Dandelion and Blue Eyes

Submitted into Contest #143 in response to: Set your story in the woods or on a campground. ... view prompt

16 comments

Historical Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of substance abuse.

I let my hand catch the wind from outside of my best friend Mallory’s VW microbus causing my flowery bell-shaped sleeves to balloon open. It’s the summer of 1969, and the radio reports that traffic on the 17B leading up to the festival is backed up for miles. State troopers attempt to move broken down cars that have overheated off of the highway. We get stuck about 3 miles from the entrance of Woodstock in bumper-to-bumper traffic. 

Randy, Mallory’s boyfriend, convinces her to park the VW on the side of the road as we walk the rest of the way. There’s no semblance of a line to enter, not even ticket takers for the event. The sunlight glares down hard on my face when I realize that I wasted $6 on the stub that’s in my pocket as they are letting anyone through the entrance.

It’s a free-for-all as young people move in droves down the slanted green farmland. I can’t believe some old dude offered up his field for a bunch of hippie kids to come do drugs, have sex, and listen to rock n’ roll for three whole days. A retrofitted school bus of women pulls to a stop alongside us, the sides painted in neon green and pink peace signs and flowers. The words, Make Love Not War trail down the side of it with the bottoms of the letters like an acid trip gone bad. 

Giant flags with pictures of Santana, CSNY, and other performers whip lightly in the summer wind. The skunky odor of marijuana blooms into the sky hitting my nose as an appetizer for the main course that we’re all about to dine on. I take it all in. 

Randy stands at the top of the field-turned-campground consuming the sights with saucer sized eyes. He nudges his friend Nick, who tagged along at the last minute, with a look that screams, Can you believe this, man?! Woodstock!  Mallory’s head rests on my shoulder. The stray hairs of her generous braids tickle the bare space of my collarbone. It’s these little things that are entirely visceral and nuanced that I want to remember every detail of while we’re here among the sounds of music with my friends new and old. 

I feel Nick’s eyes dancing over my shoulder, because I know he feels this too. If he hadn’t been so damn good looking, I wouldn’t give a guy like Nick the time of day. But there’s something about him that exudes charm that makes me want to get to know him better. Nick was a stranger to me just hours ago when Mallory picked me up. He was as much of a surprise to me as I was to him when we were introduced to one another. A tingle of kinetic energy passed through the touch of our hands causing both of us to stare out our opposite windows for the duration of the drive, trying to ignore the something that was there between the two of us even though we’d just met.

And now we’re here at this epic music festival, together. He throws his warm arm over my back sending an electric current up my spine. He whispers into the side of my temple, “What do you say, Bobbi? Should we go chase some rabbits?”

I nod and push from his hold, moving my body with the energy of the crowd. Nick, chases after me as I twirl and dance, ditching my flip flops allowing my feet to kiss the earth. Randy and Mallory are close behind holding hands with one another all moony eyed. My eyes take the moment in, wanting to remember my best friend Mallory looking like the epitome of young love forever.

We stumble upon a place halfway between the stage and the entrance, and decide this is where we will camp for the weekend. The massive crowd herds their way in covering every bare piece of land. I pull my floppy hat over my face to keep the sun off of it, allowing the shadows of their bodies around me to block the sun from the rest of my fair skin.

“We should find out where the water is before the show starts.” Mallory nudges her already high boyfriend with her elbow to move, but she has no luck as he is as good as glued to the earth under his ass.

I dig through my duffle, unrolling my pink bordered comforter to lay on the grass. At the bottom of my bag lies my favorite bell bottoms and suede bikini top. I lay back on my bag like a makeshift pillow, and let Jefferson Airplane slip from my lips melodically, “When the garden flowers, baby are dead, yes and your mind, your mind is so full of red.”

I ignore eye contact with the now speechless Nick, knowing that my growly, rich voice has shocked him because no one ever expects that sound to come from my petite frame.

“Here I was thinking you were a square Bobbi! But you got pipes on ya, have you always been a singer? Or are you trying to get my attention?”

His wheat colored eyes wink at me after his rapid fire questions come to a halt. I just know I’m in big trouble with this guy.

“What makes you think I want your attention, Nick? Maybe a girl just likes to sing.” 

“Bobbi, you got a man?”

