Redwood Summer Chapter 7

Jason and Christine sat upon a small stand of wooden bleachers and watched her nephew’s little league baseball game along with Christine’s sister, brother in law, brother, brother’s girlfriend, niece and nephew.  Other families and groups of friends sat amongst the bleachers or on folding lawn chairs on either side of the cyclone fenced backstop that surrounded the back of the baseball diamond.  Ten and eleven year old children dotted the the gravelly dirt infield and the patchy, uneven green grass covering the outfield.  The high summer sun shone above from a cloudless sky.  Past the field heat waves shimmered up from the blacktop and blurred the images of the drab, rectangular school buildings in the far ground.

Christine’s nephew, Tommy, crossed the white chalk foul outline at the side of the diamond and advanced to the batter’s box with bat in hand.  “All right, Tommy, let’s go!” Christine and her family shouted.  Tommy planted his cleats into the dirt rut beside the five sided white plate, gripped the bat with both hands, held it up behind him ready to swing, and focused on the pitcher.  The pitcher stood still on the mound and looked straight ahead to the catcher.  He nodded yes, then wound up, leaned back on one foot, launched forward and hurled the ball to the catcher.  Tommy stepped toward the pitch and began to swing but held back as the ball smacked into the catcher’s mitt.

Ball,” the umpire called from behind the catcher.

Good eye, Tommy!  Make him pitch to you,” the family called out.

He’s showing more patience now,” Christine’s sister, Carla, said.  “Remember how he used to swing at everything?”

Looks like he listened to what you told him,” Carla’s husband, Bill, said to Jason.

He’s a natural,” Jason said.

You were pretty good in your day,” Christine said to Jason.  “You should see his trophies,” she bragged to Carla.

They give those to everybody,” Jason downplayed.

C’mon, you were good, you know it,” Christine insisted.

I heard you were an all-star one year,” Christine’s brother, Pete, said.

“Yeah, that’s right,” Christine agreed.  “Don’t be so modest.”

Yeah, I guess I was pretty good,” Jason admitted.

Hey, Chris,” Carla said, “we’re having a barbecue after the game, want to come by?”

Sure, we’ll be there,” Christine said.  “I’ve been dying to see what you’ve done with the backyard.”

Jason was caught off guard.

You should see the new roses,” Carla said, “we also have a new brick walkway, and the deck is finally fixed.”

Did you and Bill do that yourself?” Christine asked.

Are you kidding,” Carla laughed.  “We hired this guy who uses college students to work for him, he’s a friend of a friend of Bill’s.  I think they were all hungover half the time, but they did a good job, a lot faster than we ever could have done it.”

Jason became irritated as their conversation continued.

Hey, is that Tina over there?” Christine asked.

Yeah, her kid brother is on the other team,” Carla said.

The frustration was building in Jason until there was a break in Christine and Carla’s conversation.  He leaned toward Christine.  “We’re supposed to be having dinner at my place tonight,” he reminded her sharply.  “My sister’s coming home today.  Don’t you remember me telling you earlier?”

Oh, that’s right,” Christine said apologetically.  “I’m sorry, I forgot. We can skip the barbecue.”

You should ask me before inviting us places,” Jason asserted.

Carla asked me,” Christine pointed out.  “We don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”

Don’t worry about it, we’ll go.”

Why are you being so touchy?”

Let’s just watch the game.”

When the game was over, the two teams went to their side of the diamond, formed into a line and walked toward each other.  They slapped each other’s outstretched hands while saying ‘good game’ as they passed each other then wound back to their side of the field.  The coaches gathered the players together, said one last thing to them before letting them go, then they all dispersed to their families.

Did you see that RBI double I hit?” Tommy said excitedly as he ran up to Carla, Bill, and the rest of the family.

How about that catch back in the second inning?” Bill said.  Everyone stood around Tommy and congratulated him and bragged about his team’s performance as they headed to their vehicles.

The celebratory mood continued as the families walked over to a row of parked cars with their folding chairs and coolers while chatting with each other.  They slowly loaded everything in while still conversing, then got into their cars.  Carla rolled down her window.  “So I’ll see you at my place?” she asked Christine.

Jason thought he could feel Christine’s eyes on him.  “What do you say, hon,” she asked him.

Yeah, sure,” Jason said.

See you there,” Christine said to Carla then she and Jason walked over to his car.  “It was an honest mistake, really,” she said to him once they were alone.  “I know, I should have remembered about your sister, it’s just that I haven’t seen Kathy in a while so I guess I forgot.  We go to Carla and Bill’s all the time, I didn’t think you’d mind.”

Yeah, I know,” Jason said as they got into his car.  “Just me overreacting,” he said sullenly.

No, you’re right. I should’ve asked you first,” Christine replied helpfully.  “We don’t have to stay long anyhow.  Carla just wants to show off her new deck, you know how she is.”

Jason started his car, backed up into the street, and drove off without saying anything.

“Really, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Jason drove along with the exiting traffic.  “I know.”

I’ve invited us to places before, we both have.  I didn’t think it’d be a big deal.”

Usually a couple of days in advance,” Jason reminded, “not all of a sudden.”  They came to a stoplight.

Is that what’s bothering you?” Christine asked.

The light turned green and Jason turned onto the main avenue.  “I don’t know how it happened, but now it feels like that I always have to be somewhere.”  He felt somewhat unburdened.  “Nothing feels spontaneous anymore, you know?”

We weren’t planning on going to Carla’s right now,” Christine offered.

I mean just the two of us,” Jason argued, “like when we used to go places on the spur of the moment, just for fun.”  He thought longingly.  “Like going to the beach, or that time we went down and camped at Big Sur, stuff like that.”

I’d love for us to get away, but sometimes you have to make the time for family.  Maybe we can’t do everything we want, but we still have fun.”

You know I don’t like to whine,” Jason said as they drove ahead.  “I’m not trying to be a dictator, but I still like to have a say in things.

Of course,” Christine agreed.  “We definitely need to get away somewhere.  Take a break from everything, like when we took the trip to Hawaii.”

But first we need to be able to afford it,” Jason reminded.  “I don’t need much, anyways, even a trip up to the City would be all right.”  They drove along with the busy traffic then came to a red light.

So how are things at work?” Christine asked.

Work’s fine,” Jason said.  “That isn’t a problem.”

Didn’t you say they laid off some people?”

They were just temps.”

I see,” Christine remarked.  The light turned green and they drove ahead.  “Maybe that’s why they have you working more hours.”

The extra money will get me out of debt quicker,” Jason pointed out.

But it’s going to cut into you going to school.”

See, that’s what I’m talking about,” Jason said angrily.  “I’m tired of worrying about this, that, and every other damn thing!  I just want things to be simple.”

Me too,” Christine agreed.  “But what can we do?  Maybe this is just how life gets, less play and more responsibilities.”

“Just like our parents always warned us about,” Jason said half seriously.

“It’s been getting busier at my job, too, ever since that new client.”

Work is cutting into both of our lives.”  Jason thought yearningly of disappearing free time, and feared that it would never return.

You should hear some of the talk at my job.  Mergers, acquisitions, lawsuits, one company swallowing up another, and they don’t even think about how all that affects other people’s lives.”

I’ll bet a lot of that is big talk just to impress each other.  Guys like to bullshit, especially lawyers.”

It’s what they’re saying behind closed doors is what gets me wondering,” Christine said ominously. “Who knows what they’re planning.”

“No need to get paranoid,” Jason cautioned.  “Why worry about things you can’t see?”

“If there’s one thing I’ve noticed is that what happens in the boardrooms runs everything, and they’re all secretive.”

“And I suppose you think where I work is the same way?”

“Aren’t they all?”

I don’t have my head in the sand,” Jason asserted.  “If anything was going to happen to my job I would know about it.”

They should at least pay you what you deserve,” Christine insisted.

It’ll do for now,” Jason said.  “Besides, it’s such a pain in the ass to look for a job.  I should just pick up the extra pay while I can.”  He slowed down and turned right into a residential neighborhood.

I’m not trying to be a harpy, it’s just that it feels like it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen next.  What if the lawyers I work for are planning something with the owners you work for?”

“Well if they are, maybe it’ll end up working out for us,” Jason said positively as he navigated through the maze of suburban tract houses.  “They tell me that I’m a good worker. If there are any changes, I can rise with the company.”

“I just don’t want you to be left behind when everything settles.”

Enough worrying, everything will be fine,” Jason said confidently.  “Bad enough I can’t hang out with Randy anymore.”

Jason, you know I don’t want to keep you away from your friends, but Randy is getting difficult to be around, especially if he’s been drinking.  Remember how belligerent he was at Todd’s party?”

Yeah, he was a little of out of control, but so was everyone else at that party.  We’ve all seen him that way before.”

Gina kept calling me and Cheryl and Rachel and Liz and everyone else everyday for about the past two weeks crying over Randy.”

Maybe she’s better off without him.”

So you agree Randy is getting difficult,” Christine replied.

That’s not what I meant!” Jason said irritably.  He calmed down and tried to gather his thoughts. “Sure, Randy has been kind of wild lately, but maybe he’s just blowing off steam.  Troubles with Gina, bouncing from job to job, conflicts with his mom.  He’s got his reasons.”

“But where’s he going to end up?”

