November 7, 2013

Excerpt: The Universe is a Very Big Place

“What do you mean you’re moving?” Pete was chucking rocks at an old tombstone, trying to lodge out ghosts. Fortunately for the sleeping dead, most of them missed.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” John said. “It’s disrespectful.”
“What are they gonna do? Haunt me?” Pete laughed but let the rocks tumble from his hand and onto the ground.
John shrugged. A haunting might do Pete some good, actually.
“This place is gonna suck if you go,” Pete said, pulling down his zipper, looking for a place to piss. He might have relieved himself on one of the headstones had John not given him the disapproving eye.
John took in the view of the cemetery. He and Pete had been coming here for the last twenty years and it pained him a little to think that those days would soon end. “I have to go. This place…it’s death to me. Death to my soul.”
Pete laughed. “Death of your soul, man? What the hell have you been reading?” He rubbed his nose with his hand, not caring that he had just held his pecker with that very appendage. “You just need to get laid.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
“Is this about Mara? I told you, it was an accident. You didn’t want her anyway. My dick‘s still burning.” If Pete were any other man in the universe John would have hit him. Mara had been a girl he really liked, but of course, like all the other women in Samson, she had a thing for Pete.
“It’s not about Mara. It’s about living my life. I’m 26 years old, living in my brother’s old trailer, working a dead-end factory job. I’ve never been in love. I’ve never climbed a mountain. And the only adventure I’ve ever had was getting lost in the corn maze at the state fair.”
Pete snorted. “Yeah, that was funny. You cried like a little girl ‘til we found you.” Pete let out a big laugh and slapped his leg. “You read too many books. But whatever you want, man. I aint gonna try and stop you from following your dreams.” John found this uncharacteristic display of Pete’s humanity creepy, yet touching. The two had grown up together and Pete rarely supported anything that did not somehow support Pete. “So where you gonna go then? Colorado?” Pete turned his attention on John, his tone more than curious.
John reached into his back pocket and pulled out a small section of the Samson Weekly. “No. There’s a recruiter in Evansville looking for people with computer graphics skills to work for a new company in Arizona. I might apply.”
“Arizona?” Pete’s words were heavy with disbelief. “You know how fucking hot it is in Arizona? Your pansy ass can’t take the Indiana summers, let alone an Arizona summer. Besides, thought you wanted to be a real artist anyway.”
John shrugged. “It’s a start and better than sweating away in a factory. And how is it you know so much about Arizona?”
“My cousin lives there. Remember Amy? The girl who finally took your virginity?”
John blushed. Amy had been his first real girlfriend but before the end of their Junior year her family had moved away. They say you never forgot your first love. Amy had been his only love, if you could call it that. On some especially lonely nights John still thought about her and wondered what she was up to.
“I visited her a few years ago during the Fourth of July. You don’t even need matches to start fireworks out there. They ignite all by themselves.” Pete laughed again and almost chucked another rock. He caught himself and aimed it at a scampering squirrel in the field instead. Fortunately for the squirrel, Pete had a hard time hitting a stationary target, let alone a moving one.
“Well, it’s gotta be better than this. You hear all anyone’s talking about lately? Harnessing the power of corn and cow farts to save the world. I want no part of it.” John looked past the tombstones, past the gate that opened to the park, past the houses and farms that sat just up the road. In his mind’s eye he knew every detail of this town: every house, every field, every signpost. His mother said that someday he would appreciate the security of the familiarity, but he hadn’t gotten there yet.
Pete roused him from his thoughts. “Wanna hang out at the VW tonight? Jessica’s back from school and I bet she’s looking to get lucky. Can’t believe she went to an all-girl’s college. Anyway, you can have her this time. I think she’s bringing a friend.” Pete jingled the coins in his pocket and cocked a mischievous eyebrow towards John.
John cringed and shook his head. Pete had been with every girl in Samson. Twice. His claim to fame was that he had, at one time or another acquired every venereal disease the free clinic could treat, and a few they couldn’t. The last thing he wanted was to touch anyone or anything that Pete had laid his penis on. That was another good reason to move away. “No thanks. You can give me the details tomorrow.”
“Suit yourself,” said Pete, popping open the last of the six pack they had brought with them. “More for me. But remember, man. You can’t find adventure. You have to make it.”
John nodded, gathered up the empty cans, and made his way home wondering if his TV would be able to pick up The Wheel of Fortune or if it would be scrambled again.

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