Dan: Hi there, folks, and thank you for joining us this morning. I’m your host, Dan. (Points thumb to the left) This is Bob.
Bob: (waves at the camera) Hi!
Dan: So, Bob, why don’t you tell our viewers at home what to expect.
Bob: Well, Dan, on the one side we have Jasmintha.
Dan: Ain’t she a doll, Bob?
Bob: She really is. A special kind of something. Jasmintha has led a very sheltered life, sweet and innocent with no real life experience. Wanting to break out of the bubble she was raised in, she decides to drive cross-country to meet her estranged mother who abandoned her at birth.
Dan: Abandonment issues! How cliché.
Bob: Stop being a cynical jerk, Dan. Like I was saying…as Fate would have it, she soon meets our boy, Kevin.
Dan: Now, Kevin is on an unsteady path of self-destruction, speeding along on a bullet-train with a one-way ticket to Shitsville. He lost his best friend quite tragically and he’s also trekking across the States to fulfill a pact they’d once made. Kevin was a dick before, but hurt, depression and an aching sense of loss has only made him worse.
Bob: He’s not that bad.
Dan: Ah, Bob (gives a wry smile). I love how you always try to see the good in others, but let’s not kid ourselves. Kevin’s an asshole!
Bob: (ignores Dan) So here we have these two incompatible strangers traveling long distance together. Tensions are high and fights are plenty. But you know what? Maybe all our boy needs is this girl with a heart so big to help him heal his heart so shattered.
Dan: (shakes head with disappointment) Your corniness never ceases to amaze me.
Bob: Will these two be able to find some common understanding? Can they make peace with their broken pasts? Will love blossom on this heartfelt journey of self-discovery?
Dan: You make me sick, Bob. Physically sick to my stomach. Who’s writing this shit on your teleprompter? My money’s on Kevin to fuck up, but that’s just cynical me.
Bob: Two lonely hearts. Two annoying commentators. One amazing road trip!
Dan: Yeah, I’m done with this (stands up). But before I go, I’m just gonna slap on a warning for our viewers at home. For those of you who can only handle cussing and assholes in moderation, we suggest you skip this one, because it contains a ridiculous amount of both. For the rest of you (winks at the camera), join us for the ride.
* * * * *
There’s no need to be so delicate with your heart. It has the stamina to last a lifetime, not a single bone to break, and is bound securely, red with fury, in a set of ribs like a cage match – it’s never required your concern or protection, the heart was built to take a punch.
-Beau Taplin // The Ronda Rousey of the Human Body
* * * * *
Newton’s First Law of Motion:
An object will continue at a state of rest, or uniform motion, unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
THAT NIGHT: 3 months ago...
“We’re gonna be best friends forever, right, Kev?”
Kevin rolled his eyes as a lazy arm was strewn across his shoulder and a wet kiss was slapped on his temple. Perry was drunk as fuck again and he always started sprouting this sentimental shit when he was pissed. After fifteen years of friendship, Kevin should’ve been used to it by now…but he wasn’t.
Although a little on the skinny side, Perry was a good four inches taller than Kevin and it was becoming difficult to keep his heavy body upright. It was a little after midnight and it didn’t seem like Perry was going to last much longer. The beginning of August brought the start of the countdown. The fall semester would be starting in a few weeks and they were enjoying their time off from college a little too much. There was an abandoned building on the outskirts of their hometown and drunken nights in this quiet parking lot were becoming a regular occurrence. However, getting drunk came with the side-effect of dealing with the inebriated antics of his crazy friend.
“Let’s just do it,” Perry said, swaying as he leaned closer. “Let’s make all those rumors people say about us true. Pucker up, big boy.”
Kevin laughed and pushed his face in the other direction to avoid his approaching lips. “The only reason there are rumors about us in the first place is because you always do this stupid shit every time you get wasted.”
Perry was straighter than an arrow. His girlfriend was talking to Clayton a mere ten feet away, but being hit on was another thing Kevin had to entertain whenever alcohol ran through his friend’s veins.
“If you had a pair of tits and a big, juicy ass, I could definitely see myself being attracted to you. You’re just that pretty.”
