I am amazed at the amount of hostility cats receive. In my office, which employs some 45 full-time staffers, there is a 15-to-1 dog person to cat person ratio. I am one of three cat people and, as of yet, the only outspoken one. I know the identities of the other two, but they have come forward only on condition of anonymity.
I am a cat person, but I also love dogs. I wish I could say the same for dog people, who seem to view cats the way most Republicans view President Obama. When I told Karen (a creative director at my agency who I absolutely adore) that I had a cat, she dropped her chin, looked up at me, shook her head and said, “Oh, Danny. Danny. Just rip my heart out, why don’t you.” You would have thought I showed up for work wearing a “HOMOS FOR RICK SANTORUM” button pinned to my sweater vest.
“I fucking hate cats,” Sister Marie said to me after my Godson Paul's first communion. “They are abominations spawned from the darkest legion of hell; they are not to be trusted.” Then she smiled sweetly and nodded like she always does, her habit tilting down, anointing me with her virtue.
When I tell someone I have a cat, more often than not, their jaw drops and their face goes pale. They tilt their head and study me as though I have antennae sprouting from the back of my head. “Are you serious?” they ask. The other common reaction is laughter, mostly from women, which then dovetails into embarrassment—for me—when they realize I am not kidding.
“Hemingway had a cat!” I say. “Lots of them!”
“That’s...not helping. At all.”
Today it is more socially acceptable to have just about anything for a pet…other than a cat. A web designer once brought his hedgehog, Bosco, into the office. It was like holding a bag of quills and about as cuddly as pin art. All the girls crowded around, fawning, taking turns holding the poor, frightened little creature, laughing and saying “awwww” every time he dropped a pellet in their hands.
It would be “cool” if, say, I had a python, which could slither out of its tank at night and asphyxiate me, or a Pit Bull, which could maul a family of four on the way home from the dog park. Hell, I’d get more respect if I told people I bred vampire bats, or that I have a chimpanzee at home that shares a cage with a retired Nazi officer.
“I despise cats,” says Holly, an account director at my office. “They’re just filthy creatures. I don’t even like being near them.” That’s funny, I tell her, because cats are fastidiously clean. They wash themselves more rigorously than humans, in fact. “I don’t care,” she replies. “I’d rather scoop up a pile of fresh mastiff shit with my bare hands than go near a cat. Ew.”
As such, all rational thinking goes out the window when it comes to cats. They are bad luck. They hex pregnant women and suck the life force out of newborn babies. Their dander is destroying the ozone layer. And since many cat breeds originated in Russia, they are obviously socialists; their very existence is a threat to our 2nd amendment right to bear arms.
Urban legends and old wives tales aside, here is one natural fact: I used to have a mice problem in my condo, what with all the recent construction in South Boston. Once I got my cat—no more mice problem. Nada. Not even a stray turd behind the bookshelves. I have seen my friend’s chow shepherd run out of the house yelping at the sight of a mouse. Not so with my little feline friend. She sits back on her fat ass with her feet sticking out, daring a mouse to show its face, like Joe in A Fistful of Dollars.
I’ve heard some people accuse cats of being self-centered. I find it interesting that all of a sudden we hold cats to the same standard we’d hold a boyfriend or girlfriend. As if the cat should somehow compromise, should scratch our bellies at least part of the time, or maybe have the decency to spoon some Fancy Feast into our bowls, for a change. Is that so much to ask?
I think the real issue is that dogs are clingier, and that satisfies our basic human insecurities. Dog owners need constant reassurance that their dogs love them unconditionally. And maybe it’s true; dogs are more loyal. But what’s so fun about that? Frankly, I like my cat’s ambivalence. I like how she won’t come to me when I call her name, but she will come and sit on my chest at the very moment I’m thinking of getting off the couch and grabbing a soda from the fridge. I like how, when I’m having an enjoyable, engaged phone conversation with a friend, she’ll start scratching my favorite reclining chair and staring at me with a look that says “Having fun with someone who's not me? Hm.” I like how she gets jealous of my books. As soon as I put my book down next to me on the bed she’ll walk over and lay down on it, as if she’s holding a pillow over the book’s face. Same goes for any longhand journal writing. Once I set the notebook down on my coffee table she’ll hop up and knock it off with her paw. And when I’m at the computer? Forget it. I’ll be sitting at my desk typing away, forging my latest revolutionary idea, and Dixie will walk directly in front of the laptop screen and just stand there. If I shoo her away she will eventually go, but not without smacking my face a few times with her tail.
