High Mountains, Wide Rivers

Previously, on A Young American…

To start at the beginning, go here.

Something about a summer romance intensifies everything. Even outside of high school, it still has an impact, and Barbara and I were not immune to those summer nights. I began to frequent her apartment so much that when time came for my lease to be renewed, she offered me an olive branch to come stay with her while I looked for a place in the city.  “Maybe a little closer to me.” Independence day was right around the corner, and Barbara had invited her family over. By family I mean her two brothers. We cozied up on her rooftop while the grill sizzled with steaks. “Why not your parents?” I asked underneath the yellow moon.

She looked up at me, and suddenly I remembered this whole apartment, and how her explanation for owning it was a conversation for another time. “My Dad wanted to wait until he was wealthy to have me. He made a name for himself in the city as a lawyer, and didn’t even marry until he was 45, and she was 26. He had me on his 50th birthday. I used to dream about his rough, brittle hands carrying me home from the hospital.” I brushed her hair back as she nuzzled my neck.

“I was only 18 when he died. My mother was devastated and thought she didn’t deserve anything he left her. She took just enough to move to Florida and all I get is an occasional phone call. I was left with an enormous estate and a mansion that was worlds too big for me, so I sold it and took that along with the rest of my assets and moved in here.” Tears almost flowed down her cheek, but she wiped them away before they got the chance.

“What about your brothers?” I asked, “They didn’t get anything?”

“They’re half brothers really. My mom had them before meeting my dad. He left them each a vacation home.” I had yet to meet her brothers, but I could imagine how protective they’d be of their rich babe of a sister. Luckily for me, I’ve seen my fair share of CSI‘s and Law and Order‘s to be ready for any and all interrogation.

“What about you? Where’s the Richardson clan?” Her phone buzzed before I could copy her story. I stretched out on the lawn chair as she got up to answer. Moments later the elevator dinged, and both parties acted like they were surprised to see the other. Like they were just randomly knocking on doors and “Holy shit, it’s my sister!”  They took turns hugging each other. It wasn’t until she brought them over that I raised my head.

“This is Logan.”  

I waved, “How’s it goin’?” It was probably rude of me to not get up and firmly shake their hands.

They stared at me for a moment, then one stuck out his hand, “Hi. I’m Phil, and this is Bobby.”  They were anything but twins. I had a sneaking suspicion that Bobby was adopted, but I kept that theory to myself. Phil was a clean-cut, business type who probably viewed “casual dress” as khaki pants and a nice sweater vest.

Bobby, on the other hand, looked like a young Keith Richards. His hair was everywhere and he let his beard grow out, despite how patchy it was. I shook Phil’s hand, which was firm and implying something, and got a “What’s up?” and a wave from Bobby. Bobby was my kinda guy.

“Well, I’m gonna check on the meat.” I said. One thing that was great about my relationship with Barbara was that we hardly ever clashed. Barbara thought the idea of a woman cooking was degrading, and I just thought that the idea of a woman cooking resulted in refried beans and Salisbury steak. I didn’t mind the cleaning either, because for all intensive purposes I was the housewife. A job I would gladly take. The steaks were near done.

I started to turn the corncobs when Phil asked, “So what do you do, Logan?”  I laughed while grinding some salt.

“Well-”

“He’s in school right now.”  Barbara interrupted.

“Oh, what do you study?” asked Phil, a hint of fake interest in his tone. I looked at Barbara, who glared at me, hoop earrings dangling as she shook her head.

“Well, I’m getting into the psychology/philosophy side of things.” I said,  “And, of course, a pinch of cooking.”  

Phil let out a highbrow laugh, “That’s very interesting. Are you leaning towards one or the other right now?  Between the psychology and the philosophy, of course.”  

“Of course.” I shut the grill. “I don’t really know. Philosophy is great because it’s like having a job where you invent theories all day long as to the existential shit, but the problem is there’re no facts to draw your basis on. It’s just how you see the world. Psychology, on the other hand, lets you get into the mind of other people. Problem with that is that the most interesting info you find is usually that no one really knows what makes anyone tick.”

I was surprised at how much bullshit had just spewed out of my mouth, “But I don’t wanna talk about school. We’re on a nice little vacation, and I could use some relaxation…and I don’t give a damn about my reputation.”  Bobby laughed and Barbara took my cue. She walked over to the Ipod dock and a soft Where Did Our Love Go began to fill the room. She was a sucker for The Supremes.

