“Hey. Change the clocks. It’s Daylight Savings Time.”
He grunted. He rolled over. “Is it forward or backward?”
“We lose an hour.”
“That doesn’t help.”
“Forward, you big dummy.”
Allen Thurmond fiddled with the clock. In an instant, it was 1:35 in the morning, the second of April.
Ruben never saw the balloon coming. It hit him in the back of the head and exploded. He reeled forward, unhurt, and shook his head angrily. Reaching behind him, he felt his hair, and came away with a sticky hand. He looked at his fingers. Orange.
“You bastard!” he yelled. “Orange juice? What the hell was that all about?”
Mike Mangoni looked down at him from the second floor balcony. “April Fools, pal!”
Ruben glared up at him. “What? You don’t throw an orange-juice-filled balloon at someone on April Fools’ Day, you moron! You call them up and tell them … their mother died, or something. What kind of an idiot are you?”
Mike looked hurt. “Well, it was the best I could do. Besides, your mother’s already dead.”
“I have to be at work in a half an hour. I’ve already taken a shower. Do you even care?”
Mike took a deep breath. “It’s going to be a beautiful day. I don’t envy you.”
Sheila Grayson actually felt attractive. It was a sensation she rarely had, but this morning, she knew she looked good. As she gazed at herself in the bathroom mirror, Allen came in and hugged her from behind. “Morning, gorgeous,” he murmured. She felt something prodding her leg.
“God, Allen, is that all you think about?”
“It’s biological. It’s the morning. You know. But we shouldn’t let it go to waste, you know …”
“It’s Saturday. What does either of us have to do?”
She turned around and slowly opened her robe. “That’s true …”
Allen pulled her toward him and kissed her ivory throat. She giggled.
Amy Orlick drank a Chai Tea latte and hoped to feel the caffeine rush soon. It had been a long night, and she was blinking owlishly in the early morning sun. The city was stirring, shaking itself in the newness of spring, and Amy hated it. She wanted it to shut up and go back to sleep. Portland always annoyed her in the summer, when the Oregonians dragged their flaccid, pale bodies out of flannel and draped them in far-too-revealing clothing. Amy kept a sweater on most of the year.
She giggled. She was feeling bitter because it was the first really nice day of the year, the beginning of spring, and she was no closer to her goals than at any point in her life. She was determined to feel better. She sipped her tea and waited for the world to change.
“I’ll take that, sir.”
Ruben picked up the suitcase and staggered a bit. The man walked on, oblivious. Ruben followed him into the Marriott and over to the front desk. He passed the suitcase on to the porter, got a dollar tip, cursed silently, and went back outside.
Frank was laughing at him. “What was up with that?”
“Shit, I don’t know. Guy had bricks in there or something. Only tipped me a buck.”
They stood by the curb, waiting for the next patron, watching the people. It was only ten o’clock, but the city was bustling already. The nice weather always brought Portlanders out, usually in short-sleeved shirts and shorts, despite the leftover coolness in the air. Oregonians didn’t care about the actual temperature: if the sun was out, the pants went away.
Ruben chafed in his pseudo-tuxedo. Being a bellhop was a lousy job, but the tips were usually good and he got to hang out outside. The girls that strolled Broadway, especially in the spring and summer, were fine. And Ruben knew he had a nice smile.
“You got this one?” he said to Frank as a tan Oldsmobile pulled up to the curb. His co-worker grimaced. Senior citizens were notoriously cheap. Something to do with World War Two, they theorized.
Mike Mangoni was fucking. Some people he knew called it ‘making love,’ or even ‘having sex,’ but Mike didn’t kid himself. He fucked, and loved it. After his roommate left for the day, Mike had called a girl he knew who also loved to fuck. All he had to say was “Ruben’s gone,” and Shasta would be over.
Mike didn’t really like Shasta all that much. She was an earthy-crunchy Reedie from a swanky Southwest Portland family, who tried desperately to act the hippie part required of Reed College students by hanging out on Hawthorne Boulevard pretending to panhandle. She dreadlocked her hair and studded her tongue (he did admit, it made her blowjobs particularly fantastic) and wore Birkenstocks, but was meticulous about shaving her body hair and couldn’t stand the smell of patchouli. When Mike thought about her hypocrisy, he chuckled. But that didn’t stop him from fucking her.
