This is the third installment in what will be a short story. The first was “Feeding the Line.” The second was “Make Room for Daddy.”
- THE KIDS ARE EVIL
Darin and Ellen watched as Ben complimented his son for a surprising ability to fry tasty crappie. They had fish, fries, and the slaw Ellen had bought on the way, which wasn’t bad. Ben pushed back from the table and announced he had to “winky-tinky.”
“There was this episode of Cheers,” he said, as if the son and girlfriend had ever done much other than hear of it, “and Frasier says to Lilith, something like, excuse me, love, but I must go winky-tinky. So he walks away, and Lilith says, ‘Why must men euphemize?’ and Woody, he says … Woody says … shit … what did Woody say?”
“Woody said ‘shit’ on TV?” Darin asked. Ellen playfully punched him in the shoulder.
“Well, let me go piss,” Ben said.
“Don’t euphemize, Mister Fowler,” Ellen said.
As Ben walked to the bathroom, he started to wobble. Damn. Beer’s hitting me pretty good. His marksmanship was off, and he had to lean one arm against the wall of the bathroom. His head bumped the mirror as he washed his hands. He made it back to the table, but not without considerable effort, not just to walk without falling, but, trying to appear … normal. He sat heavily, missing the chair with one cheek but managing to slide himself over. He pushed the plate forward so that he could steady himself with his hands.
Something is definitely wrong.
When Ben shifted his gaze, it seemed as if his eyes were at too slow a shutter speed. A blur followed. Things got focused if he kept his gaze still, which, unfortunately, was very difficult. He settled on Ellen’s breasts, watched them rise and fall subtly with her breath, and meditated on how pretty they were. Her skin was so soft. He wished he could see the nipples.
“Your dad is, like, staring laser beams at my boobs.”
“I do that sometimes,” he said.
“He’s really messed up.”
“Let’s do a test.”
Darin was wearing cargo shorts, which had been useful for fishing. From the lower pocket of his left leg, he removed a small zip-lock bag containing crumbled marijuana and rolling paper. He handed it to Ellen. “You roll so much better than me,” he said.
“You’re crazy,” she said. “You’re going to smoke weed in front of your dad?”
“Two things. One, we’ll see if he’s so tore up he’ll want some. Two, we’ll see if he’s so tore down he don’t notice.”
“You’re despicable,” she said.
“Daffy Duck, too,” he replied.
Ben thought he was conscious. He might be dreaming. He really couldn’t focus enough to take up the matter. Everything seemed exaggerated. Ellen’s hair, a dirty brown, seemed brighter. Her breasts were larger. The smoke she was exhaling seemed excessively voluminous. It seemed as if he might be aroused, but he wasn’t sure. He … suspected it.
“I think he’s all right,” Darin said. “Don’t you?”
“Oh, he’s all right, all right.”
Darin started laughing.
“You said he’s all right, all right.”
“Oh.” Pause. She started laughing.
“Let’s go out on the porch. It’s screened-in and cool. Breeze blowing. Moon over the water.”
Darin stopped and gave his father the once over. He looked up at Ellen. “He’s okay. We’ll check on him in a little while,” he said.
He’s talking like I’m not even here, Ben thought. Maybe I’m not.
They had been drinking in the back yard, under the trees, earlier. Ben had installed a hot tub there and poured the concrete patio around it. The mosquitoes were too prevalent now, so Darin and Ellen retired to the porch swing, which was screened in.
“Please tell me you’ve got a spare cigarette,” he said.
“I left my purse inside. Be right back.”
Darin sat quietly, listening to the crickets chirp, and watching the moonlight glisten on the waters.
“I bought these when I got the cole slaw,” Ellen said upon returning.
“Here,” he said, and she gave him the Marlboro Lights. “I love packing them and pulling that first one out.”
She gave him a light and tapped one out for herself, then leaned her head on his shoulder.
“You know, this isn’t the first time I’ve done this,” Ben said quietly.
“Drugged somebody. It wasn’t really me. It was Teke. Like, two weeks ago, at school. I’m probably lucky I didn’t get arrested.”
“Teke” was Te’Quan Bodie, Darin’s best friend.
