Redwood Summer Chapter 4 (repost)

Just gave chapter 4 a rewrite, the party scene. One of the inspirations for this chapter is the party scene from The Great Gatsby. Not that I’m at that level of expertise, but learn from the best. What struck me about the party scene from Gatsby is that it’s so ethereal it almost seems unreal, and so beautiful that you know the happiness won’t last.  And I think it’s a match with my party scene because it represents a deliriously happy peak for all the characters that they’ll never reach again.

via Redwood Summer Chapter 4

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Redwood Summer Chapter 13

“So now Alex is trying to hook him up with a job so he can pay off his bills and his back rent!” Mike said loudly to Jason over blaring party music.

Hook who up?” Jason responded just as loud.

Curtis!” Mike repeated.

Oh, good for him!” Jason yelled back. “Hope it works out!”

“Maybe he can find something for you!”

“I’ll need to make more than what Curtis is willing to work for!”

“I heard that!” Mike agreed.

They looked around the unfamiliar house at the shifty, uneasy crowd.

“Know anybody here other than Darren?” Mike asked loudly.

Jason scanned the horde of party goers. “A couple of familiar faces, but no one I know personally!”

They milled around and tried to fit into the agitated atmosphere of the party. Some were drinking heavily and clustered around in separate, loud conversations. Others went in and out of a bedroom at the end of the hallway, closing the door every time they entered or exited.

The night wore on then loud, angry voices clashed over the blasting music. Jason and Mike looked toward the clamor and saw people hurrying toward the front room. They followed everyone and saw Randy and another party goer screaming and pushing at each other as others yelled at them to stop or egged them on. Jason and Mike moved toward the conflict but merged into a flood of people that quickly filled up the front room. The crowd surrounded the two fighters as the mêlée escalated and they tried to wrestle each other down. Jason and Mike struggled to push through the crowd but were stuck. Jason watched the fight from a distance as spectators from the crowd finally reached in and tried to pull Randy and his opponent away from each other while others continued to incite them. Jason tried to keep his footing in the lumbering crowd then someone hollered that a neighbor had called the police.

Everyone quickly untangled themselves, broke away from each other, and dispersed out the front and back doors. Jason and Mike along with Darren got a hold of Randy while the other fighter was pulled away by other disappearing party goers.

Where is that motherfucker!” Randy yelled.

“Chill, dude!” Darren said.

Let’s get the fuck outta here!” Mike ordered as he and Jason pushed Randy out into the backyard and were trailed by Darren. They met up with Brian and Terry and joined a line of people running along the side of the house. They emerged into the front yard and everyone fled into the night under the hazy glow of street lamps.

Lit up police cars rolled up the street, and Jason, Mike, Brian, Terry, and Darren grabbed Randy and took off in the opposite direction. They raced down one street, then another. Jason was fueled by a rush of excitement as he deeply breathed in the cool night air. They kept running through the neighborhood then slowed to a jog, and then a walk as the houses gave way to the large expanse of a high school. They tried to catch their breath as they approached the front of the campus.

Got away,” Brian said between breaths.

So who was that guy you were brawling with?” Jason asked Randy.

“One of Tony’s asshole friends,” Randy said. “I think his name is Frank.”

“Well what were you two fighting about?” Jason asked.

Fuck if I know,” Randy said as he wandered onto the yellow lit school grounds.

Well that explains things,” Brian said sarcastically. “I thought it was something important.”

“You guys should’ve back me up!” Randy insisted.

“We tried but the place was packed,” Mike replied. “We could barely move.”

You’re lucky we got you out of there,” Jason said to Randy. “You’re in no shape to be talking to cops right now.”

They would’ve dragged you away on sight,” Terry added.

Yeah, yeah,” Randy said dismissively. He wandered further onto the school and looked around at the institutional, rectangular buildings. “Haven’t been here in a while.”

I had to get out of that party quick,” Darren said. “I think I still have a warrant out on me.”

That the only reason why you’re so jumpy?” Terry asked knowingly.

At least they didn’t send that helicopter with the spotlight,” Mike said.

Randy continued to survey the school grounds. He walked through the outdoor commons and everyone followed. “Can’t believe it’s been five years already.”

