Dan Morey lives in Erie, PA where he relentlessly pursues the longnose gar, great northern pike and mighty bowfin in the weedy waters of Presque...read more Isle Bay. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Splitsider, Giant Robot and Sein und Werden. Find him at danmorey.weebly.com.
But that's all the further I can get. The next line won't come. I tried it with a salty sea accent and a catchy “Oh,” like this: “Oh...what shall we do with a drunken sailor, what shall we do with a drunken sailor, what shall we do with a drunken sailor.” But I still blow it. I stall, I die, I crap out right there every time. What shall we do with a drunken sailor? I've only heard it, sung it, seen it sung in movies, like, what, eighty billion times, and yet, and yet, and yet...WHAT SHALL WE DO?
That part must've got outside my head because they’re turning around to look at me. Both of them. Even though someone is supposed to be driving. The one with the blue hair. The girl one. The classic girl. The classic twit. Supposedly very creative. Writes stories all the time. A regular Little Woman. Jo March with Ty-D-Bol hair. Still blue after forty flushes. Probably paints and plays piano and sings too. Amy March driving an IROC. Cruising along, scrutinizing her tragically flat nose in the rear-view mirror, sucking on a lime. And they're still gawking at me. Well, what do they want? What can I give them? What have they done for me lately? Shall we talk about the times? Prance around like mimes? Make up hokey rhymes? What? What is it? Am I naked? Maybe I'm naked. But how interesting is that? I wouldn't sit there and stare at some naked guy for an hour. Or two hours. Or however long they've been watching me and not the road where the car is driving.
That's a voice. His voice. The silent one. The stony one. The one who has reduced his vocabulary to the barest of bare of essentials, namely the words “dude” and “fuck,” in all their infinite combinations. Dude, fuck. Fuck, dude. Fuckin’ dude. Dude! Fuck! Etc. Other than that he is generally silent. And not silent in the brooding sense, the Romantic sense. Silent in the plain dumb sense. The beaten senseless with a croquet mallet at a young age sense. Once he took this very same blue-haired girl (though then she had orange hair) into Walden Woods. When they came out he put his finger under my nose and said, “Smell that, dude.” I hate this guy, this Cory. This Corky. He has a face like a Chinese girl, with a little scar on his left cheek, and all the suburban girls, all the blue-orange-red-green-purple-haired morons love it and want to lick it. And while they’re licking his face they take his hand and put it down their jeans where things are pierced and let him fumble around, let him go on a crazy clamdigging frenzy, after which he runs back and puts a long, bony, half-oriental finger under the very first nose he sees. My nose. What a pecker.
“Dude,” he's saying. “Dude. What did I do with what? The lighter?”
I say: “Shall. What I said was shall. What shall we do. What shall we do with a drunken sailor.”
“A sailor?” he says.
“You wanna know what I did with a sailor?”
“I can guess what you did with a sailor.”
Bluehead is laughing. Not driving. Laughing. And looking at me.
“Remember when you guys used to call Jack Gilley the gay sailor?” she says. “Why'd you guys call him that, anyway?”
“You’re no Jo March,” I say. “You’re no Little Woman.”
“Dude, don’t start that Little Women shit again,” says Cory.
“Little Women was written right down the road at Orchard House. It’s part of our cultural heritage.”
“Fuck Little Women,” says Cory. “And fuck Concord. This place sucks.”
“WHY DID YOU GUYS CALL JACK GILLEY THE GAY SAILOR?” says Bluetits.
And I can’t. I haven't the faintest idea why we used to call Jack Gilley the gay sailor.
“Dude,” says Cory. “Take some more of these.”
He holds out the communal pillbox and dumps a bunch of little white discs in my palm.
“It'll happen, dude,” he says. “Your hair will go. You’ll think it’s standing on end.”
