book two:


chapter 10:


What would you have done? cause i was prety short on ideas.

late for what?

[ i said, or somethin like that ]

orientation. and contrary to popular opinion, orientation is not optional.

his menacing stare was intimidating. at least enough to keep me from sayin what i should of saidwhat the fuck’re you talkin about dude?

youll fit right in, buncha hipees, do you have any idea what it means to own a bisni$$? to invest in something? you know where we’d be right now if it wasnt for investment? i’ll give ya a hint, it starts with an aitch and it aint calld heaven

give it a rest marko.

kathleen said that.

i hadnt realized she’d come in.

but she was definatly in. she walkd up to the counter and boosted herself on top of it, stood up there, shot a look at the coffee mobster before he could say anything

i’ll getdown in a second, i have an anouncement.

youll be cleanin my counter with windex.

ok i’ll clean it with windex, now chillthefuckout.

i dont know if he chilled the fuckout, but atleast he got quiet.

kathleen cleard her throat.

put her hands to her mouth like a megaphone


the place went silent. excepfor the tinklin of the ivories.


the piano stopt.

is anybody expecting?

no one said anything.

anybody know anybody whos expecting?

expecting what?

[ i askd, but was ignored ]

a shy looking guy spoke up

i heard andy and deidra were.

andy and D? [ kathleen said ] we saw those cocksuckers on the way up here, they werent expectin anything, they were smokin a blunt and lisnen to outkast.

thats how they roll [ somebody said ]

troodat. well maybe they were so hi they blew right past us.

or they couldnt see us for the smoke [ dave ]

who are andy and deidra? [ i askt ]

their peeple! [ kathleen ]

their friends of ours [ dave ]

but marko’s patience had reachd its limits.

i dont care who y’friends are, your still late to orientation.

waitdid somebody actialy show up to orientation?

the chick who said that walkt upenterdwith a presence much larger than her physical frame.

evrybody was lookin at me.

i didnt mean to [ i said ]

you are aware its unpaid?

said the new chick, she was tiny, but not like you call petite. more like scrappy. i was gona say a rabid squirel, but realy she was more like somethin that just finishd kickin a rabid squirls ass.

i dont know...

looks like you found yourself a sucker, marko.

i hope ta god your right.

hey i’m trish i work here, we’ll be soulmates by x-mas...

[ she walkt past me, still talkin ]

…long as you dont lissen to music ironicly or forget to way the beans, bluesky’s a sweet gig bytheway, dont know how you got it fresh off the boat...

she launchd herself over the counter like a gymnast on one  a those horses, dismounted by the timeclock and clockd in still talkin, she never stopd talkin

…somebodys dick got suckd thats fer sure, hopefuly you wont hafta return the flavor, or maybe itd do ya some good, you look like a cathlick are you a cathlick?

well, not practicing

i take that as a yes, good, maybe you can teach me some alterboy trix, theres this perverted ex-priest i been thinkina goin after MARKO! you better not of touchd my oldcrow, do i need to remind you what happend the lastime,

and so forth.

Kathleen put a hand on my shoulder and gave me an encouraging smile, like she was my mom and this was the first day of school.

i think you should do it! i mean, your already here.

go thru orientation?


but i’m not gona work here. i think this’s somebodys idea of a joke.

joke or no joke, the tips are real, i’m sure you could use the scrilla with your car an evrything. if you ask nice i bet marko’ll let ya keep half the tips while your back therewont you, marko?

marko lookt around to make sure evryone understood he was doin them a huge favor.

IF its alright with trish.

shit yeah. he can flirt with the chicks i’ll flirt with the dicks, we’ll make a shit-ton.

wait [ i said ]

sorry no time to wait [ kathleen said ] we have a dinner date with jon davies, a notorius time-nazi. come with us if you want, but we aint gona have time to stop by the hotel.

or we could swing by and getcha after orientation [ dave said ] i’ll show ya a cool shortcut to the hotel.

my instinct was to get while the gettin was good. but the bluesky dream, remember? the whole reason i came here.

i gues i’ll stay.

awsom! [ kathleen said ]

we’ll be back in an hour or so [ dave said ]

and they left.

leaving me alone in bluesky.

altho i wasnt realy alone.

D said you got experience but i aint seen it in writin, and if i aint seen it in writin i asume its a lie am i right?

[ that was marko ]


would you like me to repeat myself? maybe if i talkd slower? D o  y o u  h a v e  e  x  p  e  r  i  e  n  c  e  ?

in coffee?


he threw up his hands.

i’d fire ya right now, but you wouldnt believ the paper traili still cant bleev those hipees tore themselvs away from the bong long enuf to organize.

i think you have me mixd up with somebody else tho.

are you not al dixon?

no, i’m al dixon, but i didnt apply to work here. maybe somebodys playin a joke on me. do you know the guy who does athensquotes, booty something

are you drunk?


[ when thrown into confrontation, my powermove is to act confused ]

you betternot be comin in drunk, to your orien-tation.

i havent had a drink in three an a half years.

thats a good one, leme smell your breath.

he gestured like i was a dog and he wanted me to come. i backd away, no doubt. posibly trembeld.

if your drunk, i swear i’ll fire ya so fast itll make your head spin around like a hipee at a phish show, the union can you think thats funny?

uh-uh, no.

how muchve you had? if its only a cuppla beers i wont fire ya. and dont lie, i can spot a lie from a hundred yards and i dont need binnoculers.

honestlyi havent had a drink since november 2006.

wellthen lemme smell your breath. c’mon, i wont tell ya if you have halla-tosiss.

just do it [ trish said ] its better on this side a the counter anyway.

goodpoint trish. now leme smell your breath or your fired.

if i havent been drinking, can i go?

yeah yeah yeah.

i can just walk outa here?

IF you havent been drinkin. if you have your fired.

[ sounded like a win-win ]


i leand in.

come on, i dont bite.

i leand closer. as close as i could make myself.

opend my mouth.

gave him a sample of my breath.


marko jumpd back.

you didnt have to hit me with a cloud a bat breath, i just needed a sniff. jesus crist i thought you were gona stick your tung down my throat.


but atleast you past.

he offerd a begrudging smile. i felt so relievd i cant tell you.

your breath smells like a whores ass, tho. an believ me, i know what a whores ass smells like.

the way he laughd at himself was endearing. i’d almost made up my mind to like him. until...

now get back here.

but you said

did you get it in writin?


anser the bosses question, a-l. did you get it in writin?

well, no.

looks like you just lernd your first lesson in bi$niss‘if you aint got it in writin, you aint got it.’ now get your ass back here before i get it for you.

[ he did look ready to lay hands on me if necesary ]

wheres the how d’you...?

do you see an employee entrance? make like a frog an hop.

i boosted myself over the counter.

around here whatyousee is whatyouget, you see a refrijerater?


cause there aint one, theres an ice chest for milk only, not for personal shit, do you see a bathroom?

there isnt a bathroom?

use ta be, then along came the bathroom tax and i had to shutter down a perfecly good bathroom. if you gotta piss i suggest you find yourself a tree, if you gota shit theres a jonnyonthespot outback which i am not responsible for, the union is, so dont come cryin to me when its outa shit tickets.

[ this whole time, by the way, the bluesky patrons were up to a variety of antics. just now they were puttin down a sheet of plywood so this chick could tap dance ]

trish sidled up to me.

dont get strest out. theres realy only two things you need to know about workin hereone, lissen to evrything marko says...

[ marko’s face conveyd aproval and skepticism at the same time ]

two, soonas he leaves do whatever the fuck you want, he cant fire you for anything exept stealin or attackin a customer unprovoked

ex-cuse me. this is orientation.

morelike dis-orientation. do you feel oriented a-l?

not realy.

cause we aint started yet, now WAY THE BEANS!

trish went to work in a huff that was somehow charming.

Marko went strait into training mode

since you were late, i’m ona hafta give ya the breeviated version. basicly, evrything you need to know is on The List.

he produced a heavily laminated piece of paper, chaind to the register with a real chain. both sides of the page were filld with rules in a caligraphy font, with angry coments and supplemental rules scrawld in the margins and between the lines, there wasnt a milimeter of wasted space. i’ll give you a little sampling, but there is no substitute for holding the actual document in your hands


etcetera, he let me look at it for about thirty seconds.

now the firsthing you do after you clock in is way the beans. see this shelf? it should be full before you go on the register. beans are along here, says dark and medium but thats for decoration use whatevers oldest, dates are on the bags, filters are underhere, heres the scale, put the filter on the scale and hit tare, pour the beans in the filter, six-point-four ounces unless your makin a halfgallon then its four-point-two, dont bother writin it down its on The List, stackem up here, newest to the left til the shelf is full. then and only then can you go on the register, got it?

got it.

now for the important part, how to pull a shot. its basicly the only thing you do, so dont fuckitup. first you take out the portafilter and put it under the hopper. cut on the grinder...

[ the grinder made that whirring sound you always hear in the background of coffeeshops ]

flick this til you fill it up...