“Oh, God, Perry. You know I’m a sucker for compliments; it gets me so horny. Tits are overrated.” He licked his lips in a way that was borderline repulsive and inched closer. “Take me, you hunk of a man.”
Perry pushed him away this time, snickering through his lethargic drunkenness. Kevin wasn’t even half as drunk, but he cracked up as well.
He opened another can of beer and it was snatched out of his hand before he could even take a sip. It was the sixteenth one he’d opened and the sixteenth one that had been stolen. It was the reason why he was still semi-sober.
“I love you, man,” Perry said before chugging down half the can. “You know who else I love? That girl right there.”
Kevin looked in the direction of his wagging finger and saw Shandré leaning over the hood of Clayton’s car. Pretty sweet sight. Dressed in a pair of skinny jeans and a green tank top, that girl had a body that could fulfill any man’s fantasy. She was all curves, tall yet still voluptuous. And that ass…That ass was so big, each cheek had its own time zone. She was stunning; big, hazel eyes and flawless brown skin. She was the only girl he’d ever met who could pull off any kind of hairstyle and she’d had plenty. From big afros to thin braids, even completely bald; she was simply stunning. If Perry hadn’t claimed her as his future baby-momma the second he saw her, Kevin would have tapped that years ago.
“You hear that?” Perry shouted and she turned to face them with a slow shake of her head. “Yeah, you with that fat ass! I love you!”
There he goes again, Kevin thought. Sloppy and sentimental.
“Baby, you’re so drunk,” she said, closing the gap between herself and Perry. “Let’s go home and get you into bed.”
A dirty grin lifted the corners of Perry’s mouth. “First explain to me what exactly we’re gonna do in that bed.”
She smirked. “Nothin’. You probably can’t even get it up in the state you’re in.”
“I don’t need to hear this,” Kevin said, quickly removing Perry’s arm from around his neck. He needed to get away before they started…Nope. He wasn’t fast enough. They were already making out. They were sickeningly affectionate, and even though Clayton could be a dick at times, Kevin opted to spend the rest of the night with him instead of watching the two of them tongue each other.
Clayton was the last addition to their small circle of friends. He lived one block away from Kevin and Perry. They’d all been in the same school since first grade, but Clayton had only started hanging out with them in their freshman year of college. It wasn’t even by choice. It just so happened that a few of Clayton’s classes coincided with Kevin’s. Studying together led to socializing and somehow he became part of the crew.
“You’d think after four years together, they’d be able to keep their hands off each other,” Clayton said as he reached the car.
“I don’t know how they do it,” Kevin agreed. “I can barely last a month with a girl.”
“I’m averaging a week and a half.”
He chuckled and opened another beer. “That’s because you’re a man-whore.”
“Just ’cause you have a designated fuck-buddy, doesn’t mean you’re not a whore,” Clayton retorted and with his slurred words, Kevin realized how wasted he actually was. “I can’t believe you’ve been boning the same girl for years and you haven’t made an honest woman out of her yet.”
Kevin rolled his eyes. It was his standard response whenever the topic of Claire came up. “We don’t like each other like that.”
Clayton took the beer from his hand and took a good, long sip before returning it. Kevin finished the can and decided he was done with this night. If it carried on for much longer, he’d be the one cleaning up vomit and he’d much rather get laid.
“Clay, drop me off at Claire’s house.”
“Yo, Perry!” Kevin shouted, forcing the lovebirds to finally come up for air. “C’mon, man. We’re leaving.”
“So, Kev, I’ve been thinking,” Perry said, using Shandré as a support beam as he hobbled towards the car. “We should go to Florida.”
Kevin rolled his eyes for the five-hundredth time that night. Perry had been talking about a trip to Florida since they were twelve and Kevin still couldn’t see what his fascination with the state was. And he especially didn’t care at this time of night. He was thinking with his dick right now. He just wanted to go to Claire’s house and let her wrap him up in every part of her that was warm and wet. “Perry, what the hell is in Florida?”
“Di’ney World, motherfucker!” he replied, putting on his best Adam Sandler impersonation. “I want Ariel to sit on my lap and play with my afro.”