“They rivaled even The Beatles in their time!” She would say to me, “They were pouring out hit after hit after hit!  What was Warren Zevon doing?  Taking hit after hit after hit?”  

“Yeah probably because he was listening to this bullshit on the radio and had to get away from it all.”  I would reply. “And those three hits you’re talking about are the only ones people remember. You can’t put The Supremes in a class with The Beatles!  That’s like throwing a housecat in with a pack of Cheetahs!” Still, I had a soft spot for The Supremes. I enjoyed the hits they did have, and it was slightly impressive that they kept up with such a huge sensation.

Bobby pulled out a pack of cigarettes and made his way toward the scenic area. I approached him with a beer. “Trade ya.” He took the beer and handed me a loosy. We stood there, looking out across the city and I thought about how lucky I was to be able to have such a view.

“Thought there would be fireworks.”

“Later, I think.” My beer hissed in that familiar fashion.

“How long you been datin’?” Bobby asked, cupping one hand around his lighter.

“About five months, give or take.”  

He nodded, “That’s pretty impressive man.” He handed me his lighter, “She doesn’t usually go longer than one with a guy. Not even back in her younger years. She would bring a guy back to our place and that’s the last we would ever see of them. Phil and I joked that she was murdering them and putting them in her closet.” He puffed, “Well, I joked about it.”  

I watched Barbara set the table with paper plates as Phil probably inquired about my credentials. “She’s somethin’ all right.”  

Bobby saw the smile on my face, “You know she really likes you.” He said, blowing smoke in the air and probably up my ass, “She specifically told Phil not to give you any shit. I was kinda pissed about it; since you’d be the first person I could give shit to.

“Are you saying I’m immune?” My raised eyebrow made him chuckle. We flicked our butts and I tended to my tenderloins. “So what’s your deal, Phil?” I asked, opening the door with the corn on a plate, “What do you do?”  

“Oh, I’m currently looking for work in the city. I graduated with a business degree recently.”  

I nodded, “What about Bob?”  I wasn’t really interested, but I figured if I was gonna get laid tonight, I better play nice.

“I’m a music producer.”  

“Wait, what?”  

“Yeah, man. Brown Records.” Barbara brushed by with the food. I shook myself from my shock and sat while we all ate better than the working class. Her brothers shared some embarrassing stories about her. Bobby’s were much more vile, “One time, while the ‘rents were on vacation,”

“Bobby!” Barbara exclaimed, covering her face in embarrassment.

“Phil and I were out with some friends, and Barb had brought her high school sweetheart over. They were in the living room, and outside Uncle Randy pulls up in his truck. She and the dude got dressed as quick as they could, and Randy walks in the door, sees them sitting on the couch watching TV. Barbara and the dude think they’re clear, but then Randy finds the dude’s socks on the floor behind the couch.” He picked up his corn and motioned as if it was a sock, “‘What the hell is this!  What’s going on here!?'” The dude tried to explain some bullshit story about how you had to take your socks off or something, but Randy wouldn’t buy it, and he literally chased that poor guy out of the house with a baseball bat.”  

“But that’s not the worst part,” Bob continued, “Phil and I had just come home when the dude was leaving, and when we got inside we had front row seats. He turned around, and I don’t know if he expected a hug or a slap, but what he got was a kick square in the nuts. She took his keys and drove off in his car, and didn’t come back until dad came home.”  I burst into laughter, partly because of the story, but mostly because Barbara’s face was redder than a tomato.

Over all the night was a success. I was surprised there was no conflict, and then at the end of the evening as we sent them to the elevator Phil made one final comment that would initiate one, “Good luck with your school, Logan!” I thanked him. Ding went the elevator, and pop went the first firework.

Round one had begun.

Barbara was picking up the plates, “Say, what was all that about me being in school?” I asked, brushing the grill.

“Oh, you know, I just didn’t want him to ask a million questions about what you do and how you do it.”  

“Uh-huh.” Bristles scraped against the grate. “Is it really that?  Or are you embarrassed that you’re dating someone with no ambition?”  

She paused and turned, “Come on. I don’t care about that.”  

“Well why would you interrupt me when he asked what I did?”  

“I don’t know, I just didn’t think it was necessary to get into that whole thing.”  

“Meaning…”  

“Well, you know…” She tried to find the words. It was the first time I had seen her speechless, “It’s just…Phil’s unemployed, but he’s got goals. He’s got something he wants to do with his life.”  

“And that’s fine for him.”  I finished the grill as she placed the last of the plates in the trash. We ignored the sparkling sky behind us.

