:: Article

The Oddity

A novel by EJ Spode.

Chapter 14: The Sleepover

When I left Circe’s place it was pushing midnight and I was already in the throws of MDMA withdrawal. It was not pretty. There was no way I was going to make it to the Stockman. The first order of business was to visit Dimebag Bob and score some coke if he had it. But I realized my car was still out by the truck stop.

Taxis are a rare thing in Sioux Falls, but unbelievably I found one looking quite lost and most eager for fare. That was the good news. The bad news was that it was one of those taxi drivers that wants to talk. Mercifully, we got to my car in about 10 minutes. I paid the annoying cabby and immediately jumped into my car and headed out to Dimebag’s place in the country.

Even before I climbed into the Jeep, it was starting to snow a bit and the wind was kicking up. That could be a problem on the prairie because prairie winds have a tendency to deposit drifts of snow onto country roads. Halfway out to Dimebag’s the wind kicked up some more, and I started hitting some minor drifts across the road. And then it got even windier. And hairier. Country roads are not lit, and in those conditions my headlights were useless because all they managed to do was illuminate the snow flying across the road in front of me. The drifting snow was a real bitch at that point, so I slowed way down. And then I slowed down some more, hoping that no one would come up behind me and rear-end me. I then started hitting some serious drifts on the road – each one yielding a muffled grinding noise and an attempt to jerk the steering wheel from my hand.

I then made the tactical mistake trying to call Dimebag while I was navigating the nearly invisible road. As I pulled the phone out from my left front pocket my first realization was that the battery was dead. Then, as I yelled obscenities at my phone, I became aware that I was somewhat off the road, so I ever so slightly nursed the car to the left, but as the car shifted to the left I realized that the car was maybe even more off the road. And then the road tipped steeply to the left. I was on my way into the ditch. I was going off the left side of the road, not the right!

I came to rest at the bottom of the ditch, in the middle of nowhere, in a wind-induced blizzard, in the middle of the night, in the dead of winter, in the throws of a post-MDMA crash. Fuck. My. Life.

I sat for a bit to try and collect my thoughts.

And then I sat some more.

My thoughts were not collecting.

I wondered if I should turn off the car. You know, you hear stories about people who go off the road and get carbon monoxide poisoning from their car exhaust. I cracked the window slightly, just in case.

Some people in Sodak keep snowmobile suits in the trunk of their car for moments just like this. I realized I didn’t even have blankets or jumper cables. Hypothetically, I thought, it would be possible to spend the night in the ditch as long as I kept the car running and didn’t die of carbon monoxide poisoning.

I turned off the car lights because there was nothing to see but snow, but when I turned the lights off and my eyes adjusted to the country road darkness, I thought I could see a light flickering between the waves of horizontally moving snow. A farmhouse? I decided I should check it out.

I turned off the engine, stumbled out of the car, and trudged out of the ditch and towards the light. I had to move about fifty yards before I was convinced it was a farmhouse. Then I trudged more quickly – running was impossible. I fell on my face a couple times.

I didn’t have the proper rig for going through snow like this. I seriously needed a ski mask because the little crystals of snow were stinging the shit out of my face. Some boots would have been nice too. The snow made its way into my Nikes as I waded up the driveway of the farmhouse that seemed like it was getting farther away as I walked towards it.

Farmhouse driveways are endless in the best of times, but this was like trekking across Nepal. The snow was driving into my face like needles and I was getting an earache in my left ear. My march to the farmhouse was fueled only by my endless stream of obscenity.

“Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Fuckety fuck fuck shit. Shit. Fuck… my…life. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Fuck. Fuck… shit. Shit shit shit. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck two three four fuck two three four. Fuck. Jesus fuck shit. Shit. Shit shit fuck. Fucking fuck fuck shit. Shit. Shit fuck. Fuck me fuck me fuck me fuck me. Fuck… Fuck. Just fuck me. SHIIIIIIIT. fuck… fuck…fuck. Fuck two three four five six seven eight FUCK! FUUUUUUUUCK! Fuck. Shit fuck shit fuck shit fuck…”

I fell on my face, got up and continued with my long obscene march. I was extremely pissed off. I also started blaming Officer Dickwad for my predicament – it’s not that I thought he was controlling the weather per se, but if he hadn’t beaten my ass I wouldn’t have needed to take the molly, and if I hadn’t taken the molly I wouldn’t have needed to go see Dimebag in the middle of a blizzard. Of course you might argue that officer Dickwad only did what he did because I fucked up his kid Pauly, but in my defense Pauly was a giant nasty dickwad, and he had it coming. And he was probably a dickwad because his dad was a dickwad. So I wasn’t about to put my predicament on myself. Officer Dickwad was the true culprit.

“God damn fucking dickwad cop. Fucking dickwad. Dick dick dick. Fucking dick! Jesus FUCK. Fuck fuck fuck. Fuckity goddamn fucking cold ass fuck! Fuck my life fuck my life FUCK. FUCK FUCK FUCK. FUUUUUUUUCK. Shit. Shit shit shit. Fuck.”

And then it occurred to me that fucking Funmaker could have prevented all this from happening if he hadn’t got his panties in a bunch about his cousin’s stupid magic cactus. Clearly, as payback for the magic cactus heist, fucking Funmaker had let fucking officer Dickfuckingwad off his fucking leash. I adjusted my obscene march accordingly.

“Fucking Funmaker, arrogant motherfucking funmaker go bone your stupid fucking cousin fucking funfuckingmaker lawyer fuckmaker…”

I thought I heard a dog barking. Or was it two dogs barking? As I stumbled closer to the farmhouse, sure enough two dogs emerged from the blizzard with their teeth bared. I could see the front porch light on the house. Could I make it to the house without getting mauled to death?

I tried to make nice with the dogs by holding my gloved hands in a way that I imagined dogs would find comforting. I held my hands out palm down with my fingers curled slightly, thinking that curling my fingers would make it less likely that the dogs would snap one of them off. It worked for one of the dogs – a friendly border collie that stopped barking and just sniffed my left hand. The other dog – a black lab – was not taking my olive branch. It just kept bouncing around, barking. I tried to face the dog at all times, thinking that it was the sort of dog that wouldn’t do frontal attacks but only sneaky, blind side attacks. Labs are chicken shit animals when you get down to it.

I moved slowly towards the light now, trying to keep the collie in a mutual friend zone and staring down the yappy lab as much as possible. Finally, I made it to the porch of the house – possibly without frostbite or hypothermia. The lights were on in the house, so I figured the inhabitants were home and awake. That was huge. But before I got to the door it swung open and I was greeted by two girls with 22 caliber rifles. Two more girls stood behind them holding what looked like fire pokers or, whatever they were, objects that might be murder weapons in a game of Clue.

The tallest girl, who was wearing pink pajamas and a white terrycloth robe, shouted at me through the blizzard.

“Who are you and what are you doing!”

The dogs took the opportunity to weave though the girls and enjoy the warmer climate that the house had to offer. There were done with barking and blizzards.

I shouted back.

“My car went in the ditch! I need to call someone to pull me out!”

“What’s wrong with your cell phone!”

“It’s dead. But also… I’m freezing to death.

The tall girl lowered her gun.

“Come on in.”

I was hoping that’s what she said. It was kind of hard to hear, and I had this notion that one of my eardrums might have frozen solid. But whether it was an actual invitation or I just fantasized it there was no turning back. I walked into the house.

“Oh my god thank you so much I thought I was going to freeze to death.”

“What are you even doing out here tonight?”

Hmmm, should I tell her I was on my way to see Dimebag? I decided to finesse it.

“My friend Bob lives out here and I was on my way to see him.”

“Bob?”

“Yeah… his name is Bob.”

“Do you mean Dimebag?”

“…maybe?”

The girls with the fire pokers giggle a bit.

The tall girl was still doing all the talking.

“Take your shoes off and come in over here by the fire. Do you want some hot chocolate? My dad will be here any minute. He just had to run an errand.”

It was interesting that she slipped in the part about dad. Of course “back any minute” was to make sure I didn’t try something shady. Who knew if he would even make it home on a night like tonight.

