Friday, October 6, 2017

Cock-a-Roach by A.T. Sayre

In small town New England Frank has an unlikely encounter with a Hollywood celebrity; by A.T. Sayre.

I was sittin' in a Denny's solo seat at the front room coffee bar when Frank came in. Frank's this small kid, a little chubby, all scruffy hair and wrinkled clothes. He always had on this dirty old army jacket he'd probably found at goodwill. He had huge bags under his eyes, from no sleep or too much booze, or some combo of that nature. If he wasn't so chubby and didn't have that crazy underbite he'd have that grunge thing down perfect. Not that he was tryin' to, necessarily. I'm sure he'd look fucked up even if it wasn't the thing to do.

Frank spotted me right off. He nodded a little and made a beeline for the seat at the coffee bar right next to me. I was just reading some book or other at the time, something for class I think. I was tired of it anyway, so I wasn't bothered seeing him.

I knew Frank from around. We didn't have any classes or anything like that, he was at lower levels than me, but I knew him. We partied a bit on the weekends. He was kind of a dope, fucking stupid by some people's standards, but everybody kinda liked him. Or at least acted like it. Sometimes his parents were gone for the weekend and he'd have a whole mess of people over to his tiny four room house, and anybody who'd do something that stupid you always let hang around. Hell, sometimes he'd even lead the raid on his parent's liquor cabinet.

His eyes were all buggy, his breath fast and rapid as he parked himself next to me. "You will never in a fucking million years guess what just happened to me."

I shrugged. "What?"

He smiled a wide grin, his brow scrunching. "Guess."

"No. Just tell me."

He started looking a little irritated with me for not playing along. "Take one fucking guess."

I rolled my eyes. "You got laid."

Frank shook his head. "Better."

"Really? Better than getting laid? What?"

His head started to nod real slow, deliberate. "I just saw Aaron Sand at the 7-11."

I waved him off with my palm, turning away from him. "Get the fuck outta here."

"No, really. I shit you not. I saw him. He was gettin' gas and a six pack of Miller."

I took a cigarette out of my pocket and lit it, shaking my head at him.

Frank kept on. "I fucking saw him, I swear. I was just in there getting some butts from that black guy who sells and I turn around and Aaron Sand was standin' right fucking there, clear as day."

"What would Aaron Sand be doing way the fuck up here?" I asked him. "Shouldn't he be out in Hollywood trying to get in some model's pants or somethin'?"

Frank waved a finger at me. "First off, he lives in New York, not Hollywood. And second, he's from around here. His parents still live around here."

"Well yeah, but they're up in Manchester."

"So?"

"So why down here? He wouldn't drive twenty miles and pass through three towns just to get some beer."

Frank gripped the table front in his hands. "I saw him."

I shrugged. Frank was a huge Aaron Sand fan. He watched all his movies. Most of my friends liked him too. Me, I thought he was all right. Not exactly my style, a little crude and silly, but you gotta have a soft spot for the local boy and all.

"So you get his autograph or something?" I asked him.

Frank looked at my cigarette, then up at me.

"I thought you said you got butts at 7-11."

"He wouldn't sell."

I shook my head and gave him one. He took out this dirty Zippo and lit it up, playing with the flame for a second. He let out this great cloud of smoke, looking up in the air at it. Then he glared down at me again.

"But that's not even the half of it."

Frank went into this long story about meeting Aaron Sand. He'd been going into 7-11 for butts, like he said, standing in line, staring at the magazine rack as he waited. The black guy at the counter, his name was Jack, but everybody called him Chief, 'cause that's what he called all of us. Anyway, Chief looked like he was in a shitty mood that night. "I just knew he was gonna give me a hard time," Frank said. But Frank had to give it a shot anyway. There weren't many places in town that'd sell cigarettes anymore, with the cops starting to give them all a hard time more than usual.

So he gets to the front, and asks for some Marlboros. Chief just shakes his head. "Not today, Chief," he says to Frank. Frank protested a little, as we all do. Chief just shook his head. "Don't waste the breath. I ain't selling you any cigarettes. We just got a fine last week."

