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Initiation of 18-year-old After High School

November 14, 2015
Here is a happier Carl Bonde, probably on a footbridge in Montana.

Here is a happier Carl Bonde, probably on a footbridge in Montana.

Carl was sicker than he could remember being. He knew it was from last night’s graduation drinking out on a road toward the cemetery. His friend Hank had a trunkful of bottles in a box. No, a boxful of bottles in his trunk. Carl didn’t care. He wished he could throw up, but he knew he couldn’t because he had had the dry heaves hours ago. Carl was glad the shades were down. He didn’t want his mother to know about last night. When did he come home? God! The taste of whiskey was all in his nose and head! Cloying, sweet.

Hank had told him he wanted him to have a good time after graduation. He teased him about being a virgin, about not drinking. It was June, 1941, the evening warm. A clandestine party. Carl was only starting to realize he no longer trusted Hank.

“This is like an initiation,” he urged. “Here, drink this. Tastes like creme de cocoa. Drink it right out of the bottle.” Some of his other friends also partook. Like Les and Dave. Duck didn’t come. Duck’s dad was an alcoholic and Duck wouldn’t drink.

The bottle burned, tasted sweet, sort of like cocoa. He gulped a few. Soon Carl was heading ’round into the slant. After that he crawled over to the grassy side of the gravel road and vomited. Things got mixed up after that.

Hank took Carl home, pointed him toward the porch, and drove away. After the confusing maze, Carl couldn’t keep from brushing hard against the stairwell as he climbed to his room.

Soon, morning.

“Yoohoo, Buddy!” sang his mother. Carl said nothing. “Want some eggs for breakfast?” The thought made him retch. His body felt suddenly hot and he kicked off his covers. “Buddy,” she called again, her voice high, musical. She walked up the stairs in her leather heeled shoes. Clump. Clump. Clump. He looked at her face in the doorway.

“I don’t feel so good, ma.”

“Now why would that be?” his mother asked, coyly. “Was it something you — she paused for effect — drank?”

He didn’t answer. His mother clumped back downstairs. Now he felt cold again and wrapped up in his blankets. His head ached. Nobody would help him get some aspirin powder that he knew was in the hallway cabinet near the bathroom.

His sister Carol was in girl scouts, off to a camp at Flathead Lake. He stared at the wall, in his misery. He studied the door to the closet. At his stuff. Books, a knapsack, wool socks. He knew that in a couple of days he would be off working in Glacier Park. On Huckleberry Mountain. Living in a cabin beneath a fire lookout, thousands of feet above the North Fork of the Flathead River. He wondered if he would feel better by then.

He loved his parents, but right then he was thinking his mother was. . . he didn’t want to finish the thought. He wasn’t superstitious or religious. He had always been the family pet, kind of. The only boy in the family born after three girls.

He loved his mother so much! But she was heartless. She was a . . . FUCKING BITCH! He wanted to say it aloud, so he whispered, “you fucking bitch!” Somehow, he felt better. He had survived the rite of passage.

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