“Yes, but everyone should want to do something!” she plead, “I mean, you have shown no interest in even finding a job you’re good at, or want to do.”  

“That’s because there’s no job out there like that. I don’t want to do anything, you know that.”  

“But there’s gotta be something!  You have to have a goal in life.”  

“I do.” I said, “My goal is to get through my whole life without slaving for a majority of my waking hours 5 days a week.”  

She scoffed, “That’s not enough. You have to want to do something.”  

“Well, I don’t.” I shrugged.

“God, you are impossible Logan!”  She shouted.

“We’ve had this discussion a thousand times!  As long as I’m not living off of your dime then that shouldn’t be a problem for you!” I threw a bottle into the trash. “But it is, isn’t it?  You’re afraid that one day I’m gonna run out of funds, and when that happens you’re going to be the one that I turn to for a little spare change miss. And by then I’ll have dug too deep into you.” A flush of anger immediately followed by remorse hit her face before she spun around. Maybe I had taken it too far. Was it really so much to ask that a significant other have some drive?  Maybe, maybe not, but at that point it didn’t matter to me.

“Please leave.” She whispered.

“Gladly.” I said, ringing the elevator. When I looked back she stood, body blackening from the light of the fireworks in the distance. She had a big meeting in the morning, and I wasn’t going to be getting back in that night. I didn’t care, though. I was about to drown it all away at the bottom of a bottle of bargain scotch. I walked down and out to the first bar I saw, which my wallet screamed “Bad Idea!” but I paid no mind.

“Double scotch. Neat.” I said. I drank it immediately, and then requested a Jack and coke. I wanted to revel in this hatred. I wanted it to brew in me. “A lot on your mind?” The bartender asked.

I ignored him, managing to get three more shots and half-a-Whiskey Sour in before the inevitable bar fight happened. Some creep walked in with a lady on his arm, and my slurred speech said, “Hey, be careful man. She’ll fuckin’ chew you up and spit you out. Every fucking woman wants something out of you, even if they have everything, even-”

The dude’s fist interrupted me. I felt sorry later, because he just wanted to shut up the stupid drunk who was going through a rough time, whereas I was out for blood, allowing for my retaliation to be much more brutal. Pouncing on the victim of circumstance, I knocked three of his teeth out before the bartender picked me up and literally threw me out of the bar. I rolled right into the street and stayed there, wondering why the traffic light was red. I didn’t move until some asshole started honking at me.

I stood up and kicked his front headlight in an attempt to break it. I was unsuccessful. That didn’t stop the driver from rolling down his window and screaming something. I couldn’t tell what it was, but I knew it was enough to give me another person to punch.

He sped off before I got a chance to reach in and pull him out by his throat. I looked up and saw another bar down the road, so I wobbled in and ordered a Whiskey Sour. When I finished I ordered four shots, but the fuck face only gave me one. “This should be illegal.” I said, pouring it into my glass.

“Yeah, well deal with it.” He said. I turned and saw that the people down the bar had been staring at me.

“You guys got a problem?” I tried to ask, but what came out was, “The fuck you starin’ at?”  

Some wise-ass fatso who thought he was really something special said, “I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out yet.”  That lame comment cost him a broken nose and a black eye before I was yet again thrown out of the bar. I didn’t fall to the street this time, but when I spun around the streetlight a liquor store just a city block away caught my eye. Cleaning myself up and trying to act as sober as possible, I beelined my way inside, grabbing a bottle of Vodka and plopping it on the counter.

The man stared at me as I desperately tried to keep my posture. I succeeded enough to where he didn’t care about letting me buy the bottle, and when I stepped outside I opened it and took a large gulp. Then I heard, “There he is!  Get him!” Almost on the other side of the block was Joe Toothless’ friends running toward me. I quickly drank as much as possible while they closed in, and when I knew it was at the point where if I kept drinking I’d be caught, I threw the now half-empty bottle on the sidewalk and busted my way into the nearest cab.

“Go, go, go, go!”  I said.

The cabby turned, “I’m off duty.”  The mob was seconds from the door.

“I don’t give two shits what you are!  Just fucking go, unless you want your whole back seat stained with blood!”  The cabby pulled out just as the door was opening and a hand reached inside. The fucker stumbled and I slammed the door shut, then looked back to make sure they weren’t chasing after me before rejoicing, “Whoo!” I shouted, “We did it! That was a close one!”  I turned and laughed to myself as they faded into the crowd behind me.

Then it all went black.

Next Chapter

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