This is a continuation of a story that began at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/teaser-to-a-novel/
Part two can be found at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/novels-teaser-part-2/
It is indicative of how brutal this winter has been that I planned to have the next installment of this tale ready In a week or so, after I posted the last episode on January 13. It is now nearly March. However the constant interruptions have been much like the time the story is attempting to describe, so perhaps the weather is helping set the mood.
SYNOPSIS: The character “Nig” is trying to write to his friend “Kaff” in South Africa about a wild first 24 hours he spent, upon first arriving back in the United States, but his tale is constantly interrupted by ongoing life. Among other things he is torn between the desires of his close friend Durf, who likes the wild life, and his girlfriend Eve, who prefers life more tamed.
Stuff is happening but I want to finish the first story before starting a second.
So where was I. O yeah. Eve.
Arrrrgh! This will have to wait. My sister Millie is being a total jerk. She’s slamming the vacuum around and shooting me these looks of complete outrage. I don’t even know what she’s doing here so early. And why vacuuming? It’s obvious she’s picking a fight about something, but I don’t want to talk to her. All I want is some peace and quiet, and to think about my first twenty-four hours back in the States. But now the damn doorbell is ringing. God! Is there no mercy?
Half hour later
Yes! There is mercy! What a hoot!
The person at the door was Duke, one of the Lesaumelle Brothers. I’ll have to explain the Lesaumelle brothers at some point, but for now I’ll just say Duke’s the second oldest, and has always had this thing for Millie, who absolutely can’t stand him.
I’m not sure why, cos he’s a Sir Francis Drake sort of fellow, or Sir Walter Scott, or whoever it was who spread his cloak in the puddle for the lady to walk on. You couldn’t ask for a more courteous dude. I’ve seen him actually bow, before opening a door for my sister, but it just makes Millie shudder. If he opens the door she’d rather climb out the window. Her gagging has something to do with a date they went on back in high school. During the date she realized he’d darkened his mustache with a pencil. In Millie’s book, that makes Duke a total phony, cos Millie won’t darken her eyebrows or wear lipstick. She won’t even shave her legs. Her pubes tuft into her crotch when she wears a bikini bottom, which sort of makes my skin crawl, but it’s a political thing with Millie: She sort of goes out of her way to be ugly. Meanwhile Duke never has a hair out of place, and has the nicest clothes, and first thing in the morning he’s so drenched in after-shave and cologne it makes your eyes water. But the more he grooms the more she shudders. She can’t get over the complete loathing she feels, and Duke only makes it worse by being more and more elegant and courteous. It doesn’t even seem to matter to him that she’s already got a boyfriend.
So I couldn’t have asked for a better person to show up and get Millie off my back. I’m not sure why he dropped by. Judging from his face, he either wanted to sell me some pot, or to ask me if I knew where he could buy some pot. But soon as he saw Millie, over my shoulder, it was sort of like I ceased to be. His face changed, and got all dreamy, and he sort of pushed by me like I wasn’t there.
Man O man was it ever funny to watch. It was sort of like mime, cos the vacuum made it too loud to hear what they said to each other.
Millie was trying to slam the vacuum about, but couldn’t, because Duke was so damn polite he was hoisting chairs and coffee tables and even armchairs, to make it easier for her to vacuum. Finally Millie just shut the vacuum off and stomped off, but Duke is so light on his feet that he sprang ahead to open the front door for her as she stormed out. Then he went bounding ahead and opened the door of the Fossil’s sedan, so Millie could swing in, shooting him a savage glare before slamming the door. As she went screeching off he did this little bow towards her dust. Then he went wandering homewards, looking up at the treetops thoughtfully. I reckon he‘d forgotten me completely.
I can‘t tell you how funny it was. My writing stinks. I don‘t even dare think about it, because my guts already hurt from laughing too much. But I tell you, Millie may be pretty good looking, but she sure can get ugly when Duke is kind. I could hardly recognize her face.
