Oh my god why is Electric Light Orchestra playing personal recording of “Don’t Bring Me Down” in my room? Didn’t I tell Jeff Lyne he can only make unannounced appearances when Emily is gone? Oh, well, Emily needs to learn to appreciate disco instead of classifying it as, “the gayest thing she’s ever heard.” Peel back puffy eye lid. Notice ELO is not personally boosting mood with V.I.P. treatment, disappointingly, it’s only that masochistic radio clock blaring the 98.7 KLuv My Oldies Station at the rude hour of 7:00 a.m. Press red, misleading snooze button. ****************************************
“Woah. Jeff, something is severely wrong with this cloud. It’s glowing at night like a distrustful glowworm. You are probably putting us all in mortal danger by smoking,” I warn helplessly. “No,” laughs Emily. “This is a nacreous cloud. It glows at night because it receives sunlight below the horizon and reflects it back to the ground. They catalyze ozone depletion, disrupting nitrogen and chlorine cycles by removing gaseous nitric acid from the atmosphere. Jeff’s cigarette will only minutely place us in mortal danger if we choose to conceive it as a negligible contribution to global warming’s end of humanity.” “Cool,” I say, “Can I have one of those then? You know, you’re pretty quiet for being a part of one of the best bands of the 20th century.” “That’s a blanket statement,” Jeff remarks, turning a switch on Emily’s head so that her hair procures butane. He then pops off her head and lights my cigarette. “I’m happy to help,” Emily’s head replies humbly. “Jeff,” I say, “Stop making that beeping noise. I think you could seriously contribute a bit more substance to this conversation than making that racket. Quite strange, really.” ****************************************
Blegh. Why does excessive drooling only happen while dreaming? Oh well, just press snooze button one more time… Press snooze button 3 more times before conscious of finger. My brother believes that a CEO invented the snooze button to justify replacing half a million assembly line workers with a machine that was never late or had fingers to tediously press a snooze button. Roll off brother’s hand me down bed that is quite handy for storage, i.e. apparel and Flaming Hot Cheetos. Since moving from the dorms to this apartment, have developed incredible jumping skills by hurtling body off top-bunk every morning like awkward Ferris Bueller. Stagger to sink and find wet, yellow, tarantula shaped dread lock stuck in drain. Fashion devise made from roommates Q-tips, and retrieve were-wolf patch of Emily’s afro successfully. Lovely. Dedicate next seven hours in room to, “Impervious Cover’s effect on Nutrient Cycling” paper, for which half of time is spent flipping back and forth to Facebook, staring at own mother’s friend request with same wariness of receiving fruitcake you know will rot but can’t throw away. Disgraceful phone call with elated mother yesterday, informing that she created a SoulMates.com profile page. Apparently she will be hearing back from suitors whose mail order brides will be divorcing them any day now. When asking her what Dad would have thought about this, she answers, “Darling, did you see Oprah yesterday? Tom Cruise was jumping on a couch! It was mad!” Decided to make way to kitchen for Insta-Coffee and roommates zero calorie, artificial sweetener. Notice neon green Post-It note left on the freezer by one of three dorm roommates. It scrawls, Someone seems to have eaten all of my 90 calorie cheese-it packs, Please replace today! Do not remember eating the entire box. Make mental note to pick up Somethings at Super-market. Realize that analog clock points towards 3:00, indicating that I must pick-up John, the kid I baby-sit, from elementary school in fifteen minutes. Scrounge for argyle sweater and flip-flops in closet that seems to have rejected resolution of keeping organized by replicating chaos equivalent to the fall of Berlin Wall. Find clothes in apparel avalanche. Serendipitously find keys while retrieving underpants in drawer and leave apartment in state of upheaval. Really is wonderful treasure in finding things before realizing they are lost. See fellow roommate, Emily, laying on 4x2 ft median in massive concrete parking lot. She is wearing black string bikini. Realize rectangular patch of grass is the only
photosynthesizing thing in 42 building apartment complex. Emily sits up from her corpse-in-casket pose, grabbing economy size baby oil from the vacant parking spot next to my car. “Did you see Kelli’s post-it?” She asks while smearing gallon of oil onto orange thighs. “Yep, sorry, can’t talk. I actually have to go pick up John from school.” Her forehead wrinkles up like a pug. Realize this is attempt to look interested but wafe-like eyebrows detract from genuine expression. “Oh yeah! The one by that awesome heated pool you were telling me about a couple of months ago! I bet it’s soooooooooooooooo good for laying out. This place fucking blows and tar keeps burning my arm. I need to layout, I’m getting sooo pale it’s scary.” Subtlety is an art. Nod swiftly in reply while slowly backing away from the tanned-Robert-Plant-inconcrete-graveyard scene. Must avoid carting John around with the corruption better known as Emily’s mouth. Am now attempting to race enormous boat, a.k.a. my 1996 Chrysler Sebring, through narrow streets with Emily’s oily legs sliding back and forth in my cracked leather passenger seat every time I turn. I am trying to get to John before he resembles one of those lost children on late-night Adopt-A-Child-Now infomercials. Emily is talking incessantly in the tone of a cheerleader with a megaphone about something to do with people needing to fuck-off. “And he fucking tells ME that Bradley wouldn’t like seeing his girlfriend dancing that way at a party! Can you fucking believe that shit! I told him to fuck-off but