If I play with one of my colleagues’ dogs at work, as I often do, then come home that night and pet my cat, she’ll sniff my hand and look up at me and meow, only the meow sounds eerily like the word “really?” Then she’ll walk into my study, where her litter box resides, and shit on the hardwood floor. Afterward she’ll walk back out with the kind of swagger reserved for a woman who’s just maxed out her husband’s Amex.
Yes, I am a cat person. A proud cat person. It is a thankless job, made even more thankless by the constant ridicule we endure from other humans. So my cat won’t lick my face. She will however bite my Achilles tendon or scratch my eyelid at 4:30 in the morning when she’s hungry. So we don’t go for runs along the beach. But she does climb atop my fridge and knock my cereal boxes onto the floor (which reminds me—I need to start closing the tops). So she doesn’t curl up at the foot of my bed while I sleep at night. But she does walk down to the second floor landing and wait patiently outside my downstairs neighbor’s door for hours on end. What she’s waiting for, I have no idea.
And that’s just another reason I love her.
One night, when I was 15 years old, my CCD teacher called me, out of the blue. I was excited at first, thinking he was going to tell me class had been cancelled.
“Danny? It’s George LaRoche, your CCD teacher.” This was followed by an awkward pause. I waited for the good news: that class was postponed until further notice due to a flood in the church basement or something. Instead he asked me how I was doing and what I was up to that night. After I responded with “good” and “nothing”, he asked if I had any career aspirations.
“Well,” I said, still perplexed and a bit uneasy, “I really want to be an actor.”
“Really,” he said, in a drawn out, surprised, mildly aroused tone. “What kind of actor?”
“What do you mean, ‘what kind of actor’?”
“Like a soap opera actor? Or do you want to be a huge movie star and see your name in lights?”
I should have hung up the phone right there, but something in his voice made him sound like a genie, about to grant me three wishes.
“I don’t know. I guess I want to be a movie star, like Tom Cruise.”
I sat on my living room couch and talked to this man for another twenty minutes, while my dad slept in his recliner and my mom watched Jeopardy, digging her rubber-tipped tooth cleaner into her gums, constantly shush-ing me and never once asking who I was on the phone with, even when I said things like “I wouldn’t have an issue with sex scenes. Duh!”
“I know Kevin Bacon, ya know,” he said.
“Yah. Him and his brother. They’re gonna be in town this weekend, staying at the Sheraton in Newton Corner. Kevin wants me to meet him for dinner at the hotel bar.”
This sounded entirely plausible to me. An A-list movie star coming to a suburb of Boston, for no discernible reason, staying at the Sheraton and having dinner with my CCD teacher on a Saturday night.
“I was thinking we could go see a 7:00 movie and then swing by and say hello to him. How’s that sound?”
“That sounds awesome, are you kidding me?”
“All right, then. I’ll call you on Friday.”
I hung up the phone and turned to my folks. “Who is…Harper Lee!” my mom shouted at the TV, while my dad snored.
The next day at school I told my friend, Jason, about the phone conservation. Jason also wanted to be an actor. “Dude, that sounds kinda weird,” he said. “I mean, maybe the guy does know Kevin Bacon, but it wasn’t too cool to be calling you up like that and asking you to the movies. Don’t ya think?”
“True, true.” Then a thought occurred to me. “Why don’t you come with me? I’ll tell him you’re my cousin, visiting from out of town, and that you have to come along. That way at least I’m not alone, and also it’s a chance for you to meet Kevin Bacon.”
Jason let out a long breath. “Okay. I’ll do it.”
