Two: Grant: The Man in the Glass
I hit a man with my car tonight.
Now, you might be thinking this would be a traumatic event, physically injuring another human being with nearly a ton of steel and rubber. And if there were not several pints of low-priced alcohol involved in my judgment, I’m sure you would be right. I mean, hitting an animal is traumatic enough.
You know you’ve hit an animal, you can admit it; we have all done so at least once on accident no matter how much we love the furry creatures of this world. Running down a cat will really bring a damper to your evening. Hitting a deer will leave you with shaky hands and the potential for flashbacks. And one time a friend of mine hit a mother opossum; we turned around a few minutes later and found the babies in the street confused and distraught. I have no doubt in my mind that within minutes another driver squished the living shit out of them. (But don’t worry; soon another animal probably came along and ate them, continuing the circle of life.)
The funny part is that tonight’s particular man-vehicle collision wasn’t the first one in my personal history. Seriously. When I was seventeen, my girlfriend and I were at a park making out after sunset. Typical teenager shit, you know? Well, before I can even convince her she’s too warm for that sweater another car pulls in and three boys jump out. Teenage boys, probably my age, but larger — like football players or greasers. They rock my car, and one even decides to leave an imprint of his pimply ass on my windshield.
Sorry guys, I don’t share. Not women, not parking lots, nothing. I drove out of the park and down a back road in this backwater little town called Kimberly. Kimberly, for those unacquainted with it, is a suburb of Appleton. Appleton is a larger city about thirty miles south of Green Bay. Green Bay, for you New Yorkers who lack any sense of geography, is in Northeastern Wisconsin. You’ll have to find Wisconsin on your own.
Sure shit, the meatheads were following right behind me in two cars. To this day I never figured out where the second car came from, but I honestly wasn’t paying that much attention. I tried some evasive maneuvers — cutting through credit union parking lots and weaving through what little traffic was available. But these guys were good, or at least reckless enough, and kept up with me the whole way.
At the time I didn’t realize my situation, but really this was very much like that movie with Charlie Sheen. You know, the one where he’s being chased because he kidnapped some chick and they end up making whoopie in the driver’s seat while he’s got his pedal to the floor going sixty-five. A lot like that. Except for the whoopie. And I wasn’t dodging a shitload of cadavers. And no, I guess I wasn’t being followed by the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Henry Rollins. Okay, so my situation was not like that movie at all… but it should have been.
As I have no patience for thuggery, I took them to the Combined Locks police station parking lot. Combined Locks being an even smaller podunk town next to the previously identified town we call Kimberly (which is technically a village and not a town, whatever the difference is). I parked next to an empty squad car, thinking that no one is dumb enough to start shit at the cop shop. I was wrong.
One guy got out of the second car. Maybe he was really into the grunge scene and nobody told him that Kurt Cobain was pushing up daisies with Elvis Presley and John Denver, because this punk had blonde stringy hair and a smoke-stained flannel shirt tied around his waist. His jeans were worn thin at the knees, but at least they didn’t come that way straight off the rack like some preppy bitches will buy their clothes. He yelled to me, “Hey, fucker, wanna start some shit?”
Apparently I did want to, because I shifted the transmission in reverse and floored the accelerator. Tires spinning, rubber burning and smoking, and my girlfriend shrieking in what I can only describe as terrified ecstasy. I crushed the arrogant bastard’s leg between my rear bumper and his car’s front license plate, which made an awful crunching sound like crisp celery snapping. Then I peeled out of there in a reverse u-turn, watching him quiver on the ground from my rearview mirror, fading into a silhouette in the night. But that was eight years ago, water under the bridge.
I swear to God my girlfriend is cheating on me. Not the one from the story I just old you about when I was seventeen (a short little brunette orphan with glasses and a plump belly). No, that one left me for some drug dealer in Neenah — another Appleton suburb, this one notoriously slummy at the time — whose hobbies included burglarizing liquor stores and dry humping his cousin Suzie. Serves my ex right, that fucking whore. Last I heard she had two kids, no husband, and blew her welfare checks on peppermint schnapps and Marlboro Greens. But, I’m rambling.
Allow me to reiterate, or at least repeat myself. I think my girlfriend is cheating on me. Hell, I don’t just think this is true, I’d bet my bottom dollar. Nobody dresses like she does just to go shopping. Short skirts, fishnet stockings and lipstick? She hasn’t even dressed like that for me since my last birthday. And what’s more, that sweet little number was nothing compared to what she wore the year before that!