He came and collapsed on top of her. She disentangled herself from him and rolled over, putting her feet on the floor. She grabbed a clove cigarette and lit up. Mike thought it was a filthy habit and told her so, not for the first time.
“Yeah, well, you’re also a filthy habit,” she said. Her voice was another reason Mike liked fucking her. It was gruff and husky, like Kathleen Turner’s. It sounded good when she was coming.
“That’s why you love me, babe,” Mike said. “I’m like nicotine.”
“How many other girls to you fuck on a regular basis?” she said. He was surprised. They rarely talked about their lives.
“Is it important?”
“It’s just that I’ve known you for four years, and we fuck, what? twice a week, and never have any contact outside of this room, or my room at school. I want to make sure I’m not going to catch anything from you.”
“Little late to be worrying about that, don’t you think? Like you said, it’s been four years.”
“Reassure me, you cocksucker.”
“That’s your job. Why don’t you take care of it?”
That was all he needed to say. He knew she would take the hint.
It was almost noon before Basil woke up. He loved sleeping late on his day off, but that meant Anise was already gone. He cursed. She had things to do on Saturdays, and Basil didn’t. That meant they never spent the weekend mornings together — when she bothered to stay over, which wasn’t often.
Basil trudged into what he jokingly called “the living room.” A small, sad futon crouched nervously in the corner, facing a 13-inch television that was almost never turned on. It just wasn’t worth it — if Basil wanted to watch TV, he would go over to one of his friends’ places, because they all had big screens. His sat tiredly, a relic from the 1970s.
He missed Anise. She wasn’t good for him, he knew, nor him for her. They had met in a dangerous situation, and were drawn to each other by the excitement. She often told him that was no basis for a relationship — she had not taken up with another guy from the same situation for that reason — but after a year, they were still together, although the ties were loose. Basil was sure Anise saw other guys. It wouldn’t have bothered him as much if he had been able to score with other women.
He opened the front door and looked out at the neighborhood. Sunlight blasted open his still-sleepy eyes and he shrank back into his dank apartment. April Fools’ Day, he told himself. A Saturday. Damned if he was going to spend his day off inside. He went back into the bedroom to get showered.
Sheila parked the car in the Smart Park garage at Fourth and Alder and skipped down the stairs to the street. She was planning on spending a lot of time shopping, especially at Pioneer Place II, which had just opened. Allen had a bunch of money riding on the outcome of the Michigan State–Wisconsin game later that afternoon, and he was going to hang out with a few of his friends at a sports bar most of the day. She hated the place, and they had agreed to spend the day apart.
The day was warming as she entered the mall. People rushed past and around her as she paused for a moment and breathed in the newness. She strolled into the heart of the shopping mall, not rushing like the others. Sheila hated to admit she loved shopping. It was so gauche — not very new millennium. But she didn’t care — today was a shopping day, and she was going to enjoy it.
In L’Occitaine, she ran her fingers delicately over bottles of unguents, thrilling to the faux medievalism of the products. She imagined a Shakespearean apothecary hunched over an oaken table, muttering to himself as he sprinkled Cathay dust into a bejeweled flask and mixed it with scented oils. In reality, two teens stood behind the counter, hair pulled up into scrunchies and identically eerie grins etched on their faces. One of them caught her eye and wandered over to help. Sheila fled the store before she was accosted.
The mall reminded her of a beehive — it was round and spiraled upward toward the skylight. Sheila walked along dreamily, letting shafts of sunlight cascade down on her and envelop her in warmth. Someone pushed past her and broke her reverie. She turned angrily to snap at the person, but instead saw a smiling face.
“I thought it was you,” the man said. “How are you?”
Sheila tried to think of something to say. Fear crept into her heart.
When Randolph finally did show up, Amy was not happy. Her tea was long gone, and she didn’t feel like having another one, and the barista was throwing her dirty looks because she was occupying valuable space that might have been taken by another customer. Randolph didn’t even get a chance to say hello before she was out the door, her giddy mood from earlier drowning in the frustration that comes from waiting.
