We weren't done wrapping yet.
There was still a truck to take back.
Crew members to call about citizenship status.
And pungent, disgusting used hockey gear to trap in a box, tape shut, and mail somewhere.
Whoever got that would have problems.
The feature that Holli asked me to work on was called Grundler Bend.
Grundler Bend is a notorious road out in the craggled woods of the far west suburbs. For decades its legend has loomed large and uninformed over the region.
Tales of haunted barns, derailed trains, ghost children, and vagrant murder have kept this stretch of road eternally autumnal.
My first Friday night as a licensed, American, 16-year old driver was spent driving down Grundler Bend. Back then a dilapidated barn lay dead alongside the gravel road before it encountered a rough levee of unguarded railroad tracks. A black, vociferous hound tore up the night, tethered to a weathered, one-room, one-bulb, one-man bungalow.
Creepy and fun and real.
That same year I got a job at the mall a few miles from the spine-goosing road.
During lunch breaks I blasted Danzig tapes from a boombox in the backseat of an '81 Buick Skylark, and roared down the speed limitless farm roads to Grundler Bend. Even during the day, that road had the breath of a sinister succubus.
One night I drove three theater girls, Laura, Kristen and Shelley, down Grundler Bend.
We stopped incredulously at the railroad crossing.
It was the one and only time anyone ever saw a train on those tracks.
A slow moving freight lit only by our headlights.
We waited, getting spooked out by Laura's tale of once entering the barn with some gymnastics guys, only to be chased away by hell-raisers with baseball bats. The shitty goons dented up her car.
Just then a beam of headlights shone in the rear view mirror.
I watched as an old black Chevy Blazer pulled up behind us, its idle loud and grumbling.
While the girls continued chattering about other boys, I got very nervous.
My imagination grew dark.
Not about ghosts or any of that stupid horseshit.
But about humiliation.
The rattling beast behind us probably housed teenage boys with a healthy amount of wayward testosterone. Judging by the mucky truck, they weren't the sons of doctors. These were shit kicker's kids. Generally speaking, they thrived on daddy's beer, kicking ass, and hee-hawing at the pain of the weak.
Trapped by the train, I was ill-equipped and Heterosexually outnumbered to successfully defend the honor of my three female friends.
The engine behind us revved.
I called attention to the truck.
For reasons unknown, Shelley chose this moment to open the car door.
Did she want to chat with the cementheads in that evil truck?
Discuss the current state of theatre with them?
Inquire about their latest rape conquests?
Whatever the reason, she had balls.
More balls than me.
The open door illuminated the interior of the Skylark, exposing a carload of naive theater chicks and their scrawny Danzig wannabe chauffeur. I panicked.
"SHELLEY! CLOSE THE DOOR!!"
It was a parental tone I used only in emergencies.
The train showed no signs of ending.
Tired of waiting for the possibility of shitty painful nonsense, I took a less-than-bold action, but an action nonetheless.
I turned the car around.
Strangely, the truck did the same.
Synchronized 5-point turns on the narrow gravel bend.
Now we were behind them heading south.
It felt better, but not quite right.
The truck was driving intentionally slow in the middle of the road.
Less than 10 mph.
I tried to pass it on the left.
It swerved left.
I tried to pass it on the right.
It swerved right.
The truck was caked in a film of proud, cretin dirt.
On the side someone had scrawled WAR PIGS with fat artless fingers.
I knew this truck.
I had seen it parked near our horrible windowless high school.
It was Keith's.
He was a red-haired wrestler.
He would sometimes pester my friend Denise in the cafeteria.
Keith and his posse could easily beat the shit out of me.
But I wasn't afraid of the known.
I tried to pass him one more time on the left.
Keith swerved left.
So I rode his ass annoyingly all the way back to the next intersection.
The girls didn't think this was a good idea.
At Musket Trail, instead of turning, he continued south on Grundler Bend.
Grundler Bend south of Musket Trail became an idyllic neighborhood of affluent horse ranchers.
I stayed on his ass through the tony pocket pasture.
The girls now thought I was being a stupid asshole.
But I knew what I was doing.
From my many lunch break getaways I learned that Grundler Bend dead ended after a few blocks. If Keith kept going south toward the dead end, it proved that he was now running from me.
Sure enough, the truck had just passed the last street that led out of the wine 'n' equine maze.
I made the left toward the main rural route and let Keith and his scathed-knuckle War Pig pals find their folly on their own.
I went from piss-pants wimp to empowered twerp in ten suburban minutes.
On Grundler Bend.
Since then the road has been paved.
The barn has been torn down.
The shack and its dog have long vanished.
The railroad tracks got a facelift.
Now it has guardrails.
Oh, and a large sprawl of mirrored suburban homes have been built just southeast of the misfabled spot.
But teenagers still cruise down it on the weekends.
They stop their cars onto the tracks and put it in neutral.
Then they pour baby powder on the bumper.
A cold chill is scheduled to occur at this point, and the car is rocked off the tracks.
Upon inspection, a child's mangled fingerprints mark the bumper.
These prints belong to the ghost of a schoolboy whose bus was hit by a train on the Grundler Bend tracks.
I believe this story.
Wanna know why?
Because it has happened in 4,000 other small towns around the country.
50000000 Elvis fans can't be wrong.
Last year I wrote a song about Grundler Bend.
The chorus has a good hook.
But the "middle 8" is a disaster.
And some of the lyrics are cringey duds.
It has sat unworked for eleven months.
I emailed the embarrassing song to Holli.
"I think you were meant to work on this."
So I said yes.