This Cory, I know he hates me. The last time I was in the IROC I ruined the floor mats with vomit, with James B. Beam. Bluehair rolled me into a ditch where I reportedly stood up and removed my clothing beneath a highway underpass. I said, allegedly, that this was the best way to get a ride home, since people are apt to pick up sexy nude hitchhikers at night. But no one picked me up. Instead I got back in the IROC and said horrible things to Cory, like he was silent and stupid and terminally stupid and Chinese-girlish, and somewhere in all that I even managed to address him as Corky, which a lot of us call him, but never to his face. It was one thing to call someone a mute and stupid and terminally stupid Asian girl, but turning his name into the retarded kid from TV was too much. I can still remember the silence after I said that Corky. And now here we are. Doing it all over again. And him smiling. And talking more than usual. And giving me pills, even though he hates me. He's probably poisoning me. I would poison me.
“Listen,” I say. “Listen Cory.”
“Huh?” he says.
“I didn't mean it.”
I look into his watery, greygreen eyes and tell him again that I didn't mean it. Man. I didn't mean it, man. And he laughs. He laughs so hard that pot smoke comes out his nose. I laugh too, and we tap bottles and then I ask Bluebrow who the hell is driving the car if she isn't. And she's like, “Driving? We've been parked for half an hour.” Parked? Ah. Like sand through the hourglass. These are the days of our lives. I ask where we are, and they tell me the school. For some reason this makes me want to sing again:
Well goddamn, now he's slapping me. The good old great old Corkster old sportster is gently slapping the cheeks. What's that? I was out? Napping? Really? Oh well. Okay, then. Uh huh. He apparently wants me to excuse myself, to do the old skeedaddle for a while, so he can get his rumpus on. All right. Okay. I'm a good chap, I know a nudge nudge when I get one. Us guys stick together, help each other out with the ladies, yes we do. Good old Cork has given me the signal—a little wink, a little nudge, that's all I need. Okay. All right. I'm up. No, no, just open the door. There. Gimme some beers now. Okay. Yeah, yeah. Honk when you’re finished.
Gravel. Parking lot. Cars. A little late for cars, no? There go the legs. Wow. This'll do, I guess. Pretty close to the curb, anyway. Still warm out. Sixty degrees in December. Good old global warming. A man can work up quite a thirst in this balmy weather. Come here, you. Yes you. Twisteroo. Foam. What'll you have? Pabst Blue Ribbon beer! If I were a sailor, I'd take about fifteen cases of Pabst with me. Yo, ho, ho, the wind blows free. Oh, for the life on the rolling sea. Hey. Hey, hey, hey, hey, HEY. Wait a minute. Sailor. Gay sailor! Of course! That was the day. The day. Gilley was there. Get up. Up, up, up. Okay. Gravel. Gravel. IROC? Where's the IROC? Ah, IROC. IROC Z. Zeee.
“Hey, Cory!” I say, and knock on the foggy glass. “Cory! Dude!”
He rolls the widow down a crack.
“What the fuck, dude,” he says, apprehensively, shifting his eyes around.
“No,” I say. “Don't worry. I just remembered.”
Now he looks mad.
“What the fuck, dude?”
“I remembered about Jack Gilley. About the gay sailor. It was when we were in this porno shop on Mass Ave, and Jack's looking at this video called Rear and Pleasant Danger, and there's these two lesbians in there, and this fat guy in, like, a sailor suit. So all of a sudden this fatso lets out the wickedest fart you ever heard, and I'm seeing things, weird things, like my ears are floating around the room and—”
Oh. All right. Don't have to tell me twice. I'm going, going, gone. Gravel. More gravel. Fuck that. That’s not right. It's not human. You don't just send your friends away. Though maybe we aren’t friends anymore. Maybe all that’s over. What a sad old feeling. I feel right now the way I’ll feel years and years down the road when Cory is just another sleepy-eyed, half-Chinese-faced blur, when I won't know where he lives, what he does, or if he's married. If he bowls or throws darts. If he drinks or goes to AA. Is he bald? Is he fat? Can he fix a leak, or does he call the plumber? Maybe he is the plumber. Maybe he’s dead. And I’m far away. On shore leave.
It’s just like Little Women. Jo March knew the sad old feeling. She knew it early, like me. The very first time Meg smiled and blushed at John Brooke, Jo felt it. She saw a shadowy figure in a wedding gown, married, and no longer a March. Jo knew. She knew when she came back from New York, and saw something immortal shining through Beth's pale face. Everything was dissolving, and she was sad. We were all sad. We are all sad, sad, achingly sad people. Wanted to tell Cory, though. Wanted to tell him about the day with Jack. That there are moments, and that we must treasure them, because someday we will all be somewhere else.