“Where the fuck you been?” she hissed at him when they were outside. She grabbed him and hugged him before he could answer. She hadn’t seen him in weeks.
“You need a smoke?” he said, pulling out his pack.
She smirked at him and took a cigarette. He held out his lighter, and she felt the nicotine buzz crawl up into her brain. Amy rarely smoked anymore, but every once in a while it felt good.
“Let’s walk,” she suggested. “Nice day.”
They walked north along Broadway, away from the crowds gathering in Courthouse Square.
“Don’t I get a hug?” Brad said. Sheila reached out awkwardly and pulled him to her. She smelled his scent and cringed slightly. It hadn’t been long enough since she smelled it, and it brought back bad memories.
“What are you doing back in town?” she asked, a bit shorter than she wanted. If he noticed her tone, he didn’t let on.
“Oh, you know, all roads lead to Portland,” he said off-handedly. “You look great.”
“Stop it, Brad,” she said angrily. He still had that effect on her. His hair was still golden, shaggy — leonine, she used to think. His mouth — she could feel his lips on her just by looking at his mouth. Brad’s smile became broader.
“Don’t be that way, Sheila,” he said, effecting hurt. “We said we’d be friends.”
“It’s a lot easier to be friends when you aren’t in town.”
She looked around, feeling claustrophobic. The mall no longer seemed big enough to contain him. “Do you want to take a walk?” he said, picking up on her uneasiness.
“I don’t really want to go anywhere with you.”
He smirked at her, and then said, “Right. Come on, girl, I haven’t seen you in months. We need to catch up.”
Before she knew it, they were out in the street and walking north on Fourth. At the corner of Washington, they turned left and headed west. The shadows from the buildings chilled her. Brad was talking, but she wasn’t listening. She just kept thinking of Allen, and sex that morning, and how angry he would be if he knew Brad was back in town.
Caesar the bartender knew that Allen drank amber ale. He also knew that Allen was watching the Final Four at the bar, so he had a beer poured for Allen as Allen was walking in. Allen smiled and gave him a quick five-dollar tip. Then he said, “Where is everyone?”
“You’re the first one here.”
“Lightweights.” Allen took a swig from his pint.
“Are you driving?” Caesar asked.
“I live less than a half-mile from here. I’d be crazy to drive.”
The first game was still a few hours away.
Mike never actually wanted to stop fucking Shasta, but he did get tired. He had dozed after one of their rounds, knowing she would go get something to eat at the Marsee Bakery a few blocks away, and walk quietly through Sellwood on her way back to his apartment. He hovered in the pleasant state between sleeping and waking, feeling the power of sex course gently through him. He heard her come back to the apartment and felt arousal flow toward his groin. How did she do it?
She was sitting in the kitchen when he walked in. “Hey, babe, ready for more?”
Chewing thoughtfully on a hunk of baguette, she looked strangely desirable. She cocked her head to one side and shook it. “I don’t think so, Mike. Not now. I just ate.”
“So? C’mon, Shasta, you always want it in the afternoon. And the morning, and the evening …” He sniggered at his joke.
She stood up and slipped into her sandals. “It’s a gorgeous day, Mike, and I have schoolwork to do. Can’t you be satisfied with all the fun we had this morning?”
“Shit, girl, we were just getting warmed up.”
“I gotta go.”
Mike looked at her and felt loathing. Before she could move, he slapped her hard across the face. She recoiled in shock, her eyes suddenly fearful. She ran toward the door, but Mike grabbed her and flung her over his shoulder. Shasta was very light, probably not much more than a hundred pounds, and Mike hefted her easily. She squirmed in his grasp, but he held on until he threw her on the bed. She rolled away from him, but he held onto her wrist firmly, until he was afraid he would break it. She was angry, and her anger gave her strength, but she couldn’t get away. Mike hit her again, harder, hoping he wouldn’t bruise her. He pulled her thin cotton dress up over her waist, licking his lips when he saw she hadn’t put her panties back on.
“Just stay still, bitch,” he whispered huskily. “You know you like the rough stuff.”