[ flka-flka flka-flka flka ]

level off the extra in here, then pack it with the tamper. thirty pounds a presher no more no less, you fuckup the machine, you know how much they charge to send a guy out to work on it? whos probably HI!

he glared at trish.

you break it, union says i cant take it outa your paycheck so i take it outa your ass. then, lock in the portafilter a quarter turn, dont try and force it...

he lockd in the filter. it made a satisfying clunk.

you get it jamd in there, you get it jamd outa there.

got it.

then push this button. if they order a dubble tellem we always pull dubbles, if they want a quadroople just push it again, dont bother repackin it, i dont want a buncha crackt out hipees runnin around, its bad enough as it is...

he pushd the button. a few seconds later, coffee dript out in two thin creamy lines, the color of caramel.

see that? taila the mouse. if its too thin make the grind coarser thats to the left, if its thickern that its pullin too fast, you gota go finer.

hold on

if you wanted me to go slow, you shulda been on time. you workd a register before right?

well yeah, like ten years ago.

good. this one works exacly like evry other register before they had to go and fuckem up with computers, here’s your price list, the change bag’s in the safe if you need it, combination’s on the backa The List, at the enda the shift take the twenties and stickem in a bag, write your name and the date and drop it in the safe. coffeepots’re behind you, when one runs out make a new pot, beans’re on the shelf already wayd suposedly all you gota do is grindem, use the red grinder, this grinder is for drip and drip only, do not adjust the grind, if i see it on anything other than 8 you will face my rath, the switch is broken, you gota cut it on at the powerstrip...

he flickd the switch on a grimy powerstrip. the grinder came on.

cups’re right here, sinks here for doin dishes, do not i repeat do not drain both sinks at once, schedules up here i suggest you read it, heres where you clock in, time cards’re underneeth already gotcha one, any questions?

there was cleary only one answer.

i guess not.

welcome to bluesky.

he shook my hand. it felt almost official.

if you think a any questions, just look at The List. anything you need to know, its on there.

just goodluck findin it [ trish said that ]

its there,

marko said, then he exited.

hopt onto the skyblue vespa, and scooted off.

i wonder where he’s off to in sucha hurry?

[ a customer askt that ]

only thing i’ve ever seenim move that fast for is poker and pussy [ trish said ] and i can tell ya rightnow it aint pussy.

this sparkd a conversation between trish and the customer regarding marko’s love life or lack thereof, which left me with a second to myself.

which youd think wouldbe a good thing.

but so many thoughts rushd into my head at once, it overheated. i had to take a deep breath, relax...


the punchcard! i cant believ i hadnt thoughta that yet, that should give you some indication of my mindstate.

i didnt see any sittin around, so i askd trish.

ohsure, in theory we gottem, but i aint seen one since thanksgiving. and goodluck gettin marko to do anything about it, i been tryin ta gettim to fix the anserin machine for two years.

i reachd in my pocket. felt the flimsy cardstock.

my hand trembled as i showd the card to trish.

whered you get that?

i found it in my kitchen. i dont know how it got there. ive never been to bluesky, ive never even been to athens before today, i didnt apply for this job either, i dont know where marko got the idea i’m spose to work here

so you havent even you didnt you just got here?

this mornin.

you met your peeps tho, right?

i dont know anybody here.

oh dude.


a-l, its hi time you got aquainted with the bird.

she rooted around under the counter.

whyd you say my peeps? did somebody tell you i was comin?

its just an expresion.

but whadoes it mean?


i know that. but why would i have people here? ive never been here.

trish took a deep breath.

i know things are confusing, a-l. but trustme when i tell yaits the good kinda confusing.

trish found what she was lookin fora plastic handle of wiskey. old crow if i wasnt mistaken.

here thisll help.

she handed me the crow.

i dont drink.

but its your firsday in athens.

its not my first day, its my only day.

troodat, dude. true dat.

its your firsday?

this was spoken by a customer who i would later learn was calld saxy larry. he lived up to his name, too. a tenor sax hung from his shoulder, and he was dead sexy.

saxy larry proceeded to blow a version of happy birthday to you that rivald marilyn monroes for sultriness. trish sang along

happy firsday to you

etcetera, imagine joan jett and tom waits singin at the same time. or fightin.

When the song was over, i said

thanks a lot yall. but i’m not movin here.

they were quiet.



why’re yall bein so secretiv? its startin to get annoying.

[ i tried to scowl, tho i’m no good at scowling ]

we dont mean to be secretiv [ saxy larry said ] its just...

we cant say it [ trish ] you hafta say it first.

she’s not bein hyperbolic [ larry ] we realy cant.

cant say what?

the anser to your question [ trish ]

what question?

THE question dude. dont wory about it rightnow, you got other fish to fry, here comes your first custammer.

trish boosted herself over the counter.

i’m ona step outside for a minnit. dont come get me unless he gets violent.


sink or swim, a-l. its the only way to lern.

So he walkt up, my first customer. he lookt like happy dwarf.

You must be the new guy.


well your new to me anyway. so i need two coffees, but here’s the thing...

[ he held up a finger ]

i’m not gona pay for em.

your not?


the easiest thing was to do as he said, pour him two coffees. i knew where the cups were, and the coffee.

as i was pourin, i tried to think back to all my coffeeshop experiences. what was spose to happen on the other side of the counter? there was somethin they always said... ah, yes

you need room for cream?

dude lookd shockd. and offended.

i thought you said you werent new?! dont let marko catch ya askin that, or trish either. just pour it an inch from the top and i’ll deal, its on The List. hey i’m tyler, i use to work here, i still do tecnicly.


i shook is hand and past im his coffees.


just al. A-L.

aight a-l, niceta meetcha. if i dont see ya tonite i’ll definatly see you at trish’s show tomoro, its at caledonia, be there or she’ll freakout, peace.

i wont be here tomor

but he was already gone.

i took a peek in the tip jar.

or, more acurately, the jar to

Offset the extraction of surplus value.

there were a few bills in there. i was just about to takem out when trish came howling

what are you doing? plant a seed a-l, plant a seed. i thought you workd in a coffeeshop before. thats bullshit isnt it? it is, i can see it on your face. youve workd in a coffeeshop like ive campt out in madonna’s canyonous cunt.

did i mention she had one of the most amazing smoker voices you ever heard?

you atleast know how to pull a shot tho, right?

marko showd me.

prolly said taila the mouse and calld it a day. tail of marko’s dick’s more like it, tho i’d rather deepfry my eyeballs and eatem like tater tots than view that fuckers pecker, here, watch

she ground some coffee into the portafilter.

pact it.

the firstime pack it light, just to getchoo a good even surface. . . tap it...

[ tap tap ]

then packit again. this time with pressure. bet he told you thirty pounds. what the hell is thirty pounds? bare down like your opnen a pickel jar.

she packd the coffee, then placed the portafilter in the machine and rotated it a quarter turn.

youll feel it lock. then press this one.

she prest a button with a picture of two coffee cups. a few seconds later, twin strands of caramel trickled down, about the thickness of a mouses tail

or so i thought.

but trish wrinkld her nose.

dam marko, you call that calibrated?

she dumpd it out.

you can serv that shit if you want, but i’m heer ta tell ya most any regulars gona throw it back in yer face, and i’m not bein metaforical. check the grind evrytime you pull. the finer the grind, the thinner the tail.

she adjusted the grinder and pulld a new shot.

this one met with her aproval.

when that one was done she bangd out the basket and packt another. while it was pulling, she reachd into the ice chest and came out with a can of sweetend condensd milk and a bottle of hersheys syrup. she pourd them into a mug with the espresso, coverd it with a saucer, shook it like a cocktail, and dumpd it into a pint glass filld with ice.

trish’s sweet jizz, its calld, sweeter’n your mama’s sweet sweet pussy. people’ll order it time ta time, if you likem you can make it, if not tellem they can order off the menu like evrybody else, not that we hav a menu, wana sip?

she offerd her glass.

i’m good, actialy.

i’m sure you are.

so, trishi’m free to go anytime, right?

this is the en-em-aitch, your free to do anything you want. cept kill somebody or negotiate the value of your labor-power.

[ i didnt ask ]

i’m going, then.

we split the tipsfive-fifty each. not bad, considering i wasnt there that long and we werent that busy.

on my way out, trish calld after me

see ya tonight.

maybe so.

oh i’ll see you tonite dude, dontchyou wory bout that.

and she was right.

but i dont wana get aheada myself.

chapter 11:

taylor’s movie

What the hell was that? it was like bein in a foreign country. or your first night at burning man.

something was definatly goin on. even if the whole we-cant-tell-you thing was just to fuck with me, stilli find that card in my kitchen, then i get to bluesky and they act like i’m spose to work there? you cant explain that away, sorry. believ me i tried.

its almost like somebody was tryin to trick me into moving here. but why would anybody wana do that? and who would want to? the only person that knew i was comin to athens was claire

Claire. wow. seems like forever since we talkd. the infamous curbside drop off. we never went this long without talkin. i hope she wasnt worried bout me. i hope she was doin good up there in the big apple. what was she doin right now? did she miss me? was she mad? would we live happily ever after?

I pulld out my phone and was suprized to see it wasnt my phone, it was jesse’s. it still had three bars, tho. i took it around the corner behind the brokendown van, for privacy.

817, 664, 5091. SEND


deep breaths


remember to ask about her trip


doesnt matter, she’s not gona pick up


Claire? oh my god i cant believe i got you! its so good hear your voice, i’ve had a crazy trip, but hows new york?

s anybody there?

claire, can you hear me?

cant hear you, hello?