Mallory and I burst out laughing, when she warns him to slow down.

“Nick, we’ve got three whole days for you to try to get into Bobbi’s pants. Be cool, man.”

He stands over me with his hands placed on his knees, desperate for my gaze. Like a child he takes my hat in a game of keep away so that I’ll chase him, and I do, I take the bait and play the game. Nick slows his gait allowing me to collide into his chest as we topple onto one another. 

“Give that back, Nick!”

His xanthous eyes sparkle in the sunlight holding my heart at attention. 

****

The rip of an electric guitar sails to our ears disrupting the sudden connection Nick and I just exchanged. The roar of the crowd signals that the concert is starting. For the next four hours we dance and sing, connecting our hands with complete strangers. The skies darken with heavy cloud cover cooling the temperature in a breeze.

The torrential rains start to pelt us, hydrating our bodies that are so desperate for water from being in the sun all day without much to drink. The mud slips from under our feet as our dancing gets more in sync with the music blaring across the expanse. The people around us shed their clothes and embrace their bodies among mother nature.

The four of us hold hands and take a short trip with the mushrooms that Randy brought along. I break the cap up in my mouth, swallow and let the music and the magic mushroom take me somewhere new. I watch as Nick’s eyes bloom like small dandelions in a grassy field. 

“Your eyes. They’re like yellow dandelions, Nick.”

“I see the ocean in yours, so deep and blue.”

Arlo Guthrie plays a lullaby rendition of Amazing Grace as our eyes swim in euphoria. The lights on the stage radically alter my mind. I see glittering auras swirl like fractal pieces of a kaleidoscope beaming out from the people around me. 

“My mind, it’s floating outside of my head. It’s traveling to places it's never been before Bobbi.” I watch Nick curl his fingers through his frizzy and wild hair, his movements mesmerizing me.

Joan Baez hits the stage pulling the crowd of antiwar youth into a frenzy of protests to the chants of “End the war!” 

We are young and our collective optimism reverberates on a single wavelength. This festival is everything I want my life to be— freeing and simultaneously connected. 

The set comes to an end in the early morning hours. At some point Nick grabs my blanket and wraps our bodies inside of it. My chest presses against his as we sway slowly, not having slept since the night before. We ground into one another as we come down from the psychedelic trip.

Nick’s hand reaches for mine as dawn starts to break. The twangs of early set rehearsals carry across the field. Sleepy concertgoers move in slow drug induced hazes, their bodies scattered across the makeshift campground in heaps of exhaustion. The shutter click of a camera pulls my attention up from the safety of Nick’s chest. 

“Hey, I’m Burk, a photographer for Woodstock. Hope you don’t mind me snapping a picture of you two.” 

Nick dips his head in affirmation. 

*****

We wake on the third day hungry and dehydrated but eager for more. Our imminent comedown is laced with grief like kids at summer camp, we don’t want the weekend to end.

“How long do you think it’ll take us to get home?” Mallory wonders aloud. Her head lies cradled in Randy’s lap, his tie dyed shirt a variegated backdrop for her blonde hair.

“I hope it takes days. How will we go back to normal life after this weekend?”

Randy’s right, I’m not sure how I’ll ever look at anything the same ever again. Nick digs through his pack looking for something. He tosses a pair of cotton boxers aside as I let a laugh slip.

“Bobbi, didn’t Mallory say you have to stay out of my pants? Why’re you eyeing my underwear?”

I shake my head no, feigning disinterest even though there’s no hiding how responsive my body is to him. The drugs wore off hours ago, and yet I feel my pulse in all the places of my body that really count and I know it’s Nick’s doing. I roll my eyes, and fish out my oversized sunglasses and affix them to my face to reduce eye contact with his flirtations.

He pulls out a matchstick with a bright red end and lobs a bag of pre-rolled joints at Randy to hold. With his thumbnail he splits the end of the wooden matchstick, he puts the stub end of a joint into the v shape and lights it. 

Inhaling, Nick’s giggles fill our tight circle along with the stinky green weed, impressed with his party trick of an improvised roach clip.

