Jim was a model of apathetic
youth in the eighties. There wasn't a single thing in the world
that he really cared about. Except possibly sex, but that
was sort of a theoretical thing since, at nineteen, he had experienced
this phenomenon but twice, both times with the same girl while he was
still in high school. When the young lady called the whole affair
off Jim was actually rather pleased. It's not that the sex wasn't
any good; he enjoyed everything up to it and everything during it, it's
just that afterward he couldn't look at the girl. Her plainness,
which never bothered him before or during, revolted him afterward.
But high school was over and
now, in his second semester of community college, Jim did not know one
girl. He didn't really know any guys. Even if he couldn't
term them "good friends," he had once had a slew of acquaintances
built up throughout his many years in public school. When high
school ended they had all immediately started one of the several universities
in the state, all of which were located at least an hour away.
His mother had asked, in fact, expected him to go away to school, but
Jim declined. It wasn't entirely based on the fact that his mother
would have had to ask his father for the money, but that was partially
it. His dad now resided in Texas selling computers and could probably
afford whatever costs sending Jim away to a University would accrue.
It's just that he knew his mother would ask in a way that would make
his father like him even less than he already did.
Intellectually Jim knew that
the divorce was not his fault. Nevertheless, deep down he still
felt that he was one of the reasons. Since his dad had moved away
when he was twelve their relationship had improved quite a bit -- over
the telephone. His dad called every Tuesday no matter what.
They usually talked for fifteen or twenty minutes exchanging anecdotes
about school and business and the like. As far as his dad was
concerned, at least as it sounded to Jim, he would talk all night.
Unfortunately for Jim, talking long distance was like riding in a taxi
and every minute he could mentally hear the meter click. It was
just as well because after about fifteen minutes the salesman in his
father always pushed its way to the forefront and all of his patter
like a pitch. He was trying to sell himself to his son.
When high school ended his
dad had asked several times if he wanted to move to Texas and live with
him. Well, live with him "and Sherry, who you'll just adore."
Jim politely declined.
And when his mother asked
him if he wanted to go away to a university he also politely declined.
"But everyone you know is going away to school," said his
mother honestly mystified. "Why don't you want to go?"
"What, so I can join
a fraternity, go to keggers, drink too much beer and throw up?"
Asked Jim derisively.
His mother shook her head.
"I don't think that's what college is all about."
"I don't really care,"
stated Jim quite honestly. With that he went back to reading "The
Carpetbaggers." He had a passion for junk novels.
So Jim matriculated at the
nearby community college, referred to by the university students as
"high school with ashtrays."
The only friend that Jim had
at school was a fellow a year older than himself named Richard.
In actuality they weren't really friends since they never got together
outside of school and didn't seem to care about the same things.
Richard seemed lost in about 1971. He had long hair, a scraggily
beard and wore a chain of Guatemalan coins around his neck. He
had picked these up several years before when he had quit school and
gone out looking for God, or some such nonsense. Richard and Jim's
main connection was dope. Everyday they would either duck out
to Richard's beat up '68 VW with it's "No Nukes" bumper sticker,
or to Jim's '78 Toyota, with its bondo right front fender and smoke
a joint. They generally met directly before the acting class that
they both had. Being high usually added just the right touch of
humor to the acting exercises they invariably had to do. Entire
class periods were allotted for such academic endeavors as the whole
class standing in a group at the end of a table while one student stands
on it, closes their eyes and falls into the class's waiting arms.
This was to "strengthen your trust in your fellow actors."
Due to his and Richard's indulging
in the afternoon, Jim most often came home from school and went straight
to bed. His mother would awaken him around dinner time with such
important chores as attaching the clasp of her necklace before: she
went to dinner with whatever date she had that night. This was
always accompanied by a detailed list of the entire contents of the
refrigerator. Sometimes she
would just leave money for him to go out.
Presently, the main staple
of Jim's diet was Stouffer's beef burgundy crepes which he prepared
in the microwave oven in three minutes.
As his mother left each night
she always asked the same question. "What are you doing tonight?"
Since Jim was never doing anything he usually replied with a smart aleck
response like, "I'm going downtown to buy heroin," which his
mother never responded to.
At least not outwardly.
Inwardly her response was confusion. Not to the smart cracks,
but to the fact that her son had absolutely no social life. "He's
bright," she'd say to her date that evening over dinner, "he's
a good-looking boy, he dresses nicely -- why doesn't he have any girlfriends?"
