Price Breaks and Heartaches
a journal of retail and failed romance
The Fries And The Fury
It should be noted that for a guy that liked to whine that he didn’t have any friends I actually had a lot of friends. The thing was I always seemed to think of them as just placeholders until the friends I was supposed to have came along. I guess somehow in the back of my mind I was sure there was a group of rich, suave, adventurers searching for a tubby burger-flipper to swell their ranks.
I had two main sets of friends. First there was Adrian and his entourage of dyed in the polyester geeks. We were united by our love of all things geeky- role-playing games, comic books and TV shows that had either been canceled immediately or were utterly obscure. Beyond that I don’t think we didn’t have much of an emotional bond- any one of us would have betrayed the others if it got us a mint copy of Uncanny X-Men #136 or a chance to stand next to Erin Gray of Buck Rodgers In The 25th Century and smell her hair.
It was different with my other set of friends. Kevin K. Hanson, Marvin and Corey weren’t nerds, they liked all the so-called that normal guys were supposed to like- sports, fast cars and women with big fake boobies. They could have passed for normal but they never did, they were just... goofy.
Kevin K. Hanson was a nice guy but he was like a wild Id; if he needed to scratch it he scratched it, if he wanted to say it he said it, and he didn't have a single shred of personal dignity or clothes sense. Marvin on the other hand wasn’t as exasperating as Kevin and could be pleasant company- so long as there was nothing remotely female within 20 yards of him. Marvin’s long term goal in life was to be a biker but his features were just to gentle for him to pull the look off. He looked like a Cabbage Patch Doll version of Lemmy from Motorhead.
Long term readers of these stories will remember Corey as one of my oldest friends. We had shared the cost of renting a limo to take ourselves and our dates to the senior prom and then shared our bitterness at being ditched by our dates at the same prom. Corey was well on his way to becoming a professional mechanic but since graduation he had become more withdrawn. Sometimes he’d hang out with us but barely say a word as though he was lost in his own thoughts.
It was the first week of November and the air was crisp. It was almost midnight and Kevin K. Hanson, Marvin, Corey and I were wandering the streets of Albany. This was how our evenings together played out, we would go to get a meal, usually at a restaurant in a mall and that meant a meal heavy with empty carbs. Then we would go to see a film, usually a comedy of some kind, and in the late 1980’s that meant something starring Steve Guttenburg.
Afterwards... well afterwards there wasn’t much left for us to do. We were eighteen and nineteen years old, too young to go to bars and too old to go to teen night at the roller rink. That meant we either watched TV, wandered around the streets of Corey’s neighborhood, or went home to glumly masturbate.
Well, since there was never anything good on TV at that hour we opted for the walking and the talking, there would be plenty of time to glumly masturbate once we were in our forties.
“Let me get this straight,” I said as we walked down a dark and empty sidewalk, to our left was a tangle of suburban side streets, to our right was Mohawk Mall, “there’s supposed to be fluid in the transmission?”
Corey sighed heavily, “Yes Al. They call it transmission fluid.”
“Well that explains that grinding sound.”
“I suppose it does.”
There was a sign with an electronic clock mounted atop the mall, we stood there for a half an hour or so watching the numbers change.
Kevin asked, “Hey Al! How’s things working out for you flipping boogers?”
“Flipping boogers?” I said, “Is that supposed to be a joke?”
“How about you leave the jokes to the pros big guy?” I sneered.
We stared walking again, turning down a side street into a dark and quiet neighborhood, trees and streetlights cast strange shadows. Actually we pretty much cast strange shadows on our own but the streetlights and the trees made them a lot more impressive. Marvin said, “I was thinking about getting a job at Empire Burger. It looks like easy work.”
“It is most definitely not easy work,” I corrected him, “I do more before closing than most other people would be willing to do for minimum wage.”
“Still though, sounds like a good way to make a few bucks. Gotta buy some new leathers.”
Corey asked, “Shouldn’t you buy the bike before you get all the accessories?”
Kevin laughed, “That’s what they want you to think!”
I pinched the bridge of my nose, “That’s what who wants us to think?”
“Uh... I dunno.”
“You’re damn well right you don’t.”
We turned from one side street to another until we found ourselves at the local elementary school. We spent a little time on the playground trying out the wings and slides in a display that was more sad than creepy. After a time we started walking again, crowded onto the sidewalk and jostling each other as we spoke.
“Speaking of pussy...” Marvin began.
“Who was talking about pussy?” I whined.
“You got a girlfriend now?” he continued.
I smiled, “I’ve got Lilly.”
“I don’t mean to be a wet blanket Al,” Corey said, “but isn’t she living with some dude named Jessie?”
“A temporary setback. I’m going to get that girl.” I said, “Just you wait and see.”
Kevin said, “You know you’ve been saying that since ninth grade.”
“I admit winning her heart] is taking longer than expected but she and I were meant to be together, I just have to make her realize that.”
Corey tried to take a gentle tone with me, “Al, I think you need to get over this thing with her. You’re kind of obsessed.”
“Ha. My parents said the same thing when they refused to let me get that tattoo of her name.”
What can I say? Maybe I was obsessed. How could I not be? She was my dream girl and those dreams frequently involved long walks on the beach and the occasional spanking.
“So can I take a shot?” Marvin asked.
“On working at Empire Burger. Can you put in a good word for me?”
“Oh I’ll put in a word for you.” Did he hear the sarcasm and menace in my voice? Probably not.
“Guys,” Corey said, “it’s gotta be like three AM.”
Marvin said, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we walked by some chick’s house and she was walking around naked with her curtains open?”
“Oh yeah!” Kevin high fived him.
“I’d run up to the window and say hey baby I’m here to see if your curtains match your drapes!”
I said, “And then she would shoot you dead.”
“Aw man,” Corey said, “why’d you have to go there?”
“Guys...” Kevin said, “I thought the saying was her curtains match her grapes?”
“What?” I said, “On what planet?”
“I just thought I heard it that way.”
“How?” I turned around walked backwards so I could berate him properly, “It doesn’t even make sense. Curtain match the grapes? You know what I would think if I heard someone say that?”
“I’d think that must be Kevin K. Hanson talking because no one else would be stupid enough to say it.”
Corey waved his hand, “Hey calm down now there Al.”
“What the Hell are we doing here?” I asked, “What are we doing with our lives? Where are we going?”
“Well...” Kevin said, “I don’t know about the rest of us but you’re about to back into a fire hydrant.”