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Authors: Bill Landauer

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We Are All Crew

BOOK: We Are All Crew
4.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Table of Contents



Author's Note

Part One: Crazy-Ass Boat

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Part Two: Bum Tribe

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Part Three: The Evil Lobster

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Part Four: Megapixels

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Part Five: Survival of the Fittest

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six




About Bill Landauer

Copyright & Credits

About Kaylie Jones Books

About Akashic Books

For Kaylie Jones . . .
who told me I should write it . . .
who believed when no one else did . . .
and by whose laughter its success was gauged.
Also for my parents.

Any issue that seems to put plants and animals above humans is one that we cannot support.
—Dr. James Dobson



There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.

—Marshall McLuhan


Since Europeans first encountered this continent five hundred or so years ago, they have been looking for an expedient way to cross it without having to get out of their boats and soil their boots—and without risking the pesky ice flows that used to make sailing the Northwest Passage such fun.

In 1995, the author William Least Heat-Moon said he crossed the continent with a gasoline-powered boat and a canoe. He claimed to have traveled only two hundred of the thousands of miles overland, and that he could have made it by crossing only seventy-five miles of earth. Who knows what he could have accomplished if he’d been a cartologist or a navigator instead of a poet/writer?

The story that follows is a depiction one such attempt to cross the continent. However, readers looking to recreate the voyage of the boat described herein are likely to be disappointed. This is a work of fiction.

For example, don’t bother to search for the Allwyn River. The Allwyn doesn’t exist any more than Crofton, Kentucky; Lynnbrook, Ohio; or Blysse, Missouri, exist. They are inventions of the author, created to fit the story. Other locations, characters, and animals, however, are entirely factual.

The author begs forgiveness for these indulgences and little white lies, which were necessary to get to a larger truth.


Crazy-Ass Boat

Who holds back the electric car? . . . We do! We do!

—The Simpsons


the trees

The trees tried to murder the boys.

They’d tracked them for a day and a half. Through the ends of their branches and within the folds of their barks they’d sensed a dozen or so boys and a few adults cleaving the rush of the stream and blotting out the birdsongs with their talking. They spread the word downstream through their interconnecting webwork of root systems, sapling to sapling, Methuselah pine to oak.

Intruders among us

They did nothing, not even when the boys stacked their limbs and lit them ablaze. The yearlings seethed. In their midst, boys audaciously danced and cackled before a pyre of the trees’ dead kinsmen. Some of the boys decorated themselves with orbs, knickknacks, and baubles made of plastic, a material forged by fire that caused poisonous rain to fall upon the trees’ heads.

If only we could move
, the younger trees said.
We could scoop up the boys and impale them with our branches. We could beckon the boys deeper into our midst, into the places where we blot out the sun. Then it would be a different story.

At midday, the trees got their chance. Two of the smaller boys broke from the herd. They climbed out of the river, scrambled over the rocks and through the soft vegetation at the water’s edge, and plunged into the trees, deep into their darkest recesses.



trees suck

In the real-time wilderness, trees want to kill you.

They’re nothing like the trees in
, this video game I played to train for this mission. In that game, trees are part of the background—big gray-and-jade blocks off of which the hero (I always select Klaus, the archer) bounces harmlessly. Back home in Philly, trees are either fingers trapped in circles of sidewalk or green stuff on hillsides you never think about.

But along the river, they’re monsters. With claws. When we first abandoned our canoe, they scraped me and ripped the sleeve of my best black turtleneck. While Arthur scrambled ahead of me, I stopped and looked at the long, red scratch snaking down from my shoulder to my elbow. For a second I was back at the jungle gym behind my house, and I’d scraped my knee and wanted the Moms to spray on a little Bactine and tell me it was going to be all right. And that gave me bleary eyes and shaky hands until the scratch on my arm looked like this jagged mouth grinning at me, the way this kid from school, Burton Trotsky, grins at me when I’m being a little wuss boy.

, the mouth said.

In this interview I once saw, Fang, the lead singer of the Red Grizzlies, said he took all the fear and pain he’d ever experienced and shoved it deep down into this big reservoir in his belly. Then he used it in his music. I’ve been practicing Fang’s method for a year now, and I’ve got to say, I’m getting some major tunes out of it. Once Trotsky and the other guys and I launch our own musical campaign in Trotsky’s garage, they will rock hardcore.

The Grizzlies are why Arthur and I ran away. Just a few hours ago, we ditched Godspeed Summer Camp—a gaggle of dorky
Boys’ Life
marshmallow cookers singing “Kumbaya,” paddling down the Allwyn River in central Pennsylvania—for the Grizzlies’ only North American stop on their worldwide tour: San Francisco, California. In ten days.


the french

The trees knew people had died here before.