seriously like why is it like fucking high school here? I don’t even know that toolass kid. How do all of these people know me? It’s like leave me the fuck alone, you know what I mean?” I do not reply because I do not know what she means. This is not taken as rude because these are questions she purposely poses for breathing intervals. I pull into gravel parking lot addled with “Environmentally Sensitive Zoning Area” signs behind Blunn Creek Elementary. Blunn Creek runs behind the school where the invasive species Wax-Leaf Legustrum trees are choking the other leafy species here. John and I usually try to pull the younger Legustrum roots surrounding the creek to help slow their eventual domination. I tell this to Emily who is humming and pulling her cover-up dress on. She is the only person I know who sounds angry humming, “Frere Jacques.” We power-walk to the established pick-up area, rushing past broken curved lines of children in an oldest to youngest grade order while teachers yell for symmetry at the front like crazed cattle herders. Come to the last, shortest, line of children, as
responsible parents should pick up their five year olds on time so as to prevent tears and thoughts of abandonment. Guilt pangs in my stomach, when I, finally, spot the only kid in the kindergarten left-over’s who wears a soiled red cape. He repetitiously pulls the Velcro straps of his Reebok tennis shoes back and forth while sitting patiently on the imaginary class line. I sit down next to him and give him a remorseful hug as he wraps one of his short pudgy arms around my neck. “I can’t find my key,” John whispers in my ear. He has lost his key 12 out of the 18 times I have come to pick him up. After the third time, his mom made me a key in private, so as not to discredit parental trust in children. “Well how’s it goin’ Superman! Have you been flying around all day saving people?” Emily croons. John looks at me levelly, “Molly, will you please tell this lady that I am not Superman and he is a fictional character?” He asks with a hint of odd British accent, as he cannot pronounce his R’s yet. Emily blushes and taps her flip-flop impatiently while placing her hand at the horizon, calculating hours left of sun using ancient Mayan method. “Right. This is Emily, my roommate. I gave her a ride to the pool. We should probably show her where it is before it gets too chilly to swim,” I say while pulling John and his cape up to stand. Emily departs at the gate of the pool in a huff after John told her she looked like orange tart, then happily looked over and told me he was hungry. I silently vow to bring him orange tarts next Wednesday even though his parents have put him on loony diet plan. I force-fed him broccoli falafels once, and he told me that he hated his mother. We retrace our steps, passing what is now a quiet empty pick-up lot and stroll back behind school to the creek. We build fairy lair on the creak bank while logically discussing the validity of different magical entities. We concede that, (a) Of course, fairies are real, because he is a light sleeper and would have woken up if gargantuan, human hand had taken his tooth vs. miniscule dainty fairy hand and (B) Emily might perceive Superman as non-fictional because she has bad vision, mistakenly identifying large bird as Superman. Eventually we walk the four blocks from Blunn Creak elementary to his yellowbrick, 1950’s home. I anxiously open the door, while John is distracted by the 6x4 empty cardboard box left in the open garage. I alert his attention from the declared new clubhouse, and show that the door has been conveniently left open. Inside, the walls are covered with plastic sheets and paint for renovation and this reminds John
he is hungry because John is always hungry. I try to give him the spinach with walnuts and raisin salad his mother left him in stainless steal fridge, but admit defeat when he starts dipping the spinach leaves in open can of Mango Maroon paint and slapping them against the plastic sheets like post-modernist painter. Tip toe through mine field of brushes and drills in kitchen, and make banana and peanut butter sandwich for him. We eat on the back porch, the only place devoid of all construction materials. John proceeds to tell me about the recent issue with the class bully, Jacob, whom last week attempted to throw his desk at Ms. Wong. “Jacob made my friend, Anna, cry today, but Ms. Wong made him apologize. He called me fatty ghost.” “Really, what did you do back?” “Nothing, I never really ever say anything back to him. He’s just bothersome,” John heaves, while clumsily pulling out the Chess box. He drops a few of the marble pieces, breaking the “Well, that’s okay, you know why? Because they are going to have awful karma, and you my friend are brimming with good karma.” “Nu-uh. I keep bweaking things.” “Well it’s obvious, see, good karma means you get to watch Star Wars before being old enough. Good karma means you get to go to Germany this summer while we all sit here and melt. Good karma MEANS you have a limitless supply of fairy magic.” John may quite possibly be the only kindergartner to see the full Star Wars series in chronological order by the age of four. His mother informed me that John has no censorship so as not to sugar coat reality. “Yeah, I guess so, Jacob doesn’t seem like he has bad karma though.” John replied, “He gets to ride his bike home from school, without anybody else!” “Bikes are over-rated. And if you were allowed to walk home alone then you could be stolen and then you’d have a Home Alone situation, but you don’t own any sort of cheap, tasty sauces to spray all over the floor to make the burglering fools slip. John takes this rant as his cue to run down the porch’s wooden steps to the far left of the backyard, his stained cape trailing behind him. He pulls, from behind the overgrowth of shrubs, a 1972, red, Schwinn bicycle.
