Everything’s Everything: Part II

 Go to Everything's Everything:  Part I

-by Mike Yaremko

I stood up and found myself looking directly into the guy’s eyes. The thought of giving another friendly smile did not last long. I scooted to the left so Jamie was right between us. Only half of Jamie’s cigarette was gone, but he crushed it in the ashtray, anyway. He pulled another from his pack and struck a match. He wanted to make sure the couple saw him going through all this trouble just for them.

Our waitress came back and said something about ‘sleepyhead’ waking up. I gave her a small grin; all I could think about was that if she hadn’t been so overweight she would have been incredibly plain. Jamie asked her when she got off, but she just chuckled and walked away. He looked at me and smiled, nodding. I picked up my burger and watched the grease pour onto my plate. Yep, that pretty much sums it up. I got up and headed for the bathroom. Jamie got up and stopped me.

“Give me your money. I’ll pay.” I handed him my wallet and started moving again. “Hey, check if they’ve got any condom machines” (smile, nod). I headed for the toilet and he headed for the girl.

I dropped to my knees in front of the john and let ‘er rip. The guy in the stall next to me finished up really fast and took off. I hadn’t eaten much, so it didn’t take long. I got up and wiped my face with the last couple squares of paper. As it turned out, it didn’t matter that I forgot to check for condoms. Jamie was standing by the door, ready to go. He gave me my wallet and I asked if he had left a tip, too. He shook his head: ‘boyfriend’.

I felt a little better, but I still had a buzz, so I let Jamie drive. We had parked right in front of the booth the couple was sitting in. Jamie couldn’t resist. He switched the high beams on as we backed up. The guy didn’t look up but raised his hand and his middle finger. Jamie laid on the horn as we pulled away.

Jamie looked in his wallet, pulled out a few bills, and stuck them back in. I pulled mine out. "I should have five or so left,” I flipped through my last couple. “I say, I should have five.”

He looked at me and laughed. “Ah, come on, just ‘till I get paid.”

I settled back into my seat and looked at the clock as we pulled into the grocery store parking lot. I just caught a glimpse of the flashing ‘4:37’ switch to ‘4:38’ before it changed to the temperature. Two light bulbs near the upper left of the board stayed on the whole time. I could understand bulbs not going off, but staying on the whole time?

We went into the store and saw Eddie and the security guard standing by the register looking down one of the aisles. They were watching a short fat woman and her four kids. All of them were crying and yelling, so every so often she’d crack one of them in the head at random. Eddie and the guard watched the procession blankly, but Jamie couldn’t keep the grin from his face.

Her tight blue shorts and variously hued stains on her sleeveless t-shirt made me sick. The paleness of her cellulite ridden legs vibrantly bringing out the blue and red of her varicose veins didn’t help much, either. She kept an eye on us as she got closer, but we didn’t turn away. 

“She comes in here almost every night, real late, and brings all those kids with her at all hours”, Eddie looked to the guard who nodded confirmation. “But that’s not the best part, wait ‘til she comes through the line. 

We had to wait for the guard to take off anyway, so we went to the magazines. This being a family store and all, they didn’t have any Playboys and such, so we passed the time looking at Hot Rods & Babes mags and the occasional MAD.

She finally worked her way up to the front of the store so we walked back over. Eddie kept rubbing his shoulder, but we (not being mind readers, you idiot) thought he might have actually hurt it. He scowled at us like we were the idiots. Ah, a sign. We both looked at her shoulder. I know it had been black when it was first done, but now it was faded to an ugly green. The lettering was so plain and simple, I was sure it had been done with a sewing needle in someone’s kitchen after a long night of slinging back shots of Jack they had been saving for special occasions after they finished off all the Boone’s and Night Train.

The actual tattoo was not what caught our attention, but the burn scar running underneath the words, ‘I love’. Jamie burst out laughing and turned to walk away just as she handed Eddie her food stamps. I didn’t really want her to think we were laughing at her because of the stamps, but to explain that we were actually laughing at her didn’t seem like a very good idea either, so I just followed Jamie to the liquor aisle.