“What are you guys up to?” I said this looking around at the four girls – all of them pajamaed. They looked high schoolish. I decided it would be bad form to ask them their ages, and I filed them away as jailbait.

“We are having a blizzard slumber party!” Finally one of the other girls was speaking up. This girl had mint green pajamas and what looked like an afghan sweater over the top of it. She must have been generating mad static electricity in that getup.

“Slumber party?”

The tall girl handed me a hot chocolate and answered the question.

“A sleepover! — you interrupted our fingernail painting.”

The shortest girl presented her just-polished nails to me as if evidence were called for.

“Nice work – who did that?”

The fourth girl chimed in. “I did; it’s called Fiesta polish. See all the dots and sparkles?”

“Impressive.”

The tall girl brought the conversation back to why I was out on a godforsaken night like tonight. “So how do you know Dimebag?”

“Ahhh, he and I went to high school together?”

“You went to Lincoln?”

“Yep”

“So did we!” offered the girl in the mint green pajamas.

I took off my stocking hat and unzipped my coat, as if to ask if was ok for me to take it off.

The tall girl didn’t miss a beat. “Here, let me take your coat for you. Do you want anything to eat?”

“No I’m good.” I was feeling truly nauseous and not even a little bit hungry.

Tall girl was now on her phone.

“What did you say your name was?” she asked me as she was waiting for whoever she dialed to pick up. And exactly. She hadn’t asked me before and I hadn’t told her what my name was. An old trick but a good one. By making it sound like I already told her it made her question less gestapoey.

“I go by E.J. E.J. Spode. And that is short for …something.” I didn’t feel the need for going into details.

Tall girl rolled her eyes and then began talking to whoever picked up.

“Bobby? It’s Mindy. So we have a friend of yours here that seems to have gone off the road.”

Listening.

“Well yeah, he looks like a friend of yours…”

I cleared my throat.

“He says his name is E.J. something.”

“Spode” I volunteered pointlessly.

“Uh huh, uh huh, I don’t know, yeah that’s him” (looking at me) “uhhuh, yeah… yeah… (still looking at me with what was either resting bitch face or a strange combination of sympathy and contempt)… he looks pretty strung out frankly.”

Long pause.

“Yeah ok, cool, we’ll send him your way when the weather clears up.”

She hung up and looked at me. “I’m Mindy. You wanna get high?”

“Yes please.”

The other three girls started jumping around and dancing.

In short order I learned that in addition to Mindy, the other three girls were Lenore, Clarice, and Sue. They were having a slumber party for some unspecified reason and Mindy’s dad was stranded at card game at a neighbor’s house (in the country ‘neighbor’ meant a couple miles away).

Mindy took the guns into another room, which I thought was a nice gesture, and she invited me to take my shoes off. I wondered if that was for my comfort or to make me less threatening – can you be attacked by someone in socks? But then I wondered if she felt threatened at all. It was an awkward situation, but Mindy was being hospitable. The other girls were not ignoring the inherent danger of the situation, but they seemed to be borderline delighted by it – like it was making their slumber party!

When Mindy asked if I wanted to get high I just assumed she was offering weed, but as she was rolling a joint she sprinkled in some tobacco and some white powder for good measure. “Coke?” I wondered out loud, perhaps with an inflection that was a bit too hopeful. “Bath salts,” Mindy replied in a kind of faux-bored way. The other girls got up and danced what looked something like a little jig while singing “bath salts bath salts bath salts.” I had not expected that to happen.

Now I’ve spent enough time with Climax so that I’ve had just about every drug there is at some point or other, but I had never actually had bath salts before. My understanding was that the stuff (methylenedioxypyrovalerone, MDPV) was similar in effect to MDMA, which if true might take the edge of my post molly crash. I felt my synapses sparking back to life in anticipation. Then Mindy threw me a curve.

“Should I put some K in it too?’ Sue jumped up and shouted “fuck yeah!” and the other girls got up and started dancing their jig again, this time singing “k…k…k… you’re my special k…k…k… you’re my special k…k…k… you’re keta keta keta mine…”. I seriously had not expected that. The last thing I needed was to land in a K-hole, but on the other hand I didn’t want to seem like an old person or antisocial or anything, so I was like, “uh, sure.”

