Chris Till

8. Breakdown

In billy idol, glen ellyn, glenbard west, joy division, marijuana, replacements, Stoner Noir on April 1, 2010 at 3:01 pm

8. Breakdown                               

            On July 15, 1985, the US formalized secret plans for a joint US/Egyptian military invasion of Libya. Though the US. had “had absolutely no idea” who had kidnapped Americans in Lebanon, it suspected Libya and sought to punish it. Back to the Future, that summer’s blockbuster Hollywood hit, also featured Libya as America’s enemy.

Death on the Railroad Tracks

      The gray-haired woman on the train looked out the window and screamed when she saw a mohawked boy stab a girl in the tall grass on the edge of the train tracks. The girl stared mutely at the gray-haired woman as blood exploded from her chest.

      A minute earlier that Friday evening, the Chicago & Northwestern commuter train had left the Glen Ellyn train station. The grey-haired woman had settled comfortably into her seat. Six other riders sat on the train car with her, all seemingly asleep or absorbed in reading.

      Being in a Thank-God-it’s-Friday mood, she had surreptitiously added a shot of vodka to the can of orange pop she carried. When the train gradually picked up speed, she gazed out the window at the tree line along the tracks. Between the tracks and the trees lay a strip of tall grass. Ahead of the train, near the tracks, she saw three youths scuffling in the tall grass.

      One blonde girl tried to hold back a tough-looking boy from attacking another blonde girl. The boy had a strange haircut, a mohawk haircut. When the train passed by, the grey-haired woman on the train watched as the boy with the mohawk pulled himself away from the first girl. She saw the silver glint of the butcher knife in his hand.

      In the half-second as the train passed, the grey-haired woman on the train watched as the boy raised the butcher knife over his head. Frozen in the tall grass, both girls stared at the grey-haired woman. The one who was about to be stabbed had a mute helpless look while the other looked apologetic.

      With a grimly determined look on his face, the boy with the mohawk plunged the butcher knife into the girl’s chest. The girl’s white shirt blossomed with red blood.

      When the grey-haired woman on the train screamed, the other commuters stared at her with annoyance. No one else saw the attack. She took a big gulp of her drink.

      “Did anyone just see that?” she gasped. No one responded.

      Mohawked Nick and sassy Angela collapsed laughing as the train disappeared down the tracks. Her white t-shirt dripped with raspberry soda pop.

      “Oh my god!” Angela said. “That was hilarious. That one old lady totally saw the whole thing.”

      “You two are mean,” Rose said darkly, wiping her arm. “That lady’s probably having a heart attack right now. And you got some of that gross red pop on me.”

      “Let’s get outta here,” Nick said, still laughing. He wiped the handle of the knife off with his flannel shirt and threw it into the grass. The three walked through the tall grass onto the bike path by the tree line.

      “This pop feels gross on my skin,” said Angela, pulling the wet t-shirt away from her belly. “Let’s go back to the Good-BY then over to my mom’s apartment so I can change.”

      “That was a classic,” said Nick, shaking his head and smiling. “What’d her face look like?”

      “She was totally watching us! I don’t think anyone else saw. I could practically hear her scream,” said Angela.

      “Hilarious,” said Nick. “You should be an actress.”

      “It’s true,” Angela said. “She looked like totally terrified. Oh my god.”

      “I wonder if she’ll call the police,” said Nick. “Probably.”

      “God… My heart is beating like crazy,” said Angela. “Whoo wee.”

      “I can see the headline: Old Lady on Train Sees Girl Stabbed,” said Nick. The three walked down the bike path.

      “So, you finally done fooling around with Amber-ger?”

      “No, I don’t think so,” said Nick. “She pretty jealous and all, but I ain’t ready to quit rockin’ that sweet body just yet.”

      “You know she’s been fooling around with her mom’s boyfriend too, right?” A family of bicyclists passed the trio on the bike path.

      “Seriously?” Nick asked. “That’s funny. And she’s the one getting jealous on me?”

      “I figured you knew,” Angela said. “I heard her telling Maureen about it. She really likes the old guy.”

      “Yeah?” said Nick. “That’s messed up. I met the creepy old guy over at her house once.”

      “Anyway, she ain’t the girl for you, Nicky,” Angela said. “Don’t feel bad.”