I‘m not sure why that‘s so funny. Which reminds me. Eve is beautiful, but may look pretty ugly if I‘m late again the day she leaves for camp. So I‘m off.
I wasn’t late, even though I had to walk the whole two and a half miles. Hitchhiking stinks in Weston, unless you can catch all the Dads leaving for work. Only three cars passed me the whole way. It was still a bit dewy and cool when I started but muggy by the time I got there, and I didn’t like being all sweaty when I saw Eve.
I was hoping to get Eve alone for a bit, and kiss her. You‘d think that, after a year apart, we’d at least kiss. I especially wanted to kiss because now we‘re going to be apart all over again. But it didn‘t work out. Eve had to pack and didn’t have time for a walk, and I got the feeling she wasn’t over me being so late yesterday. Of course she didn’t say so, but she was just sort of sullen. So all I did was sit around and talk with Eve‘s mother, and then I lugged Eve’s suitcase down from her room and out to her Dad‘s orange sports car, and then I waved good-bye. Then I had to walk the two and a half miles back here, carrying a gallon of milk I got at the store. By the time I got here my arm felt like it was coming out at the socket.
I’m in a pretty crappy mood. It seems pretty ironic there’s an ocean between Eve and me again. Someone’s playing a joke on me.
Anyway I wanted to be alone so I could write, and now I got what I wanted. There’s not even a clock ticking in this house. I can’t stand it. You can hear the dust fall. I’m going out on the patio, where at least there are birds.
Now I’m on the patio, but still feel crappy. I need a coffee.
Now I have a coffee, but it’s no good. I don’t know how I’m suppose to describe how good it felt to see Eve after a year, when I don’t feel good because I’ve just said good-bye to her.
Hell, I’ll just fake it.
It was really great to see Eve again after so much time, especially as she intercepted me on the way to her door and led me away and didn’t want to share me with her family. I really liked it that she was selfish.
Weston has a really huge town common with horse chestnuts all around the edge, and we walked around it in the shade, trying to find things to talk about, but mostly silent. I felt like I was in a dream. You know how I used to moon over the picture of Eve on the wall of our study in Dunrobin, month after month, dreaming and dreaming and dreaming. But now I wasn’t dreaming, yet it was more like a dream than a dream.
Durf can never see what I see in Eve, cos she hardly talks. I think she’s quiet cos her mother talks so much that Eve grew up the opposite. Of course Durf also always complains other women talk too much. I think what really bugs him is that I stick with Eve rather than practicing the free love he’s so all fired up about, but he is right about her not talking much.
I don’t mind, cos she says a lot with her body language. I can tell if she doesn’t approve because she tenses up, and can tell if she approves because she relaxes. I sometimes talk non-stop like a jabbering idiot, bouncing all sorts of ideas around, and she basically says nothing.
Eve has never liked my burnout Hippie friends, and in a way I understand why she worries. In February 1969 I had trouble losing enough weight for the 158 pound weight class on the wrestling team. Right after the regional’s were over, and I didn’t have to “make weight,” I went on a eating binge and weighed over 165 in only a week, but then my senior year turned into one big, never-ending party. I had a blast, but at the end of the summer I remember stepping on the bathroom scale after a shower and I weighed 138. I looked in the mirror and was scared, for my skin was all white and dry like paper and I looked like I was thirty and not seventeen. It was all the damn speed I took, I’m pretty sure. That was why I had that picture of myself looking like death, next to the picture of Eve looking beautiful, in my study at Dunrobin: To remind me I’d better shape up. And I did shape up, and weigh 180 now and it’s all muscle. But looking good seems pointless unless it’s for some good cause, so I talked with Eve a little about what I wanted to do now that I am back in the States.
I don’t really want to get married because my parents showed me marriage was hell. I want to have a commune, and only have Eve stay with me if she wants to. I don’t want her in chains. But when I said this idea, I could see her tense up. I’m not sure whether it is because she doesn’t want to stay with me, or whether it’s because she thinks marriage is a good thing because her folk always work out their problems after each of their fights. That’s one bad thing about Eve not talking; I’m not always sure what she disapproves of. If I ask her she usually waffles and doesn’t answer. So I just keep talking and she keeps tensing and un-tensing.