I will say that Mindy had taken joint rolling to an art form and that she was something of a mixologist vis-à-vis the chemical additives in her spliff. The K-hole was not the out-of-body experience I had feared and the bath salts gave me a pleasant buzz that completely washed away my post-molly-crash, and the weed on top of that (and it was good weed) put me in a happy and contemplative but talky mood.

The girls were talkative too, although they were mostly talking about boys and then they (well, mostly Clarice) started hitting me up for free advice about dudes. I felt I didn’t have a whole lot of suggestions, except to say that high school dudes are idiots and they, the girls, should just use them and lose them. Clarice wasn’t buying.

“You don’t believe in love EJ?”

“Yeah well, whatever love is, it’s not something that happens in high school.”

“Do you mean you didn’t you have a girlfriend in high school?”

“Oh yeah… that… but that was an exception…”

Mindy was painting her nails with some precision design but she looked up at me when I said that – kind of with an expression like “ok, let’s hear where this train of bullshit is taking us.”

Clarice kept pressing. “So, you did fall in love in high school…”

“Well yeah…” (I was suddenly hoping the K-hole would open up and swallow me) “… but you see that was my soul mate…”

“Soul mate?”

Clarice was even more interested now, and the other girls were listening intently. Mindy stopped painting and was blowing on her nails while waiting for me to answer.

“Yeah, well… her name was Penny… her name is Penny… and we were in love but it sort of fell apart when we were in Europe… and I dunno…it might work out…. Yet…. Maybe…. I think.”

Mindy began to roll another joint but offered a little soliloquy while she did so. It occurred to me that she was starting to trip balls.

“I thought I had a soul mate I did our souls would fly off into space together you know and they would come back and enter our bodies and we would look at each other like that trip was so beautiful I love travelling with you I said, I love leaving this planet with you I love travelling across the planet with our fingers entwined and I love coming home to our bodies and lying next to you and feeling you breathing your breath and feeling your body your presence your aura. You know?”

And then she lit the joint and drew on it and just kind of rocked back and forth and stared into space. The other girls were staring into space too; they were all stoned senseless.

I got up from my chair and walked over to get the joint from Mindy. I took it back to my chair and hit the joint hard, with the thought that it would help me catch up to whatever state of eternal bliss the girls had found. For some reason I felt it necessary to riff on Mindy’s voyage to the astral plane.

“I hear you Mindy but we never travelled we never were on the astral plane we were centered we were here and I always felt her body near mine and I felt her aura to be sure and I just felt so much love for her I never loved anyone else like that ever and I know I never will but you know like I said we didn’t travel the astral plane we traveled the surface of the Earth, you know, mother Earth, and we traveled all over its surface and we were part of it and it was part of us and we were part of each other we were physically present to each other and physically connected with each other and well…”

I had run out of steam.

It also occurred to me that I was speaking gibberish, and if it was gibberish to me what was it to the girls? Probably even more giberishy. Maybe it was gibberish, but Mindy didn’t take it that way.

“Did you ever think about getting married to Penny?”

I paused. The truth was I had thought about it constantly. Then Mindy fleshed out her question.

“I ask because it seems like you two are on the same wavelength, and isn’t that what it’s about? One mind? One body? Two minds and bodies in harmony? Two tuning forks vibrating at the same frequency…”

“Yeah… we talked about getting married, but what about you? Do you want to get married?”

“When I find my soul mate… but I know I’m not going to find him out there… I’m going to find him in here.” She pointed at the joint.

“In there…” (The only thing I could think of to say was to repeat what she was saying.)

Then she pointed at her head. “In here.”

“In your head?”

Mindy nodded. It seemed to make sense at the moment, but I recognize now that it made no sense at all. Well, almost none. Mindy then drifted off onto some astral plane where she thought she was going to find her soul mate. I could see her dilemma. How was she going to find her soul mate out here on the prairie? What were the chances? I mean, she could have tried the Internet I suppose, but the noise to signal ratio online is terrible and it is clogged up with catfishers, misogynists, scam artists, and perverts. She probably did have a better chance of finding her soul mate by drugging herself into oblivion than she did by going online.