Of  all the performers, Jefferson Airplane is the one I wanted to see the most. I loved Joplin and The Dead, but it is the dissidence in Grace’s lyrics that captivate me the most. Her vivid voice starts the morning off with a slow crawl out to the four of us, as if the words are just ours alone to hear. I pull my shirt off revealing my suede bikini top, as I rise to my feet I move to the sound of Grace’s words, “Don’t you want somebody to love?”

*****

We nap off and on in between sets and debauchery while talking about the draft. Hendrix captures the crowd with his rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. His blazing red headband, white-fringed shirt, and bell-bottomed denim jeans dazzle the crowd. 

“I got called up, I gotta leave next weekend.”  Nick blurts out.

Nick silences us with his confession of being drafted to fight in Vietnam. Randy sulks off somewhere knowing his fate might be just the same at some point. 

Our anguish is shadowed by the scratchy sonancy of the electric guitar, a demonstration by Hendrix that begs us to hover the line of patriotism and protest. 

Nick pulls me to his bare chest. My jeans caked in mud hang heavy around my ankles. We make a promise to meet up when he comes home on leave. Because anything goes and everything is just fine at this moment. 

*****

Woodstock was over twelve months ago and during that time I’ve written Nick and Nick’s written me. Our letters lengthen with each passing week as the dynamic between the two of us has not waned since our three days of debauchery and immediate infatuation. The war reminds us both that there’s no time to waste and writing to one another is important for survival, his mostly, for the connection and the promise that he has something to come home to. 

The last letter I got from Nick said he’d be home hopefully any day, but that was over three weeks ago. I lay in bed most mornings rereading my favorite letters from him as if it’s some sort of incantation I’m sending into the universe to keep him safe out there in Vietnam. Today is no different, I read the letter where Nick tells me about how important he thought I was the first time we met. That my blue eyes are the very orbs that he sees when he sleeps.

I drag my body from my bed to the sound of our phone trilling over the noisy chaos in the kitchen. I rush downstairs in hopes that it’s Nick calling.

My mother snatches the yellow phone from the wall, the cord twisting around her body.

I mouth at her, “Who is it mom?”

My mother waves her lit Pall Mall at me, as she pushes frozen meatballs around in grape jelly on the stove. Her hand covers the receiver, the ash from her cigarette dropping on the stovetop. 

“Bobbi, who’s Nick?”

“Mom! Don’t be a drag!”

I want to tell her that it’s Nick that I spent three days dancing, tripping, and reveling in absolute history with, but I know better. I certainly won’t tell her that it’s his letters that I covet.

“Hey dandelion.”

“Hey blue eyes, I’m back from deployment.” 

*****

We meet at Randy’s for a house party a few days later. Nick looks like The Man, with his hair shaved high and tight, but his embrace is the same as he speaks into the top of my head.

“I’m not sure how it’s possible, but I missed you.”

“Nick, I wrote to you every week. What’s to miss?” It feels so right to be able to tease him here in the flesh, to know that in worse circumstances he could have died over there and all I’d have of him is the memories of that day and a stack of priceless letters.

I smile at him, nostalgic for our time spent together at Woodstock where we were one love and uninhibited.

A familiar grainy tune brings me to my senses, “Is that Woodstock playing in the house?” 

Nick pulls me inside to find the record player spinning a familiar song from a year ago. On the cover of the album stands a couple folded into one another under a pink bordered comforter under the words “Woodstock.” The memory floats back of a photographer named Burk snapping our picture. Nick and I look at the image where fate brought us together, and where our love turned into history.

April 30, 2022 03:30

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16 comments

Daniel R. Hayes
06:30 May 16, 2022

Hi Shea, I'm sorry I'm a little late to this one. I took a little break to finish the novel which I hope to have out in the next couple of months. This story was amazing, and I actually love historical fiction stories believe it or not. I thought you did a great job with the material and you really shine with your descriptions and dialogue. I loved this and I give it a perfect 10 ⭐

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Shea West
15:10 May 16, 2022

Thanks so much! This was my Globe Soup finalist story, I had a great time writing it even though I was afraid of the genre 😂

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Daniel R. Hayes
17:10 May 16, 2022

I hear ya, going outside our comfort zones is always scary, but I think it does make us better writer's :)

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Zack Powell
06:48 May 09, 2022

Hey, Shea! I was totally swamped last week, but I realized I never did get a chance to leave you a review and I felt a more than a little guilty, so I'm here now to rectify that. You know I love precision of language in a story, and there were a LOT of good, interesting words you used in here. The big ones I marked were: "sonancy," "debauchery," "dissidence," "variegated," and my personal favorite "xanthous," which I had to Google. What a beautiful word - I'm definitely stealing that from you in the future. I'm gonna sound like a broken re...