Time marched on,” Brian reminded.

Hope they don’t bust Tony,” Darren worried.

They shouldn’t,” Terry answered. “He just threw a noisy party, that’s all.”

Yeah, as long as nothing is in plain sight,” Mike reminded.

They’re just there to break up our fun,” Randy said as he pulled a can of beer from his jacket pocket. “Shit, like they got nothing better to do.” He opened his beer and foam hissed out of the can as he took a drink.

Hope you brought enough for everybody,” Brian chided.

I might have an extra,” Mike said as he felt inside his jacket, pulled out one can, then another,

and handed one to Brian. Jason then felt his front jacket pocket, found a beer he had forgotten, and

pulled it out. As they opened their beers they all shot out foam.

Randy held up his can. “To the old school,” he said solemnly, and they all took a drink. Jason took a foamy drink that tasted warm and acrid.

Not too often we get to see the old school,” Randy reminisced.

You didn’t see too much of it when you were going,” Mike kidded.

Yeah, but when you’re in high school you can’t let classes get in the way of having a good time,” Randy asserted.

Can’t argue with that,” Jason said half seriously.

That’s right,” Terry agreed. “So what if you weren’t the valedictorian.”

Yeah, I was a pain,” Randy acknowledged, “but I never thought I was going to miss it.” He looked around the campus longingly as he walked ahead. “Now it’s all a bunch of kids who were in fucking junior high when we were here. Can you believe that shit?” Randy quickened his pace as he went by a row of lockers. Everyone else jogged after him while trying not to spill their beers until they came upon the courtyard in the middle of the school buildings. They all stopped, and Randy looked around the open space nostalgically.

“Sure looks empty with nobody around,” Terry said after a while.

Yeah,” Jason agreed, “and smaller.”

Randy gazed around raptly then focused on one of the larger buildings. “The cafeteria,” he spotted. “Did a lot of Saturday school there.”

Couldn’t have been as much as me,” Mike said.

I remember this one time a food fight broke out in there,” Terry began. “When no one was looking, I walked out with a case of Fanta.”

Did you guys hear someone else?” Darren asked warily.

That’s nothing,” Mike said to Terry. “One night I carved donuts on the soccer field with my old Camaro.”

I think that’s just our voices echoing,” Brian said to Darren.

Yeah, I tore it up good,” Mike reminisced as he pantomimed making a sharp turn with a steering wheel.

“Oh, I remember now,” Terry said to Mike. “It was after that party when…”

A piercing scream suddenly erupted from Randy. The echo reverberated off the buildings and briefly filled the vacant courtyard. Everyone looked around startled. “You’re right,” Randy said to Brian.

“Goddammit, Randy! There are cops around!” Jason said angrily.

Hope nobody heard that,” Darren worried.

“Oh, that was heard,” Mike remarked.

You’re awfully jumpy tonight,” Terry said to Darren.

“He’s always jumpy,” Brian added.

“Cops won’t come,” Mike predicted, “they’re busy rousting Tony.”

Aw, man,” Darren lamented.

Randy walked further into the courtyard. “You know how people that say that high school is the quickest four years of your life,” he began, “well it’s been about five years since we all left, and those four years were a lot more fun than the years that came after. Ain’t that a bitch.”

Life was better then and we didn’t even know it,” Brian observed.

Couldn’t wait to get out of here,” Randy said as he looked around the open space longingly, and here I am.” The yellow lights on the buildings glowed beside him and his shadow stretched across the ground and moved with him. Jason watched Randy as he wandered to the center of the courtyard and appeared to be lost in memories. “Back then we were always hanging out with each other, like family. Now we don’t see each other the way we used to.” He stood by himself in the middle of the courtyard. “Especially since some of you are whipped by your girlfriends.”

Jason suspected the last comment was directed at him. Randy looked around some more, thenfocused on one spot in the far corner. “The center of it all,” he said happily. “The smoking section.”

That isn’t the smoking section anymore,” Terry informed.

What?” Randy looked stunned. “Where the fuck is it?”

They don’t have one anymore,” Jason said.

You’re shitting me!”

All the high schools got rid of them,” Mike said, “new state law. Didn’t you hear?”

