short fiction by Ken Goldstein
Four quick taps of the drumsticks and it gets started. The power chords start pumping and you know that you're alive, and that you survived both high school and the nineteen-seventies. Rock and Roll is back, the eighties are going to be your decade, and you're going to be slam dancing on disco's grave.
Fly's driving us around Santa Barbara in his '74 Pinto and we had just put the first Pretenders album into the cassette player. Fly's roommate, Weed, is riding shotgun and I'm in the back with Weed's sister, Lena. We're listening to Chrissie Hynde singing about being too precious, and when the line we've been waiting for comes up we all shout along with her, "Fuck off!"
Lena gives me a shy little look and a giggle while twirling her long blonde hair between her fingers, and I know that I'm in love. Well, maybe it's just lust, but at nineteen it's hard to tell the difference. I look into her powder blue eyes and smile back at her. She keeps her hands to herself, but slides her bare foot over to my side of the seat and rubs the back of my calf, down below where her brother can see.
Fly's let me know that Lena has been hot for me ever since I met her on my last visit, but he's warned me against taking it too far. First of all, he thinks she's a spoiled little user.
Second, he doesn't want to piss off Weed, who still sees Lena as a small child in need of protection. Fly's told me of at least one guy who received a well-earned pounding from Weed for implying that she might be a good lay.
Third, as they say, and Fly's repeatedly reminded me, "Seventeen will get you twenty."
All that makes sense, I tell him, but then I look at her hot little body there, tightly wrapped in a Ramones t-shirt and Jordache Jeans, and I know my life won't be complete until I've had sex with her. Besides; she's already into me. I won't have to work too hard for this one at all. How can I just walk away from something that could be so easy and looks so good? She's the one dream that's actually within reach. The one goal I may be able to score - no pun intended.
See, the best thing about Lena is that she's impressed by my job. I mean, there are lots of hot girls down in L.A. - thousands of them - but they just make me feel like a loser, 'cause they know what a joke my job really is. But here's a hot young girl who thinks I'm really "in" Hollywood. Yeah, that's the "user" part that Fly's always on about.
"John, dude. She's just hoping you'll introduce her to some movie stars, man. That's who she really wants," he's said to me repeatedly, pushing his long, dirty brown hair away from his face. That's how you know when he's being serious; he thinks that his words bear more authority when he's not talking through hair. Introduce her to movie stars. Right. Like that's a real possibility.
Regardless of his feelings on the subject, Fly's my friend, and so he's reluctantly agreed to set this thing up where we'd offer to pick Lena up from school and take her back to their apartment to hang out for a few hours. Fly says he's hoping that when I see what a silly little high school twit she is I'll get over her in time to go out and meet some college women at the party later tonight. "Dude," he says, "they're so much more intelligent, mature, and interesting than anything you'll find going back to high school."
"Fly, man," I reply, "they're such pseudo-intellectual, pretentious bitches." And they don't have asses that can compete with Lena's, I think to myself.
Weed's oblivious to the whole plan, as he is about most things that don't directly affect him. Weed's suffered a bit from sampling too much of his own product. Yeah, Weed's named for the demon weed, marijuana, which he's quite adept at growing in closets, attics, crawl spaces, and the like.
Weed and Lena's mother thinks we call him Weed as a good natured joke about his considerable size, which is anything but weed-like. Irony, however, has nothing to do with Weed's name. No. It's just that he's a well-renowned pot grower and dealer.
Weed's friends all call his mom "Mrs. Cleaver," which she thinks is a compliment, which only makes the name all the more appropriate. You can't go in or out of the house without her attempting to have a chat with you, and win you over with how unbelievably nice she is. She's even taken to calling her son Weed, like she's in on the joke. You can just picture their father coming home in the evening and her walking up to him and saying, "Ward, I'm worried about the Weed."
Fly got his name from the time when we were nine and he put on his Superman cape and tried to fly off the roof of my garage. Now, Fly is meant to be ironic. But Weed is not.
In fact, if anybody looks like a weed, it has to be Fly, who's nearly six feet tall but never weighed an ounce over 120 in his life. Together, Weed and Fly look like a stoned out, modern version of Laurel and Hardy, which they capitalize on at every opportunity. Good humor and good dope being the only things that they have going for them in terms of attracting women.
