"It's in that hollow in the tree," I said pointing beyond the door. I found the Tupperware cake cover in the hall closet while one of the boys retrieved the bottles from the tree. There were four of us meeting at my place before going to school.
"I got 'em. I thought there was more vodka," J-- said holding up the two quarts he carried. R--- was cutting up the lemons and oranges dumping them into the cake cover. G--- was pouring the fruit juices over the sliced fruits. J-- broke the seal on the two bottles.
"Love that sound," he said as the paper seal making the bottle legal snapped with a twist. He turned it up and let the liquid flow into his mouth. The vodka's bite was relected in the face he made.
"Whew! Smo..uh, smooooth," he said blowing the heat out of his throat. He up ended both bottles over the large plastic Tupperware cake cover. G-- continued opening bottles of fruit juice and emptying them into the growing level of punch.
"How about these cherries?" asked R--. "Want them in too?"
"Hell yeah," I said. "Nothing like a good cherry."
"Especially one pickled in alcohol. Just a couple of those will give a good buzz after soaking."
Our morning meeting was on the day of the Junior-Senior. Our plan was to mix up this batch of PJ and keep it in the trunk of J--'s car. We'd slip out to sip a cup when we could.
"That should do it." G-- tossed the last empty juice can into the trash while I stirred the concoction with a wooden spoon.
"Don't want this stuff to eat up a metal spoon," I said with a chuckle.
"Who's gonna try it first?" We all look at each other. J--, a little light headed from his pull on the bottle, said, "I will. Got those paper cups?"
I opened the stack of cups and held it toward him. He took one. Then we all pulled a cup off the stack and dipped into the deep purple liquid.
"Kickapoo Joy juice," I said as I put the dripping cup to my lips. I wasn't so funny back in those days.
"To the Senior-Junior." We raised our cups.
"And to the good times after," said J-- with a leer.
"Oh yeah," we all said in unison.
"Man, that's good stuff," I said tossing my empty cup in the trash. I popped a couple of the Maraschino cherries in my mouth. I laughed as the they popped.
"Let's get the top on." I slid my thumb around the rim until it snapped into place. "Go open the trunk. I'll bring this out. Don't forget the cups," I said to no one in particular as I stepped out the back door. The old Ford sat in the drive. J-- was pulling the tunk lid up.
"Make room for the ambrosia." No one laughed again but I did see a smile.
"How about another one for the road?" Everybody reached for the stack o' cups while I unsealed the lid. We ran our cups along the surface avoiding the floating fruit.
All together we raised our cups, "To PJ."
J-- slammed the trunk. J--,G--, and R-- opened the squeaking doors and piled in laughing out loud.
"I'll follow you in The Bird," I said. My parent's Ford Falcon was called the Bird because they had allowed me to paint the words on the front fender in old English lettering.
Dion was singing I'm a Wanderer as loud as the radio could bare. I heard them laughing and singing at the top of their lungs as they drove away. I followed along behind.
The old Ford's pipes rumbled over the road. Since the mufflers were shot it was the gutsy raw sound of straight exhaust announcing our arrival at James Island High. We bumped along the rutted drive.
"Slow down!" I yelled from my window. "You don't want to spill any of that brew in the back." He slowed to a crawl. I put the Bird into second and followed along. He found a space just behind section containig our classes. I pulled along side and killed the engine.
"How about one more cup before heading into class?"
"Hell yeah!" we all said. Up went the trunk hood, off came the Tupperware cover, in went the cups. R-- slipped his cup in a second time. He raised it high, "To gettin' blitzed!" he said.
"Shhh! A little less loud. We don't wantold man Kizer coming out here."
"Oh, yeah, I guess not," he said putting his finer to his lips making a shh sound. Then he gulped the cup down. Tossing the empty into the trunk he laughed out loud. J-- slamed it shut. G-- and I still had a half cup in our hands. Laughing and giggling like school kids--I guess we were school kids--we walked to class with the knowing smile of our secret plastered on our faces, plastered being the operative word. The PJ was beginning to have its effect. We went to our respective classes mingling into the crowd of milling students.
"I have to get my excuse into the office," I said taking a sip from my cup. The office was Principal Kizer's domain. I clinched the cup in my teeth as I searched for my excuse walking to the office. I saw one of my favorite teachers at the office door and greeted her.
"Good morning Mrs. T---. Could you hold this for me?" I asked handing her my cup. She greeted me and took the cup. I turned in my excuse and returned taking the cup back.
"Thank you," I said.
"You're welcome. And Rickey."
"Be careful today," she said looking at the cup then at me.
"Oh, yes ma'am. I surely will." I laughed heading back to class.
The morning began to fly by. Of course we met at the trunk after first class for a topper offer then back for second period. The morning was moving along swimmingly. At least I was swimming along as the PJ took hold.
"May I be excused?" I asked my second period teacher. She nodded and I made a bathroom run.
On the way back I peeked into Mrs. S--'s classroom. One of the girls was making a speech. I looked around and Mrs. S-- signalled me in.
I sat in a desk by her. She leaned over to say something while the girl was giving her talke in front. Before she could talk we heard a voice cut through the speech up front.
"Why do we have to lishen to thish? She jush yammering on about nothing." It was R--.
"That's why I called you in," Mrs S-- said to me. "I know what you boys have been up to. Your buddy is going to get in trouble if he doesn't go home soon."
"You want me to take him home?"
"Yes, I do. I don't want him to get into serious trouble. It would be best if you took him home."
"Alright," I said. A get out of jail free card I thought to myself. "Come on R---. Let's take a ride."
"Oh, thank heaven. I don't have to lishen to her drone on and on and on and..."
"We get it, R--. Let's go."
He slid out of his seat and prpelled himself forward. I looked back. Mrs' S--- was shaking her head. I didn't see the smile I'd hoped for.
We swayed our way along the hall and out the back door.
"Were you lishning to that speach?"
I opened the door and he flopped into the seat. "She just went on and on... What a waste of time."
"It's OK. Mrs. S-- asked me to take you home," I said cranking the Bird. We arrived at his house to see his dad smoothing out the foundation for a new room he was going to add. While his dad was going inside I slipped around to the passenger side and helped R-- out.
"She just went on and on..." he kept repeating over and over. He looked over at the smooth glistening cement and started for it.
"You gonna be alright?" I shouted toward him.
"Yeah, yeah," he waved at me without looking. He was completely entranced by the glistening grey surface. I got back in the car and started it up. I looked over at R--- just in time to see him trip on the wooden mold. He fell head first into the wet cement. I backed up a little faster and whipped it around. I looked back. R-- was struggling to get up covered in the wet grey grit. I put it into first as his dad came running out the back door with a slam. His words were loud but uninteligible. He didn't seem happy at all, I thought to myself, and I was off down the road.
I decided to just go on home. It's a good thing I did. I heard that evening that several of our friends had been expelled for sucking on oranges that had been laced with vodka. J-- had left early. If he hadn't the punch might have been discovered during the search of all vehicles for alcohol.
"Where's my cake cover?" asked my mother that evening. "I was thinking of making a cake but couldn't find it."
"Oh, I'm sorry, mom. I leant it to J-- this morning," I said, looking around. "Do we hav any aspirin?"
"Yes'm. And it's a doozy."