      Nick kicked at the tiny white limestone gravel on the bike path as they walked. Rose trailed a step or two behind.

      “That old lady on the train literally looked terrified,” Rose said quietly. “Like she was seeing a ghost.”

      “Too bad you and ol’ Ox are still together,” said Nick. “You got a cigarette?”

      “Why? We ain’t boyfriend and girlfriend,” Angela said, handing Nick a Marlboro light. “He’s still half in love with Amber. Or three-quarters. I mean, him and her were probably made for each other. You know they were on the prom court together last year?”

      “I guess they’re just slumming these days, huh?” Nick said. Ahead, the bike path sloped down to the street at an underpass under the railroad tracks. The Good-BY Ranch, a small suburban convenience store, stood at the corner.

      “I dunno,” Angela said. “So, you got anymore ideas on where that girl is? Mary Lou Whatsername?”

      “Hey, all kidding aside, like I said before, I have absolutely no idea. The cops already asked me about it. But I’ll tell you what I didn’t tell them. Like her older brother was a real weirdo back in junior high. Like cat-killing weird, you know?”

      “Gross,” said Rose, catching up with the other two. “That’s not cool.”

      “Hey, I’m a jerk and I know it,” Nick said, inhaling and exhaling his cigarette. “But I ain’t no cat-killing weirdo type of jerk.”

      “You got that going for you, Nicky,” Angela said, looking at him slyly.

      “Seriously,” said Nick. He and Angela stood in front of the Good-BY Ranch. Rose walked to the payphone mounted on the outside wall. She dropped a quarter into the slot and waited. An answering machine picked up.

      “Hi Ernie. It’s Rose. Hey, if you’re not doing anything tonight, we’re just gonna hang out at Angela’s mom’s apartment. So, stop by. Okay? Okay. So, maybe I’ll see you. Or not. If you get this message, that is. Okay? Okay. Bye.”

      Hanging up, she slunk back over to Nick and Angela.

      “Why do I always sound so stupid when I talk to Ernie, or even just leaving a message? I’ll bet you anything he doesn’t come over.”

      “Don’t be so gloomy, my dark Rose,” said Angela. “He loves you, even if doesn’t know it yet. Why? ‘Cause you’re the best, pal.”

      “Hey, you got a quarter I could borrow?” asked Nick. “I gotta make a phone call too.”

      Rose walked into the store and Angela reached into her purse and gave Nick a quarter. Nick walked over to the pay phone mounted on the outside wall of the store and dialed 411.

      “Yeah, I need the number for Morris Cargill in Glen Ellyn,” he told the 411 operator. Hanging up, he put the quarter in the slot and dialed the new number.

      “Hello,” said a man’s voice on the other end.

      “Morris Cargill?” Nick asked, speaking in a deep voice. “This is Steve Glazowski. Amber Glazowski’s father?”

      “Is Amber all right?”

      “Shut up, creep, and listen to me carefully. You stay away from my daughter or I am calling the Glen Ellyn police on you.”

      “What is this?”

      “I said shut up, you dirty old man,” Nick interrupted in his deep voice. “She told me what you’ve been doing to her. I should call the police on you right now, but I’m giving you one more chance. You see her one more time and your perverted ass is going to jail for statutory rape, you sick bastard. She’s seventeen years old, pervert. That’s rape in the State of Illinois. Consider yourself warned.”

      Nick hung up the phone violently as Angela and Rose walked out. Each carried cold cans of the New Coke.

Amber Pees on a Stick

      Sitting on the toilet in her mom’s bathroom, Amber held the plastic stick in one hand and a tall glass of water in the other. A busty girl, she put the stick between her legs and tried to pee. Nothing came out. She forced herself to drink half the glass of water and tried again. Nothing came out.

      “Please no please no please no,” she prayed and drank the rest of the water. Trying again, she forced herself. Nothing came out.

      “Please no please no please no,” she prayed again. “God, if you help me out this one time, I promise I’ll never ever have unprotected sex ever again!”

      Finally, she tensed all her insides and let out a tiny squirt. Holding the stick carefully, she managed to pee on the end of it.