This being the eighties, she had contemplated the idea that Jim might
be gay, but even if that was the case then he had no boyfriends, either.
In fact, he was not gay.
It had been so long since he'd had sex that he no longer considered
himself heterosexual. To ease his own mind he came to the firm
conclusion that he was asexual. The only problem with that was
that every time he saw a pretty girl he was in dire need of ducking
into the nearest john and jerking off.
"Jim, would you do me
up?" Asked his mother flicking on the light switch.
Jim lifted himself from bed, blinked and shook his head trying to bring
himself back to life. His mother turned around revealing her unzipped
"Who are you going out
with?" He asked in a phlegmy voice while zipping her up.
They both smiled.
"You've been seeing a
lot of him lately," said Jim wiping the crud from his eyes.
"Yes, I have. He
mentioned again last night that if you'd like he could set up something
for you with MaryAnn during vacation."
Jim lit a cigarette and coughed.
"This is the sixteen year old nun?"
His mother waved the smoke
away. "She's not a nun, she just goes to a Catholic boarding
school. Frank's kind of religious."
"Why, what else have
you got to do?"
"M.A.S.H. is on three
times a day and I can't miss it."
"That's a great reason,"
said his mother departing. "You've only seen every one of
them six times."
"No you're wrong.
There's a new one on tonight."
A moment later he heard a
car pull up, the front door open, his mother holler, "bye-bye,"
the door shut and the car pull away.
Jim sat on his bed and sighed.
The haze of cigarette smoke hung around him like a dense gloom.
The M.A.S.H. on at seven
o'clock he had indeed seen at least six times, but he laughed anyway.
At seven-thirty he turned the TV off, read a Sidney Sheldon novel for
a while, smoked a joint and ate some Stouffer's beef burgundy crepes
(which he was too impatient to let cool and scalded his mouth).
He watched the new M.A.S.H. at nine o'clock and laughed again, but subliminally
missed Radar. When it was over he found himself rather upset and
inexplicably on the verge of tears. He attempted reading again
but found that he was unable to comprehend the words and shut the book.
He smoked another joint, coughed until his throat hurt and got no higher
than he already was. He stubbed it out halfway and dropped it
back in the bag. The M.A.S.H. at eleven was one of his favorites,
unfortunately he was way too far gone into depression to laugh at it.
A headache began creeping over his scalp.
The phone rang and he jumped.
Taking a long breath and rolling his head around to try and ease the
tension, Jim answered it.
"Hi," said his mother
sounding incredibly happy, the din of a huge crowd in the background.
"You'll never guess where I am."
Her joyous tone descended
a notch. "What's wrong?"
She brightened up again.
Jim was stumped. "How'd you get there?"
"We walked. How
do you think we got here?"
Jim. "You and Frank O'Reilly?"
"Yeah," said his
mother getting a touch tongue-tied. "You see, ah... What
happened was, um... Frank and I got married."
Jim froze. "You
His mother tried again, more
serious this time. "We got married, Jim. What do you
Jim laughed humorlessly.
"What's the difference, you're already married."
"That's true," she
said a little hurt. "But I'd still like to know what you
"Sure," she said,
not really sure.
Jim lit a cigarette.
"I don't much care."
This seemed to sadden his
mother quite a bit. "That's not what I was hoping you'd say."
what was that?"
"I was hoping you might
be happy for me."
"All right. I'm
happy for you."
"No you're not."
said Jim. "I'm not."
"Well, then what are
you feeling?" Asked his mother getting slightly mad.
"I don't think anything
at all. I don't care. You wanna be married, you're married.
Have a good time in Las Vegas. Are you coming back?"
Now she was upset. "What
do you mean, am I coming back?"
Jim blew out a long stream
of smoke. "Nothing. Forget it."
"We'll be back the day
There was a moment's confusion
on his mother's end. "Wait a minute..." There
was a muffled question and a muffled response. "Jim?"
"Frank wants to talk
He cleared his throat.
"This is Frank O'Reilly."
Jim smashed out his cigarette.
"Look, Jim, you don't
have to call me dad."
"I know this is probably
a little sudden, but... that's how things work occasionally."
"Things'll work out just
terrific, you'll see. You and your mom'll move in with me and
MaryAnn and it'll be real nice. I've got a big house and a pool
and I just know you'll like it."
"I can't wait."
O'Reilly was at a loss for words. "I love your mother, Jim."
"I don't know, I have
a headache. You two have a good time and I'll see you day after
"We will. And you'll
see, everything'll work out just fine."
"Here's your mother..."