I looked at the other girls but they weren’t paying attention. They were all on their own astral planes.

I thought about my situation relative to Mindy’s. There she was desperately scouring the astral plane to find some like-minded soul mate to be her partner, and I had a soul mate already. I just wasn’t able to put it together. Maybe finding your soul mate is the fucking easy part! And the thing is that we nearly got married once, too. In the summer before our trip to Colombia (so, I would say, the summer of 2011) we talked about getting married. I said something like let’s see where we are at the end of the summer, but Penny was not a wait-and-see type of person. She started introducing me as her fiancé. In her mind we were engaged, and eventually I started calling her my fiancé too. We were thus “engaged” for the entire summer of 2011, and through my Fall semester. When we got to Colombia during winter break we searched Cartagena for a ring that had the relevant shamanistic powers to protect our relationship. But I guess we didn’t find the ring in time; before the trip was over Penny had peaced out. If we had been engaged we clearly weren’t any longer.

But I never really let go of the idea that we would get married. After the whole debacle in Cartagena I tried to write a marriage proposal. I drafted and redrafted it for days. In the end it ended up looking like this.

“Penny,

Please marry me. If you want you can marry me for the money. Or, you can marry me for the snacks – for the dozens of multicolored eggs in our Colombian fridge. Or marry me for the cinnamon cookies, which, admit it, you would never have found on your own.

Marry me because it makes no sense! Because we don’t believe in marriage!

Marry me for the money I don’t have but which I will find or steal or counterfeit for you.

Marry me so that I can take care of you, so that I know you will always be safe. Marry me so I can give you everything I have. Marry me so that you can take possession of my soul.

Marry me so we can break all the rules. Marry me so we can get divorced. Marry me so that when we die we can get married again and then again and then again.

But seriously, marry me for the money – for the deep truths and the punctuation marks we will trade – for the fear – for the fights – for the sublime beauty of it all.

Marry me because some day I will have no knees to kneel on, no voice to beg with, and no back to bow with.

Marry me now, because tomorrow we will wake up and it will all make perfect sense and then it will be too late because there will be no more poetry in the idea.

Marry me my love, maybe not for the money or even the poetry, but for the prose. For the meter. For the beauty of the word yes.”

I just couldn’t tell if it was beautiful or crap if it would offend her or thrill her or all of the above. I just couldn’t tell what the consequences would be if I sent it. So I never hit send.

I kicked back and Bogarted the joint. Even with all the ruminating on my relationship with Penny I was in one of those too rare, really excellent highs. But just as I was on my own trip to the astral plane the girls came back to Earth. Sue jumped up out of her chair like she had just been given a shot of adrenaline.

“WHO wants cookiessss!!!?”

The other three girls all snapped to immediately. “And ice cream!” Clarice added, saying it like it was spelled I-s-c-r-e-a-m.

Mindy and Sue went in the kitchen to get the dessert. Clarice came over with the bottle of fiesta nail polish. “Give me your hand EJ, we are going to fix those nails.” Lenore – the short one – walked over and took the extinguished joint from my hand and lit it up, as she stood and watched Clarice’s handiwork – somewhat approvingly, I thought.

To be very honest I hadn’t actually paid much attention to Lenore earlier. I thought she might have been a bit younger than the other ones and up to that point she had struck me as sort of plain, but as she stood there burning down the joint like a sir I took more notice – particularly of her outfit, which consisted of pink footie pajama bottoms with a Victoria’s Secret sweatshirt on top. In any case, it looked like Victoria’s Secret gear. It was a gray hoodie with the words LOVE PINK filling the front of it. And the O in LOVE was a heart with a dog or something in the middle of it.

I looked up at Lenore. “Do you like dogs?”

“What?”

“Dogs.”

“I dunno they’re ok I guess.” Then she handed me the joint and said “I’m gonna help with the desert.”