Thinking rationally and logically, I shouldn’t blame her. Women’s genes are biologically preprogrammed to have them cheat on their mate. These feminist bitches perpetuate their myth that men are all “hump ’em and dump ’em”, but it’s women’s fucked up psychology causing them to date pricks and avoid decent guys like a bad case of herpes… or any case of herpes, for that matter. And women say men can’t commit, but who is the one usually getting dumped because their partner has insecurities? The fucking guy, of course.
Now, I said genetically predisposed to slutting around, and I meant what I said. Basic Anthropology 101. While the belief is true that men instinctually seek women to carry their progeny — and the more women they knock boots with means a greater chance for more offspring — the converse is true of women, you know? They are instinctually designed to hook up with as many guys as they are able. Whether in a bed, on the floor or on top of a gaming table. The reasoning? Before we had paternity tests, there was no way to know who the father of a child was. So the more one night stands, the more potential fathers — all of whom will protect the child which might be theirs and support the mother financially (or whatever cavemen did in place of money). Just imagine how many fathers Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter would have! Getting back to the point, I could take what I know and apply this knowledge to my girlfriend and her probable mentality.
But, you know what? I decided I was gonna show Stacy — that’s my girlfriend, by the way — a thing or three. I can find my own sweet piece of ass to nail on the side. Like I said, that’s what guys are expected to do anyway, right? May as well not let the ladies down.
After concluding what locale would provide the easiest target, I spent my evening in Appleton at a little joint called The Eternal Flame, drinking Miller High Life bottles and nursing shots of Bacardi. I was gathering up my Dutch courage, waiting for just the right moment to try and claim my prize. This was like playing the crane game at Pizza Hut, having to know just the right moves to scoop up the best toys. The bartender kept feeding me free refills of the Champagne of Beers, and before long Mr. Jones perked up and I had focused on my victim. A blonde (ancient Chinese proverb says they have more fun) with hip huggers and a white cotton tube top. If that didn’t scream “slut” I don’t know what would.
I should interject at this point that The Eternal Flame isn’t exactly what you’d call a classy dance club or even a popular one. If you’re over twenty-one and want some foxy girls, you go to Route 66. If you’re under twenty-one but still old enough to recognize quality tail when you’re sober, you go to Park Central. The Eternal Flame? That’s where you go for white trash bitches, their fat friends, 40-something divorcees and the occasional hottie who just doesn’t know any better.
The Eternal Flame used to have a serious drug problem, too, so you never knew what you were bringing home. Waking up with African crabs is bad enough, but sometimes just a deep kiss would give you the nastiest coke buzz. The owner and the cops teamed up and did a few cleanups, but sometimes I wonder if you can ever outlive a reputation like that. I mean, Christ, look at Willie Nelson.
But just like other dance clubs, you still had one advantage over ordinary bars: what would be considered sexual assault anywhere else is regarded as common courtesy here once you hear a looped hip-hop beat.
I swaggered up to the dance floor when I heard the DJ start up that Q Lazzarus song from “Silence of the Lambs” and started to grind drunkenly on the chick in the tube top from behind. She wasn’t fat, she wasn’t white trash, so she clearly didn’t know any better — or didn’t care. I placed my hands on her shoulders, pushed my chest up against the curve of her slender back, and for a moment we were breathing together. Rhythm in motion, and a soundtrack you could just scrump to. She smiled, I smiled back and I knew when our eyes locked unhesitatingly she was mine, trapped in my snare and as helpless as a fawn. I leaned over to her ear and whispered those five magical words.
“I have my own apartment.” My right eye twinkled in that leprechaunesque fashion us Irishmen are known for.
She seemed more excited by this proposal than a fat person at an Old Country Buffet, slobbering over a gravy-soaked chicken wing.
This fine-ass chick took my arm as the sightless Al Pacino would hold Chris O’Donnell and was more than happy to be escorted out to the parking lot. The bartender who had been feeding me my refills, a flirtatious little number named Mary who was deaf in one ear (though I forget which one), waved at me, indicating I didn’t pay my tab. But fuck the tab — I’d be back next week and she knew this better than anyone. I’m there every Wednesday and Friday! And yeah, I know I just said “buttfuck” (“but fuck the tab”) so you don’t have to knowingly snigger behind my back.
I played the role of gentleman and opened the passenger door for my date, who introduced herself as Sam. Now, as a general rule, I don’t date women with boy’s names (just as I would advise girls not to date a Kelly or a Lynn), but I figured since her name was really Samantha this was a legal exception as long as I dumped her ass in some alley before she woke up. With luck and a little help from the Captain, neither of us would remember this night anyway. Although with my luck, this Sam would be hiding some extra equipment and turn out to be a Sam of the Brownback variety under those clothes and I’d be scarred for life.