"Please don't be upset."
"I'm not. I just
have a headache."
"Well, take some aspirin
and go to sleep."
"I love you."
"I love you, too.
She hung up.
Jim held onto the receiver
for a moment in a daze, then dropped it in its cradle. He twisted
his head around to loosen it up and it replied with loud, sharp crack!
It was a chilly, gray day
in mid-October when Mr. and Mrs. Frank O'Reilly arrived home.
Jim picked them up at the airport and on the way back Frank outlined
the "new way."
"We'll just stop at your
place and pick up the things that you two consider vital and take those
with us. The rest the moving men will bring over tomorrow."
"Cheer up," smiled
Frank. "This is a new beginning for all of us."
Jim's mom smiled and nodded
in agreement. She looked a touch strained by the effort.
Jim's expression remained
The O'Reilly residence was
a sprawling, white, ultra-contemporary, box-like structure with an entire
wall of mirrored glass that faced a small lake. The other three
sides of the house were surrounded by acres of dense pine trees.
Their nearest neighbor was about a quarter of a mile away across the
At the farthest end of the
house, down a long, long hallway, was the kids' rooms. The master
bedroom was all the way at the other end of the house near the kitchen.
As Jim sat in his desolate,
huge bedroom, which was nearly the size of their old living room, he
stared out his window at the plastic-covered swimming pool. A
little lake of rain water had built in the tarp and was filled with
leaves that were presently rotting. Beyond the pool was the woods
with its few maples and birches barren, leafless and starkly accented
against the slate-gray sky.
Life continued as usual,
only now Jim had to get up an extra half hour early to get to school
on time. After school he would often times stop at shopping malls
and aimlessly wander, or sit in coffee shops and read. Anything
to prolong his return to "the mausoleum," as he thought of
When all three of them were
home at the same time an uneasiness seemed to weigh down on them like
a deathly pall. At first Jim attributed this to the fact that
he and Frank were strangers with no common ground. As time went
on, however, he came to realize that the uneasiness was present before
he ever arrived. Frank and his mother didn't seem to be hitting
it off too well. They weren't arguing or anything, at least not
that he heard, they just didn't seem to be communicating on the same
wave-length. The most apparent aspect of this was that they were
both continually saying "what?" to each other, like neither
was hearing what the other was saying. Jim stayed as far out of
it as possible and figured sooner or later they would get it together.
But as the winter weather
encroached and the rotten leaves and rain water in the pool-cover froze,
the newlywed O'Reillys seemed to grow further and further apart.
Richard, Jim's school chum,
dropped out of college, packed up his back pack and left for Nova Scotia,
where "it's a rough existence, but real." Had Richard
decided to go absolutely anywhere where it was warmer Jim would have
assuredly accompanied him. However, going anywhere where it was
colder than it already was seemed just plain crazy, no matter how "real"
it might be.
So now Jim had no friends.
He really did try being friendly
to the people in his classes, but nobody seemed interested in anything
more than perfunctory conversations. Anything more was simply
delaying them from where they had to go.
There was one cute girl in
Jim's English class whom he particularly enjoyed looking at, but she
wouldn't talk to him at all. She sounded like she hated him and
he didn't even know her. The pretty girls at the shopping malls
were always in pairs or groups that seemed totally self-contained and
assuredly not open to him.
His meager little existence
pulled in within itself. Just getting through his waking hours
was becoming more of a painful chore than he felt he could go on handling.
He now found himself smoking dope on his way to school, less than an
hour after waking up. By his second class he felt like going back
to sleep. Being at a community college this was not a problem,
since no one cared at all what anyone else did, so many times Jim would
lay his head in his arms and float off to where the pressure wasn't
quite so thick.
"Jim," said his
mother awakening him to the strangeness of his alien bedroom.
"I'm not hungry,"
mumbled Jim. "I'm gonna go back to sleep."
"You sleep far too much,"
scolded his mother. "Now come on, I cooked dinner."
She stood there until he sat
up, then turned and padded down the long, long hallway. Jim considered
falling back over when his stomach growled angrily and he realized that
he was actually hungry. He lethargically arose to his feet.
At least now that his mother wasn't dating anymore she had begun cooking
Frank grinned from the dinner
table. "Hi'ya, Jim. Taking a little nap?"
"No, I was meditating,"
grumbled Jim dropping into one of the chrome and leather kitchen chairs.
He fished around in his shirt pocket, removed a mashed package of cigarettes,
lit one and immediately coughed.
