Thursday, January 19, 2012

Life Beyond the Minimum Safe Distance Episode 1: The Submerging of Billy Stanton's Cavalier

"Episode?" You ask.

Yes, Episode! 

This is part one of what will hopefully be a somewhat regular (hell, as regular as I can manage to actually get out) piece on my blog. It's about life. Life and the funny fucking things that can and have happened to me. And no, I'm not wise enough to have come up with my own title. As a diehard Matthew Good fan, I borrowed one of my favorite song titles from him. And I think the title's totally appropriate given Good's lyrics are often ironic, bitter, funny, and about the really stupid things that happen so much on this weird little ball of dirt flying around the sun. Obviously, the subtitle's mine, though. So, without further ado, let's get on with it, shall we?

The Submerging of Billy Stanton's Cavalier

I'd just turned 18, so this was roughly around 1996. I had been playing guitar and singing in bands for years. Mostly alternative rock stuff, yatta yatta. I had just started singing for this band. I only knew one of the guys very well and really not even that well. Had tried out maybe a week before hand and  got the spot. I went to hang out with one of the guitarists, Billy. Billy's garage is where the band played. He lived with his parents and although we were both over 16, neither one of us had our licenses (I didn't get mine until I was 19, laugh all you want). Billy, however, had his permit.

So, anyway, I come over--hell, I don't even remember how I got there, but I get there and he introduces me to John. John's an older guy in his early twenties at the time. He's pretty clean cut compared to Billy and I with our long black hair and our band t-shirts and all that good jazz. So, Billy and John decide to teach me how to play Magic: The Gathering. (Yes, I am nerd and proud!) So, we play a few games and it's going all right. Seems interesting. Then we get the idea to go for a drive. Billy's good friends with the members of the only other metal band in the tri-county area, so let's go say hey. Since John's over 21, we decide for Billy to drive his Cavalier. He has his permit and John can ride in the passenger seat and I'll sit in the back.

So, when we leave it's already dark. Apparently we were going to the singer's house. Kurt was a pretty awesome singer, so I was intrigued to meet him. But he lived out in the backwoods south of Cloverdale, Indiana (which if you've ever been to Cloverdale, Indiana you know the town is practically backwoods on its own). In fact, he lived not far from where I set the story I wrote for the free Halloween Anthology I was in last year. Hell, I even set it in the same year. Weird...

So, we're driving along State Road 42 in Bill's little sporty black Cavalier (about as sporty as a Cavalier can get), listening to Type O Negative on CASSETTE, and it's dark and that road is the shittiest, curviest, hilliest road ever, let me tell you. To this day, I've not driven a curvier, hillier, shittier road and I've driven in some crazy ass places. Anyway, we come to what is the last point before a downward hill and the bridge that sits over Cataract Lake and right before the hill is this ROAD CLOSED sign.

Okay, most folks would have turned around here, right? Wellllll.... if you live in, have lived in, or have ever spent any decent amount of time on the road in Indiana, you are probably aware that out of all 50 states, it is numero uno when it comes to road construction. Often, especially in these little backwoods areas that look like something out of Friday the 13th part 87, people just go around them and think nothing of it, because they're typically only there to keep the majority off the road.

Come to find out there was another sign there... covered in high grass thanks to some asshole who decided not to mow his jungle of a yard. The sign said HIGH WATER.

So, we go along and, like I said, it's dark. And if you've ever been on State Road 42 in the middle of Owen County, Indiana in the dark, you really do know what pitch-fucking-black looks like because there are no stop lights, no street lights, nothing but the very, very clear stars in the sky to light your way. Oh, and of course there's your headlights. Yeah well, we go downhill and before we know anything of what's going on...


The fastest two seconds of my life... EVER.

Now, what I'm about to tell you is what happened in that very short period of time. And most of it was figured out afterward as it was pieced together piece by fucking piece:

First, the headlights hit the high water that was 30 fucking feet above the bridge that was usually over 100 feet above the water and reflected the road below us. So when we hit, it looked like more road in front of us.