“We was sneaking out for lunchtime,” Darin said. “You know, last two weeks before graduation, well, Mister Washburn caught us, and he didn’t do nothing, but he just wanted to let us know he wasn’t buying it. So, just when I was pulling off, he yells, ‘Hey, how ‘bout bringing me back a cup of coffee?’ What we done was stupid and wrong, but it was kind of funny at the time.”
“Well, Teke and me got high and rode around, and then we went to the pizza buffet, and there was a crowd there, and I’m sure, word got out that we was looking pretty suspicious, so, anyway, we get through, and we’re going back to school, and Teke’s smoking a Newport, and he tells me to pull in the Quik Way, and I say, ‘Man, we gotta get back,’ and he says, ‘Naw, man, we gotta get ol’ Washburn a cup of coffee. So he’s smoking, and doesn’t want to go in, and so I go in, and buy a cup of coffee, you know, and I figure he’s got, sugar and whatever, and I’m just wanting to get out of there, so I get back in the car, hand Teke the coffee – I got a big, old cup – and Teke says, ‘We’ll fix his ass,’ and he pours something in the coffee and stirs it in.”
“What was it?”
“I don’t know, but, last period, man, Mister Washburn went apeshit, yelled at his class, busted some glass in the chemistry lab. They had to get security, man, cart him off. I was scared to death, thought they’d, you know, the police, find out what happened. We were lucky. Turns out, Mister Washburn, he was on all these medications, and he, kind of, came around, you know, and they said his meds must’ve been off – they were all, you know, prescribed, for depression and shit – and he didn’t teach the rest of school, and I heard he got a leave of absence for stress.”
“And nobody asked y’all nothing?” Ellen asked.
“Nope. Reckon nobody saw it when he asked us to get him some coffee.”
“So that’s what made you decide to drug your father?”
“Well, you know, I did some research on it, and you said you could get Ketamine, and I’m kinda thinking, you know, I might move in over here with Dad, and, I thought, well, if I could get away with this, it might work, and if it didn’t work – if it don’t – then, well, I’ll go back to Mom.”
“It still doesn’t make sense,” Ellen said, but before she could say anything else, they heard a commotion inside. Someone was talking. The lights in the kitchen went on. Darin got up, walked over to the screen door, flicked his cigarette out into the yard, held it open so Ellen could do the same, and they walked back inside to find a middle-aged, attractive woman with a beehive that made her look like she just walked out of a seventies sitcom, something they might have watched for five minutes on TBS waiting for The Simpsons. She was carrying … a casserole.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” she said. “I’m Maxeen Breslow. Me and your daddy is friends. You must be Ben, and this must be your girlfriend!”
“That’s such a pretty name.” Then Maxeen saw Ben Fowler, slumped forward, elbows on the table, chin in both hands, eyes open but apparently unseeing.
“Uh, my dad’s had a little too much to drink, Ms. Breslow,” Darin said. “In fact, he’s had a lot too much.”
“What? Y’all give him some moonshine or something?”
“No, ma’am. Just beer. Lots of beer.”
She finally sat the casserole — it appeared to have asparagus in it – on the table.
“Y’all have been smoking weed, ain’t you?”
The muscles in Darin Fowler’s ass jumped.
“Ooh,” Maxeen said. “Can I smoke some?”
Ben’s eyes met Ellen’s and they signaled a joint affirmation that the strangest things happened when people smoked weed.
Quietly, he asked, “You rolled two J’s, didn’t you?”
We can’t very well give the woman a roach.
“Let Maxeen have it. Do you have a lighter, Maxeen?”
“Great. I need to talk with Ellen for a moment. Excuse us. Make yourself right at home.”
Ellen followed Darin into the kitchen.
“All right, Dad’s gonna start coming around before long. It seems like we’ve got two options. One, we could slip a little Ket in Maxeen’s beer.”
“We could kill her.”
Ellen’s eyes widened.
“Gotcha,” Darin said. “I’m kidding. We got one option.”
Maxeen moved around the table next to where Ben was slumped.
“Ooh, this is good, Ben,” she said. “Want some?”