"You make smoking so
glamorous," said his mother. "I'm almost sorry I quit."
Jim pulled the crooked cigarette
from his mouth and blew a long stream of smoke up to the chrome light
fixture. It spiraled back down from the ceiling and hung there
As they ate their dinner the
oppressive pall hung around them like the smoke. It seemed to
suffocate the conversation out of them.
Jim into his plate.
His mother looked at him and
put down her fork. "You don't seem very happy."
"Yes, really. You
never go out anywhere, you never have anyone over. All you do
Jim chewed his food and stared
at his plate.
"Cheer up," decreed
Frank. "Things could be a lot worse."
Jim looked at him. "Oh
Frank thought for a moment.
"--Oh," cut in his
mother, just remembering something. "Frank and I have decided
to go away over Christmas. We're not sure where yet, Jamaica or
the Bahamas, but in either case, we both feel there are a few things
we should straighten out first."
"Like what?" asked
Jim getting pissed.
"Well," said Frank,
"if there's anywhere you'd like to go over the vacation with some
friends, or whatever, we'd be glad to pay for it."
"It'll be your Christmas
present," said his mom.
Jim tossed his fork into his
food and stood up. "What the fuck are you two talking about?
I don't know anyone to go anywhere with and there's no where I want
to go. If you two want to go somewhere, then go. I really
couldn't care less."
With that he left the kitchen
and headed back to his room. His mother called after him, but
he ignored her and she didn't follow.
"Great!" he spat
dropping onto the bed. "Now I get to rot in this fucking
hell-hole all by myself. Terrific!"
If it had simply been a pleasurable
romp in the sun the O'Reillys had been planning to go on, Jim's reaction
might have made them reconsider. Indeed they were having ample
problems of their own (Jim amongst them) and the reason for their trip
was more like therapy than pleasure. They felt that they just
needed a chance to get away and see they could straighten out their
own lives and relationship. While they were gone they hoped Jim
might do a little straightening out himself.
Before they left, Frank had
a subscription movie station installed in the TV hoping this might help
tide Jim over until their return. Unfortunately Jim didn't particularly
care. His gloom was becoming all pervasive.
As Jim sat at the kitchen
table drinking a beer and staring out the window at the darkened woods,
his mother and Frank were in their room busily packing. The phone
range, but Jim made no move to answer it -- it certainly wasn't for
Jim's mother answered from
her room and Jim listened without wanting to.
"Hello? . . . Oh, hi
MaryAnn, how're you? . . . Sure, he's right here."
Frank took the phone.
"Hi, baby, how ya doing? . . . Uh-huh, uh-huh, well look, one more
year and you'll be through. You can go to any college you want."
He listened for a moment. "We're leaving tomorrow, honey,
we won't be here. Jim'll be here." Another pause.
"Come on, don't be like that. You'll like him. We'll
be back before you leave, I'll see you then. . . . I love you, too,
Jim finished his beer and
On his way back from dropping
his mother and Frank at the airport, Jim stopped at one of the giant,
multi-leveled shopping malls. It being just a week before Christmas,
the place was mobbed. Why he had stopped there he didn't know,
he certainly had no friends to buy gifts for. As soon as he got
to the center of the mall and encountered all of the colorful decorations,
the line of children waiting to sit on Santa's lap and the vast number
of nubile young girls a flood of pain, despair, and horniness cashed
over him with overwhelming force and drove him back out into the snow.
He hurt so bad inside he almost couldn't breath.
He sat in the kitchen reading
until the sun began to set and the light became too dim to see the words.
He made a bologna sandwich on white bread and sat in the dark eating
Having finished his dinner,
Jim helped himself to a large glass of Chivas Regal from Frank's bar.
After a couple of big, face-twisting gulps he seated himself before
the television set and turned on the Subscription movies station.
A football game was on. He absolutely despised football and quickly
changed the station. Some old, inordinately colorful Rock Hudson
movie was on so he left it. Within a few minutes he'd finished
his drink and prepared another.
A cigarette dangling from
his mouth and drink in hand, he scrutinized the contents of his mother's
medicine cabinet. After a little search he found what he was looking
for -- the valiums; blue ones; his mother did not kid around.
He dumped two into his palm, slapped them into his mouth and washed
hem down with scotch.
Jim continued watching the
Rock Hudson movie and by the second commercial break he was floating.
