Our Protagonists Almost Die Before They Even Get To The Start
Our Protagonists Are Introduced And Act Like Somewhat Normal People
In Which They Noise Pollute Like College Frat Boys And Are Thoroughly Outdone by a Blue Man
In Which They Argue About Playing Gay Chicken With Keys Being Hidden in Unmentionable Places
In Which Gay Chicken Is Played But Kai Forgets the Chicken Part and Strop Loses
In Which Strop Fails Emissions Ratings and Team Southend are Scarred For Life
In Which Toothless Starts Wheezing and Strop's Butt Unleashes a Can of Whoopass on Team Clutch Droppers
In Which Toothless Is Mortally Wounded And Team Flaming Fart Cannon Call it a Day
Team Flaming Fart Cannon
Day 2, 2-6pm
A half-mile walk, one rejected seafood joint ("You know I don't like seafood", Kai reminded Strop much to the latter's endless bemusement), and two cigarettes later, the recently bereft duo stumbled upon Klamath's Fuel Mart. Time for lunch, then, and other things, including absolutely destroying a certain plumbing system.
"Yeah nah, you probably don't want to use these toilets," Strop proclaimed, zipping his jeans up as he limped through the GENTS door, the barest whiff of noxious horse-fumes escaping as the door swung shut a potent portent to what lay beyond.
Kai wrinkled his nose. "Er, I wasn't planning to." He then took a long drag through the straw in his giant-sized something-something soda. "You aren't having any more cheese are you?"
"Nah, I'm done." Strop waved his hand and snorted. "Back to regular strength farts from me now."
"Great," Kai muttered, scooting a few feet further away from Strop's seat.
Not exactly being tourists in tourist mode, there wasn't an awful lot to do post lunch, but wander up and down the Klamath River bank, occasionally pausing to stare at some invisible point beyond the horizon. Strop rolled his jeans up and splashed in the shallows for a while, but as the minutes ticked by, the silence grew heavier.
Finally, his phone rang; the truck had arrived. They scrambled back to the 101 where a dusty, beat-up tow truck waited. The door swung open and out stepped a woman just as weathered as her old Chevy.
"Hi boys, I'm Deb," she hollered, free of any preconceived notions of a Californian accent (Strop wasn't sure what to expect anyway). "You the one with the car that needed an arrangement?"
Throwing a sideways glance at the listless Kai, Strop hurried across the road in order to engage his inside voice. "Yeah thanks for coming Deb. Can you get us somewhere we can conduct the, erm, service?"
"No problem, I got room for two, come on in!" Deb waved them into her cab. "Now where's the vehicle?"
Kai didn't even register when the truck pulled alongside the stricken Toothless. Deb, on the other hand, couldn't help but chuckle. "Lordy, boys, were you tripping or were you tripping in that ride?"
Inside, Strop grimaced, but Kai was still staring vacantly. If he'd heard, he hadn't really heard. "It's a personal statement kind of thing," Strop explained.
"I'll bet, I'm not judging." Deb pulled over and hauled herself out of the cab, surveying the wreck. "Every car has a story right?" Much shuffling and to-and-fro was had as the Chevy had to extricate Toothless out back end first, with some cringeworthy crunching of plastic bumper, before hooking back up to the front axle. That part of the job done, they were back on the road and headed for the nearest wrecker.
"So what's yours?" Deb asked, to break the bleakness.
"Huh?" Strop snapped out of his daze.
"Your story. I mean... you're clearly not from around here, and you don't see car like that here, and I'm not talking about the paintjob."
"Oh, that!" Strop glanced to his right, where Kai's head was leaning on the window, shifting only when the truck crested a bump. "Yeah, we're not from around here. We're just on a Cannonball Run meets 24 Hours Of Lemons kinda thing."
Deb laughed, a short, barking exhortation that matched her rough visage. "Ha! Okay, there's definitely a story behind this."
"Long story." Strop glanced over again, and seeing Kai was asleep, kept going. "We're from Australia, so is Toothless. Kai here has owned Toothless for a few years, but we knew it was time to let go, so we made him sell up and move on, especially when he started, er, customising. But I guess he was so fond of Toothless he wanted to give him a sendoff. Thing is, guys like us, we know adventures can get a bit, uh, hairy, but we wanted to do this proper, like, go out with a bang but, at worst, get deported you know?"
Deb raised an eyebrow. "Okay fair. But why here? I mean, it's wrong-hand drive and all, getting that through TSA..."
"Oh yeah, well, first thing, this guy here," Strop pointed at Kai, "Is a pro- has to travel a lot for work. We both do. And funnily enough the US is one place we don't go through at all, so if we get banned from the US of A that's not such a... problem. As for customs, that was a nightmare. Actually we weren't running legally at all." Strop chuckled. "I got the approval on the basis we were accredited to run in a stock car event and Toothless was supposed to ride there on a trailer. Except I tried doing this with five days' notice, so we had to kind of use 'alternative' avenues and 'a sum of money' to get permission. And a lot of pointed questions from US customs when we rocked up. And best part yet, this guy here," more pointing at Kai, "Already has a bit of a history with the TSA folks, so I actually registered Toothless under my name, so this time it was me copping four hours of questions in the office."
By this point Deb was shaking her head, one hand rubbing forehead. "That's something else. And a lot of trouble, just so you could drive a car until it broke down. Musta really loved that car."
"Yeah. He's a car guy through and through." Strop ruffled Kai's hair.
"I meant you, going to all that trouble for him."