She may have said his name, she may have said no. All he heard was a powerful roaring in his ears as he entered her. He thought it sounded like the cheering of a raucous crowd.
Ruben had just gotten back from lunch when he saw someone he knew. “Hey, Randolph,” he said. The young man looked at him, reluctantly, he thought.
“Oh, hi, Ruben.” Randolph extricated himself from his friend’s arm and walked over to the bellhop, sticking out his hand. “Been a while.”
“Who’s your friend?” Ruben asked as he shook the hand. He thought the girl looked familiar, but he couldn’t place her.
“Amy Orlick. Amy, this is Ruben. I’m not sure if you’ve met.”
Ruben tried not to stare at Amy’s face. She had an ugly scar on her nose. Other than that, she was attractive, he thought, in a drug-addict sort of way.
“I haven’t seen you since that party out Mt. Tabor area,” Ruben said to Randolph. “What was that, a year ago?”
“Think so. I was down in Salem for a while, trying to find work. It’s not easy.”
“Weren’t you still drawing? Why aren’t you doing that?”
“Competitive business, man. I still do it, but it’s not regular.”
“You’re Mike Mangoni’s roommate,” Amy said suddenly, a strange undercurrent in her voice. “I met you two years ago, at Rimsky’s. You were with … Mike, and that other guy. Napoleon, wasn’t that his name?”
“Napoleon Fish? Shit, I haven’t seen him in a while. He got really weird … You were there? Yeah, I remember. Mike thought you were hot. Didn’t you go out a few times?”
“Yeah.” Amy turned away. “Randolph, we gotta hurry. We’re late.”
Randolph nodded. “Yeah, sorry, Amy. Ruben, good to see you, man. You work here a lot?”
“Almost every day.”
“I’ll stop by. Maybe we can get a beer after you get done one day.”
Ruben nodded and watched as the two left. Frank came back outside after helping a customer with her bags. “Friends of yours?” he asked.
“I know them. Strange people — that girl, something about her … I don’t know. It’s just … you ever notice how people always pop back into your life when you least expect it? There’s always someone from your past just around the corner. And you never know when they’re going to turn it.”
At Broadway, Sheila had had enough of Brad’s smugness. “Why do you want to talk to me?” she finally said,
Brad held up his hand in mock fear. “Hey, chill, Sheila. I saw you at the mall, hadn’t seen you in a while, we used to be … you know, close, and I wanted to see you. What’s wrong with that?”
“You know perfectly well what’s wrong with that. ‘Friends.’ Did I really say that? I guess I wanted you out of my life more than I thought.”
“How’s what’s-his-name? You still with him?”
She felt loathing rise up inside her. “You don’t get to mention him, Brad. You don’t get to talk about Allen. Not like that.”
He held his arms out, soaking up the sunshine. “Come on, Sheila, what the hell’s wrong with you? It’s a beautiful day, I saw an old friend, I said hello, I wanted to talk.” He lowered his eyes and stared at her. “If I knew you would treat me like this, I never would have approached you.”
“How I wish. But I doubt it.” She sighed. “Fine, Brad, I’ll be civil. How are you? What are you doing these days? Getting anyone else pregnant?”
His eyes darkened. “Cheap shot, baby. Let’s not speak of the past.”
She chuckled. ” ‘Not speak of the past’? What else can we speak of? Brad, it was … nice to see you, but I gotta go.”
“Wait. I do have something to tell you. You’re not going to like it.”
Shasta sat on the corner of Thirty-fourth and Hawthorne, feeling the pulse of the city around her. She loved walking along the street, looking into the various shops and eateries, listening to the snippets of conversation she overheard as she passed people. The street felt alien to her now, however. Everywhere she looked she saw misshapen masculine hulks, reaching for her, trying to take pieces of her, tearing her skin and rending her mind. Shasta cursed loudly, drawing the attention of several onlookers. She checked herself for bruises and laughed. It felt good, so she laughed again. Someone brushed against her back, and she turned violently.
“Watch it, asshole!” she hissed, looking up into a familiar face. “Basil? Zat you?”