One thing you can say about Frank that's a credit to him is that he knows when to quit. No point in hassling Chief about the whole thing, because he knew that if they had just got hit Chief was in no mood to risk his ass and another heavy fine for anybody. So Frank just shakes his head and heads for the door.

Just then Sand walks in. Frank said it took him a second to register who it was, because the guy had on some wire rimmed glasses and a Yankees cap. He walked right up past Sand and just as he passed, he said, he made the connection. Sand glanced at him briefly, maybe even sheepishly I'd imagine, probably seeing that he'd been spotted, and made right for the line of beer fridges in the back of the store.

Frank said he just stood there watching him as he scanned the beer, quickly pulled out a six pack, and walked up to the counter with it. Chief rang him without a word; if he had recognized Sand apparently he didn't give a shit. Sand paid for it, nodded politely at Chief, and made his way to the door, where Frank still stood watching.

I bet right here is when the sinking feeling probably went through Sand, as he saw that the punk he'd seen as he entered was still standing right where he had been. Even though Frank didn't say it, I can imagine Sand's eyes rolling and the little sigh he let out as he looked at Frank. Frank didn't mention anything like that, but you can imagine that he was probably looking at the whole thing through rose colored lenses or something like that.

So when Sand got near, Frank opened his mouth. The usual stuff, of course. "First off," Frank told me. "I asked him if he was Aaron Sand. I knew he was, no way in hell it could've been anyone else. He said 'yeah, that's me'. So cool. I told him how awesome I thought his movies were and all. And he said thanks. Then we went on talking for a minute like good buddies and everything."

That's what Frank said. Somehow I don't see it exactly happening that way. It may have started like that and all, but just from what Frank told me I could tell it wasn't all peachy keen. It's not like Sand had to mace him or something, but you know how it is when you meet someone bigger than you in life. Here you are, just some know-nothing little shit like everyone else around here, and this big-wig could come around and shit all over you and you'd still think he'd showered you with gold. You're just so psyched on the name in front of you and all and you just can't see it real. Sand probably would've had to punch him in the mouth for Frank to have not seen a halo above the guy's head. And maybe even then he'd still be here bragging about the whole thing.

Anyway, here's how I saw it after I unfiltered it from Frank's mind:

So here's Sand, minding his own business, tired from a long day of travel or something. Looking forward to nothing other than to sit back with a buddy or old high school sweetheart in town, or whatever he was doing up here, have a few beers, watch some TV, and go to sleep and not have to wake up for some early call or promo interview or whatever other celebrity shit he does these days. The only thing he had left to do tonight was stop in the store, get a pack of beer, and then get back in his car and drive away. Then all his night would be was some quality normal person time.

But here was this little kid standing in his way, staring at him with that look that I know must have been so familiar to him by now. Aw shit, he must have thought. Almost there. Almost free.

But he's probably learned to be good-natured about this shit by now, gotten a bit of tolerance, so he can manage to be nice about it. One little autograph ain't so big a deal. Take a few seconds is all. So when he comes up to Frank, he's already switched into polite mode, ready to treat a fan like a fan.

And the usual: are you Aaron Sand? It's so cool to meet you! I've seen all your movies. You are the funniest guy on TV/movies. I heard you did this, I heard you did that, I heard you're doing this/that, the usual, all that'll end with the tried and true can I have your autograph? Closing phrase. Standard procedure for him by now.

And he takes it all well. Price of fame, he probably tells himself. The kid means well. So he starts thinking in his head, while he chats with the kid, about where he keeps his pen in his pocket, because he knows this kid's not gonna have one, and it'll just be easier in the long run.

A minute goes by, then two, then four, then five, and this kid is blabbering away about some shit he's barely listening to, and he's trying to be patient and all. But this kid won't get to the autograph question. And Sand has had a long day. He can feel the yawn coming on, and he tries to stifle it, and the strain of doing it makes him feel even more tired. And now the irritation is startin' to build.