Jason felt pressure to come up with an answer.  “You know what, we all make mistakes.  Hell, all of us got into trouble with teachers or the principal or parents or someone.  That’s just part of growing up.”

Yeah, but once you grow up you’re supposed to mature and leave that kind of recklessness behind.”

I don’t know if I’d call Randy reckless,” Jason countered.  “It’s not like he crashed a car into a school bus.  He’s just got a behavior problem.”

“A problem that’s worsened by alcohol.”

“He is what he is, and that’s why everybody likes him,” Jason said defensively.  “Randy’s a lot of fun, he makes people feel good and festive.  He’s a traveling party, what’s wrong with that?  He may not be the most responsible guy around, but he brightens up wherever he goes.  And that’s something we all need.”

Yes, he can be a lot of fun,” Christine agreed, “and he’s a joy to be around when he’s that way.  I wish he could be that way all the time.”  Jason sensed Christine looking at him again.  “I know he’s one of your best friends and he means a lot to you, but his behavior seems to be getting worse.  I just don’t want see him to get into any serious trouble.”  He felt her words penetrate.  “Maybe he needs outside help.”

Like what, AA?”

If that’s what it takes.”

I know you’re just trying to help,” Jason said, “but I really don’t think that Randy is at that point yet.”

I just don’t want to see him get to a point where it’s too late,” Christine warned.

But what can I do?”

You can talk to him.”

Jason chuckled.  “Yeah, that’ll work.”

All you have to do is tell him that you’re concerned,” Christine pleaded.  “He’ll listen to you. Just tell him that you don’t want to see him or someone else get hurt.”

Randy may blow it sometimes, but he would never hurt anyone intentionally.  He’s a result of his upbringing.  He can still grow out of it.”

He’s an adult now.  Shouldn’t he have grown out of it already?”

Ah, why stress so much!” Jason exasperated.  “Randy will be fine, he’s a survivor.”  He turned onto another residential side street.  “If I go to Randy with some Nancy Reagan lecture about how he’s got to straighten up and fly right, he’s just going to think I’m getting on his ass like everyone else in his life and that’ll just upset him more.”

“So nothing?”

“If he gets any worse, I’ll talk to him, okay?”

I’m just concerned, that’s all,” Christine reiterated.  “He might have a lot inside of him that he needs to let out.”

Well I don’t know about that,” Jason replied.  “Randy isn’t the type to hold back,” he said as a new thought occurred to him.  “Maybe that’s the problem.”  He turned onto another street.  “So how’s Gina doing?”

I think she’s starting to recover,” Christine said.  “That poor girl always has bad luck with guys.”

Like Randy?”

They’re not right for each other,” Christine said pointedly.  “That’s all I meant.”  Jason felt Christine looking at him again as she moved in closer.  “I care about Randy, too.  Deep down he’s got a good heart.  Sometimes he can be a real sweet guy.  I just wish he could be his better self more often.”

Sometimes you just have to accept people for what they are,” Jason deemed.  “People are what they are, they don’t change all that much.”

Christine relaxed back into her seat.  “I know he didn’t have an easy time of it growing up.  Maybe if things were different.”

If only,” Jason agreed.  He thought back to when he and Randy were younger.  “Randy was always wanting to go somewhere, he couldn’t just settle down.  We thought it was because he was more adventurous than the rest of us, I guess he was just trying to get away from home.  His older sister was the same way.”  He looked upon his old memories with new perspective.  “Seems like you don’t notice that stuff as much when you’re younger.”

So what’s Randy’s sister doing now?”

Last I heard living with some guy she met at The Saddle Rack.”

“Do she and Randy stay in touch?”

Yeah, they talk once in a while,” Jason said.

It’s really too bad Randy’s dad wasn’t around,” Christine sympathized.  “His war experiences must have seriously messed him up.”  They pulled up to Carla’s house and parked out front.  Jason cut the engine.

You know, the only reason why he got sent to Vietnam was because he got into trouble with the law. The judge told him he could either join the army or go to jail.”

Not much of a choice.”

They probably would have drafted him anyways,” Jason said.

So what’s he doing now?” Christine asked.

Jason tried to remember the last time he heard anything about Randy’s father.  “I have no idea. Randy hasn’t seen him in a few years.  Last I heard he fell in with a bad crowd.” Jason thought some more of Randy and his father and their similarities.  “Just a couple of victims of circumstance.”

They got out of the car and walked to Carla’s house.  “We don’t have to stay long,” Christine promised, “just long enough to admire their new deck,” she joked.  “I’m really looking forward to seeing Kathy. I want to hear some of her college stories.”

Same here,” Jason said.  “Did you know she’s going to be a junior when she goes back to school in the fall? She’s halfway to graduating.”

Already?  Time sure does fly.”

And where does it all go, Jason thought to himself.  They entered through the open front door and were enveloped into the hum of socializing once everyone said their hellos.  People were in the kitchen and backyard cooking and barbecuing, chatting and laughing while a ballgame was on television in the background.

©2106 Robert Kirkendall

Pacific Television Theater – Gateway/Reunion

The second episode of my live televised drama anthology show!  Episode 2 is two short plays.  Gateway is about a new resident to a gated community who discovers that the aberrant behavior he thought he was leaving behind in the outside world also exists within the confines of his new community.  Reunion is about two high school acquaintances who run into each other after two decades, and secret and unsettling desires are revealed.

If you enjoyed this please consider a small donation to keep my little show going.  Thank you!  http://www.gofundme.com/PacificTV

©2016 Robert Kirkendall

 

Tonight! Episode 2!

Tonight will the airing and live broadcast of the second episode of Pacific Television Theater (formerly Pacific Avenue Theater).  Tonight’s half hour episode will feature two short plays.

Gateway is about a new resident at a gated community who soon discovers that the problems he was looking to escape from the outside world also exist within his new neighborhood’s confines.

Reunion is about two former high school classmates who run into each other two decades later.  One of them has high hopes of starting a new relationship, the other not so much.

Show time is at 7:30PM PDT on Community TV of Santa Cruz, Comcast 27, Charter 73, and live streaming on communitytv.org

See you there!

That is me on the far left in the picture above, with my cast; Steve Capasso, Jackson Wolffe, Marty Lee Jones, Tiffany Cesi Cesarin, Davis Leach, Hannah Eckstein, Seth Vernon, and Nicolette Nasr.

If you enjoy tonight’s show please consider a small donation to help with costs.  gofundme.com/PacificTV

 