      A horizontal line formed along the stick. She waited. One minute. She waited. She knew she could never tell her mother. She wouldn’t be able to tell anyone. She’d have to run away to Florida. Or Europe. Maybe she could find a rich family in Ireland who would take her in.

      A second minute came. She couldn’t stand the thought of people laughing at her behind her back or, even worse, feeling sorry for her. At least she was out of high school, she figured. She’d have to get all new clothes. Oh my God! she realized with a sudden fury, my body will be ruined!

      “Please no please no please no,” she prayed a final time.

      A vertical line gradually formed on one end of the stick, crossing the horizontal line. Amber slumped on the toilet and cried.

Tommy’s in Love

      Carrying a handful of wildflowers and taking deep breaths, tiny red-haired Tommy walked past Maureen’s mom’s house. Walking to the end of the block, he turned around and approached the house again. Standing in front of the house, he looked down at the collection of wildflowers in his hand and stretched his neck from one side to the other.

      “Come on, dude, just do it,” he told himself aloud and walked up the driveway.

      “Tommy?” Maureen, a slender beauty, said through the screen door. “What’s up?”

      “Hello, Maureen. How you doin’?” Tommy stood on the concrete door step outside the back door.

      “Fine. What’re you doing with those flowers?”

      “Well, I brought them for you.” Tommy held the flowers out towards the screen door and looked down.

      “Why?” Maureen asked, not opening the door.

      “Why?” Tommy repeated. “Well, I just thought that… that a beautiful girl like you deserves to have fresh flowers around, is all.”

      “Where’d you get that line, Mr. Suave? A TV movie?” Tommy still held the flowers to the shut screen door.

      “Nowhere. I just… I just…” As he stammered, Tommy’s pale skin flushed. Maureen began to laugh.

      “Sorry,” she said. “You’re like Mr. Genius and I’ve just never seen you unable to answer a question. It’s cute. You wanna come in?”

      “If you…” he began. “Yes. Yes, I would.”

      Maureen unlatched and opened the screen door, taking the bouquet from Tommy. Tommy watched as she pulled a glass vase from a cabinet and filled it with water. To him, all her motions seemed graceful, like something from a ballet.

      “You can sit down if you want,” she said, gesturing towards the kitchen table. When she set the bouquet on the table, Tommy sat down.

      “So…” she said.

      “So, you look real pretty tonight, Maureen,” Tommy said.

      “Less pimples than usual, huh?” she said. A lovely and slender girl with flowing golden blonde hair, acne covered Maureen’s pretty face.

      “No, that’s not what I mean,” said Tommy. “You’re all ways beautiful.”

      “Well, you must have been studying books on flirting lately, huh?” Maureen fingered the petals of the wildflowers. “You probably know the Latin names of all these flowers.”

      The phone rang. Maureen picked it up.

      “Oh, hello, Isaiah.”

      “Hey Maureen, how you doin’?”

      “I’m fine. You?”

      “Okay, I guess. What you been up to?”

      “Nothing much. Working on my tan mostly. I got some sweet tan lines, just like you like.”

      “That sounds pretty hot. Yeah, I’m still out here in Santa Cruz. Still haven’t seen Zen. It’s kind of a bummer, but… They arrest anyone for that girl’s disappearance yet?” Maureen looked at Tommy and raised her eyebrows in exasperation, making a sign with her hand that Isaiah talked too much. Tommy sat awkwardly at the table, studying his hands then moving a small bread crumb around the table.

      “No, they haven’t. Why are you so concerned? You said you didn’t even know her.”

      “I’m just wondering. You seemed pretty scared about the whole thing. Anyway… what you wearing?”

      “Why do you want to know what I’m wearing? I’m stark naked and getting wet.”

      “Oh my god. Really?”

      “No, I’m teasing you. Look, I’ve got someone over. Did you just call for phone sex or do you actually have something to say?”

      “Who’s over there? A guy or a girl?”

      “Why do you care? Are you jealous?”
      “No. So it’s a guy?”

      “Is it so surprising to you that another guy might like me?”
      “No, of course not. I mean…”

      “It’s Tommy. Say ‘hi,’ Tommy.” Tommy didn’t say anything.

      “Tommy the Elf. I didn’t know you dated hobbits.”