In the back of his mind, he just keeps tellin' himself, don't take it out on this kid. He means well. How would I have acted, he thinks, if when I was this kid's age and I saw George Carlin at the liquor store?

But he just has to get home. "Look, kid -" he starts.

"I'm Frank," Frank says cutting him off.

Sand rubs his eyes, "Right, Frank. Look, I've had a long day, drove all the way up from New York, and I just wanna take it easy tonight-"

"You goin' to a party or somethin'?"

"No, not tonight -"

"'Cause I know of this one next town over, it's a big bash, a real good time."

(Frank wasn't there for the same reason I wasn't; It was a rich kid/druggie party, but if he'd shown with Sand they'd have let him in for least ten minutes or so.)

"I'm all set with that," Sand says. "Look, I really gotta go."

Frank nods. "I understand."

I can bet the words, Thank you sweet Christ, were doin' the laps in Sands' head right about this moment. Finally the little fucker's gonna let me go. Just gonna sign that autograph and go. And to his credit, he stood waiting for Frank to ask the question.

But Frank stared on for agonizing seconds, staring at Sands. When he finally opened his mouth, he did ask him a question at least.

"Do you got a cigarette?"

Now I know what's goin' through Sands head right here. I don't have to be there, or unfilter what Frank's was telling me to know this part. The only phrase that could possibly be going through Sand's head right here is the catch all, all encompassing, 'You gotta be fuckin' shittin' me'.

The fact that he didn't actually say it is a wonder to me. If it were me in his shoes I woulda lost it at that point and just chewed Frank a new one. But then again I would guess that it wouldn't have made a difference anyway, Frank wouldn't have noticed at all. Sand probably sussed that. So he didn't waste the effort. On yelling at him at least.

Frank's eyes really lit up when he started telling me about the next part. "So he's taking out the cigarette, and hands it to me. As he is he's sayin' 'look kid, you wanna go to a real party?' Shit yeah, I tell him. He says, 'well, I got one for ya. Not tonight, everyone's tired as shit from driving into the area, but tomorrow night there's gonna be this mad keg rage at a friend's house in the woods. We're talking shitloads of beer, tons of people, drugs, bands, and hot models all over the fuckin' place.'"

"He told you this?" I ask him.

Frank nods. "Yeah. He said that every year around this time a bunch of celebrities and hot shits from New York come up here and get totally fuckin' wild at this guy's place where they can have some privacy. I ask him whose party it is. He says he can't tell me the guy's name, because he don't want this to get out and around the town. They guy's got a reputation to protect. 'But I like you kid,' he says to me, 'and if you want in I can get you in.'"

"So I tell him I am all over this fuckin' shit. Fuck ya I want in. Where is it? He shakes his head and tells me 'I can't tell you where it is right now. The last thing this guy'll want is for the entire town to find out and make a fuckin' mess for everyone.' I tell him I can keep a secret. He says he can't take that chance. He doesn't want to risk losing his invite to next year's party. 'But this is what I'm gonna do. I got this friend of mine who's gonna be arriving late tomorrow night coming in from Boston. I can call my friend tomorrow during the day and get her to pick you up some place. You know that bus stop down by the mall?'"

"He meant the one that no busses stop at?" I ask.

Frank nodded. "Yeah, that's the one he meant. He told me to be there around ten tomorrow night. This friend of his will stop by and pick me up.' And then he took off."

He put his cigarette out in the ashtray, nodding to himself.

I laughed. "That's a pretty messed up story."

"It did happen."

"Yeah, I don't doubt it. I didn't think that guy could think on his feet that well, though. I gotta hand it to him."

Frank looked up at me. "What do you mean?"

"You didn't believe that shit, did you?"

Frank didn't say a word.

"Frank, don't tell me you believed that shit."

"Why not?" he asked.

"He was fuckin' with you, that's why not."

Frank shook his head. "Sand was being totally straight with me."

I shook my head.

"I could tell if he was lyin'." Frank said.