Redwood Summer Part II Chapter 6

Jason put on a T-shirt and combed his hair in front of his bedroom mirror.  He then grabbed his keys, wallet, and change and left his room for the kitchen.  The morning sun shone through the windows and the remains of breakfast were on the kitchen counter.  Jason’s mother was sitting at the table reading the newspaper.
“You’re up early for a weekend,” mother observed.
“Can’t sleep in too late,” Jason replied.  “Got to go to Christine’s nephew’s little league game.”  He picked up a pancake from a plate on the counter and took a bite.  “Where’s dad?”
“He took David to the flea market,” mother said.  “He’s looking for a record player.”
“What’s he doing buying other people’s junk?” Jason asked.
“He calls them bargains.”
“Didn’t anyone tell him they stopped making vinyl?”
“You know your father,” mother said, “thinks everything made these days is crap.”
“I don’t know about that,” Jason said as he finished eating.  He opened the refrigerator and got out a pitcher of orange juice.  “Technology isn’t all bad, computers are just about everywhere now, can’t imagine life without them anymore.  Plus you got V.C.R.’s, cordless phones, fax machines, and C.D.’s are a definite improvement on L.P.’s.  No scratches or warping, and they take up less space,” Jason said as he poured himself a glass of orange juice.
Mother looked up from the newspaper, “Oh sure, they’re an improvement, but you know, everything moves a little too fast now.  You buy a stereo or a computer or anything electronic, and before you know it, it goes obsolete and you have to buy a new one.”
“Well, that’s progress,” Jason said.  “Out with the old, in with the new and improved.”
“Yeah, and prices sure aren’t going down,” mother observed.
“But at least wages are higher than they used to be.  I remember Dad saying how he used to get paid just a buck an hour when he started working.”
“More money to buy more stuff, and everyone has to buy the newest and latest thing or fad just to keep up with the Joneses.  All these new things are supposed to make life simpler, but I don’t know.”
“But that’s what makes everything go,” Jason pointed out.  “Supply and demand, that’s what keeps people working.”
“It feels like we’re being supplied with things we’re not demanding.”
Jason thought for a moment.  “People like to buy things,” he shrugged.
“Shopping, the latest drug,” mother declared.  “Whatever happened to just being happy for what you have?  You know, I was at least ten when we got our first T.V., before that people actually talked to each other instead of vegging in front of the tube.  If you wanted to see a movie, you had to leave your home, go out, be amongst other people, and it didn’t cost a fortune.  For twenty-five cents you could see a double feature, a cartoon, and a newsreel.  We used to watch movies at the Burbank before they started showing skin flicks.”
“Did you also have to ride around on horseback?” Jason kidded.
“I tell you what,” mother said, “there was enough open space back then that you could ride around on a horse, now look at this place.”
Jason thought about what his mother said.  “Yeah, maybe people are more materialistic these days, but you know what it is, capitalism won out over communism, so now everyone’s living it up.”
“I like to think that it was things like freedom and democracy that won.”
“Aren’t they the same thing?”
Mother laughed amusedly.  “I don’t mean to sound old, but there was a time when there was more to life than just material stuff.  There used to be issues, civil rights, war, protests, Watergate, cultural changes, a lot was happening, and people used to talk and argue about these things.  Now all anybody seems to care about is how much they’re making and what car they’re driving.  I guess you were too young to remember any of that.”
“I suppose things are kind of shallow right now,” Jason admitted as he finished his orange juice, “but I think people just want to relax and enjoy life now,” he said as he placed the empty glass in the sink and rinsed it out.  “People have been stressing for too long, but I’m sure it’s just a phase.  Someday we’ll go back to arguing with each other and everything will be fine.”
“We’ll see,” mother said cautiously.  “So you’ll be home tonight?”
“For what?”
“Your sister is going to be home for dinner.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right,” Jason recalled.  “I was wondering when she was going to come and see us, school’s been out long enough.”
“She took a charter bus trip with her friends to the Grand Canyon.”
“Chartered bus?  Fancy.”
“It’s called Green Turtle, or something like that. The way she described it it sounded kind of hippie-ish.”
“What is it, a Deadhead bus?”
“Just as long as there are no crazy people on board,” mother said.  “I told Kathy that if she wants to travel and see the world she should do it while she’s still young.”
“Well she better stay out of trouble,” Jason said authoritatively.  “When’s she going to be home?”
“She said by three or four.  I’m making chicken enchiladas, she says she’s taking a break from red meat.”
“Uh oh, she’s getting weird on us.”
“I hope I’m not going to have play referee again,” mother said sharply.  “I did enough of that when you two were growing up.”
“I’ll be on my best behavior, I promise,” Jason said half seriously.
“I’ve heard that before,” mother said with a laugh.
“But this time I mean it.”
“Of course you do,” mother replied incredulously.  “But you know, Jason, there is something I’ve been meaning to ask you,” she said as she folded the newspaper.  “Now maybe I should have noticed this sooner, but lately I’ve been wondering if you might be feeling a little envious about Kathy going off to college because you didn’t have the same opportunity.”
“No, no, I’m not jealous.” Jason felt a change in mood as he sat at the table next to mother. “I’m happy for Kathy, and I’m very proud of her. She worked for it, she deserves it, and we all know she’s the brains of the family.”
“Yes, she is quite clever,” mother remarked.  “It’s just that I see you’ve been going to junior college and trying to get ahead.  And looking back, I realized that your father and I never pushed you toward college, and I think we denied you.”
“You didn’t deny me anything,” Jason reassured.
“Well, neither of us went to college, and we did all right, so I guess we never thought about it when you were growing up.  You were a happy kid.”
“Yeah I was.”
“Then when Kathy started going to school, all her teachers raved about her, how she was a good student and college material, and so it went.  It didn’t occur to me until lately that she got the support and some of the breaks that you didn’t get, and that wasn’t fair to you.”
“Mom, I wasn’t into school the way Kathy was, so nobody pushed me in that direction.  I didn’t even think about college until I was done with high school.  It seemed like everyone else was going to college, or at least De Anza, West Valley or City.  I just didn’t want to fall behind.”
“That seems to be the trend. When I was young, lots of people dropped out of high school so they could work.  Now it’s a stigma not to have a diploma.”
“Growing up I was just looking to have fun, I never really looked ahead.  Now everyone says these days you need a degree or you won’t get ahead.”
“Which I suppose means that the next generation are all going to need master’s degrees,” mother concluded.  “And who knows what tuition will cost then.”
“Too much,” Jason responded.  He then leaned closer to mother and put his arm around her.  “But you know what, I had a whole lot of fun growing up, a ton of great memories, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.”
“Yes, you were quite the bundle of energy,” mother reminisced as she put her hand on Jason’s and held it for a moment.  They smiled at each other affectionately.
“Thanks for letting me move back in,” Jason said.
“It’s all right.”
“Didn’t know I was going to have money problems so early.”
“See? Progress,” mother reminded as she looked back at the newspaper.  Jason got up to leave, looked around the kitchen for one last thing to eat, and grabbed a plum from a bowl of fruit.  “So which one of Christine’s nephews is playing today, Eric?”
“No, Tommy.”
“Well have fun.”
“Bye, Mom.” Jason kissed mother before he left.
“Oh, could you pick up some ice on the way home?”

©2016 Robert Kirkendall

Pacific Avenue Theater – Last Call

Here it is!  The debut episode of Pacific Avenue Theater, a live televised drama anthology show, recorded from a live performance at Community Television of Santa Cruz on June 25, 2016.  Episode 1, Last Call, is a one act play that takes place in a neighborhood on a slow Tuesday night.  It is an ensemble piece about people who are pursuing what they want before last call is announced.

And if you enjoyed this little play please consider a small donation to help cover costs, and to help fund future episodes.  Thank you!                                             https://www.gofundme.com/PacificAveTheater

Next episode, a pair of short comedies; Gateway, and Reunion.

 

Redwood Summer Chapter 5

Jason’s eyes slowly opened in the diminishing darkness of early dawn.  He saw Christine asleep and huddled up against him on the living room couch, then he felt the weight of a hangover and his eyes fell shut.  His consciousness was blunted by alcohol as he drifted in and out of a dream like state.  He was tired but still cheerful in the hazy aftermath of the party.

Jason finally awakened and slowly looked around.  Silhouettes of furniture and sleeping people gradually materialized out of the dimness and the image of the living room came into focus.  People were passed out and sleeping soundly on other furniture and the floor, some with blankets or sleeping bags, others covered by their jackets while the approaching morning light bordered the curtains.

Jason looked upon Christine as she slept.  Her hair was strewn about her face, and he gently brushed it back.  She moved a little but remained asleep. He kissed her, and her eyes slowly opened.  She looked back at him and smiled sleepily.  “How you feelin’?” he asked quietly.

Tired,” she said just as quiet.

Jason kissed her.  “Even hungover you’re beautiful.”

Thanks.”

We need to go somewhere alone,” he said as he kissed her some more.

Not now.”  Christine tried to sleep.

Jason then looked down on the floor and saw Randy sleeping next to the couch.  He was breathing coarsely through his mouth and a small blanket lay across him.  Jason marveled at how calm and peaceful he looked while remembering his drunken, belligerent behavior the night before.

The orange glow of the rising sun permeated the room with increasing light.  Sometime after midmorning people finally began to awaken.  They stretched and shifted around on the furniture and floor.  A couple of people got up and began to walk around.  Brian went into the kitchen and Jason could hear him looking through the cabinets, find something, then move around the collection of empty bottles and cups which covered the kitchen counter.  He then heard the sound of the water being poured into the coffee maker, and the steady flow of the water dripping into coffee.

Man,” Stu said tiredly, “that was some party.”

Oh, my head,” Mike said as his head sank into his hands in fatigue.  “Feels like it’s been beaten like a drum.”

Someone opened the curtains and the living the room was flooded with a shock of light.  People cursed the sudden brightness as they tossed aside their covers and slowly picked themselves up from couches, chairs and off the floor until everyone was up and slowly moving around except Randy.  He crawled up off the floor and onto the couch vacated by Jason and Christine.

Afraid of the light?” Jason said jokingly to Randy then wandered into the kitchen.  Brian and Dwayne were looking through the cupboards, pulling out coffee cups and setting them on the counter amongst the clutter.  “Some party,” Jason said to them.

I’ll say,” Dwayne said while he poured a cup of coffee.  “Did you see the way Drew was hitting on that high school chick?  Still going after the jail bait.”  He put the pot back on its burner and made room for Brian and Jason.

That’s gonna get him in trouble some day,” Jason said as Brian poured himself a coffee.

He’s got to work on his approach,” Brian remarked.

I know,” Dwayne agreed.  “His approach causes women to depart.”

They laughed as Jason poured himself a coffee.  He took a sip and felt the hot liquid hit his stomach and wake him up a bit more.

Stu entered the kitchen.  “We made coffee,” Brian said to him.

Tomato juice for me,” Stu said as he went to the refrigerator.

Whatever cures you,” Brian said.

Another beer might help,” Jason said.

Yeah,” Dwayne said, “hair of the dog.”

No fuckin’ way,” Stu said as he poured himself a glass of tomato juice.  “Alcohol is the last thing I need right now.  I need a break from it.”

“Sure, and this time you mean it,” Dwayne said. Everyone laughed as Jason wandered back into the living room.  People were slowly moving about, straightening up the room, and talking about the previous night.

Man, that party was insane,” Mike said.

Did you see Eric?” Alex said.  “What a mess.”

“How about Jim,” Terry said, “stumbling around all over the place.”

“As usual,” Mike said.

Everyone was trashed,” Stu said as he returned from the kitchen, “even Greg.”

Man, I can’t remember shit,” Curtis said.

Weren’t you on keg duty?” Jason asked.

Oh yeah,” Curtis recalled.  “Must be why I can’t remember.”

Todd emerged from the hallway and appeared a little more awake than everyone else.  “Morning, everyone,” he said.

Well you’re looking chipper,” Mike said.

Best birthday party ever I ever had,” Todd said then walked over to Randy on the couch and shoved him with his foot.  “Wake up, you maniac!” he said.

