This is a continuation of a story that began at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/teaser-to-a-novel/
Part 2 can be found at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/novels-teaser-part-2/
Part 3 can be found at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/novels-teaser-part-3/
Part 4 can be found at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/novels-teaser-part-4/
I had fun writing this part, as it contains the oxymoron of a vegetarian barbecue, and also a youth aged 18 viewing youth aged 23-26 as “mature”.
SYNOPSIS: The character “Nig” has completed a enormously long letter to his friend “Kaff” in South Africa, describing the America he has returned to after spending a year away. (The two teens have devised a shorthand that allows them to write with the frenetic speed of their thoughts.) Because the letter has consumed so much time, “Nig” has been unable to keep a diary, so he wants to make a copy of the letter before he sends it. On his way to the copier at the library, he drops off his elder siblings friends at a barbecue, and then stays for a while because he’s hungry and hopes to mooch a burger or hot dog. This then becomes a story, added as a post script to his letter.
July 19, 1971
I’m up early this morning, with the feeling I want to get to work, writing-wise. I had the same feeling yesterday evening. Even as I finished writing to you I wanted to get down to business with real writing, but also had a feeling like I didn’t want to face the dark alone, especially after how horrible the dark was to me the night before.
Anyway, I didn’t get to work last night. Halsey and Millie’s friends needed a ride over to some cookout over past North Avenue on Lexington Street, so I threw on a shirt and sneakers and drove them. I figured I’d drop them off there, and then stop in at the Library and make a copy of this letter on the Library’s Xerox machine. I haven’t kept a diary since I got back from Scotland, so I want to just stuff a copy of this letter into that notebook before I mail this to you, so I’ll have some sort of record, even though I also was feeling cheap and thinking I can’t really afford twenty-five cents a copy-page.
Once I got over to the cookout I hung around, cos I was hungry. I was thinking a cookout would mean hot-dogs and burgers, and I haven’t had much meat lately. Also they were passing a pot pipe, and I had the hankering to get high.
I didn’t. Instead I got stoned. There’s a difference.
I just felt really tired, and like my eyeballs were hanging out. Everything seemed sort of heavy and fleshy. The food was all this Hippy stuff: Salads full of sprouted seeds of various sorts, sort of like the cook had let the seeds go bad but was using them anyway. The burgers were all made of all these mushed up vegetables, all toasted on a grill without a lick of grease, so it was all like dry potatoes without butter or sour cream. If it weren’t for the cheeses I would have starved, but, even though I was hungry, eating just grossed me out. Also the conversation was all this girly stuff about vitamins and dieting, and talking about stomachs and intestines just isn’t all that inspiring to me. But worst of all was that I figured out why I was actually there: It was because I remembered Miss Brunette looked damn fine when skinny dipping, and I wanted a closer look. While driving her to the cook-out I’d noticed she didn’t seem interested in Wince, and in fact seemed to want to get away from him, and maybe even closer to me. Meanwhile he was starting to look like he remembered what a headache was. And it was my fault.
The revelation hit me just as the pot hit. I noticed I was edging closer to her, and I heard my mind thinking, really loudly, that Eve was away at camp and would never know. Before that I had no idea what I was hanging around for, especially cos the food was so bad and the library would be closing, but when truth hit me it hit like a ton of bricks, and I felt unfaithful to Eve and disgusted with myself. And that sort of feeling isn’t high. It is stoned.
I just wheeled and walked away from Miss Brunette towards the Fossil’s sedan, but got distracted by a really neat talk Halsey was having by the parked cars with a couple of other guys. They were talking about some sort of recently discovered theory which says a star can have so much gravity it pulls its own light back. The star’s there, but you can’t see it’s there.
I blurted out that there are other situations where the light is there but you can’t see it is there, and that some people pull their own light back, only rather than due to gravity it is due to them being too grave. I thought that was wicked witty, switching the word “grave” for “gravity,” and my input seemed pretty profound to me, but I could see the older guys felt like I was way off the topic. Halsey gave me a certain glance, so I shut up and let them go back to astronomy.
Wince suddenly was there; looking like his headache was all the way back. He also was changing the topic away from astronomy, but he didn’t seem to notice the glances he was getting. He kept gazing over at Miss Brunette, and kept trying to turn the conversation over to Wrenchhead talk about Halsey’s motorcycle, which seemed to annoy Halsey no end, especially as Wince pestered Halsey over and over to let him ride the BMW. Halsey disdained him, however Wince was so persistent the other guys eventually got distracted from astronomy to motorcycles, and Halsey finally gave in and talked about restoring his old bike.