"Really, you think his acting's that bad?" I asked him.

"He wasn't acting. There's a really huge bash tomorrow."

"Yeah," I said. "At Jeff's house."

"I'm goin' to the one Sand told me about."

The waitress came over to us, coffee pot in hand. She filled up my cup, and looked at Frank darkly. I turned to her. "Get him one on me." I said to her. The waitress looked at me a second, and nodded. She walked back into the kitchen.

I took a few sugar packets and a cream and put them in my coffee. "Frank, the guy was just foolin' with you. He was tired, and figured if he told you a big story like that that you'd leave him alone. That's all it was."

Frank shook his head. "I'm tellin' you he was being straight with me. There really is a big party tomorrow night, and he invited me to it. And I'm goin'."

I stirred my coffee. "And why're you tellin' me about it? Weren't you supposed to keep this thing a secret?"

"I had to tell someone," Frank said. "And I can trust you."

"Ah, it has nothin' to do with the fact that I'm the first person you've seen so far tonight, I got a car and you don't, and you need a ride to the bus stop?"

Frank eyed me sheepishly. "I can get you in too."

Now it was my turn to roll my eyes at him. "Oh for crissakes, Frank."

"He won't mind if it's just you. One other person won't matter. Just as long as it's only you. We can't let anyone else in on this. Promise me that you won't tell anyone and I'll get you in. All I want is a ride."

"Gimme a break, Frank. He's not sending anyone to get you. And I'm not about to sit there with you all goddamned night waiting for the famous Aaron Sand to make an appearance."

"I told you, it won't be him. He's sending a friend."

I stir my coffee. "And who is this friend of his?"

"He didn't say. I bet it's another celebrity though."

I laughed. "Yeah, the ghost of Chris Farley is gonna come pick you up and escort you off to the never-never land estate. So what, you're just gonna harass any poor shit that happens to come by to take you to this party?"

Frank shook his head. "He gave me a password."

"A password?"

"Yeah."

"What?"

"Cock-a-roach."

I stopped in mid-sip. I just looked at him.

"I gotta say it just like that. Like a spic says it, he told me. Cock-a-roach."

"And you really think Hispanics say it like that?"

"That's not the point. I gotta say it like that, he said. Like Scarface. Then his friend will know I'm the one he meant to get picked up."

I couldn't help but laugh. It was just too much.

Frank started to get annoyed at me. "Fuck you, I'm serious, man. Sand was bein' straight with me. He was not yankin' my chain."

I just shook my head, still laughin'. "If you say so."

"Look, do you want in or not?"

The waitress came on over and put a coffee down in front of Frank. I thanked her and she walked away.

"Look Frank, just forget about this whole thing and come on to Jeff's with me tomorrow. It's gonna be a good time."

Frank shook his head and looked down at his feet. "Jeff won't let me in."

"You'll come with me. I'll get you in. Jeff won't turn you away if you're with me. Betty's gonna be there."

"Fuck Betty," he said, looking back up at me. He had a certain kind of fire in his eyes. "And fuck all of them. I don't wanna party with those assholes anyways. They're a bunch of small town losers."

"Come on, Frank, you don't hate those guys."

He sniffed. "Well, they ain't my friends either."

"What's that matter? It's a fuckin' party. Like I'm gonna like everyone there. I promise you you'll have a good time."

But Frank just shook his head. "I'm goin' to party with Aaron Sand."

Jack, Fred, Judy, and some other guys came in, and waved at us. I waved back. They gestured at me about getting a table, and I gestured back, pointing at me and Frank, and they got on the list for all of us. Fred took care of the arrangements, and the others made their way over to us.

I turned back to Frank. He was looking at them all moodily as they came near.

"Just gimme a call tomorrow, okay?" I said to him. "I'll get you in at Jeff's."

Frank waved it off. "Whatever."

