Sunday, January 13, 2013

Outside Reading 2

The high school girls used to talk among themselves about Steve’s looks. How handsome. Big, too. Yeah, big in all the right places, they’d say. And then they’d smoke their cigarettes in front of Margherita’s Pizza and horse around for ten, fifteen minutes between classes or at the end of the day. There was nothing else for them to do but none of the talk was serious. It was just girls hanging out together and making noise. Steve was surely on their minds but who really was going to do anything about it? Olivia? Briony? There might’ve been a couple of girls who'd be reckless enough to start something serious or maybe meet him at night. Maybe in one of those concrete culverts beyond the school athletic field. Steve was so much bigger and handsomer than his brother Mikey whose ears stuck out like an effin scarecrow’s. And who walked with a gimp. None of those girls thought about Mikey’s legs or arse, or what it would feel like to have him hold them and touch them.

They laughed and dreamt but their romantic visions had been tempered by Victoria's Secret and the internet. What they saw was that there was a good deal of teasing involved and a mad scramble for power. You could fight and yield and still win in bed, even if it wasn't true in other parts of life. Like making a living. But most of the boys were still operating according to a fifty-year-old model -- a post-War trifecta of disfunction: Mad Men, spaghetti westerns, or Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. Corporate guy, cowboy, or nerd. It was disheartening. Nebbish, not nerd, was the word back then, but most Yiddishisms had gone the way of all flesh. Reilly would call ours an assimilationist culture. Effin hot dogs, tacos, and pizza. All that shite is American now: we export it.

And boys? Boys are American too. From their carrot-tops to their cracks. Mikey was one of them, a nerd who pretended to be a cowboy. He loved his guns, shooting at any varmint that moved along the edge of the family property. He loved meat, and beer, and cigarettes and not much else, except making fun of the poor sons-of-bitches who had to work for a living. Their plight -- the routine senseless repetition of events, followed by a checking account deposit -- was hilarious, wasn't it? Mikey wasn't a hundred percent. Steve sometimes thought he'd been dropped in the hospital. How else to account for the crazy shite he believed? Or the violence that came bubbling up if you contradicted him?

The girls stood around and got cold. There was nothing else to do. If you went home, there was only the TV, the internet, the clock, loneliness. Home was cheap. It sucked. Better to stand around in your Ukalas, drink sugar water, and talk about boys. Maybe Briony would take the bait. Briony was braver than the others -- she hardly had any baby fat left. Her mother still went to church but Catholicism was so old. None of the kids believed that shite anymore.

It was doubtful if Steve paid attention to them or any of their nonsense. He had too much to do. Prescription drugs: acquisition and distribution. The land returned nothing. It was a wreck. His older half-sister Lou wanted to stay put and she owned half the spread. She had gotten big and let herself go -- like a boulder impossible to move one way or the other. She had her dogs and her horses and took care of the place. It would be difficult to get along without her. As for Mikey, he was okay if he was given something to do as long as it didn't require any brains or patience. What a waste. Steve knew it. Mikey'd go down to the creek and shoot whatever he'd find there -- frogs, snakes, maybe a squirrel. It made no difference. Then he'd bring the dead things back home, like a cat filling a basement with birds and voles and chipmunks. Always making noise. Always making a mess. This shitting everything up was his career. And Steve had to make sure it never left the farm. Otherwise the cops would start sniffing around and that would kill business faster than a flying potato.

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