HELLO? claire?

new hotel, it has all this metal in it, i get terrible reception. Al if this is you callin from the hotel, i’ll call you back at this number, okay sweetie?

ok but hurry. claire?

love you bye.

i can still hear the way she said itlove you bye.

like lullaby.


i sat on the bumper of the brokendown van and waited for her to call.


and waited.

fuck bluesky. fuck athens and all these ridiculous people. all i wanted was claireto talk to her, to see her face, to get back to our life together.

funny. when i was with claire, all i could think about was blue sky. now that i’d found blue sky

all i could think about was claire.

Time to go to the hotel. i dont care if it costs two hundred bucks, i’m gettin a room, lockin the door, and goin the fuck to sleep.

then: a vibration in my pocket

jesse’s phone!

holy shit i was gona talk to claire!

did i realy wana talk to claire?

course i did, what the fuck?

tookout the phone


i didnt anser.

i heard a voice behind me.

there you are, cool. mind if i get my phone back, i needa make a quickcall.


hey jesse, i been lookin allover for you. somebodys callin you right now actualy, it says dont anser.

my mom. its her anivershry, hold on.

he took the phone.

hey mom happy anivershry, i was gona call earlier

[ ... ]

i started to leave, but he held up a finger for me to wait.


[ . . .  ]

uh-huh. . . uh-huh. . . mom

[  . . .  ]

jesse put his hand over the phone and lookd at me.

can you talk to her a sec, i need a get a coffee.

he handed me the phone without waitin for an anser.

jus say uh-huh whenever she stops to take a breath.

and he went into bluesky.

i lookd at the phone in my hand. you could hear the voice of jesse’s mother comin thru the receiver.

i raisd it cautiously to my ear, and found the woman in the middle of such a gush of uniterupted syllablesit was stunning. i could never do her justice, but i’ll atleast try to give you a taste.

but thats uncle art, you hant met uncle art have you? no he woulda been outa the famly by the time you were old enough to remember, not offishally oranything we just stopt callin im and he stopt comin around, now sposedly he’s gettin married to this woman who already had two kids when she mettim, he hardly ever sees her tho, he works offshore on a rig in louisiana, i wonder if theyll hafta shut it down cause a that oil spill, that would be devastating. but i dont see this one bein any difrent from the last one, remember that carolyn woman? no you woulda been too young, god the heels on her, i thought she was gona fall over, whadaya callem, platforms? like the hippies use to wear?

[ pause ]


oh did i tell you your fathers thinkina takin social security when he turns sixty five? but you know if you defer til your sixty seven you get a much better deal,

etcetera, til eventially jesse came back and took the phone from me midstream.

uh-huh. . .

[ . . . ]

mom i gota go, i just ran into a friend.

[ . . . . ]

love ya, happy anivershry.

[ . . . . . ]

bye mom

[ . . . . . . . ]

i’m hanginup now ok?... one two three bye.

he hungup.

thanks man i owe ya one. so how ya likin athens so far?

its prety cool.

no kiddin, you can add plus-ten to your cool hit points just for visitin, where all’ve you been?

i went to a pizza place, pepino’s i think it was calld. and i went lookin for you and ended up in this tiny record store run by a manic guy

todd. he’s one  a the more absurd human beings youll ever meet. but thats what he gets paid for i guess, he sure aint makin money sellin records.


i’m not kiddin. hey man i gotta run but thanks for talkin to my mom, i’ll see ya tonite i’m sure, i’ll buy ya a drink.

but i dont

[ he was gone before i could finish, so i said it to myself ]


What i didnt think about, until after jesse left, was that now there was no way for claire to call me back. i’d have to call her. from the hotel i guess. unless i rememberd to pack my charger [ which, lets face it, there was about a zero percent chance of that ]

so the hotel then.

i dont know how long itd been since dave and kathleen left, well over an hour i’m sure, altho it was gettin hard to keep tracka time. but some piece of intuition told me when somebody in athens says an hour or so it could mean anything up to a day.

i could certainly find the hotel on my own. i found it the firstime, and i wasnt even tryin.

i walkd out to the street to get my bearings. there was the overlook, i’d forgotten about the overlook. you could see people downtown, dotting the sidewalks like ants, occasionally somebody would push somebody and youd see a speck go shooting off. then


an explosion.

it came from somewhere near downtown. a cloud of black smoke was formin on the horizon.



the sound of distant cheering.

but lookat the bottom of the hill. something familiar, gold and blue...

the super 9!

not far from here, maybe two hundred yards as the crow flies. but there was no road i could see goin that way. it was too steep. i’d have to take other odd all the way back downtown, then hike back up odd street. itd take me twenny minutes at least, if i didnt get lost or run into anymore distractionswhich seemd unlikely.

but dave did say there was a shortcut.

i scand the hillside. a buncha trees between me and the hotel, it would make sense thered be a trail.

oh, waitthere was a clearing. and it lookd like somebody had made some steps outa rocks. . . .

The trail was easy to follow, not cause it was well-markd, but because of all the trash [ beercans and wiskey bottles, cigaret buts, banana peels, socks. a feather boa. a condom ]

it was darker in the woods. cooler, too. like summer hadnt quite hit yet. the birds were all chirpin at once. you could tell they were inlove. or fightin.

the trail got less and less litterd as it went. and therefore harder to follow. eventialy i was forced to admit i didnt know which way the trail went. i wouldnt even garantee i was still on the trail. that there still was a trail.

the wind hisst thru the trees. the birds were goin nuts. somethin screechd, it sounded like a monkey

i was lost. in a strange wood. but it wasnt that bad. i hav a terible sense of direction, but atleast i know which way is down.

there was some undergrowth, but it didnt pose any serius obstacles. infact, as the hill got steeper i started jumpin over shit, swingin on trees, i built up some prety good speed

till i came to a creek.

grabd a scrub tree

it bent double

slung me back onto the bank.


somethin was comin thru the woods


i couldnt see anything but trees and vines



out from between two trees comes this huge dude with a camra infronta his face, runnin RIGHT AT ME.

i wanted to flee but there was the creek so i just cowerd.

he pulld up just shorta knockin me in the creek,



and lowerd the camra, an old vhs, i think. it was huge, whatever it was. and the lens was heldon with packin tape.

the man behind the camra lookd like stephen spielberg crosst with superman. he was sweating profusely. his face was so pale it glowd. i would later findout this was due to sevral layers of sunscreen applied against the aging effects of the sun. i was already startin to suspect it actually, he smelld like a coppertone factory.

Ho ho ho, did you see that? theyll swear i used a crane! hi, how ya doin i’m taylor.

he held out a hand. i shook it. it was prety greasy.

i wasnt stalkin ya i promise...

[ awkward laugh ]

...i was shootin some test footage and you ran into the shot. but it lookd great, i think we can use it.

you scared the shit outa me.

and we’ll scare the shit outa them... IF i can sell this shot. we better do it again tho, for covrage.

you want me to be in a movie?

have you never been in a movie before?

well no.

then todays your lucky day! now go back upthere, you remember where you started runnin?

taylor sprinted up the hill to where i’d started running. he cupd his hands around his mouth and yelld down


he lookd franticly around. pict somethin up off the ground.

i’ll mark it with this robitussin bottle. see?

[ he heldup an empty bottle of robitussin ]

i’ll put it... HERE. on the enda this branch.

taylor sprinted back down the hill.

’d you see me run up that hill [ pant ] how old would you say i am?

i dont know, thirty-five?

c’mon, dont overestimate cause i asked ya. how old were you thinkin before i askd?

i wasnt thinking of any age.

because i’m age-less! you think i could pass for twenny-eight? i gota look twennyeight at the oldest when i take this baby to producers.

i shrugd.

what about without the hat?

taylor doffd his hat [ a baseball cap that said star wars ] smoothd his hair and smiled like he was havin his picture made for the cover of E!

maybe a litle younger.


a year or two?

just two years? great. i thought my hair was the one thing i still had goin for me. well now that youve completely destroyd my confidence, i hope ya wont mind lettin me get one more shot. and this time couldja maybe run a litle faster?

taylor ran up the hill and took his mark.

when he turnd around and saw that i had not also taken my markyall, he was crestfallen. it was hard not to feel sorry for him.

c’mon, atleast gimme one more take. without covrage, evrything weve done is basiclygarbage.

how long will it take?

however long it takes ya to runup the hill and run back down it again.

i agreed. i said i’d do it one time. i walkt up there to the branch with the robitussin botle on it.

taylor was about twenty feet to my right. he spoke thru an imaginary megaphone

when i say ACTION, start running. as fast as you can. its ok if you fallactualy would you mind FALLING?

i’ll try.

all i can ask, all i can ask.

taylor lifted the camra up over his head


he raisd his other hand. he seemd on the brink of hyperventilation.


i ran down the hill as fast as i could, and tried to ignore the fact that there was a madman runnin right behind me not lookin where he was goin.

about halfway down i rememberd to fall.

falling on purpose is not as easy as you might think. i didnt quite manage to fall. but i did pretend to stagger.

when i got to the creek i grabd hold of the little tree and did a prety sweet swingout.


taylor skidded to a stop.

pressd an eye to the viewfinder and reviewd the footage with a devius grin.

ho, ho, ho, who needs a crane? not me . . . waitwhat was that thing you did, where you lookd like an elaphent gettin ready to bowl?

it was spose to be staggering.

didnt look like staggering. lets do it again.

this is startin to sound like more of a time comitment, i better say no.

c’mon, dontcha wana be a star?

no, actualy. i just wana get to my hotel. speakinawich, you dont happen to know how to get to the super 9 from here?

i do...

we’re close right?

tell ya whati’ll get you to the hotel. i’ll walk you there personly. but first lets do one more take. and this time if your not gona fall, atleast look over your sholder, like somethins realy after you. can you look afraid? leme see you look afraid.

i tried to look afraid.

taylor squinted.

it’ll do.