Frank didn't talk much at all the rest of the night, as we sat around smoking and drinking coffee. He didn't mention the Aaron Sand thing again at all. We hung out till the usual kick-out time, when the drunks from the bar down the street with more money came in and the waitresses wanted the seats for them. We fooled around in the parking lot a few minutes, but it was fuckin' cold that night, so soon we all got in our cars. Frank got a ride home with Jack, as Jack and him lived in the same neighborhood.

As he got into Jack's car, I said to him, "Gimme a call tomorrow, okay?"

But again all he said to me was "Whatever," with a wave of his hand.



And Frank didn't call the next day. Didn't surprise me I guess. I had hoped that he'd be able to look at the whole thing a bit more clearly with a little distance. I mean, he was just so pumped at first, which is understandable, the whole scenario just having happened to him. I thought for sure he'd wake up today and see that Sand was just fuckin' with him though, as I just knew he was. But like I said, he didn't call me.

It was a Saturday, so no school, but I still had shit to do that day, had some chores, had to make a few calls, had to run down to old Red Beard's place to get him to make a beer run for me. And then of course I had to hang out with the sick fuck for a few hours and watch him get all screwed up on his own cheap beer and get semi-violent with his girlfriend in the middle of the afternoon. Had to be done, as a sort of payment for making the run. I left when he took out the bowie knives, which is always the key to health when dealing with him.

But I asked my mom every time I got back home from the various errands that day if Frank had called. He hadn't. And all I could do was shake my head. I hoped he still didn't believe that stupid story. But he didn't call me. All I could hope for was that Frank had found another ride to the party, and just for whatever reason didn't want to go with me. Maybe he was worried that I'd give him shit for the whole thing, and he just didn't want to deal with that. And I would have given him some. But who the hell wouldn't in my shoes?

So I ended up going to Jeff's stag. There was already a line of cars up and down the road for about a quarter of a mile when I got there, and it was only nine or so. I gave it ninety minutes before the cops showed. Jeff's got the reputation of throwing one kick ass party. The last one he had ended in skinny-dippin' girls in the backyard pool. He was the big man in school come Monday, and he played it for all it was worth. So when his parents had decided that another weekend trip was in order, and Jeff decided that called for a good party, it was around the school all week. And from the looks of it he hadn't shown any restraint at the door either. Popularity can do that to you.

So I left my twelve pack in the trunk, and walked up to the door. The music blared like nobody's business, and the door was wide open. Nice touch, I thought. Inside I could see a bunch of people I knew, standing around, drinking, talking, Beth and Sam all over each other on the couch. In the corner there was the circle round the joints with about ten or so people. Jeff leaned on the doorsill with a bud in his hand, his eyes already red, his cap crooked on his head.

"Hey fucker," he said to me. "Five bucks."

"Hey Jeff. I ain't drinking off the keg tonight." I said.

Jeff shook his head, smiling like an asshole. "Still five bucks to get in."

I expected as much from him. Whatever, he had to pay off the keg. And what with all the people who'll be sneaking to try to get at the beer without payin', I don't blame him much. I pulled out a five from my pocket and handed it to him. He took it with a smile.

"Keg and cups upstairs," he said.

I nod. "You seen Frank yet?"

Jeff sniffed. "Like he's getting in here."

"Why not? You'll let the glee club in."

Jeff shrugged. "Still haven't seen him."

I start to walk past him. "Well, as a favor to me, don't give him shit if he shows up, okay?"

"Whatever," he said. "Maybe he'll be here with a couple of starlets and big time movie producers."

The house was already in shambles, beer stains on the rug, smoke so thick you barely could see across the room. I could smell through the pot that somebody somewhere had already puked. But everybody looked like they were oblivious to it all, having too much fun. It took me twenty-plus minutes to get across the room, it was so packed in there, saying hi and chatting with the random person I knew here and there.

It was less claustrophobic upstairs, what with everyone mobbing around the keg in a huge swarm over in the corner. It left the rest of the area empty of all but a few casual crowds of people. Over in the corner I saw Jill, Tom and Bill and some other people I know. I made my way over there.

"Hey guys," I said.