I'm just John; no nicknames yet. I guess there haven't been any significant enough events in my life to warrant a renaming. Nothing that stands out in terms of actions or personality traits that demands the constant recognition a nickname would give it. That's my story so far; all dream but no scheme. The ideas and the little things are all there, I just haven't gotten down the follow-through.
We pull up to their apartment and go inside where we turn up the latest Kinks record ("Low Budget" - something we all can relate to), open a few drinks (beer for the guys, cola for Lena since Weed is around), and tear into a bag of chips. After a few minutes Lena gets around to asking me what celebrities I've met recently at work.
I love that she gives me the opportunity to talk about my job at the studio as if it was really something. In truth, I'm not even a fucking tour guide. I'm in concessions. After the tourists have ridden past the Psycho House on the tram, I get to sell them a soda or an ice-cream sandwich while their little brats play on the giant telephone.
I sit in my little booth for hours, selling snacks and writing screenplays in my head. I know that someday I'll be a big-shot on this lot, but I can't figure out how to get from here to the bungalows. I daydream and make plans and put hot dogs in the microwave. Sometimes an actor or actress, in need of some good public relations, or just totally wasted and unsure where the hell they are, will stop by to sign a few autographs and talk with the tourists.
I tell it like they're stopping by to see me, and the autographs are just incidental to their purpose. Lena's enraptured when I speak of Lee Majors. Fly scratches his forehead with his middle finger while giving me the "oh, please" look. He asks Weed if he's got the assignment for their horticulture class and the two of them disappear into the back bedroom.
"Horticulture, my ass," says Lena. "Weed's such a damned hypocrite. He's selling the stuff to half of my friends, yet he tiptoes around me like I've never even heard of pot. And now he's got poor Fly doing the same thing!"
"Do you want me to go bring them back in here to share it?"
"No," she says, real quiet, reaching for my beer. "I don't need any." Then she bites her lower lip before taking a long hard draw from my bottle. She puts the bottle down, arches her back in her best Lolita pose, and looks up at me like that's my cue, adding, "Besides, I'm glad they left us alone."
I move in and we start making out really wet and sloppy, with tongues and lips all knotted together. Her hands are around my back and shoulders while mine are moving lower. When I have her ass cupped in my hands she moans a little, and wraps her legs tightly around my thigh. She starts moving around like she's humping my leg, and I move one hand off of her ass and onto her stomach.
I look down and see her nipples pressing through the fabric of her Ramones t-shirt. One right between Joey and Johny, and one just above Marky. I slide my hand under the shirt and push Marky out of the way to fondle her right breast. It's small, but lovely; all nipple and firm.
I'm about to lift her shirt to have a taste when we hear voices approaching and I spring off of her back to the other side of the couch.
Weed is all in a panic because he forgot that he has a biology exam this afternoon. He grabs his backpack and is halfway out the door when he remembers about his sister and asks Fly if it's not too much trouble for us to get Lena home.
I answer, a little too eagerly, that it's no problem at all. Then Weed is out the door and it's just the three of us.
"Did you enjoy your little time together?" Fly asks in a smug tone to neither of us in particular.
This time it's Lena who's eager to answer, "If you'd come in a second later you would have had quite a show."
She gets up and walks around to the refrigerator, behind Fly's back, but where I can still see her. She makes sure I'm examining her full five-foot-two frame then pulls her shirt up to give me a good flash of her firm stomach and pert breasts and I just about cum in my pants.
Fly must catch the expression on my face because he's turning around to see what I'm looking at, but by the time he's facing the right direction she's dressed and reaching into the fridge for another soda.
"I think we'd better be getting Lena home now," Fly says, again to the room, not looking directly at either one of us.
Begrudgingly, I agree. "Gabba, gabba hey," I say. "Let's go."
In the car Fly is definitely trying to spoil my mood. I don't know if he's still concerned about Lena and Weed in particular, or if he's just jealous 'cause I might be getting some, but he asks how my parents are doing.
Shit. I come up to Santa Barbara when I have a couple of days off to get away from my damn parents. And away from the damn job. My job that's the second lowest position in show biz. Only the guy who shovels up the elephant's shit at the circus is lower than I am, as my father reminds me at least once a week.
I tell Fly that they're still after me about it not being too late to go to college. That if I really intend to be a director, that college is a clearer path to directing than concessions.