I turned to watch Clarice’s handiwork. My nails were looking crazy festive, and the colors were making my brain hum at a very high frequency. For some reason I didn’t even think about how I was going to get the polish off. In the moment I didn’t care; I was just tripping on my nails.

The other three girls came back with a giant plate of Toll House cookies and a steel cylinder from an ice cream maker. Mindy dug the homemade ice cream out of the cylinder and filled bowls and Sue stuck two cookies in each bowl. Lenore took the joint back from me and observed some more. It occurred to me that she was so invisible because she never did anything except watch other people and register what they were doing. Nothing wrong with that I guess.

Mindy handed me a bowl of ice cream, and I looked at Clarice for approval. She seemed to know what I was silently asking, and she said, “sure just don’t touch the polish.”

OK, now Toll House cookies are Toll House cookies. Let’s face it; they are chocolate chip cookies with nuts in them. They are never bad – you just can’t fuck them up unless you replace the sugar with salt by mistake – but by the same token they are never going to blow you away. Homemade ice cream is another matter however. This was vanilla peach strawberry, and maybe it’s partly because I was tripping balls but the flavor of the ice cream was like essence of flavor – like hyperflavors. I started eating it too fast.

“FUCK. Brain Freeze!”

The girls pretty much ignored that remark – they were too into their ice cream – but Mindy looked to be flavor tripping as well.

At some point after the ice cream the girls were deep into their girl talk conversation and were firing up yet another joint and I asked if I could lie down on the couch in the other room. I was going to take my sweater off, but then I remembered my “big cock country” t-shirt so I went into the bathroom and turned the t-shirt inside out before coming back out to flop down on the couch.

I must have fallen asleep as soon as I hit the couch, because the next thing I remember, the sky was starting to lighten up outside. I checked my phone, and it was 7 AM; the girls were still talking in the other room. Do they ever sleep? I realized someone (Mindy I suppose) had covered me with a blanket. And then I heard a snowmobile outside, and it seemed to be getting closer.

I sat up just as Mindy ran to the door and opened it for what I assumed was her father.

“Hi daddy, can you believe this storm?”

“I’ve seen worse. Everything ok here? You girls are up early.”

The other three girls came out to greet Mindy’s dad.

“Hi, Mister Larson!”

Mr. Larson looked over at me on the couch and frowned – I suddenly knew where Mindy got her resting bitch face.

“That’s EJ, he was on his way to Bobby’s and his car went in the ditch. Can you help pull him out?”

I got up and walked over to greet Mr. Larson. I reached out to shake his hand.

“Crazy night; I couldn’t see the road at all.”

Mr. Larson shook my hand but then turned it and saw my festival nail polish. He looked at me and then he looked at Mindy, expressing some old farmer version of WTF? I thought I saw her mouthing out the words “he’s gay”. That also seemed to be the interpretation that Mr. Larson got out of it too, as he subtly shook his head and said “let’s eat some breakfast and then we’ll pull you out.”

Breakfast sounded ok for some reason. I was feeling a lot better than I had any right to.

“We’ll make it daddy, do you want steak and eggs or pancakes and waffles.”

“Yes, all of that Princess. I’m going upstairs to change.”

And Daddy Larson clomped up the stairs.

“How do I get this shit off my nails?”

Clarice snickered. “What, you don’t like my work?”

“Seriously, it has to go. And Mindy did you just tell your dad I’m gay?”

“Are you sure you aren’t?”

“Just help me get this shit off.”

Clarice handed me a bottle of nail polish remover and a box of tissues.

I got the polish off my nails about the time Mindy called out her “breakfast!”. Daddy Larson clomped back down the stairs and we all joined him in the kitchen. He sat down first – at the head of the table of course – and all the girls more or less waited on him.

“Have a seat there EJ; Mindy is a wizard with pancakes.”

“Daddy’s giving me too much credit. It’s grandma’s secret recipe.”

The girls joined us at the table, which was more or less a modern marvel of breakfast meats and starches. I had no idea how they made everything so fast. There were endless stacks of pancakes, maybe a pound of bacon, waffles, sausages, ribeye steaks and a serving dish filled with what must have been at least a dozen scrambled eggs.

