By Calissa Treat

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I

The Ronnings red cursive sign leaves a ruby mist over the parking lot as the night creeps its way around the edges of International Falls. Ronnings itself is a basic clothing store where tourists can find the typical Minnesnowta fleece hoodies and “The Ice Box of the Nation” coffee mugs with blue snowflakes falling around the cream china. The store may be what draws people inside on rainy afternoons or snowy evenings, but what really brings a crowd is its parking lot.

The cement is cracked along the edges of the lot, and a huge pothole swells underneath the center of the faded tar. The yellow lines that used to make the parking spaces visible are now just specks of yellow paint left behind from what worn-down tires didn’t take with them. The moon dangles like a white Christmas ornament over the night sky, and Ronnings parking lot is now open for business.

A long black truck putts its way into the parking lot, the vehicle itself so clean one could walk by and catch their reflection in it. Billy the Kid puts his truck in park as he lights the peach cigar paper that’s wrapped tightly around the green bud inside. He exhales the smoke out his open window as a bright orange truck pulls up beside him. Dash Miller rolls down his window.

“Billy the Kid, what’s crackalackin tonight?” Dash says as he squirms around in his seat. He always shakes about like a slinky when he can smell drugs in the area.

“Nada, man. Just tryin to get a good buzz goin’. Seeing what’s going on tonight.”

The gold writing on Billy the Kid’s white hoody has a soft golden glow, like the flame of a lit candle is hovering over each word. His hood is pulled over his black dreadlocks, and black sunglasses hide his green eyes.

Another truck pulls up on the other side of Billy’s vehicle, and the driver rolls down his passenger window.  Beaves’s teeth hang over his lip like the buck teeth of beaver, and shards of chew are stuck between the cracks of his teeth. His real name is Jim Bolton, but those large beaver-like teeth stuck him with the nick name Beaves since he was in fourth grade.

“Beaves, what’s up, my man?” Billy says as he hides his one hit under the seat.

Beaves spits a glob of black drool onto the parking lot. “Got any bud on you tonight, Billy?”

“Nah, Beaves. Fresh out.”

“Come on, Billy. I know you have something on you.”

Billy the Kid cracks his neck and takes off his sunglasses. “If I say I don’t have bud, I don’t have any bud.”

“C’mon Billy, I have some cash on me—”

Billy interrupts him by shutting his truck off and jumping out of it. His short, five-foot-six frame stomps its way to Beaves’s window.

“You wanna be wise tonight, then get out of the truck, Beaves.”

Dash watches from his window as Billy continues to torment Beaves until he finally spits his last bit of chew out and leaves the lot. Dash knew Billy had bud on

Butterflies bust through her stomach, fluttering their wings up her throat.

him, and the finest bud in town at that, but he hadn’t dared to ask if he could have any. Billy the Kid might be five-six, but he is a short rocket full of rage.

Dash could remember back two years ago when they had just gotten their licenses. They pulled up to the Ronnings parking lot in Dash’s new orange truck and started tipping back a bottle of Jack Daniels. A middle aged man around six-foot-two was stumbling across the lot; he started throwing rocks at Dash’s truck. Billy and Dash stopped drinking and watched as the man walked closer, throwing more rocks. Dash jumped out of his truck along with Billy.

“Heynowwhatdoyouthinkyou’redoing?” Dash said so fast he wasn’t quite sure he had said anything at all.

He put his hands up, trying to stop the rocks from causing any more damage.  The man stopped and stared at them.

“I hate the color of that truck,” the man said, laughing.

He went to throw another rock when Billy’s hand shot up and grabbed the man firmly by the wrist.

“Put your arm down right fucking now.”

The man laughed in Billy’s face, spitting on his black shoes. Billy walked to Dash’s truck and came back with the old baseball bat he had floating around back there.

“You think you’re tough man? You think you have guts? Hit me then,” Billy said, throwing the bat at the man. The man picked it up and looked at Billy like he had just escaped from an insane asylum.