Randy lowered his head in disappointment. “Everything good in life, they take it all away,” he brooded. “It’s bullshit!” He paced around angrily. “Where are you supposed to go now to hang out with your bros and smoke a bowl?”

Library?” Mike joked.

Goddammit I’m serious!” Randy yelled from the middle of the courtyard. “We have been betrayed by a bunch of fucking new rules! Freeways cover up our old stomping grounds! It’s getting too fucking crowded here! Shit is getting too expensive! We’re losing our freedom!” he declared with fists clenched. “Where’s the fun? Where are the crazy adventures? The memories!” A tense pause filled the air.

Life ain’t that bad,” Mike finally said. “Why stress?”

Because we had something!” Randy emphasized. “We were the big men on campus, and nobody could fuck with us! And now it’s all gone! Fuck!” He flung his can of beer and it skidded across the blacktop then struck one of the buildings as it left a wet trail of beer in its path.

Hey, that’s alcohol abuse,” Terry joked.

“You think I’m kidding?” Randy shot back.

“You need to relax,” Jason advised.

“Fuck that!” Randy paced around some more. “You don’t get it! All you motherfuckers are relaxing too much!” he accused as everyone watched him. “Everything we had is disappearing! And you’re all settling into your nice, boring routines! Dull, predictable lives!” He moved in closer. “You’re all dying inside.”

“Whoa, Randy, that’s heavy,” Mike cautioned.

“And take it easy. There are cops around!” Jason warned.

“What the fuck is wrong with you guys? Are you even listening?” Randy yelled. He pulled out another can of beer from his jacket pocket, opened it, took a long drink and moved closer to everyone. “In the old days you would’ve backed me up.”

“We tried but everybody rushed in,” Mike said. “We could barely move!”

“And then someone said the cops were on the way,” Brian said.

“Yeah,” Jason agreed. “What the fuck were we supposed to do?”

“You’re not supposed to forget who your brothers are!” Randy shouted. Everything fell silent again.

“Okay, Randy, sorry for not jumping in on time,” Brian finally replied. “We didn’t know you were going to start a fight with some total stranger.”

“Fuck, man!” Randy continued angrily. “I didn’t start shit! That fucker bumped into me on purpose! Then he started shooting off his mouth! I couldn’t let him get away with that!” He appeared to wait for a response. “It wasn’t my fault!” he insisted.

“It never is,” Terry remarked.

“Fuck you!” Randy shot back. “You’re supposed to be on my side!”

Let it go,” Brian advised.

“No! Fuck that!” Randy yelled. “I don’t want to hear any more of that pussy bullshit! I’m not letting it go!” he emphasized. “I know what’s going on. No one wants to hang out with Randy anymore.” He paced around again. “Your girlfriends don’t like having me around. They think I’m an embarrassment. They think I’m trouble. But don’t you all forget that I’m the one who makes things happen!” He stared at them accusedly as the tension rose up again. “What would you have done without me, huh?” he asked pointedly. “Sit around and jack off all day? All your memories are because of me! I’ll be the one you tell stories about whenever you all get together! I made your pasts!” He moved in closer. “You can’t escape that.”

“No one has forgotten,” Jason finally said.

“That’s right,” Mike agreed. “Always the life of the party.”

“I was the party,” Randy declared proudly. His eyes appeared to light up from a recalled memory. “You guys remember that party we went to in the east side? At that ranch up in the foothills? Big place, kegs everywhere. And we met those farmer chicks, I think they were drunker than we were,” he said with a laugh. “And there was that one I hit it off with, Rhonda or something. Then we went behind a shed, and we had our party,” he added luridly.

“Yeah, I remember that party,” Terry reminisced, “or at least I remember going there. I think I blacked out at some point.

One of those girls had her hands all over you,” Randy said to Jason. He moved toward him. “You could’ve fucked her. How come you didn’t?”

Jason was caught off guard. “I was going out with Jenny at the time.”

“So?”

“So I didn’t want to cheat on her.”

Well good for you,” Randy said ominously. “That shows loyalty.”

Jason began to feel uneasy. “What are you getting at?”

“I remember a time when you were loyal to your friends,” Randy said as he moved closer to Jason.

Aw, c’mon!” Jason refuted. “Where do you come off saying shit like that?”