I didn’t need to hear the tale, cos I could remember it. It happened just after Halsey got out of the army, back before I went to Scotland. The Fossil nearly lost it, cos for a while he couldn’t park his own car in his own garage, cos Halsey didn’t work like a Wrenchhead. All the parts of his bike were scattered over the floor of the garage on flat pieces of paper with tidy handwriting inked on them, and many parts had little tags taped to them as well, with even more precise handwriting. They were all clean as could be, washed and wiped with oil, which used up all Mother’s supply of paper towels, (and Mother buys in bulk and usually has a six month supply.)
For a while it looked like the Fossil would never get his garage back. Halsey kept looking puzzled about stuff, and needed to go think about some problem, and that involved him going upstairs and playing the piano for three or four hours, and when he came up with the solution it usually involved walking back down to the garage, lifting some small part from a piece of paper, and reducing it to even smaller parts, which involved even more tags and more pieces of paper, and six more rolls of paper towels.
It had been a while since Halsey had lived at home, and I liked watching him think. I thought the situation was pretty neat, partly because his piano music was really good, and partly because I sort of liked seeing the Fossil and my mother get all flustered. It’s funny to see stuffy people get so bent out of shape about someone who is so kind and mild-mannered. However what was neatest was the ending. One night Halsey got real ferocious on the piano, pounding out all this amazing stuff, and then, just as I was going to bed, he went marching down to the garage, and the next morning the 1952 BMW motorcycle was all put together and running. It was completely amazing, considering it was a rusty pile of crap that hadn’t run for years, when he first brought it home.
It is a really neat bike. Millie and her boyfriend have Honda’s, which hum like very powerful and deranged sewing machines, “Nyaaaah!” My other brother Hurley has a Triumph, which is harsher and goes “Gnaaah!” like the engine wants to self-destruct. But that old BMW is totally different. It doesn’t even have a chain, and has a drive shaft instead, and you can hardly hear it, as it makes a real low “Pum-pum-pum.”
Anyway, since I already knew the story, I almost left, but decided I wanted to hear Halsey’s version of the restoration. It was interesting, because Halsey didn’t mention the Fossil or my mother. I reckon he honestly was oblivious of them being about ready to hire a lawyer to get their garage back. Instead he talked with respect and awe about German engineering, and how parts stayed sound and solid and un-pitted, even when crusted with rusty black carbon.
Halsey was getting into some interesting talk about the molecular structure of German steel, but Wince kept nagging on and on for a chance to ride the bike. Halsey looked more and more annoyed, but Ruth was holding up a plate of food, with a spoonful poised to go into Halsey’s mouth like a Jewish mother would do, so Halsey finally conceded to allowing Wince to take his bike out for a spin, just so he could eat in peace.
I’m pretty sure Wince wanted to impress Miss Brunette, cos he looked her way as he headed off down Lexington Street towards Waltham. His attempt at impressing her was useless, cos she was shifting her shoulders, persuading some other guy into giving her a ride home, and she was gone before Wince was back. (I noticed exactly when Miss Brunette left because I was just as aware of that girl as Wince was.) I was disappointed she was leaving, and then was disgusted with myself for being disappointed, remembering Eve, but I couldn’t really get into the disgust, because I could hear Wince showing off, as the noise of the BMW got fainter and fainter, further and further away down Lexington Street. Halsey could also hear, and I could see a faint look of concern troubling his face, and the fork Ruth held paused on the way to his mouth, cos his mouth forgot to open, and pressed to a thin, tense line.
It’s hard to make Halsey’s BMW do anything but go “Pum-pum-pum,” but Wince was so determined to impress Miss Brunette that he got it screaming before he bothered shift to second gear. Halsey winced a bit, and ate the bean sprouts. The BMW was screaming again, a bit more faintly, before Wince shifted to third gear, and again Halsey cringed, opening his mouth for the Alfalfa sprouts. The bike, getting more and more faint, was screaming again, by the time Wince shifted into fourth gear. This time Halsey didn’t wince. I wouldn’t say he glared, but he stopped chewing his soybean and sweet potato burger, and pouted in a very seriously manner into the distance.
The distant bike began to wind up in forth gear, and then the sound abruptly ceased. It sounded very much like Wince had hit a tree. I was taken aback, but Halsey’s face was so funny I couldn’t help but laugh. There is no way I can describe it.
