I pulled out the phone when I felt it vibrate, not feeling the need to hide it this time.
Not sure about antifreeze. Please don’t let Jimmy use any.
When I relayed the message, Jimmy nodded and stroked his chin. “JB’s a scaredy-cat so I wouldn’t worry about that.”
“Didn’t you say that you have two other ideas?” I asked him hopefully, but he nodded again, this time sadly. “No, not anymore. I ruled them out. There’s not enough supplies back here, and one of them required D-cell batteries and a rubber hose.”
I didn’t know what that plan could have been, but seeing as how it wasn’t happening, I didn’t ask. I peeked up over the side of the truck and looked at the streets and buildings around us. I didn’t recognize any of them. I wasn’t even sure if we were in Villa Park anymore.
“Umm, Jimmy? Do you know where we are? This guy has been driving for a while.” He peeked his head up and took in our surroundings. He turned to me with a frown. “Not really,” he confessed. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of scratched up aviator glasses. He put them on and said in a deeper voice, “I don’t think we’re in Villa Park anymore.”
My fears were confirmed.
“So what’s the plan, Jimmy? Are we going with the antifreeze one?” Again, he frowned. “I guess so. I keep trying to come up with something better but it’s the only thing that I know will work.”
He sat there thinking for a minute longer, then he set his face and made his decision. “Okay, so what are you more comfortable doing: climbing on the hood of a moving truck? Or assault and grabbery?”
Neither of those things sounded appealing, but maybe one was better than it sounded. “I think I need more details, Jimmy.”
Jimmy nodded and smacked his forehead. “Duh! Sorry, sometimes I forget that girls need to have things explained a bit more. I have a plan with two parts, it’s called Cheese and Freeze. A pretty good name I think, considering I haven’t had long to think of it.”
He scooted closer to me, grabbing a half empty bottle of antifreeze as he did so. “So one of us is Cheese. That person has to climb over the top of the truck while it’s moving, lean down over the windshield and take a picture with the flash on. When you do, you shout ‘Say cheese!’ Obviously.”
Raising the bottle in his fist, Jimmy went on. “The other one of us is Freeze. You take this half full bottle and unscrew the cap. When the guy gets surprised by the flash, he’s going to yell. Maybe he’ll scream like a girl, or maybe he’ll say the eff word, a classic bad guy move. Either way, when he opens his mouth, you would open the back window and throw all the antifreeze you can into it. And you would say, 'Freeze!' Obviously.”
I nodded. I was listening but I was also trying to come up with a plan of my own, a better plan. Like Jimmy, however, I really didn’t know what else to do.
“So as the guy is choking on the poison, he’ll open the door to run out and find somewhere to throw up. That’s when the Freeze person reaches in and grabs the pants. The Cheese person climbs down, and then we both get outta here!”
There was a short, shared silence as we both digested the plan, thought about which one sounded like a better role. “If he hits the brake when he’s surprised, won’t the Cheese person be thrown from the truck?”
Jimmy smiled and shook his head. He pulled out a pair of green and black bungee cords that were tucked in the corner of the bed. “That person will hook these to their belt loops, and then to that heavy spare tire. A classic Belt-loop Bungee. It never fails.”
I asked him if he ever tried that move before. He said no. “Doesn’t that mean you don’t know if it works?” He shook his head again. “It also means it’s never failed before. You gotta be positive. I bet you think this antifreeze is half empty too, huh?”
Instead of punching him in the shoulder for that comment, and for the one about girls earlier, I pulled out the phone and quickly told JB that we would need more time. Realizing it was getting a little late, mixed with the fact that we didn’t know where we were, I sent out a second message.
Can you stall them until tomorrow?
I figured that gave us enough time to figure this all out. But that was later problems. I had a decision to make right now.
“As much as I like to try new things, I think that you should use your fancy pants and climb the truck. I’ll do the half full Freeze part,” I said, making sure to show him that I was being positive about the plan. He gave me a thumbs up. Without another moments hesitation, he fixed the bungee cords to his pants, snaking the cords through one loop and then hooking them onto the next one over. He gave them a little test pull and gave an approving nod.
He took off his sunglasses and then put them back on for effect as he said, “I hope this guy’s ready for his mug shot.” He turned and crawled toward the cab of the truck, finding a spot where he thought he could climb up and over unnoticed. He turned to me and gave me the best confident smile that he could fake.