I also talked about how I didn’t want to get a job and wanted to write. She tensed up at that because it doesn’t seem I can make any money, so I talked about people who made millions writing. (She doesn’t have to say there is no money in poetry; I’ve heard it so much from so many people I just hear it in my head and then say the answers, talking about poet-song-writers like Art Garfunkle and Rod McCuin and so on.)
Durf says I shouldn’t tell her everything, but I’d rather be honest, so I confessed about tripping the night before. She got tense about that, but relaxed when I said it was a bit of a drag and I didn’t like some things at Durf’s. I told her about Katy with the hangdog expression, for example, and said I didn’t want stuff like that at my commune. But mostly we just walked, hardly talking at all. I was pretty tired, and just said Weston seemed very green after Boston and airports, and that she looked very beautiful. She liked that, and said she was scared that I wouldn’t like her now that her teeth are in braces. She also said a few little things about her life, such as taking tennis lessons and a driver’s education course and looking forward to having her license. She may go to art school after she graduates this year. Little things.
When we got back towards her house her brother Iz was just coming out. He was glad to see me, and drove us over here. We stopped downtown so I could get a submarine sandwich and some granola and milk and orange juice. I drank a lot of orange juice, because it cleans out your system after LSD, and we just sat out on the back patio where I’m sitting now, talking a little about the past year. After a while Iz said I looked pretty tired, and I said it might be afternoon here but it was night in England. I was hoping he would go and Eve would stay, but she’s a good girl and he’s a bit of a chaperone, and they both left. I’d told them I was going to take a nap, and maybe talk with them in the evening.
I didn’t take a nap right away, and instead got my notebook and just sat here in the afternoon sun, trying to think of a poem about how I was feeling. It was so much like a year ago, but so different. I was sitting at the same patio table, on the same patio, and, even if the birds and cicadas were a new generation, they sounded the same. Down by the pond the evening shadows were collecting and the night chorus was starting: The big frogs were low cellos and the little ones went “plonk” like breaking guitar strings, just like a year ago. However I felt so different somehow. Durf and Eve were still pulling me two ways, Durf wanting me to party and Eve wanting me to be good, but the me in the middle was changed.
I couldn’t find any words. It bugged me because I wanted so badly at Dunrobin to get away from all the studying and just have time to write, and now I had time but my brains were blank. Or not so much blank as just listening, listening, listening…and then I heard a car door slam.
I went through the house to see who the heck was in the driveway, and saw Durf getting out of his Dad’s Cadillac with a bunch of my old buddies. Durf shouted “Party time!” just like it was last summer. (Last summer we’d figure out whose parent was out, and that was where we’d have the party. Some nights there’d be three or four parties, at houses where I hardly knew what town I was in, which is why I lost so much weight.)
I was a little annoyed at Durf for having a party at my place without telling me, but Durf was always doing that, last summer. One time he had a party here the day after I left to hitchhike up to Canada, which was a fiasco because all these people showed up and only Mother was home. Everyone was real polite with Mother and didn’t stay too long, once Mother came walking up from her bedroom and found everyone smoking dope in her living room, but Durf made it sound like I’d scheduled the whole thing, (and also like he didn’t smoke dope.) Mother wasn’t too happy with me, and I got an earful when I got back from Canada. (If I did schedule that party, I sure didn’t remember it.) I’m pretty sure it was just Durf being Durf, and now it was a year later and he was still at it, even though I’d made it pretty clear I was all jet-lagged and needed sleep.