I let him talk me into one more take, that was it. if he tried to make me do another onewell i’d just keep runnin.

i went up there and took my mark by the branch with the robitussin botle on it.

taylor was already in position. he lookd like he was gettin ready to start the indy 500.


i nodded.


he was doin the peepee dance.


FWAP  -   -   -

a figure came outa the woods and hit taylor with a flyin tackle!

it was a womanshe lookd like a giantess, but a realyshort one. a midget giantess i guess. i know that doesnt make sense but thats what she was like.

taylor tumbled downhill, protecting his camra.

about halfway down he grabd onto a tree

turnd around

stashd his camra behind the tree and assumed a defensiv stance.

Deidra. i thought we agreed no more unprovoked.

you broke the treaty taylor, not me.

the woman closed the gap between herself and taylor with the swift assurance of someone used to combat.

what part? [ taylor askt ]

the no-filmin part, what other part is there?

taylor backd up as far as he could without bein in the creek.

thats just for you and andy, i thought.

and him [ she nodded at me ] we’re peeps.

taylor lookd at me.

i didnt know.

ignorance’s no excuse. you have two options taylor, you know what they are.

at this point i began to plot my escape. i think i could make it across the creek by hoppin on two rocks. but i’d hafta hittem just right. maybe it’d be better just to run beside it.

deidra noticed my scheming.

dont run away al, i’m here to rescue you!

who are you?

i’m deidra! we’re peeps! you dont know what that means yet, but you will soon!

i didnt know what to say.

deidra returnd her atention to taylor.

whats it gona be dudeflee or do battle?

taylor sholderd his camra, said


and bounded off thru the woods, like george lucas crost with a deer.

i tookoff too. tho in the oposite direction.

wait! [ deidra yelld ]

i dont know you [ i said ]

but you will,

she said, or somethin like that. i couldnt hear too well cause i was

runnin thru the woods.

So here i am, runnin blindi have no idea where i’m goin. when...


in the woods, behind me.

GETTIM MAX! [ deidra shouts ]

i dont look over my sholdersorry taylori just keep runnin


he’s prety big, whoever he is


and he’s gainin on me


i can hear him, behind me


what is it, a gorilla?

the trees thin out

a parking lot!

i’m five steps from freedom, when

i trip on a root

i go f l y i n g

i remember thinkin, i’m gona hit that tree.

then as they say in the movies

fade to black.   

chapter 12:


Fade in.

Ext. Woods - Day

AL, unconscious, thrown over the sholder of DEIDRA, a five-foot-tall giantess.

Deidra walks thru the woods on a trail litterd with trash. she is followd by a giant furry dog with a face like an ewok. this is MAX.

Max licks Al’s face.

Al wakes up, wonders what the fuck is goin on.

Max attempts to get his tung inside Al’s mouth. he is very close to succeeding.


Max, chill!




oh good your awake. you think you can walk now? your heavier’n you look.

deidra put me down, tho she didnt letgo a me. which was a good thingi was feelin kinda dizzy.

woops [ she steadied me ] maybe we better siddown.

i dont think we’ve met.

[ sorry, thats all i could come up with ]

not o-fishaly, i’m deidra! you can call me D, tho. infact you hav to. sory about chasin you, i didnt think youd run into a tree aw dont be skeerd a-l, i’m not gona hurtcha, we’re peeps, you dont know what that means yet but

hold on.

my head throbd. it hurt to think.

why did you chase me?

because. we couldnt let you get away!

[ i was waitin for my brain to catchup ]

why not?

cuz we’re peeps!

[ actualy it was never goin to, maybe i was startin to suspect that ]

whadoes that mean?

think of it like thisme max and andyyou hadnt met andy yet but you will soonwe’re your personal welcomin comitee to athens. its like an athens tradition.

you do this for evrybody that comes to town?

cept it dudnt usualy end in a knockout. speakinawich, hold still a sec...

she took out a flashlight and shined it in my eye.

your dilatin normal.

she checkd my other eye.

your not feelin naushus or havin vision problems, are ya?

i dont think so.

she clickd off the light.

you got a tuff noggin, a-l. thatll come in real handy here.

max got tired of bein ignored and pawd my leg, like he was petting me, but agressivly. i lost my balance and mightof gone down if deidra hadnt grabd holda me.

you might as well siddown dude, cuz your goin down one way or another.

i sat down.

max took advantage of the fact that my face was in licking range.

ok boy, ok. good boy. ok.

but he wasnt thru lickin me. infact he was just gettin started.

max, chill! sorry a-l, he feels guilty for runnin you into that tree. i realy am sory it went down like that, i just cant blieve you got here so early, your not a mornin person are ya? cuz lissen to menuthin happens in athens before midnight. nuthin. and nuthin intresting happens before two.

who told you i was comin?

i heard it on the ‘astral plane.’

no realy. the only person who knew about my trip was my girlfriend. unless that guy said somethinwhats is name? booty dhali?

oh lil a-l, dont get all workt up, lets just enjoy the day, we can work out the details later. i cant bleev your heer dude, i realy cant bleev it.

she gave my arm a little squeez, and max nuzzled up to me. it was strangely comforting. dont go thinkin i was relaxd oranything, i was definately still freakinout in my mind. tho maybe not quite as much in my body.

what time did you actualy get here?

around nine.

and you just been wandrin around by yourself since then? you must be confused as shit.

i am, yes. and i havent slept.

better get some sleep in ya then, you gota big night ahead, its only like five minnits from here.

what is?

one ninedy five.

whats one ninety-five?

my house! its a awsom house dude, the best porch on oddhill. and its a easy walk downtown, altho i usualy drive. i dont get wasted so you always gota ride.

i didnt know where to begin.

have we met before? cause i hav a prety bad memry.

we just met two minnits ago, remember?

but before that?

not unless you count our informal introduction while i was rescuin you from tayloryour welcome, bytheway. you cant apreciate it now but you woulda been there all day. and probly into toomoro



D. can i ask you a question?

bless your peapickin heart, acourse you can. ask me anythin you want.

So i askd it. THE question. the one thatd been brewing in me ever since i got to athens.

What the fuck is goin on?

good question, a-l! very good question! i hope you never stop askin it. like Z says, philosophys too important to leav to the profesionals.




youv seen the documentary, i’m sure you have, but theres alot more to im than that, hes writen like fifty books, its redonkalous, ive got the esentials at the house tho.

so you didnt answer me.


whats goin on?

i cant anser that a-l, only you can.

why not?

oki know things are confusing. but me and andythat reminds me i need to callim, shit i left my phone at the housewe decided no babytalk. if we treatcha like a grownup youll act like one.

i hav no idea what your talking about.

course not you jusgot here.

but what how

[ ? ]

your a question asker, arentcha? [ D ]

under the circumstances i think its apropriat.

we’ll hafta break you a that dude, you ever hearda radical self reliance?

ive been to burning man.

you have? sweet. that is realy helpful. ok, thinka burnin man y’know those people that walkaround drunk with glowsticks on their necks and their always askin where the nearest portapotty is?... dont be one a them.

i’m not. i work at playa info.

aw, dont fret a-l. lookatchoo, your frettin. your cute when you fret tho, your lil cheeks get all bunchd up, i just wana peench em rightoff!

she grabd a handful of my cheek and pinchd hard. realy hard. so hard i didnt know you could pinch somebody that hard.

i tried to extricate my face, but she held fast. i finely had to grab hold of her wrist

soonas i did that, she put me in an armlock and twisted my elbow til i had no choice but to double over.

two things can happen here a-l [ D said ] so pay atention.

i tried to get out of it but there was nothin i could do. even the slightest movement causd a great deal of pain.

but max came to my rescue. he started barkin. he has a deep, booming bark thats prety much impossibl to ignore.

chill max! i’m not gona hurtim.


max, chill!


he is reely protective of you, ive never seen im like this. its ok max, i’m just showin im somethin. tellim your ok dude, he’ll lissen to you.

i’m not ok.