A couple of hundred years earlier, three French trappers had camped along the riverbed. It was late fall and cold, so they chopped down one of the trees and built a fire. A cougar attacked them in the night: it ate one of the trappers, and another suffered a slash to his belly and a broken leg. He had tried to make it downstream but fell and bled to death on the rocks. The third trapper drowned. Their fire went out, and weeds grew up through its charred remains. A new tree grew where the tree that the trappers had chopped for their fire once stood. The rotting corpses were eaten by animals, and their bones turned to meal, a fragment of which became lodged in the shoe tread of the one called Winthrop.

Nobody knew about it except for the trees, and since they wanted to kill the boys, they would not tell.



Anyway, I shove Wimp Winthrop—my nickname for the wimpy part of myself—deep down inside my songwriting reservoir and focus on Arthur. Arthur is stumbling, his chewed Nike running shoes getting caught in the rocks. Arthur is a gangly, freckled kid with a big tower of curls and sunken eyes. Attached to his chest is a loudspeaker welded to a tan metal box. From its side, a wire runs behind his back and clips to his T-shirt. I’ve seen two of these mad big things—PA systems; the one he’s wearing now has a waterproof plastic shell.

He hasn’t said a word in more than an hour. He’s walking slower. I’m sure he’s crying. That worries me, so I lay this on him: “
When the lightning flashes and the thunder rolls, I will not yield. I will stand fast and resolute.”

I’ve been jamming to that one on the mental iPhone, since the Jesus freaks back at Godspeed Summer Camp stole my real-time phone. When you listen to that cut off the Red Grizzlies’
album, the sounds fill even the shadowy parts of your head you hadn’t known were there before. I sing it out loud because I think it’ll give Arthur a kick. Instead, it disappears into the trees.

These monster trees are everywhere. You can’t see a house, a road, or any other sign of human life.

It’s getting darker; the orange beach ball is dipping below the mountains. The woods look more horrorshow by the minute, but it’s not just the darkness. Evil things are glowing: sometimes eyes, sometimes fireflies going off like tracer fire.

In that movie
Zombie Cannibals
, the teenaged co-ed zombie bait went in circles for days and couldn’t find their car
. . .

, says the voice. I shove my fear back down.

Arthur lists from side to side.

“Yeah,” I say, practically yelling. “Going over these rocks is probably tough for the average dude, but my sensei back home told me I have the most catlike balance in my dojo. I could take ninjitsu if I really wanted to.”

You took one karate class when you were six years old, wimp,
the voice says
, and Moms had to carry you out bawling like a nancy boy because you got scared when they yelled.

“You know who said that?” I repeat.

Arthur marches on.

“My sensei,” I say, and now I’m mentally kicking my own ass for making shit up.

I stare at my Timberlands. I bought them because the blond, sky-eyed twenty-something wearing them in the online ad looked like the sort of guy for whom a girl would remove all her clothing. I wore them because they were ghetto
functional, but after walking through the river and then over the hard rocks and roots, brown thread is sprouting from the leather. Slime covers my Prada shorts. Hopefully our rescuers won’t be ladies.

Arthur is freaking me out. I had my eye on the kid since the first day of camp, when a black BMW zipped into the Godspeed Summer Camp compound and he emerged from the rear. He’d squinted in the sunlight beneath the big welcoming banner they’d strung across the entrance with the motto
Conquering Nature
written across it in blue script. A man and a woman disembarked from the front. She was wearing a navy suit and lunged at the boy the minute his Nikes touched the gravel, dabbed his face with a silk handkerchief and made cooing noises. The man wore pastel Ralph Laurens and kept his ear glued to his cell phone and eyes glued to his Rolex until it was time to go, which I heard him say wasn’t soon enough.

We’d been there about an hour when the jockstraps started in on him. One kid stopped Arthur and grabbed the horn of his PA system between his bear claws. It was the guy who’d already established himself as the camp leader and probably the only one who’d get laid. He had this iron-colored ’do that just seemed to lay effortlessly in the coolest Abercrombie way, and wore off-the-rack clothes like he didn’t even need to try. I hated him. I buy designer black-on-black stuff because it makes me look badass, but this kid didn’t even need to try to have a
because he had a
underneath his Old Navys. I’m a skinny runt. Style is the refuge of a runt.

“Darth Vader,” the kid said, hanging onto Arthur’s bullhorn like it was a trophy they give to popular kids. The group of sheep he’d already pulled in with his cool tractor beam thought that was a howler.

Behind the canoe where I was hiding, I stifled a laugh. I hated myself for it. Two minutes earlier, the same guys had labeled me Eddie Munster and made fun of me for the way I talk. Totes. Like the word bling isn’t the bomb, yo. My Oxford Edition American Street Lingo dictionary lists “bling” as the No. 2 most-used slang word on the streets, next to “the bomb.” And Eddie Munster? Real freaking original, guys. Like I haven’t heard that one before. I mean, hello? The average height of a fourteen-year-old is five feet and I’m four foot eleven.

BOOK: We Are All Crew
4.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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