Strop blinked. "What? Oh! Yeah nah, he... deserves this much." Strop trailed off and fidgeted, and the rest of the trip was shrouded in the silence of the thrum of the road.
Piles of fenced car corpses and spare parts greeted them at the wreckers. The truck stopped and Deb killed the engine, hopping out to greet the stereotypically grizzled bearded greasy coverall wearing man with a gut with an entire family in tow. This time, this was precisely what Strop had expected.
"If it isn't my favourite delivery girl!" The man spread his arms wide.
"Clay! How you been you ole dog?" Deb exclaimed, exchanging customary hugs.
"Up to my ole tricks," he laughed, before gesturing to his similarly proportioned wife. "Abbey, come fix our guests some lemonade while I take care of this business." But Abbey was already on it, leading Deb into the office while openly and loudly chatting about Clay's prostate problem.
"Huh? Wha-?" Kai mumbled as he was dragged out of the cabin by Strop. "Look alive, incoming!" He was bundled into the clearing where he immediately perked up, right before being swarmed by a gaggle of kids curious about his fire hair and matching jacket. Having saved himself just in time from the curiosities of being a horse guy, Strop was a bit relieved to take point and go over the arrangements with Clay.
"Thanks for accommodating our, er, request," Strop opened.
"Not a problem," Clay boomed, "We actually do these every now and then, especially for the unsalvageables. And yours," he thumbed at Toothless, "Is just that. We don't got no cars here with matching panels, engine, engine parts or any components at all really. And it's wrong-hand drive. So yeah, just tell us what you need and we can get started."
Strop realised that he wasn't quite sure that he had everything, so he and Clay went to extricate a somewhat revitalised Kai from the gaggle, which had somehow latched to each and every one of his limbs. "Hey Kai, what else do we need for this Viking funeral thing?"
"Ohh," Kai dusted himself off. "Well, I guess for a proper Viking Funeral you'd need some horses. And slaves."
Strop and Clay boggled momentarily, before Strop recovered and glared at Kai. "Very funny. What do we really need, here, and now, that wouldn't constitute a violation of people rights?"
"Let's see." Kai counted them off on his fingers. "Fire. Music. Alcohol, maybe. A possession to take to the next world."
Strop produced a jerry can of petrol, Kai's lighter, the UE Boom, a crate of beer, and Kai's basic toolkit. "Done, done, done and done. Let's do this thing."
The scene was set. As the sun started to set off the West Coast, a makeshift pyre had been built, Toothless in the middle of it all, windows down. Along the edges of the clearing, Deb had decided to stick around, and the wrecking family were all here to witness the occasion. The kids loved a good bonfire, after all. To kick the service off, he started playing the first song on the playlist while passing around the beers (not for the kids, obviously.)
Strop finished dousing the interior with petrol, then placed the can inside. Kai came forward, placing his toolbox in the rear seat before retreating to his designated spot. Strop glanced at Kai, making sure he wasn't looking, before fishing a pine-tree shaped air-freshener out of his pocket and slipping it in amongst the gifts.
"Sorry about gassing up your upholstery," he muttered.
With preparations complete, he took out Kai's lighter, before a wicked idea took form. "Hey, Kai, you want me to-" he pointed his butt end at Toothless, hovering the lighter suggestively.
Kai looked offended.
"Okay okay, sorry, not like I was gonna do it anyway," Strop conceded. But as he straightened the thin keening of a strangled fart sneaked out from between his cheeks. Disaster thus narrowly averted, he stepped back and cleared his throat.
"We are here to witness the passage of Toothless, plucky Corolla and trusty mount of Kai Kristensen. I, uh, know we teased you for your foibles, and for what Kai subjected you to, but we also know you even ailed by age and illness, you served bravely and to the last. And Kai loved you so, as much as a guy can love a car without it becoming improper and spoiling the petrol.
"Your mortal coil may have broken, well, the front left one specifically, but your will lives on, strong and undaunted. Please accept these gifts, and take with you our gratitude, as we commend your spirit to the Valkyries. May they guide you to Auto, uh, Valhalla. Go now, and rest in peace."
Having finished his speech, Strop set the pyre alight. The kindling had barely begun to burn when it caught on the petrol, and with a whoosh, Toothless was ablaze.
On the other side from the audience, Kai and Strop stood shoulder to shoulder, watching as the flames licked at the panels, peeling the paint, scorching the body, consuming the seats and the padding. Inexorably, the pyre began to collapse, folding upon itself, crumbling down while the sun vanished and the daylight fled, until there was nothing left to burn except ash and smouldering embers.
As one they tipped their beers on the ground. Exchanging a silent nod, they turned and walked towards the darkness. Clay and Abbey's kids started chasing after the redhead, but was corralled by their parents and Deb. "Leave them be, that was their friend."
Standing by the roadside, Strop fiddled with his phone, surreptitiously emailing Bianca the video he took of Toothless going up in flames. Aaaaaaaand send. She would be relieved. Kai would have been horrified, but he didn't need to know. So he also deleted the video.
"Thanks, by the way." Kai finally spoke a complete sentence.
Strop frowned. "For what?"
"For doing all this." He vaguely gestured. "Stuff. And going to all that trouble."
"It's the least I can do dude, seriously" Strop shrugged, before muttering, "Shoulda known you weren't actually asleep... Anyway. We've pretty much done what we came here to do, so what you wanna do now, Kai?"
Kai mulled it over. "Hire a car. Finish this thing. Get hammered."
Strop punched some numbers into his phone. "Sounds good to me."