[ she had me in an armlock, remember ]

yes you are. dont be a baby.


fine, max.

she let me go.

max lickt me til i said thank you, then he lickt me some more to say your welcome.

i’ll show you how to do that if you want [ D said ] sometime when max aint around.

i shook out my elbow and tried to workup some anger, but i couldnt do it. it was like that scene in fight club, when the guy put a gun to that other guys head orwhatever. now that was extreme and a bit metaforical, in realife it probly wouldnt of had the intended efect, but in my case where it wasnt a gun to the head just an armlock, it realy did make me greatful, not for my whole life but that i had control of my arm again, and thats enough to make you prety greatful. i almost wanted to hug her. or not exacty that but

ok, this is gona sound strange, but you know that monkey travis? the one who ate that womans face? i know, it must be a terible thing to happen and all that, but travis is a relavant comparison because what i realy had the urge to do was, basicly, bite her face


max is ready to roll a-l, you comin ornot?

i should probly head back to the hotel.


to make a call.

we gota fone at the house.

what i realy need is to sleep.

theres a couch on the porch thats ideal for nappin. its seriusly five minnits from here.

i apreciate the offer

and if you still wana go to the hotel when we get there, i’ll give you a ride.


max ran ahead, then turnd around to check if i was following. when he saw i was still just standin there, he cockd his head as if to say

whats the holdup?

i think it was the way he lookd at me that did itthat convinced me to follow: i didnt wana see anything dim those bright eyes.

chapter 13:


As soon as he saw me comin, max took off

Deidra said

good boy max, run up there and make sure its safe.

and started up the trail after him.

even as i followd, i continued to debate the wisdom in my choice.

on the one hand, what was the harm? its not like she was gona rob me oranythingshe had her chance if she was gona do that. and if i could use her phone to call claire and take a long enough nap i might not even need the hotel, i could use the money instead to buy a new battery if thats all it was, or put it towrd repairs.

on the other hand, i was followin a crazy lady, with violent tendancies, back to her lair.

i chose the path of least resistance i-e inertia, keep followin max and the crazy lady. Deidra

D. i rememberd.

Walkin with max is not like regular dogwalking. theres no leash involvd, so he’ll take off and you wont see im for a while, til he gets stuck sniffin a tree orsomethin [ he can get stuck in one spot for upwards of five minutes ] but eventialy you hear his coller jingle and he goes zoomin by, off to the frontlines, then back to us to let us know its safe. this is the way dogs like to walk by the way. leash walkins better than nothin but its no substitute, we might as well stop tryin to act like it is.

D had some short legs, even for a short person, she was huffing justo keep up, i had to keep makin myself slow down. but in spite of her struggles she had no problem holding up her end of the conversation, and some of mine as well

so how ya likin athens? you met a buncha peeple?

actualy, yes.

not much of a conversationalist are ya, like who?

this guy jesse, he let me borow his phone.

they dont call him jesse whosevrywhere for nuthin, didja talk to his mom?

just for a minute.

suck-ker. who else?

the guy in the x-ray cafe, paul, and this woman who had her cat in a stroller.

i heard she attackd madi with a knife.

she didnt actualy use it.

not what i heard.

i talkd to a guy at that recordstore behind the 40watt

todd?! that little facker, i luv the shit outa him, he has so many records he can barely speak.

i like the way he talks.

i know, convee is awsom, once you get use to it. oh and dude, you should see how we write. its absurd, you can spell shit however you want, we’re totaly takin it back.

takin what back?

langwedge dude. ritten inglish.

from who?

from the cappers!

i dont follow.

oh dont tell me.


you were an english teacher, werent you? you were. shit. sorry, a-l, i know you didnt mean to opress the proletariat, you were only carryin out orders.

i dont think i’m opressin anybody by teachin em english.

yourright, sory. you didnt mean to anyway.

and how did you know i’m an english teacher?

lucky guess.

did you talk to somebody?


then howd you know i was gona be in athens?

time out, o-k? can we take a minnit?

[ . . . ]

take a deep breath. . .

[ deep breath ]

good... now, you have an inquisitiv mind a-l, i like that aboutcha. but sooner or later your gona hafta learn to roll with the punches


hold on, just hear me outi understand your concern, i realy do. today has probly been a prety strange day for you. and it promises to get even stranger. but i wana make one thing perfecly clear: i am lookin out for your best intrests. no matter how things may appear. i will infact do evrything in my power to help you, with whatever you need helpin with. you may not understand why, but i will. all i ask in return is that you keep an open mind, can you promise me that?

[ i considerd ]


and can you chill with the questions?

i’ll try.

yknow what yoda would say...

[ she does a prety fair yoda ]

do, or do not. there is no try.

At some point D whipt out her machete [ did i mention she carried a machete? ] and hackd off an intruding branch with four neet blows.

andy keeps sayin he’ll get out here with the chainsaw but i aint holdin m’breath.

she parted the branches to reveal a shady little road, barely wide enough for a car. it lookd familiar. at first i thought it was more dejavu. but no, i had been here. this was the other odd, the same road i walkd up with dave and kathleen, was it only a couple hours ago? it seemd like longer than that.

D said

here we are, one-sweet-ninedy five.

i didnt actualy see the house, all i could see was a wall of overgrown azaleas and a mailbox that said 195.

nexto the mailbox there was a gap in the wall of azaleas, i followd D and max inside.

It was a cute little post war cottage, lap siding, white with blue trim and algae-green accents under the gutters. made me think of hansel and gretel for some reason, i dont know why, it wasnt very fairytaleish.

a big water oak dominated the lot, no grass would grow underneath it, just english ivy and leaves, two seasons worth atleast. somebody made a path to the front door out of random chunks of polishd granite, lookd like leftovers from a tombstone factory. ohand the red yugo was parkd in the driveway.

max came bounding back, carryin a giant stuft animala pink bunny rabbit almost as big as he was. dont be thinkin of a childs toy, tho. it may once have been a childs toy, but this thing lookd like itd been caught in a meatgrinder and dragd thru the mud, you could see where maybe a dozen gashes had been hastily stitcht back together, the right side of its face was missing entirelygrizzeld, i think is the word. about as grizzld as a pink bunny rabbit can be.

max ran up to D, holdin the rabbit like a trophy.

dropt it at her feet.

goodboy, you got hubert cumberdale, now go get shakpox!

max headed back to the house [ the door was open ] and came back with a giant teddy bear in about the same shape as the rabbit. this time he brought it to me.

D seemd pleasd.

tellin ya dudehe’s a fan.

max led us inside, then went strait to his waterbowl, i couldnt see him but i could hear his lappin from the door.

D said

leme call andy real quick, then you can hav the fone. meanwhile, make yurself at home.

and she disapeard into the back.

While D went to make her call, i had a look around. it was nice place, very homey, a little on the small side but well laid out. gave you a definat feeling of welcome when you walkd in the door. it smelld the way an old house does if its never been remodeldold wood and mothballs and the residuals of years of gas heat. the front room was stuft full of grandma furniture and featured a beautiful but very dusty oriental rug. and bookcases, lotsa bookcases. the floors were in bad shapethey were good floors, oakbut the finish was completely worn away. if somebody didnt slap on some polyurathane soon there was gona be permanent damage, actualy there already was, there were grooves near the frontdoor, i’m guessin max nails, also a hole that indicated termites at some point.

max finishd drinking and joggd past me, pushd open the front door [ it made a squeaky sound ] and went out to the porch, where he plopt down in the middle of an old yellow couch. his water-drinking adventure was even more sloppy than i’d guesd, it almost lookd like he’d been swimming.

khuh-khuh khuh-khuh.

[ this is the sound max makes when he pants ]

khu-huh khuh-khuh,

and he smiles while he does it, he has a great smile cause it carries up into his eyes. he’s got these brown markings over his eyes that look like eyebrows, and they lift when he smiles.

he lookd like he was waitin for me to do somethin.

hey boy.

smile. look at empty spot on the couch. look back at me. look at the couch.

you want me to sit with you?


max took up mosta the couch, he left just enough space for me to squeez in. no sooner had i done that than he deposited his head in my lap. he rolld onto his back and lookd up at me, tung lolling, so content it was contajus.

i slid my hand under his head and started scratchin at the base of his ear. he leand into it and did this moaning thing, like if a giant muppet-dog could purr.

D walkd out on the porch, talkin on her phone

we may actialy need a second table dude, evrybodys gona be there. johnson dragd his sorry ass all the way from portland, jon davies is even comin out, and its his sabbath!

. . .

welllll... he’s comin around. i mean i didnt hafta carry im. at least not once he came to. but you should see him and max dude, lissen to this...

[ max groand while i scratchd behind his ear ]

yknow max is actialy the one that found im. it was some muthafuckin lassie shit

. . .

down by the creek, gettin filmd by taylor.

. . .

i gave him the option.

. . .

exacly! satan.

she hungup.

did you just say satan instead of goodbye?

not instead of, as an improvement upon. it means i love you but lets not drag this out, quit while your ahead, in convee as in all things.


[ max seemd to agree ]

suddenly a commotion...

max sat up saw somethin in the yard.


jumpd off the couch

skitterd across the porch

D lookd out

is that?

max took the steps in one leap,

D right on his heels

he was in the yard the whole time, that facker.


Andy’s HOME!

chapter 14:


I followd the comotion into the yard, where a tall bearded man was hoppin around like a cartoon spider. he lookd like if you took the mountain dew guy and putim in will oldhams band.

Al’s here, Max! Al’s here!

max shouted back


and D was dancin a little jig.

they were so excitedseemingly for no other reason than that i was here.

thats fuckt up.

but its also prety cool.

welcome to athens, al!

andy reachd out with these hairy gorilla arms and rapt me in a sweaty hug. i had no choice but to hug back. by the time he pulld away i was soakd.

thanks i feel welcome. tho i don know why.

there is no why, we’re heer thats what matters, its a got-damn murkle, we hafta start celebratin now, it cant wait til we get inside.

andy produced, from somewhere on his person, a bottle of scotch with a familiar label.

i see you lookin. you love some nadura, dontcha?

oh man, i use to.

whadaya mean use to? aint no outgrowin nadura.

i dont drink.

this took him by surprise.

at all?

not anymore.

disapointment flickerd in his eyesbut only for a moment.

we’ll see how long that lasts.

i totaly suport his decision [ said D ] itll be refreshing to hangout with somebody i dont hafta carry home at the enda the night.

i suport it too. right up to the moment i pour scotch down his throat.

he’s not bein hyperbolic a-l. if you dont wana drink tonite your gona hafta fight im at some point.

probably [ andy ]

dont worry thohe’s easy to knock down once he’s got a few in im.

if by a few you mean twenny.

thats what i said, a few.


somethin rammed my leg.

i staggerd, but i didnt fall down

tho i did end up in a bush.

