We had yet to taste New Coke. As the whole world knows by now, nearly thirty years later, the stuff was a marketing catastrophe. But at the time, and to a couple thirteen-year-olds from the trailer park, free Coke was free Coke.
The plan was to collect fifty cans each, empty the backpacks at our respective trailers and repeat the process across town. The whole thing was Way’s idea. He wanted to fill his fridge with Coke, any Coke, to score points with a short-tempered stepfather who drank cheap whiskey and cola like water. The old man would take him hunting on occasion but invariably get drunk and violent. I didn’t have the heart to tell him our mission was useless, that the bastard would continue his brutish ways even if Way were to magically produce a hundred cases of Jack Daniels and Christie Brinkley to serve it.
Packs half full, we encountered a pair of sunbathers face down along the river. These were well-built girls in colorful bikinis, clearly tourists, listening to AC/DC on a silver boombox. Their asses were nothing short of glorious, their thighs thick and shiny with sweat.
I knew what Way was going to do before he did it. “Let’s chat ’em up,” he said, veering off the road. I shook my head but followed along, cans clanking, heart suddenly hammering in my throat. We pulled up in front of the girls and Way asked how they were doing. They looked up in unison, shielding their eyes from the sun, and I was surprised to find that one had a horsey face and the other’s cheeks were severely pitted from acne, their looks definitely not matching their bodies and I remember being disappointed but then I got a little surge thinking maybe this increased our chances, that even though these girls were in high school or even college they probably didn’t get much action so maybe they’d go for a couple of northern Michigan kids who everybody knows are tougher than those pretty boys from downstate.