Ben still had that vision-blurs-when-it-moves thing going, but it seemed to be getting a little better. Maxeen looked a little better than he’d ever remembered, too. Perhaps it was the blurriness. He still didn’t feel confident in his ability to form words, but he tried to put a big hunk of kindness in his eyes. He put so much kindness in his shovel that it wound up being lust. He remembered feeling this way before, sort of like he was looking at the word through a fishbowl, or, maybe, he was outside, and the world was in a fishbowl.
“Znah impah,” he said. What he meant was “it’s not important,” and, by that, he meant it was not important whether or not he was in the fishbowl or she was.
“Would you like me to give you a gun, Ben Fowler? I bet you would.”
Darin and Ellen peeked around the corner.
Maxeen turned the joint around backwards in her mouth, took Ben’s hands and repositioned them, took hers and tried to mold and open his lips, then she pulled the burning joint out long enough to say, “Can you take a deep breath, honey?” and she gave Ben Fowler a gun. A shotgun. In the vernacular.
Darin grabbed Ellen, put his arm around her waist, leaned her against the refrigerator, and said, “Fucking woman’s a pro.” They giggled and kissed.
“Now let’s fix Miss Maxeen a beer,” Ellen said. “She’s bound to be a bit parched.”
“Ben, are you coming around?” Maxeen asked. She put her right arm around his shoulders, her left in his lap. She let her fingers do the walking. “Part of you is.”
Ellen sort of crept in with the beer and tried to sit next to Maxeen quietly.
“Y’all kids get back to what you’s doing when I got here,” Maxeen said. “Don’t you worry, Darin. I’ll take care of your daddy.”
They went back to the porch swing.
“This is, like, the most memorable thing ever,” Ellen said.
“Not over, baby.”
Beth was watching Ben and Maxeen through the window.
“Wow. She sure drank that beer fast.”
“Hah,” Darin said.
“I just remembered. Remember when Dad started telling that joke from Cheers, and he couldn’t remember the punch line?”
“He’s told me that story, like, twenty times. That’s the punch line.”
“You said, ‘She sure drank that beer fast.’ In the joke, Lilith says, “Why must men euphemize?’ and Woody says, ‘I don’t know. Mister Crane drank that beer pretty fast.”
Ellen was silent.
“See, Woody was confusing ‘euphemize’ with ‘urinate.’ Get it?”
Very carefully, Ellen moved her fingers to Darin’s shorts. She found his zipper, and, then, suddenly, yanked it down.
“I want to play, Darin.”
“Not yet. I got something to do. I need you to stay here, and, you know, make sure something crazy doesn’t happen.”
“I can’t imagine that.”
“I promise, as soon as I get back, I don’t care when it is, we’ll get stoned as the sun comes up, if need be, and make love so good.”
“I bet Freddy will pop right out now,” she said.
“I just gave him a name.”
“What’s the name of …?”
“My little kitty cat?”
“I don’t know.”
“I think the name should be a country.”
“Something for Freddy to invade.”
“You’re sweet,” she said, and tried to get Freddy to pop out.
“I can’t,” Darin said. “I gotta go make a deal. For some weed. And, then, tomorrow, or, more likely, Monday, we’re going to go to the beach.”
“I gotta work.”
“No, you don’t. We’re gonna make enough money at the beach that you can quit.”
Inside, between Ben straightening out and Maxeen getting more and more jangled, they managed to get to the bedroom, careening down the hall in a fashion similar to when Ben had left the bathroom.
“Come on,” Darin said, and they walked into the den. His canvas bag was lying next to the fireplace. He reached in it and pulled out a revolver. He checked to make sure the safety was on and stuck it in the front of his pants.
“Why you got that?”
“It’s a thang,” he said. “Ain’t nobody gonna get shot. These are all buds. I’ll get back as soon as I can, but they’re gonna wanna sit around and shoot the shit a while.”
“Test the merchandise?”
“Yeah. A little. I’ll be back before long. You keep the lid on things here. I reckon my dad’s having a hell of a time he ain’t never gonna remember.”
This story has reached its nadir. Now I have to lift it from the clutches of evil. Stay tuned. I think you’ll enjoy my latest novel, The Intangibles, by the way. Check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/Intangibles-Monte-Dutton/dp/0988829088/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8