On Friday I told my parents about my movie plans with George LaRoche. My mom looked skeptical; my dad looked indifferent. “I don’t even know this guy. I think he should come in here and meet us, and not just pick you up and drive you away to some abandoned house somewhere,” my mom said. It was as though she expected this strange CCD teacher to be a serial killer, and thought he should at least introduce himself before abducting me.
On Saturday Jason came over to my house at 5:30. My mom looked relieved to see him. “Oh good, Jason’s going with you. Good.” I appreciated the concern, but it didn’t exactly inspire confidence, either.
“Mom, I told you this guy knows Kevin Bacon, right?”
“Who’s Kevin Bacon?”
At 6:55 Jason and I waited at my living room window, staring out at the street. At precisely 7:00 a mid-80s white Cadillac, the car you think of when you think Fat Gangster, pulled up in front of my house. “What’s this guy’s name again?” Jason asked as he peered out from behind the curtain at a car that would have more aptly suited Elvis or Liberace.
“George,” I said. “George LaRoche.”
“Jesus,” Jason muttered.
We watched as LaRoche got out of the car. He was a large man, what would today be categorized as “Big and Tall”, though far more Big than Tall. With his left hand gripping the hood of the Cadillac he pulled/swung himself out of the driver’s seat, hiked up his tan trousers and proceeded up my front walk. He wore a blue blazer and a white collared shirt, the same outfit he wore every Tuesday night at CCD, or at the 5:00 Sunday mass when he handed out Communion wafers. His face was beaded with sweat. His hair was curly and light brown, with a mullet in the back, exactly like the porn star, Ron Jeremy. He even had the same bushy mustache, to boot.
The doorbell rang. I answered it. “Hey George,” I said.
“Hi, Danny.” His voice was high-pitched and nasally and he spoke with a thick Boston accent.
He entered my house. Both my parents approached him, their right hands outstretched. “So, you teach Danny’s CCD class,” my mom confirmed.
“Yes. I’m heavily involved with the church,” George said. This seemed to ease my mom’s nerves.
He shook my dad’s hand. “Hiya doin. Dan Pellegrini,” my dad said, chewing his gum, then turned and promptly walked away before George finished saying hello back.
“George, this is my cousin, Jason,” I said. “He’s visiting from New Hampshire.” My mom looked puzzled. I stared at her and shook my head discreetly.
“Oh.” George’s eyes lit up for a moment. “Nice to meet you, Jason. Where in New Hampshire are you from?”
“Um, Hampton Beach.” It was the only place either of us knew up there. We couldn’t even name the state capitol. Probably still couldn’t.
“Well,” George said. “Arachnophobia’s playing in Dedham at 7:35, so I guess we should get going.” We followed George down the front steps, toward his car. I looked back at my house, just in case I wouldn’t be seeing it ever again.
Once the Cadillac turned onto Lewis Street, out of view of my house, George said, “Oh. Bad news. Kevin didn’t make it into town this weekend.”
I peered into the backseat and looked at Jason. We exchanged a dubious glance. “That sucks,” I said, turning back up front. “What was he doing here, anyway?”
“Meeting with a producer, I guess.”
“Boston. But he likes to stay at the Sheraton.”
I looked back at Jason again, who was grimacing, as if to say, Bullshit. Not the Four Seasons, the Plaza, or the Lenox House. The Sheraton, in Newton Corner. Where I had my junior high prom.
“I talked to another friend of mine, though, who lives in New York City.” He emphasized the words New York City as though he were giving driving directions to a foreigner. “He’s an accountant at Bloomingdale’s and handles all of Tom Cruise’s personal shopping. He gave me this.” George reached into the inside pocket of his sport jacket, took out a folded piece of white paper and handed it to me. I opened it up. It had a perforated edge, like old Dot Matrix printer paper. Printed on it, in faded type, was a list of five or six items.
I read the list out loud. “Fahrenheit cologne…Calvin Klein underwear…Body Glove spandex shorts…” I looked up at George. “What is this?”
“Some of the things Tom Cruise likes,” he said in his bouncy tone, with that intense Boston accent. Tom Cruise sounded like Twam Karoowiz. “My friend says they have to order these things special for Tom. I thought you might like it.”