In a sec,” Randy said sleepily and turned into the couch.

You’re lucky the neighbors didn’t call the cops on your ass,” Todd said to Randy.

I think most of the neighbors were here,” Dwayne pointed out.

See?” Randy said.  “I wasn’t the only one being loud.”

But you were the loudest,” Cheryl said.

Yeah, what a night,” Randy said as he slowly moved himself upright until he sat up.

And then you got into a screaming match with Gina,” Cheryl accused.

Huh?”

“You and Gina got into a very loud argument,” Rachel added.  “Don’t you remember?”

Really?” Randy said.

Yeah, really!” Cheryl said angrily.  “How fucking drunk were you?”

No more than anyone else,” Randy said.

She was in tears!”

Damn.”  Randy flopped back down on the couch.  “All we were doing was talking, and then out of nowhere she started tearing me a new one.”

Talking?” Todd said.  “You two were louder than the party, which was pretty loud.”

Our quarters game was interrupted,” Terry said.

And Gina was really hurt,” Rachel added.

Well I’m hurt, too,” Randy said.

Please!” Cheryl said loudly.  “Can’t you think of anyone besides yourself?”

Seriously,” Randy said defensively.  “She yelled at me first.”

What did you say to her?” Mike asked.

Randy appeared to search his memory.  “You know what, I just don’t remember,” he said.  “I think I blacked out when she started yelling.  Maybe she’s on the rag.”

What can she possibly see in you?” Liz said contemptuously.

You too?  Damn,” Randy said.  “Look, no need to stress.  Gina and I will make up, we’ve been through this before.”  He looked around.  “So where’d she go anyways?”

She left with Tina,” Cheryl said, “bawling her head off, as if you cared.”

Jeez, of course I care, I’m not all bad.  Speaking of balling,” Randy said to Todd, “did you get your birthday gift from Lena?”

Of course,” Todd said, “which is more than I can say for you.”

You guys are awful,” Cheryl said angrily.

Yeah,” Liz agreed.  “What would Lena say?”

I think we could all use a bonghit,” Dwayne said.

Amen,” Brian said, “take the edge off these hangovers,” he said as Dwayne pulled a worn cellophane bag from his pocket, unfolded it, and pulled out a chunk of cannabis.  Brian pushed the bong in front of Dwayne on the coffee table, Dwayne placed the green substance into the bowl, and then handed the bong to Cheryl.

Who has a lighter?” Cheryl asked, then Stu handed her a lighter.  She lit it, held the flame to the bowl, inhaled for a few seconds, then pulled the bong away while holding her breath.  She passed the bong to Liz.  She inhaled, then passed it to Brian.  He inhaled until the bowl was finished then passed the bong back to Dwayne.  Dwayne pinched off another chunk, placed it in the bowl, passed it to Alex, he took a hit, then passed it to Randy.  Everyone began to gather in the living room around the bong smoking circle and chatted about the party.  Some were drinking coffee, a couple of others were sipping beers. Brian pulled out another bag of cannabis and contributed to the circle of smoking.  Person after person inhaled from the bong and created a haze of smoke that settled over the living room.

So what’s for breakfast,” someone finally asked.

Is there any of that cake left?”

All gone.”

Well,” Todd began, “we might have a couple eggs in the fridge and some month old danishes. Otherwise I know of this excellent breakfast place where we can go, it’s just up the street from Andy’s Pet Shop.  They make the the killer Bloody Marys.”

Hope they can kill hangovers,” Randy said.

Well let’s go,” Mike said.  They finished smoking, put on their shoes, straightened themselves as best they could, and piled into their cars.  They drove to a nondescript, rectangular building with a band of windows around the middle and parked in the front lot.  Hungover and stoned, they slowly got out of their cars and trudged into the restaurant.  They waited at the cash register next to a front counter where people were eating and reading newspapers.  A staircase led to an upstairs lounge.

A middle aged waitress approached them.  “And how y’all doin’ this morning,” she drawled.

Oh, all right, could be better, what a night, you know,” they all said.

I’ll bet it was,” the waitress kidded.  “How many?”

Todd tried to count everyone.  “A lot,” he said.  The waitress grabbed a pile of menus, and led them through the semi crowded restaurant to a large, round, smooth table surrounded by a wraparound Naugahyde seat.  Everyone slid onto the seat until they were all sitting around the table.  Randy placed himself in the middle.  The waitress handed everyone a menu.

And what would you all like to drink?” she asked.

Bloody Marys all around,” Randy said.

Damn, Randy, what do you got, a cast iron liver?” Mike said.

I’ll have coffee,” Rachel said.

Same here,” Christine said.  Jason turned over the upside down coffee cup in front of him as did others.  A busboy came over and placed a glass of water in front of everyone.

And who all is having a Bloody Mary?” the waitress asked.

Me,” Randy said.

Me, too,” Todd said.

Anyone want to split one with me?” Mike asked.

I will,” Dwayne said.

I was talking to the ladies,” Mike said. “Get your own.”

Fine, I will,” Dwayne said.  “I’ll have a Bloody Mary,” he said to the waitress.

I’ll have an iced tea,” Cheryl said.

“Me, too,” Liz said.

All right.” The waitress wrote onto her order pad.  “I’ll be right back.”  The waitress left and everyone began to look at their menus. Jason and Christine looked at the same menu.

Sounds like she’s from Texas,” Randy said.

Ask her,” Todd said as he opened his menu.  “Let’s see, what do we want.”

Something fried and greasy to soak up the alcohol,” Randy said.

Oh, that’s healthy,” Cheryl said.

Anything with protein,” Christine said. Randy gave Jason a knowing smile.  Jason looked back at the menu in front of him and tried not to laugh.

The waitress returned with a pot of coffee and filled all the empty cups.  “I’ll be back with the drinks,” she said then left.

The corned beef hash is really good here,” Todd said.

That sounds tasty,” Curtis said.

Anything with hash sounds good,” Brian said.

Did you ever notice how everything on the menu looks good when your hungover,” Alex said.  A few minutes later the waitress came with the drinks the took their orders.

Are you from Texas?” Randy asked her.

No, Georgia.”

Georgia,” Randy said, “so how come you moved out here?”

Why, to be a movie star, hon,” the waitress said.

See, you were way off,” Todd said.

Yeah, but they’re close to each other, aren’t they?” Randy said.

Young man, there are four states and about a thousand miles between Georgia and Texas,” the waitress said.

Yeah, Randy,” Mike said, “don’t you know your geography?”

Farthest east I’ve been is Nevada,” Randy said.

That’s because Utah won’t let you in,” Todd responded and everyone laughed.

“You’re just too wild for them,” the waitress said to Randy and everyone laughed some more.  She took the rest of their orders then sauntered away.

You’re in rare form this weekend, Randy,” Alex said.

This is nothing,” Randy said.  “Remember that Day On The Green?” he said to Todd.  “We sneaked in a bottle and got so fucked up at that show it took us hours just to find our van.”

I thought we took BART to that,” Todd said.  “You must have crashed in some complete stranger’s van.”

Really,” Randy said.  “I think I scored that night.”

What was the lucky guy’s name,” Mike said and everyone laughed.

You know what,” Randy said as he picked up his Bloody Mary, “I’m always happy.”  He took a long drink.

They talked more then after a while the waitress returned with their orders and covered the table with plates of eggs, potatoes, bacon, toast, pancakes, and other fried foods.  Jason devoured his breakfast as everyone ate, drank and traded recollections of the previous night.  Jason felt his strength returning as he nourished himself, and everyone else became less tired and more lively.  Someone said how they were going to have to do it again, and everyone agreed.

                *                     *                     *                     *                     *                     *                     *

After they ate, gathered together their cash, paid and left, they said their goodbyes out in the parking lot and drove off to their own, separate ways.  Jason and Christine left together.  “Let’s go to my place,” Christine said, “my roommates are gone so we’ll have the whole place to ourselves.”

Jason was feeling more awake as they drove to Christine’s apartment.  He put his arm around her and held her close as he drove.  She rested her head on his shoulder then softly traced her hand up and down his thigh.  He felt a rush of anticipation and drove a little faster.

They arrived at Christine’s, parked, and went inside.  He quickly grabbed her and amorously kissed her all over.  She slid out of his grip, took his hand, and led him into her bedroom.  They embraced and kissed each other deeply as tugged at each other’s clothes.  They fell onto her bed and writhed around passionately.  He reached under her blouse, ran his hand up her back, and pulled her closer.  She gently pushed away from his hold.  He looked upon her with puzzlement.  She looked keenly into his eyes, and he was mesmerized into stillness.

You know what I was thinking about,” Christine said softly, then looked away serenely.  “Last night, seeing all our friends, everyone together having a really good time, everything just felt so right, almost perfect.  It was like no other feeling I ever had before.” She looked back at Jason.  “And I thought about us, and how lucky we are to have each other.”  She pulled him a little closer.  “We are so incredibly lucky, to be here in this time and in this place, with all our friends, our families, living together in the most free time ever in history, and with our whole lives ahead of us.”

They looked into each other’s eyes with complete trust and an unending openness that joined them into one.  They were then drawn back to each other into a passionate and heated entanglement.

