...

"Goat threatens a couple more times to get naked, looking around for approval. People pretty much ignore him...."

goat mendez
story by karl koweski


"My name's Goat Mendez," he says, firing up a marijuana cigarette.

"Goat? Your mama give you that name?"

We are standing near the main stage, milling around with almost three thousand unwashed, road-weary others. In another four hours, the opening band of the three-day festival will take the stage.

"So what's your name, man?"

"Snake. Snake Plissken."

"Snake? Damn, man, what are the odds? Snake and Goat. Man, it sounds like a movie or something."

All right, this guy is obviously an idiot. And he looks like one, if not all, of the guys I used to smoke my lunch with back in high school.

Goat Mendez is strikingly tall and incredibly skinny. He is shirtless, and his scrawny chest seems on the verge of caving in. Only his hair hints at vitality. Long and feathered and he can't keep from running his hands through it every two minutes. There is also a horrifying Freddy Mercury-style moustache splayed across his upper lip like roadkill. I try not to stare at it.

"Hey, man. Snake. This is my buddy, Greg. Dude, if Greg hadn't picked me up near Gary, Indiana, I probably wouldn't even be here right now. I'd like be in Ohio. Or dead. Gary's a rough town for a place like Indiana, man."

"I know. Per capita, Gary has been the murder capital of the United States four of the last five years."

Goat narrows his eyes as if I'm putting him on.

"I'm from Chicago," I say by way of explanation.

"Dude, that's Illinois. Gary's in Indiana."

Rather than explain how close Chicago is to Indiana, or how you don't pronounce the "s" in Illinois, I simply introduce myself to Greg.

Greg is relatively normal-looking. Medium height and build. Short hair and healthy tan. He has a couple lawn chairs set up along with a sun umbrella. A six pack sized cooler dangles from his shoulder.

Greg tells me he's from San Diego. Took a few weeks off work to see America and dig the festivities here at Woodstock '94. Says by the time he hit the Midwest, he was bored out of his mind and looking to pick up somebody, anybody, to keep him company.

"You ever notice you don't see too many female hitch-hikers, Snake? I wonder why that is."

I say he can go ahead and call me Vic.

A joint appears in my line of vision. "Take a hit of this, Snake."

I take the dope from Goat and give it a big toke. Someone nudges my arm. I glance over and see a cute blonde leaning over from a blanket spread out next to our little camp. Her friends are sitting around in a loose circle looking like the dregs of a Grateful Dead show. The girl motioning toward the joint wears a crocheted bikini top and cut-off denim shorts. She has formidable breasts and wide hips.

I figure what the hell and hand it to her. Hippies dig generosity. Maybe she won't be stingy with the puss when the time comes. She fills her massive lungs, then, rather than hand it back, she passes my joint to some beach bum looking fella who has I LOVE TACOS written across his chest in red lipstick. He sucks on it like a dick for a few seconds. Then he hands it to another guy who passes it to a brunette who sends it off into oblivion.

I don't even get a thank you. What kind of hippies are these people suppose to be?

By the time I turn back to my buddy, Goat, he's got another spleef in his mouth. He flicks a match, lights it up, and looks down at me. I glace at the joint, raise my eyebrows. He shakes his head, negative.

I should have brought my own dope. I did bring my own dope. A quarter interest in a two ounce bag. I just don't have it.

"I'm gonna get naked," Goat says.

"What?"

"Dude, what's Woodstock without a little nudity?"

Greg and I glance at each other, uncomfortably. Goat threatens a couple more times to get naked, looking around for approval. People pretty much ignore him.

"How'd you get here?" Greg asks.

"In a goddam Yugo," I tell him, waiting for someone to ask. "There were four of us crammed into that sardine can for twelve, fourteen hours."

"I thought those things were suppose to self-destruct after ten thousand miles. There's still a few of them out there, huh?"

"Yeah. My Pontiac T-1000 wouldn't have made it even half way here. It's pretty goddam pathetic when out of four people, the most reliable vehicle between us is a Yugo. Anyway, by the time we rolled into the parking area, none of us were speaking to each other. I'll probably end up hitch-hiking home, myself."

I wait for Greg to offer me a ride...

