It’s horrible being the third wheel and even worse when you go to Lovers’ Lane with your friends and their girlfriends. I bought an expensive cigar and some fine scotch to enjoy during my evening. I’d walk the tracks at night and hope a train might run me down. Of course, these were only melancholy thoughts, but my self-pity was comforting. It was one of those nights, blacker than black. I’m talkin so black you can’t see your hand in front of your face. I took the backseat in Jason’s roadster. It doubled as a trunk. We picked up his date in the suburbs and I decided to start drinking, so I popped the cork and took a swig.
“That’s a nice dress,” Jason said to Maddie.
“Oh, I got this at Sears.”
“And you smell nice.”
I wanted to block out their foreplay, so I put on the earmuffs I found under my seat.
Jason looked in the mirror. “Andy, what are you wearing? Are those my mom’s earmuffs?”
“My ears are cold,” I lied.
“It’s 72 degrees, but do what you want.”
Maddie giggled. “Your friend is strange.”
Only a couple more miles, I thought. And then we hit a fog bank. It was so thick, it was impossible to see through. Jason followed the fog line on the side of the road until we reached the wooded lane. It was near the train tracks running parallel to the river.
“Do you mind if we park?” Jason asked.
“I don’t mind at all,” Maddie giggled.
I grabbed my bottle of scotch and made for the river. The other cars were pulling up. I never understood why couples made love so close to each other. I guess there was safety in numbers, but in this town, there wasn’t much to worry about. I preferred solitude. I liked the night. Things were more beautiful when you couldn’t see them. Their imperfections were hidden. Their obviousness was gone. The most mundane became elegant in the dark. And I walked into the blackness where I belonged. I lit my cigar and puffed blue smoke like a locomotive.
Somebody was playing music, a pop song, and I needed to be far away from that. So, I walked a bit faster while the fog closed in. I could hardly see anything, and then I felt a rushing wind, like I was being sucked down a tunnel, and I looked behind me. A hole was opening in the mist and that’s when I heard the most beautiful bagpipes, like a victory melody after war.
And then I saw him, tall and muscular in the fog. He had a pair of lungs on him that shattered the air. And he walked slowly, methodically, down the tracks. He was a Scotsman, dressed in a fine green kilt, with a leather purse protruding from his front and a muscular chest shining in the dark. Giggling followed the hypersonic song. Dozens of girls were following him down the tracks, mesmerized by his native tunes while I watched him drawing nearer. Those pipes were powerful. Bigger than the night. Stronger than anyone’s will. And he played them with so much jest and gusto.
Then I noticed the men chasing him. They were enraged.
“Polly, stop following him!” One man pleaded.
Another grabbed at the Scotsman, but he quickened his pace, skipping down the tracks, faster than a locomotive. And the girls followed him, invigorated by his tunes. Even the fastest men couldn’t keep up and soon the Scotsman was only a few yards away. I knew I only had one chance, so I made it count and I leapt for his bagpipes. I grabbed them and the music left the air like it had never been. I was terrified of what the Scotsman might do, but I noticed he wasn’t there and then I went crashing down the embankment into the river. I was soaked. It seemed like a dream. I saw the group of men wandering above me, but I didn’t call out. I waited. Soon they walked away, mumbling about strange tunes and their women followed. I brushed dead leaves off my pants like I was ridding myself of a disappearing dream, but there in the bushes were the bagpipes, glowing in the dark and I touched them. They were more real than the music I had heard. And on that evening, I knew there would be no more need for pickup artistry or self-help books. My music would mesmerize women and they would chase me into the night, every night, for as long as I had breath in my lungs.