Drive-by! [ D ]

andy laffd

here, lemme show ya howta do it.

he slapt his leg.


max lookd up from the spot he was sniffin.

max, gimme driveby.

he stood there, considering.

gimme driveby max. gimme DRIVE-BY!

max lumberd over to andy,

put his head down

rammd andys leg

[ it wasnt realy a ram, more like an agressiv lean ]

andy braced himself, and with a bump of his hip

sent max bouncing off.

course its harder if your not expectin it.

[ andy said ]

you must be vigilant!

it was D who said that, and you could tell by the way she said it she relishd the word.

Andy came in for another hug, i thought.

til he pickd me up and threw me over his sholder like a sack of potatoes.

dont be scared.

i’m not [ i said, because i wasnt ]

i promise i’ll throw you somewhere soft.

your gona throw me?

yeah, but somewhere soft.

he carried me to the porch. up the steps.

stay relaxd.

he hefted me in the air and got underneeth me

power cleand me, basicly.


calm down, max. i’m not gona hurtim.


couch or lazyboy?

you mean where to throw me?


the couch i guess.

ok, the cowch

he tossed me onto the couch.

He was right, it was a soft landing. i ended up on my back, like i was fixin to take a nap. which sounded like a great idea actualy.

the porch was basicly their living room, from what i could tell. half their furniture was out there, and thats where they spent most a their time. i was campt out on butter [ that was the couch’s name, cause it was like sitting on butter ] andy ocupied the lazy boy, and D was in a gnomish rockinchair, there was somethin strange about it, it was so low to the ground that at first i thought it was a childs chair. but the top half was normal size. it was the bottom that was weird. somebody had sawd off the legs, it lookd like, and attachd the seat directly to the rockers.

andy said

i heard you stopt by the hotel. how was hotelnazi?

he was fine. he helpt me move my car.

total sociopath [ D ejaculated ] hasnt left the hotel in two years.

dont let her words fool you [ andy counterd ] D has a crush on hotelnazi.

never thought of it that way before,

etcetera, they went back and forth with me watchin em like a pingpong match, til finely i couldnt hold it in anymore

So yallseriusly. whats goin on?

nothing [ D said ] and evrything.

this thing [ said andy ]

is this one  a those deals like where you pretend its a strangers birthday orwhatever, am i getn punkt?

no way [ andy ]

this shits for real [ D ]

but yall’re actin like we’re friends.

why is that a problem?

we just met.


thats weird.

so we’re weird.

yeahbut that doesnt explain it.

we cant say it [ D ] so you mightaswell stop tryn ta get us to.

cant say what?

howre we spose to say it if we cant say it? [ D ]

D-nazi [ andy ]

i am not bein D-nazi.

i gave andy my desprate face.

dont worry about it man [ andy ] its nuttin to worrybout.

then why cant you say it?

member what we said about questions, a-l? [ D ]

its not a-l, its Al.

idnt he preshus, andy? he’s wetter behind the ears than yer mama’s

that wudnt my mama D, it was your gramma, you need to get some new glasses.

andy comenced gloating.

D instantly tookout his legs with a sweepkick and pinned him to the ground.

she lettim squirm for a second before lettinim up.

andy stood there gasping for breath. defeated, but glad to have control of his body again. i knew the feeling.

i know you love me D, but did you hafta show me so hard?


andy elbowd D in the ribs. prety hard i think, but D absorbd it, it hardly seemd to register at all exept as it required retaliatory action which she presently comencedquick, controld jabs without givin up her center, a wedge attack.

andy swatted away her jabs and came back with his own jabs

strike block  strike block,

strike block  strike block

[ it was like they were dancing ]

strike block

[ D lookd realy relaxd ]

strike block

[ andy not so much ]

let go andy.

i am lettin go.

no your not, your still holdin on to it.


Andy tried a roundhouse

D duckd it,

used the opening to pop andy on the chin.

but he shook it off, cameback with a flurry of strikes

this time, his face was a blank.

see how easy it is when ya let go?

D spoke as if they were sittin there talkin over lunch, tho they were fullon sparring, like a kungfu movie but without the soundtrack, just the soft patting rhythm of flesh on flesh.

but D had that low center of gravity,

she kept pushin andy back with her wedge attack, like she was darth vader and he was luke skywalker.

eventialy she backd him into the lazyboy.

he lost balance

fell into his chair

where he flopt down and stayd down.

prety good rollin andy.

if the chair hadnt been there

chairs in the realworld dude. praxis. like M– said, shits no good if it sits on the shelf.

[ when she said ‘M’, she drew a dash in the air ]

max was lookin at me like

wasnt that a great fight?!

it was a pretty good fight. i got so absorbd in watching that i started to actialy enjoy myself until i realized thats what i was doin. then it went away, like it always does, i think K was right about pleasure– -

penny fer yer thoughts a-l.

oh nothin.

dudnt look like nuthin.

well i’m concernd.

bout what?

a buncha shit.

such as?

like whatever it is yall sposedly cant tell me. and plus, i have to be in texas tomoro, but my cars fuckd up, i dont know whats wrong with it, and i cant get in touch with

you shuld talk to c-fouls about yer car.

do you know if he takes credit cards?

[ we had one for emergencies, i think this qualified ]

do the lines even come here? [ andy askd ]

tecnicly. but lets keep that on the d-l.

theres gota be somebody who’ll take a creditcard.

good luck [ D ] not that cash’s your only option, what kinda skilz you got?

i’m a prety good editor i guess.

looks like your payin cash.

i only have like fifty bucks.

aw, dont fret a-l. if it takes more’n that, we can getcha a job! no pressure oranything, but if you wana job, jussay the word and its yours. its a good job too. slingin coffee at bluesky.

so youre the one who did that.

did what? [ D ]

toldem i workd there.

howd you knowbout that?

i went there.

you did?

[ it was nice to see them speechless ]

yeah. and this guy named marko made me go thru orientation, but why did you get me a job there?

you know orientation is optional [ D ]

thats what i heard. so yalli’m not movin here.

nobody said you were, al [ andy ]

then why did you get me a job?

we didnt [ D ] we just reservd it, incase you wannit.

thats realy weird.

i’m tellin ya, its a kickass job.

i’m sure it is. but it doesnt matter cause i’m not movin to athens.

dude you can go back to texas this second, nothins stoppin ya. exept maybe your car, heh-heh.

dont worry, al [ andy shot D a look ] we’ll help ya find somebody to fix your car. and in the meantime, you got a free place to stay.

thats a nice offer yall. but i cant stay.

what else you gona do? [ D ]

i could take a bus.

shitybus? goodluck gettin past the hotel. plus, what’re you gona do with your car, abandon it?

andy draped an arm around me.

there are worse places to be stranded than athens.

he speaks the truf [ D said ] what’re you so hot to get back for anyway?

i hafta pickup my partner at the airport.

you mean your atheist wife [ D ]


thats a nice name. i can tell you lover by the way you say it.

i do love her.

thats awsom.

you dont seem like you think its awsome.

no dude, love is awsom, its the awsomest thing there is. its what we do with it thats the problem.

do you know somethin about her?

no, i never met the chick.

well i need to talk to er.

what’re you yakkin at me for then? get to callin.

she threw me her phone.

i will,

i said, and i went to call claire.

a reasonable move right?

so why did i feel like i was throwing a fit?

chapter 15:


I closed myself in the bathroom. splashd water on my face and lookd in the mirror to make sure it was still me there.

goodjob holdin it together there al, thats what i shoulda said.

but all i could think about was how close i was to not holdin it together. well and how fuckd up it would be to talk to claire rightnow.

817, 323, 50...

9 1 ? or was it 1 9 ?

stupid cellphones.

817, 323, 5091. SEND

ring . . .

rang . . .

rung . . .

we’re sorry, the voicemailbox of the verizon customer you are trying to reach is full. . . . goodbye.

[ you know the one i’m talkin about? where she sounds like, Are you still there? ]

that coulda been claire.

claires a verizon customer.

better try the other way jus to be safe.

817 323 5019. SEND.

the number you are trying to reach is not in ser

the first one again, justin case.

we’re sorry, the voicemailbox of the verizon customer you are trying to reach is full. . . . goodbye.


When somebody’s freakin out at burningman, it can help to havem talk to someone from their real life. maybe the same thing applied to athens. but who else could i call?

forget religion, the last refuge of a scoundrel is his mama. if he has a mama. which i did, even if i forgot sometimes.

my parents would probly be home. and, like most members of their generation, they couldnot resist a ringing telephone.

i diald from memory, the one number i’ll never forget.

