I was in 10th grade when I met Crack Hedger. It was the first day of school, and he was one of the incoming 7th graders riding my bus for the first time. My friend John and I were trying to talk to the new kids, and giving a couple of them new names. Most of the kids were obnoxious smartasses, but Crack seemed like a cool guy. His name was Joe, but we decided it would be Crack. Our logic was that Joe was white, and crack was white, and crack was also hilarious, so it was a good name.
I turned 16 that year, and my grandpa gave me my first car, a beat-up 1988 Dodge Colt, nicknamed the Chudmobile. The car was white, chud was white, and chud was also hilarious, so it was a good name. Crack offered to fix up my car stereo, for free, so I started going over to his house and letting him work on it. He put a new tape deck in, and installed an amp and some big speakers. He even built me a big speaker box to sit in the back of the car so I could drive around, bassing people out with a deep, low-end sound that made all the loose bits in my car rattle. All the parts came from a junkyard down the road from where he lived, and he said the guy who owned all the junk cars there told him he could take whatever he wanted.
Crack lived a few minutes away from me, in a house along a gravel road, with no other houses nearby. His place had an old bomb shelter and a lot of animals. As we started hanging out more, I got used to his dogs chasing my car as I drove away. I was scared of hitting them at first, but Crack told me just to drive and they would get out of the way. With time, my fear of running over one of his dogs subsided.
One summer afternoon, my friends and I decided to take a trip to the mall. There wasn't really any reason for it, but it was something to do. Living out in the middle of nowhere, the mall was a 40 minute drive away. I picked up John, and then went to go pick up Crack, the plan being to pick up my friend Sean next.
As we pulled away from Crack's house, his dogs started chasing my car, as they usually did. Like always, I just drove as if they weren't there, knowing they would get out of the way.
And then one of Crack's dogs ran right in front of my car.
"Fuck! No!" I yelled as my car drove over the dog. There were two sickening thumps as each tire on the passenger side squished the dog.
We stopped the car and got out. The dog lay in a heap, twisted and whimpering.
"Oh, fuck. Oh, fuck, man," I said. As an animal-loving vegetarian kid, I was a bit freaked-the-fuck out.
"It's alright, man," Crack told me. He calmly scooped up the dog, a decently-sized Australian Shepard, and got back in the car. As we drove back to his house, the dog bit him and then puked on him.
We got back to his house and got out of the car. His dad and his grandpa came out of the house as Crack set the dog on the ground. I saw that it was dead, and started crying.
"It's alright, man," he told me. He didn't seem to care at all.
"I killed your fucking dog, man!" I said, wiping tears from my face.
"Shhh!" he whispered, not wanting the adults to hear me say "fuck."
His grandpa grabbed a shovel, and started walking out somewhere to dig a hole to bury the dog in. As he walked, a poodle started yapping at him and following close behind.
"Shut up, you son of a bitch!" the old man yelled, causing me to stop crying and start laughing.
Crack's sister came outside and saw my wet face.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
"I've never seen a punk cry," she said.
We left again, picked up Sean, and went to the mall. I didn't really feel like going anymore, but we went, anyway.
I felt like shit for a week or so. My dad told me to get Crack a new dog, so I offered to do so. Crack declined, saying, "Don't worry about it, man. That dog was stupid as hell, anyway. Nobody cares."
Crack Hedger died four years ago today in a car crash. He was 19 years old.