiet haze. They healed their bruises. Remembered their fallen leader. Smiled over the good times they’d shared. Cried over the lost opportunity. The evaporation of their last chance at getting out. No more of them against the world. They were alone, on their own. None of them stepped up and became the leader of the group. By the start of the school year they had stopped hanging out together. There was no epicenter, no dominating personality to hold them together. They couldn’t go back to each other. The memories of their fallen leader were conjured up every time they saw one another. It was too hard.

They went many places after that, alone, but they never did go back to the quarry again.

Patrick Trotti grew up on second hand smoke, dime pulp novels, and nintendo video games. You can find him barely breathing here.

Street artist unknown.
Photo by Adam Lawrence.

Austin-based lo-fi electo-pop band Videoing will be releasing their new lp, Reader, next month. 

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