      “He doesn’t like to be called that, you jerk. Anyway, he got a full scholarship to UC-Berkeley to study physics and wants me to move out to California with him. Right, Tommy?”

      Tommy perked up. He’d been trying to ignore the conversation.

      “Wow,” said Isaiah. “Okay okay.”

      “You sound disappointed. Poor boy, no phone sex for you.”

      “That’s not why I called.”

      “Sure, sure.”

      “Well, I’ll let you get back to your new boyfriend. I actually just called to tell you that I still love you.”

      “Ha. Well, if you still loved me, you shouldn’t have dumped me.”
      “I didn’t dump you.”

      “Yes, you’re the one who dumped me.”

      “Okay, Maureen, whatever. Anyway, I miss you and…” Maureen interrupted.

      “You miss me or you miss my body?”
      “You. Both. Damn.”

      “Okay, well, I love you too, Sugar. Bye.” Maureen hung up the phone and shook her head.

      “That boy,” said Maureen. “He doesn’t want anything that he can have, only things he can’t have. You know what I mean?”

      “Not really,” said Tommy, sitting up and looking into Maureen’s blue eyes. “You guys sure have a weird relationship.”

      “He won’t stop calling me. The crazy boy, he only wants me when I push him away. So, you still want to take me to California with you?”

      “For sure, Maureen. I’m a man of my word. We could get an apartment near campus and live it up.”

      “And I’d have to get some nasty stripper job to pay the rent, right?” she asked.

      “Not at all. I’ll pay the rent and everything. You can just hang out. I’ve got a full scholarship plus… Look, when my Grandfather died, he set up a trust fund for me starting when I turn 18. So…”

      “Oh, I see… I didn’t know you were rich.”

      “Well… I just think it’d be fun. It’d be good for you to start fresh somewhere.”

      “How do you know what’s good for me all of a sudden?”

      “Maureen, like we’ve been friends or whatever, casual friends, for years and…” Tommy trailed off.

      “And what? And you want to be my sugar daddy now? I always wanted a sugar daddy. Isaiah never had ten cents.”

      “I think you’d have a blast living out there. It’s just across the Bay from San Francisco. I’ll have my car. We can go to beaches on the weekend.”

      The phone rang again.

      “Miss Popular,” Tommy said. Maureen stared at it for a moment and picked it up on the second ring.

      “Maureen?”

      “Hey Amber. What’s up?”
      “Maureen?” Amber sobbed.

      “Are you crying?” Amber kept sobbing.

      “Oh my god, you sound terrible. What’s going on?”

      “I… I… I… just…”

      “What? I can’t understand what you’re saying. Did Nick do something bad to you?”

      “No,” Amber said, still sobbing. “No, that’s not it.”

      “Poor thing.” Maureen looked at Tommy and shrugged.

      “Maureen, I think I missed my period.”

      “Hey, it happens. Don’t get too stressed out. I mean, you haven’t been like having sex anyway, right? Right?”

      “Well… Just a little. I did one of those home pregnancy tests too, though…”

      “No way! And what?”

      “It was positive. What am I going to do?” Amber cried.

      “For sure?”

      “For sure.”

      “So, who’s the daddy? It’s either Ox or Nick, right?”
      “Probably, it’s either them or…”

      “Or who?”

      “Well, my mom’s boyfriend just kept being so sweet and I kinda felt sorry for him and we, I don’t know, he’s just really good at making me feel beautiful.”

      “Oh my god, Amber, you did not! You told me you weren’t going to fool around with any of your mom’s boyfriends ever again!”
      “Please, Maureen. Not tonight. Look, you’re the only person I’ve told. I don’t know what to do.” Amber only cried softly now.

      “You’re right, I’m sorry. I just can’t believe it. So, what are you going to do?”

      “I don’t know. I don’t know. God, my mom just got back. I’ll call you later. Don’t tell anyone!”

      “For sure. But definitely call me later. I love you, Sweetie. Bye.”

      “Bye.” Maureen hung up and sat at the table with a look of disbelief. Tommy eyed her curiously.

      “So?” he asked. “Is that what it sounded like?”

      Maureen didn’t answer, but got up and poured a glass of water. Looking out the window over the sink, she took a long sip.

      “Damn,” she said. “Poor Amber. Knocked up at 17.”

