Rewrite of chapter 5. The scene is the morning after a glorious party, and the end of the first third of the novel. Everyone is hungover but happy, and the story reaches a peak at the end of this chapter, after which is the downward slide to its ultimate fate.
Jason’s eyes slowly opened in the diminishing darkness of early dawn. He made out a ceiling in the dimness, then looked down and saw Christine asleep and huddled up against him on the living room couch. He gently kissed her face, then felt the weight of a hangover and his eyes fell shut. His head was blunted by alcohol as he drifted in and out of consciousness. He was worn out but still happy in the hazy aftermath of the party.
After a while Jason awakened fully and slowly looked around. Silhouettes of furniture and sleeping people gradually materialized out of the obscurity, 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 carefully 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 again. “Even hungover you’re beautiful.”
“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 a shock of light flooded the living the room. 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 those girls Drew was hitting on? They looked high school age.” He put the pot back on its burner and made room for Brian and Jason.
“What were they doing at our party?” Jason asked.
“Maybe they found out from your brother,” Brian said to Jason as he poured himself a coffee.
“Probably,” Jason laughed. “But we can’t be having the jail bait. What if the cops show up because of the noise and see them?”
“Drew needs to work on his approach anyhow,” Brian remarked.
“I know,” Dwayne agreed. “His approach causes women to depart.”
They laughed as Jason grabbed the pot and 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 suggested.
“Yeah,” Dwayne agreed. “Hair of the dog.”
“No fuckin’ way,” Stu rejected as he poured tomato juice into an empty beer cup. “Alcohol is the last thing I need right now. I need a break from it.”
“Sure, and this time you mean it,” Dwayne kidded. 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 added.
“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 announced.
“Well you’re looking chipper,” Mike responded.
“Best birthday party ever I ever had,” Todd declared. He walked over to Randy on the couch and shoved him with his foot. “Wake up, you maniac!”
“In a sec,” Randy replied 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 reminded.
“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 further accused.
“You and Gina,” Rachel scolded, “the two of you got into a very loud argument. Don’t you remember?”
“Really?” Randy said innocently.
“Yeah, really!” Cheryl snapped. “How fucking drunk were you?”
“No more than anyone else,” Randy deflected.
“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.”
“Yeah,” Terry agreed, “our quarters game was interrupted.”
“And Gina was really hurt,” Rachel emphasized.
“Well I’m hurt, too,” Randy said pityingly.
“Please!” Cheryl called out. “Can’t you think of anyone besides yourself?”
“Seriously,” Randy said as he held up his hands defensively, “she yelled at me first.”
“Well what did you say to her?” Mike asked.
Randy appeared to search his memory. “You know what, I just don’t remember,” he admitted. “I think I blacked out when she started yelling.”
“So she just started yelling out of nowhere,” Mike said skeptically.
“Maybe it’s her time of the month,” Randy supposed.
“What can she possibly see in you?” Liz said contemptuously.
“You too? Damn,” Randy said as he appeared weary from persecution. “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 informed, “bawling her head off, as if you cared.”
“Jeez, of course I care. I’m not all bad,” Randy contended. “Speaking of balling,” he turned 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 disgustedly.
“Yeah,” Liz agreed. “What would Lena say?”
“I think we could all use a bonghit,” Dwayne suggested.
“Amen,” Brian concurred, “take the edge off these hangovers.”
Dwayne sat in front of the coffee table, pulled a worn cellophane bag from his pocket, unfolded it, and removed a chunk of cannabis. Brian placed the bong in front of Dwayne, 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 sipping coffee, a couple of others were drinking cups of flat beer scavenged from the keg. 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?”
“Well,” Todd began, “we might have a couple eggs in the fridge and some week old danishes. Or, I know of this excellent breakfast place where we can go.”
“Where?” Dwayne asked.
“It’s over on The Alameda,” Todd said, “just up the street from Andy’s Pet Shop. They make 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, left the house, 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 recommended.
“That sounds tasty,” Curtis said.
“Anything with hash sounds good,” Brian remarked.
“Did you ever notice how everything on the menu looks good when your hungover,” Alex said.
“Pace yourself,” Randy advised, and everyone looked at him confusedly.
A few minutes later the waitress came with the drinks the took their orders.
“Are you from Texas?” Randy asked her.
“Georgia,” Randy replied, the appeared more curious. “So how come you moved out here?”
“Why, to be a movie star, hon,” the waitress answered saucily.
“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 informed.
“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 joked and everyone laughed.
“I’ll bet 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 to the kitchen window.
“You’re in rare form this weekend, Randy,” Alex observed.
“This is nothing,” Randy said. “Remember that Day On The Green?” he said to Todd. “We snuck 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 recalled. “You must have crashed in some complete stranger’s van.”
“Really,” Randy said as he appeared to search his memory. “I think I scored that night.”
“What was the lucky guy’s name?” Mike said and everyone laughed.
“Say what you want, but 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, they gathered together their cash and left a pile of money on the bill tray. They got up, went to the front door, and thanked the waitress just as they were leaving. “You all stay out of trouble now,” she said affectionately as they filed out the door. They chatted a bit more out in the parking lot, made tentative plans for future gatherings, then said their goodbyes 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 steered with his left hand. She rested her head on his shoulder, then softly traced her hand up and down his thigh, and smiled at him. He felt a rush of anticipation and drove a little faster.
They arrived at Christine’s, parked, and went inside. He embraced her from behind, held her close, and kissed her all over. She gave in, then slid out of his grip, took his hand, and led him into her bedroom. They came together amorously and kissed each other deeply as they tugged at each other’s clothes. They fell onto her bed and he reached under her blouse, ran his hand up her back, and pulled her closer. She stopped and gently pushed away from his embrace. He looked upon her curiously. She looked keenly into his eyes, and he was mesmerized.
“You know what I was thinking about?” Christine asked softly. She looked away in serene reflection. “Last night,” she began, “seeing all our friends, everyone all together, celebrating, having a very joyous time…everything just felt so right, almost perfect. It was like no other feeling I’ve ever had before.” She beamed as she looked back at Jason. “And then I thought about us.” She moved in a little closer. “We are so incredibly lucky, to be here in this time and in this place, with all our friends, our families, our health, living together in the most free time ever in history, and with our whole lives ahead of us,” she said with heartfelt emphasis.
Christine’s looked deeply into Jason’s eyes and bared complete trust and unending love. He felt the weight of her gaze, and looked into her eyes with equal devotion. Their shared love grew into an unrestrainable desire, and they joined together into a passionate and heated entanglement.
©2016 Robert Kirkendall