“Want some coffee there EJ?”

“You know I do.”

“So… you went in the ditch…”

“Yes sir, I lost track of the road – it was pretty bad.”

“Hell yeah it was bad, you had no business being out there. No one did.”

“I’ve been away at school – I guess I forgot how to drive in the winter.”

Mindy and the girls chose that moment to abandon me. “Daddy, we are gonna go eat in the TV room if that’s ok.”

Dad nodded, “sure thing Princess,” the girls exited with their plates of pancakes and sausages and I was fucking stuck.

“So…school huh? Where do you go to college?”

“Cornell University sir, in upstate New York.”

“That so? It’s a long way from home, why you going there?”

“It’s a good school, especially in my area of interest.”

“What area of interest is that?”

“Literature.”

Daddy Larson was doing his best to disguise a look of utter contempt. Whatever his other faults might be he was a good host, however, and all I saw was his best poker face – the kind of face he probably showed his rich farmer friends when he had a shitty hand of cards. He got up and pulled a bottle of bourbon out of a kitchen cabinet. He held the bottle in my direction as if to offer some, more or less expecting me to say no, I think.”

“Sure, yes please.”

He nodded and pulled two tumblers from a cabinet and filled them half way and handed me one. I did my best not to drink it too fast, but I wanted to chug it.

“I never much cared for college. I went to Carleton College in Minnesota for a year, but all the kids were snooty. Is that how Cornell is?”

“Yes sir, they can be pretty arrogant – especially to us kids from the Midwest.”

I thought it was pretty clever of me to spin the story so that Daddy Larson and I were on the same team. He started to get sympathetic. He knew what it was like when city folks shit on country folks. I regaled him with a few stories about shit I actually had to put up with at Cornell, and then I made up a few for good measure. On balance, though, most of what I told him was true – hayseeds get treated like shit and you have to fight hard for respect, because there are 10 points counting against you from the outset. Your rural accent is one problem; just telling people where you are from is a problem, and you are just never going to be able to fake being cultured like city kids are. The discrimination is pervasive in the arts and literature. You have to believe in yourself and stand up for yourself and your work and never be ashamed of it.

Daddy Larson knew exactly what I was talking about, but his experience had been something else. It was more like he went to college to become a better person but the place conspired to make him feel like shit. It was more of that Trojan Horse point that Funmaker had made a few nights before. He bought into college because he thought it was going to make him a better person but it ended up making him feel small. It was all a ruse – a scam in his view.

All in all Daddy Larson and I had a pretty good conversation, I would say, and I think that in the end he pretty much liked me and was maybe even a little bit impressed with me despite my reputed gayness and my fiesta fingernails.

After breakfast he went out to get his tractor to pull me out of the ditch. I got my winter gear on and went in the TV room to say goodbye to the girls. Mindy was like yeah bye whatever, but the others were pretty sweet and thanked me for being a good sport and making their slumber party an event.

Daddy Larson owned a badass red Massy Ferguson 7495 model tractor – it was small for a tractor, but powerful as fuck. It looked vaguely extraterrestrial — like it could work on the moon, and with the help of some log chains it pulled me out of the ditch in no time. I thanked him profusely, and was finally on my way. It looked like the county snow plows had been through and cleared the road, so I figured I would head out to Dimebag’s. I felt like I was in a pretty good mood. Maybe it was the breakfast or maybe it was the Ketamine, or maybe it was both. Whichever it was, I didn’t much care. It was good to be in motion again.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EJ Spode abides. 3:AM are serializing his novel weekly. Keep up.

Image: Jana Astanov.

Chapter 1: Giants in the Earth:
Chapter 2: The Welcome Inn:
Chapter 3: Dimebag Bob’s:
Chapter 4: The Trojan Horse:
Chapter 5: The Turtle Diaries:
Chapter 6: The Cartagena Diaries
Chapter 7: Penny
Chapter 8: San Pedro
Chapter 9: Triggered
Chapter 10: Letters and Dreams
Chapter 11: Helena and Steady Eddie
Chapter 12: Circe
Chapter 13: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, January 29th, 2017.