      “Whoa,” Tommy said. “That sucks.”

      “Yeah, but at least she’s got it narrowed down to three guys.”

The Police and the Knife

     That night, Sergeant Casino and the sandy-haired younger cop silently searched along the railroad tracks. Using their flashlights, they moved slowly through the tall grass with their eyes on the ground. It was the precise area where Nick, Angela, and Rose had faked the stabbing. Kicking lightly through the grass, Casino bent down and motioned to the other cop.

      A butcher knife lay on the ground between the shafts of grass. A dry reddish substance covered the blade. Casino pulled on a tight plastic glove and picked the knife up. Smelling the blade, he made a strange face at the other officer.

      “Smells just like raspberry soda pop,” he said, dropping the knife into a plastic evidence bag. Nearby, he reached down and picked up an empty liter of raspberry soda pop. It had several blade-sized cuts in it. He dropped it into another plastic evidence bag and shook his head with annoyance.

Ox and Weasel

       “What are you doing man?” Ox said angrily. Almost a giant, he pushed Weasel away with one hand then finished urinating in the utility sink. “What the hell?”

      “Sorry, man,” said Weasel. Zipping up his fly, Ox kept pushing Weasel until Weasel fell onto the basement floor.

      “What’s that all about, you freak?” demanded Ox.

      “Relax, man,” said Weasel, getting up and straightening out his long stringy hair. “I wasn’t even paying attention.”

      “You were watching me pee or something!”

      “Shut up, dude! I didn’t even see you there. I space out sometimes.”

      “What? Okay, I must be freaking out. Sorry for pushing you, dude.” Ox reached down for Weasel’s hand to help pull him up. Weasel hesitated before taking Ox’s hand. Weasel’s hands were sweaty.

      “It’s cool,” said Weasel, taking Ox’s hand and getting up. “Hey, you want a beer?”

      The boys stood in the basement of Weasel’s mom’s apartment. Though it had been built as a storeroom and utility room, Weasel had converted it into his own primitive mini-apartment.

      “Usually.”

      “Just chill on the couch and I’ll go upstairs and swipe some of my mom’s.” Ox sat on the threadbare sofa and looked overhead at the rafters and pipes of the unfinished ceiling. A poster of Scott Baio shirtless was pinned on the wall. Soon, Weasel came down the stairs with two cans of Lite Beer.

      “Yeah, it sucks, I know. But it’s beer.” Handing one to Ox, Weasel plopped down on the sofa and opened the beer.

      “I guess I’m just on edge, dude,” said Ox. “My mom’s been freaking out on me. She’s obsessed with me playing football again. Like some coach from Eastern Illinois called her up and like wants me to try out for the team.”

      “Yeah?”

      “They’ve still got a scholarship open, but I’m, like, whatever. Why is football so great? Like it’s violent, you know? What’s up with that?” Ox opened his beer, drank half of it in one gulp, and belched.

      “Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.” An ant crossed the concrete floor at Weasel’s feet; he stepped on it.

      “Why is it so important to go to college? Like maybe I don’t wanna be just another cookie-cutter suburban commuter, you know?”

      “Dude, you could probably move into the basement here if you want. My mom would be cool with it. Kick her a few bucks now and again, you know.”

      Ox looked around the basement. Boxes piled haphazardly. A washer and dryer. Plus the sofa, an armchair, and a dresser.

      “Yeah? Maybe, man.”

      “Plus she’s getting me a job at her place. She could probably get you one too. Super easy work. It’s like a plastic injection molding factory. Like making medical tubes ‘n’ stuff.”

      “Yeah? Maybe. It’d be good to get out on my own. My mom’s driving me nuts. It’s all ways ‘the future, the future’ with her, but what about right now, you know?”

      “Definitely.”

      “Yeah… I don’t know, man.” Ox finished the beer. “Your mom got anymore beer?”

Nick and Amber

     At midnight, Nick stood in the bushes outside of Amber’s bedroom window. He could see lights behind the closed drapes. Running his hand through his mohawk, he knocked on the window. He knocked again. The curtain opened and Amber’s face peered into the dark. Due to the reflection on the glass from the light in her room, she could barely see outside.

      “Amber,” Nick said. She could hear his voice before she could see his face.

