Carlos burst into laughter and slapped Manuel’s back.
“Easy, brother,” Carlos said. “It’s not a scented candle.”
“Here.” Manuel chuckled as he coughed up the fire in his lungs. He passed the joint back to Carlos. “It’s been a long time since…” He coughed once more.
With a wide smile on his face, Carlos handed him a wine glass. Chardonnay was more their style these days.
The briny scent of the ocean somehow made the marijuana taste sweeter. Waves crashed in the distance, and the make shift fire pit they’d built only illuminated a few feet. They’d left their surf boards back at the house, and had turned off all the lights in the two-bedroom bungalow so it wouldn’t ruin the mystique of camping on the beach.
Carlos pulled on the joint, burning it down to a nub, then tossed the end into the fire. “It’s my turn again.” He brushed powdery sand from his arm and lay back on the beach towel. “So, there’s this dude, right, named Sisyphus.”
“What kind of lame name is that?”
“Greek or something.”
“He must have gotten his ass kicked every day.”
“He was a king, see, and a shitty one. Like most people in power he was greedy, taking all the bacon in the land so his people could only eat toast for breakfast, and he was a liar. So he would tell people…” Carlos cleared his throat and spoke in a bellowing flux British accent, “Hear ye, hear ye, on yonder border will be a mighty wall paid for by the land of Mexico.” He whispered, “It wasn’t,” then said in the accent, “O’er there country has weapons of mass tyranny.” Then he whispered, “They didn’t.” He continued in a Monty Python-esque baritone, “I did naught have sexual congress with yonder wench.”
“But,” Carlos said, “Everyone knew he banged her.”
Manuel guffawed and gasped for air.
“This pissed off Zeus, the king of the gods. But, again, like our politicians, Sisyphus couldn’t care less about gods unless they can use it against people. Zeus ordered Hades, the king of the underworld, to drag old Sisyphus to Hell, but Sisyphus is smart, see, he recognized Death when Death came a knocking. Sisyphus got Death shitfaced and tied him up.”
“Come on, man.” Manuel poured another glass of wine and inched closer to the fire. “You can’t get a badass like Death drunk.”
“I’m telling you, Sisyphus tied Death up and then no one in the whole world could die. People were jumping off buildings and stabbing each other and no one died.”
“If that had been possible back in high school, we’d have been shooting assholes left and right.”
“Most definitely,” Carlos replied. “All this non-death shit pissed off Ares, the god of war.”
“Makes total sense.”
“So, Ares frees Death and together they get the drop on Sisyphus and dragged his ass to the shores of the underworld.” Carlos scratched his chin and sipped the last of his wine as he tried to remember the end of the tale. “You may have thought that was the last of Sisyphus, but he was so clever not even the gods realized how much. See, he had a backup plan. He told his wife to be a dear and not give him a proper funeral. Without one he couldn’t pay the boat fee to get into the underworld.”
Manuel hissed through his teeth. “Death taxes are real, man. You need money whether you’re coming or going.”
“Sisyphus begged the queen of the underworld to allow him to go back to the plane of the living just to punish his wife and get the fare, then he’d return.”
“Mm-hmm. Did he come back?”
“Hells no. The dude hustled until he was ninety-five.”
Manuel snorted. “That was the most ridiculous story yet.”
Manuel leaned back and stared at the stars. They lay there in a silence that felt comfortable and natural.
“We should have kept in touch,” Manuel said. “If you hadn’t found me on Facebook, we’d have never met up again.”
Carlos nodded. “You know my old house is five houses down from here.”
“Yeah. I remember we used to camp out there almost every weekend in high school, sneaking beers.”
“And girls.” Manuel sat up. “We should walk down there and check it out.”
“Maybe tomorrow. I’ll cross that off my bucket list, but I’m too tired now.”
Manuel poked a stick into the fire. The flames flared then died back down. “I don’t believe in all that shit.”
“You don’t have a bucket list?” Carlos flipped onto his side to look at him. “Really?”
“Too morbid. Why create a before-I-die list? If you make the most of each day then you won’t need one.”
Carlos glanced away and played with the sand, swirling his fingers through the soft, dry particles.
“What?” Manuel asked, sensing sudden tension in the air. “You have one? Why? We’re still young, man.”
“Sometimes,” Carlos hesitated, “Sometimes, when people go about their everyday business, they forget, you know? Forget to live. And, experience real stuff. Next thing they know, they’re diagnosed with…something, and doctors say you may only have ‘X’ long to live.” Carlos shrugged. “You put off all this stuff for later, but there’s no time left, so you need a list to remind yourself to enjoy life while you still can.”
Manuel’s gaze bored into Carlos’s face, but he wouldn’t look up. Seconds stretched to a painful, awkward length as the fire popped and crackled.
“What’s on your bucket list?” Manuel asked in a hushed tone.
Carlos fluttered air between his lips and lay on his back with his arms behind his head. “First, reconnect with my best friend from high school. Go surfing. Camp out at the beach and tell dumb ass stories like I did as a kid. Smoke some really good weed, and visit the house I grew up in one last time.” He sighed at the inky black sky, scantly dotted with stars. “Lastly, bang my old high school crush, Penelope Kauffman.”
“Huh.” Manuel opened the cooler and fished out two Heinekens. He tossed one to Carlos. “I heard Penelope Kauffman is on her second husband and has two kids.”
“Well, I guess, five out of six ain’t bad.”
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The Bucket Listologist Copyrighted by Stacy Benedict 2018