fiction by Jason Edwards
Forty-seven-year-old upper middle class lousy lover and excellent writer Hugh sits on a skinny white chair and grits his teeth and grins and bears it, pretending his skull beneath all that flesh and muscle and blood is just a skull. Can Death die? I am not dying, I am death, Hugh doesn’t say out loud, so she can’t kill me, skinny little hardened piece of brie that she is, Loretta, forty-six, not a day over thirty-six, babbling incessantly, as usual, ad nauseum, Hugh’s personal mausoleum, his penance for half a life of selfishness, he tells himself. He knows he needs to be around people more, needs people, needs to be seen with them if he’s to be accepted for who he is, forty-seven, lousy lover, excellent writer. So he sits on the skinny white chair and listens to the skinny pale Loretta and pretends not to notice that all mastication is delayed micturition. The Chablis at Chateaux Cher is awful, simply awful.
So basically it all started when Gloria took Rex to one of those stupid palm readers and you know he only went along because he thought she was pregnant with Kevin’s kid and he was being nice but she wasn’t pregnant was she, no, she lied about that which was ironic considering Rex did get her pregnant later when she let him have his way with her and they didn’t use protection since he figured she was already pregnant with Kevin’s. And the palm reader I guess was once of those nasty smelly foreigners from Africa or Eretria or something you know the ones always sitting outside Starbucks and they drive cabs. And after she told them a bunch of stuff that Gloria thought was amazing and Kevin though was stupid Gloria said she had to go pee so Kevin went outside and smoked a cigarette and so did the gypsy or whatever you call a palm reader and then she told him, she said that for some men being an adult doesn’t happen until their fathers die, and it would be tough raising a kid these days since everyone lives forever, babies be having babies. And Kevin was amazed, because Gloria didn’t even look pregnant so how did the gypsy know.
And Hugh grits. He prefers skinny things, Hugh does, but not women, not Loretta. Skinny books about angry men who get theirs, TV shows and not movies unless the movies are brief and extraordinarily complicated and damnably silly. Thin foods like watery pasta and cheeses made with too much rennet. Lagers over ales, ales over porters, porters over anything with an ABV higher than the time of day it is. He lived in temperate climates so the cloth on this clothes was thin. His hair was thinning. The soles of his shoes were thin from hours of standing in one spot trying to decide if he should go for a walk or not.
But women he preferred juicy, not fat, not obese, not morbid, not hamplanet, but substantial, not sturdy, not husky, not curvy, but evident, not chewy, not formidable, not manly, but tasty. Skinny women tasted terrible. They tasted like their makeup. Tasted like their perfume. Tasted like their clothes. Tasted like their underwear, which was never moist enough. Hugh liked a moist woman, but not too moist. Moist enough that you were distracted enough not to think of that awful word “moist.”
Not in a sexual way, of course. In a sexual way, he merely preferred willing. Hence Loretta, God save his lacerated cock.
So Rex is like, nah, nah, nah, and he decides Gloria has to get an abortion even though she wasn’t pregnant and it was Kevin’s anyway, because Rex doesn’t want his own son killing him. And Gloria said she would but she wanted Rex one more time because you know the procedure’s painful so he had his way with her and I guess you could say she had her with him and she got pregnant, and then she moved to Tucson or something and when she came back she told him she’d had the abortion but that was a lie but her baby did have cerebral palsy so it wasn’t like she was going to raise it herself, she just left it with an organization or an institution or something. And then later, like when the kid was 17 or something he moved back and he didn’t even have cerebral palsy he just had one of those things where a kids has to wear a bar between his knees for a while, like a hip thing. And the kid’s like a bad-ass now because all of his life kids making fun of him for wearing that bar thing between his knees and one day’s he’s strutting on Oak and this dude bumps into him and the kid doesn’t even think twice he just pushes the dude into the road and bam, bus.
All of these people in this damned restaurant, and Hugh. Knowing he needed to want to have the ability to interact with them. That fat man with his fat wife not talking to each other. Hello there, nice weather, is that your car, what kind of interest rate did you get on it, really, that’s higher than the ABV in the beers I like to drink chortle chuckle slap each other on the back assiduously avoid the topic of woman swapping because let’s face it, you don’t want your own but you don’t want anyone else to want it either.
The hostess, exactly the right size for Hugh, but not in a sexual way. Shall we discuss philosophy, economics, the environment, the next president of the United States, the war in Whogivesafuckistan? You know, the more meaningful the conversation, the less useful it is. Better to talk about Downton Abbey, young miss, yes, this table will be fine, tell the waiter I’ll have a glass of the Chablis, because at least with Downton you can commune with another person through a shared emotion: wistfulness.
The waiter arrives, and it’s about damned time. Hugh isn’t starving, but he’d like to be. Would like that empty feeling. And what if Hugh gets what he wants? Tragedy. So it’s about time. “Your hamburger, sir” the waiter says.
