Here’s to Mud and Old Friends
Joe was lying on his back, a wrench in his hand, and his music blaring when a beer can rolled into his elbow. Smiling, he scooped up the can and slid out from under his jeep. His smile broadened when he saw his best friend standing in the shed by the door.
“You gonna work on that thing all day?” he said over the sound of Joe’s music. “Or are we gonna take it out and do something? I hear there are some girls up by the river.”
Joe grinned at his friend and stood to his feet before turning down the music. Setting the beer on a table, Joe turned to his friend.
“Derrick, I didn’t know you were in town this weekend,” he said. “Why didn’t you call me?”
“Ahh,” Derrick said and picked up the can Joe had discarded. After popping it open and taking a drink, he continued, “I wasn’t sure if I was coming or if I would have time to stop in or not.”
Joe laughed. “Thanks! I see how important I am.”
“Well, my plans came down to finding some girls, so I figured I might as well see if you wanted to come with.”
“Is that all you think about?” Joe asked with a shake of his head.
“Girls? Most of the time,” Derrick replied and took another drink of the beer. “But at least this time it will require going through a little mud to get to them.”
“Now you’re talking,” Joe said. “Let’s go.”
Joe opened the door of the jeep and started the engine as Derrick climbed in the passenger seat behind him. Without waiting for instructions, he pulled out of the garage and got out to close the door behind him. When he returned to the jeep, he raised an eyebrow at Derrick who had took the time to chug another beer.
“You wanna cut back on that there, killer?”
“Why?” Derrick asked. “You’re driving.”
“Whatever.” Joe laughed. “Where am I going?”
“Just hit Highway 10 East and take it for about forty-five minutes and I’ll guide you from there.”
“That’s a long trek for some girls,” Joe said with another laugh.
“Unless you know of some closer, I’m up for the trip.”
Joe shook his head and continued laughing as he drove. Derrick took command of the radio and soon had the jeep’s radio blaring. After rolling the window down and creating even more noise, he turned to Joe.
“So, what have you been up to?” he yelled over the music and the road noise.
“Started a new job,” Joe said, glancing at his friend. “Bryant and I are working together on something.”
“Well, that sounds mysteriously fascinating,” Derrick said. “Any more details and you’ll have to kill me, right?”
Joe laughed. “Pretty much. I’m working with Bryant, his co-worker, and his co-worker’s sister.”
“Sister?” Derrick asked, his interest piqued. “Must hear about the sister.”
“The co-worker is also female, so it’s not that big a deal,” Joe added.
“Wait, wait, wait…” Derrick turned the radio down. “So, you and your brother are working with a pair of sisters? Why didn’t you tell me this BEFORE I instructed you to drive halfway across the country to meet up with some girls?”
Joe laughed. “It’s not like that, Derrick. Marie is engaged, and Anna has a serious boyfriend.”
“Mr. Boyfriend doesn’t like you, does he?”
“I get the impression that he does not,” Joe laughed.
“And why would that be?”
“Can we talk about something else now?” Joe frowned. “How’s life in Chicago?”
“Life in Chicago is boring,” Derrick complained. “But it pays the bills handsomely.”
Joe laughed and chatted more with his friend while the miles passed by. Eventually, Derrick said it was time to take a turn and Joe sped off the highway onto a country road. After following Derrick’s instructions for a few more miles, he turned onto a gravel road that led them to a muddy road tucked in the woods. Joe smiled at Derrick when his eyes swept over the muddy forest floor.
“Ahh, this is perfect,” he said.
“Yep, I know.”
Joe slipped the tires of the jeep into the mud and he and Derrick bounced around through the forest for several minutes, mud flying all around them. When they stopped, they were near a river, and Joe looked across the opening to find several others already drinking and chatting on the bank.
Derrick popped out of the jeep, gave Joe a quick grin and headed off to the nearest group of women. Joe rolled his eyes and followed behind him. Not in a hurry to join the group, Joe stopped walking a short distance from his friend and looked around. The weather was perfect, the mud was just like he liked it, and he could hear birds chirping in the distance. The sounds and scene in front of him made him smile.
