If any of you out there have read, or are actually a fan, of my two novels The Librarian and Wine Clerk…well…then I guess I have a treat for you. I’m currently working on a third installment of the Rand Wyndham saga (I’m kidding…it’s not called a saga…assholes call things sagas) entitled The Poet. The book takes place when DOUCHE MOTHERFUCKER was still running for president and hadn’t yet brought his highchair antics to official government. What I’m posting today is what is currently Chapter Twenty Three in a rough draft version of the novel that I have going. For those of you who like Rand…enjoy…for the uninitiated…hope you enjoy. For those of you who hate Rand…na na na na……
The blizzard came. It was this record two-foot storm that blew in on a Friday evening, and killed everyone’s weekend. It was the biggest snowstorm in decades; the biggest snowstorm during the warmest winter on record. Even so the orange-faced billionaire and other republicans were using the blizzard to claim that climate change was a hoax. Airports were closed. Roads were blocked. Emergency vehicles only. We waited for the frogs to fall from the sky, and the political spin to make snow angels. All I knew was that it had been sixty degrees at the beginning of January, and three weeks later we were freezing our asses off and buried under two-feet of snow.
The goddamned boiler in my shithole building had burst the day of the storm. I woke up to no heat and no hot water, and the snow and wind duking it out for supremacy out my window. Larissa was staying with me because waiting out the blizzard at my place had initially seemed a better option than the two of us being stuck in all weekend with Millicent Xiao, her bat shit roommate. Then that boiler shit happened. And it had gotten so cold, so fast; we couldn’t even fuck it was so cold. We couldn’t shower lest we be submitting ourselves to some kind of ancient torture. At least we had food and strong drink, which I was taking medicinally during the course of our horror. Booze warmed me up. It fortified me. I wasn’t so sure I could say the same for Larissa.
“How are you even out of bed?” she asked me from the warm tangle of sheets. I was sitting at the machine trying to get some writing done in the cold. Three pairs of socks and the hardwood floor was still numbing my feet. I could see my breath inside. I was still stuck on the line I had a sick feeling in my stomach.
“I’m a sadist by nature,” I said. “Hence my fascination with your dildo collection.”
“Ow.” I looked back and Larissa was holding her head. She looked pale in the soft, yellow glow of the small bedside lamp. “I meant how are you even out of bed with what you drank last night.”
“Any morning I’m not leaning over the shitter I consider a victory and an opportunity not to be squandered.”
“Why do you drink so much?”
I shrugged. “Maybe I’m scared shitless of something. Or I can’t face the truth. Most likely I’m your run-of-the-mill weak degenerate who falls into any habit to pass the time, and I don’t like crossword puzzles or chess.”
Her mouth made that familiar bubble. Larissa sprang from my bed and bolted for the door. She barely hit the bathroom light and flipped the toilet lid, before she was face in and expelling those demons into the ice cold water. “God,” she said, after a few rounds of vomit and a hearty flush. “Why don’t you ever flush!”
I was a yellow let it mellow kind of guy in a world full of water wasters. Still I should’ve showed decorum. I got up from my chair. Fuck writing anyway. I went into the bathroom and Larissa was on the floor clutching the bowl, her jet black hair all in her face. She was dressed in black pajamas and that hooded hot pink sweatshirt with the skull and crossbones. I felt terrible for her.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
“Does it look like it?” The she rose and hurled into the bowl, motioning for me to get the hell out of the bathroom. I stood in the hallway with the door half shut, feeling like a fucking creep. “So cold,” Larissa finally said. Then she flushed.
“Can I come in?” I opened the door without her responding and found the poor girl fetal on my bathroom floor. I wished I’d had the foresight to mop it. But what people didn’t know about home décor didn’t hurt them. “Get you a glass of water?”
“How much did we drink?” she asked.
“The usual trapped in a freezing apartment during a blizzard amount.”
“I can’t.” Larissa rolled on her back. “Rand, I seriously can’t keep doing this.”
She held out her arms and I pulled her up from the bathroom floor. She was an intoxicating blend of morning breath, vomit, cheap Chilean wine, and whatever that vegan chili she’d made had been full of. I walked her into the living room, which had become a cold, dark shell with that boiler being out. The coffee table was a landscape of remote controls, books, wine bottles, dirty wine glasses, and receipts I’d been too lazy to toss. All of our blankets were still on the couch. Larissa crawled in on her side, and I covered her up with everything. She still shivered.