And here I am drinking alone. Though I've always liked people who drink alone. The problem is meeting them. Ha! A bit of mirth! Cork is not gone. Not yet. He's right there in that heaving automobile. There can, there will, be more moments. Utopian moments. Ah, yes, old Cork. Not yet a plumber. Not yet a bowler. Not yet moldering beneath grass and grave in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. And pretty damn smooth for a mute, that Cork, that rough old wine-soaked cork.
What the? Hello. I know you. This park-ed car I know. Becky. Becky Moyer. Yes. Probably on an overnight of some sort. Out of town with the U.N. club maybe. And what’s this? A junior delegate too giddy with world progress to lock her car? I wonder what’s inside. Well, well, well, oh great, grand Corkopolis, this, I believe, has the makings of a moment. A genuine, immortal moment.
The IROC honks. I return, Moyer garage opener in hand.
“What the hell are you gonna do with that?” says Bluehead.
“Open their garage door, what the fuck do you think?” says Cory.
Well said, Corkus Maximus. My brain is better now. I’m on a mission. We’re creating a moment. I tell Bluebeard to drive to Becky Moyer's house, and she goes there and I point the thing out the window and press the button and sure enough, up rises the garage door. We laugh and drive around the block and when we come back Mrs. Moyer is standing in the driveway looking like someone stuck something up her nightgown and left it there. Bluebrow says, “Oh my God” and I say, “Let’s do it again.”
“No way,” says Bluebutt. “She'll get my license.”
I'm starting to think this Bluething may be too wide a gulch to bridge my moment over. Our moment. Corky's and mine. I tell her to park the fucking shitcock-Z down the street if she's so worried. So she does, and Cory leans forward and moves the seat so I can get out. I ask is he coming or what and he says no. No? “C'mon, Cory,” I say. “C'mon dude. This is it. Here. Now. A prank for the ages. A moment, man. Becky Moyer, man. Her fuckin’ house, dude!” “Can't,” he says. “Legs,” he says. “No go,” he says. “No go?” I say. “For real,” he says. “Can't even get up, dude.” “Fine,” I say. “Dude,” he says. “If you can, take a piss in their car. They got a fucking BMW, man.”
Over at the house all the lights are on and Mrs. M is back in the driveway checking out the garage with a flashlight. There's no way I'm getting anywhere near that BMW, so I sneak around back to look for something else to whiz on. Grass, grass, tree, grass, shit, nada, zip. Not even a picnic table or a birdbath or a barbecue or anything. What an asshole that Corky is. Rather play stinkfinger, I guess. There's an air conditioner between some bushes. Will have to do. I unzip the jeans and let him out. But look at this. Haven't these people ever heard of curtains? Drapes? Old newspapers? Maybe U.N. Becky puts on peepshows for the neighbors.
I can see the whole Moyer living room. There’s a fireplace with real logs and real fire. Oaken shelves full of books and busts and knickknacks. Becky's little sister sits in her flannel pajamas, wrapped in a blanket, at a piano—not playing, but reading. Her eyelids sink, and she dips toward the book, awakening with a flinch. She’s alert now, and returns to her reading resolutely, her brow creased with determination. Beth. Little Tranquility. Yes. There, nestled against her piano, reading her Pilgrim's Progress, under boughs of holly, by candlelight, is poor, shy, gentle Beth March. And Meg's upstairs putting Amy to bed, and Jo's off in some corner writing stories about Don Pedro and Roderigo, and Marmee has gone out into the cold cold Concord snow to bring bread to the starving German neighbors, and the whole room is aglow with firelight and smells like cinnamon and smoke.
And here am I.
What a fine Laurie I make. Standing in the hedges with my pants around my ankles.
I try to put him away, but it's too late. Don't get the AC, though. Get the old jungle boots instead. Can't create a moment. Moments just come. Or they are already there, hovering in time, waiting for us to arrive.
It's starting to get light out when Blueface drops me off. An early winter morn. So late. So early. An early morn. Morning. Morn-ing. Little flecks of sunlight glint off the departing IROC, and I suddenly remember the next line of that sailor song.