936. 435

somebody bangd on the door.

hello? [ i calld thru the door ]

[ no anser ]


i crackd open the door.

a sniffing dog nose forced its way in.

once his nose was in, i had no choice but to let the rest of max in. soon as he was inside, he collapsd at my feet. thats all he seemd to want, was to be on my feet.

936 435 3627. SEND.


should i tellem about my car? i dont my mom to start worrying.


doesnt matter, they wont pickup.


infact i’d be shockd if they did. athens is like a blackhole,

nothin ever gets in or out


it was like hearin her voice for the first time.

hello? is anybody there?


Al? is that you?

its me. its good to hear your voice mama.

its good to hear yours too al. what asuprize... so, how was your trip?

howd you know i was on a trip?

[ pause ]

i talkd to claire.



ive been tryin to reacher allday, how is she?

she’s o-k.

whats the matter?

nothin [ khu-hff ] sorry, i got this throat thing from daddy, he was only sick for a day, you know daddy, but ive had this thing since mondee

you sure she’s alright?

she’s fine.

and evrythings o-k with the baby?

yes, al. howre you?

i’m a litle stressd. my phone died and i cant get a hold of claire, and my cars actin up.

your car?

i think its just the battery. so whadid claire say?

nothin much. she got to newyork safe. she misses you.

she’s not mad, is she?

no, uh-uh.

what? did she say somethin?

she said you were crazy for goin on that trip, but i think she meant the good kinda crazy. i’m still gettin use to yall sayin crazy like that. it use ta mean somethin bad.

i am crazy i guess. i hope its the good kind.

and your remembrin to take your medicine?


[ a lie ]

the one in the morning and the one at night? cause daddy said if you forget one, it could increase the sideffects of the other one.

i wont forget.

you sure your okay al?

i’m fine.

[ another lie. altho i hafta say, lyin to your mother is the best kinda lyin, because, how else would you live your life? ]

well be careful. and call me when you get home so i’ll know you made it safe.


put a reminder in your phone.

i will.

and never forget your mama loves ya.

mama, whats the matter?

nothin. is anything the matta with you?

i just wish i could talk to claire.

you want me to giver a message?

why? are you gona talk to her again?

i dont know, i was just offrin.

actialy yes. teller my phone died and i havent been able to charge it, thats why i havent calld back, and if i’m not there to pick her up at the airport tomoro i’m probly havin car issues and she should just take a cab, and i’m sory i’ll be there as soon as i can. and teller i love her

a strange thing to say to your mother. but it felt like i was sending a missiv from some remote outpost.

The call didnot have the intended efect.

i’m not like superamazing at reading people over the phone, but i’d say my mother was hiding something. and she wasnt the type to hide things.

why would she have talkd to claire? she and claire talkd on the phone ocasionly, thru me. but they never calld each other.

what if somethin happend to claire? no, i askd about that, she wouldnt lie to me directly.

maybe claire was upset. she couldve got to new york and had this revelation that she was makin a big mistake, and she hadnt been able to get aholdof me and needed to talk to somebody so she calld my mother.

or i dont know, it could be goodnews. like if that gallery chick wanted to giver a show and she calld my mom to share the news and swore her to secrecy

i had no idea, basicly.

I went out to the porch and found D and andy in the middle of a conversation.

your flounderin.

no dude i’m jussayin

your flounderin, D. thats whatcha do when you know your rong.

i am not floundrin andy, all i’m sayin is he’s secret, he coulda been heer a week for all we know.

do you realy think he coulda been hear even an hour and somebody wouldnta told somebody?

they noticed me then, and changed the subject.

so how do you feel about being bait, a-l?

for what?

for a trap [ D ]

to catch taylor [ andy ]

why do you wana catch taylor?

to keep im from filmin you [ D ]

i dont think he’s gona try and film me. i toldim i couldnt do any more takes.

leme explain somethin [ D gave me the serius look ] the instant you let that individual film you, you signed up for two years, minimum. either fightin im, or bein in his movie, i would recomend fightingoh dont frett a-l, we wont make you fightim tonite, you just got here. we’ll fightim for you!

but we only shot this one scene.

dudnt matter. if he is in control of his faculties tonite, he will find you and he will film you. he’s your advasary now, you might as well accept it. he’s a worthy advasary, he was mine for two an a haf years.

he’s still your advasary, D.

no, because i defeated him in final battle.

[ her tone of voice suggested she was bein absurd, but also somehow serius. this was to become a pattern ]

i would say he’s no longer your nemesis. but he’s still your advasary.

never was my nemisis, my nemisis is andrew prater.

evrybodys nemesis is andrewprater.

yall [ my head was heating up ] i think i need i’m realy confused.

look at his lil forehead wrinklin up andy, idnt he the most preshus thing you ever laid eyes on?

he is prety preshus.

i just wana squeez his noggin like a ripe melon til it goes pop!

she mimed how she would squeez my noggin like a ripe melon til it went pop.

Lookin back, it all seems so much more unsettling than it did at the time. now i’m wondrin why i wasnt headin for the hills.

but i wasnt. infact it was quite the oposit. this is when i first started to imagine what it would be like if i moved here. i could work at bluesky and pickup a few classes at the comunity college, i’m sure they had one, and claire, i bet its cheap to live here, she could get somethin partime, give her time to paint. course there was insurance to think about

but could i even imagine claire in athens? i mean realy?

no way. claire or gabe. its like they were to the wrong scale, orlike mixin lincon logs and legos, orsomethin.

i suddenly felt so far away from her. from them.

s o  f a r  a w a y 

and then i couldnt hold it back anymore yall, i broke down. usualy i cant even muster a tear for funerals or breakups, but there was nothin i could do to stop it, not once it got started, it was like a sneeze or, you know

andy put a hand on my sholder.

i know its hard.

i miss her.

i know ya do al, i know ya do.

let go [ D ] its ok to let go. it dudnt mean you dont love her.

uptil then i’d been tryin to hold back the tears, but once i gave up and lettem flow, i felt the sadness fall away and i could see what was underneeth it


i dont know what for, for evrything, even the things that made me sad. claire and gabe and the little life we’d made for ourselvs, and all the things to come, bein a famly, and my ridiculus obsesion with bluesky which had somehow led to me cryin in front of people who until an hour ago were complete strangers, and max, the way he lookd at me like i’d hung the moon. i rememberd a quote i once saw at the museum of jurassic tecnologythe universe is full of the lives of perfect creatures

then all of a sudden i was laughing. not like a hah-hah laff, more like a guffaw, the kind that starts in your belly.

not that i stopt cryin. i was still doin that too.

D whisperd

he’s craffin.

you started it, D [ andy ]

tis true.

i couldnt stop cryin, laffin

i use to think there was a difrence.

andy said

your doin great, al.

D echoed

thats awsom. just let go.  l e t  g o 

and i did let go.

and it was awsom.

chapter 16:

fermina’s medicine

Woke up refreshd as hell, but disoriented, took me a second to figure out where i was, on the front porch couch, aka butter. no idea how long i’d been asleep, but it was pitch dark outside.

i found D in the kitchen, talkin on her phone.

why dont you tellem to pick on somebody that deservs it?

[ . . . ]

i dont care. i will drive there personly and take it down with a sledgehammer if i hav to. i’m not bein hyperbolic, i got one in the hatchback that would do the job quite nicely.

[ . . . ]

she noticed me then.

oh, he just woke up. satan!

she hungup.

mornin sunshine.

how long was i what time is it?




[ great, now your never gona be back intime to pickup claire ]

i cant blieve i slept so long.

[ and what is your plan, exactly? ]

are you refreshd?

i guess so.

you gues so? dude theres no nap like a butter nap.

it was a pretygood nap.

but now your disoriented i’m sure. sit tight an i’ll fix ya some tea, you ever had poo-ehhr? it tastes like an old leather boot, its exquisit. ive also got earl grey with extra bergamot, and lapsang souchong.

anythings fine as long as it has cafeine.

Altho what i realy needed was to talk to claire.

i askt to borrow D’s phone. she threw it at me.

i took it out on the front porch, for privacy.

8 1 7 etcetera,

i didnt get herbig suprizeall circuits were busy. this is actualy quite common in athens, tho i didnt know that yet, and it was starting to seem like circumstances were conspiring to keep me from talkin to claire.

D appeard on the porch with two steaming mugs of tea.

this should do ya right.

she handed me one.

who are you? [ said a man with a british accent ]

the new numba two [ said another man ]

[ D’s ring tone. it was from the prisoner ]

who is numba one?

you, are numba six.

if thats johnson, i swear ta god.

i lookd at her phone.

its johnson.

he needs to learn patience, just put it in my pruss. its right there nexto my chair.

beside the rocking chair was a big brown purse. i pict it up and lifted the flap...

but something was in there.

something alive, i think.

a tiny, quivering, creature, of some sort. it took me a second to accept that it was a dog but thats what it wasa teacup chihuahua, a product of the kind of inbreeding that comes from standards like apple-dome skull, thanks a-k-c.

the poor thing’s eyes bulged out so far i had the urge to pushem back in with a stick orsomethin. its tung was just lyin there, stickin out the side of its mouth. its tail lookd like it’d been bent and flattend with a bench vise. it was dressd in a coat made out of an old sock. the most pitiful living thing i’d seen in a long time. i wanted to do somethin for it, i just didnt know whether to save it or put it out of its mizery.

theres a… dog, in your purse.

that would be fermina.

