Thursday, July 16, 2009

ZAP Chapter 4 by Mark Adair

That night my head hit the pillow and try as I might I couldn’t get the damn smile off my face. Staring up at the popcorned ceiling, I replayed the scenes over and over and over in my head. I loved the one where Kelly smacked Timmy right upside the cheek. He stood there, stoic as ever, with that growing red mark on the side of his face. Kind of took his whole I’m-British-therefore-I’m-better-than-you routine down a notch or two. At the time, I wanted to applaud, but I didn’t think I could clap without compromising by ability to protect myself from her.

She is one fiery, feisty woman. I like fiery and feisty…sometimes…

After the replays ended, I slept well and woke up feeling less miserable than usual. I finished a quick shower and then wolfed down two of Mac’s breakfast burritos – a tortilla heated in the microwave. I tossed on my black t-shirt and jeans, and headed into the pub. On the walk over I started thinking about stuff...

Before life beat the shit out of me, I used to care…I used to have a conscience…well, sort of. Blow by blow, the traumas hammered away my energy and health to the point where the choice between living and dying became a tossup. When all was said and done, the balance on my emotional, physical, and financial bank accounts showed more red than a…a really, really red thing…with lots of red on it.

Man, it’s early to be thinking about stuff.

The main point is: over the years, my cynicism became my most featured and treasured personality trait. I went from hating to see people struggle, through a not caring phase, and eventually ended up thoroughly enjoying the trials and tribulations of others – plant, animal, or person. Something about knowing that God hated somebody or something other than me, made everything a little nicer. Not exactly Mary Poppins nice, but still nicer. You know, I’m not sure I’ve actually ever used the words ‘Mary Poppins’ before.

Anyway, the whole beat-Mac-to-a-pulp procedure came with a little unexpected bonus: life without a conscience made everything easier. Not exactly Mary Poppins easy…enough of that bullshit. Suffice it to say, my conscience-free life allowed me to say and do whatever the hell I felt like saying and doing. It liberated me. Not giving a damn whether I violated somebody’s feelings or society’s absurd Victorian book of wrongs and rights, smoothed out the path quite nicely.

Just when I had come to terms with the new, “improved” me, I woke up this morning with a twinge of guilt about the whole ZAP thing. Maybe not a full twinge, but at least a quarter of a twinge…or half of a quarter... In any case, it did surprise me…and the more I thought about the fractional twinge, the more it pissed me off. By the time I reached the pub, I wanted to kick something or somebody.

I wish I had a dog. Not just any dog. One big enough to take a swift kick and yet friendly enough to not bite me for it. Maybe a Doberman body with a Golden Retriever temperament.

Speaking of dogs, as I reached out to grab the doorknob to the pub, I heard a faint whimpering sound coming from inside. Quietly cracking it open, I peered through the opening and saw…nothing unusual. Everything looked in order and nothing smelled like dog. Sniffling joined the whimpering as I walked quietly in the direction of the last booth on the right. I glanced into the seat, and then took a double take. My one and only special-occasion, white tablecloth covered a trembling body. Only a few locks of red hair stuck out from the top.

“You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m great!” Her head shot up from its hiding place and her reddened eyes blazed. “I just thought I’d spend the night here because the second swimming pool at my beach house is undergoing renovations to add the new gold-plated swans between the Jacuzzis, and I couldn’t stand the damn noise!”

“Hey, I’m not deaf! You don’t have to yell!” Then I added under my breath, “Bitch.”

“Go to Hell, Scotty!”

“Already live there, Kell! Put your blue dress on and you can join me!”

She stared straight at me for a few seconds, studying my eyes and then looked away like a shopper who couldn’t find anything that interested her. “It’s pretty early for a Grateful Dead reference, don’t you think?”

I smiled knowing that I knew something she didn’t. “Actually, Kell, the Dead only covered the ’66 Mitch Ryder original.”

She smiled in return. “Actually, Scotty, Mitch Ryder covered the original version by Shorty Long recorded in ’64.”

Damn she’s good!

Against my better judgment, I acted on impulse instead of my usual well thought out acrimony. “Had any breakfast yet?”

She shook her head slowly. This time I did notice the bags under her eyes.