I wait a little longer...

I'm waiting...

"So what's the line-up supposed to be today?" Greg asks.

"I don't know."

"Jesus Christ, Goat."

I turn around and Goat has his jeans off. His pale legs are long and thin. His penis is excruciatingly small, especially to be hanging out in front of all these people.

"I told you, man. It's time to get in the spirit."

"Jesus Christ."

"Put your pants back on."

"No way, man, this is freedom. This is what Woodstock is all about."

He shoves his jeans into a battered backpack and flops down in one of the lawn chairs.

Ten minutes later, Greg points out the first naked woman. About thirty yards away, she's not bad looking, a bit of a stomach pooching out on her. Gravity has not been kind, but she's naked. The area becomes more and more crowded. A few guys take pictures of the nude woman as she passes. One sorry bastard poses with her as his thirteen year-old son snaps the picture.

Goat springs into action. "Dude, I'm gonna talk to her." He weaves through the crowd in an attempt to cut her off. I can't help but notice the welts from the lawn chair crisscrossing his bony ass.

"What compelled you to pick him up?"

"Tell you the truth, Vic, I thought he was a bitch. I'm cruising along, right?, feeling kind of lonely. I look over and see hair down the back, feminine build, you know, I'm thinking all right. I didn't bring an extra lawn chair for nothing. So I pull up behind him, beep the horn. He turns around and the first thing I see is that gay-ass moustache."

"I would've hauled ass out of there."

"Well, like I said, I was bored out of my skull. I figured I was just gonna make a beeline for New York. Plus, I feel kind of sorry for him. He's making this thing out to be like some cultural phenomenon that people are gonna be talking about for another twenty-five years. I'm like, dude, it's a sequel. Woodstock '94 don't mean shit."

"It's all that dope he's smoking."

"Yeah, I guess so. Hell, he ain't got no money. I bought some McDonald's for him in exchange for some dope. He thinks he's gonna hook up with one of these bands. Be a roadie. Then write a book about how Woodstock changed his life."

"That's crazy."

Greg cracks a beer from his cooler and offers me one. He sits down in his lawn chair leaving me the one Goat sat his naked ass in. Since I'm tired of standing I break down and plop down on it.

Time passes, punctuated by sporadic conversations with the hippies next to us and the occasional reappearances of Goat Mendez.

You always know when he's approaching. You see the heads swivel as if the crowd were a living organism. He keeps us updated. Some newswoman interviewed him. It wasn't for MTV though, just some network shit. There's a couple other naked broads out and about. Not many, though. Goat anticipates much more tomorrow when Melissa Etheridge takes the stage. Then he's off again, everyone giving him a wide berth.

The newswoman eventually stumbles across us. A Fox affiliate according to the symbol on the camera.

"Hi," she says, "where are you two from?"

"Chicago."

"California."

"California? That's an awful long way."

"Yup."

"Are you having fun?"

"Yup."

"So," she says turning her attention to me. "What's the strangest thing you've seen so far."

"Here?"

"Yes, here."

I'm nervously aware of the camera bearing down on me. "Strangest thing is probably that naked guy running around here."

"Yes, we've seen him. Are you planning on getting naked?"

"Nope."

"Why not?"

"Got a small dick."

The camera guy chuckles and the newswoman sighs. "Well, that won't make the six o'clock news." As if we came all this way just to get on the tail end of some shitty news program. She wanders off for less obscene soundbites.

"I don't really have a small dick," I tell the blonde hippie girl. She shrugs apathetically.

I consider showing her but decide against it. No telling what her conception of big is.

Quickly, the area fills up with grungy music lovers carrying four dollar bottles of spring water. One particularly bedraggled dude passes out toothpick-sized joints from a cigar box brimming with dope. And the miracle of peace and goodwill evident on this first day of Woodstock, twenty five years after the original, is that no one knocks him over his dreadlocked head and grabs his ganja.

"Don't look like Goat's coming back," Greg says after a while.

"He's probably dead."

Goat doesn't return before Wavy Gravy takes the stage to emcee the festival. The dilapidated bastard starts us off by commenting that the brown acid is good this time around. A thousand people make beat-off gestures in the air. I'm fully expecting a raucous round of knock-knock jokes next.