©2016 Robert Kirkendall

 

Live Televised Drama Project Update

For my Santa Cruz CTV live drama project I’m also fundraising with GoFundMe.  Here’s the link:

https://www.gofundme.com/264u7g4

Pacific Avenue Theater is an exciting project.  The drama and the continuity of performance of live theatre amplified by the electronic visual medium, and a harkening back to the Golden Age of Television which featured some of the best actors, directors, and writers of its day.

The first 30 minute play for the Pacific Avenue Theater is named Last Call, a drama that takes place in a neighborhood pub on a Tuesday night.  I have my cast of six (pictured above) and we’ve begun rehearsals.  Now I have to find props and sets.

WE GO LIVE ON JUNE 25TH AT 8:00PM PDT!

The broadcast will be on Community Television of Santa Cruz, Comcast 27 and Charter 72, but I’m also going to try to live webcast it so anyone outside the Santa Cruz area can watch it.

Hope this works.🙂

 

 

 

Live Televised Drama Project

Hello folks!  I am currently developing a live televised drama anthology show for Community TV of Santa Cruz.  This was inspired by the live TV dramas from the Golden Age of Television, and is a revival of that fabled medium.

The name of my show is Pacific Avenue Theater, and the first drama we’ll be presenting is a 30 minute play named Last Call.  I have my cast of six actors (in the picture above, from our read through, last Sunday May 22nd), and I’m putting together a crew.

We’ll be going live on Saturday June 25th, at 8PM PDT

I’m also gathering funds to help with the costs.  Please visit this project’s Kickstarter page for more information and please consider a donation, any amount is most welcome.  Thank you!

Redwood Summer Chapter 4

Everybody at work is optimistic,” Jason said to Christine as they drove to Todd’s house. “At our last company meeting, upper management said that we were going to make the transition through the current world situation so easily nobody would notice. They’re smart, they know what they are doing. They wouldn’t jeopardize the company.” They cruised through the mid evening and drove past a lit up strip mall.

I’m sure they come off that way,” Christine replied, “but you don’t know what they’re saying behind closed doors. High end business people can be pretty ruthless, and I should know.”

“Right, because you work for lawyers. But you know what, you can’t be a chump if you want to make it in the business world.”

“God forbid they should have any ethics.”

“The guys I work for are all right.”

Are they all guys?”

Jason thought for a second. “Pretty much.”

Of course,” Christine said.

Check it out, once I pay off my debt, I’ll be freed up to take more classes. If I commit myself to more permanent work, it’ll be harder to go to school.” Jason turned onto another avenue. “I’m not just stumbling along, I’ve got a plan.”

And that’s good. All I’m saying is don’t trust them too much, they’re only going to tell you what they want you to know. You never know what’s going to happen, even engineers lose their jobs these days.”

Chris, the reason why engineers lose their jobs is because they stay in one place for too long and get a bunch of raises, so they get replaced by someone younger who’ll work for half the pay. And right now, I’ve got youth on my side.”

Yes, we both do,” Christine reminded. “Just make sure they don’t take advantage of you.”

They won’t. That’s your job,” Jason kidded. He turned off the avenue and into another suburban neighborhood. “You know, what we do has lots of uses, not just military, so there’ll be plenty of work for us,” he said. “Plus, I’m learning some skills, and with some more computer classes, I can get into programming, operations, all kinds of possibilities. I got a good thing going where I’m at, and if I stick with it as things get better, I can grow with the company.”

“Is the company growing?” Christine asked.

“It isn’t shrinking,” Jason answered. “If you jump from job to job, you never get a raise or seniority, so you never get ahead. Sure, they should be paying me more, but ten an hour ain’t bad, and I can work it around my school schedule. And my coworkers are all right, some real interesting people. I know you’re just trying to help with your uncle’s job, and I appreciate it, but technology is everything, that’s where the future is at. Hell, it’s already here.”

Well, sounds like you know what you are doing,” Christine relented. “It’s just that everyone is saying these days that the average American is going to work at least four or five careers over their lifetime. I just don’t want to see you left behind, that’s all.”

I don’t plan on spending the rest of my life there,” Jason reassured. He began to think more about the party the closer they got to Todd’s house. “It only has to last until I’m done with school.” Jason looked at the hastily gift wrapped bottle next to him. “There is one thing I’m sure of, I know Todd will like this,” he said as he pointed to the gift.

Oh, I bet he will.”

They rounded another corner and Jason saw Todd’s house at the middle of the block with people gathered out in front. Cars were parked bumper to bumper along both sides of the street and Jason parked five houses down. “Looks huge,” he said. He grabbed the gift as they got out of the car and they walked to Todd’s. Jason saw a bright hive of noisy activity contrasting against the other quiet, unlit houses. Music emanated from Todd’s as other people were gathering to the party and Jason felt a rush of anticipation. Small groups were standing around on the front lawn talking and laughing with drinks in their hands. Some had cigarettes.

Oh look, there’s Cheryl,” Christine said.

Is she still with Roger?”

Not anymore,” Christine said. “They’re not the long term types,” she added as they were approaching. “Is she’s talking to Rachel? Guess they’re not fighting anymore.” They arrived and entered into its surrounding aura.

Hey, look who’s here!” someone announced from the group of party goers. Everyone in the front yard loudly greeted them.

Cheryl! Rachel!” Christine said cheerfully as she embraced them. “How are you?”

Christine! So good to see you!” they responded excitedly. Jason and Christine blended into the familiar mix of the people, talked a little louder, and turned their attention outward as they went around and said their hellos to the everybody.

Jason! What’s up?” one of the party goers called out as he stumbled over to Jason and clapped him on the shoulder.

Hey, Brian!” Jason replied.

Heard about your game yesterday,” Brian said.

From who, Randy?”

No, Tim.”

What?”

Yeah, and he was going on and on about how you and Randy cheated him and his boy, Ronnie.”

Jason laughed. “That is bullshit. Those two play so bad the Clippers wouldn’t take them.”

Someone else stumbled in with a plastic cup of beer. “What’s up, Jason!”

Careful, Jim, you’re spilling,” Jason said to him. “So what’s on tap?”

Jim looked at his beer. “I’m not sure, but this is my third one.”

Well I better get one before you drink it all.” Jason touched Christine on the arm. “I’m going to get us a beer.”

Okay,” Christine said. Jason entered the open front door into the low lit house and was enveloped by an aggressive rhythm blaring from the stereo. People were scattered about the front room in groups of three and four and preoccupied with their own conversations. Many colored balloons and streamers were tacked to the walls and ceiling and brightened the ordinary house. Some of the party guests called out to Jason and said hi as he made his way through the front room. Some shook hands with him while others slapped him on the back or raised their drink to him. He loudly said hi to everyone and was brightened by the familiar faces and was feeling at home. Cut out letters that read HAPPY BIRTHDAY TODD were glued to string and hung across the entrance to the kitchen. He crossed under the bow of letters and saw Todd leaning back on the kitchen counter and talking with a group of friends.

Todd!” Jason shouted across the kitchen. “Happy birthday!”

Jason!” Todd answered. They came to each other and embraced happily. “Good to see you, my man!”

Wouldn’t miss this for anything!” Jason gave Todd the gift. “Sorry about the hasty gift wrapping.”

“Hey, it’s the though that counts.”

“Alex, Dwayne, Michael!” Jason called out to the group of friends around Todd.

Hey, Jason! What’s up?” they all said.

“Now this party is going to get started!” Alex said.

“Hey, at least he brought something,” Dwayne chided Alex.

Well let’s see what we have here,” Todd said as he opened the wrapping and looked at the gift. “Old Number Seven! You shouldn’t have.”

Hey, how often do you turn twenty five,” Jason reminded.

I wouldn’t mind stopping at this age,” Todd said.

As long as you keep your good looks you’ll be fine,” Alex said and everyone laughed.

So where’s your better half?” Todd asked Jason.

Just about to get her and myself a beer.”

Keg’s in the usual place,” Todd said as he indicated the door to the garage. “We got to do some shots of this later,” he said to Jason as he held up the bottle of Scotch.

Can’t wait!” Jason headed to the garage and opened the door. A blaring gust of music from a boom box blew past him. He entered and encountered more people partying and drinking. Some colored streamers and other decorations were randomly placed on the bare drywall. A group of people stood around the keg which sat in the center of the concrete floor in a tub of ice water. Jason smelled cannabis and saw a pipe being passed around as he joined the circle of people around the keg and they all said hi to him. “What are we drinking tonight, Curtis,” Jason said loudly to one of the keg people.

Moosehead!” Curtis yelled over the music.

That’s better than usual,” Jason said loudly. He got two plastic cups from a tubular plastic bag laying on top of the keg. “So how you doing?”

Not bad. We’re collecting for a keg fund,” Curtis reminded. “You can pay me or Todd.”

I got him a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.”

I guess that counts,” Curtis nodded. “I’ll have to try some of that later.”

“Why don’t you now?”

“On keg duty right now,” Curtis yelled. “Yeah, it was a fuckin’ ordeal getting this keg.”

Really.” Jason pumped the tap a couple of times then took the hose, angled the cup up to it, and pressed the little plastic lever which released golden, foamy fluid.

Oh, yeah,” Curtis began. “First, we had to reserve the keg ahead of time, and we never had to do that before, then the greedy fuckin’ bastard wants a fifty dollar deposit.”