      “You trying to scare me to death?” Amber asked through the window. Her face was flush and raw with recent tears. Nick grinned at her.

      “Hey, hot stuff. Let me in.” Amber opened the window but left the screen down.

      “What do you want?” she asked.

      “You look awful. You been crying?”

      “No,” she replied, wiping her face. “What are you doing here?”

      “I just wanted to see you ’cause I been thinking about you.”

      “Yeah?” she replied. She lay on her stomach on the bed with her face to the screen. Her room was mostly pink and decorated with posters of Poison and Cinderella.

      “You look like you could use some company. I promise I’ll be nice,” Nick said.

      “I don’t know,” Amber said, sniffling. “It’s been a pretty weird night. Not good.”

      “Come on,” Nick said. “I’ll cheer you up. I promise.”

      “No. Well, just for a little while,” she said. “Meet me in the screen porch around back.”

      Nick sat on the sofa in the screened in back porch while Amber sat in a wicker chair with her feet tucked underneath herself. In her hand, she carried a Kleenex box.

      “What’s up with the tears?” Nick asked.

      “Nothing. My mom’s boyfriend dumped her tonight. Over the phone. Which is pretty rude. He said he never wanted to see either of us ever again. I don’t know.”

      “That guy was kinda creepy, I thought.” Nick stared at a photo on the wall of the porch. It must have been Amber as a baby being held by her smoking hot mother, who looked very much like Amber did now. Amber blew her nose.

      “He was nice! I thought like maybe they’d get married and we’d finally have a normal family or something.”

      “Hey, why don’t you sit with me on the couch here,” Nick said, patting the couch cushion.

      “No!” she said. “We’re not fooling around tonight. I just… Whatever, it’s not like you’ve been real attentive lately.”

      “Hey, I been busy,” Nick said.

      “Busy hanging out with your pal Angela. You know she loves you, right?”

      “Ah, we’ve been friends forever. She’s in love with half the guys in town.”

      “Why would he just dump my mom like that?” Amber began sobbing again. “Guys all ways abandon us. I’ll never have a real dad.”

      Nick suppressed a yawn and stared at her chest. She wore an old thin t-shirt that he could almost see through and no brassiere. A soft knock sounded on the porch door. Through the screen, she could faintly see Ox’s face.

      “Hey Amber,” Ox said through the door, only then realizing that she was talking to Nick. Amber got up and walked to the door.

      “Oxford Lancaster,” Amber said. “This is a surprise.”

      “Sorry, guys. Nick. I didn’t see you there. Look, I’ll just see you guys around. See…”

      “We’re not doing anything. Right, Nick? You can come in,” Amber said, holding a Kleenex. She opened the door.

      “You all right?” Ox asked with concern, staying outside.

      “Yeah, I’m fine. It’s been a weird night.”
      “But you’re all right?”

      “Yeah yeah. Come in.” A single firefly lit up and landed on Ox’s arm. He stared at it. It remained still on his forearm.

      “No, that’s cool. But here.” Without Nick noticing, Ox handed her a note that had been folded very small.

      “Have it your way,” Amber said. “You smell like beer.”

      “Yeah, well. Hey, I’ll see you guys around. See ya Nick.” Nick nodded his head as Ox lumbered away.

      “I didn’t know you were still seeing good ol’ Ox.”

      “I’m not. That’s the first time he’s even talked to me in a good while. Stay here, I’ve got to go to the bathroom.”

      Locking the bathroom door behind her and sitting on the toilet with the seat down, Amber unfolded the note. It had been written in pencil with many eraser marks. His handwriting was large and block-like.

Dear Amber,

      I still think about you lots. Me and you were real good together and I miss you. Maybe we could hang out again sometime and bake cookies together.

      I’m sorry that I took you for granted. You’re a great girl.

Love, Ox   

      Amber folded the note back up and put it in the pocket of her sweat pants. Looking in the mirror, she washed and dried her face. When she walked back to back porch, Nick quickly sat down. He’d been looking at the picture of her and her mom. Amber looked more composed.

      “Well, I’m going to go to bed soon, but thanks for stopping by,” Amber said. “I guess I did need someone to talk to.”

      “Sure, baby. Let’s get together tomorrow.”