Have I mentioned I’m a car person? I don’t believe I did. But I am — I’m a car person. Not a car person like a greaser who wants to take every piece apart, chrome the bitch up, and stick that fucker back in while adding torque and horsepower and whatnot. A car person like the kind of person who actually cares what people see them in. You know, the kind of guy who would rather call in sick when his car is broke down than be seen on the highway with his wife’s minivan.
Having a nice car used to matter around here. You see, in Appleton we had a pastime called “Cruising the Ave” where high school boys would circle laps around the business district of College Avenue — Appleton’s main street — on a Friday or Saturday night. We were too young to go in the bars, and bars are all you’ll find on College Avenue. Of course, people got fed up with this nonsense and signs were quickly put up forbidding cruising by making circling the block illegal. Believe it or not, kids actually followed the law almost immediately. Damned if I know where they hang out now. Probably doing even worse things, only now out of public view.
And while driving a nice car was important, I was never perfect. When I was seventeen, I drove a piece of shit Oldsmobile. My dad’s old car before he upgraded to the Cadillac. The Oldsmobile was a faded blue grey and rusted all along the underside as is typical in Wisconsin with our fucking salty roads. Solid steel, tough as nails, and built to run down punk fucks who don’t mind their own fucking business. Need I remind you again about the park incident?
But now, my car of choice is the bitchin’ Camaro. I tell everyone my folks drove that motherfucker up from the Bahamas. Black as Morgan Freeman’s ass on a starless night with toucan green trim underneath to accentuate the sweet blackness. Full stereo system bumping, stick shift for optimal acceleration, tinted windows, and a CD changer full of all the finest R&B hits (although my music of choice are the classics like Ministry and Pigface).
Tonight’s selection was Luther Vandross. Vandross is really the ultimate in melodic panty remover. He had the music given to him in his genes. You know his sister was in The Crests, the band who sang “Sixteen Candles” in the 1960s? The bug wore off on him and by the end of the sixties he was a star, too, even appearing on the first episode of “Sesame Street”. No fucking shit. And he kept up this strong musical presence until he died a few years ago. Some will say Isaac Hayes has the voice and others will tell you that nobody does bass like Barry White. Well, that’s all fine and good, but you put in “Dance With My Father” or Vandross’ “Always and Forever”, and the women are going to be crawling all over you. Probably like Charlie Sheen in that movie I was talking about, you know? That’s the power of Luther Vandross. Not something I’d listen to on my own time, but works great around the ladies. I think Sam liked the duet with Mariah Carey best, but at this point of drunkenness she’d probably get moist to the sound of Spanish polka.
I was pretty thankful the music continued to be reliable because I am by no means the master of small talk. I don’t really care about the weather and if your job sucks that’s just too fucking bad. But words were very unnecessary as we coasted out of that dim parking lot.
And then not even a mile down the road the incident happened. Therrr-umpp! Kr-eee-ash!! A raggedy-clothed human body came smashing head-first through the fucking windshield and all I could hear after that was Sam screaming. Now keep in mind this is real life, not some shitty Wes Craven movie. In real life, windshields aren’t just breakaway glass; they have a plastic coating over the top so you shouldn’t be able to break through as easily. But this fucker, oh he broke through all right.
The body, which was that of a man who desperately needed a shave and some cheap cologne, turned and looked at me with glazed, grey eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, but all that I heard come out was a gurgle of warm blood. The crimson ooze spilled all over Sam’s perfect breasts, which sort of ruined the mood for me. Whoever said everything’s better covered in blood is flat out wrong.
(Should I take this time to describe her breasts? Because while you’d think the homeless guy in the windshield would have my full attention, I would beg to differ. But no, my friends, there is a more appropriate time and place to discuss the beauty of a woman’s breasts, so let us return to our story.)
(Actually, at this point I quickly fantasized about Sam dressed like Roger Moore and saying “Do you expect him to talk?” just so I could reply “No, Sam, I expect him to die!!!” and laugh like an evil, one-dimensional cinematic Russian. This alternate scenario would have made for a better anecdote.)
As I tried to hold the car steady without being able to really see, Sam continued to scream her fucking brains out, and all I could think to do was push the bum off my hood with the windshield wipers. Needless to say, this plan didn’t work at all, and the wiper fluid pooled up around the hole in the glass, making my vision even more impaired as I swerved over the center line for the umpteenth time. I have no idea how many people in the oncoming lane saw us by this point, but horns kept blaring and I think I heard someone yell “asshole” at us. But I still hadn’t even figured out where this haggard fucker even came from.
