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Now That I’m in the Future November 9, 2009

Posted by monty in books.
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So, based on the overwhelming response to the writing I posted last night (one comment, on my Facebook – thanks, Maddy!), I’m not sure I see the point in pressing onward.  But I’m nothing if not obstinate, so here’s the next section of the second Garrett story.

*****

After pointless minutes of swinging violently between euphoric highs and suicidal lows, Garrett finally made the effort to swing his legs out of bed, throw on a t-shirt, and stumble downstairs to face the parental inquisition that was sure to follow.  His parents weren’t church-goers – they worshipped instead at the altar of Nine Hours of Sleep a Night – and Garrett fervently wished they were.  They’d be ensconced, as they usually were, in front of CBS Sunday Morning, watching Charles Kerault and passing sections of the Sunday paper back and forth over cups of coffee and plates of waffles.

“There he is,” Steve said, looking up from the “Metro” section.

“Morning, hon.” Kathy’s eyes were glued to the spinning ballerina on the TV, stentorian narration pointing out the trials she had endured on her long journey to the Met.  Ballerinas, conductors, sculptors, writers: it seemed to Garrett like every week there was an exposé on an artist who had overcome a tortured childhood or a severed limb or alcoholism to reach the top of his or her field.  A parade of human misery masquerading as triumph over adversity.  Perfect for Sunday morning, when the start of the week loomed on the horizon like a mushroom cloud.

Garrett flopped on the couch next to his mother and picked up the issue of Parade from the stack of discarded newspapers.  Billy Crystal on the cover, cowboy hat on his head, lasso in hand.  Garrett snorted and dropped it back on the pile.  It seemed the universe was in fine karmic form this morning.

“So?” Steve was peering at Garrett over the top of the “Neighbors” section, his eyebrows raised above the thick brown frames of his glasses.  Ever since Ghostbusters, Garrett thought his father looked like a less squishy Rick Moranis, and the resemblance seemed especially uncanny that morning.  Garrett stifled a laugh, unwilling to appear so good-natured as to be relishing interrogation.

“So what?” Garrett found himself suddenly interested in the ballerina tiptoeing across the TV screen.

“Playing it close to the vest, huh?  Very smooth.”

“Don’t embarrass the boy, Steve,” Kathy said.

“Hey, last night was a big night, right, G-Dog?”

Garrett was discouraged to hear his father lapse into full-blown Buddy Mode.  G-Dog had come about a year before, when Garrett had become enraptured with Public Enemy’s album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. In his continuing efforts to seem cool, Steve had listened to the cassette on the way to work one day.  Garrett doubted his father had made it past the second track before switching over to the more comfortable environs of the Cincinnati talk radio station he usually listened to, but the fact remained: from his father’s brief flirtation with rap, G-Dog and S-Man were born, to be dragged into conversation when Steve wanted to level the generational playing field, to seem more like the cool older brother than the pushing-50 father.  Garrett had outgrown his alter ego within a week.  Steve, on the hand, was unaware there was a statute of limitations on immaturity.

“It was fine, Dad.  A real barn-burner.”

“Hey, kid.  Six months is nothing to sneeze at.”

“No, you’re right,” Garrett replied. “There was absolutely no sneezing at any point last night.”

“Did you and Rachel at least have a nice time at Luigi’s?” Kathy asked distractedly, her eyes flitting between newspaper and television.

“It was Luigi’s,” Garrett replied. “Spaghetti.  Lasagna.  The usual.”  He got up from the couch and headed toward the kitchen. “I’m gonna eat and see if Nick wants to hang out.  Is that okay?”

“It’s Sunday,” his dad said. “Enjoy yourself.”  And then, almost as an afterthought, “Rachel called.”

Garrett froze, then swiveled slowly, like his feet had been fastened to a rotating dish in the floor. In a carefully modulated voice, Garrett said, “Oh, yeah?  When?”

“An hour ago, maybe a little more.  It’s on the pad by the phone.”

Garrett looked at the note on the counter.  It was Steve’s usual masterpiece of brevity: “G- Rachel called.  9:20.”

“Did she want me to call her back?” he asked.

“She didn’t say.  Just said to tell you she called.  So, she called.”

Garrett mumbled his thanks and stalked back through the family room and up the stairs to his bedroom.  So now what?  He wanted to call, but at the same time, not calling kept him in an oddly pleasant limbo.  It was true that he hated the ambiguity of their conversation last night – the thought that Rachel was just biding her time with him until someone better came along – but as long as he didn’t talk to her he could pretend that his doubts were all in his head.  Talking to her could end in confirmation of his worst fears, and it was strangely preferable not to know one way or the other.

On the other hand, maybe Rachel wanted to tell him that after having a night to sleep on it, she was now ready to commit herself to him, body and soul.  The truth was, she didn’t care that they were going to be separated by hours and miles – it was Garrett she wanted, she knew that now, and how could she have been so stupid the night before?

“Gah,” he grunted, and slammed his bedroom door.  He couldn’t remember what had been in the tape deck last night before he left, but he hit “Play” anyway.  The discordant surf guitar of the Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation” cascaded out of the speakers and sloshed around his feet.  He took a deep breath and grabbed his phone.  Dialed a number.

“What’s up?” said the voice at the other end.

“Wanna hit the park?” Garrett asked.

“See you in 10.”

“She said that?  Really?”