“Um, thanks,” I said, unsure what to do with the piece of paper. I handed it back to Jason as though it were a piece of evidence in a murder investigation. He examined it then looked back up to me, his glazed-over eyes corroborating the note’s meaning:
We were both going to die.
We made it through the film, Arachnophobia, without incident, although our seating arrangement was peculiar: George sat in the middle, barely fitting into his chair, his wide legs bulging through the armrests, a large bucket of popcorn held firmly between his thighs. Throughout the film he would offer the popcorn to us, but rather than hold the bucket out he would nudge us on the shoulder and then nod between his legs. “Have some popcorn,” he’d whisper in his squeaky Boston accent. As far as I remember, neither Jason nor myself accepted. Intuitively we knew how wrong it was.
On the drive back to Newton, up I-95 North, George showed off by gunning his Cadillac up to 85 miles per hour. “What do you boys think of this?” he said, leaning back and grabbing the steering wheel with one hand while the automatic transmission bucked into fifth gear and his 25-foot car gradually increased in speed, the odometer needle slowly creeping upward. Jason, now in the front seat, looked back at me over his shoulder, smirking. “You boys like to go fast?” Just as he said that a Porsche 911 tore past us at close to 100 mph, cut us off, then swerved out of sight. It was kind of sad and pathetic, like a 70 year-old man telling you to check out his fastball, then go into a wind-up and fracture his hip.
Once we reached the off ramp to Newton, I felt relieved, safer. I rolled down the back window to breathe in some of my familiar, hometown air. I felt Jason’s tension dissipate as well. Then George said, “I’ve got some presents for you back at my house, if you guys want to stop there before I take you home.”
“I don’t think so, George. It’s getting late.” I looked at my watch. It was 9:35.
“Are you sure? What if I told you I had some of those things from Tom Cruise’s shopping list?”
Jason looked back at me, raised his eyebrows and gave a furtive little shrug. I thought about it. What could this guy possibly do to us? We were two healthy, young adolescents. He was a big fat man who broke out into a sweat whenever he drove fast. Besides, I had just discovered materialism. I liked to spend money from my part-time job on things like $65 hair treatments and $120 Ray-Ban sunglasses, anything to fashion myself after Tom Cruise. The summer before 9th grade I saved up caddying money and bought a leather bomber jacket and cowboy boots. I wore them on the first day of high school; the jacket was two sizes too big and the boots were stiff and felt like high heels, clicking and clacking as I strutted down the main corridor toward my locker, 11th and 12th grade girls pointing at me, covering their mouths, laughing.
The way I saw it, if the items were free, and if Tom Cruise had the same ones, I was game, even if it meant being chopped up into 40 pieces and then molested.
The Cadillac pulled into the driveway of a two-family house a couple miles from my own. George got out and we followed him through the front door. “Do you live here alone?” Jason asked.
“I live with my brother,” George said. I felt a weight lift from my neck and shoulders. “Don’t worry; he’s out right now.” That same weight then clamped back onto me like an evil spirit angling for a piggyback ride.
George lived on the first floor, essentially a two-bedroom apartment with a spacious common area—an open kitchen that looked out into the living room. The three of us sat down at the kitchen table and George asked if we’d like something to drink.
“Do you have any iced tea?” I asked. George had his back to us and was looking through a cabinet next to the fridge. He didn’t respond. “Or a coke, if you have it?”
“I was thinking maybe you’d like something stronger. Like a glass of scotch.”
“Sure, I’ll have some,” Jason said. I turned to him and mouthed “No.”
George turned around, holding a bottle of Dewar’s and two rocks glasses. “Are you sure you don’t want any, Danny?”
I nodded and watched as George set the glasses on the table with his pudgy, sausage link fingers. He dropped two cubes in each glass and filled them with scotch. “Well, I have something else for you, anyway.” He raised his glass to Jason. “Cheers, Jason. Glad you could come on this adventure.”
I felt the sudden impulse to smash the bottle of Dewar’s over his head, probably because I felt left out of their little scotch club.
