Chapter 7: Doing it John Cusack Style
From rebellious punks explored The Doors and Circle Jerks; peaceful hipsters shimmy their way towards the shelves to find rare Fleetwood Mac and Jimi Hendrix albums, while old-schoolers get into another heated debate about LL Cool J. Employees help customers pick out vinyl records and mixtapes, whereas Matt paces in his office, like a madman.
His hand drenches his Nokia cellphone in sweat. His teeth gnaw on his chapped lips until Matt tastes the blood in his mouth. Ever since Callie's father called Matt, he has been trying to contact his wide. He knows Callie is doing a project with her friends, but Matt needs to tell her about the unexpected call because he hates lying to her.
"352-919-2242," Matt grumbles for the twentieth time.
After jabbing the keys with his sore fingers, Matt prays for Callie to pick up the phone. He jabs his sore index finger on the buttons then presses his ear on the phone's speakers. The incessant ringing continues until Callie's gentle tone calms him down.
"Hi, honey." she greets awkwardly. "I am so sorry I haven't picked up the phone, my friends and I were doing our project at MoMA when-"
"Your father called me." Matt blurted.
A long, uneasy silence came from the other end of the phone. Kids' laughter and weird slang seep into his eardrums. Clicking heels, flirty accents, and cheesy jokes exchange amongst people until his wife's urgent tone startled him.
"When did he call you?" she demanded.
"Well, he called right after you left," said Matt. "He told some shit about cleaning up his act and all. I thought it was bullshit."
Callie's angry voice wanes into a scared whisper.
"Jesus Christ, I thought I fucking blocked his contacts."
"I never told him where I live!" Callie cried. "How did he get our phone number?"
Matt massages his eyelids and picks up the picture frame off of his desk. He stares at the old wedding photo of him and Callie standing behind Holden's beautiful mansion.
He borrowed one of Holden's old suits and a pair of his favorite Addidas sneakers, while Callie wears a white strapless gown with a veil shimmering down her back. Her hair is in luscious ringlets. Long, sleek eyelashes stretch like wings. Though she wore an uneasy smile, Matt believes Callie is an angel sent from heaven.
"Baby," Matt mutters. "Don't freak out, I believe you."
As the background noise dwindles, Callie releases a relieved sigh. She thanks him for being patient and apologizes for her behavior.
"I am sorry you had to talk to that asshole," she tells Matt. "I never expected him-"
"Hey, don't sweat it," Matt reassures in a casual tone. "Just finish your project and I'll see you tonight."
"I love you."
"I love you, too."
After he places the phone back into its receiver, his employee Cameron Chang knocks on the door. His vintage Alice in Chain shirt ironed; worn denim jeans shroud his legs, but his white Addidas is having trouble keeping themselves together.
"Come on in, dude." Matt grins.
A shy Cameron enters the office. He parts his black hair in the middle. Dark, curious eyes examine his charismatic boss as Cameron informs him that an old man is looking for him.
"Really?" Matt frowned. "Did you catch his name?"
"Yeah, Jacob Israel."
Matt smiled. It surprised him his neighbor stopped by. Maybe Jacob has been wanting to get his hands on The Stooges album or something. Lifting himself out of his chair, Matt strolls outside his office to see Jacob studying David Bowie's Hunky Dory album. He dressed in a weary Metallica t-shirt and wrinkled jeans. Jacob places the album back into the box and browses over to the R&B section.
As he walked, Jacob unwittingly left behind a trail of watery footprints. Just then, an ecstatic voice calls his name.
"What's up, Jake?" it beamed. "What brings you to Raoul's Records?"
Jacob swerves his head around to see Matt moving toward him. It is impossible picturing a kid being an employer in a record shop. The selections are excellent, the prices are cheap, and the employees are friendly. The only thing he hates about coming here is the crowds.
"Hey, Jacob!" Matt exclaimed. "How is everything?"
"Good, I guess." Jacob nods quietly. "How is your wife?"
"She's doing fine," he replies. "She is doing an art project with her friends."
"Oh? I hear the girl is a talented artist."
Matt grins in response. "Yeah, she is. What would you like to buy?"
Jacob collects Hunky Dory and The Jimi Hendrix Experience from the cardboard boxes then hands them to Matt. "I would like to buy these three."
"Cool." Matt beams, taking the thin vinyl record off his hands. He heads over to the cash register and types the amount on the price sticker.
"Yeah, my wife loves David Bowie." he went on. "She thinks he's the greatest singer since Pink Floyd performed Arnold Layne."
After pressing the number keys on the pad, Matt eyes at the screen and tells Jacob that the albums cost 30 bucks.
"Okay." Jacob nods. He reaches into his wallet, gathers three crumpled ten-dollar bills, then hands them to Matt.
Plucking the money off his fingers, Matt asks: "So, you just got off from work?"
"Maybe you come over to our place sometime," he suggested. "It's been a while since we had a conversation."
Jacob nods. He and Callie seem like a delightful couple, but every time Jacob is around them, they remind him of the memories he and his wife shared. The last thing he wants is to think about them.
"Thanks, but I have to head home." Jacob sighed.
"Oh." Matt's smile fell. "Well, if you and Therese aren't too busy, please stop by."
After handing Jacob the receipt and vinyl records, Matt tends to another customer. Jacob grips the grocery bag. He takes a left on 2nd Avenue to catch the bus when a large trash bag fell on his feet.
"What the fuck?" he mutters. He flicks his gaze at a seventeen-year-old boy rifling through the dumpster.
Black locks stick out of his head like a deranged porcupine. Icy blue eyes grow repulse at the sight of the fish bones on his worn boots. Jacob frowns. His eyes explore the old, leather jacket tied around his ripped jeans. His Joy Division t-shirt soaks in tomato sauce stains.
