Sunday, February 28, 2010
Emma’s pulling on her yoga top and a sarong she cut to knee-length. “You’ve got to talk to him, Scott. Just tell him to back off now and then,” she says. “So he doesn’t wear out his welcome.”
“Emma, my dear, you make a good case.” We kinda forgot Charlie never leaves the hammock anymore.
He calls up at us. “I’m waiting for you to throw me overboard.”
I jump down from the ladder’s middle rung. He’s sucking on an Imperial, too smug to notice I’m flipping him out of the hammock, and he lands hard. His big fat self flat on his back.
“Get outta here, Charlie. I mean it. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Scott, I was fooling around.” He extends his arms and holds his palms toward me. “How ’bout a little dignity?”
Emma’s teaching her wake-up yoga class, when Charlie suggests we settle this walking along the beach. Which means he’s still fucking with me. This is what happens when you’ve known someone too long. We’ve been friends—best friends—for twenty years. So what am I gonna do? He’s pathetic.
We trudge in damp sand for awhile, but the river, which I love, lies half a mile away. There we can wade uphill, sliding from rock to rock, our voices echoing through the cavern.
So I steer him into the fresh water. For awhile we pull soft mud from the riverbed and hurl it at each other. At the river head there’s a bottomless pool and I climb to the top of the ledge. Charlie watches from the other side.
I dive and surface twice before gliding over to him.
“Don’t ask if I need money,” Charlie says. “No drug dealers are after me.”
“Why don’t you go home then?”
“I suppose eventually, yeah, I should call Billy, see what’s up. But there’s no urgency.”
“Why are you buggin’ me and Emma? Every other woman I hook up with, going back to middle school, you meet, greet, and disappear.”
“Well…” He scoots back in the brush and only speaks when he’s sure I can’t see him. “This one’s Scott and Emma, Emma and Scott—from now on. Mr. Charlie’s just an old friend you’ll see twice a year.”
I hate it when we’re saying what we both already know. But that’s how Charlie operates.
“Why don’t you patch up things with Kitty? Tell her you’re sorry. Rub her feet, whatever it takes. Because if you keep crowding us, Charlie, we’ll end up hating you.”
“You’ll hate me,” Charlie says. “You know that’s always been there along with all the other shit, Scott. Little bit of hating me. Only on your end, not on mine.”
I shake my head at the bushes where his voice seems to be coming from. “Whatta ya want me to say? You win.”
He emerges from hiding and smiles. “Thatta boy. You gotta let me win.”
We’re heading downstream and he tries to hug me. I throw him off.
“So queasy, Colossus,” he’s slapping my back. “You’ve got everything you want so you have to invent problems.”
He’s always saying that. And I’m always telling him to shut up.
He’s laughing, “Yeah, man!” and nodding, “Emma’s yours as long as you want her.”
Ha-ha-ha. That’s how he laughs now. Ever since Pavones, he’s been such a sad man. Mr. Happy’s dead and Mr. Charlie is sad as hell wherever he goes. But he doesn’t go anywhere anymore, just circles around me, night and day like death in the air.
“I’m gonna go grab me a fix,” he says, pointing at me so I’ll give him time to get away.
He stumbles downstream, falling on the rocks, grabbing a branch, falling, and reaching up again.
(to be continued)