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Shea West
15:58 May 09, 2022

Zack, I always look forward to your comments- They are so encouraging and insightful. Please don't feel guilty, I don't expect anyone to read or comment and honestly I get behind on other folks stories too. Your winning story is in my TBR pile!!! Please use Xanthous! It's a marvelous word isn't it?! My dead grandma (former English teacher would be so impressed LOL). You are correct, I did take the week off for Globe Soup. This story was actually my entry for the last 7 day Globe Soup challenge. The theme was A twist of fate...and I got hi...

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Rochelle Miller
23:17 May 01, 2022

Really cool story! I was so worried when he went to Vietnam and so relieved when they reunited! The way you tied in the album cover at the end was beautiful. Groovy work! 😉

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Shea West
19:42 May 05, 2022

I'm not one to kill off my characters, I just can't do it! Thanks for reading.

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A.G. Scott
17:10 May 01, 2022

I'd say you could be a little more sparse with the historical details--e.g. when I read the first sentence I'm like, slow down! You could just say Mallory's VW, and 'causing my sleeves to balloon open'. Most readers will get the vibe based on just that, and once you say Woodstock, we're there with you for sure. "Hey, I'm Burk, a photographer for Woodstock." Would anyone say this? Maybe just "Hey, I'm Burk. Mind if I snap a photo?" I like how what starts as like a daydream about Woodstock blooms into this nice little love story. Without tha...

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Shea West
19:43 May 05, 2022

Thanks for reading!

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Riel Rosehill
17:09 May 01, 2022

Hey Shea! I'm sorry I'm late to the party - got a lot going on but I could finally spare a minute to comment. Have you seen that documentary on Woodstock..? That and "Hair" were my only clues to this part of history as its not touched on in central EU focused world history! But I thought your story really captured the vibe I thought it would be - I was bracing myself for a sad ending, such a relief Nick made it back! I loved that they called each other dandelion and blue eyes on that phone call (even when her mum asked who Nick was I thought...

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Shea West
19:43 May 05, 2022

Riel, I'm behind ( for obvious reasons) on replying and also reading everyone's stories. I'm a sucker for a fun title, so I am happy you liked it!

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Riel Rosehill
20:12 May 05, 2022

Take your time - I haven't been through my whole reading list for the week either, running behinf with everything!

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Scott Skinner
06:25 May 01, 2022

Meatballs and grape jelly? Cigarette ash on the stove? Two sentences, and you've put the ultimate picture of Bobbi's mom in my brain. Bravo! The story was great. I really liked the time you took breaking down Woodstock. It felt like the narrator was a journalist. Your descriptions and what you chose to mention (the couple of bands, the weed smoke, the mud on the bell-bottoms, the letters on the bus) it was all excellent writing. Also, I learned what xanthous means. I found Burk's Woodstock album cover with a quick google: epic. And what...

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Shea West
15:52 May 01, 2022

Can you even imagine eating meatballs in grape jelly?! GAG. I heard the word xanthous sometime at the beginning of the year and sort of obsessed over it, so I found it a home in this story. Thanks for the read and the comment!

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Michał Przywara
03:30 May 05, 2022

Fantastic! It felt like I was there. I can't quite place my finger on it, but I think it was the little details, like "The words, Make Love Not War trail down the side of it with the bottoms of the letters like an acid trip gone bad." Woodstock was good. Vietnam was a hell of a twist, though I guess at the time it was the major concern of the day in the US. I wasn't sure how you'd finish this one, it really could have gone either way. Nice to see a happy ending. But yeah. Meatballs and grape jelly. What :|

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Shea West
19:42 May 05, 2022

Hey thanks a ton for your words! So this story was one I entered elsewhere, and the theme was a Twist of Fate, which ended up being that this couple ended up on the cover of the Woodstock album. It was sure fun to write! Meatballs and grape jelly were a very popular thing back then... BARF.

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