“You don’t have an afro.”
“I’ll grow one for the trip.”
Shandré snorted, looking up at him. “Bitch will get her flippers torn off if she sits on my man.”
“You jealous, baby? She may get to sit on my lap, but you are the only one…the only one who gets to sit on my face.”
“You’re so romantic,” she said with a giggle.
They rubbed their noses together in the sickening way they always did and Kevin had to suppress a gag. He was becoming more irritable. “Both of you just get in the car.”
“It’s not a bad idea,” Clayton piped up. “We could go next year during Spring break. Party in Miami then stop in Orlando. It’ll be epic. The beaches are beautiful there and the women…”
“Fine,” Kevin agreed. “Parties, beaches, women…and Ariel. We’ll do all of that next year. Right now, can we all just get in the car!”
Clayton laughed and straightened, but without the support of his car, Kevin could see how unsteady he was on his feet. “You sure you’re okay to drive, Clay?”
“Yeah, man.” He gave a lazy smile. “I’m fine.”
Great Falls, Montana
The beeping of his alarm pulled him out of his thoughts. It was a reminder that another day had passed, another day was now here. Kevin didn’t need the alarm to wake him up. He never really fell asleep, not since that night. This was the life he’d come to know, a life of feeling too much and yet nothing at all. He was in a constant state of semi-consciousness, a state where he was not asleep, but not fully awake either. It was a potent blend, a place where dreams mix with reality, a place where what-ifs were confused with what is.
He was the only one who came out of that car crash unharmed. He’d watched as they zipped up Perry and Shandré in black body bags. Clayton had been rushed to the ICU only to discover that his legs couldn’t be saved and had to be amputated. And here he was, perfectly fine with nothing but a scratch down his forearm. Life was using guilt as the dick to fuck his mind.
He’d replayed that night in his head a million times, thinking of all the things he could have done differently to prevent this eventuality, this existence.
A lot can happen in fifteen years. From kindergarten to college. From learning to read to learning to drive. First day at school. First Batman figurine. First PlayStation. First crush. First kiss. First boner. First porn movie. First chest hair. First taste of alcohol. He’d had his firsts of almost everything in the last fifteen years, and even though Perry may not have been part of every experience, he was always there.
And now he was gone.
There was nothing left, nothing except memories and habits. He hated this room, and yet he hardly ever left it. After his brother, Max, left to study in California, his parents had knocked down the wall between their bedrooms and turned it into a man-cave for Kevin and Perry. Everywhere he looked there were more memories. The pool table where they’d taken turns trying to beat his sister. They never got it right. The gaming console and flat screen TV where they’d sat up until early parts of the morning trying to beat a new game. There was even an extra bed for all the times Perry had slept over. It was just the right size for two people. But for Kevin alone…he was drowning in the space and emptiness.
This was the life he’d come to know. Every day he sat staring out his bedroom window, waiting to see Perry walking up the pathway. Every time he answered his phone, he expected to hear that familiar voice telling him to get his ass in gear. He hadn’t heard that voice in three months. He would never hear that voice again.
Death is so final. It comes without warning. It shatters and destroys and leaves behind only a longing for what used to be.
He heard a light tap on the door and then she walked in. She was the only person who could get a smile out of him these days and it was already on his face before she reached the bed. He wasn’t expecting her so early. Dom usually dropped off a sleeping bundle each morning before he went to work and she only woke up at around eight. It was just past six and she was already ready for action.
A chubby hand brushed her brownish-blonde hair out of her eyes. “Good morning, Uncle K,” Makayla greeted, patting his forehead like he was a puppy.
“Good morning, Princess Kay.”
She let out an exasperated snort. His niece was a feisty one and she didn’t like it when he didn’t follow orders. “I told you, I’m Princess Anna.” She pointed her tiny forefinger at him. “And you are?”
He let out a small groan. When a three-year old tells you you’re a princess, you’re a princess. “I’m…Princess Elsa.”
“And today we’re gonna have a ball and invite the whole kingdom.”