Basil had been wandering around the street, enjoying the day, and had not expected to run into anyone he knew. Most of his friends lived on the west side, and didn’t really get into the scene on Hawthorne. But here was Shasta, looking like someone had run her over. He sat down next to her and put his hand on her arm. He noticed her flinch.
“What’s up, Shasta? What are you doing here?” Basil didn’t know Shasta all that well — she was an acquaintance of Anise, and he had usually come across her in large groups at parties, when he didn’t get a chance to talk to her. But he knew her well enough to know something was wrong.
“Sitting. Just sitting. Having a bad day.” Her voice sounded strange to him. Too husky.
“What? It’s a beautiful day! Anything I can do to help?”
“No!” She pulled her arm away from him and winced. “Listen, Basil … you know I go to Reed?”
He nodded. She continued, “I do the whole fucking stupid shit there, you know. Dress down, smoke pot, do some ecstasy, play fucking Ultimate Frisbee, listen to the fucking Dead and Phish — God, I’m a cliché!”
“You don’t like any of that stuff?”
“It sucks. I’m twenty years old, for fuck’s sake, and I’m acting like a child.” Basil did not comment on the fact that twenty was not that old. Shasta obviously had something on her mind. “I mean, do you ever think about what you’re doing with your life, Basil? Aren’t you still with Anise? Still?”
“Yeah, I am. But I don’t know how long it’s going to last. Shasta, I work at 7-11 and go to night school. Of course I think about what I’m doing with my life. But why worry? It just leads you nowhere.”
Her right hand shook. He decided not to mention it. “Basil … do you connect with people? Why do I feel like I connect with you? Not in any sexual way.” She shuddered, and Basil knew it was something else that brought it on, so he wasn’t offended. “In a, I don’t know, more cosmic way. See? A fucking cliché.” She was dangerously close to rambling, so he put his hand on her left arm, and held it there even when she flinched.
“Do you want to go somewhere out of the street?” he asked. “There’s plenty of bars around here. I think you could use a drink. I doubt if they’ll card you on such a gorgeous day.”
Amy and Randolph passed a couple that was arguing about something, the woman obviously upset with the man. Tears were streaming down her cheeks and the man was trying to comfort her, but she kept shaking his arm from her shoulder. Amy watched, fascinated, trying to discern the exact nature of the conversation from the few snippets she overheard. The couple passed by, however, before she could catch much of what was said. Amy sighed. Randolph was looking at her strangely, and she knew she’d have to talk to him.
“Such a beautiful day,” she said wistfully. “Such a dreamy city sometimes, like it’s not real. I suppose other cities must be that way occasionally.”
“Not L.A.,” he said. “Frisco, sure. Cities are like people. Personality-wise. Moody one day, secretive the next, joyous another day. You can never tell what it’s going to be when you wake up in the morning.”
She sighed. “You knew it was Mike,” she said. “I don’t know why you didn’t go beat him up. My knight in shining armor.”
“I don’t want to talk about it. It’s in the past. I’ve never wanted to live there. Neither have you.”
“I know. It’s just … we never discussed it. You were always so good to avoid it, because you knew I wasn’t ready. Hearing his name, however. Hearing it from someone else’s lips. Hearing … do you know I haven’t been with anyone since? I want to, desperately, but I get to a certain point, and it’s like … a wall goes up. I can’t move past it. I don’t know what it is.”
“Not even that cop got through?”
“Ouch. No, not even him — although I thought he might be able to. He had too much baggage himself, as it turns out.”
“So you’ve decided to become celibate? Not by any choice, but psychologically?”
Amy wrapped her arms around herself as the entered the shadow of a building. Even in the warmth of the day, the shadows still chilled her. “I’m afraid, Randolph. I’m afraid I’ll … like what he did to me. I’m afraid I’ll want it that way all the time. And I don’t want to be that kind of person.”
Allen never got to watch his basketball games. Sheila called him before they began and told him the news.
“HIV?” he said, choking slightly on his beer. “That’s too good for the bastard.”
On the other end of the line, Sheila scolded him. “He’s still a human being, Allen. Don’t be such a dick.”
“Sorry.” Allen suddenly realized the implications. “Oh, shit, baby, I just …”
“Nice of you to join me in the real world, dear. I don’t know, I don’t know, this is just all … shit. Shit.”