Tom turns first, and smiles as he sees me. "Hey, grab a beer."

I shake my head. "Saving it for a bit later. How long you guys been here?"

"About an hour," Bill said. "Making the appearance. We're thinking of taking off. It's a fuckin' madhouse downstairs."

I nod. "Where to?"

Jill answered. "My place." Jill's been out of school for two years, and had her own apartment over on the other side of town. It's a total dive, but there aren't any parents or anything, so it was nice to hang out at once and a while.

"Who's goin'?" I ask.

"Just a few people," Tom says. "Us here, Ted might go, and Mary."

Jill blinks lightly at me. "Just a little get together. Nothin' rowdy. You wanna come with?"

I nod at her. "I can show up a little later. I just got here and all."

Jill smiled. "Okay. But just you. Don't go bringing half this mess to my place."

I laughed. "I'd think you'd know me better than that. I might bring Frank if I see him here, but that's about it."

"Oh, he ain't showing up here," Bill said. "Haven't you heard, he's off getting a blow job from Jennifer Love Hewitt right now."

"So how many people he been telling that story to?"

"He musta called half the town yesterday lookin' for a ride," Tom said. "He called me around noon."

I shook my head. "You said no, I take it."

"Do I look like an idiot?" Tom said.

Bill crushed his beer can. "I heard that Johnny ended up drivin' his ass down there, though. Frank paid him ten bucks."

"Johnny?" I said. "But I saw him downstairs."

"He didn't stay with Frank," Jill said. "He told us he dropped Frank off down at the bus stop and then came here. He didn't believe Frank, he just wanted the money."

I sighed. "And I suppose Johnny's not gonna go get the poor shit either."

Bill shook his head. "Frank said he wouldn't need a ride back."

Figures, I thought. Leave it to a fuckface like Johnny to help Frank out like that.

Jill turned to Tom. "You almost finished? I wanna get goin'."

Tom glanced down at his beer, thinking about it. He shrugged, and tossed it over his shoulder on the ground. "Close enough. Plenty more where that came from anyway. Let's go."

The small crowd of people started to make their way to the stairs, Bill in front, Jill taking up the rear. She turned back to look at me as they exited.

"I'll be along in a little while." I said to her.

Jill nodded, smiling lightly at me. Almost sympathetically. Don't know what she would feel sorry for me for.

I stayed at the party for another hour or so. It showed no signs of slowing much. The crowd if anything got a lot bigger, more packed, more rowdy. More destructive. A nice comfy chair downstairs got broken at some point. I saw it over in the corner, the beer suds soaked into the upholstery, the back frame split in two, the arm ripped all up. No way to repair it that I could see.

And if Jeff cared, he sure as hell didn't look it. He acted like some fuckin' God watchin' all this shit go down in his house, with that crazy smile and bleary eyes. I swear if he had the energy he woulda' helped 'em toss the dining room table through the bay window in the kitchen. It wasn't his stuff, I guess, but hell, he still had to live there. And there was no way that the best clean up in the world was gonna make all this come right. I felt that it was probably gonna be a few months till Jeff was a free man again after this one. But like I said, he didn't seem to give a shit about it. He was reveling in all the destruction, the way a nut would watch a meteor destroy the city he was in with an evil grin. That's the only way I can think to describe it.

But around ten thirty I'd had enough of it all, so I left. It took me twenty minutes to make it to the door, and then I saw Betty and had to stop and try to talk with her. She was leaning against the wall very hard with a half empty bottle of So-Co in her hand, talking with some freshman kid I didn't know. Wasn't much of a talk, she was so out of it English was a challenge. The basics, nice words, and simple questions, was all she could take at the time, if that, so I kept it there. The Freshman kid just glared at me the whole time. He thought I was gonna scoop her up away from him or something, but I wasn't in the mood to. So I left her there with him after a few minutes. Poor kid. He had no shot with Betty, even in that condition. Sober she would eat him alive.