There was a ball every day and unfortunately Kay thought it was her responsibility to provide the music. The songs she chose to sing in her squeaky, off-key voice were usually a remix of every song on the Frozen soundtrack and she almost always incorporated her own lyrics. He didn’t mind, though. It was cute as hell.
Shane’s boys were brats, little jerks in the making, and even he would agree with that statement. But Dom’s girls…Dom’s girls were the most precious things to hit this planet and tiny Makayla was his favorite. Playful and cheeky, she was just a chubby ball of fun.
He kicked off the covers, scooped her up, and carried her to the bathroom. “Well, first we have to brush your teeth and ask Grandma to change you out of your PJs. We can’t have Prince Hans seeing you like this.”
“I don’t like Prince Hans,” she said as he placed her on the tiled counter beside the basin. “I’m gonna marry Prince Tyler.”
Kevin smiled, squeezing the toothpaste onto her brush. He’d heard a lot about this Tyler. From the very unstructured stories of a three-year old, he figured Tyler was his sister’s new boyfriend. Jordan had never brought a guy home, so when she brought him along for Perry’s funeral, it was the obvious assumption. Kevin hadn’t met him, but Tyler had certainly made an impression on Kay.
“Open up,” he said and when her mouth dropped open, he carefully began brushing her teeth. She giggled through the white foam. “You look like a bear,” she said, tugging on his beard.
He chuckled, but looked up to catch a glimpse of himself in the bathroom mirror. Staring back at him was someone he didn’t recognize. The brown beard he’d been growing for three months was a sign of laziness and neglect. His blue eyes held nothing beneath them. He turned away from the person he hated seeing and handed her a plastic cup of water. “Rinse and spit.”
She did, and after washing her face, he picked her up and carried her to the living room. This was his new routine. No more morning classes. No late afternoon tutorials. He’d dropped out of college, just gave up studying towards a degree in electrical engineering. He’d been damn good at it. Both he and Clayton had aced the last semester. But now Clayton couldn’t walk and Kevin couldn’t bring himself to go back to class knowing that he was the only one who was able to return to class.
Instead, he chose to sit at home like a bum. He wanted to feel like the accident had destroyed his life in the same way it had destroyed the others, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t reach that level of destruction. He hadn’t left the house since that night. He would probably never leave his room if it weren’t for Kay.
“Wait here,” he said, setting her down on the couch. “I’ll go get you some breakfast.”
He walked down the corridor to the large kitchen and was reluctant to step in when he saw his mother and brother, Dominic, chatting at the wooden table on the other side. He didn’t greet, simply ignored them as he walked to the cupboard that contained Kay’s favorite cereal.
“Morning, baby,” his mother greeted
“Morning,” he grumbled back, taking out the cereal box and pouring the crispy chunks into a bowl.
“You hungry? I can make breakfast for you.”
He rarely had an appetite and one small meal a day was hard enough to choke down. The tragic curse of being a good, loving mother had befallen her and she always tried to make sure he was taken care of. Right now though, he didn’t want love or care. He just wanted to be left the fuck alone.
She stood up and walked to the stove. “Maybe some bacon and eggs?”
He used a firmer tone this time because she didn’t know when to stop pushing. She always did that. She wanted him to open up, talk about how he felt. And maybe in her distorted view of reality, the three of them sitting down like a happy family, eating bacon and eggs, would somehow pull him out of his spiral of depression. Maybe in her head, she thought breakfast had some kind of cosmic healing power, that it would magically erase the consuming ache he felt every fucking second of the day. In her world of colorful butterflies and prancing unicorns, a mother’s love was enough to absorb that pain. But in this world, in this reality, she was only making it worse.
She clearly got the hint because she began fidgeting with her apron, debating whether she should push a little more. A blanket of tension settled over the kitchen. Even Dom went into a standby stance, staring at Kevin, just waiting for him to snap. Because he always snapped.
“You have to eat, baby,” she began apprehensively. “If you’re not very hungry, I could just make a snack. Chocolate chip cookies? I could have it ready before Dom leaves for work and we could all eat together. Wouldn’t that be great?”
