I wake up.
“Morning,” I whisper to me. “Mourning,” I moan, then pull the covers up to just below my eyes and look around to see if anyone heard my wordplay and did they like it.
I pull the blanket down to my chin. “I’m-a eat breakfast,” I say. Huey and the News starts to play and I spin around, my feet hitting the carpet. I get a little dizzy and barf onto my lap. The smell is just awful and I toss my head back and the sudden movement pulls too much blood into my brain and I get sort of dizzy and fall backwards off the bed and onto the soft carpet. My voice muffled by being pressed to the ground, I apologize to no one in particular then get to my feet.
Today is the day that my roommate Alex is graduating college. She majored in film. There was a radio portion of her degree too, but I’m not sure how seriously anybody takes the radio classes anymore; I think that most likely what happens is the students come in on the first day of class and the professor stands up and draws the Spotify logo on the blackboard and then a frowny face and everybody gets an A if they agree to just be real quiet while the professor weeps softly into his his hands at his desk.
Alex’s friend, Jill, is in town for the occasion. Jill is a lot like Alex. They’re both shorter than me and white and make a lot of shrill yowls and beeps like if you put a cat’s brain in a woman’s body and the cat has a human voice box but still has a weak, tiny cat brain incapable of true, effective communication. The first thing Jill did when she arrived yesterday was to make one long “Eeeeee” sound that I thought was a smoke alarm going off in the kitchen.
I eat my cereal in my room, reading articles on the internet (GoogleImage Searching “Sable WWF”). I hear the rustling sounds of life from Derek’s and Alex’s rooms and open my door. Alex is coming out of her room at that very moment. She rubs her eye and waves at me. I wave hello back.
“Excited?” I ask.
“Mrrrrow,” she says softly.
She walks down the hall toward the kitchen.
“Meow meow meOw?” she asks. “Jill meow meow.”
“Yeah, she can have some coffee. I actually already made some.”
We all get ready to go. I put on a tie. Derek puts on a shirt. Alex and Jill get “Dressed Up,” which is a term that I made up for when girl’s put on dresses. Dressed Up. Get Dressed Up.
We all pile into Derek’s car. He is driving because my car is too small.
The graduation ceremony is about as interesting as you’d imagine a middle-aged woman reading the names of 200 strangers is.
Now the fun stuff.
Alex’s mom and dad and brother all came to celebrate. Derek, Alex, Jill and I arrive at the house first. When the parents arrive, Derek and I head out to the driveway to help them bring everything in. Alex’s father, Craig, a large bald man with a surly disposition, hands Derek, another large man with a surly disposition, a large tray with a blue plastic lid on top.
“What’s in here?” Derek asks, hefting the container.
“Tacos,” Craig says.
Derek freezes and just looks at Craig for three or four seconds before mumbling something about an embrace and then he tries to left the pan up over Craig’s head and Craig grabs him by the arms and tells him what are you doing what is wrong with you and Derek just laughs with this really sad face and takes the pan inside and doesn’t say a whole lot for the next hour or so just sits at the kitchen table eating tortilla chips with no salsa and drinking a lot of the girly pink booze drink that Alex’s mom brought.
Alex calls her mom Beak as a play on her mom’s real name, Becky. Beak brought some girly pink drinks that’ll getcha drunk. We all enjoy these. She also brought some beans and some shrimp salad. It is all absolutely divine.
Jill is making these strange Crafty Snacks that are grapes wrapped in cheese and then rolled around in pecans and bacon bits. When I look at them I think why on earth. I think why not just give everyone bacon and pecans and leave out the cheese and grapes? I start to suggest this, but then Jill drops her knife and emits this wild squeal that throws everyone in the room onto the floor. Craig screams out the name David and no one is sure who he’s talking about but later we find out that he actually meant Derek but he had forgotten what Derek’s name was. When Craig screams this, Derek looks at him with wide doe-eyes. Craig clears his throat and opens a Stella Artois.
Alex plops down at the kitchen table with a large glass of her mom’s booze.
“Meow. Meeeeow. Meow meow meow.”
Craig and Beak laugh. I shake my head.
“Meooooww,” Alex says, eyeing me. She always does this. I roll my eyes, smiling.