Garrett and his best friend, Nick Martin, were stretched out on adjacent picnic benches near the swimming pool.  The brightly-colored confetti of children’s laughter came to them through the chain-link fence, accompanied by splashing, the lifeguard’s whistle, the muted mid-morning conversations of mothers and babysitters.  A few weeks ago Garrett had coerced the country club’s bartender to make him a piña colada, and he could taste it at the back of his tongue as the delicate scent of suntan lotion wafted on the humid summer breeze.  He and Nick had grabbed a hotdog and a Coke at the concession stand, and Nick’s questions struggled to be heard through the bun pocketed in his cheek.

“Yeah.  She didn’t want to make any promises.”

“Damn.”  Nick slurped noisily at his Coke and swallowed the rest of the hot dog. “So what’re you gonna do?”

Garrett hissed air through his teeth. “I don’t know, man.  It’s just messed up.  I thought things were coasting.  Turns out I was wrong.”

“This,” Nick said, “is why it pays to be ugly and unpopular.  Just one more problem I don’t have to worry about.”

“Asshole.”  Garrett launched the mustard-stained hotdog tissue at Nick, nailing him square in the center of his forehead.

“Douchebag,” Nick retorted, lapsing into a British accent for no good reason.  Garrett and Nick had been friends for years, and this was a habit stretching back as far as Garrett could remember.  It had been endearing when Nick was ten.  Now it just seemed weird.  The two boys had less and less in common as they grew older, but it was one of those odd childhood friendships that endures despite all laws of probability.  They were friends because they couldn’t imagine not being friends.

“Do you think I should call her?” Garrett asked.  “Seriously.”

“Man, I don’t know,” Nick said, losing the accent.  “I get that you’re worried.  I do.  But it’s Rachel.  She’s cool.  Do you really think she’s just waiting to fuck you over?”

“That’s the problem, isn’t it?”  The two of them were silent for a moment, Garrett sitting forward and scuffing the toe of his Converse sneaker in the dirt.  Swings squeaked in the nearby playground.  “I don’t think she’s waiting, no.  But I don’t think she knows what she wants.”

“Bitches,” Nick said sympathetically.

“Bitches,” Garrett agreed.  He caught Nick’s eye and they smiled. “This sucks.”

In the rare moments when Nick engaged in reflective thought, his eyes squinched tight and his lips pursed so tightly that they nearly disappeared beneath his nose.  Garrett was surprised to suddenly see this infrequent expression on his friend’s face. “Maybe,” Nick said, and it sounded, against all odds, like he was choosing his words carefully, “you just haven’t convinced her.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, she likes you, right?  She said so.  She thinks you’re the shit.  But she also knows she’s heading off to IU.” He spread his hands and wiggled his fingers like he was casting a spell. “At IU there’s bound to be lots of other guys –“

“Hey, Nick … “ Garrett tried to interrupt.

Excusez-moi, mon frère.  Let me finish.  There’ll be lots of other guys.  She thinks maybe – maybe – one of them will be better than you.  And she thinks this, why?  Because she hasn’t seen the best you can give her.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”  Garrett wasn’t sure if he should be offended.

“Well, look.  You’ve squired her around Edgewood, you’ve done movies and dinners and shit, but what reason does she have to think there’ll ever be anything else?  What have you really shown her?”

“The Übermensch,” Garrett whispered.

“Shit, yeah!” Nick exclaimed, and socked Garrett in the shoulder.  The other boy scarcely noticed.

“I have to be Super Boyfriend,” he said.  “I have to convince her.”

“That’s right, man.  She’ll doubt you unless you show her there’s no reason to doubt you.”

Garrett stood. “I gotta split.”

“No problemo, man.  Plans to make.  I get it.”

Garrett clapped Nick on the shoulder.  “I owe you, man.”  And he sprinted for his parents’ car.

*****

Current listening:

Tom Waits Small Change

Tom Waits – Small Change (1976)

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Comments»

1. thoreauly77 - November 9, 2009

a few things:

why would you be feeling underwhelmed with this? this stands with the previous writing very easily, and i would say it reads a bit easier, even. when i was reading this just now, it was like reading garrett as the age he is now, still reflective, sure, but a bit older — the way it is written, regardless of if you intended it to read this way, reflects garrets growth. i think, at least.

i am now curious as to what happens with rachel. does she head off to college and have a drunken indiscretion? does she stay true to garrett, and garrett blows it? the questions?!

now get off your ass and write another 2,000 montgomery!

rcm - November 9, 2009

Glad you like it, Ian. As for why I don’t, I feel like it’s straying too far from the tone of the first. I like that the first was serious, but it was also funny because of how Garrett viewed the world. I feel like I’ve lost that with this new stuff. It’s not coming quite as easily. I don’t know. Anyway, thanks for the feedback. The second half of the story will be up in the next couple days.

2. thoreauly77 - November 9, 2009

youre referring to the more easy-going moments between the folks and nick, yeah?

well, the scene and moment dictates the tone in real life, and in stories. the first part of the story, particularly garrett being infatuated, is pretty playful, or i perceived it to be (maybe i am just reliving that wonderful feeling of infatuation..), whereas the scene in the car reads exactly how serious it must have felt to garrett.

i dont know, except to say that when i have sat and spoke openly about my feelings with my best of male friends (best best tell anything best), most often the playful tone is a masquerade, and both parties know it. thats how i feel about the nick and garrett pool scene. we want to say exactly what we mean, but still somehow seem unaffected, you know?


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