“That’s the way to put it. Listen, girl, why don’t you come home. I’ll meet you there; we can talk about what we’re going to do.”
Sheila told him she would head home immediately, and Allen hung up the phone. He placed his mug on the bar and told Caesar he had to go. The bartender asked him what was wrong.
Allen said, “Listen up, bro — you can never escape the past. See ya.”
Ruben got off work early — his shift lasted only until two in the afternoon that day, and he was happy for the reprieve. He reached his house ready to head back out and enjoy the sunshine. He figured Mike’s girl would be there as well — on days when Ruben worked, he knew they liked to engage in some extra-long sex sessions. So he was surprised when he got home and Mike was alone, watching the college basketball game. Mike looked grumpy, and Ruben left him alone. He showered and changed, then came out into the living room and asked Mike if he wanted to head up to Claudia’s Bar to watch the game, just to get out of the house.
“How many girls you fucked?” Mike asked in response.
Ruben was taken aback. “Shit, man, I don’t know … twelve?” He quickly ran through his memory. “Eleven. What’s up?”
Mike didn’t follow up his question. Ruben snapped his fingers. “Speaking of which, I ran into Amy Orlick downtown today. Remember her? You guys dated a couple of years ago.”
“Amy … Man, what a bitch she turned out to be. God, I fucking hate her.” Mike said this calmly, unlike his usual tone when someone did not meet his approval. Ruben shivered.
“You okay, pal? I mean, I don’t know her all that well, but, shit, man, she doesn’t seem that bad.”
Mike said, “Men have it easy, man. You ever thank God you’re a man? You should. Women — they get all the shit in the world. God, what a bitch …”
“Was Shasta here?”
“I think that’s over.”
Ruben knew Mike rebounded quickly from relationships — his comments about Amy were the first ones he had ever made about someone he’d dated — so he did not take Mike’s statement about the end of this one as an indication that his friend was depressed. He just said, “Too bad. She was nice. Or was she a bitch too?”
Mike glowered at him. “You don’t know, Ruben, you don’t know … Women will suck you dry, because they have to. They have to protect themselves. I thought I knew all about women Guess I was wrong.”
“Do you want to go get a drink? The game’s on at Claudia’s, I’m sure.”
“Sure. Maybe I’ll meet a girl there.”
“That’s your third beer.”
“I’m just saying …”
“It was your idea.”
“Basil, do you think … people, I mean, people are good or bad? In general.”
He considered the question. He had figured out that something bad had happened to Shasta, very recently, and he could only think of one thing that would be that bad. He didn’t want to say the word rape, however. He didn’t think he knew her well enough.
“Me? Shitty. I think people in general are shitty. But then, I’m a nihilist. I had an interesting experience with people that brought it all home for me.”
“When you met Anise. She told me.”
“What do you think?”
“I think she’s going to leave you soon. Or you’re going to leave her.”
That was not the answer to the question he asked, but it was such a non sequitur that he had to pursue it, and he asked her why she thought that.
“Anise … I’ve known her a while,” Shasta said. “She’s not one to stick around. It has nothing to do with you, Basil. I don’t know you all that well, but I can sense that you’re a decent person. It’s just her. You two don’t go.”
“I thought we were cheering you up.”
“This is cheering me up. Schadenfreude, don’t you know.” She sculled her beer and stood, a bit wobbly. “Listen, Basil, thanks for the drinks. I should go.”
She smiled demurely. “Think again, pop star. You’re taken. And I’m … not in the mood.”
“No. Nothing like that. God, no. I can see …”
She was suddenly angry. “What?” she hissed, trying not to draw attention. “What, Basil? What can you see? Damaged goods, is that it? You’ve been eyeing me since you saw me out on the street. Say it!”
Basil kept silent. He hadn’t expected this verbal assault.
“I have to go. I have to go. I’m sorry.”
He let her. He knew she could walk home from here; her apartment was not that far off, and a stroll through the late afternoon sun would help her get over her drunkenness. He knew his relationship with Anise was over. It was sudden, like a static shock, then gone in a whispery haze. Anise would understand. Sex was all they shared, he knew in an instant. And after today, Basil did not think he would have sex again for quite some time.