Anyway, as I laughed Miss Brunette was brushing by as she left, and when she saw me laugh she shot me a smile, and my stomach flipped like a pancake. Then I felt unfaithful to Eve, and had to go through my little self-disgust trip, which I hope explains why I didn’t rush off to see if Wince was all right. In fact Miss Brunette’s smile was so nice that I think it would have driven Wince’s plight right out of my mind. (Maybe it’s true pot makes you forgetful.) But then I saw Halsey had no amnesia, even with his girl on his arm.
Halsey isn’t the sort of fellow who ordinarily makes a fuss. If you drove over his toe with your car he’d wait until you were out of sight before he began hopping around cursing. But I could see he was about as agitated as he ever gets. He didn’t want to poop the party, but he was chewing real fast. Then he began to pace about.
This made a real problem for me. I knew I should go tell him I’d drive the Fossil’s sedan down Lexington Street to see what happened to Wince. But I can‘t be blunt like that with Halsey. If I say there‘s a problem I‘m making a fuss, and Halsey hates a fuss. I wind up feeling I’m only making a fuss cos I’m younger and immature. So I just stood there sort of frozen, waiting for him to ask me.
Just then my vision got real keen, and, way far away, on a stage about as big as my thumbnail, I could see Miss Brunette acting very offended by the guy who had offered to give her a ride home. They were on either side of his car, but she was standing straight and indignant, and giving him both barrels, and he was making placating calm-down motions with his hands at the same level as both barrels, from across the bonnet of the car. Then she swung away and started walking back towards me. She was still far away and tiny, but already I was scared she‘d ask me for the ride home, and this would make things wicked complicated, cos I‘d need to stay to wait for Halsey to decide that we‘d better go look for Wince, and meanwhile I was worried cos it was getting late and I needed to get to the library before it closed. It seemed really weird that I could go so quickly from not wanting Miss Brunette to go to not wanting her to come back, and it made being stoned feel like I was wearing a lead helmet.
I looked back at Halsey, and saw Ruth had figured out he was upset, and was holding his hand and was patting the back of it. Halsey looked sort of annoyed, cos he didn’t want any fuss, and hadn’t gotten around to making one, yet here she was, fussing. He was still sort of walking to and fro even while he had to stand still, cos she held his hand, and then he finally stood still, with one toe tapping really fast.
I could see all the problems. Marijuana is good at that, but it is really bad at solving any of them, and I was wishing I wasn’t stoned. I heard my own voice sort of moan, “Oh God,” and looked back at Miss Brunette.
She was still far away, looking back at the guy who had offered her a ride, and he was making all these apologetic, ingratiating gestures with his hands, and she was gesturing all sorts of stern stuff with her boobs. He nodded, and I was wicked glad to see her go back to his car and get in, and to see the car drive off.
That simplified things, and I started down to Halsey, who was snatching his hand from Ruth’s patting, and looking about as annoyed as he ever gets, which would only be slightly perturbed, in anyone else. I’d decided to just tell him I was going to go look for Wince, when Wince himself came laboring back into the parking area, pushing the BMW.
Wince was unharmed, but covered with mud and chlorophyll, with a twig sticking out from behind his ear, and the bike looked worse. The BMW had so many leafy twigs and branches stuck into it that it was perfectly camouflaged, but Wince couldn’t hide from Halsey.
Wince shot Halsey such a shit-eating smile I couldn’t help but chuckle, but Halsey didn’t yell or get mad. Maybe his jaw got a bit tighter, but mostly he looked concerned about his BMW, as he stepped forward and took the handlebars. Meanwhile Wince was looking past Halsey for Miss Brunette. I couldn’t stop chuckling, his expression was so lame. On one hand he was relieved she wasn’t there to see what a dope he‘d been, but at the same time he was disappointed she was gone. How can you be both at the same time? I didn’t know, and I sure wasn’t anyone to talk, cos one minute I’d been sorry to see Miss Brunette going and the next minute glad as all get out she was gone.
Anyway, the facts that she was gone and Wince was alive solved everything, and I could just jump into the Fossil’s car and escape, pedal to the metal, to the Town Library. And it really did feel like a get-away car. I was so glad to be gone I couldn’t help chuckling the whole time I drove. I might like hanging out with older people, but sometimes it’s just a huge relief to get away from them. They just get too complex for me.