A representation of and response to caffeine guzzlers and also Tide pod eaters.
Zach was in his father's garage, working on the fuel line of his dirt bike. He banged it up the last time he was out, and this was the last part that needed replaced before he could hit the hills again. He fitted the line into place, clamping it with a grin. She was going to purr.
His cellphone lied dormant on a workbench. Beside this was his Red Bull, third one for the hour. They helped sharpen him for mechanical work, and Zach thought they tasted fine. He went over to the silver and blue can, a victory toast, and eyed the blinking LED on his phone. The can was half empty. He tilted it up, quickly depleting it before crushing it in hand and tossing it into a waste bin. He took up the rectangular bit of technology and swiped past the lock screen, which was a photo he'd "acquired" from Facebook of a girl from his Social Sciences class in a bikini, and got to his messages.
His friend Corey was asking what he was up to, to which he would respond "nm u?" It always played out that way. When one had some free time, plans would be made. Corey had something in mind.
What he had in mind specifically was not laid out, but he asked Zach if they could meet at his place. Corey was older, something of a big brother to Zach. His girlfriend lived with him, but he was effectively a solo agent, beholden to no one. He threw the best parties at his rented trailer, and the look of a recent hurricane affirmed this.
Zach grabbed another drink and got into his '97 Honda Civic. It was maroon in color, which blended well with the rusting undercarriage. There were dents all around, and the brakes made a horrible squeal, coupled with the high-pitched whine of wearing bearings. It had no muffler and sputtered every time it shifted gears with sharp backfires on most stops.
By the time he reached Corey's he flattened another can and chucked it behind the passenger seat. It rattled with some others, becoming another bit of indiscriminate refuse. He parked his junker and got out.
Corey was sitting outside on the impermanent wooden steps, a cheap cigarette hanging from his mouth, his earnest attempt at imitating Clint Eastwood. He had better things to smoke, more fun things anyway, but he kept those inside. Besides, his girlfriend hated menthols. He wore a long sleeved black hoodie. It was summer, but he had marks he wanted hidden. He was tall, whiter than his Italian blood would have had him when he was a child, and bony. The clothes he wore, the hoodie, torn jeans, and even converse shoes all seemed a size or two too big for him, and they drooped over his sickly frame.
He flicked away his cancer stick, adding to the minefield of butts. He stood, grinning with his yellow teeth and displaying his prominent Adam's apple. "Hey, man! What is up?"
"Nothing. Got my bike fixed up."
"Sweet. That's damn fine, man. Damn fine." Corey spun about, bounding to the third step, and peeked in through the screen door. "Hey, babe," He said, half asking, half expecting, "couple a beverages." Something muffled came back, but Zach couldn't make it out. "Nah, nah, we'll get into that later. Yea, those." Zach saw the equally skeletal outline of Chrissy through the screen. She looked haggard. Corey took something from her with one hand, and with his free hand he slapped her ass as she went back to wherever inside she had been. He said something to her in a low tone, and she looked back, muttering a response and extending a middle finger.
Corey lobbed a can of Monster to Zach. It was one of the large capacity styles with a pressurized twist top. Zach undid the lid, and it popped exhaling gas and a bit of fizzing liquid. "Thanks." Zach said and then let the cold fluid trickle past his tongue.
"Better than that bull piss you're always drinking."
Zach shrugged. It was hard to argue, when he was halfway done with this new refreshment. He changed subjects instead. "So wha'd ya have in mind?"
Corey waved him over to sit on the steps, close to the odor of his trailer. Perhaps to mask this, he lit another menthol. Zach sat by him, upwind.
"Okay," Corey said between drags, "it's Friday. How do you want to spend your night?"
Zach smiled. "Wasted and blazing, you know it. I'd like to get me some too."
"Right. Right. Live for the day." Corey held out the stub remaining and dropped it like a mic onto the loose gravel. "Well, Chrissy's cousin is coming over later. Dude, you never saw shit like what he's got. He's gonna have some sweet grass. Top o' the line shit!" Corey leaned in, his bloodshot eyes ecstatic. "I'm invitin' everyone, man. It's gonna be lit. And," he shut his eyes and grinned, rocking his head from side to side, "there's gonna be so much pussy, you ain't gonna believe!" He raised a fist, and Zach, his own face now beaming, bumped it.
"Fuck yeah, man." Zach said, nodding.
"Just one thing." Corey tapped Zach's shoulder, a "hold-up-a-minute" gesture. "I need you to run me to get the booze. Car's still down, and I can't afford the fix. You'll help me out though, right?"
Zach finished drinking, leaned over, and slung the can under the trailer with a collection of others. "Hell fuckin' yeah. Let's go."
Corey lightly punched the shoulder he had just tapped. He went back in and got Zach something else, a form of payment for the favor.
Zach's fingers had begun to tingle as he drank yet another caffeinated beverage, and he could feel a flutter in his chest. To override this, he played the radio loud and headbanged while taxiing Corey to the strip mall where the state store was. When they arrived, he parked the noisy old sedan while Corey went in. Zach was sweating now, and he felt lightheaded, his stomach lurching.
He got out himself, figuring he could stretch his legs, walk it off. He took a few deep breaths, made some fists, and boxed his reflection in the side view mirror. As he hopped back to dodge an imaginary swing, all his breath left him. Stunned, his knees buckled, and he fell back into the side of his car. Zach expected a rush of pain in his back, something he'd gotten acquainted with while wiping out on his bike. This did not come. Or rather, it was overshadowed by the powerful throb in his chest, the sharp hot knife running up his arm.
Corey found him like that.
Zach did not survive the cardiac event, and, needless to say, his death put a temporary hamper on that night's party. Meaning that a moment of silence was taken, but thereafter it was "in honor" of Zach, and they all smoked his share and drank his portion as tribute.
The next day the local news outlets covered the story. His parents claimed Zach to be a smart, talented young man, who had been seduced by the allure of energy drinks. They asked how many more teens and young adults would have to die before the substance would get better regulated. The news cut from this to an interview with a local politician who swiftly seized the popular opportunity to condemn the companies. A statistic about heart disease, obesity, and diabetes was added after this, and then the news continued their regular dramas of murder and politics, breaking now and then for weather and sports.
Zach the "intelligent and kind" young man was buried the day after that.