(originally published @ monkeybicycle.com)
The date was ingrained in our heads. April 23rd, 1985. That was what they’d told us. We had to wait until the 25th – the day our truck made the delivery.
It was red and white and waxed up just for the occasion. When it turned into the driveway we abandoned our back-porch lookout, littered with empty Dr. Pepper cans and Cheetos, and ran outside to mount our pedaled steeds.
We rode uphill, Josh and I. He’d created some separation. Josh spent his better days riding just outside earshot of his house and bipolar stepmom. I, on the other hand, was garbage at bike riding – my evasion of the craggy maple next to the garage was adrenaline-fueled reflex, not skill. I preferred spongy, treeless riding conditions, but today I would brave the limbs, ruts, and incline for the biggest thing ever, at least since Return of the Jedi.
On the far side of the tree line was my parents’ mink farm. It was their farm – actually Ted Nugent’s because they just managed it – certainly not the “family farm” because that would imply interest on my part. I’d already opted out of anything involving general grossness, which pretty much covered the entire operation. The only good part of the farm was the 8-x-10 that hung in the administration office: me and the Nuge wearing identical black, hooded fur coats. Also, I was the first to enter the phrase “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” into the second-grade vernacular.
Josh abandoned his bike in the hillside slope outside the door to the pelting plant, a barn-type structure at the dead top of the hill where the mink were skinned and the pelts cleaned and conditioned. I wobbled and finally dismounted three-quarters of the way up.
“C’mon,” he nagged, urging me onward, quarters in-hand.
Stupid bike. Stupid farm all the way at the top of the hill.
The floor of the pelting plant, covered in sawdust to absorb perspiration and cleaved animal fat, muted our footsteps but not our anticipation. Beyond the eight-foot-tall pelt tumblers the red monolith beckoned; its geriatric chiller wheezing like my pack-a-day grandmother. Only that wall of musk and humidity separated us from sure euphoria.
I packed my quarters into the slot and punched the fogged plastic guarding the New Coke label. The monolith rumbled, spattered and birthed a bottle. Either my palms began to sweat or the warmish brown nectar within managed a trace of condensate. The machine begat Josh a second bottle, our high-fructose dreams come to fruition. I flipped off the cap with my keychain bottle opener. Josh did the same. Desire outweighed the need for frivolous discourse. We raised the bottles to our lips. Like sommeliers sampling the finest of wines, we let the beverage breathe, savoring subtle nuances, chewing it, absorbing the caffeine and carbon dioxide into our cheeks and gums. We waited to speak, delaying the inevitable conclusion that, like birthdays and Christmases, even this first bottle of New Coke must end.
“That is liquid awesome,” Josh said.
“It’ll change the world,” I said.
How could it not? After all, that was what they’d told us.