V. CHEW AND SCREW AT MCD'S ON RT 25.
I called Ted about the same time I felt better. I got sick after my Boston adventure. My parents thought it was something I had caught at school, or maybe I just missed the flu, some shit like that. I didn't really hear anything they said the day after; I was basically stuck in bed, feeling like ten or eleven pounds of shit in a nine pound bag. I'd like to say I vowed never to smoke again, but then I couldn't honestly say I'd never touch the stuff after getting bed-bound for a day.
I got out of bed for a while at around eight o'clock, this was on Monday night. I felt okay, a little light headed, but saying I felt a little light-headed was a quick way to castrate yourself in the public eye. I took two aspirin and vaguely remembered trying to memorize Ted's number ... unsuccessfully, because now all I could think of was the area code.
I went downstairs and thumbed open the yellow pages, searched under G, then Go, then Gor, and found a whole list of Gordons in the Central Mass area. So I started ringing them all up.
I called Ted up.
The first guy I called had a heavy Irish accent, so thick I could smell whisky and gin on his breath through the receiver. Not him. I hung up before the guy started fumbling with "Hello."
The second rang for about an hour. I think I'll do that with my answering machine once I move out. Just as a silent fuck-you. Make it ring forty times before the machine goes on, just to piss people off and make them pay an extra dime. Flaming youth.
The third and fourth numbers were both busts ... fifth was busy ... sixth wasn't in the right area code. Number seven, lucky seven, I thought, because I was frustrated enough at that time to be mumbling things like "Lucky seven" to myself. I felt jumpy, impatient. I wanted to do something.
One ring. Okay, I thought, he's just timing it, keeping cool, not swiping the phone off the hook because that would deny an inner sense of Zen, outer, I mean. Outer sense of Zen.
Two rings. Okay, Ted, stop dicking around and pick up the phone.
Three. Seriously, Ted, I can understand if you're on the can or something, but if you don't pick up the goddamned phone now I'm likely to beat you to death with it later ...
Four ... he's just fucking with me. Maybe not. Maybe the fact that I think he's fucking with me denies that he is actually fucking with me -- maybe his cool comes from the fact that it is indisputable, indubitable, that anybody who even thinks he's fucking with their minds is sorely mistaken, because Ted is just too cool for that shit ...
Five. Yeah, the bastard's fucking with me, probably laughing at me right now, probably clutching his sides laughing on the can, the irony of it, he's on the log of ease at just the right moment to send me into insulin shock ...
"Yeah, who's this?"
Ah, the irony of it! Who's this? Bullshit, who's this! I felt like screaming it into the phone. Maybe I would have, if Ted had waited a few more rings before picking up.
"Oh, right, Jack, how's it going."
"Fine, man, just fine. What's up."
Ted said his uncle called him a while ago about painting a house near Falmouth. It was a little saltbox house, four sides, a porch, quick painting. We'd be there for either a day or a day and a half, I'd bring a sleeping bag, crappy clothes, all that, and we'd get McDonalds on the way there. He'd pick me up Thursday at five in the morning and drive me back Friday. Pay was six fifty an hour. I said sure, I'd do it.
It sounded like a good idea. I'd go over, make eighty bucks painting the side of a saltbox house which was worth more than my life, then come back to Ted's house, possibly shoot some more revolvers and then be delivered back safely home, a little more tan, reeking of paint thinner and with sludges of white paint all along my shoes. Sounded just chipper.
Three more days passed without much incident, only I went to bed early on Wednesday night. My parents were making a whole fuss about getting there safely, not going on any ladders, wearing a mask, all that. They gave me a cell phone, would you believe it. It was a nice phone, one of those phones you can flip open if you stick you thumb nail in the fold and flick it, but then again it'd be ringing constantly, knowing my folks.
I woke up at four in the morning. I showered, dressed, brushed my teeth, ate Coco Puffs. Man, I thought, this fits in with the rest of the day, if my suspicions of house painting with Ted's family were correct; Coco Puffs, followed by free weed, dangerous chemicals and general insanity.
I made coffee. I still had half an hour before Ted came. By the time they got to it, a full pot of coffee would be cold ... so I just poured one cup of hot water in with two tablespoons of coffee grinds. It tasted like cement, but it woke me up a little.
An engine was rumbling outside the door.
I jumped up and almost spilled my coffee all over myself. I got half of what was left in the mug down before searing my mouth into bleeding sores, then scribbled a note down and left it on the coffee table.
DEAR MOM & DAD.
WENT TO TED'S HOUSE; WILL BE BACK BY SATURDAY. PAINTING. I'LL CALL YOU.
A second later the phone rang.
"See you in five minutes."
Then the dial tone.
I checked everything, checked my bags, checked the sleeping bag, pillow, toiletries, et cetera. Everything was go. I stepped outside and locked the door behind me.
It was a Toyota Celica as old as God. It looked like it was being held together by safety pins and rubber bands. From inside there came loud music, Nirvana, which we would have to turn off once we got to the Pike.
I looked inside at the driver. It wasn't Ted's dad, or his uncle, even. It was Ted.