I got to my car and sat there for a minute, lighting a cigarette, thinking. It was eleven o'clock, an hour after when Sand told Frank to be at the bus stop. And it would take me another thirty or so to cross town to get there. I started up the car, chuckling a little at the small fraction of a chance that Frank wouldn't be there anymore when I got to the stop. Cock-a-roach. You gotta be fuckin' kiddin' me.

I saw the cops turning onto Jeff's street just as I pulled out and away.



The mall and everything in the area was closed down and dead by the time I got there. A few cars on the road, but other than that it was just me. All there was around here was stores, and when they closed, it was a fuckin' ghost town. Actually most of the town was, after about ten or so. Except for Denny's and the bars, that is. But even that much was all the way across town from the mall. Around here, after the mall closed, there was nothing, it was all a huge wasteland.

I saw Frank from down the road sitting there at the bus stop, under that one sick yellowish streetlight that kept the bench lit in front of the Target store. He was sittin' there, leaning his elbows on his knees, looking down at his feet. He was shivering pretty bad. Damn, I thought. He looked so sad, I mean really fucking pathetic, you just had to hurt for the kid.

I pulled up to him sittin' there, and he didn't even look up at me. I leaned across the passenger seat and rolled down the window. "Frank," I said.

I might as well have been shouting from over a mile away for all the reaction he showed.

"Frank," I repeated, louder. "Come on, Frank, he ain't showin', get in the car."

I thought I could see a little shake of his head, but I couldn't tell if it was just him shiverin' or not.

"Get in the fuckin' car, Frank. I ain't got all night."

But Frank wouldn't move. I had half a mind to just leave his sorry ass right there, but I knew that wasn't gonna happen. I pulled over into the first lane of parking spots and got out of my car. And shit was it windy and cold out.

I sat down next to Frank. Damn, that bench was even colder. "Didn't show, did he?" I said, not knowing what else I could say.

"Fuck off," he said back, his voice low and quiet.

"Nice, I come all the way out here to come save your ass from freezing to death and you tell me to fuck off."

Frank weaved in his seat a little. "I don't need a ride home."

"And how exactly you gonna make that whole twenty miles to your house then?"

"I've done it before."

"Yeah, but I'm here now, so let's go, all right? It's fuckin' freezing out here."

Frank didn't say anything for a minute. Then: "So how was Jeff's?"

"Crazy. Kinda stupid. They were tearing the place into tiny pieces when I left. Jeff and half the party's probably in custody right now. Or hiding in the woods behind his house waiting for the cops to leave."

He smiled. "So either way right now I'd be freezing my nuts off at this moment."

I laughed. "Pretty much."

Frank clammed up again, staring off into the distance. He looked pissed off, in a tired kind of way. I couldn't tell at who, though, himself or Sand. He was not at all in a good way.

"Look," I said. "I'm goin' over to Jill's, she's having a few with Bill and Tom and some others. You wanna come?"

Frank shook his head. "I don't need to hear it from them tonight."

"Well, you're gonna hear it sooner or later," I said. "Best to get the shit over with."

He shook his head again. "I just wanna go home."

I stood up. "Okay. But let's go now all right, before my damn fingers fall off."

"I gotta take a piss." Frank said.

I smiled. "And how long have you been holding that in?"

Frank just glared at me. "I'll be back in a minute." He walked off down the sidewalk around the corner.

As I stood there waiting, I took out a cigarette and lit it. The cold didn't bug me so much now that my ass was separated from that cold bench, so I stepped in place a little and puffed away waiting. I suppose I could've waited in the car, but I didn't think of it.

And that's when she came walking up to the stop.

She was about my height, with long dark hair, straight and shiny. She had olive skin that was smooth and nice. Her heels clicked on the hard concrete as she walked up to the stop. She had on a long dark coat that went to her ankles and flowed just a little as she came up. She looked refined to me. Nice.

She barely looked at me at all when she approached, coming to stand a good fifteen feet or so away. All she did was size me up and then look away. She glanced at her watch briefly, and out into the parking lot for signs of life. I could see her glance at me sideways occasionally to check my location as she stood there.