George took a drink of his scotch and then waited for Jason to do the same. Jason took a small sip, winced, coughed, then set the glass down. “Wow,” he said.
“Strong, isn’t it,” George said. “You’ll get used to it.”
Just then the front door opened. A man who bore a similar resemblance to George—only much thinner—entered the house with a woman behind him. “Hey Richie. Guys, this is my brother, Richie, and his girlfriend, Naomi. Richie, Naomi, this is Jason and Danny.”
Richie gave his brother a funny look, a look that said I know you’re holding something behind your back. I’m not an idiot. I can see the blood dripping on the floor. “Nice to meet you,” he said, his eyes darting from George to us to George. “I forgot my thermos. I’m just gonna grab it and I’ll be out of your way.” He walked into one of the closed off rooms, presumably his bedroom. George followed him in there and closed the door behind him. Richie’s girlfriend, Naomi, stood in the kitchen and waited. She wasn’t bad looking; Jason nodded at her and said “hey”. She just stared back at us and said nothing.
I was about to stand up and announce that we had to leave and that we were walking home when the bedroom door opened and George and Richie came walking out. Richie—thermos in hand—hastily moved to the door, took his girlfriend’s hand and left the house, without saying goodbye. George walked back into the kitchen, holding a paper bag. He handed it to me.
“Here ya go. All yours.”
I looked at him. I looked at Jason. I set the bag down on the kitchen table, opened it and reached inside. First I removed a box. It was white, like a pastry box, with the word Fahrenheit printed on the top. I opened the box. Inside were hundreds of sample-sized bottles of cologne.
“That’s the cologne Tom wears!” George said, jubilantly.
“Cool, thanks,” I said, passing the box to Jason, as though it were a Christmas gift.
Next I reached into the bag and felt a spongy material. It was a pair of spandex biker shorts, black with a thick, neon-colored stripe up each side. “Awesome.”
The last item in the bag was men’s bikini underwear, a package of three, each pair in a different acid-washed print. I held them in front of my face, too stunned to comment.
“Aren’t you gonna try them on?” George said.
“Yeah, Danny, try them on.” Jason said, smiling.
“I’ll use the bathroom,” I said, and took the paper bag with me.
I closed and locked the bathroom door. It was a small space. The bathroom mirror had those dressing room light bulbs around the edges. I tried on the spandex shorts first; they cut off my circulation and nearly put my legs to sleep. After I took them off I looked at the tag: S for small. Maybe they did belong to Tom Cruise, after all.
After that I reluctantly tried on a pair of the bikini underwear. It was like slipping on a pair of women’s panties. The thong rode up my butt crack and my scrotum spilled out of the sides of the front the same way George himself spilled out the sides of his movie theater seat. I felt an immediate sense of shame and disgust and I took them off, hurling them back into the paper bag.
“Why don’t you come out here and model them for us?”
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
“Wha-at…just having some fun!”
I walked out of the bathroom. Jason was still sitting at the table, smiling. I held up the bag. “Thanks for this stuff, George. But we gotta go. My dad’s expecting us. We’re gonna walk.”
“Don’t be silly. I’ll drive you.”
“Nah, there’s a couple girls we’re seeing who live down the street. We’re gonna stop there first.”
“You have a girlfriend?”
“Seeya at church!”
I received my confirmation a month later, and CCD was over. George still handed out communion during the 5:00 mass—the only mass I could ever wake up for—so I duly skipped every Sunday. I haven’t been back since.
After a couple months of avoiding his calls and making up excuses, he got the picture and left me alone.
Then he started calling Jason.
“Dude. LaRoche called me again last night.”
“Are you shitting me? What now?”
“He wants me to have a three-way with him and his girlfriend.”
“Bullshit he has a girlfriend.”
“He put her on the phone.”
“It was probably his mother.”
“She sounded young.”
“It was probably a hooker he was about to kill.”
“Dude, what should I do?”
“What the fuck do you mean, ‘what should you do’? Are you seriously considering this?”
“No, no, of course not.”
After two weeks of nightly phone calls Jason’s older brother, Ronnie, picked up the phone and threatened to kill George if he ever called the house again.