She had strength enough to turn on the television to one of the 24/7 news networks that she was hooked on. The orange-faced billionaire was on the screen. He was bloviating about Mexicans or Muslims or The Blacks, as he called them. It was hard to tell. The hate permeated the cold room. America felt like it was ending outside and on the television. I didn’t like the country, but I didn’t want to see it go out like this. Good Christ, I thought. I might actually vote. That orange-faced fuckwad had made yours truly a patriot.
“This monster is going to make me sick again,” Larissa said. “How can people follow this guy? He’s like listening to Hitler…and maybe that’s not even fair.”
“I hate to tell you,” I said. I pointed at the television where the orange-faced baboon was mocking a crippled reporter. “That’s your next president.”
“He can’t be.” Larissa lifted her head to glare at him then promptly put it back down. “He’s got no chance.”
“That orange-faced ghoul is the perfect American.” I watched him shouting on the TV. “He’s boorish, he’s willfully ignorant, he’s sexist, racist and xenophobic, which is quite the hat trick by the way, and he’s wealthy. Americans love the wealthy. What was it that Steinbeck said…”
“I’ll move to Canada,” Larissa said.
“You ever been to Toronto? It’s like New York if you take all of the fun and excitement out of it.”
“What will be left here?”
“Riots,” I said. “Bloodshed. The Constitution in tatters. I sat down on the couch and Larissa put her legs on my lap. Intimacy was so easy for her sometimes. “He’s got as much of a chance as the rest of those GOP domestic terrorists. Plus they keep giving him all of this news coverage because of that reality show he was on. Americans are inherently stupid. And they like tough talkers. We’re just seeing the Republican end on this. Wait until the average voter decides. Democrats are just a dumb. They’re pouty. If they don’t get their candidate they’ll stay home…and this asshole will win.”
“Independent voters will never buy this,” Larissa said.
“I was an independent voter,” I said. “I used to think that meant independent of thought. A kind of liberated political spiritualism. But really it just means being a confused, thumb-sucking jack-off with no real moral fiber. We’re headed toward a cliff, kid. Best pack a parachute.”
“Ow.” She held her head. On the TV the orange-face demagogue continued to rant about making America great again. He had no ideas. He had no solutions. He made no sense. He sounded like most of the poets that I knew. Yet his crowd hooted and hollered like he was the second coming. “I can’t watch this.” Larissa shut off the TV and we were mostly in the dark. I turned on a lamp. Outside that demon beast’s dog bark echoed through walls and windows. “And, again, I seriously, like literally, can’t keep drinking like this.”
“Then stop doing it.”
“You enable me,” Larissa said. “I swear when I think of you you’re always like pouring something.”
“Life is hard,” I said.
“You’re a librarian.”
“Each person has their own hell. And I’m not forcing the poison down your throat. You see you’re young you don’t get it. It doesn’t matter the job. What wears you down is the repetition, the sameness; the act of doing the same thing day in and day out. You’ll see when you’re my age.”
“Rand, I’m thirty-eight.”
“What? I thought you were in your twenties.”
“What made you think that?”
“Um.” I had no good answer. “The hair dye?”
Larissa kicked her legs off of me and got more fetal. Then she started crying. “I had things I wanted to do this morning. And I have to teach this afternoon…if the trains are running again.”
“You’ll feel better by then.”
She looked up at me. “That’s not the point, Rand? The point is, blizzard or no blizzard, all we do is spend the weekends drinking. We don’t go out. Not to movies. Or dinner. Mackenzie and Jackson and everyone went out to celebrate his book and what did we do? We went home to freeze.”
“What sort of madmen go drinking when there’s a blizzard warning?” I asked. It was all well and good if Larissa didn’t want to drink. But this was starting to feel like a character assassination. It was too early in the morning for a character assassination. I always scheduled my character assassinations for the late afternoon, or when I knew I’d see Mackenzie and Jackson.
“Friends do things for friends,” Larissa said.
“Up until a few years ago I was a touch fuzzy on friend protocol,” I said.
She gave me a sarcastic look. “You never had friends?”
“I follow the golden rule. I do unto others as I want done to me.”
“And that is?”
“I leave people the hell alone.” Larissa gave me a disgusted sigh. “So what’s your solution?”