Even if I was peeved at Durf I sure was glad to see the other guys. There was Bugsy and Stephan and Elliot, who are brainy fellows you can really rap with. Last year they were underclassmen but now it’s their turn to have a Senior Summer. I invited them in, thinking we could sit down for a good talk, but we had hardly lit the pipe when the doorbell rang it was the Lesaumelle Brothers: Zeck; Duke; Spook; and Zooks, from up the street. They are four great guys who have lived in town as long as I have, and when I first got to Dunrobin and didn’t know anyone and was so homesick, they were four fellows I missed a ton. I had dreams about them. Just seeing them them troop in, a quartet that just was made to go together, sort of like the Marx Brothers in a movie, made me laugh even as my eyes stung with tears. Yet even before they sat down the doorbell rang again. This time it was Zapper and Needles Kirk from down the street, a couple of super-scientific brothers who are really great at wiring stereos and making fireworks and bombs and crystal meth and stuff like that. I could see that Fred had called around.
It would have been OK if it stopped there, but the doorbell rang again and it was the Lodge brothers: Ham ‘n‘ Franks. I sort of thought, “Who the hell invited them?” Those two are always at the right anti-war rally, wearing the right L.L.Beane backpacks and boots, and I never like how they talk about politics all the time, (though Franks isn’t so bad if you can ever get him away from Ham.) Together they are always seeing conspiracy, and if you dare disagree with them they say you work for the CIA, which is a good way to wreck a party. And, after them, the people coming in through the door started being the Wrenchheads.
I’d better explain the Wrenchheads.
Wrenchheads are the sort of guys who like to get greasy and to bloody their knuckles working under cars. They never cared about school much, and it seemed like they were shaving when they were twelve, and working real jobs and joy-riding and drinking beer when they were thirteen, which was when they started to stand out as being different from my other classmates. Meanwhile I was the youngest kid in my class, and when you’re twelve and everyone else is thirteen you can‘t help but be the runt, and Wrenchheads used to shove me about pretty good and call me a twerp and a pain, so I hated them and also hated anything to do with working on cars. But by my senior year I’d grown bigger than them and also they discovered marijuana, and knew I had the best, and all of a sudden they were over at my house and talking to me like I was a human, and like they were humans too. That was a revelation to me: Even Wrenchheads are brothers. That was the feeling of 1969, but by the time I was getting ready to leave for Dunrobin in 1970 it was wearing a bit thin. They liked to guzzle beer, and I wasn’t into that. I didn’t drink at all, but those guys could drink a beer the way I eat a piece of popcorn.
Now they came barging in, and each had a twelve-pack, and they were really pounding them down. Some had already chugged two or three just driving home from work. And the doorbell kept ringing and there was more and more of them, including some I didn’t even know. A couple fellows briefly said hi to me, but most were more glad to see each other, and sort of shouted hellos across the room to other Wrenchheads, without hardly paying attention to me, as I started trying to keep them from wrecking the joint.
It was weird, cos somehow I felt like I had to be polite and be a good host, even though I hadn’t invited them. I was sort of trying to gently tell them not to put feet on the furniture, and stuff like that, and not having much luck. They were all grimy and sweaty from hard work in July, and in no mood to do anything but make themselves at home. As I looked around I noticed not a single girl had shown up, so there was no reason for those guys to behave.
Another thing I noticed was that their beer cans were all sweating drops of water in the heat and humidity, and it was dripping down on the veneer of Mother’s expensive furniture, which is something that drives her nuts. She has masses of these little disks called “coasters” she puts under drinks at her cocktail parties, so I started hustling about sticking the little discs under the beer cans, but it was rough, cos they were opening new cans so fast. They also were lighting joints left and right, so I started hustling about handing out ashtrays.
Somehow I started feeling really dumb, like I was a prissy sissy, running about fussing about fabric and veneer, and practically hysterical when a beer can tipped over. But I couldn’t help myself. More and more of these guys were coming in through the door, and sprawling all over the place, and just doing stuff I’d never dream of doing in the Fossil’s living room. For example, one couch was pretty much full, so three guys sat up on the back of it, with their feet down on the cushions. They were wearing these big grimy work boots, and I just knew you can’t put that kind of boot on cushions in a fat cat’s expensive living room. So I knew I had to say something, even if it made me look like a prissy sissy.