“Hit me good and hard, right here.” Billy said pointing towards his left cheekbone.

Billy’s face was absolutely peaceful. His eyes were calm like green waves tickling the feet of a sandy shore, and his lips tightened in a pink line. It looked like he wasn’t even breathing he was so still.

“You’re crazy, kid. You’re fucking insane, kid,” the man said, dropping Dash’s bat, stumbling his way to the alley behind Ronnings.

Billy looked up at Dash and smiled.

“The kid… the kid… Billy the Kid. I think I like that,” he said.

Billy gets back in his truck after Beaves drives off. Dash bullshits with him just long enough that Billy finally licks down his ruffled feathers and asks, “Wanna go for a cruise and smoke?”

Dash sighs with relief as he hops in with Billy the Kid. They take off down Main Street, leaving Ronnings lot vacant for the rest of the evening.

II

It’s a Saturday night and the sun is setting behind the brown Ronnings store. Tonight is the parking lot’s busiest night.  Trucks and cars of all shapes and sizes pull up in a large circle around the parking lot; the entire area fits about fifteen vehicles this way. Billy the Kid was the first one there, of course, and everyone who joins him all received the same, Meet me @ 10 in Ronnings lot text about an hour ago.

Beaves spits his dips out and Billy tosses him a Busch Light. Audrey Fritz zips her jacket up, whispering Burrrrrr into the crisp air.

“Billy thaaaaa Kid! Can I have a beer? I have a bottle of Jack we can share,” she says as she holds the glass bottle against her bony cheek.

“Absolutely. Done deal,” Billy says laughing.

They all stand around and bullshit for hours, tipping back too many beers to keep track of and chasing Jack with gulps of cold air. The town police officers cruise by slowly, looking for what trouble Ronnings holds tonight. Nate Barron is the Ronnings crowd lookout. He roams around the lot until he sees a cop car.  When he does, he yells out, “Pigs!” and everyone hides whatever illegal items they have on them.

The cops decide not to disturb the Ronnings lot tonight. They hover around it like flies but never enter. They’ll save that for another night.

III

Audrey Fritz waits in the parking lot in her little red Volkswagen. The snow is falling heavily on the lot. It looks like a white meadow, and she wonders what Dash would do if he pulled up and she was making snow angels in it.

His blaze orange truck pulls up beside her. For some reason his truck always reminds her of SunnyD, and she just wants to drink it all in, including Dash. He doesn’t have to roll down his window; she knows the drill well enough. She turns her car off and walks through the snow, barely leaving any footprints with her small ninety-pound frame. She hops in with him and they start kissing instantly. Neither one can keep their hands off the other.

He starts to slide his hands up her leg when she stops him.

“I think I love you, Dash Miller,” she says, staring into his blue eyes.

His long face droops deeper into a frown and he removes his hand, unsure of what to say back. He thinks he loves her, thinks he cares. That’s enough, right?

“I love you too, Audrey,” he says kissing her neck.

Butterflies bust through her stomach, fluttering their wings up her throat. She knows she’s the only girl he’s ever said the word love to before, and that drives her crazy, the good kind of crazy. Dash kisses her until she knows there is no turning back; she lets herself finally drink him in, taking large gulps. She gives him her last shred of innocence in the Ronnings parking lot.

IV

Billy the Kid’s truck squeals its way down Main Street at three in the morning. He’s sure Ronnings lot must be empty by this time, or he hopes it is, anyway. He pulls up and shuts his truck off. It’s muggy inside from the humidity the late summer night brings, but he won’t roll down his window. He just wants to be invisible for a little while.

He thinks about the way his mother screamed at him just a few hours ago. Her hair was as yellow as her tobacco-stained teeth, and her pupils were the size of nickels. Black, decaying nickels.