      “You can call me. I’m sure a resourceful guy like you can find a telephone somewhere.”

      “Okay, sure,” Nick said, still sitting down. “How ’bout a good night kiss?”

      “Nick, not tonight. Tell me, you ever think about just getting married and raising a family?”

      “Whoa!” Nick said. “Is that a proposal?”

      “No,” Amber said. “Not at all. I’m just wondering. Like where are we going? You and me?”

      “Hey, I dig you, Amber. You don’t even have to think twice about me and other girls. But I got a lot of living to do before any of that family stuff. Plus, marriage is just a bourgeois scam, right? Like is it realistic for people to be forever satisfied with one person?”

      Amber looked him in the eye and a little further still. She nodded, with a serious expression on her face.

      “Just wondering. Okay, well, call me tomorrow, okay?”

      “Sure, baby.” Amber stood up and opened the screen porch door. Nick stood up and pulled her body to his.

      “Stop!” she cried and pushed him away angrily. “I said not tonight.”

      “Damn, don’t freak out.” Nick stood in the doorway then reluctantly stepped outside.

      “Good night, Nick.” Nick walked away without responding.

Rose and Ernie

      After midnight, Rose walked by Ernie’s mom’s dark house. Standing at the foot of the driveway, all the house lights were out and no cars were in the driveway. The streetlight revealed a mournful look on her young face.

            In her hand, she held a red rose without a stem. Imagining his cuddly Robert Plant teddy bear look, she kissed the rose and gently tossed it into the yard. Pinching the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger, she stopped herself from crying and walked away down the sidewalk.     

“Pageant Demonstrators Sentenced,” San Jose Mercury News, July 22, 1985

            Three of the six people arrested at a demonstration against the Miss California Scholarship pageant last month have been sentenced in Santa Cruz Municipal Court.

            Protest organizer Ann Simonton was sentenced Friday to 15 days in the county jail for pouring a bag of her own blood on the sidewalk in front of the downtown Civic Auditorium.

Simonton, 33, was one of about 1,000 people who demonstrated outside the auditorium June 24 against the 62-year-old event.

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  1. Your story reads like soda from a straw. The reader pulls the mood from the stream of dialouge. Perhaps add a negro, however. Even stoner noir needs a little colour. From-The guy in the funny hat.
    (And not pieces of negroes; ala Philadelphia 1985-13 block region torched by ‘bad them’ because the residents of a house didn’t comb their hair.).
    Excuse the off colour humor-I enjoyed your story. It was cool thinking about that 4 foot sewer grate. During thunderstorms in GE, I would run in the night to the grate&let the water gush over me.
    Follow your inspirations, Chris; you’re on a roll!

  2. 1985-A year of racial tension; suburban teens seeking relief with substance abuse&mischief. Bad humor was too common; the story well illustrates the kids during that era.
    2010: The Black and White races will provide better solutions for the teens than the stoner noir so well characterized in your story.

  3. Loved reading this and re-visiting Glen Ellyn of the mid-80’s.The unloaded gun was a great twist. I didn’t realize how caught up I was in the suspense until I exhaled upon reading that the gun wasn’t loaded. My favorite aspect was the artistry of the details. Can’t stop thinking about the crushed white limestone of the prairie path. That stuff had such a distinct texture and consistency that I haven’t though about in years. The ‘little metal pot pipe’ gives me a vivid flashback. I can smell the weird metallic smell of the nasty little pipe I had. Thanks for the memories!

  4. “Running both hands inside the front of her orange t-shirt, he cupped her bare breasts. Each let out a deep sigh.”
    Did each of her breasts let out a deep sigh because they really were balloons taped to her chest? Am I the only one who reads this as her breasts exhaling rather than the characters? The FB post asked for comments/editing, so there you have it.

    • OMG Eve. Your comment is hilarious. I have changed it to “Both Amber and Nick let out a deep sigh” and hereby officially credit that line to you.

  5. Hey Billy, UR doing great with the stuff you write. keep it flowing. will meet u when the time is ripe. Till then…

    • Thanks man. I’m working on a second draft right now as well as a couple of short stories: one is about a 16-year old boy growing up in Egypt in 1985 and the other is about an old man who tells folk tales.

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