Kevin shoved the cereal box back into the cupboard and slammed the door shut. “No,” he replied through gritted teeth. “I don’t want any fucking chocolate chip cookies. And no, I don’t think it would be great.”
“Hey!” Dom’s stern tone was a warning. Their mother despised curse words and Dom didn’t hesitate for a second. “Watch your mouth, Kevin.”
Dom slowly stood up. It was an intimidation tactic. All his brothers, Dom, Shane, and Max, hovered at above six foot. Even his sister, Jordan, was tall, but Kevin was the runt of the litter, barely making it to five-seven. He was more lithe than muscular and Dom could overpower him in seconds.
Kevin’s eyes locked on his brother’s and it was a long stare down. Being the eldest out of the five of them, Dom had developed the talent of communicating without talking. Right now his eyes were telling Kevin to back down and Kevin’s eyes told him to fuck off, so Dom’s eyes said: “You’re asking for it.” And Kevin’s eyes responded: “Okay, you win.”
He didn’t like physical violence, but he would prefer that to the type of punishment Dom dished out. He was so much bigger, it was effortless for him. Dom would grab him around his midriff, restraining both arms so he was completely immobile, and hold him off the ground until he succumbed. Now that may not seem bad on the surface, but there was nothing Kevin hated more than feeling powerless. That shit was just emasculating and he’d take an ass-whipping over that any day.
His mother decided to break the loaded silence. “I’m sorry, Kevin. I was just trying to—”
“What, Ma?” he cut in, turning his full attention back to her. “What exactly were you trying to do? You trying to make me feel better? Is that it?”
“Kevin.” Dom’s warning was a little more compassionate this time, but still a warning.
Kevin was past the point of caring about the consequences. He didn’t care about the tears that were now running down his mother’s face. He didn’t care about anything. “Here’s a newsflash, Ma. Nothing is going to make me feel better. Not your bacon and eggs, not your chocolate chip cookies, and certainly not you! You wanna offer me breakfast like everything is just peachy when my best friend is six feet under. Forgive me if I don’t have an appetite.”
“You’re not the only one who lost him,” Dom bit out. “Stop using it as an excuse to behave like a dick! Perry was like a brother to me, too. I know how you feel.”
“Fuck you!” The retort burst out of him louder than he’d intended. He was grinding his teeth, desperately trying to stop hot tears that were on the brink of falling. “You weren’t there that night. You don’t have a clue how I feel.”
Dom’s brown eyes softened, immediately switching to big brother mode. There was too much love in this damn family and he wanted no part in it. “Well, I’m right here, Kevin. Tell me. You keep bottling it in and then you just explode, so instead of snapping all the time and blowing up over something as simple as breakfast, just tell me how you feel.”
He made it sound so easy, like there were actually words to describe every fragment of a shattered soul, like simple sentences were enough to convey the black hole sucking the life out of him from the inside. Yeah, Dom didn’t have a fucking clue.
“Kay needs to eat,” was all he said before he walked across the kitchen and out the back door.
He went to the shed, got a hammer and one nail and then walked across the yard to a log called Mom. There was a log for every member of his family. It was his way of keeping track of every vile comment that left his mouth.
When he was ten years old, a heated argument with Jordan caused him to snap. He’d lashed out with ugly words and because she’d never been the type to take shit from anyone, she fought back. She grabbed him by the ear, dragged him outside and instructed him to hammer a nail into a log. When he was done, she pulled out the nail and showed him the hole that was left behind.
“That’s what your words do to people, Kevin,” she’d said. “And it doesn’t matter if you say you’re sorry, that hole doesn’t close. It stays there forever.”
So that’s how he kept track of every hurtful remark, every hole he left in his wake. It was a reminder of what an asshole he could be, and he needed very little provocation.
Dom had four nails in his log. Even though he always stepped in to diffuse a situation, he rarely did anything to piss Kevin off. Shane only had three. He never stopped talking, which was incentive enough for Kevin to steer clear of him. Jordan had nineteen, because Jordan was a sister and sisters were annoying. Momma B, Perry’s mom (Kevin’s second mom), had one for that one time he’d said the ugliest thing imaginable to her. After a swift slap, he never snapped at her again.
