At the far southern edge of the great dead lakebed of the Black Rock, a Dodge is roaring out of the heart of the alkaline deadland and towards the scrub, kicking up sagebrush, blasting NOFX. A blue-haired girl is shouting about environmental damage, and our hero, one balding Ranger Ranger, hatless, is in the process of kicking the his trusty mule in a circle "You can't kill the Earth! She's already dead!"
"Fuck you! Fuck you!" she's yelling.
"Look, kid, you're pretty fucking uptight. You want some whiskey or something? I don't have anything else for what you've got."
"What the fuck is wrong with you? We could have fucking died!"
"You think that's the first time I've done that?"
"You're supposed to be the responsible one!"
Suddenly serious, truck drifting to a stop there in the middle of his own track, "Don't put that juju on me. Live a little. It's only the end of the world."
"Yeah, they snap what do you want?" The old man in the Hawaiian shirt shrugs. "Some kids just can't handle skate life."
They're kicked back in lawn chairs at the top of the old gold mine, smoking weed, passing a glass pipe back and forth between the three of them. Far below, the there's a collection of shirtless men and women... and in cracking, paint-covered concrete, much-patched, a halfpipe, a few funboxes, and the other necessities of a good skate park "Fuck, shit's good. Fly Ranch?"
Someone wipes out below, and the laughter echoes up the mouth in the earth. "Up there three months ago. They've got the growhouse going real good. Yield's still for shit, though."
"Fuck I miss Humboldt County."
"For fucking real."
"They're pretty good."
"You know." The old man shrugs. "Not like there's time to do much else out here."
"Could have stayed in Burn City."
The old man snorts, passes the pipe to a squinting Hanna. "Not our scene, man. And fucking... you know what? If it's the end of the world, I want it at home, or at, y'know, Home."
"I get that."
"'sides." Hanna scorches her lungs, hacks for a while, helplessly. "Kid, you alright? You need some water?"
"Fine!" she chokes out.
"Kids these days. Can't handle their weed."
One of the skate punks rolls on up, pops his board, grins at Hanna. "Hey, heard you've got some hair dye."
"Strawberries!" she's gushing later, off the back of the truck bed. They pass a joint back and forth, amiable. She's a lot better stoned, her mouth red with berries. Pretty, but crazy, thinks Ranger Ranger. Besides, he's stuck with her for at least another couple of weeks.
"And something to sleep on besides dirt. You're coming up in the world, kid. Surprised you're not staying a bit longer."
She shrugs. "I don't skate."
"Alright, Charlie. No pipe for you." He's down to the roach now, she's drooping. "We're about done. We'll clear out after breakfast. Tomorrow we're headed to Crashland."
At the verge of the circle of light beyond Sulfur, the eyes of jackrabbits watch, unblinking. Somewhere, a punk is yelling, high, angry, louder than the insects, until he suddenly shuts up.
Above, in the moonless sky, the stars turn on over Black Rock.