Just then I noticed Curtis come in. For some reason I thought he’d be the perfect Wrenchhead to tell the other Wrenchheads they had to be a bit more fussy, cos he has never really seemed like a Wrenchhead to me. I’ve known him since first grade, and he’s always been shy and delicate and sensitive and polite and got good grades yet let me copy his homework when I hadn’t done mine. Even when I was a runt he didn’t shove me around. He just doesn’t seem like the sort who can down six beers in an hour and then drive through the center of Weston at sixty, though the speed limit is twenty-five. He actually does stuff like that, but you get the feeling he isn’t really a Wrenchhead, he is just a visiting anthropologist, studying a tribe that interests him. So I actually asked him, back in 1969, how the heck he came to hang out with that bunch, and we had some really neat talks. It turned out his Dad only got rich enough to live in Weston by working his ass off, and he put Curtis under big pressure to work just as hard, and Curtis got tired of being sneered at for every little laziness, and just found a gang that let him be more relaxed and lazy, (though I didn’t see what’s so relaxed about zooming through Weston Center at sixty.)
Having these neat talks back in 1969 let me feel we had a sort of understanding, so I headed towards Curtis feeling I’d found a friend who could help me, but he saw me coming and looked really scared, for some reason. He’s always been shy, but now he was tilting his head back so you could see the whites over his irises. He was stepping backwards. It’s not what you expect, when you haven’t seen a fellow in a year, and it stopped me in my tracks. I felt like something had happened the year I was away, and wanted to ask Curtis what it was, but what can you say? All could say is, “How’s it going?“ Instead of answering me he just greeted someone across the room and brushed by.
When I turned to let my eyes follow him I could see things were getting out of hand. The Fossil’s living room is pretty huge, with a ceiling two stories tall and two towering paintings over a couple of fireplaces that face each other across the wall-to-wall carpet, but it seemed like it was getting crowded, and suddenly I saw a jet of foam from a shaken beer go arching up, and come down on a bunch of guys who thought it was a damn fine joke. The Fossil’s stereo abruptly turned on blaring, and I heard the needle scratching over a 1930’s record. That’s the Fossil’s music, and no one should have had those records out, let alone be scratching them. Then I saw Duke Lesaumelle telling a story with his typical grandiose sweeping gestures, and he flung out a hand and accidentally gave a lampshade a vicious karate chop, and one of my mother’s lamps went to the floor. The chopped lamp got everyone hooting laughter, and the guys sitting in the couch lurched back in their laughter, and, with three guys sitting up on the back of the couch, it was enough to tip the entire couch over backwards with a tremendous crash.
I knew right then things were out of control. Maybe I can understand someone accidentally tipping over a chair, but tipping over a couch? However it was just beginning.
I cannot tell you how quickly it happened. One moment I was quietly sitting on the back patio minding my own business, and the next the Fossil’s house was getting trashed.
I was really pissed off at Durf for inviting everyone, and he was glowering at me for being a party-poop, but glowered in a guilty way, as if even he knew things were getting out of hand. And if things weren’t bad enough, I could see Bugsy holding up the phone and yelling at me. I couldn’t make out his words, over all the noise, and then I lip-read, “Eve.“
All I could think was, “O Shit. I told Eve I was going to take a nap. This is going to be damn hard to explain.” But even as I thought this I looked to the front door, and saw someone I didn’t know was opening it, and letting in these three, huge, fat bikers in black leather, with three ridiculous women in tow.
The group looked so extreme they wouldn’t pass the cutting room floor of a grade B Hollywood movie. I mean, the women had these fishnet stockings and spike heels and black leather shorts and black leather bra-tops. They had huge black eyelashes like jungle spiders. I started laughing, thinking it just had to be a practical joke, but then one of the guys turned to say something to one of the girls, and I read “Hell’s Angels,” across the back of his jacket.
