October 20, 2013 – In the wee hours of the night, as soon as the last light in the house went out, I lifted the extra set of car keys off of the hook in our coop and made my way to Mom’s van. I unlocked the tailgate and signaled to the others that the coast was clear. We loaded the moonshine into the tire well and covered it over with a blanket. Then, Sawyer, Charlotte, Tim and I, climbed into the car for the lengthy drive to the agreed upon drop off spot; a rusty dumpster behind Pauline’s Crab Shack and Ballroom Dance Emporium. As with our last driving adventure, I took command of the wheel, while Sawyer controlled the gas and brake pedals from the floor. The headband flashlight that she wore cast an eerie glow beneath the dashboard. Charlotte occupied the passenger seat. She donned a pair of night vision goggles and called directions to me from a sketchy entry in a reporter’s notebook. Tim, our bantam buddy, sat in the rear of the van and was the lookout. His job was to sound an alarm if trouble arose. He also had a two-way radio in his possession, keeping us in constant contact with Wilma and Peaches and the rest of the flock back home.
It had been months since I was last at the helm, but I navigated the vehicle out of the driveway and onto the road without a hiccup. I had to stand on the seat in order to clearly see over the steering wheel. It was nerve-wracking driving in the dark, but I kept our vessel straight and true. Sawyer worked the pedals with a surgeon’s precision. Clearly, our adventures earlier in the year were training for this night’s important mission.
We made it to the Emporium two hours after we left home. I cut the headlights and coasted around to the back of the building where the dumpster sat in the shadow of a dimly lit street lamp. With her night vision goggles, Charlotte quickly spotted Pauline hiding behind a pile of flattened cardboard boxes. I drove a couple of feet beyond her before turning off the engine.
The transaction was flawless. In under five minutes, we had unloaded the liquid cache in a chain of motion. Pauline handed me an envelope filled with dollar bills. Sawyer took it from me and, with the aid of her flashlight, quickly counted the contents. It was all there. We wished Pauline well, thanked her for her business, and headed back down the road toward home.
After we had driven thirty miles, I noticed the arrow on the gas gauge hovering dangerously over the “E”. What a fool! I chastised myself. I had forgotten to check the level of the tank before we left. Another mile and the car began to sputter. To avoid being seen, we had taken all back roads. The closest gas station was another twenty minutes away. I pulled the van over and pounded my wings on the steering wheel.
“Don’t beat yourself up, Happy,” Sawyer’s consoling voice ascended from the floorboards. “We’ll figure this out.”
Tim scrambled over the backseat and poked his head next to mine.
“I thought we might need this,” he offered cheerfully, handing me an unfamiliar jug of hooch. It was labeled with triple X’s. “This is an extra bottle of shine. It’s from the batch that stayed in the still too long. It’s 200 proof… pure ethanol!”
Charlotte looked confused.
“Brilliant!” I exclaimed.
Sawyer tilted her head in search of an explanation.
“Tim brought along enough gasoline to get us home!”
We were back on the road within minutes. I let out a sigh of relief when we finally arrived safe and sound in our own driveway. The lights in the house were still out, but a soft glow burned warmly inside our coops. The flock had waited up for us. They were ecstatic when we tossed the cash onto the table; $1,500 in all. We didn’t want to risk waking up the family with a raucous hootenanny, so we silently chest bumped each other and agreed to celebrate during daylight hours. We locked the money away in our floor safe, and headed for bed. I gave Tim a huge hug for saving the day. He blushed and then fell sound asleep.