Sheila persuaded Allen to put Brad out of his mind. He wasn’t an issue anymore; it was just unfortunate that he had re-entered their lives. They would get tested; they would be clean; they would get on with their lives. She had moved on before, when Brad left her after the abortion, and she would do it again.
“I love you, you stupid man,” she said to him as they sat on their porch, looking west toward the setting sun. “I tried to be careful, but things happen. It’s not the end of the world.”
“Death isn’t the end of the world?” he said. “You’re taking it awfully well.”
“Do you remember when we met? Oh, you got me big-time on the rebound. They say those relationships don’t work, but you were perfect for me. Brad was hell, Allen, sheer hell. I mean, he wanted the abortion as much as I did, but then, afterward … it was like I went behind his back and strangled his child in the crib. He would never say so, but I knew … You were, and are, everything he wasn’t. Open, no secrets, no bullshit sex games. Just fucking. Good job, Mr. Thurmond.”
“Yeah, well, I’m glad I could be your whore.”
She laughed and shook her head. He reached out and stroked her auburn hair slowly, a sensation she loved. She purred quietly and said, “You know what I mean. Mind games — that’s all so many people play. Power over others is all the crave, no matter how empty that power makes them feel. That’s what Brad wanted. I’m surprised you don’t want it.”
“I want it, but you’re too strong.”
“A fine answer.”
“But what if the tests come back positive?”
“Then we’ll deal with it. What the hell, it’s only life. Take a bite, Allen. Happy April Fools’ Day.”
She linked her fingers with his and they watched the sun dip closer to the horizon, searing the mountains in the west and burnishing the leaves of the evergreen surrounding their house. He looked at her proud face, hawk-like, a tear, drawn out by the sun, squeezing out her left eye. Somewhere far away the world turned on its axis.
“Hey. Change the clocks. It’s Daylight Savings Time.”
He grunted. He rolled over. “Is it forward or backward?”
“We lose an hour.”
“That doesn’t help.”
“Forward, you big dummy.”
Allen fiddled with the clock. In an instant, it was 1:35 in the morning, the second of April.
[Hey, look at all the characters coming back! One of the fun things, I would think, about writing a long-term comic book series would be introducing characters that seem like random background filler and then revisiting them later. I know some writers do that, and I think it would be fun. Basil, for instance. Who knew Basil would be back? He just seemed like some random character, but I thought it would be fun to see what he was up to.
The big thing in the story is the rape, and I went back and forth on it. With Amy in the previous story, I tried to show how one particular person might deal with it. With this story, I wanted to show how it might happen, especially when the victim isn’t someone we might consider “worthy” of defending. That was a more common mindset when I wrote this story, and, sadly, it’s still too much of a mindset among certain people. I also wanted to make Mike into an actual character, one you might be surprised to discover is a scumbag. Not that he’s that admirable to begin with, but I hope to show here that rapists aren’t all misshapen, slobbering monsters. I’ve known more than one woman who’s been raped, and it’s never someone they suspect. It’s horrible, and I certainly didn’t want to make Mike sympathetic, but I hope that he comes across as someone who isn’t a stereotypical knuckle-dragger. You just can’t “spot a rapist” out in the wild, unfortunately.
I try to make these stand on their own, even if characters recur. This one, and (probably only) one other are probably not the best ones for that, as it would help to know how Basil and Anise got together and what happened with Amy and “that cop.” But overall, I think I did a decent job with that. You can tell me if I didn’t – I can take it!
This story takes place on 1 April 2000, when Michigan State played Wisconsin in the Final Four on their way to winning the National Championship two days later. The reason I set it on that day was because it was a Saturday, of course, so people would be off work, but also because I wrote this not long after 1 April 2000, because it was a wonderful day, and my wife and I did go out to downtown Portland, and we even went into Pioneer Place II, which had just opened. It kind of stuck in my head, and I thought I would set a story on that day, with various people doing things. This is the result!
Anyway, next time we get something a bit shorter and the slightest bit experimental. Not as weird as last week’s story, but a bit different. Join me, won’t you?]