The second we hit the water, somehow, somehow, Bill opens his door and keeps the car from pressurizing. I'm in the backseat of a two door car and somehow, again, somehow I got out, Bill claims before him, but I could swear we got out at the same time.

John... panics! Come to find out, he doesn't know how to swim and he has a phobia of water! He sits there in the car, water up to his neck slapping his hands at the water and completely freaking out. Bill's about 5 feet tall, thin as a wire and about as muscular as a squirrel and he reaches across the front seat, grabs John with one hand, and pulls him out of the car. I can honestly confirm that the human body can do shit it wasn't meant to do when someone has an adrenaline rush; I saw it with my own eyes. And John's still alive to this day to prove it.

Then, the car toppled upside down in the water and sank.

Bill is crying and laughing at the same time and pointing pitifully out toward the water at his sinking car. We're all drenched and standing in waist-high water. John is yelling over and over again that a part of him was left in the car. Bill, still laughing and crying, announces, "Well, John, I'm sure as hell not going out there to get it back!"

We walk up the road dripping wet and knock on the nearest trailer door. I want to say this was at least 1:00 in the morning by this time, so the lady who lived in that trailer had to either be brave as all hell or had a rifle hiding behind that door when she answered it. Anyway, she let us use the phone to call the police. A fine Cloverdale officer of the law comes out to meet us, eventually. Of course, he checks to make sure we haven't been drinking, no drugs, all the usual jazz. We hadn't. Surprisingly enough for him. Then he wants to see the car.

So, with John in the front seat of the squad car and Billy and I in the back, he edges up to the water--John's grabbing onto the dash like a lifeboat hanging over a waterfall, moaning, and freaking out, and the cop is just nonchalantly waving the spotlight built into the car over the water trying to find the car. I'm pretty sure he didn't believe we even had a car at first. Anyway, then he decides to be a courteous gentleman and drive us to Billy's house. I stayed the night there. (And calmly announced to Bill's mother when she came out wondering what happened and Bill was still in the bathroom that we had, "hit a puddle," being the smart ass that I was and still am. Yes, I actually said that.)

They had to have scuba divers go down and find it the next day. Actual effing scuba divers. They found it about 30 feet below the bridge if I remember correctly. And yeah, don't quote me on any of these numbers this was 16 years ago. I'm writing this all from memory. 

A few days later, not sure how many, we get to go through the car at the local garage. There were something like several hundreds of dollars worth of Magic cards of John's in the backseat. (I could write a whole other story about John's wife's reaction to that!) So, we're peeling them apart and sticking them against the top of the Cavalier to dry in the sun. (Billy actually kept some of those cards. Years later we would be playing a game of Magic and I could  always tell where one of them was in one of his decks because of the discoloration.)

On a whim, Billy's brother, Rob, decides to eject the tape from the tape deck and come to find out Peter Steele sang the entire album Bloody Kisses to the fishes all night long. The goddamn tape played all the way through to the end... underwater!

So, there it was. Episode 1. You tell me. Was it worth writing out? Should I do more of these? This one will probably be one of the highlights, but I do have more. It's been an odd life. An odd fucking life indeed.


  1. Even though I've heard this story probably around 319 times, it was fun to read =)

  2. Oh -- and I really like the chosen title for the "series".. I definitely think it fits well =)

  3. Haha, you make it sound like I've told you the story 319 times! It's better told in person, definitely. It was fun to post about it, though.

  4. it is amazing we all made it out of our teen years! I've got a few stories too ;) thanks for telling.

  5. That was an awesome story, Bob! *LOL* I really enjoyed it.

  6. Great story, Robert - thanks for sharing it! A scene like this begs to be used in one of your novels. I agree with Sharon, it's amazing some of us made it to adulthood. We've all got stories to tell, but this one's a gem!

  7. Ha, Sharon! Each decade passed has amazed me when I've managed to get through it. Especially since having kids! Thanks for the comments guys, I'm glad you liked it. :) And Dani, I may have to do that. Haha! According to a friend in the last post, I should start writing comedy, this scene would be a blast to do.