Concentrating intensely, he de-seeded and de-sticked some pot and very
carefully rolled beautiful joint. This was one thing he was very
good at. He lit it up, made sure it was burning evenly and inhaled
deeply. By the third hit he was totaled, only instead of getting
mellower he was tensing up. Halfway through the joint his thoughts
were exploding like firecrackers and his head felt like it was full
of bees. He stubbed out the joint, but it was too late, he was
out of control. His palms went icy cold, he broke out in a sweat
and began to shake.
Staggering from the chair
he pressed himself to the wall and slid up the long, dark hallway to
the bathroom next to his room. Burning hot water pounding directly
into his face sounded like the only possible recourse.
Four sixteen year old girls
in a brand new little red Honda Accord pulled up in front of the house.
They were all laughing raucously as the girl driving, attired in a blue
down coat and space boots, got out. The girl on the passenger
side wearing a fur coat also got out. As the girl in blue opened
the trunk, the young lady in fur made a few wobbly, feeble attempts
at joining her, then rather gracefully slipped and fell.
"Are you okay?"
asked space boots, removing a suitcase from the trunk.
"I'm fine. I can't
stand up, but I'm fine."
"Perfect snow wear,"
said the other girl helping her up. "Four inch spike heels
with open toes. What if the car had broken down?"
She grinned drunkenly.
"Then you'd have gone out in your space boots and pushed us."
"That's what I love about
you, your sense of responsibility. We've got three hundred miles
to drive and ten minutes out of school you get plastered."
"We're out on leave into
the real world," said the young lady in spike heels. "It's
our job as good Christian soldiers to enjoy it."
They kissed and said goodbye.
Space boots got back into the driver's seat and as the gleaming new
Honda drove off, the wavering girl with the fur collar dragged her suitcase
to the front door and let herself in.
Inside the only light on was
the strangely shifting blues and grays of the television set.
This being her natural habitat, she reached out in the dark and flicked
on the hall light.
Fully illuminated she was
an astoundingly attractive girl: shoulder length, shaggy, blonde hair
which she wore brushed off her face except one lock over her left eye,
blue eyes the color of a clear summer sky, a pert little nose, clear,
healthy skin and a cock-eyed drunken grin on her lips. She hit
another switch and lit up the long hallway. With her suitcase
as ballast and leaning against the wall she made her way to her room.
As she passed his doorway,
Jim stood completely naked drying himself with a big yellow towel.
She got one step past the
door, stopped, gave her head a shake and came back.
Jim stood frozen wrapped in
the towel, his mouth agape.
She looked at him and squinted.
Jim grinned awkwardly.
"You must be MaryAnn." His brain was whirling again,
but it wasn't the booze. Could this be true? Could MaryAnn
O'Reilly actually be this beautiful?
MaryAnn leaned on the door
frame and smiled. "I can't believe it. From the way
I heard it I thought you were gonna be some fat horrible creep reject
at the community college."
Jim. "I'll bet you say that to all the guys."
MaryAnn laughed and Jim felt
himself getting hard. As she tossed her fur coat off onto the
suitcase beside her, Jim got his first look at her svelte, young, nearly
flat-chested, athletic body in tight jeans and a T-shirt.
Jim hastily sat down on the
bed and let he towel bunch up on his lap. MaryAnn swayed around
in the doorway, blinked several times and shook her head.
"I think I have to sit
Jim smoothed the sheet beside
him. "Make yourself at home."
Her gorgeous lips parted in
a little laugh. "Thanks, I will."
She sat down right next to
him on the edge of his towel. Jim got his first close look at
her, then looked down at his towel, then looked up and laughed.
"What are you laughing
"Come on," she said
moving closer, edging the towel from his lap.
Jim shook his head.
"I just, uh..."
"It's just, I thought
you were gonna be a nun?"
"A nun?" MaryAnn
was incredulous. "I don't even like looking at nuns, and
Lord knows I get enough of that." She stopped and looked
him in the eyes. Their faces were very close. "I thought
you were going to be an ugly reject."
Jim shrugged. "I
"You don't look like
one. You're handsome."
They both smiled, then moved
together and kissed for a long sensuous moment, their hands in their
MaryAnn stood up, kicked off
her shoes, unzipped her jeans and wriggled out of them.
"So, brother Jim, what
do you think of the situation that is presently occurring?"
Jim stared mesmerized as she
shimmied out of her bikini underwear. He was overcome with ecstatic
stupidity. "I guess I must be in heaven."
Having removed her T-shirt,
revealing incredibly cute, rosy little nipples, MaryAnn eased the towel
from Jim's lap. He placed his hands on her waist and pulled her
to him. They both fell rollicking back on the bed.