“You’re going to sneer your way right out of a tip,” Hugh doesn’t say, because Loretta hasn’t stopped talking and because he’s a coward. “Listen, you, Garcon, come back here,” Hugh doesn’t also say, and the waiter doesn’t come back, sneer planted firmly on his face, looking for all the world like he’s the Duke of Inevershit and Hugh’s toilet paper. “Yes, Garcon means boy, you feeble skinny man. I know what I said.” The waiter doesn’t stand there, he sneer glowering. “You think you’re high and mighty, that you’d rather have that gigantic cock of you father’s shoved up your rectum than care if I leave you a gratuity or not, but listen to me, you unfortunate result of woman who didn’t know better than to beat your father off when he was too drunk to stop himself. It’s not that I won’t tip, it’s that I won’t pay, do you understand me? I don’t come to the se restaurants for the food, that’s for damn certain, I come to play may part so I can get mine and if you sour the deal like some kind of human alum with your upper lip and your greasy forehead, I see no reason to pay for what I’m not getting. You’re a surrogate whore, you little shit, I pay you so that terrible woman sitting across from me doesn’t have to be paid, but a transaction’s still necessary so wipe that face off your face and go back to licking softly my asshole so I can convince her I’m not a drunk like your father and whatever kids we accidentally have will nevertheless attend college and not become,” and here Hugh didn’t take a large breath and muster up all of his withering disdain and breathe like rancid cigarette smoke into the waiter’s face, “a mere waiter. And bring me another Chablis.”
Instead, Hugh cuts into his burger with a knife and fork, like a pussy. But at least a juicy one, Hugh thinks to himself, chewing.
And he was smart, too! This guy’s been dealing E and ludes and acid to everyone in the neighborhood and he tries to deal some to the kid and the kid’s like how much and the guy’s like the first one’s free and the kid’s like the first one’s the most expensive of them all, then, and the guy’s like shut up and the kid takes a freebie and he cuts it and gives it to some junkies and its weak shit but it works the junkies start cutting their own shit and pretty soon they’re off the stuff more or less and they stop going around to the guy’s and he’s out of business. And at this party later the kid meets this milf and he’s like where’s your old man and she’s like, killed, and the kid’s like oh snap and feels bad for her and hooks up with the milf. And everything turns to shit. The junkies are gone, people are moving back into the neighborhood, prices are going up, taxes are going up, the kid and his milf can’t afford the rent, so they go to church to pray on it.
And Hugh thinks, you know what, maybe not. Maybe I don’t need these people after all. Maybe it’s okay to be by myself, and do what I do, and be very good at what I do, lousy lover or not. I don’t need people, don’t need to be a part of society, and discover humanity and togetherness and Jung and fellowship and camaraderie. I don’t need Loretta. You spider of a woman, with your two skinny arms and your two skinny legs and your short spiky hair like some kind of dreadful lesbian. I don’t need to go to bed with you, don’t need to drink this terrible Chablis, eat this odious hamburger. I can go home and have a weak lager and write another story about a boy chasing mosquitos and accept my third place short story contest prize, again, and be one hundred percent happy living off my meager inheritance. Fuck, basically, all of you.
And that old blind pastor’s like, nah, nah, nah, when Rex was killed is when all the bad shit started happening, and the kid’s like, well who did it? And the pastor’s all like, a kid from around here is all I’m saying. And the kid’s like, damn. And he tells the milf how just a few years ago, this crazy-ass man broke into the institution where he was living and was shouting and cussing and he grabbed up the kid and yells daddy killer! Motherfucking daddy killer! And it freaked the kid out so much is why he left! And that’s why he was, like, relieved when he heard the institution burnt down in that fire! And the milf goes, wait, institution? And the kid goes, yeah. And she goes, Arizona? And he goes, yeah. And she goes, and when you got here, you was where? And the kid’s all, Oak, some greasy asshole bumped into me so I shoved him into the road and she goes What? That’s how my old man died and the kid goes, so? And the milf goes that was Rex my old man was Rex you killed him and the kid’s like nah nah nah I ain’t from around her that old priest said Rex was killed by someone from around here I’m from Tucson.
Yes, that’s it. Hugh will rise above his own mediocrity and become a patron saint to himself. He’ll sit in front of his skinny little laptop and stab his fingers at the keys and write the same damn story over and over and over again. Because who cares. Who cares about novels and stories with a handful of characters running around fucking each other. Not Hugh. Maybe other people, but Hugh doesn’t care about them, those people who care. He doesn’t need this foreskin, this extra flesh, it just gets in the way of masturbation. And is Hugh bored with masturbation? Maybe. But it’s better than being bored with all these people.
And the milf, Gloria, she goes I was in Tucson once, left a kid there, a kid I made right here, with Rex. And the kid’s just sitting there, saying, motherfucker, over and over again. Gloria runs off, back to their crib, drops, like, three Es and a half dozen tabs, and when the kid finally gets home, there she is, hanging from the ceiling fan. And all the kid can think is, I was the shit, I was the shit, I was the shit, and he takes Gloria’s, his mom’s, stash and he goes to the park and drops the rest of her tabs and he just sits there and stares at the sun until his eyes are burned out. And that’s where they found him, sitting there in the park like a junkie, just rocking back and forth, eyes streaming goo, saying, I’m shit, I’m shit, I’m shit. And what’s really fucked up is Gloria killing herself like that and the kids tripping his eyes out like that, word got around, people didn’t want to live in the neighborhood anymore, and property values dropped, and taxes went back down, and it took like ten years, and a lot of other crazy stuff happened to their kids, but eventually everything went back to normal.
Hugh gulps his Chablis. He’s lost count of Chablises. His hamburger’s masticated. He needs to micturate. It’s a nicer word than defecate, isn’t it? If shitting didn’t feel so good, Hugh would prefer to piss everything out instead. Much more convenient.
So, what do you think?
About what, Hugh says, pulling himself out of the miasma of self-reflection like a hypnopompic schoolboy before recess.
About what I just said!
“Oh, that. Tragic.” Hugh sniffs. He can smell ketchup, Loretta’s perfume, the greasy foie gras at the table next to theirs.
Exactly. Wanna go home and fuck now?
Hugh nods his head. Rubs his eyes, furiously, until they sing. Sighs mightily. People or not, he does like cumming. “Sure. I’ll just get the check.”