I started to panic, yet still knew the time had come to draw the line. So I went marching to the three, huge, fat dudes to tell them it was my party and they weren’t invited. They had beards and looked mean and weighed well over two hundred each, and the closer I got the bigger they looked and the smaller I felt. I could feel my throat squeezing, and knew that when I spoke my voice wouldn’t be low and manly. It would constrict and be shrill, like a hysterical weenie, but I’d had enough. Hell’s Angels or not, I had to poop the party.
Just as I got to the three, big, blubbery bastards, I got squeezed from either side. Curtis pushed by to my left and started shaking the three mobster’s hands like they were long lost friends, as Bugsy intruded from the right with the telephone receiver stretched out so far the cord’s coils were a tight line. He handed the receiver to me, and helpfully said, “It’s Eve.” In a daze I lifted it and said, “Hello?” and my ear heard her voice say, accusingly, “I thought you were going to take a nap.” What could I say? Nothing. All I could do is hear my mind wailing, “O God! Get me out of this!”
Just then I noticed Curtis looking curiously up at the top of the inner door-frame. He said, “What does this little button do?” I yelped, “Don’t!” It gave Eve a start, at the other end of the phone, but it was too late. Curt pushed the panic button my mother had installed, just in case my Dad ever showed up at the Fossil’s. Suddenly there was this deafening, hooting alarm, and I turned to Curtis and bellowed, “You idiot! You just called the police!”
You’d be amazed at how quickly that party was over. There was a stampede out the door, lots of slamming car-doors and gunning engines and squealing tires, a brief traffic jam of motorcycles and souped-up cars down by the mail box, and then the scene was suddenly deserted. The only way I knew it had really happened was that horrible, hooting alarm, blaring and blaring and blaring. I had to go into the cellar and figure out how to shut it off. Once it was finally quiet I called the police, but they said they had to send a guy out anyway. Then I called Eve, and got her mother, who was a bit freaked out. Apparently if that panic button gets pushed while you are on the phone, the call gets interrupted by a recorded voice, which says an intruder has broken into the residence and the police should be alerted. Because the last thing Eve had heard was me screaming, “Don’t!“ her Mom had called the police.
I calmed Eve’s Mom down, but in the process she figured out my parents were still over in England. So that blew my chance to get Eve over here un-chaperoned, in a big way. Eve’s Mom seemed real curious and wanted to keep talking, but I excused myself by telling her I had to talk to the police, and hung up. I never did get to talk to Eve.
One thing about this sort of situation is that you find out who your real friends are. The only real friends, who didn’t bail on me when the alarm went off, were Durf, Stephan, Bugsy, and Elliot. As I walked back into the living room they were waving towels and magazines, trying to blow all the marijuana smoke out the back door of the living room. Out front a police car was pulling in. I looked at my loyal pals, and decided they looked pretty guilty and shifty, with hair down to their shoulders, so I told them to stay out of sight, and walked out to speak with the police.
The next exciting episode of my life will have to wait, because I’ve been writing all afternoon and evening and now it’s dark and the mosquitoes are out and I’m beat.
I’m not sure why I have to write this all down. I’m only up to hour 22, in this tale of my first 24 hours back in the States, and one thing is pretty obvious: If it takes me days to describe my first hours, it’ll take me months to describe my first week. It sort of feels like it’ll take forty years to figure out what happened to everyone the year I was gone. But right now I’m thinking, “why bother?”
I ‘m up early and full of coffee and in the mood to just finish this damn story. I can only write so long before I get restless and lonely and want to head out, but I got your note of the 14th so I need to write you a quick note back before I finish this letter. You’re damn lucky I’ve got one of those prepaid airmail envelopes cos I’m getting so broke I can’t afford airmail.
There. That’s done. You’ll get that letter before this one, even though this one started before that one. So……where was I? O yeah, the police car pulls into the driveway.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
Continued at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/novels-teaser-part-4/