She started to tap out some kind of song with her left foot on the sidewalk, shoving her hands in her pockets. I watched that foot for a while, seeing if I could figure out the song. But then she stopped, and started to walk in a circle, rolling her eyes upwards in impatience.

I could smell just the slightest amount of a nice fragrance on her, a sweet lilac, flowery perfume of some kind or other. It was nice, pleasant, sophisticated. And expensive, I thought.

"Cock-a-roach," I said loud enough for her to hear.

The woman's head turned to look at me, her eyebrow already raised. I could see her loose and crooked buckteeth through her half opened mouth and the mole she had above her cheek clearly over the distance.

"Esscuse me?" she said in a real thick accent.

I didn't say anything for a long moment, just staring, seeing the long fake fur collar that stuck out to her ears on that jacket that had a little wear and tear around the shoulders. I could see the strut coming into her eyes as she waited for me to say something again, the way her jaw tightened and her arms flexed as she stood there. She thought I was some kind of whack job and she was gettin' ready to either clock me or run if she had to.

I backed away a few steps putting my hands up, trying to smile as pleasantly as I could. "Nothing," I said. "I'm sorry."

A black four door pulled up to her at that moment and stopped. With a quick glance back at me, she walked over to the passenger door and got in. She exchanged a few words with the big guy behind the wheel, turning her head towards me as she did. The big guy glared, his little beady eyes dark as night, but he didn't get out, thank fuckin' God. I could see her staring at me through the window as the car drove away.

After they left I was by myself again, standing there by the deserted bus stop in the deserted mall. Nobody'd seen it, except for the woman and the big guy, and they weren't people I knew, so that didn't count. I started to laugh looking upwards. Cock-a-roach. Jesus. Jesus H. Christ.

Frank came back from around the corner again. "What're you laughing at?"

"Nothin'," I said. "Nothin' at all. Come on, let's go to Jill's."

Frank shook his head again. "I told you I don't want to."

"Come on Frank, I'll give you a few beers."

"I'm not puttin' up with their shit tonight."

"They won't say a word."

"Why not?"

I looked right at him. "I won't let them."

We walked back to my car and drove off to Jill's. And they didn't give him shit all night because I told them not to.

5 comments:

  1. A strung out friendship between two reluctant lads - one dealing in improbable dreams. Tender and raw. Many thanks,
    Ceinwen

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  2. Of course, it's Frank's fantasy - or is it? The multiple possibilities stray the reader's mind in the direction of of Arthur Snitzler's novella Traumnovelle - later to be reproduced and added to by Kubrick as Eyes Wide Shut. The posturing, the unformed minds, the pushing, the multi-entendres password, and the variable pace all work to make this a really uneasy piece.
    B r o o k e

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  3. George T. Philibin

    It held my interest from beginning to end. High school kids doing what high school kids are expected to do today—party, party and more partying.

    The use of profanity was integrated into the story when needed, and not added as an embellishment. Too many authors interject profanity for the sake of profanity itself when it’s not needed. This story show how the correct use of it works.

    The story reminded me of my high school years back in the sixties. One of the guys in school always bragged about the really rich kid he knew who owned a corvette or Jaguar and his dad had a plane. And he was going to be invited to fly down to the Bahamas for a weekend! That never happened. The story also reminded me of American Graffiti in which the girl in the corvette teased the hell out of Richard Dreyfuss.

    Good dialogue that was believable and worked. The characters in this story came alive and I could imagine them as I read. Nice use of sensory input, for example: The cold didn’t bug me so much now that my ass was separated from the cold bench, so I stepped in place a little and puffed away waiting.The more I think about it the more this story reminds my of American Graffiti.
    A captivating story centered around high school kids, and their wishes and wants. I think the author did a good job with this one!

    Very nice work!

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  4. This was definitely a very interesting read, loved your style of writing. You have potrayed the high school behaviour of the boys very well. Looking forward to reading more posts from you soon.

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