“Not interested in chatting?” he heard a female voice say after he’d stood looking around for a few minutes.
He turned to find a woman about his own age holding a beer in her hand and staring back at him. She had blonde hair and brown eyes and gave him a flirty smile when his eyes met hers. He sent her a friendly smile of his own and turned her direction.
“Not necessarily,” he said. “Just had found no one I wanted to talk to. Yet.”
Her smile grew larger, and she took a step toward him and put a hand on her hip. Joe looked down at her. She wore muddy boots, short shorts, and a tank top and had an air about her that made Joe think she knew exactly how good she looked in them.
“I like your jeep,” she said, gazing up at him through her long eyelashes.
“Thanks,” Joe said. “You wouldn’t want to go for a ride in it, would you?”
“I’d love to,” she replied.
Joe took her hand and led her to the jeep before helping her up into the passenger seat. He caught Derrick’s eye as he walked to the driver seat and gave him a quick grin before climbing inside.
Joe again started the engine and pulled back into the woods, throwing his jeep around a few turns, bouncing up and down a few hills, and almost getting stuck twice. The woman in the jeep squealed in excitement at each new turn. After a few trips around the woods, he pulled back up on the river’s bank and turned off the jeep.
Before they could get out of the jeep, however, the woman slid across the seat and put her hand on his knee.
“That was fun,” she said. “Thanks for taking me.”
“You’re very welcome.” Joe leaned in close to her.
She turned her face toward him and leaned a little closer. When she didn’t back away from him, Joe leaned in and brushed his lips against hers before wrapping his fingers in her hair and pulling her closer for a longer, deeper kiss. She kissed him back, her fingers finding their way under his t-shirt and up his chest. After a few moments, Joe pulled away and gazed down at her.
“You know,” she said after she’d caught her breath. “If you want to continue this conversation sometime, I could give you my number.”
Joe nodded to the glove box. “There’s a pen and paper in there.”
She grinned and slid across the seat back to her side of the jeep and pulled out a slip of paper and wrote her number and name before handing it to Joe.
“Pamela,” Joe said looking down at the paper. “I’m Joe.”
“It was lovely to meet you, Joe,” she said. “Make sure you call me now, all right?”
Joe nodded to her and was still watching her walk away when Derrick approached the jeep.
“Well that looked like it went well,” Derrick said with a grin.
“It did.” Joe laughed.
“Well, I hate to end this little party of ours, but I have to catch a flight in a few hours. We’d better head back.”
“Ah, just when we were starting to have fun,” Joe said.
“All good things, and all,” Derrick said and got back in the jeep.
Joe smiled at Pamela and held up the slip of paper with her name and number on it. She blew him a kiss as he and Derrick pulled away. The two chatted more throughout the trip back home, catching up with each other’s life and reminiscing.
When they’d returned the jeep to the garage, Joe looked at his friend and said, “Derrick, it was great to see you today.”
“You too, Joe. I need to plan a longer trip next time. This was too short.”
Joe got out of the jeep, looked over the mud-covered exterior and hung his head. “I’ll have to get that thing cleaned tomorrow or Bryant won’t ever let me hear the end of it.”
Derrick laughed and walked out of the garage, Joe following behind him to see him out.
When he’d walked back to his rental car, Derrick turned around and addressed Joe one last time before pulling away.
“I want to hear all about the date you have with that girl the next time I see you, you hear?”
Joe held up the paper and pulled his phone out of his pocket and said, “I will call her right now.”
“Good for you!”
Derrick got in the car and waved to Joe before pulling off down the road in front of Joe’s house. Joe watched him leave before turning and entering the garage. After tossing his phone on his worktable, he crumpled up the paper with Pamela’s name on it and tossed it in the trash. Without another thought, he slid back under the jeep and got back to work.