The next morning, Jean-Paul rode his bike to work, twenty miles away. I used his car to try and find the Lost Forty, but I stayed on Hwy 2 too long and ended up in Cass Lake. Whoops! Jean-Paul and I hadn't arranged anything with his house keys, so I had to make sure I was there when he got home.
That evening we walked to Cole's hardware store to get keys cut. "They say Cole's have it!" said Jean-Paul, and I thought nothing of it until we arrived. On the store's façade, right next to the Hardware Hank sign, in big red letters it said: THEY SAY "COLE'S HAVE IT" (sic). Good thing they put it in quotes; that grammar is shady!
Jean-Paul went next door to the liquor store while I went into Cole's. Immediately upon entering, a cute young female cashier shone me with prolonged, smiling eye contact. She wasn't busy, so I foolishly went to her for help. I don't think she had ever cut keys before. I waited around for at least twenty minutes, admiring a cartoonishly large crescent wrench that looked exactly like a regular one, but over two feet long and at least five pounds. Jean-Paul found me holding the massive cudgel. He had two six-packs: Grain Belt and Molson Canadian. I paid in change, and we walked home, down sunny gravel alleys, past sheds and rusty axels.
One of the keys the girl cut did not work.
At twilight, with beers in hand, Jean-Paul took me on a walk toward the Mississippi, past the KAXE radio station and its big, white bandshell. He led me across a highway, and through a gate into a large, wooded veterans' memorial park. It was mystical and dark under the huge pines where we were not supposed to be at night. The park was so big that standing in the middle of it, we were out of sight of any road. We came upon a playground, and I began playing, likely inspired by Jean-Paul's comedic and theatrical nature. My mind instinctively switched into kid-mode, and I played with refreshing sincerity. Lasers, spaceship controls, and alien landscapes were all completely visible and tangible to me, as in childhood. To a child, everything they can imagine actually exists right in front of them! The chemical balance in my body was perfect for those minutes, to allow me to bypass my society-induced blockages.
From there, Jean-Paul led me to the top of a hill in the park. Its path, pine scent, and buddy-guide reminded me of my times in San Francisco's Buena Vista Park. I was still in a magic zone. The top of the hill was clear and mowed, save for four giant pines. My body danced around them in the moonlight, acknowledging the four directions and the dark woods beyond.
On the way back to Jean-Paul's on a road parallel to the tracks, we passed one business that was still open: a laundromat, lit from within and vacant. It seemed right out of the 1950s. I was intrigued, and I entered the building while Jean-Paul sat outside. At the rear was an ancient pop machine. From the Lost-and-Found I took a pink washcloth. It reminded me of my grandparents' house.