Fly actually takes their side of it, saying, "Dude; parties all the time. No responsibilities. Lots of girls looking to get laid, sorry Lena." She pouts as he continues, "And your parents willing to foot the bill for it all. Think about it, man."
Yeah, I've thought about it. And in some sense I know that my suck-ass job isn't going to lead to anything other than more suck-ass jobs. But still, I resist. Maybe I'm not sure if I can hack college, or maybe I'm just trying to sound like I'm too good for college to try and impress Lena. Or maybe I just feel that there's something bigger than college that I've got to do first, if I could just think of what it is.
So I blow it off with the joke about the dude with the one job lower than mine; the guy who cleans up the elephant shit at the circus. He's always complaining to his friends about the stink and the mess and the lack of respect, so his friends tell him that if he doesn't like working with elephant shit he should quit his job. "What," he says. "And give up show biz?"
And that ends the conversation about my parents. My parents, with whom I still live because who the hell can afford an apartment in L.A. on a concessionaires salary? Besides, I'm saving up to cover the production costs of my brilliant independent short film I'm going to make next year. If I can get the script, any script, ready by then.
We get to Lena's house and I offer to walk her in. Fly offers to wait in the Pinto. He's had enough of us and enough of playing chaperone.
We get in the house and we're alone. A note from her mother says that she's out shopping, so Lena leads me towards her room. We're standing in the doorway when she asks, "So, where were we?"
"I think we were right about here," I say as I pull up her shirt and hold onto a bare breast in each hand. She leans back against the door and opens her perfect mouth for me to kiss. We're like that for a minute or two when I realize that she's got one hand unbuckling my belt and sliding down my zipper. Her hand is working on me through my underwear when she grabs on and pulls me into her room by my dick.
When we're standing directly beside her bed she lets go of my quite ready member and quickly undresses. I follow her, tossing everything aside. She lies back on the bed with her legs spread apart and her knees up so I can finally view everything, my goal in sight. She takes my hands and pulls me down on top of her.
We make out like that for a few minutes more, just rubbing together, when she reaches down and guides me inside her. It's a glorious feeling as we move our two bodies as one to the beat of some distant music. Finally we explode together and I roll off her covered in sweat.
Lena looks at me and smiles and I think she's about to say something romantic, like it was her first time, or at least something exciting like, let's go again. But what she says is, "You'd better get out of here before my mother comes home."
I get dressed and she just pulls on her t-shirt and panties. We kiss for the last time at the door, and a second later I'm back in the Pinto with Fly.
He looks at his watch and says, "Twenty minutes. Some goodbye kiss. All I can say is I hope you got her out of your system. I'm not even going to ask if you used any damn protection."
I don't say a word. What could I say? "Mission accomplished. One goal crossed off my list." I don't have anything to say, or even know what to do now. One thing I do know is that he was right. It's already over with Lena. I can't find the words to tell him how it's just another hollow victory that gets me no closer to my real goals; a distraction to momentarily kill the pain of not knowing where I'm going. So I don't talk. I just put in side two of the Pretenders tape we'd started earlier.
Fly drives us out to a remote road overlooking an ocean cove north of Goleta. He parks the car and sparks up a joint. Some of Weed's finest namesake fills our lungs and our minds. We sit and smoke and listen to the Pretenders while watching the sun start to go down over the water and life is just about perfect.
The last track on the tape, "Mystery Achievement," comes on and we each agree that it's our favorite and he turns the volume up as high as it will go. We get lost in the song and there's no more parents, or girlfriends, or universities, or dead end jobs, or restlessness, or undefined ambition; there's just the here and now and we're singing along with everything we've got.
Halfway through the song the last verse ends and the instrumental break begins. The Pinto is shaking as we act out the call and response of dashboard drum solo and air guitar power chords, all played against the ruthless rhythm of the bass. The jam builds to a crescendo and you feel as if nineteen is going to last forever 'cause you're kicking back, smoking a J with your best friend. You just got laid and it's fucking California, man.
Then Chrissie Hynde comes back in with a final chorus full of angst and you want to hold onto this last moment before the sun goes down beyond the horizon. You want to capture it somehow so you can take it out and hold it whenever you like, or whenever you need. At least until you can figure it all out. Then, exactly five minutes and twenty-three seconds after it all began, it comes to an abrupt end.
© copyright by Ken Goldstein