If we had been in Milwaukee or Chicago, I wouldn’t even be caught off-guard. As Bill Hicks would say, you can do a fucking “bum hurdle” down there near any McDonald’s. Bums fucking everywhere. But in Appleton, you never see them. Never. Maybe once a year a guy by the mall will allegedly work for food, but for all I know he’s not even a bum — maybe a sociology student conducting a survey. So why of all the fucking cars in all the world did this bum have to come walking in front of mine?
“Help meeee…” he gurgled. His faded eyes didn’t seem to focus on either one of us and he was still speaking more blood than English. I debated naming him Bumstead. I second myself, motion carries.
“Not now, I’m thinking.” As much as a daydreaming, inebriated hornball can think, that is. Watching his arms convulse and flail around like two elongated fish out of water was really odd. Bumstead was wedged in just below the shoulders, so he could only move his arms below the elbows. These forearms, as you can picture, were jammed between his body and the car, only adding to the gimpy gestures that seemed to have some significance if I were Dian Fossey or whoever; which, I assure you, I am not.
Son of a bitch. He was bleeding like a stuck pig, there was no way to save him now. I found out later that Sam was a nurse! A fucking RN even! But she was too drunk and probably stoned to even remember her address, let alone how to make a decent bandage, brace or tourniquet. Some might find this irony (whatever “irony” is) oddly humorous — I just find the whole fiasco one more reason to hate my life, which could be summed up as one big joke and I’m the punchline. Ha ha!
Looking over Sam’s shoulder to get my bearings, I realized I had reached my street, the absurdly named Kropotkin Drive. I turned sharply and continued to go just a tad faster than I probably should for the conditions. Although what would be the proper speed for a situation like this?
I glanced out the car window to see if I could spot my brother through his window. My brother, you understand, lives a few houses down from me in my mother’s house (we’re a close family) and his kitchen light was on. What was he doing up at this hour? Probably jerking off to a CGI-rendered Lara Croft or watching Star Trek reruns. He seems to like that one where the blue-skinned chick asks Shatner to help her repopulate her planet. Not that I’ve ever seen the show or anything.
I drove down a few more blocks to my apartment, nestled between a small woods and some train tracks.
We parked in the apartment complex garage and closed the door. These garages were all interconnected, one large storage unit after another for almost a quarter mile, give or take. My date could barely walk straight or even stand up decent, so I threw Sam over my shoulder and brought her into the living room. Those doe eyes stared up from the big comfy couch, and her Cherry Coke lips were asking if I wanted to “make love”. Yes, that really is the expression she chose to use. For probably the first time in my life, the answer was no — excepting, of course, those times when a Helen Hunt movie was playing in the background, such as “Twister”, “Pay It Forward” or “As Good As It Gets”. Sam was hot, a sultry little cutie. But something about the filthy bum dying kosher-style in my garage made me less than aroused. Maybe I should have described those breasts for you when I had the motivation.
“We need to call the police.” Why was I telling this to a person who was basically passed out? Maybe it was sobering to hear someone, even when that someone was myself, speak. I do like the way my voice sounds… like two parts Sam Elliott, one part Bruce Campbell. I had a co-worker tell me I sounded like Mitch Hedberg and another friend tell me I sounded like a professor he once had (who, in turn, happened to sound like Demetri Martin). Personally, I think the Campbell-Elliott comparison is the clincher.
Perhaps I should mention that I hate pigs, really I do. And by pigs, I of course mean cops. The fuzz. The heat. Smokey. You may have already presumed as much. But now the Bumstead situation was way over my head. I’ll take drunk driving over vehicular manslaughter charges any day, thank you.
“No, Grant, no police.” Sam was surprisingly clear in her speech, her enunciation slow but distinct as she peered over at me from her droopy eyes.
“I have to. That fucker’s staining my goddamn upholstery!” I chewed my lip a little, trying to remain calm and cool with Sam and not to sound like a little chickenshit.
“No, stop. I have a better idea.” She sat up on the edge of the couch, with the moonlight draping her softly in its glow, her skin radiant and reminding me of Linnea Quigley, one of Hollywood’s most under-appreciated sex symbols. She was all the forces of nature rolled into one at this moment: life, death, hunger and sex. I felt that just the right look and she could consume me whole.
I listened to her, and in my drunken state I couldn’t help but agree. I don’t know why I did. Her hypnotic eyes locked on mine? The convincing tone of her melodious voice? But I listened and for some reason I failed to provide a decent counterpoint. And this is the juncture when my real troubles began…