"You're kidding me," I said. "No, no way. I'm not doin' this. Let me out of here."
"Shut up and get in the car," Ted said. "Don't worry so much. Jesus, you make it sound like we're Bonnie and Clyde."
"Totally asexual Bonnie and Clyde," I said.
"Uh huh. You in or what?"
The car was idling and the music was thumping inside my head, bouncing off walls ... I thought I would go insane if I spent too long in that car.
So I went in.
Ted pulled out of my driveway doing thirty in reverse.
When we got off my street I had my seatbelt across my lap, my only chance for survival, both arms at my sides and my eyes wide open, looking for deer and rolling balls that made the misfortune of crossing this speeding hell machine.
Could the outside world hear the music inside? The windows were rolled up but the speakers were on as high as possible, so maybe they could. I could just imagine us crashing into a church at eighty miles an hour in a residential zone, the tape player surviving and our disheveled remains raining back to the earth as Kurt Cobain commanded the Sunday schoolers to rape us ...
"I never knew you could drive," I said.
"I never knew you could bitch so much. Shut up till we get on the Pike, pretend like you're sleeping, it'll make me look older."
"What crawled up your ass this morning?"
"Do you want to go make some money or do you want to go fuck yourself?"
"Fuck you." I would have punched him in the face if he wasn't doing sixty in the suburbs. "Just go to sleep till we get on the Pike."
It was a miracle we even got there. Ted was smart enough to have a Gordon College sticker on his windshield and a little parking pass on the rear view mirror, and thankfully he looked a little old and could see over the wheel. I wondered how old he really was. Maybe he had skipped a year in kindergarten. Maybe he just aged quick. I dunno. I wasn't too picky how he did it, but he looked old enough to avoid arrest.
"You should lean your head back, like you're sleeping," he said. "It'll look like I'm your older brother, or something." For the first time I thought he might be stoned, then did as he said.
I did fall asleep after a little bit, and woke up an hour later with mucus in my lungs and bad breath to boot. I coughed into my hand and searched my pockets for some gum. Then I had another idea ... coffee and cigarettes. That was on my breath all that time with Allie, and that was really the only good or decent hour that night, hanging around with somebody I'd never talked with in my entire life, who was, God only knows how, interested in making out enough to give me her phone number on a gum wrapper, the only bright spot in a depressing and confusing ordeal. Coffee and cigarettes. It worked fine then. Maybe I'd have some more luck.
"Do you have any cigarettes?" I asked.
"Are you out of your mind?" said Ted. "You know what, fine. Take one. In the glove compartment. Why not. This night's getting weird enough."
I'm sure there's a verse in the Bible about testing the fates like this; I have yet to come by it, though. Whatever it is, I could have used it that night. We baited those ladies an awful lot that night, though ...
I lit up when there were no cars on the road. The smoke was good, but it filled my lungs and my nose like a poison at first, and after my first one was done I was sure I didn't want another one; I stored one in my shirt pocket, pocketed a Bic lighter from the glove compartment, too. If I wanted another one I'd just fetch it out of that pocket. What a picture I'd make then.
Every second I expected the cops to appear in the rear view mirror, yank us over and send us to juvy. None came. God was on our side.
"Do you have a cell phone?" I asked. I felt like giving Allie a call.
"Yeah," Ted said, then shook his head and handed me one from under the dash.
I dialed Allie's number, forgetting that it was five in the morning for the time being...
She picked up after four rings.
"Hello?" She sounded dazed. I had woken her up.
"Who is this?" she croaked.
The only sounds in the car were the screaming speakers and the low hum of the cellular static.
"I think you have the wrong number," she said.
"No, we -- " She hung up on me.
I redialed her number ...
"Hi, it's Jack again."
"Is this an obscene phone call?"
"No, I'm Jack, remember? From last Friday -- Saturday morning, I mean."
"You have the wrong number."
"No I don't, you -- " She hung up again.
"Quit burnin' up my minutes," Ted said.
"Fuck you," I replied, and dialed her number again...
"Hello?" Allie answered.
"It's me again."
"Look, you don't remember me?"
"Jack Stanton, Saturday morning at Dunkin Donuts, I burned my tongue on hot coffee -- "
"That was you?"
I sighed in relief. "Yeah, that was me."
"Oh ... " I imagine she was embarrassed now. She hadn't known who she was talking to earlier, after all. "You sound so much different on the phone."
Ted took one hand off the wheel to hit my shoulder. "Stop wastin' my fucking minutes!"
"Shut up, I'm talking!" I turned back to the phone. "Hi, Allie? Sorry about that ... "
Ted drove like a madman and I talked with Allie for a while. I took occasional draws into the cigarette and thought it wouldn't be wise to roll down the windows at these hellish speeds, though I wanted to vent out some of the smoke in the car. Ted took one for himself and was driving the car with his knees as he lit up. The lighter fell out of his hand and onto his leg in the middle of this; he swore and the car swerved almost off the road, the tires pounded against the warning ruts outside the white line and Ted swore again, then there was a horrible smell of burning rubber from under the chassis and I agreed with what I'd thought before, that I was going to go insane if I stayed in the car ...
... To be continued ...