Seeing his humor is about as welcome as genital warts, W.G. announces the acts who are gonna tear up the stage this weekend to general applause (except for the Cranberries, who are roundly booed).

People mob the area before Blind Melon even begins their set. The legion of bodies vanquishes any thought of leisurely sitting around and enjoying the show. In less than ten minutes we go from lounging in lawn chairs to standing elbow to elbow with fifty thousand people. No longer are we forty yards from the stage. Now there's a football field's worth of writhing bodies separating Greg and I from Shannon Hoon on stage. The dope-bogarting hippies and the cute blonde have drifted off and disappeared.

By the time Rollins Band opens with Alien Blueprint, Greg says he's tired of holding his lawn chairs. He hurls the first one about twenty feet. It doesn't seem to do much damage. We watch the chair surf the crowd, zigzagging around.

The second chair goes further. Which gives Greg an idea. "Watch this."

Greg takes the cooler by the strap and swings it like a bolo. He lets it go and the hard plastic box flies low over the crowd, skipping off heads like a rock across water.

"Yes."

I try looking casual, not thinking about the innocent heads the cooler connected with. When a foot kicks me in the back of my head I almost shit my pants. Ducking and turning around I see it's merely a crowd surfer. Reaching a pocket of weaklings, the guy lands with a thud at my feet. He's right back up, a crazy sort of gleam in his eye.

"That way," he hollers pointing toward Henry Rollins.

He puts one hand on my head and the other hand on Greg's head and lifts his foot up as if he's expecting us to boost him up so he can body surf to a better crowd position.

"Boy," Greg says, "you better get your hand off my head before I send you up there in pieces."

The guy puts his arms to his sides and quietly mills around for a minute or two before slinking away. We see him surfing again, directly. "That way, that way," he yells as the will of the crowd carries him far left.

After that we're on constant alert. Mosh pits form with the sudden fury of tiny tornadoes. Bodies continuously glide on the out-stretched hands of happy people.

"Left," Greg nudges me.

Six people away, a pretty brunette in a bikini top and short shorts surfs toward us. I'm thinking about grabbing a handful of ass, but some other desperate bastard beats me to the punch. She's almost within fondling distance when a pair of hands reaches up and yanks down her top, exposing her fat titties.

"Yes, I think. Then she screams. Hands are all over her. She screams again and plummets down at my feet.

"Animals," she hisses as she sheathes her boobies.

"You here with your boyfriend?" I ask, winking and fluttering my eyebrows.

"Jackass," she says. As she walks away Greg slaps her ass. She doesn't even bother turning around.

"Well," Greg says, "I got a handful of tit. How bout you?"

"I got the evil eye." It burns me to think I've come all this way without fondling a breast. Hate to go home knowing the closest I'd gotten to full frontal nudity was a guy named after a barnyard animal.

"Jesus Christ, Vic. Up on stage. Look."

Cypress Hill is on stage, a giant paper mache hand holding a blunt their only concert prop. At first I don't know what Greg's talking about. Then I see him. Skinny white guy, naked as a Playboy centerfold, jumping up and down on stage with B. Real.

Greg and I—along with a hundred thousand others—are witnessing Goat Mendez live his dream. He knew what he was doing the whole time. Risking death, hitch-hiking the American road, so he can share a stage with a band that more than likely will be forgotten ten years from now. And I knew him. Shared a lawn chair with him.

The crowd roars its approval as Goat shakes his scrawny ass.

"Think he'll be back?" Greg asks.

"Not likely. He won't even know where to go."

"Then I guess I won't have to worry bout this any more." Greg pitches Goat's jeans and t-shirt into the crowd. "And if he's gonna be hanging with Cypress Hill he won't be needing this anymore, either."

Greg busts out a quarter ounce of Goat's dope and a ceramic pipe. "Here's to Goat," we cheer, lighting up, lost in the audience.


Karl Koweski is a twenty-eight year old displaced Chicagoan now living on top of a mountain in Alabama. His stories have appeared in magazines such as Swank, Liquid Ohio, The Whirligig and Hardboiled and throughout the internet. His first collection of short stories, Playthings, was published last year by Future Tense Press.

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