Tell me I’m wrong.”

Jason felt the heat of persecution. “I went with you to Tony’s sketchy party, didn’t I?!”

“After I begged you.”

“I can’t hang out like we’re cutting classes anymore!” Jason argued. “I’ve got responsibilities now, bills to pay!”

“And a new class of people to hang out with,” Randy accused.

“What the hell do you want from me, the old Jason? You don’t think I don’t want to do all the fun things we used to do? I miss those days too, but I can’t be a kid forever!”

No more room for Randy,” Randy said with angry self pity.

Hey! I’m here now!”

“Chris finally let you off her your leash.”

“Goddammit! If you can’t keep a woman that’s your problem!”

“I can get any broad I want! Even yours.”

“You better watch your mouth!”

Randy stepped closer. “I have known you a lot longer than she has! We grew up together! We played ball together! Partied together! Did everything together! We used to go after the same girls, and they never got in the way!”

Jason felt the heat Randy’s righteous, accusing glare. Shared memories and the lure of nostalgia tempted him and reminded him of the stresses of his present life. Buried fears of a lost, happier past, fading comradery, and an unknown future arose. The gulf between his past and present widened, and dread began to haunt him. “What is your fucking problem?! Christine is the woman I love! Not some party skank! And do really think my life is some kind of fucking fairy tale? I’ve got all kinds of new problems to deal with! A job I can’t stand! Credit card bills! Mooching off of my parents like I’m still a child!”

“Oh, so I’m holding you back,” Randy further accused. “Is that it?”

Anger and frustration boiled over. “You’re holding yourself back! You’re making the wrong choices! What the fuck am I supposed to do, lead you around by the hand?!”

“You’re supposed to remember who your brothers are!” Randy shot back. “Todd would have backed me up! And Alex, Dwayne, even Curtis!”

“They’re not here!”

“Well where the fuck are they?!”

“I think there at Stu’s,” Mike interjected.

Stu’s throwing a party and you didn’t tell me?” Randy fumed.

“You wanted to go to Tony’s!” Jason reminded angrily.

“I think it’s more of a get together,” Mike added.

“Well we’re not at Tony’s now!” Randy shouted back at Jason.

“Yeah, you had something to do with that,” Terry reminded.

“Fuck you!” Randy threw his almost empty beer can at Terry. Terry quickly moved out of the way and the can thudded against a wall.

“Whoa! What the fuck, man!” Terry said hotly.

“Get a hold of yourself!” Mike ordered.

“Fuck Stu! We’ll have our own party!” Randy declared. “We’ll get some more beers and drive down to the beach!” He began to leave then looked back at everyone. “C’mon!”

“We’ve been drinking all night! We can’t drive over the hill!” Jason asserted.

“You see, that’s the kind of pussy bullshit I’m talking about! Not willing to jump in and take a chance!”

“You’re out of control,” Mike cautioned.

“Who’s with me?!” Randy shouted. “Who’s got a car?!”

“Dude, we’re not driving over the 17 in the middle of the night after we’ve been drinking!” Terry argued.

Shit! I can drive that hill blindfolded!” Randy bragged. “Darren, we’ll take your car!”

“No way, the brakes are shot.”

“Mike!”

“Are you kidding? My alcohol level has to be twice the legal limit right now.”

“Don’t let me down, Terry!”

“Fuck it, I’m heading home,” Terry said, then started to move away.

“Guess I don’t need to ask you,” Randy said flippantly to Jason.

“I’m out.” Jason also began to leave, then Mike.

“Darren!” Randy said with exaggerated friendliness. “You won’t leave me.”

“Sorry, bro, I gotta keep out of sight.” Darren left and jogged up to everyone else leaving.

“So that’s it?” Randy called out as everyone exited the courtyard. “Just gonna leave ol’ Randy all by himself?”

Everyone continued down the corridor toward the school entrance.

“Well I don’t need any of you motherfuckers! Go back to your boring lives! I’m a one man party! I am a creature of the night!” Randy’s voluminous voice became distant as Jason and everyone else approached the school entrance. “That’s it! Keep going! Don’t worry about Randy! I’ll go invade Stu’s! Or find some other party!” Jason heard footsteps in the courtyard moving away quickly in the opposite direction.