“Okay, Alex. Okay.” I make her a plate and set it in front of her. “But only because this is your special day.” She looks up at me and grins. Suddenly, her head jerks forward and her eyes bug out of their sockets. She does this two or more times, then throws up a hairball onto the plate I just made her.
“Meow…” she says meekly. No on in the kitchen makes a sound. Jill is trying to figure out a way to discreetly butt-chug a Shiner Redbird without anyone noticing.
When Jill notices me looking at her, she hisses at me and keeps doing her little grape snacks.
“Oh what a bore it all is!” Beak says, then puts the back of her hand to her forehead. She stays like that, frozen, for some time.
“What do we do?” I ask. Derek shrugs his shoulders. Alex licks her hand then runs along the side of her head. She then opens her mouth and makes a sound from the back of her throat like she’s trying to hock a loogie, but there’s no climax, just an extended sort of glottal clapping. It’s awful.
“Truly, this world!” Beak yells, still posed dramatically. She does not move her head, but slowly reaches down to the table and takes a drink of the first drink her hand hits.
Footsteps and Craig is in the room. “Gin and tonic,” he mumbles. He hands Beak a tinkling glass of clear, bubbling liquid.
She downs the entire glass in one gulp. Ice and all.
“Oh mother of my wet sleepy shits that was goo!” She actually says ‘goo.’
A cabinet opens from above the kitchen’s island. Alex’s brother’s head appears in the opening. His mouth is covered in Ovaltine and barbecue sauce.
“What did you just say, mom?” he asks. “Did you say ‘goo’?”
Beak makes a face at her son and then shakes her glass at Craig. He takes it to the fridge. From the fridge he pulls out an old water jug that appears to be full of already mixed gin and tonic and even ice. He pours it into the glass and hands it back to Beak.
“This is just so nice,” she says.
I put on my tuxedo. We are going to the screening of Alex’s advanced film class’s short films. There are 8 of them.
“Eight films to rule them all,” Derek whispers as we approach the Lyceum.
Nobody laughs except for Craig and at the end he calls Derek son and puts his arm around him and Alex’s brother, Logan, gets real quiet and hangs back next to this tree as everyone else keeps walking. That’s the last that I see of him for the night.
In the Lyceum, it’s Jill, then me, then Derek and Alex and her parents seated in a row.
“Ready for some movies?” I ask Jill. She nods and then laughs and smacks my arm playfully. I am confused by this reaction. I turn back toward the screen. From the corner of my eye, I see her lift her butt up off the seat and pull a Shiner from under her dress. It’s already open and she drinks from it and my stomach turns.
We watch one movie about two sisters who never smile or move their faces, then another about an old man who refuses to learn English because if he does he will become bad at tango and maybe even fall in love. There’s another film sort of like ‘O Brother Where Art Thou.
“This reminds me of O Brother,“ I say to Jill.
“I have brudder,” she whispers, then points to the seat next to her. Her brother Ned is sitting there. I’m a little startled to see him.
“How long has he been there?” I ask. I didn’t notice him come in.
“Long time,” she whispers, her eyes becoming slits.
A chill goes up my spine and I turn back to the screen.
After intermission, I squeeze past Ned and then Jill and take my seat. Derek and Alex have switched spots. Derek and Craig are hunched over his phone, trying to find an app for putting Derek in all the family pictures instead of Logan.
“This is fun, Alex,” I say.
She smiles at me for a few seconds, then her mouth drops open and she starts doing that weird throat noise again.
“What is that?” I ask. “My god, my god what is that?”
“She purrin’,” Jill says. She then reaches down under her dress and removes a handle of SKYY vodka. I look at her, then at the bottle, and her again. Then I turn back to Alex. She’s spitting on me now.
“Alex you have to stop doing that, I hate it.”
The next round of films starts. This one is about a future world where the best way to be incognito is wear a full body, banana yellow jumpsuit and fighting is done by waving your limbs around in stiff, staccato bursts, like a blind guy trying to do the YMCA dance based on the instructions of a half-blind two year old.
The next film is Alex’s.
“The big moment,” I say, turning to Jill.