“We’re just friends!” George pleaded in his nasally Boston accent.
“I don’t give a fuck who you are. Come near my brother again and I’ll run you over in my ‘vette. I know what you look like, fat man.”
Two months later myself, Jason and Fran Hoolihan were hanging out at the Shell gas station where Jason worked part time during the summer. Fran was sipping from a bottle of schnapps when a white Cadillac turned in off the street and pulled up to the pumps. The door opened and out swung the fat man himself, LaRoche.
He hiked up his trousers and walked toward us.
“How have you boys been?”
Jason and I stayed put, sitting on the bench, with our arms folded across our chests.
“Is someone gonna pump my gas?” George asked.
We both turned to Fran. “Fuck it,” he said, and got up and walked to the pump.
After filling the tank, George gave Fran a twenty on $18.25 of gas. He got back into the Cadillac, looked at Jason and me one last time, started the engine and drove away, the sound of Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York trailing away from the car radio in the summer night.
Fran walked back to the bench and sat down. “Just made two bucks off that fat guy. Who was that, anyway?”
“Go to the 5:00 mass on Sunday. He’ll be there. He’ll hook you up with free booze. And free cologne,” I said, dully, staring straight ahead.
“How do you assholes know this?”
Jason and I looked at each other.
We didn’t see much of Fran after that night. Apparently he and George became close; how close, I’ll never know. Nor do I care to know. I’d see him down at the park from time to time, and he seemed fine. He’d tell me how George would call him almost every night and they’d talk—sometimes for hours—about life, about absent fathers, and about career goals. Fran didn’t have any. George seemed to take a special interest in that.
One evening at the park, after a Babe Ruth baseball game, I saw Fran sitting alone on a park bench. I walked up and sat next to him. He looked shaken up. I asked what was up and he told me that George had come over the night before--unannounced--with a couple bottles of whiskey. Shortly after that his father came by to say hello, saw George, threatened to kill him, and chased him out. “I kept the booze, though,” Fran said, staring off at a swing set in the distance.
I sometimes feel bad about introducing Fran to George, but I felt the only way to truly eradicate the curse was to pass it off on someone else, like in an exorcism movie. According to Facebook, Fran is a happily married, father of two. Jason is living in Los Angeles and fronting a Johnny Cash cover band. I am alive and well in Boston, doing whatever it is I do.
I have looked for LaRoche on the internet.
His whereabouts remain unknown.
I believe everyone should have a friend that lives in Los Angeles. I have one. His name is Johnny Starr. We talk on the phone 4-5 times a week. And by “talk” I mean that I listen while he takes me on a simulated audio tour of L.A., navigating his way through boulevards and freeways, fast food drive-thru windows and full-service gas station islands, grocery stores and strip mall Rite Aids. He takes me everywhere he goes. He is my friend; I am his designer Chihuahua in a Louis Vuitton bag.
The phone rings. I see JOHNNY STARR on the iPhone screen and I answer.
DANNY: Johnny, what’s up, man?
JOHNNY: Just checking in, bro. How’s it going?
DANNY: Fucked up, actually. I think I’m--
JOHNNY: Buddy. Hey buddy. I’ve been coming here twice a week since ’07. The other guy has never charged me for the plastic cup. I pay the $2.19 for the Diet Dr. Pepper and I get the cup, for free. I’m not trying to be difficult, bro. I’m just letting ya know. It’s the way it’s always been. Hold on. Yep. There ya go. That’s all I’m sayin. We cool? Cool. So what’s up, man?
DANNY: Are you talking to me?
JOHNNY: Yeah sorry I just had to take care of some shit. Talk to me.
DANNY: Well, that girl I met online? You know, MustangSally78?
DANNY: Dude she fucking--
JOHNNY: Hiya. Yeah. $13.50 regular, por favor. Wait...wait...make it $13.80, pal. Yeah what about her?
DANNY: Okay so she makes the first move. She writes me. I write her. We do the dance, couple days, exchange cell numbers, then she goes to the Poconos for a week with her fam.
DANNY: So she texts me from Poco-land. A selfie. Her in the outdoor hot tub.
