Prequel: Halloween (3 of 7)

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     Ferreting out unpracticed Halloween pranksters intent on foaming our motel's pool with two puny detergent cubes was NOT how I thought I'd be spending the final day of the October of my 20th year.
     I thought I'd be working the front desk, or rather studying while I watched Gomery work, or rather working on my script instead of studying. But I was glad to be off our corner and out among people.
     I like people. So much. I really, really do. Sarcasm? Zilch.
     For sure, no doubt about it, and absolute truth: People are a funny thing. They all have their interior dialogue machines whirring on high at all times, and I know I'm only a passing player in their days, even if we share a friendly interaction and a meaningful moment. Then they leave, silently going over what happened between us, but that's not my style, no way, no how, nope nope.
     If I narrate or observe the moment as it happening, either to them or Gomery later on or I write about it, it doesn't clog up my interior dialogue machine too much, and keeping that all-important head device ungunked up by baseless worrying is job #1 for this guy.
     My mom says I've always done this, put everything I've got on the outside, a show of easy amity and easier confidence. Gomery has called me the human equivalent of the old-time magician's promise to his audience, the one that goes “I've got nothing up my sleeves.”
     I don't. Any person interacting with me is going to immediately see up my sleeves and inside my jacket and inside my heart, for that matter, pretty damn quickly. Call it honesty or candor or putting everything I've got on the outside.
     Whether people accept that part of me is up to them. I expect they'll feed all of my data and statistics into their own whirring interior dialogue machines and find out if the person who is me delivers a positive read-out to the person who is them.
    Whether I accept the person who is them isn't ever a question, because I always do. Even the ones who drive me squirrelly. Maybe especially the ones who drive me squirrelly.
    Because I like people, even the ones I don't.
    But while I've got nothing up this sleeve, and nothing up that sleeve, I do actually happen to have a rabbit in my hat.
    The rabbit isn't a rabbit, of course. It represents surprise. It's how keyed up and bowled over and pulled round I get by it all, by life, how charged up and hung out. It's the exact bottom-dropping-out-feeling of the swing you're on nearly going over the top of the swing set.
    By “it all” I just mean how a certain shade of green and a certain line in a song and the way a car tire hits a puddle can all come together and seem SO damn cinematic. So cinematic it sets my typically dormant interior dialogue machine whirring.
    That happened now, as my cousin and I walked up Fairfax Avenue. I noted how a beer sign in a tavern doorway and the wind-flapping holiday decorations and the soft street lights created a sudden shimmery tableau that set my internal rabbit leaping out its hat and ALL over the crown of my head.
     “Mer, do you think we all have a rabbit in our hat?” I asked as we passed the tavern, glancing inside at the place we'd likely start visiting next year. "The rabbit being the sort of ability to admire intangibles as they come together, randomly, and you get randomly filled with this amazing but just insane crapload of connection? For an instant?”
     We walked in silence for a half block, as the person who puts everything on the outside awaited his inside-dwelling cousin's response.
     “The question isn't whether we have a rabbit in our hat,” observed Gomery. “It's how many hats we have. Maybe, even, how many hat racks.”
      “I hate to brag, but some days I own a whole hat shop, and. And. It sits over a warren full of rabbits and they're all ideas and things I'm seeing and it's like pow pow pow, all over my mind.”
      “You never hate to brag,” he said. He was right.
      Then we turned onto Drexel Avenue, but whether our detergent-wielding hooligans were still in the vicinity was a sticky wicket of a twizzle, as far as unknowns go.
     The block was cordoned off to let trick-or-treaters roam in the middle of the street, a new addition from when me and Mer were boys. We had to dodge city traffic, basically, to get ANY quality trick-or-treating in, and even then we hated being away from the motel for any length of time, in case some jokesters decided to hit our swimming pool for a lame-o, Halloween-style shenanigan.
     “They’re gone, the detergent throwers, I bet. Long, long gone,” guessed Gomery. “But check it out, over there. That spiderweb between two palm trees. Nice. Why do we only hang up that cardboard skeleton, year after year? We could go bigger. Scarier. Scaaaarier.”  His second “scarier,” which was scarier than the first, revealed he was feeling lighter, away from work.
     “Scarier? Who for? We don’t get any kids coming by the motel. Only the kids from The Wilfair, and they want to lift our entire vending machine in the night just to score the cookies in slot C4 or, or steal the van for a joy ride.”
    “Fair Finley wants to steal our van?”
     “Her brothers. The hotel’s little kids. Not the big girl kid.”
     He knew what I meant. “I know what you meant,” he said, irritated.
     “You’re kind of kicking it super sour tonight. All…” I made a face. I’d made it my silent mission to irritate Gomery on smaller matters, then incrementally bigger matters, for a few months now. Irritability, I found, was ESSENTIAL for creating greater discontentment. And discontentment was SO important for casting off the life stuff that was not working anymore. And if there was someone who hoarded stuff that absolutely wasn't working anymore, out of a desire to not create waves in our already overloaded lives, and not for any love of the stuff itself, it was the person who was more brother to me than cousin. “Getting fed up has its pluses, but… You’re being kind of a jackass.”
     He gazed at the over-sized rope tangle between the palms, ignoring me in all the ways he could. “That is a very fine web. Strong center, excellent octagonal form. And don’t you get sick of it, sometimes?”
     “Halloween decorations? Totally. Hate. They deliver awful, awful mirth to joyful children every autumn. Horrible happy laughter.” I shrugged as a group of children skipped by us. Four of them were dressed as superheroes, and the kid at the rear was a cloud, or maybe cotton candy.
      Gomery’s forehead lined. “The web. The one we’re in, not this one. I’m sick of it. We’re not the spiders, either. We’re the flies.” My cousin pointed at the rope web, where a fake insect sat looking fairly dead beside the deadly but decorative spider. “Another Halloween chasing people away from the pool. Same as last year. Same as the year before. Same as next year, which hasn't even happened yet, but it might as well could have.”
     “It's not exactly the same every year. Last year some roving band of teenagers attempted, SADLY attempted, to t.p. the motel sign,” I recalled. “Failure. Remember? Not enough toilet paper. Plus, a roving band. That was their first mistake. The roving. Who roves these days? Damn youngsters.”
     My cousin returned to his thinking tic, a hand placed on the back of his neck. “Monty, why didn’t you just let them try to foam the pool? Why are we even out here?”
     “Uh-oh, I’m getting Monty’d! Look, I WANTED those hooligans to foam our pool, but if they’re going to do something, they’ve got to do it correctly. Two detergent cubes! No planning. No foresight.”
     “It’s not even that nothing ever happens, it’s that the same damn thing happens over and over and over…” Gomery waved his hand in front of his chest, a perpetual wave maker, the kind that surfers use in artificial ocean tanks. “Zero percent of anything ever changes on that corner. Zero equals nothing, though not always, but in this case, majorly. It’s Halloween night and we’re back on the same street we were on when we were barely out of diapers.”
      “Wait. You're already out of diapers? You didn't tell me! Congrats!”
      He continued. “How many people tonight, people our age, Monty, are back on the same damn street they were on when they were five or six?”
     “Well, her.” I pointed at a house across the street.
     A sparkly orange dress and long white gloves, the kind of gloves women wore to the opera in old movies, gleamed beneath a porchlight.
     My cousin hipped his hands. “What were you saying about a 'crapload of connection' before?”
     “Hats, rabbits, something, something,” I said, madly pumping the brake on my interior dialogue machine as it attempted to whir to life.
     And then she turned and saw us.

Next: Prequel: Halloween (4 of 7)


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