“Ready?” Jimmy asked me. I nodded and started toward the cab too, but more towards the center. By the rear window. When he saw that I was in position, Jimmy pushed up and leapt onto the top of the truck. I loosened the cap from the bottle, then removed it. That was just about the final moment that things went according to plan.
Jimmy misjudged either the length of the bungee cords or the distance to the windshield. Either way, when he jumped up, the cords pulled tight and snapped backwards. The momentum of his hard jump propelled Jimmy forward, up and all the way out of his pants. While his pants slingshotted into a heap in the truck bed, Jimmy hit the roof hard and rolled, tumbling up and over the truck and falling hard onto the windshield, butt first.
“WHAT IN THE F - ” the robber started, but I didn’t let him finish. Maybe it wasn’t how Jimmy intended, but the guy was surprised. I doubted that he was expecting a kid in his underwear to fly onto his windshield like that. That distraction gave me the chance to do my part. “Freeze be seated,” I shouted as I threw the pink liquid into the window I had just flung open.
The pink stuff got into his eyes and his mouth. He let out a terrible screech and slammed his brake pedal to the floor. The truck lurched forward and then stopped violently. I was thrown from my feet, tumbling head over heels and accidentally flinging the plastic bottle clear from the truck. Jimmy was thrown clear from the truck as well, bumping hard onto the blue hood before landing on the pavement, skinning his legs pretty harshly.
As predicted, the man ran out of his truck, screaming and sputtering and clawing at his eyes, screaming that they burned. That gave me time to regain my feet and then run into the cab of the truck, grabbing JB’s moms pants, which I couldn’t believe had caused all of this trouble.
Pants in hand, I ran from the truck and went to Jimmy, who was shakily getting to his feet, deep bruises already forming on his pasty pale legs, blood running steadily from a few cuts. Behind us, I heard the screams of the man. They sounded like they were getting closer.
I grabbed Jimmy’s arm and we ran as fast as we could. We fled from the road, into the trees, disappearing into the thick mass of bushes and branches and leaves. We zigged and zagged, moving serpentine to lose the man in case he was following us. He was still screaming. Although the sounds were starting to fade away, I could tell that not all of the screams were from pain. Some were from anger. I hoped we didn’t have to see that man ever again.
We ran as hard and as fast as we could. When we could run no longer, we stopped, gasping to catch our breath. We stood with our hands on our knees, then gave that up and just sat on the ground, trying our best to get air in our lungs and slow our beating hearts.
Jimmy leaned his head back against a tree, his eyes closed. “So,” he asked, “I don’t suppose you had time to grab my pants too?”
“Sorry,” I told him. “Only had time to grab one pair. Figured these were the ones you would have wanted me to grab.” He didn’t open his eyes, but he gave me a weak thumbs up. “You did great. That whole thing went perfectly.” I didn’t argue. I just did as he did, I looked on the positive side. I mean, what else could you do?
I looked around, taking in the wooded surroundings for the first time. I felt a familiar dread in my stomach. “Jimmy, do you know where we are?” Without opening his eyes, he answered me. “Not a clue.”
We were silent for a while, listening to the sounds of the wind, the birds, the bugs. If we weren’t lost and running from an angry guy with a gun, it would be a pretty nice time. Eventually Jimmy opened his eyes and then tossed me the cell phone. “I held onto this, that’s why I wasn’t able to use my hands to turn my fall into a sweet cartwheel off the truck. You need two hands for that. It’s okay though, not your fault. Just letting you know.”
I thanked him and then looked down at the phone, reading the latest text from JB.
What’s going on? Are you guys still in the truck?
I gave him the short answer.
Knowing that wasn’t enough, I added:
I’m not quite sure where we are right now.
“I asked JB to stall ’til tomorrow,” I informed Jimmy. “So I think we’ll be alright.” He nodded, slowly. He was in more pain than he was letting on.
“Should we head back to the road?” I asked him. Then, with a frown, I added, “Do you remember which way the road is?”
The sun started to set. In the distance, we heard an owl. Beyond that, sounds that I didn’t recognize. “So what’s the plan now?” I asked, my voice only slightly tinged with worry.
Jimmy got to his feet. He slapped at his legs a few times, swatting away some mosquitos that were coming for his bleeding legs. “First things first, hand me those pants. Then, I need you to write a few instructions to JB.”