“Remember that time Benny was on crutches and had to hide in the bushes from the cops. He couldn’t run. He just kind of toppled himself into these shrubs…”
JJ, Carl, and their old friend Stevie D sat by the fire on JJ’s farm. The farm-warming party was winding down. The full moon was up and it was a big ol’ autumn moon to behold. Some Euro hipster (Pierre? Sven?) was playing guitar for a few of the ladies and Lila was eating it up, of course. Carl’s wife was over there, too. Their group sat apart, away from the fire because, according to Lila, the fire spoiled the moonlight. The Euro started singing a familiar melody in French, “it’s a marvelous night for a moondance”. All the girls laughed. JJ wanted to find a rock that fit his palm and just club this guy, with his wispy beard and European ease, just club him into the ground.
Carl said, “And then we circle back and that sorry bastard is crutching down the road at two in the morning. He was so pissed off!” Carl and Stevie D laughed. JJ managed a thin smile.
When JJ thought back to the old hijnks he didn’t feel the hilarity anymore. He felt like he was entering a swamp, a wet sucking at his feet making it hard to move and releasing a reek of regret. The capers, the pranks. It was all fun, of course. But it was tangled with the old feelings of being doomed and baffled. Drunken escapades into the suburbs to drive on lawns and party on golf courses and beaches. The cops came and you fled to another spot. Always another spot and more cat and mouse. JJ felt like he played cat and mouse his whole life with sadness and regret. He would plug the hole for awhile with a girlfriend or city, then it would start oozing again. He looked at Lila. A surge of … warmth? Longing for sure. Caring, yes. Then came the ooze of sadness and regret, the old resentments.
Carl leaned over and said into JJ’s ear, “Stop it.”
“Move forward. Fuck the past.”
“I’m just…I think it’s time for bed.”
“Stay with me, man. Right here, right now.”
Stevie D shambled off to find something to drink and JJ and Carl sat looking into the fire. They listened to the singing and the laughing but JJ did not look over. The Euro sang, “Je ne peux pas avoir juste une danse avec toi mon amour?”
“I seriously want to crush that guy’s skull,” Carl said. He reached down and picked up a rock that fit his palm. “This look about right?”
“Yeah,” JJ said. “Perfect.” He smiled, a real smile. “I’ll get the shovel.”