Just like Dom and for the very same reason, his dad had four. There were no nails in both Perry and Max’s logs. Perry for obvious reasons, but Max…Max had a temper, the Aries temper Mom called it. It didn’t matter if he was outsized or outnumbered, Max was always the first to throw a punch. Kevin and Perry had been bullied all through elementary school and he’d grown to hate violence. He would never allow it to come to fists, not with his brother. On the very few occasions Max had angered him, Kevin had chosen to simply walk away.
But then there was his poor mother. She had fifty-eight nails and twenty of them had been hammered in during the last three months. She just didn’t get it. Every time she tried to hold him, he thought about how Momma B would never get to hold Perry again. Every time she tried to reach out, he withdrew even more. She wanted to take away the pain, but he deserved to feel every ounce of it. Perry and Shandré were the most amazing people he’d ever met. They should have had a beautiful, happy life together and yet he was the one who survived. How did he come out of that crash with nothing but a scratch?
They’d hit something in the road. He still didn’t know what it was, but the car spun out of control. It flipped and Perry flew straight through the windshield. They’d found Shandré’s body lying in a ditch. He’d dragged Clayton to the side of the road. His legs were broken in so many places bones were jutting out through his skin. Kevin had been covered in so much blood that night he could still smell it. Two dead bodies, two amputated legs, and all he got was one fucking scratch.
The guilt was overwhelming. He didn’t go to their funerals. He hadn’t gone to see Momma B. He hadn’t seen Clayton, not even a phone call to see how he was doing. There would be too much resentment and he had enough to deal with.
He needed to get out of there, away from Great Falls, away from the haunting memories. His birthday was coming up and he didn’t want to be anywhere near here on that day. Perry wanted to go to Florida and he’d take him there. Well, at least what he had left of him. The dog-tag chain that he’d worn every day since they were eighteen years old. He would take that to Florida. That was in no way good enough, but he had to do something. It wouldn’t ease the guilt, but it was the least he could do to honor Perry’s memory.
He didn’t have a lot of money. With the allowance his dad deposited into his bank account each month, he had a bit saved up and he’d make it work somehow. Hitchhike as much as he could. Cheap motels. Limited food. The trip should take a little over a week. He could make it work.
With his mind made up, he walked back inside and went straight to the bathroom. He showered and changed, then went to his bedroom. He packed two large duffle bags with the basics of what he might need and tucked Perry’s dog-tag chain safely into his pocket. He had the same chain hanging around his own neck. Three years and he hadn’t taken it off once.
Walking back to the living room, he knelt down in front of the sofa. “Hey, Princess. Uncle K is going away for a little while.”
“For how long?” she asked innocently.
“Just a few days. I need you to be a good girl, okay? And I need you to take care of Grandma for me. If you see her crying, just give her a big hug. Can you do that for me?”
She nodded, shifting on the sofa and throwing her short arms around his neck. “I’m gonna miss you.”
He held onto her for a bit, squeezing her a little too tight, but she didn’t complain. “Me too. I promise we’ll have that ball as soon as I get back.” He felt her lips on his cheek and enjoyed that for a few more seconds before he slowly eased her away and stood up. “See you soon.”
Grabbing the duffle bags in one hand, he tossed them over his shoulder and headed for the front door.
“Kevin, where are you going?”
“None of your business, Dom.”
“So you were just going to leave without a word? Just let our mother sit here and worry while you go off to God knows where. Real mature, little brother.”
Kevin flipped him the middle finger and carried on walking to the door.
“You little shit!” was all he heard before Dom’s strong arms wrapped around his midriff.
“Get off me!” He wriggled like crazy and still couldn’t get out of his brother’s hold. A second later he was lifted off the ground and he didn’t know which emotion was winning the battle. Helplessness or anger. No, it was anger caused by the helplessness. It was impossible to fight him off.
“You’re a selfish prick!” Dom hissed. “You only think about yourself.”
He was still writhing, wrestling to get himself free. “Get the fuck off me!”