[ where did i know that name from? ]

she looks sick.

is she quivering?


that means its time for her medicine. bringer here, i’ll show ya howta do it.

you want me to give that dog medicine?

dont be skeerd a-l, just reach in and grabber.

but i was scared.

she wont bite. or if she does, her teeth’re so rotten theyll just fallout, heh-heh.

fermina made one of her eyes stop rolling [ the other rolld constantly, she was wall-eyed ] and traind it on me. she seemd to recognize me as something that possibly didnot want to kill her.

she likes you, see? shes barely afraid for her life.

i reachd in and pickd her up. it wasnt that bad.

oh, and i rememberd where i knew the name fromlove in the time of cholera, one of my alltime favrite books tho i barely remember any of it.

i tried to hand fermina to D.

i’m not takiner. just setter down. she’ll stay.

i put her nexto me on the couch. i was afraid she’d fallover when i letgo, but she managed to stayup on her own. altho there was somethin weird with her back legs. she kept pickin em up, one then the other, like she was standin on hot pavement.

Andy walkd in, lookin concernd.

dont make im do fermina, D. he jusgot here.

he’s been here like halfa day already.

whats wrong with her legs? ⋞ i askd ⋟

leg-perthys disease ⋞ D ⋟

but you know whats awsom? ⋞ andy ⋟ the leg part dudnt have anything to do with legs. one of the scientists who discoverd it just happend to be named legg.

the irony is unfortunatly lost on fermina.

then fermina did something that took my pity to new heights. she tript while standing still. in the middle of a leg switch her legs got tangled and down she went.

fermina lay there on her side, legs flailing, lookin like an overturnd beetle. finely i couldnt take it anymore, i grabd ahold of her

at the touch of my hand she emitted a hot squirt of urine, suckd in her tung, and began to choke on it.

D reachd over and pulld fermina’s tung out of her mouth.

better hurry up and get that medcine inner.

D rooted around in her purse and came out with a botle of what lookd like prescription cough syrup.

what kinda medicine is it?

ferminabarbital. phenobarbital, tecnicly. but fermina has made it her own ⋞ D switchd to a baby voice ⋟ havent you, my preshus liddle nasty?

fermina quiverd.

D pinchd her cheek.

fermina snift at D’s hand. you could see her tiny brain working. wait a second, thats a hand. snif... a familiar hand. snif-snif... a flicker of recognition.... Deidra!

i’ll fill it up this time ⋞ D ⋟ but for future refrence its 5 cc’s.

she put a syringe in the bottle and drew up some of the syrup.

showd me how to stick it in fermina’s mouth.

it wasnt hard, she was missin half her teeth.

you cant shoot it in all at once or she’ll choke. do it a litle at a time, slow and steady. and keeper mouth closed, so she has to swallo.

i squirted the medicine into her mouth, slow and steady.

fermina gagd.

for a minute there it was a tossup whether she was gona swallow it or choke to death. but in the end she swallowd it. or mostof it. a little bit dribled down her chin so that it lookd like she was bleedin from the mouth.

then, sudenly, she relaxd.

so sudden i thought she might be dead

until i heard her raspy breath.

D held out a hand.

i past her the limp dog.

she put her in her purse,


goodnight sweet prince.

and closed the flap.

she looks so peaceful ⋞ i said ⋟

sleep is like a little death, isnt it fermina?

do you think she wants to die?

oh, she dudnt just wana die, al ⋞ andy ⋟ she wants D to kill her. thats why she showd up on our doorstep that fateful morning two years ago.

and oneday i shall, my stinkee littel angel.

there was somethin stuck to my shirt. somethin nasty. at first i thought it was a one of fermina’s toenails. but it was morelike one a those sharks teeth thats been worn down in the ocean and maybe has algae growin on it.

i think one of her, teeth, fellout.

leme see.

i handed it over.

it is a tooth. here, keep it, its her gift to you.

she offerd me the tooth.

i recoild. tho secretly i desired it.

thats o-k.

i know you wannit. here, i’ll put it in your pocket tee.

she put it in my pocket.

so we better think about headin soon, yall ⋞ D ⋟ johnsons prolly havin a fit as we speak.

you dont think he actialy showdup at eleven? ⋞ andy ⋟

you know he always had a penchant for time-natzary.

yeah, but eleven?

at least he’ll hav jondavies to keep him company.

thank jeezus for jondavies.



max jumpd off the couch

ran down the steps

into the yard

makin a beeline for the street.

i yelld,


i was about to run after him

but andy put out a hand to stop me.

its ok man, he’s just doin his job.

dogs gota hav a job ⋞ D ⋟

peeple dont come by here without goin thru max ⋞ andy ⋟

your not worried he’ll get hit by a car?

if you live in fear whats the pointa livin? ⋞ D ⋟

max was under the oaktree, sniffin the butt of a dog, one a those snubnosed jobs. he didnt have a leash, but there musta been a person attachd to him cause i heard somebody shout

look, buddy, its MAX!

max ran up to the man, gave him a drive by, then ran back thru the yard, hotly pursued by the snubnosed dog.

followd momentarily by the man.

Whassup yall?

i recognized him. julien. the piano player from bluesky.

sup, J ⋞ D said ⋟

what brings ya ta these parts?

[ andy did a prety decent johnwayne ]

just on a walk i reckon [ snif ] hows the cree-ub?

you know, reprazentin with the g-a-b, speakinawich, meet our newest

[ D beamd ]

A-L? ⋞ julien askt ⋟

just al.

huh, i heard it was a-l. well its niceta meetcha.

julien is the perfect mix of french and alabama. i wanted to bite his face almost imediatly.

so how ya likin athens so far?

its startin to grow on me. which is a good thing, since i’m basicly stranded here.

i know. its tuff when you firs get here.

oh i’m not stayin. i’m just here til i can get my car fixd. til tomoro, hopefuly.

tomoro, huh? [ snif ] too bad you gota leave so soon.

i’d like to come back. someday when i hav more time.

y’knowhat they say about athens?

whats that?

its like a blackhole.

you hadnt heard that one yet? ⋞ D ⋟

i kinda figured it out on my own.

While we hungout on the porch, the two dogs playd in the yard, chasin eachother around, peein on things, sniffin each others butts, they ran somethin up a tree. i had an extension of the earlier insite re: the inadequacy of leash-walkingdogs need to play. its important to the development of their souls.

So what time’r yall goin out? ⋞ julien ⋟

presently ⋞ andy ⋟

anon ⋞ D ⋟

early, huh?

earlyish. what time is it now?

ida know.

do none of you hipees have a watch?

you have a phone, D.

its in my pruss.

your pruss is five feet from you.

yeahdude whats yer point?

hey buddy ⋞ julien ⋟ you ready to roll?

buddy ran circles around julien, his tung hangin nearly to the ground.

you readyta roll, buddy?

buddy was ready to roll.

oh hey ⋞ julien ⋟ we’re workin on 1060 tomoro. blowin insulation.

who is?

whoever comes. yall, i hope. therell be mustard samwiches.

will jondavies be there?

ida know, i havent asked im.

you dont ask jondavies dude, you tellim. he has to do it cuz of his god.

its true ⋞ andy ⋟

if i see him i will definatly tellim he’s workin for me.

oh youll see im. cause your comin out tonite remember?

i know, D [ snif ] i wouldnt miss it for the world.

you betternot be frontn on our turf.

i dont be frontn.

we’ll see bout that.

you will see. buddy waitup!

When they were gone, D said

s’yall bout reddy?

actualy, d’you think i could get a ride to the hotel? ⋞ i said ⋟ i havent even started tryin to deal with my car yet.

aint nobody gona fix your car tonite, a-l. andhey, come downtown and maybe you’ll run into c-fouls. buyim a drink and he’ll come lookat your car tomoro. buyim two and he might not even charge you.

if its money your worried about al, dont be ⋞ andy ⋟ you wont pay for a thing tonite. unless you buy c-fouls a drink. and thats like an investment on your car.

i need to get up early tomoro, tho.

dude, there is nothin wrong with havin fun. stop feelin so guilty all the


you cant say D-nazi willy nilly ⋞ D turnd to me ⋟ a-l, i know you love claire, and your worried about gettin back to her, and we’re gona help ya do that, ok? toomoro. but theres nothin we can do about it tonite so you might as well

we’re just glad to have you here, al ⋞ andy ⋟ and if you dont wana go out, thats totally your call...

they were lookin at me.

maybe i’ll catcha ride. i can only hangout for a minute tho. then i’m walkin to the hotel.

great, its setteld.

D grabd her purse.

max knew what that meant. he ran to the driveway and stood by the yugo.

sorry max ⋞ D ⋟

why cant he come? ⋞ that was me ⋟

do you wana be responsible for im when he starts drinkin white russians? which he will do, mind you, if you lettim within a mile of downtown. you cant just get wasted and forget about im.

i dont drink.

if you reely wana be in charge of a drunk dogwho still has his ballsthe hole night. you keep talkin like your gona wander off to texas orsomethin.

no, your right. sorry boy.

sorry max, we needja to stay here and guard the house.

max wasnt fallin for that tho.

we had to wrangle him inside, then squeez ourselvs out thru a crack in the door and slam it behind us.

i felt so guilty i peekd my head inside to say one last goodbye, and to lettim lick me on the mouth. it was sad thinkin i’d never see his sweet face again.