Jason and everyone else made it to the street and walked along the sidewalk. A couple of them took a last drink of their beers and tossed them into a nearby trash can. 

“Well this has sure been a crazy night,” Mike observed, and everyone muttered in agreement. They then saw a police car driving down a cross street, and everyone froze for an instant.

 

©2017 Robert Kirkendall

Redwood Summer Chapter 4

  “Everybody at work is optimistic,” Jason relayed 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. And 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,” Jason said like it was a punchline. “But you know what, you can’t be a chump if you want to make it in the business world.”


“Yeah, God forbid they should have any ethics.”

“Hey, the guys I work for are all right.”

“Are they all guys?”

Jason thought for a second. “Pretty much.”

“Of course,” Christine said forbearingly.

“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.”

“Jeez, my dad said the same thing yesterday,” Jason laughed.

“Listen to your father,” Christine advised. “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 reassured. “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. “I think it’s about to expand.”

“I sure hope so.”

“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 I like my coworkers, 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.”

“Well 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 fervently. 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 talking to Rachel? Guess they’re not fighting anymore.” They arrived and entered into the party’s surrounding aura.

“Hey, look who’s here!” someone in the group announced. Everyone in the front yard loudly greeted them, some lifted up their drinks in a toast.

“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 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 approached to Jason and clapped him on the shoulder.

“Hey, Brian!” Jason replied. “How you been?”

“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 into their conversation with a plastic cup of beer. “What’s up, Jason!”

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

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

“Well I better get one before you drink it all.”

“What you got there?” Jim asked interestedly as he pointed to Jason’s gift.

“You’ll see.” 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 which 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 called out. 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 admitted.

“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 whiskey.

“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 taped onto 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 went on. “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 aggressively 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 as he grabbed his beers, “got more people to see!” He left the garage 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 continued. “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 admonished.

“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 pointed out. “She’s going to need something stable to fall back onto.”

“I don’t know,” Rachel said pessimistically. “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 accumulating 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 remarked.

“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, and 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 LA,” 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 asked.

“Prague, Romania, Eastern Europe!” Mike informed. “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, “I hate to break this up here but I need to borrow your boyfriend for a little while, if it’s all right with you.”

“Okay, just bring him back when you’re done,” Christine allowed. 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 complimented. “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.

“When do the drinking games begin?” Jason asked as took the tap from Todd and filled his empty beer cup.

“Soon,” Todd answered, “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 reached through the crowd and 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 scolded. “When was the last time your ass was on the court?”

“Any time, any place,” Brian answered.

“All right, settle down,” Todd ordered. “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 pointed out.

“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.

“Oh yeah! Smooth! Hits the spot,” everyone was commenting as they put down their empty shot glasses.
Jason relaxed into the camaraderie and was contented. “House is neater than usual,” he complimented Todd. “Looks good.”

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

“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 informed.

“Good,” Todd replied. “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, thin 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 yelled at 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 harsh 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 for support.

“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?” 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 convivial, positive aura. 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 accused.

“Of course I know!” Jason said defensively. “You think I’m some kind of 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 added. “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, smoking, 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 smiled tipsily. She took his hand and led 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 he subconsciously swayed one way then another. They 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 confessed.

“From one beer?” Jason asked.

“Cheryl brought a bottle of schnapps.”

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

“I can you tell that you all broke into Todd’s gift,” Christine said. “And maybe something else?”
Jason tried to recall. “Don’t remember.”

“Must have been a lot, whatever it was,” Christine kidded. They danced some more as everyone in the living room moved together joyously and rhythmically in a loose, gyrating symmetry. The shared social euphoria continued to lift the spirit of the party ever higher as it soared 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 nineties 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 agreed, “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 on a regular basis,” Jason opined.

“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.

“Well 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 reminded.

“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 reported. 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 complained. 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 asshole!” Gina cried. “I 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 called after her.

“Well that was sudden,” Brian observed.

“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. “Fuck him!” she hollered as she exited. “I never want to see that piece a shit 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 relayed.

“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 accused.

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

“Okay, so I lost my cool,” Randy admitted, “but she drove me to 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, uh…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 luridly 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 kidded some more.

“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