What for?” Jason asked as he finished filling the cup. He set it on a nearby washing machine and began filling a second cup.

They say said it was for the keg and the tap in case we lose them, and he was going to gauge for some more if I didn’t give him my driver’s license.”

You had to give those bastards your license?” Jason said over the noise as he finished filling the second cup. “That’s fucked up.”

Actually, it worked out all right,” Curtis answered, “Todd talked to him a little more and he settled on writing down our address, phone number, license numbers, all that shit. He said there was nothing he could do about it, some new bullshit state law. We even got a backup for when this one runs out,” Curtis said as he pointed to a corner. Jason looked and saw another silver keg.

The pipe and lighter came around to Jason. He set the full beer next to the other one, took the pipe and lighter, held the flame to the bowl and inhaled deeply. He felt a hot rush of smoke go into his lungs and held it for a few seconds before he exhaled. He passed the pipe and lighter to the next person.

We’re regular customers!” the next person yelled over the aggresively loud background music before he inhaled from the pipe. “He shouldn’t be giving us a hard time,” he said as he exhaled smoke.

I heard it was ABC,” Jim said as he refilled his cup. “They’re cracking down on keggers because of all the underage punks who can’t handle their alcohol. They fuck it up for the rest of us.”

ABC?” Curtis asked. “You mean like Channel 11?”

No, dummy, Alcohol Beverage Control.”

I thought the ATF handled that shit.”

You guys figure it out,” Jason said. “Got more people to see.” He grabbed his beers and went back into the house. He could feel the cannabis affect his body and slightly distort his sense of reality as he entered the fog of music and maneuvered through the sea of people which had multiplied since his arrival. He said hi to a few more people while keeping his beers from spilling. He found Christine in the living room talking to some friends an he gave her one of the beers.

Thanks, hon,” Christine said to Jason while she was listening to Rachel.

And you’ll never believe what happened next to Marcy,” Rachel said. “After her latest boyfriend moved in he fell off the wagon in record time, then he lost his job, and he isn’t even looking for a new one. She is totally supporting that loser.”

She is way too nice,” Cheryl said above the clamor, “letting him walk all over her.”

And that lazy piece of shit doesn’t cook, clean, or do anything,” Rachel said.

He must be good for something,” Cheryl said.

Him? I doubt it,” Eva called out from another conversation circle and everyone laughed.

I mean, come on! Where is your self respect?” Rachel said.

At least she’s still in beauty school,” Liz said, “she’s going to need something stable to fall back onto.”

I don’t know,” Rachel said. “She doesn’t seem to stick with anything except for guys who drag her down.”

That poor girl is so lost,” Heather said and everyone agreed.

You know,” Cheryl said to Christine, “I’ve been thinking that I should try doing what you do.”

It can be a lot of work sometimes, but it’s not bad,” Christine said. “I guess it’s more high end than being a mere secretary.”

And maybe I can meet a rich, single lawyer,” Cheryl said slyly.

And you know it’s a secure because there’s always going to be people suing each other,” Terry said and everyone laughed. Jason eased into the flow of the party as the house filled with more people and became louder. Friends and acquaintances milled around, talked, joked, laughed, and carried on through waves of music as everyone mixed into the gathering energy.

You’re going to school, aren’t you?” Cheryl said to Jason.

Yeah, I’m taking a summer night class right now.” Jason answered. “Pretty soon I’ll have enough units to transfer to State.”

Good, then you can get out of junior college purgatory,” Rachel said.

Sure is easy to fall into that trap,” Jason said.

I work with a guy that went to West Valley for ten years,” Terry said unbelievably.

“Whoa, that’s got to be a record,” Rachel said.

“I’ll bet it isn’t,” Cheryl countered.

“How the hell do you go to school that long without graduating?” Jason wondered.

Take only one or two classes a semester and milk it,” Terry said.

“That’s getting ahead,” Rachel said facetiously.

You know what,” heather began, “I’m seriously thinking about moving away and getting a new start somewhere else. It’s getting too expensive here. I know I can get ahead better somewhere else.”

Ah, we’d miss you,” everyone said caringly.

I’d miss you guys too,” Heather said, “but I’m getting tired of trying to keep up here.”

So where would you go?” Liz asked.

I have a cousin who lives up in Seattle,” Heather said, “she tells me to move up there, says I can stay at her place, even says she’ll help me find a job.”

Seattle’s a cool city,” Rachel said.

Sure, if you like rain,” Terry pointed out.

“I wouldn’t mind the rain if I didn’t have to scrape by,” Heather said.

My dad wants me and Terry to move out to Houston,” Rachel said, “and he says it’s more affordable out there and easier to get started and all that. Plus he thinks California is too fruity.”

Not everywhere,” Mike added as he wandered into the conversation.

I wouldn’t move there anyways,” Rachel said, “way too hot and humid, and they got all these ugly oil refineries all over the place.”

Sounds like L.A,” Jason said.

Yeah, and who’d want to live there,” Terry added. Everyone nodded in agreement.

My mom would feel abandoned if we moved out there anyways,” Rachel said, “then I’d be on the receiving end of her guilt trips.”

Mike edged into the middle of the conversation. “If you do leave, if you really wanna get out of the valley and head to greener pastures, you might as well go where the real action is.”

“Where’s that?” Terry said.

“Prague, Romania, Eastern Europe!” Mike said emphatically. “Those places that have no idea what business is or how to make a profit or any of that,” he added excitably. “You can go there, make a fortune, come back home in ten or fifteen years and retire, easy. Some guy at work told me all about it, says it’ll be the next big thing, all you need is a passport and airfare.”

Damn, that’s what we should be doing,” Terry said. “I bet we could do that!”

Yeah, right!” someone said sarcastically, and everyone laughed in agreement and joked some more about the idea. A warmth came over Jason as he further dissolved into the party. People were talking excitably to be heard over the loud music, some dominated the conversation until someone else talked louder and led the conversation in another direction. Some people talked louder than the previous person before they could finish their story which led to joking arguments and some roughhousing. Others listened, laughed out loud at punchlines, and waited for a pause to jump into the stream of conversation. Occasionally someone raised a drink and tried to start a group toast. The pleasantly loud hum of many people speaking combined with the pulsating rhythms of music to induce a happy delirium, and a loose, optimistic feeling charged the entire gathering.

An arm grabbed Jason around the shoulder. He looked around and saw it was Todd. “Hey, Christine,” Todd said to her, “I hate to break this up here but I need to borrow your boyfriend for a little while, if it’s okay.”

Okay, just bring him back when you’re done,” Christine said. Jason let himself be pulled away by Todd.

“Hey, I’ll join you guys later,” Terry shouted after them.

“Of course,” Todd replied. “Whipped,” he said to Jason.

Excellent party,” Jason said. “Where are we going?”

Time to do some shots.” Todd grabbed Jason’s cup and looked inside of it. “But first, we need to get a refill.” He led Jason past the sea of party goers through the kitchen and into the garage. The garage was filling up and more people were circled around the keg. “Out of the way, keg magnets!” Todd ordered as he pushed his way through the crowd and began to fill his cup.

Hey, Todd,” Curtis said, “I think this is the biggest party we’ve ever had.”

It’s the raginest, bitchinest party ever!” Jim added drunkenly.

And the night is still young,” Todd said as he finished filling his beer. “Someone already hit the bottle,” Todd said under his breath to Jason as he nodded toward to Jim.

Can’t wait until the drinking games begin,” Jason said as took the tap from Todd and filled his empty beer cup.

That’s right,” Todd said, “and tonight, I’m feeling lucky.” When Jason was finished he passed the tap to the next person and then followed Todd back into the house. They pushed their way through and down the hallway into Todd’s room. Eight or ten guys were gathered around a collection of liquor bottles with some shot glasses set up on top of a chest of drawers.

Hey, what’s going on,” one of the new party goers said to Jason.

Stu!” Jason yelled out. “Long time, no see!” He cheerfully shook hands with Stu, then saw Randy in the group. “Hey, there you are!”

Of course I’m here!” Randy called out to Jason. “Where you think I’d be?” He bustled through the crowd to Jason and roughly embraced him. They greeted each other with drunken affection then Randy tried to pick up Jason. Jason felt his feet leave the floor for a couple of seconds as Randy screamed then drop back down. Jason was immersed in an aroma of alcohol. “I was just telling everyone how we took it to Tim and Ronnie.”

Yeah, yeah, we heard you the first time,” Brian said.

And you should’ve been there!” Randy chided. “When was the last time your ass was on the court?”

Any time, any place,” Brian answered.

All right, settle down,” Todd said. “First, let’s take a shot of Jason’s present.” He twisted off the cap of the squared, black labeled bottle and filled up some shot glasses with the light brown whiskey.

That’s the third bottle someone got you for your birthday,” Stu said.

You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Todd said as he was pouring. Jason and everyone else picked up a full shot glass, Randy raised his glass and tried to make a toast, then Todd stopped him. “Wait, Jason’s turn, he just got here.”

Jason raised his shot glass and tried to think of something to say. “To Todd,” He said, “a whole quarter of a century.”

I’m getting old,” Todd joked and touched his shot glass to Jason’s and everyone else’s raised shot glasses.