She doesn’t respond, though. She’s making out with someone seated next to her. I lean back and see that the guy is seated in Ned’s lap. I look at Ned and he looks at me and smiles and gives me a “Whattaya gonna do?” masked in an extremely pained smile. I see the guy get to second base. I shake my head and consider saying something, but then there’s a piercing pain in my back and Alex is biting me in the spine and I know that that means that the movie is back on.
It’s very good.
Later that night, we’re joined by Angela and Lanny. We go out to a party and house show out in a barn.
We reach the party and I take out my whiskey bottle. I find a private place in the woods, open the bottle, sit down and set it in front of me.
Softly at first, and then louder and louder, I chant the names: McNulty, Morrisson, Vedder, Hemingway–the Drunken Fathers.
From the bottle sprouts a hand made entirely of light and that hand gives me a big thumbs up and then morphs into a very drunk and very handsome man, glowing with the same light, half-transparent.
“Whiskey Kyle,” I say.
He nods then does a pelvic thrust.
“Let’s go,” the man says. I get to my feet and he steps forward until we have merged.
I find this only somewhat secluded spot back behind the barn that’s like a tree stump graveyard. I take Jill back there.
I say something extremely smooth and it’s all she can do to not throw up from excitement when we start making out. I’m sitting on a stump and I’ve pulled her onto my lap and things are going very well when I suddenly hear the crunching of dead grass not three feet from us. I pull away from Jill and look. It’s Ned.
“Ned?” I say, surprised.
He looks at me says sup and takes a drink of his beer.
“BRUDDER,” Jill says. I whisper for her to be quiet for a second.
“Ned, I’m not trying to be rude, but I’m about to get my grope on here and it’s hard for me to do that to the fullest of my abilities if I’ve got it in my head that my grope-recipient’s brother is standing there nodding his head silently like a guy at a dance party who does not like to dance or has no partner to dance with and is satisfied to just stand there nodding his head silently drinking his drink and checking his phone and stuff like that. Please. Please go.”
He nods like he gets it then walks back to the party. Before he totally merges back into the group, he looks back at me and his eyes hold a sadness that is so black and so bottomless that I almost throw Jill off of my lap to go comfort him, but then my hand accidentally brushes one of her boobs and I’m totally snapped out of that.
After I finish my work at The Stumps, I go to find Lanny. I ask his wife where he’s at. He’s over by a trashcan doing a J with some people who, when I introduce myself, act like I just pulled a dead frog from my pocket and waved it in their faces. Lanny’s scene is a little too Hunter S Thompson for me, not enough Hemingway, so I go elsewhere. I meet up with Alex. She has crafted a large pile of dead grass and is treading in it.
I reach around her waist and pick her up.
“Alex, you can’t do this out in public. People are getting disturbed.”
Just as I say this, a man composed of roughly 20 or 30 percent chemicals takes the microphone and begins to sing some I Believe I Can Fly and somehow relating it to pussy. Everyone laughs except me, because I take R. Kelly very seriously.
“He is an American treasure!” I bellow.
After I speak up, Angela makes a loud fart sound and everyone turns and laughs and points at me. Afraid, I look for the faces of my friends and fine none. Only Angela remains. Cackling wildly she takes a photograph of me from her pocket and sets the photograph ablaze. The party howls with delight and I pull my whiskey bottle very close to me and close my eyes and then…
Later that night. We’re in Lanny and Angela’s car, riding to the next party.
This one is just for film people. When we get there, they’re giving out awards. A lot of people I don’t know yelling and screaming and laughing and making jokes that I don’t get. I love it, though. There’s a lot of joy in the room, and it’s contagious. I’m filled with happiness.
We go outside and I talk to a film girl about my book and when she asks me to describe the plot, I get really self-conscious that it’s going to be shit, so I describe the plot to Stephen King’s Dark Tower, pawning it off as my own, but I forget that the plot of that series is also shit but I don’t realize this until I get to the end of the fourth book and I still have three to go and I can’t just quit on it then, I’ve already committed so much time to the description, so I finish it out, describe to her all seven books.
Soon after, Angela tells me that it’s time to go. They’re going back to Waxahachie. I get up and Her, Lanny, Derek and I stand waiting for Alex and Jill. They aren’t coming with us.
When we leave, Alex is trying to climb along a fence but keeps falling off.
Happy Graduation, Alex.