He already had a bottle of Evan Williams in his hand, but he put it back and grabbed the half gallon jug of Jim Bean. He would have taken more, but we didn’t want to be too conspicuous. The guard had wandered off so we went right to Eddie and he rang up $.50, Jamie bitched (“You’re not going to get in any less trouble if you charged us a nickel or a dime”) Eddie wouldn’t give him the change from the dollar Jamie gave him, and we left.

The woman hadn’t left yet; her kids still yelling and scratching at each other. Jamie took the cap off the whiskey and hopped up on the hood of my car. I figured we weren’t going anywhere yet, so I got comfortable on the car, too. He offered me the bottle, but I definitely didn’t want the dry heaves at five in the morning, so I just waved it away. I looked to the east as the sky was beginning to turn pink and orange. Jamie turned and looked back at me, then up to the sky again. But his interest waned and he turned his attention back to the woman and her kids.

One kid would jump out of the car and run around a little before the mother would catch him and give one of those cracks to the head. Then another would start screaming about something and another smack wasn’t far off. It got to be a bit redundant for me, but Jamie was enjoying himself. He would take a drink every time the woman would hit, the kid would yell, or the woman would yell at the kid. It didn’t take long for him to reinforce his buzz.

The parking lot lights were pretty good, so I could tell the car was a puke orange, except for the patches of bright orange house paint someone had put on many of the rust spots. The vehicular equivalent of a scar, I mused, but it wasn’t, really. Just as she stuffed the last of them in, Jamie stuck the bottle back into the paper bag and threw it in the front seat.

He got down and had the door open, but just as I was about to tell him I was okay to drive, something hit me in the back of the head. I feel to my hands and knees and some guy kicked me in the stomach. I could feel my basic animal instinct taking over and I didn’t fight them from coming. I locked my hands behind my head and curled up in a ball, hoping not to get hit again.

Jamie dropped to his knees and reached in the car for a beer bottle. He appeared ready to use it, but it came in about as much use as it had earlier. Another guy grabbed the door and closed it on Jamie, knocking him over and the bottle from his hand. All I could think about was how loud the bottle was as it rolled along the concrete as my guy reaches into my pocked and pulled out my wallet. I looked up and got another kick. I recurled and waited for the blow I’d get when he actually looked in my wallet.

Luckily, Jamie was putting up a bit more of a fight. My guy went over to help out his buddy. When it was clear Jamie had given up, they kicked him a few more times, took his wallet, and took off. When we were pretty sure they were gone, we got up just in time to see the woman pulling away. I know she enjoyed herself. We started making our way back to the store but Jamie stopped and went back to the car. He sat down and a smile spread across his face. He pulled the bottle up and took a long drink.

The police took our statements and we headed back to the car. Jamie pulled the bottle out and hopped back up on the hood. “Golly gumbucks, Beave, why so glum?” Jamie took another long swig. I couldn’t really think of how to explain if he didn’t know already. I just looked back to the sky. “Ah, come on. You always get like this when we hang out. It hasn’t been that bad.”

I only gave a small grunt as I tore a piece of my paper bag off and wiped the blood from my lip, making sure to keep eye contact with Jamie so his mind would not have the opportunity to move on to greener pastures.

“C’mon,” he put the bottle down beside him and started waving his hands in the air to suggest the glory and majesty of all creation or some such thing. “Everything is…Well, everything’s…” He put his arms down and a bewildered look spread across his face as he looked toward the sky. He shrugged and took another drink. Can’t argue with that. Well, I guess I could.

By the time we got to Jamie’s place, he had already fallen asleep. I moved the sun visor down and to my left so it blocked the sun from coming through the side window. Just as we reached the top of Ennis Hill, I pulled over and parked. I got out and leaned against the car, watching the sun come up over the distant horizon.

I could feel it getting warmer as, little by little, the trees pushed the sun higher and higher. When I could see most of it, I raised my arms and tried to embrace the new day that was rising. The sun was supposed to energize me and burn the film of the previous night from my skin. It should pull me along as it rose further into the cloudless, blue sky. That’s what I wanted, anyway.

(Ed Note) Not that anyone would care, but ‘Everything’s Everything’ was written for a creative writing class and originally published in Journey, Southeast Missouri State University’s annual literary magazine, but he didn’t win any prizes for it.

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