“Stop it!” Their mother’s anguished plea put a stop to everything. “Dominic Thadeus, you put him down right now.” She waited until his feet touched the ground. “Now what’s going on?”
“You wanna tell her, Kevin? Or are you still planning on leaving without a word?”
“You’re leaving?” she asked, her voice cracking with hurt and anxiety.
He did nothing but nod.
Her eyes took note of the two duffle bags on the floor. “When are you coming back?”
“Whenever I get back.”
Dom sneered and shook his head, but she was worried. It showed by the wrinkles on her forehead. “One of us could take you…Wherever you wanna go, your dad or I will take you.”
“I need to do this alone,” he said unevenly. “I need to get out of here, Ma. It’s killing me to stay.”
She didn’t respond, but he saw the understanding in her eyes. Another curse of being a loving mother. She understood his ill-tempered irrationality without him having to explain it further. He lifted his bags again and although he exchanged a quick look with Dom, he left without saying another word.
Her screechy scream filled his ears before he even reached the end of the driveway. He stopped but didn’t turn around.
“You’ll call me, right? You’ll let me know you’re okay.”
He threw his head back. Like the guilt he already felt wasn’t enough. She just had to add on an extra layer. He dropped his bags and walked back up the stairs to the front door. “I’ll call.” Leaning in, he placed a kiss on her cheek and whispered the words that were meant for her ears only. “I love you, Mom.” Before she could respond, he placed his finger on her lips. “Don’t say it back.” He couldn’t bear to hear it.
Tears welled up in her eyes, but he turned away before the first one fell. He’d made her cry enough today and if he didn’t see it, then it didn’t happen.
He walked down the street, in the opposite direction of Perry’s house, heading towards the main road. He was going to hitch a ride with whoever was kind enough to offer and see how far he could get. No matter what, he was going to get to Florida.
The events of the morning played heavily on his mind. “All in a day’s work,” he told himself.
He’d argued with his brother, made his mother cry, and bailed out on a ball. In a few meager hours, he’d disappointed three people and there were only three people in the house.
What an asshole! In fact, if there were some kind of competition for it, he would definitely be a contender. He could actually hear the commentators go off in his head, glorifying every aspect of his despicable behavior.
Dan: Hi there, folks, and welcome to our annual Asshole of the Year Awards. I’m Dan (points to the left). This is my co-host, Bob. Bob, why don’t you fill our viewers in on what’s been happening?
Bob: Well, we’ve got some strong competitors this year, Dan. It’s gonna be tight. We’ve got Ashley Jensen from North Dakota, the very dishonest mechanic. We’ve got Jamie Olsen from Wisconsin, the evil boss. From Kansas, ironically enough, we’ve got Dorothy, cheating on her husband. (Turns to Dan) Then there was also that one guy from New York…
Dan: That doesn’t narrow it down (chuckles). All New Yorkers are assholes.
Bob: Nothing like insulting an entire state, Dan (laughs). Anyway, I want to take some time and talk about our regional champion from Montana, Kevin Shepard. His performance this morning was just outstanding. I mean, I have seen people in their forties, who practice long and hard and never reach that level of asshole-ness, and here’s this kid, just shy of twenty-one, doing it so effortlessly.
Dan: It was breakfast, Bob (grinning with amusement). Breakfast! I don’t know if you read the background on this kid, but he comes from a loving family, he’s an amazing swimmer – could go pro if he wanted – and he was just acing every course in college. He actually has the perfect life. All of these things tell me that he should be a decent human being. But then he blows up at his mother, treats her like a fucking doormat. The same woman who has done nothing but love him unconditionally. All because of something as stupid as breakfast. Anyone who speaks to their mother like that is on another plane of fucked up. And let’s be honest, Bob. It’s not like he can’t get pussy. We can’t even blame it on a bout of sexual frustration. This kid is just a dick!
Bob: He did lose his best friend, though. He’s hurting. I think maybe he’s just misunderstood and deep down he’s got a good heart. I don’t think he’ll even make it to the quarter finals.
Dan: Well, let’s see. Only time will tell. That performance this morning was incredible and I have faith in him. I think he’s gonna go all the way.