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30 Pounds

Jason unscrewed the cap from the 1.75 liter bottle of Canadian Mist and carefully poured the amber liquid into two empty 20-ounce soft drink containers.

30 pounds.

That’s what the flier said, first thing under Packing Guidelines.  You wouldn’t be allowed on the bus if your pack weighed 30 lbs, 1 oz.

He took what remained of the whiskey, poured it over ice cubes and ginger ale, and returned to his bedroom upstairs.

The flier had suggested an inexpensive spring scale used for baking but Jason was able to borrow a digital scale from a friend who needed to accurately measure in quarter ounce increments.  Clad in sterile white plastic it sat on a beat-up oak chair beside his bed.  He pressed the On/Zero button and waited for the liquid crystal display to flash “0’00”; then he balanced the soda bottles on top.  They weighed 2 lbs 8 oz together, he had saved several ounces by ditching the glass bottle.  These numbers he recorded in the right margin of a yellow legal pad in the row labeled “Refreshments”.  He punctuated this by taking a sip of his highball.

With a lazy toss, he landed the soda bottles in an open army-surplus rucksack sitting on his bed.

He grabbed a beat-up Les Paul Goldtop from a floor stand and sat Indian-style next to the digital scale at the foot of his bed which was strewn with bare necessities sorted roughly by weight and importance.

He started with the small items first, travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste, 2 oz, a Zippo lighter, 2 oz, a pair of navy bandannas, 1 oz, and a stainless steel sierra cup, 2 oz.

He paused, took another deep drink, rested the guitar on his knee and fretted an A.  He removed his hand and shook it as it throbbed with pain.  He examined it, the 2nd joint of his middle finger was red and swollen and a dime-sized scab had crusted over with yellow pus.

No matter, the guitar, at over 10 pounds by itself, would have to stay. His hand-held game system too, he wasn’t certain there would be running water let alone electricity where he was going.

The army surplus rucksack, 6 lbs, and sleeping bag, 4 lbs, had to go, the tent (over 7 lbs. alone) he could do without when a coated nylon tarp, 1 lb 10 oz, 50 feet of utility cord, 4 oz, and half a dozen steel stakes, 1 lb, would shelter him from the rain just as well.

He turned to clothes next starting with his royal blue Dodgers cap, 4 oz, and blue jeans, shorts, and two cotton t-shirts, 3 lbs 4 oz altogether.  The canvas jacket he could wear along with his calf leather hiking boots but his sandals, 28 oz, and three pairs of dry wool socks, 18 oz, would have to be packed.

For cooking, he packed a steel knife/fork/spoon set, 4 oz, and single-burner propane stove, 2 lbs, into a locking stowaway pot, 13 oz.

The army-issue M1911 45 caliber semi-automatic handgun which he had taken from the lock-box in his father’s closet was heavy in his hand.  He bounced it in his palm before placing it on the scale.  2 lbs 12 oz.  He summed up the row of numbers in the right margin of his notepad.  32 lbs 8 oz.

2 lbs 8 oz over.

He had gone over this list again and again paring it down to the bare essentials.  There was nowhere to cut the weight.  Nowhere except the whiskey, or the gun.

Jason turned to his left and looked at himself in the full-length mirror hanging from the closet door.  He had cut his hair, cropped it short, removed its weight from his shoulders.  It covered his head in tight curls.  He ran a finger across his scalp feeling the aches as he fingered the egg shaped bump at the hairline and gently poked the bruise beneath his eye.

He finished his drink, removed the soda bottles, threw them on the bed, and cinched the rucksack closed.

22 responses to “30 Pounds”

  1. papi papi says:

    leave the dodgers cap,1 pair of socks, and the stove, you got to have the booze and the gun , i think.where are are we going?

  2. Avatar tee says:

    THAT was awesome! I think my favorite post you've done so far. . . and that's a hard choice dude!!

  3. I hate math. But I love your writing.
    To Tee's point, I think this was your best of many, many great pieces.

    • Sadly, I actually started a spreadsheet to prepare for this post. Yep, nerd.

      • Avatar llxt says:

        i think that shows the influence of a great {organized} wifey.

      • acbauch123 acbauch123 says:

        Ah, I love spreadsheets! Especially when their color-coded. I make spreadsheets for almost everything (OCD much?…).
        How blessed you and LeeLee are to be two parts of a dynamic writing pair! If your son doesn't turn out to be some kind of writing genius, I'll be floored. Although, perhaps w/ both of you being writers, he'll rebel and become like a corporate accountant or something. <shudder> The horror, but at least you know he could set you up in a sweet retirement home one day. :0)
        Great characterization here–I have such a clear vision of who Jason is. Definitely something to strive for in my own writing.

  4. Avatar angela says:

    Ah, such good stuff, McKnight. Such good stuff.
    That said, I was happy to read that anyone owning a Dodgers cap suffered from post-fisticuffs cuts, bruises, and bumps.
    Ppfftt. Dodgers.

  5. Avatar llxt says:

    how much do bullets weigh? can you take them out of the gun, and still take the gun & alcohol.
    ah, this story reminds me of a time in my "youth" when i took about 6 bottles of wine on the fung wah bus to NYC. as soon as the bus started moving, i realized i should've kept it with me–by my seat–not underneath in the luggage carriage!!!
    so, maybe your guy made the right choice after all…

    • Good call, llxt. He could swallow the bullets and "retrieve" them later – like a drug mule. But he could also do without the steel stakes and just craft some wooden stakes from branches.

  6. The weight of a M1911 unloaded. I actually looked this up in preparation for the post: 2 lbs. 7oz.
    Your youthful mistake, of course, was taking the Fung Wah bus to NYC.

  7. Kail Kail says:

    Great work McKnight. It occurs to me: I've had lots of whiskey and lots of ginger ale, but never whiskey WITH ginger ale, and I fear I've missed out. Now I want some Canadian Mist with some Canada Dry.

  8. Avatar Abbi says:

    Hi Mark,
    This is your best so far. What's left out is as powerful as what's put in. Great story!

    • Thanks Abbi!
      My next piece will consist of a title and concluding sentence. Should be even better! 😉

      • Avatar llxt says:

        why bother with the concluding sentence? you don't want to "hand-hold."

        • Jason Jason says:

          I agree. Besides, "rucksack closed," when spoken repeatedly and quickly, must be some sorcerer's words. It's too spooky not to be tied to calling upon evil things.
          This is all I have to offer, as I didn't want to be the ninth to say "best McKnight ever." You're our most artistic writer, without a doubt. What a pleasure.

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McKnight About McKnight

By day Mark McKnight is the Principle Software Engineer at the Yale Institute for Network Science. On the side, he organizes Netrunner games and fixes bugs on this and other websites that his partner, Lee Lee, has dreamed up. Somehow he also manages to keep a cadre of growing boys (humans and dogs) alive and happy.

Read more by this author on 30POV .


December 2010
November 2010
On My Honor
October 2010
Witch Hunt
September 2010
If, Then.
May 2010
Small Crimes
April 2010
February 2010
"It's Complicated"
January 2010