Over the hill!” Alex said and everyone laughed in agreement. They all downed their shots and Jason felt the smooth hard liquor go down and warm him from the inside out. He relaxed into the camaraderie and was contented.

House is neater than usual,” Jason said to Todd. “Looks good.”

Thanks,” Todd said. “I bet you weren’t sure if you were in the right place.”

I’m in the right place now.”

And it can’t get any righter!” Randy added.

Seriously, this place was a sty,” Todd said. “We spent all day yesterday and today cleaning, scrubbing, vacuuming, we spent about thirty bucks on cleaning supplies, and we had to take care of the neighbors, too, tell them about the party so they could take precautions.”

I think I saw a couple of them here,” Brian said.

Good,” Todd said. “And getting the keg was a bigger than usual nightmare.”

Yeah, Curtis was telling me,” Jason said.

Right, and you can’t rely on him because he has warrants,” Todd said, “but somehow we did it. I just hope we have enough alcohol.”

You need to catch up,” Randy said to Jason as he grabbed the bottle of Jack Daniel’s and poured more shots. He picked up one of the filled shot glasses and pushed it onto Jason. Jason drank it one gulp and felt the initial burn, then the alcohol coursed through him and inebriated him further. Randy grabbed a bottle of tequila. “One more.”

You’re killing me,” Jason protested.

C’mon, you can take it,” Randy coaxed as he filled up some tall shot glasses and handed them out. They were filled to the rim and drops of tequila spilled over.

Any lime and salt?” Jason asked as he took a shot glass.

Right here.” Todd pulled out a salt shaker and a small plate of lime wedges from amongst the bottles and glasses. Jason licked his hand then sprinkled some salt on it. Randy held up his shot of tequila.

What are we drinking to this time?” Dwayne asked.

Randy raised his shot glass then everyone else raised theirs. “For the host of this awesome party, and a keg of decent beer.”

“And to growing old without growing up!” Stu butted in.

“Don’t fucking interrupt me when I’m toasting!” Randy said irritably to Stu. “But yeah, like Stu was saying.”

Jason licked the salt off his hand and drank the smooth, fiery liquid with everyone else. He then picked up a lime wedge, bit the fruit from the rind, and the bitter juice overpowered the strong tequila flavor. He took a long drink of his beer and his consciousness blissfully diminished further.

Hey, I want to make another toast,” Todd said with a sweep of his drink hand, then staggered a bit and grabbed onto Alex for support. “Boy am I fucked up, forgot how to walk.”

Man, I’m so wasted I can’t walk or see straight,” Alex said.

“Ain’t nothing straight about you, Alex,” Randy joked and everyone laughed out loud for awhile as they fell on each other and jostled around.

Dude, there are so many broads here!” Brian said excitedly. “I’m going to have to pry one of them away and get her into my van.”

That ugly ass Econoline of yours?” Alex said. “What a turn on.”

“Fucking thing should be condemned,” Dwayne asserted.

You just stay away from Amy,” Stu said to Brian. “She’s mine!”

Not until I’m done with her,” Mike chimed in.

I claimed her first!”

“What’d you do, brand her?” Mike said to Stu.

Guys, don’t fight,” Todd admonished, “plenty of women to be had.”

“Where the fuck did you come from?” Randy said to Mike.

“I heard shots being poured,” Mike said

Well step right up!” Randy said as he grabbed a bottle and poured more shots. Everyone continued partying as the conversation meandered from women to the party to sports and sometimes erupted into uninhibited laughter. A pipe load of cannabis was passed around and a cloud of smoke filled the room. Jason’s senses dulled further and was blissfully forgetting himself.

After a while, Jason and some of the other guys stumbled out of Todd’s room, passed the line of people waiting to use the bathroom, and mixed into the noise and commotion of the party. More people had arrived and were adding to the gathering positive energy. As Jason walked he barely felt his legs and thought he was floating as his sense of time warped into a random sensation.

Hey, Jason,” someone yelled.

Jason looked around and saw a figure emerge from the mass of people. He didn’t recognize him at first, then saw who he was. “Hey, Drew” Jason answered loudly, “how you been?” Jason sensed that Drew was as drunk as he was.

Never better,” Drew answered. “Hey, you remember, you know, what’s his name, played linebacker for us? Big motherfucker.”

Yeah.”

I ran into him the other day.”

Really,” Jason said not sure if he was remembering the right person, “how’s he doing?”

Dude, you don’t know who I’m talking about,” Drew said.

Of course I know,” Jason said defensively. “You saying I’m an idiot?”

Aw, you’re just fucking with me.” Drew laughed until he lost his balance and fell toward Jason. He grabbed onto Jason and tried to hold himself up and Jason tilted back. They both leaned onto Stu and they all fell forward clumsily but were supported by a mass of people, remained upright and were able to stand back up.

Hey, is this jerk bothering you?” Stu asked Jason.

We’re trying to have a conversation here!” Drew yelled through the noise.

Yeah, that’s right,” Jason said, “we were just talking about…you know, what’s his name,” Jason said to Drew.

So where’s the keg?” Drew asked as he held up an empty beer cup. “I need a refill.”

Looking dry myself,” Stu said as he peered into his empty cup.

Well let’s go!” Jason said. He pushed Stu ahead and they navigated through the horde while picking up more followers as they went. The merry crowd gave way to the train of party goers as they burrowed through the kitchen, into the garage and hooked onto the line of people that were already lined up at the keg. The garage had become even more crowded and festive as everyone was talking, joking, laughing and carrying on while the music boomed and the line inched forward.

Jason got to the keg, filled his beer half way, drank it, then filled it again to the top. “I think it might be time to tap the second keg!”

“This is the the second keg!” Curtis replied.

“Awesome!” Jason hung out in the garage for a bit then wandered with another group of people back into the house and careened into the living room while trying not to spill his beer.

The party was noisy and rollicking and chaotic joy reigned over everyone in the early fun stages of drunken exuberance. Barriers dissolved around the separate cliques and everyone joined in a shared euphoria of youth and abandonment. Uncontrolled voices and laughter everywhere intertwined with the music and coalesced into a rising, kaleidescopic exhilaration.

*         *             *          *          *            *

As the evening progressed a pair of couples that were standing near the stereo began to move and dance to the music. Some others pushed the coffee table and chairs aside and danced with one another on the cleared living room floor as the crowd gave way and overflowed into the rest of the house and out into the front and back yards. More people joined in the dancing while others watched and moved to the music.

Jason was at the edge of the living room, talking with Alex, Dwayne and a couple of others, then felt a tug on his sleeve. He looked around and saw it was Christine. “C’mon, let’s dance,” she said while smiling tipsily. She took his hand and pulled him onto the dance floor. He placed his beer cup on top of a speaker crowded with other drinks, then their hands met as he became more aware of the music through his inebriation. The rhythm infused into him and moved him as he subconsciously swayed one way then another. The two of them mixed into the up tempo of the music and commingled with the other dancing people in the dim light of the living room. They danced serenely and carefree, then Christine pulled Jason closer and held on to him for support as they danced a little slower. “I think I’m drunk,” she admitted.

From one beer?” Jason asked.

Cheryl brought a bottle of schnapps.”

Jason kissed Christine deeply and tasted peppermint. “I can tell.”

What have you been drinking?” Christine asked.

Jason tried to think for a moment. “Don’t remember.”

Must have been a lot, whatever it was.” They danced some more as everyone in the living room moved joyously and rhythmically in a loose, gyrating symmetry. The shared social euphoria continued to lift the spirit of the party ever higher as it took off into a new phase. More party goers and some new arrivals crowded into the living room and joined in the dancing.

*     *     *      *     *     *

At midnight, Lena and some of her friends brought a homemade, rectangular birthday cake from the kitchen and out into the living room. They set the cake on a table and Jason got a better look. It had some decorative frosting, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TODD written in icing, and a 2 candle next to a 5 candle. One of the women lit the candles and people slowed their dancing as they noticed the birthday cake. Someone turned down the volume of the stereo and everyone stopped moving in the sudden silence then gathered around the cake. “Where’s the birthday boy?” Lena asked.

Right here,” Todd said as he bored through the crowd and moved into the center amongst the women. He looked at the cake and laughed. “You know you’re getting older when they stop putting on the number of candles that matches how old you are.”

That would be too many candles to light!” someone shouted from across the room.

Okay, everybody,” Lena began to sing. “Happy birthday to you,” everyone else joined in the singing, “happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear To-odd, happy birthday tooo yoou!” Todd blew out the two candles and everyone clapped and cheered. A few shouted out some drunken, funny, well wishing comments.

Thank you, thank you everybody,” Todd said after the cheering subsided. “Well,” he began, “now that it’s past midnight, I am officially twenty five years old.” A few more cheers and claps erupted and a couple of people whistled. “Wow, a whole quarter of a century. Damn that sounds old.”

You’re getting better with age, Todd,” Alex said followed by a chorus of comical agreement.