Curious, Jacob walks over to the boy and asks what the hell is he doing.
"Hey, I'm looking for something."
"It's none of your fucking business."
Jacob rolls his eyes. "You know, you might get arrested for dumpster diving."
"Oh, fuck off."
"Okay, then." Jacob leaves the boy to his trashcan. "I guess I'll see you around."
Turning his heel, the old man resumes his journey to the bus station. But Jacob can't seem to forget the boy's face. It's like he had no breakfast in a while. Jacob thought about helping the kid, however, he is afraid he might get stabbed in the throat.
* * * *
Callie takes a bite of her pepperoni pizza while she listens to her friend's story. Orange grease spills on the plate. The ceiling fan spins above them. The smell of warm cheese and herbs filled the pizza restaurant. Her friend Lulu Sanchez sips her tall glass of Coke and stares at a quiet Mickey Jefferies.
She wears a bright red cardigan sweater and low-rise jeans. Her brown boots brush against Amanda's tennis sneakers, irritating her friend.
Meanwhile, Mickey's eyelids drop. Red curls shroud his large ears. He wears a light gray sweater with a dark red flannel covering his scrawny shoulders. Mickey rubs the sweat with the back of his sleeve then picks at his pepperoni.
Sitting beside him is his worried girlfriend Amanda Russo. She wears an orange sweater with a brown, plaid buttoned-up skirt. After sipping her Sprite, she asks Mickey what's wrong.
"You haven't eaten your pizza since we got here, Mickey," she tells him.
"Not to mention you look like shit," added Lulu.
Callie and Amanda both scowl in her direction.
"What?" Lulu exclaimed. "Bad looks give out negative energy."
"Who said that bullshit?" Mickey snorts. "Paris Hilton?"
"No," Lulu states as a matter of fact. "I read it in a horoscope, stupid."
A doubtful Amanda tilts her head to the side, letting her natural dreadlocks conceal her left shoulder.
"You read that crap in a bloody horoscope?" she snickers. "God, you are such a vapid muppet."
"Oh, fuck off." Lulu spat.
Callie rolls her eyes. "Guys, can you two please stop fighting? We're in a restaurant for fuck’s sake."
Placing his greasy pepperoni pizza back on his plate, Mickey groans, "I got a C minus on my English paper."
"Well, that explains a lot," Lulu murmured.
Turning her attention to Mickey, she asks what his English professor thought about his research paper.
"She called it bromidic and insignificant." he sighed.
Callie drops her jaw. "In her words?"
"Well, duh," said Mickey. "Isn't it obvious?"
Amanda shakes her head. "I told you not to take Mrs. Ulysses' class. She is as strict as my father."
"Jesus," Callie murmurs. "Is she that bad?"
Mickey and Amanda both nod their heads in silence, while Lulu looks at Callie funny.
"Hey, didn't you have her during freshman year?" she asks.
"No," Callie answers after sipping her glass of iced lemonade. "I had taken Art Appreciation. You were in my class, remember?"
Lulu shakes her head before taking another bite of her anchovies pizza. Happy Italian music fills the pizza parlor. The cooks are busy prepping pizzas in the kitchen, whereas the janitor carries a mop and a bucket over to the spilled orange soda on the black and white checkerboard tiles.
The arcade games are as old as the residue on the glass door; they stood near the corner, hoping for the customers to use them. But they ignored them like trash. Don't get them wrong, Callie and the others were going to get a slice at John's Pizzeria, but since it was closed for inspection, Lulu knew of a local pizza joint nearby. There, they discuss their presentation on Basquiat until Callie brought up the slides.
"How close are we getting it done?" she asked.
"Possibly tomorrow," answered Amanda. "Why?"
"Because I have already completed the artwork on Basquiat. Are you finished typing those pages, Mickey?"
Mickey bobs his head. "Yeah, all I need to do is the Works Cited Page, and that's it."
As Mickey continues to slurp his soda, Lulu asks the girls what they want her to write when Callie's father enters the restaurant. His short hair is black with white tints on the end. He has solemn brown eyes, a weary smile, and saggy lines damaging his face. He dresses in a large, olive green raincoat, denim jeans, and a pair of old hiking boots.
Her smile vanishes. Callie gets up from her seat, tells her friends that she will be right back, and drags her father out of the restaurant—much to her friends' surprise.
"What the hell are you doing here?" she yelled at her father.
Lewis gives her an awkward smile. "Hi, honey—"
"I clarified that I never wanted to see you again." she snapped.
"Jesus Christ," Callie's father grimaces. "Look, I know you can't forgive me—"
"No shit," Callie grumbled.
"—But I just came here to apologize for what I did to you in the past." Lewis finished.
"Oh, you mean gambling away my college money?" Callie snapped. "Or letting your drunk friends treat me like a whore?"
Mr. Swan opens his mouth and shuts it tight. His daughter is right; he had made terrible mistakes, but he will bond with Callie—no matter what it takes. He just wishes she wouldn't stare at him like a malicious dog.
"How the hell do you know my phone number?" she pressed. "I never told you where I live. Were you following me around all this fucking time?"
Massaging his eyelids with his stubby fingers, Lewis shakes his head. "No, I saw you working at the cafe. So, I asked around until a colleague of yours gave me your number."
Callie drops her jaw. Her gentle hands transform into enraged fists. "That's the same thing as spying, Dad!"
"What is wrong with you?" she blared. "I told you to stay the hell away from me, and now you are here."
Mr. Swan sets his jaw. "Callie, I have made some mistakes in the past," he explains. "But at least treat me like a human being."
"Why?" Callie snorts. "You never treated me like a human being. All you have ever done was leave me when I needed you the most."
Wanting to retort, Mr. Swan opens his mouth to speak, but his daughter turns her back to him then storms into the restaurant.