“Get the fuck out of my house, you worthless piece of shit!” she said, throwing their living room lamp at his head when he walked in the door.  A bottle of vodka lay empty on the table, and gray stains of alcohol soaked through his mom’s pink blouse. He knew she wouldn’t remember it tomorrow, but one thing was for sure—she sure as hell doesn’t want him there tonight.

Billy curls up across the seat of his truck and allows himself to cry for one minute. Then he slaps his cheek and says, “Alright, toughen up, kid.” After that, he closes his eyes and finally falls into a deep sleep, making the Ronnings parking lot his bed room for the night.

V

Dash has been sitting in his truck for the past two hours, listening to the deep hummm of his engine. There are only two other vehicles in Ronnings lot tonight, neither of which he wants to waste time meeting up with. He sits in the corner of the lot, away from the ruby light, hidden by the night.

He takes off his baseball cap, and the hat leaves a line running all the way around his head. The only light near him is the one beaming from the cell phone he holds up to his face. A dozen times he rereads the text message his dad sent him an hour ago:

Dash, please get home as soon as possible, we need to talk. It’s urgent. Just know I love you.

He had been an idiot earlier, a careless idiot. The tiny bag of cocaine he carelessly threw in his drawer in a hurry to leave his house to meet Audrey is now discovered, his dark secret revealed. His dad hadn’t come right out and said, Found the bag of cocaine, get home now, but Dash knows.  Knows the message means his dad went through his room, opened the drawer and found the bag.

Dash knows he will walk in the door and his dad will be sitting at the kitchen table with his head in his hands, the bag of white powder displayed in front of him. His eyes will be watered down. All hope he once had in Dash will be washed down his cheeks in angry, disappointed tears.

“Do you want to end up like your mom, Dash?” his dad will ask.

The answer to that is no. He doesn’t want to end up like his mom. She loved drugs, alcohol and especially abandonment. But it seems to him that everyone loves abandoned things. People always saw the beauty in an abandoned house that was left to rot into nothing but a few pieces of wood in the yard—when once there stood painted, beautiful, a home to someone. He just doesn’t understand the beauty in it.

Dash turns up his music and lies back in his seat. He just needs a few more minutes in the parking lot before he needed to go face his father.

VI

A few weeks after Dash’s and Billy’s 2008 class graduated, the local cops made an announcement to the kids of Ronnings lot:  No one is allowed on the lot after store hours. Anyone who decides to violate this will be fined.

Billy the Kid sends out a message to every single one of his contacts: Meet in Ronnings lot @ 10 p.m., Lets have one last HOORAH!

Twenty vehicles pull into the lot that night; they are bumper to bumper, and the last few vehicles have to park on the street. They all let their vehicles run; everyone wants their stereos to bring life to the streets with music. Dash passes around his bottle of Jack, and Billy the Kid hands out packs of wood-tipped cigars.

“Pigs!” Nate Barron yells as he runs and jumps back into his truck.

Everyone quickly tucks away their beer cans. Dash slides his bottle into the sleeve of his coat, and Billy shoves his bag of bud down his pants. The cop car pulls up beside the crop circle of vehicles.

“Didn’t you guys hear the new law of International Falls? No one can be in the Ronnings parking lot past store hours,” the cop says, shouting over the music.

“Alright, officer. We’ll pack up and leave,” Billy says, hoping the police officer can’t smell the Jack on his breath from way over there.

“Sooner rather than later, Billy,” the officer tells him as he peels out of the lot.

Dash took out the bottle of Jack and raised it towards the sky

“To Ronnings lot and the years we’ve all spent in it!” Dash says, and everyone joins him in raising their drinks to the sky.

Dash tips back the bottle of Jack and watches as the night blurs past him in waves of brown liquid. All he know is that he may never actually love Aubrey Fritz, but his love for Ronnings parking lot will always remain in his heart.

redlight4.jpgCalissa Treat is a dorky, awkward soul; she usually leaves a mess wherever she goes. Most people forgive her for this, though, because she is kind and is very determined. She always shoots for the moon, never counting the stars along the way.