Yeah, yeah,” Todd said as everyone focused on him in the dim light. The buoyant mood gave way to somber reflection and everyone became expectant for Todd to say something. “Twenty five years,” he said almost to himself. “Time sure does go by. I may not have learned much in all that time, but I do know one thing, I am very lucky to have this girl right here.” He hugged Lena and kissed her and everyone aaahed exaggeratedly. “Thanks for the cake, sure looks good, the women here did an excellent job. And I want to thank everybody for coming, especially those that brought me gifts.” Everyone laughed. “Well,” Todd said, then thought for a moment. “Half way to fifty, some ups, some downs, but so far so good. It sure has been a lot of fun, and now, after all this time, I think I’m finally starting to grow up a little.” Everyone groaned. “No, don’t worry, I’ll be the same old Todd, I’m not growing up completely, but I feel…I feel like I’m starting to have more appreciation for the things in life that I usually take for granted. And I think that the most important thing of all are the people in your life.” Lena hugged him and held onto him as he talked. “Everybody here, all my friends, you’re like a family to me. Honest to god, you guys are the best, I love you all.” Todd gave a toast with his beer cup, and everyone raised their drinks. “All right, now everybody dig in!” Lena handed Todd a knife and he began to slice the cake into squares. Cheryl brought out paper plates and plastic forks and handed them to everyone as they gathered around the cake. Two to three hands at a time reached in with plastic forks and scooped up the pieces of cake. Someone turned up the music and the party continued as everyone ate.

Good cake,” Todd said,” glad one of us knows how to cook,” he said teasingly to Lena.

Lucky you,” Jason kidded while he ate, then he felt Christine smack him. Everyone devoured the cake while the music played and then trickled back onto the dance floor or elsewhere throughout the house. Jason and Christine wandered back into the living room and slow danced to a mellow tune. She laid her head on his chest and he embraced her as they moved easily with other couples. People rotated in and out of the living room, mingled, drank, toked, caroused, and chatted in clusters as the party continued at a steady energy.

At about half past midnight Jason and Christine wandered out of the living room and into the kitchen where a ring of party goers were standing around the kitchen table. They moved in closer and Jason saw Todd sitting at the head of the table holding a quarter sideways with two fingers and a thumb and aiming it at the table. People were sitting around the table with drinks in front of them while others stood around and watched while aimlessly talking to one person or another.

Jump in,” Todd said to Jason. He then bounced the quarter off the table and it made an arc toward an empty glass. It glanced off the rim and landed on the table. “Shit! That was close.” The door to the garage was propped open and people went in and out to refill their beers in a steady stream. Intoxicated laughter echoed from the garage and created a noisy racket that drifted into the kitchen.

Jason found an empty chair and pulled it up to the table. “Save this,” he said to Christine, “I’ll get a couple more beers.”

I don’t know if I want another,” Christine said as she sat down.

It’ll dilute the schnapps,” Jason said.

Can’t I just sip on yours?”

Have a seat,” Todd said to Jason, “I got people to fetch drinks for me, I’m the birthday boy!” He picked up an empty pitcher from the table and held it up. “Somebody fill this.” A hand reached in and took the pitcher away. Jason looked around for another seat, found an empty plastic crate, brought it to the table and sat by Christine. He pushed aside the empty bottles and plastic cups from in front of them and made a small path to the empty center where the quarter and the empty glass were. He noticed Tim sitting on the other side of the table.

Hey, how’s the shooting arm,” he said to Tim sarcastically.

Tim gave Jason a disinterested look and then picked up the quarter. He held it over the table, steadied his hand, then bounced it off the table and landed it into the glass. “Yes!”

Too bad you can’t make baskets that easy,” Jason said.

Have one on me, smart ass.”

Jason looked around then saw a full pitcher of beer get set down on the table. He filled his cup, passed the pitcher to the next person, and took a drink. Time seemingly slowed down to Jason as his senses warped into a pleasantly surreal semi awareness. He looked around the house and saw friends and new people, talking, joking, and laughing spontaneously, drunk with happiness as well as alcohol. “Todd, this might be the best party that’s ever been,” he stated.

Fuckin’ A it is,” Brian added loudly from Jason’s left.

Better than the one Alex and I threw last month,” Dwayne said as he picked the quarter out of the glass. “And that one was raging.”

Must have been,” Alex said, “my memory is a real blur that night.”

This party has taken over where that one left off,” Todd said.

May it never end,” Dwayne said then bounced the quarter. It clinked against the glass and landed on the table. “Damn, I don’t think I got one in yet.”

Are we going in order?” Mike asked. “I think I was skipped.”

Just go with it,” Todd said as he grabbed the quarter. He bounced it off the table and it fell into the glass. “Yes! Life is good. Drink up, Mike.”

You know,” Brian began, “my old man was talking to me the other day, and he said, ‘Brian, you’re young, you got your whole life ahead of you in the greatest country on earth, and the 90’s will be the best decade ever. And now’s the time to make your mark.’”

At least we finally have a president who knows what he’s doing,” Alex said.

Yeah,” Stu added, “so what if he’s a prick.”

You know what I think,” Dwayne said, “we should all get rid of all our governments. Seriously, they just get in the way.”

All people need to do is get together like this all the time,” Jason said.

“That’s right,” Alex agreed, “when you don’t, it just leads to trouble.” The quarter bounced and clanged around on the kitchen table as everything settled into an easy groove.

Speaking of trouble,” Todd said, “I think I saw Gina show up.

I wonder if she and Randy are at it yet,” Jason said.

I saw them outside talking,” Brian said.

Just talking?” Dwayne said.

They were starting to get loud,” Brian said.

Let’s see if they can control themselves,” Todd said. He bounced the quarter bounced off the table and hit off the glass. “Shit! Who thought of this fuckin’ game?”

That would be you, birthday boy,” Alex said.

Ah, quit your bitchin’” Mike said as he grabbed the quarter. He bounced it off the table and it clinked into the glass. “That’s how it’s done!” He pointed to Brian. “You, drink up. You’re not drunk enough.”

Stu wandered over to the window and looked outside. “There they go,” he said. The unruly voices in the backyard grew louder and escalated into a shrill melee of back and forth shouting and swearing.

Can’t they just get along,” Dwayne said. The noise of Randy and Gina’s screaming match carried into the house and affected the buzz of the party. People in the kitchen area looked out the window as the fight grew louder. Gina’s voice rose higher until it cracked and she erupted into a wail. She threw open the sliding glass door, stomped into the house her eyes wet from tears, then slammed the door shut behind her.

Fucking bastard!” Gina cried. “I hate him! I fucking hate him!” she sobbed as she stormed through the house. Christine got up and went after Gina along with Lena, Cheryl, Rachel, Liz and others. They followed her into the living room and were calling after her.

That was sudden,” Brian said.

Wonder what they were fighting about this time,” Alex said.

Jason slid onto the chair left by Christine and glanced into the living room. More people tried to intercept Gina and calm her down as she was barging to the front door. “Fucking son of a bitch!” she hollered as she exited. “I never want to see him again!” A few more people followed her out to the front yard and kept trying to calm her down.

Looks like Gina’s taking off,” Jason said.

She’s going to miss out on this quarters game,” Mike said.

So whose turn is it?” Todd asked.

Wonder if she dumps him this time,” Tim said.

Why, so you can make your move?” Dwayne accused.

No, I’m just saying.”

She’ll be all right,” Todd said, “she just needs some time away from Randy.”

Yeah,” Alex agreed, “like the rest of her life.”

Todd looked around the table. “Where’s the quarter?”

The glass door slowly slid open, and Randy appeared in the doorway. He held onto the door for support then stumbled into the house. He noticed everyone was looking at him. “Anything happen while I was gone?” he asked drunkenly. No one answered, then he obliviously advanced toward the quarters game, grabbed onto a chair, dropped into it, and scooted up to the table. “Well there goes the woman of my dreams,” he joked as he settled in comfortably with everyone around the table. “Can’t live with them, can’t live without them, am I right or what?” He looked around at everyone.

No, you can’t live without them,” Todd said, “but you can always trade them in for a newer model.” Todd looked around real quick. “Good thing Lena didn’t hear that.”

Looks like all the women left us,” Dwayne said as he looked around.

Yeah, thanks Randy,” Mike said.

Who, me? Shit, they left because you’re all a bunch of fuckin’ queers,” Randy said.

“Not all of us,” Todd said. “But you two did make a scene, kind of disrupted everything.”

“Okay, so I lost my cool, but she made me do it. We were just having a regular discussion, then out of nowhere she gets all pissed off and starts tearing me new one! What was I supposed to do?” Randy looked around the table. “Whose turn is it?”

“So what were you discussing?” Jason asked.

It was nothing,” Randy said dismissively. “She was getting on my case, telling me what to do with my life, so I told her what to do,” he said with a laugh. “She’s just got to stop bitching at me to do shit that I don’t wanna do, I don’t need to change.”

A winner like you?” Mike joked. “What’s she thinking.”

The women just have to grab onto the Randy express and hold on for dear life,” Alex said.

Fuck, dude, I need a beer,” Randy said as he grabbed the pitcher and poured the rest of the beer into an empty glass.

Hey, we’re using that glass for our quarters game,” Dwayne chided.

Relax,” Randy said. He began to drink from the glass.

I think the quarter’s in there,” Jason said.

Let’s see if Randy swallows,” Todd suggested.

Randy drank the beer as everyone watched. The glass slowly emptied leaving the silvery coin laying at the bottom. He finished, then slid the quarter out of the glass and into the palm of his hand. “Fuck it. Let’s play.”

©2016 Robert Kirkendall