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.
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.