Wesley had to plead with his mother to go to the Monster Truck Rally. She told him she was not at all sure that she approved of any gathering filled with grown men who probably scratched themselves publicly and indiscriminately. Men who drank and swore, chewed and spat, who drove loud oversized trucks, and who were possibly given to crashing those trucks for the simple hell of it. Wesley's mother relented when his younger brother joined in the pleading, and agreed to take four of his friends with them. Wesley didn't want any of his own friends along for the ride, and prayed he would be spared the embarrassment of running into any of them while he was being chaperoned by his irritating family.
The afternoon of the rally, his mother insisted on arriving at the Kingdome a full two hours before the thing started. Sitting next to her in the stands, Wesley felt as if he were baby-sitting her. She turned to him at regular intervals, asking him if he wanted anything, all the while checking to make sure he hadn't overindulged or overexcited himself, lest he ended up vomiting, passing out, or accidentally injuring himself, none of which he had ever done in all of his 13 lousy years.
When he got up to go to the bathroom, she made Wesley promise to return promptly, but wandering back toward his seat he decided to take the long way, walking counterclockwise against the flow of the crowd, running and spindling lace-like through the thinnest of the crowd, darting sideways, backwards, any which way, in a game to see how fast he could go for how long without touching anyone or bumping into anything. In the intervals where the crowd was thickest--around the beer and pizza concession, or near the thick impatient serpent of men gathered outside the bathroom--he had to slow himself, genuinely scared that he would be lost among the crowd.
Wesley found himself in the middle of his second trip around the circumference of the arena when he heard a fanfare from inside the Kingdome's great hall. He darted into the nearest entrance in time to witness the lights on the ceiling turn out. The largest room he may ever be seated in was plunged into darkness. Suddenly the air of the great hall was filled simultaneously with cheering and the loudest roaring Wesley had ever heard. He let his entire being become saturated with sound. He swallowed the roaring and filled his lungs with it. His groin was hot with the noise, and he thought he may have to return to the bathroom and let some of the noise run from his bladder.
Wesley tried to shout above the din, but couldn't tell if his own voice had any force against the sound. Then the entrance into the arena below filled with the geometric dance of red-white-and-blue lasers, amid a cloud of smoke rife with the incendiary smell of diesel exhaust. The first four-wheeled machine sped onto the floor like a charging bull. Separated from his brother and his friends and mother, Wesley shouted an obscenity he thought suitable to match the outrageousness of the burgeoning spectacle before him, but the word had neither sound nor power against the sight and sound of the truck circling the floor. Wesley let a long string of forbidden invective fly, all the obscenities he had ever heard or read, a few of which he never dared whisper even in the adolescent custom of his young friends. He expected that his curses were foul enough to silence the commotion around him, only to find the roaring increasing as another truck, even louder than the first, entered the arena, quickly trailed by a thundering vehicle still louder than the two, until there was a procession increasing in volume numbering 10 trucks, as rambunctious as untamed stallions, rearing and circling, defiantly threatening to collide with one another.
He didn't notice a ramp in the middle of the arena floor until he saw one of the trucks become airborne. As it sailed like a bird, the arena glittered with the flashes of thousands of cameras. Remembering his broken promise to return from the bathroom promptly, Wesley found his way back to his family, rejoining his brother and his roughhousing friends.
A vendor wandered within eyeshot of the group, selling large cups of a rainbow-crowned beverage. His brother screamed with the uncontrollable craving of having those frozen colors inside him. The vendor passed the two-handed container of sugared colors to Wesley's brother. The friends followed his lead until all five boys were distracted from the commotion before them. Wesley was disgusted with the sight of them gorging themselves. He thought himself to be beyond this confection, wishing for something that was square with his sophistication. He remembered passing a pizza vendor on his journey around the arena, and after securing permission to wander from his mother, he made his way from his seat.
There was a throng around the pizza area, and he elbowed his way past the crowd to get a better view of the menu. Wesley watched the men jostle each other. Men twice his size, three times his age were on the edge of fighting, swearing and meaning it.
"Goddamn fucks, gimme us goddamned grub...."
Wesley lost his appetite for the pizza, and made his way from that throng to the next food stand, a general concession that sold hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn, soda, nachos, and beer. There was nothing there that Wesley wanted except perhaps the beer. He envied the beer drinkers in the arena. The men he watched around him, men with sons or nephews, packs of boys they coached or supervised or scouted--the ones he noticed who drank beer seemed to find some comfort, some solace in the beverage. Maybe it was comfort in the face of attainment of age and privilege. The beer and the men who drank it appeared as an oasis in the desert of youth.
His mother noticed the length of his latest journey: "It took you long enough to find pizza. I was beginning to worry," she said.
Wesley answered with the same silent indifference he had been giving her most of the afternoon. He reached into a side pocket of his coat and retrieved a sealed pouch. It was made of white disposable plastic headlined with red and blue letters, punctuated with white stars, that proclaimed TOPPS BRAND BASEBALL CHEW. The boy child opened the pouch, removing a laminated card that featured a baseball player Wesley didn't recognize or value. He put the card back into his coat pocket.
Wesley pinched a fingerful of the shredded pink gum, stuffing it between his lower cheek and gum. He reached into the pouch again and stuffed a larger bunch of the stuff in the bottom of his other cheek, and reached into the pouch again, filling the remaining rim with confection. His mouth filled with saliva that Wesley sloshed around to soften the stiff candy, taking the greatest care not to swallow any of his precious body fluid. Minutes passed before Wesley had collected enough saliva to commit his first act as a new man. The rally was almost over. Wesley watched the 10 behemoths recess from the great hall with the same noise, the same smoke, the same fanfare that they had begun the afternoon with. The last truck spun, then reared, rushing the ramp one last time before making its exit. Wesley watched the airborne truck rise, hitting a peak that was noticeably higher than the ones it had reached earlier. Wesley spat a hot milky pink stream when the truck reached the acme of its ascent and a sea of flashes glittered to catch the picture; the roaring warrior hidden in bright shadow behind the last monster truck.