Dear Dirty America Reality Tour pt 2: No Earplugs Necessary
ADAM MICHAEL LUEBKE
The first attempt at almost anything in this life is going to be glitchy. We didn’t know my biggest online writing fan wouldn’t be cut out for a trek through the trees to hunt the coyotes my brother and I suspected were eating the cats on my parents’ farm. I should have considered the risks more carefully, although I did have him sign a form that had only four compact lines:
I waive all rights to a lawsuit should anything ugly happen while on
the DEAR DIRTY AMERICA REALITY TOUR;
ugly meaning bodily injury, disfigurement, or fatality;
I understand these things happen from time to time.
It was just after midnight, and my best reader was pulling into the yard a little too recklessly in my opinion. Through the porch window I saw the red and white hog house light up, then the white tin machine shed, and then the garage as the headlights swept across the yard.
My brother hoisted the deer rifle onto his shoulder. An old hatchet hung from his belt loop, just in case he ended up in what we called a ‘close combat situation’. We wore lightweight clothing. I had on camouflage pants that were a little wider in the legs than I’d have liked.
“Do you think he’s dressed appropriately?” my brother asked. “I know this is the kick-off to your big reality tour business, but it’s not a game. We’ve got coyotes to hunt. You sent him the checklist, didn’t you?”
I hesitated to answer. I tapped the industrial-strength flashlight against my palm. “Well, no,” I admitted, “I forgot about that. He wasn’t big into chit chat, so I sent him the basics. Told him to bring a wad of cash because the reality tour isn’t free.”
Outside, the Astro van came to a squeaky stop in the yard. The headlights switched from bright to dim, bright to dim. “I think he’s signaling us,” I said, and stepped outside.
“If the coyotes were stalking our trees tonight, they’re long gone by now,” I heard my brother say as the door closed.
I’ve never made new friends easily. I enjoy the thought of people more than actually meeting them in person, so I pumped myself up by clapping my hands and making the intention to put on a real show for one of my few, but serious fans in the world.
The Astro van’s door creaked open. A pair of bare white legs emerged and shone in the pale glow of the yard light. My best reader in the world slid off his seat and stood before me. His shoes were clunky and white with Velcro straps. He wore a light blue polo shirt and a pair of khaki shorts that stopped a couple of inches above his knees. The yard lamp reflected off his bare skull. As I approached him with my arm extended, I saw a few squiggly hairs left on his head.
“Hello, I’m C–,” he started to say in a very low tone, and held out a hand.
But I’d already dropped into my Dear Dirty America character, so I said, “Do you always swing into people’s yards like you own them? Don’t you know that on farms people have cats that live outside and like to play during the cool nights after a long, hot summer’s day? If you had run over the two cats we have left, you’d have squashed the entire premise for even coming over tonight.”
He apologized, I think, but I couldn’t hear his words as they tumbled out of his mouth very quickly. Behind the square rims of his glasses, my fan’s eyes loomed large. An eerie feeling rippled through me for a second. Why was he eyeballing me?
“Forget about it,” I said, and slapped his shoulder. “Come inside and we’ll get started on the Dear Dirty America Reality Tour. I’ll need you sign a waiver releasing myself and my brother and my parents, and our cats, too, from any liability in the case of debilitating injury or death. It’s unlikely, but we’ll be carrying weapons in the dark, and searching for wild animals, so there’s a considerable margin for error.”
Inside the porch, my brother did not greet my fan.
“This is C–” I said. “I’ve told you a lot about him.”
C– glanced around at the old porch with the same bewilderment as our pet cat Sadie when she slips into the house between our feet and the door. His eyes kept going to the powerful deer rifle my brother held.
“We’ll be heading out in two minutes. Prepare yourselves,” my brother warned us. “Here are the ground rules. No talking. I walk first. You follow me. You turn on your flashlight only when I do. If anybody gets lost, the coyote patrol goes on. Under all circumstances the patrol will be completed.”
I couldn’t tell if my brother was playing up the seriousness for the reality tour, or if he was truly irked to have this man in shorts and polo shirt hauling himself around with us that night.
“Sign here,” I said, and held out the paper. “It’s of the utmost importance. We’re entrepreneurs here, trying to make a few bucks off the small online successes we’ve had. I appreciate your readership and for coming along tonight on the tour. Our expected run time is 45 minutes, but that could be shortened to 25 or extended until sunrise. Just depends on what happens out there.”
My fan said, “You should write this experience up as an article.”
“What?” I asked him. He was speaking low and his neck was bent toward his chest as he signed the paper. But he didn’t repeat what he’d said.
“Do I get a gun?” he asked.
“What?” I asked.
“No,” my brother said. “You’ll carry this stick.” He handed C– a gnarly, charred branch about six feet tall, and at least five inches taller than C–.
“What about a flashlight,” he asked.
I handed him mine.
“That’s the only other one we have,” my brother said.
“Never mind,” I told C–, and grabbed it back. “You’ll just have to stay close behind me. That’s how my brother likes it. I trail him. You trail me. Keep a fair bit of space, and don’t crowd us. You’re here only to observe and take pleasure in being under the comforting starry night with the gnawing tension that we’re hunting and possibly being hunted. Isn’t that what you so savored in the Yeti series? After it’s over, my job is to discuss a fair price, and your job is to right a fine review online as I plan to run a hard-hitting series of DEAR DIRTY AMERICA REALITY TOURS in both North Dakota and Los Angeles.”
C– was rolling his earplugs between his thumbs and forefingers.
“What are you doing?” I asked him.
“For the siren,” he said. “I don’t want to blow my ears out like Rawlie Dickerson.”
I exchanged glances with my brother.
“Listen,” I said, “Here’s a lesson in the blurry lines between fiction and fact. I know this is the ‘reality’ tour, but you have to understand, there are certain parts to the story that are reality, and others that are the embellishment of the author, such as the Yeti call blasted at ear-piercing volume in all directions. Do you think the fine country folks in the area would allow that?”
I pointed to the plugs. “Basically, I’m trying to say you don’t need them.”
C–‘s face dropped. He seemed crestfallen. “I wanted to take a look at the converted Chrysler Air Raid Siren.”
“And I’d like to be president of the United States and open unlimited hunting and poaching on all coyotes, but like our plumber always says, ‘You can wish in one hand and shit in the other, and you’ll see which one fills up first.'” I tried to smile to make him feel better.
My brother hit a switch and the yard light went dark. I looked out the window and could only see the Astro van in the moonlight. I turned out the porch light. We stood in the dark. I could hear my fan breathing. He made a whistling sound with his nostrils.
“Let’s keep quiet now, my parents are in bed, and they don’t like to be disturbed,” I said. “They’re gracious for letting us use the farm like this, and their house as a vacation home to launch a new business.”
My fan said something about a virtual reality tour. I ignored it. The show had to begin.
We stepped outside, my brother leading the way. He held the gun at rest, propped up on his shoulder. Our flashlights were off. I stepped out second and adjusted the hunting knife strapped to my belt. Behind me, C– let the porch door slam.
I heard my brother let out a long sigh.
Oh tell me, Lord, just how poorly could a well-intended reality tour go?
TO BE CONTINUED…