“Maybe dinner out?” she said. Larissa sat up on the couch. She didn’t seem so sick at that moment. “Maybe…” But then Def Leppard rained down on us from the apartment above. “Is that Pour Some Sugar on Me?”
“I think so,” I said.
I got up from the couch and headed back toward the bedroom. As expected Chico and Molly were performing the morning ritual upstairs and their next door neighbor, Gerhardt, had found his usual way to join in. At least they’d found some way to keep warm. Chico and Molly and Gerhardt were making America great again in their own way. Loud music and fucking. It was a typical morning for yours truly. But Larissa had never experienced it. By some grace of God the few times she’d stayed with me the heathens in the building had been quiet. At least the noise had tabled our conversation. I didn’t want to hear about what a bad boyfriend I was on top of being an incorrigible drunk. On cue that fucking dog barked from across the street. I had a sip on my cold coffee and toggled my computer mouse. I had a sick feeling in my stomach was still glaring back at me. I finally deleted it.
When I got back to the living room Larissa was pacing, wobbling really, and holding her head. “How do you live like this?” she said.
“Wall punching and ceiling smacking,” I said. “You see I got this Bobby Bonilla baseball that I like to…”
“No wonder you don’t get anything done.” She continued pacing. Admittedly the music was loud and bad. The fucking in the bedroom equally an abomination. But they did stop. Life at casa de Rand wasn’t a noise-fest all the time. “I like can’t even deal with this.”
“I hate Def Leppard too,” I said. “Back when all of those white kids were listening to hair metal I was a rap and R&B man myself.”
“The noise, Rand,” Larissa said. She clutched her chest. “I have that one guy upstairs, and Millicent isn’t a mute…but it’s not like this.”
“Why don’t you sit down and I’ll get you some tea,” I said.
“Stop trying to ply me with beverages.”
“Hey, I do what I’m best at.”
Larissa sat on the couch. She looked like she was going to cry again, and I wanted to avoid that at all costs. I hated when women cried. I hated when they cried over me. I wouldn’t mind it so much if a woman cried over me because I was a grand lover departing, or because I was so benevolent and sweet in my gestures. But women usually cried around me because I was a fuck-up. I made them drink too much. Or I insulted their character. We didn’t go to movies or to parties. And I didn’t do these things on purpose. They just happened. Would if I could I’d take Larissa to more dinners and to parties. I’d take back every gratuitous drink Larissa had the other night and pour them down my gullet. I’d sacrifice myself to the porcelain God to save her the misery.
Larissa got up from the couch and started gathering her shit. Her shoes and coat anyway. The orange-face demagogue was still on TV pointing and shouting. He looked like he was going to blow a blood vessel. He might as well have been in my apartment for all his bluster. “Are you leaving?”
“I’m going outside for a smoke,” she said. “And to kill that dog across the street.” She shook her head. “Did you know that last night was the first time you said you loved me?”
“When?” I said.
Larissa went out the door. Well…shit, I thought. Our first fight. I sat on the couch. It smelled like a weekend held captive. I shut the television off and just kind of sat in the moody, amber lamp light. America was waking up. Voices were passing on the street, and people were shoveling the snow they hadn’t gotten to the previous days before. A car alarm sounded. Boats moaned from the estuary. That dog barked again. Obviously Larissa had spared its life.
I turned on the radio. The classical station was playing B’s Egmont Overture. It was too serious for the morning, but one never shut Beethoven off. The Beethoven ended, and the morning news came on. One hundred people murdered in Syria. There was death in Yemen. The blizzard had killed thirty people. Forty-five people, twenty of them kids, died in a capsized boat off the coast of Greece. Refugees were being attacked by right-wing groups all over Europe. The orange-faced billionaire running for president of the United States came on the air saying he could shoot someone on the street and not lose the nomination. He said authoritarianism was good. That was when I shut the radio off, and waited for Larissa to come back in absolute silence.
When she opened the door she just glared at me. A subtle hate was forming in her eyes. I couldn’t handle hate. Not Larissa’s, not anyone’s. I just wanted to feel warm. “I think we should think about moving in together,” I said.
“Oh Rand,” Larissa said. She shook her head. Then she walked down my hallway and shut the door to my bedroom.
So…I wasn’t an ideas man. Sue me.