“Where did you get this vintage bike? Can your legs reach the peddles? That looks exactly like the one my dad used to ride when he was in college.” I say anxiously, while a sudden wave of nausea forces me to sit back down on porch steps. “I found it in the alley,” he mischievously grins. “I don’t know how to ride it. Will you teach me how? ” “Um, well I never really learned either,” I stammer, picking the bits of splintered wood off the steps. “You are so old! You don’t know how to ride a bike?! Why didn’t your mom and dad teach you?” he asks incredulously. “They were both sick during the average five year span kids usually learn how to ride bikes.” “What kind of sick?” He tilts his head innocently, his white knuckles clutching the corked handlebars. “My mother had a degenerative muscle disease and my father had lung cancer.” “Why didn’t they teach you when they got better?” “My dad never got better, and I’m not quite sure if I’ve ever seen my mom ride a bike before.” “Your dad died. So you never learned? I bet he wouldn’t mind if you learned.” “Riding a bike for me would be like eating broccoli falafels to you.” He sets the bike back down carefully on to the yellowed grass and waddles over to sit next to me on the porch. “I bet it’s really easy. I bet it would only take an hour if we tried. You can use my cape to help slow you down too!” he says earnestly. Suddenly remember the empty scotch glass, and half smoked cigarette lying routinely on my dad’s desk when I asked for bike lessons in first grade, and his face right before he would say “no.” He used to look at me like it was cute that I asked but didn’t feel bad turning me down. He only made drunken excuses until those doctors cut out his tongue. Suddenly have this weird vision of my dad on platform of cotton ball clouds in the sky dancing to James Taylor with some invisible angel he can see but I can’t. His hand grasping an everlasting cup of scotch, his other pinching a cigarette he never has to ash. Bastard. “Bastard.” “What?”
“Alright. Ok. Fine. Yeah. We should learn.” John laughs in triumph, twirling his mustard stained cape counter clock wise so I get a whiff of hot-dog every other second. Great. I am now trusting Twiggy impersonator to support the combined weight of the bike and I down Rebel Road. John wisely asserted that we could both receive whopping boo-boos if we tried to learn without an experienced bicyclist. So, for the past three weeks, I have been splitting the baby-sitting money with Emily, who not surprisingly, is overly-amused that I am paying her to teach me to ride a bike. John learns the second time he tried. He seems to have natural motor skills, I, on the other hand have a car covered in dents. Obviously, this learning-to-ride-a-bike thing was doomed from the start. Yet, John will not ride his bike home from school without me, hence, zero showing off of his new biking skills in front of Jacob until I learn. When I ask why, he replies, “I’m not going to embarrass you like that, Molly!” as if appalled by the idea of me walking next to him, gloriously biking next to me. Since then, I have racked up seven cuts and four bruises, one of which is an ego wound, caused by Emily constantly yelling, “Peddle Bitch! Peddle!” She miraculously holds me and Schwinn up, and then gives a homicidal push so that I am flying down Rebel Road’s steepest hill. Suddenly her screams are droned out by the wind, and I’m- good lord- I’m peddling. The wind is in my hair and I’m peddling. As I watch the busy crossing street coming, increasingly towards me, I suddenly realize that I don’t know what to do when I break. I resort to slowing down to three mph and awkwardly topple over on to the luckily, adjacent grass. I can care less about my grass-stained jeans. Am now Queen of the Schwinn. John runs down the hill towards me, laughing and clapping giddily. Emily sits down in the same place where she pushed me off, looking tired and bored. I am finally driving home with Emily ranting about a deranged life guard attack she had before doing her bicycle duties today. “AND he had the fucking audacity to tell me to tie my top back on. Told me some lame ass excuse about exposing the rampant FUCKING welfare kids to nudity. Does he not fucking KNOW about tan lines?!” “Yeah, well, you know that’s illegal,” I say. “It’s not fucking illegal if I’m flatter than John! I don’t have any boobs, it’s really an issue. Oh my god! Did I tell you? Apparently, you can set up a monthly payment plan for breast implants.”