DANNY: And under the pic she writes--
JOHNNY: Can I get a Double-Double with fresh tomato and a side of onion rings? But make sure the tomato is fresh, please. Like, one from the container with Cellophane on it. Cellophane. The plastic stuff. Hold on. Here’s three...here’s four...there’s five clams, buddy. Thanks. Sorry dude, so okay you exchange cell numbers and then what?
DANNY: Um, so, cell numbers, Poconos, hot tub selfie.
JOHNNY: Nice, kid!
DANNY: Right? And next to the pic she writes, “I have a thing for bubbles in the snow. Just sayin. Winkie face.”
DANNY: I don’t even know what that means, but...
JOHNNY: It means ‘I want to fart in your hand’. What do you think it means, numbnuts?
DANNY: Well I don’t know, because--
JOHNNY: This is an exit, pal! See how all the cars are going out? See?
JOHNNY: Okay. I’ll do that. You have a lovely day, sir. Well there’s nothing I can do about that, sir. I don’t have superpowers. Go ‘head, man. Sorry.
JOHNNY: Yeah...I just...give me a second...I’m merging onto Pico...okay...okay...all you, bro. Hit me.
DANNY: Where was I?
JOHNNY: Farting in her hand.
DANNY: Um, wait. Oh yeah. So I write her back, and I’m like, “Haha. Looks like you need a rubber duckie right about now.”
JOHNNY: Holy shit.
DANNY: Was that too forward? I thought it was just the right amount of respect and--
JOHNNY: Dude, there is a six-foot-five black guy walking down Pico right now. He has long dreads, he’s wearing leather pants with cross-ties up the seams, a leather vest with no shirt underneath, and he has a fucking electric guitar strapped to his back. He looks like fucking Robin Hood. A black, heavy metal Robin Hood.
JOHNNY: Sorry man, so she’s in the hot tub with the bubbles, and then what?
DANNY: Never mind. The point is I haven’t heard from her in three days. Just like that, practically mid-conversation, she’s gone.
JOHNNY: No way, dude. She smoke-bombed you?
DANNY: I don’t know. Should I write her again?
JOHNNY: Is the ball in her court?
JOHNNY: You can’t, dude. She dropped the bombs. She could be all the way back at the Batcave by now. You’ll never hear from her again. That’s not true; I’ve had bombs dropped on me before and then out of nowhere they reappear, when you least expect it.
At this point I hear his car accelerate, followed by the white noise of wind, air conditioning and freeway traffic.
JOHNNY: (Yelling) When I was dating the girl from That 70s Show she would drop bombs like every other Sunday. I dunno. It was like the cycle of the werewolf or something. You get used to it, I guess. It’s a...game...(Trails off) Are you kidding me? How is that even possible? No way...(Loud again) The point is, I don’t remember the point.
DANNY: Me neither.
Johnny goes on for 25 minutes, continuing with the girl from That 70s Show and ending with the time Paris Hilton propositioned him outside Fred Segal. He makes random allusions to old Atari games, like Combat and Missile Command. He tells me that the Griffith Park Observatory is the best place for a first date; that Shia Lebouf is a wus and a phony; that Gospel Music will be huge in the next 12 months; that he’s considering writing a book of poetry; and that the answers to just about everything in life are encrypted in the placemats of Mel’s Drive In. Before he gets out of his car he asks if I will Western Union $175 to a man named The Animal.
Then he is on foot again, walking into his apartment complex. The white noise is gone.
JOHNNY: Anyway, man, the key is to play it cool and not worry about these things. Life’s too short. Know what I mean?
DANNY: I hear ya. It’s just that I after this chick told me--
JOHNNY: Is she gone? You just said an ambulance was here. Did they take her boyfriend, too? That sucks, but hey, at least I won’t have to hear those fucking bongo drums at 3:00 in the morning anymore, and the hallway won’t stink like dead animals.
Johnny’s right; life's too short.
Daniel Pellegrini is a recovering drug addict with an aggressive form of chronic bowel disease. That means he can't take painkillers after undergoing rectal surgery. He's here to show you just how beautiful life is.
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