Still on impulse, I added, “Hey, what do you say I hand the keys to Van and we head out of town for a day or two? Get away from all this? I got a cabin in the woods near Tahoe where I go sometimes to think up diabolical ways to rule the world…or just to punish it…used to be my parents place…fully stocked bar…what do you say?”

With a slight raise of the eyebrows, she responded, “You think we can be together for that long without killing each other?”

I grinned. “I hope not.”

Thirty minutes later, F150 truck loaded up with gas and a couple of duffle bags, we made our way out of town and onto the highway. Almost four hours and no conversation later, we arrived at my parent’s cabin…my cabin. Our only stop along the way revolved around a breakfast burrito, with actual eggs and stuff, at Carl’s Jr.

Like most places in the area, the cabin’s A-frame rustic exterior camouflaged an upscale, luxury interior. Two fireplaces, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, comfortable leather couch and chairs, pinewood floors, and wooden beams extending from the sides to the 25’ ceiling in the middle. The floor-to-ceiling windows on every side, looked out at the mountains and the lake, and invited the majestic blue into the home at every turn…seemed close enough to touch …

Kelly sat down at the couch, stretched her arms, and yawned. “You were serious.”

“About what?” I asked, starting the coffee.

“You have one book and one DVD on the coffee table – Mein Kampf and Pinky and the Brain, Volumes 1-3. What are we going to do tomorrow Brain? Narf!”

I turned back toward the coffeemaker so she wouldn’t see the smile I couldn’t repress.

“Hey Scotty?”


“Can I ask you a personal question?”

I grunted out, “Nope.”

“I was just wondering why—”

I let out a deep sigh. “You really don’t understand that word, do you?”

“You know I’m not going to stop hassling you until you let me ask what I have to ask, right? We can do this the easy way or the hard way.”

Realizing that the shortest road to peace and quiet went right through the town of Getting-this-question-over-with, I acquiesced. “Fine. One question and one question only.”

“Why did you invite me up here?”

“None of your business.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“I didn’t agree to an answer. Just a question.”

“Fine, let’s go back to step 1. Scotty, you know I’m not going to stop hassling you until you—”

“Geesh!” I yelled. “You really want to know why I invited you here? It’s quite simple actually. Do you know the story of the girl who’s walking down the street and sees a guy banging his own head against the wall? And she stops and asks him why he’s doing that. And you know what he says? He says, ‘because it feels so damn good when I stop!’”

“So having me here is like banging your head against the wall?” She paused and then continued with a sickly sweet Southern drawl. “Snookums, you say the sweetest things. I just can’t understand how any woman can resist your manly charms. Maybe it’s because you are a total asshole, Sweet Cheeks.”

I grunted. She continued with her Scarlett O’Hara imitation. “Furthermore, Honey Punkin, I’m not only going to continue to hassle you until I get a real answer, I’m also going to do it with this lovely accent, Reason for Livin’.”

I rolled my eyes, took a deep breath, and started to answer…but then I remembered I had no idea why I had asked her here. So I started with that.

“I don’t know…maybe I um…I don’t know…nobody but me has been up here since my parents died…why in the world I would invite the biggest pain in my ass to break that perfect streak…I sure as hell don’t know…doesn’t make any damn sense at all.”

“Thank you, Scotty,” she said without accent and without facial expression.

I nodded.

Later on we headed into town to get some lunch and pick up a few groceries. I ran into a couple friends of my parents and we chatted for a minute or two. The rest of the day we spent just hanging out on the balcony that faced the lake. A bit cold but crystal clear…hard to complain about. We talked a little about the pub and my plans, but mostly we just sat there, gazing at the scenery.

Shortly after dinner - a turkey sandwich and a Sonoma Cabernet – Kelly’s three consecutive yawns signaled the end of our day. I pointed her toward one of the two guest bedrooms. I headed for the other. She grabbed my hand.



“Thanks again.”

I nodded, smiled, and headed to bed.

That night I lay there thinking about all the reasons that I shouldn’t like Kelly…couldn’t like Kelly…but I did…like her…a lot…and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t help myself…it scared the hell out of me. After a couple hours of doing my best to avoid thinking about her and finding myself doing exactly the opposite, over and over again, I finally drifted off to sleep with one final thought about the last 14 hours…

God must have been busy today hating on someone else…

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