Saturday, June 20, 2015

Randy #1


“Yes, I know I was supposed to give you a manuscript a month ago but it’s been hard coming up with anything good, let alone cohesive,” Randy Brubaker said into the phone, a cigarette between this forefinger and middle finger of his right hand. His publisher had been after him to at least send them to look over. What he currently had written was more than nothing but not something they wanted to see. “I do have something written and I could send it to you if you want to read 1,600 pages of rambling bullshit. Okay. That’d be great. Three more months and you want at least 100 pages by then. I can do that. Thank you. Bye-bye.” Randy hung up and slumped to the desk. He took one last drag on his cigarette and put it out. He turned around to see his boyfriend of three years standing in the doorway with two suitcases. “This can’t be good.”

“You know we can’t do this anymore, Randy,” he said. “It hasn’t been good in almost a year and I just can’t take it anymore.”

Randy nodded. “No, I get it, Mose. Maybe I’ll see you around or we can keep in touch.”

“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” Mose said.

“That’s true. You don’t want to do to Aaron what you have done to me,” Randy said. Mose was taken aback. “Yeah, I know.”

“I’m going to go now.”

“Yeah, you better go,” Randy snapped. Mose left the apartment, the door closing behind him. Randy sat alone, motionless for a couple of minutes breathing very rhythmically. Finally, he took a deep breath and exhaled. “I think I handled that pretty well.” The phone rang and Randy grumbled and cursed. “Hello?” he answered.

“Randy? This is Erin.”

“Oh, hey, Erin. How is everything?”

“Could be better. Mom passed away,” Erin could be heard tearing up.

“Fuck,” Randy said softly. “This is turning into a very shitty day.”

“Why?” Erin sniffled.

“I’ll tell you when I get back to Kansas. I’ll be there as soon as I can,” he sighed.

After high school, Randy moved to Los Angeles to study writing at UCLA. After he graduated, he began trying to find something to write about. He discovered a high school girl who had had a stroke during her sophomore year. For a year, he talked to her and her family, taking notes and becoming close with her and learning about every aspect of her life before the stroke, during her countless surgeries and readjusting to teenage life. Randy then changed the names of the people involved, sold the book as fiction, cut ties with the family and rocked to the top of the bestseller list for his book detailing a realistic portrayal of a teenage stroke victim. He had survived the subsequent lawsuit brought on by the
girl’s parents and signed a deal with the publisher for another book which he was having trouble coming up with.

Erin picked him up from the Kansas City Airport and drove him back to Overland Park, a suburb in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. Randy hadn't been back to Overland Park since he left for California. Being a city founded in the mid 20th Century and having most of its boom in the 1990s and 2000s, not much had changed. Big commercial retailers, franchise restaurants and houses all similar to the ones next to it lined the streets.

Not that parts of Los Angeles were any different.

"So what happened?" Randy asked when they exited into 119th Street from Interstate 35.

"It was her heart. She'd always had heart issues, you know, and she was a good sized woman," Erin said.

Randy chuckled. "Yeah, it runs in the family," he took note of his and Erin's more ample frames and their dad's. "Where did it happen?"

"She had been in the hospital for a couple of days. She went to take a nap and never woke up. Dad was with her so she wasn't alone."

"That's nice," Randy returned to looking out the window. "How are you?"

"Oh, I'm good. I got promoted to liaison director at work."

"What the hell is that?"

"A liaison is an intermediary between a client and the employee. I oversee all of the liaisons and assign them to cases."

"That sounds...what's a nice word for awful?"

Erin laughed. "I know it's no bestselling author but it puts a roof over mine and Aiden's head and food on our table," she explained.

"Aiden. That's his name. I wanted to ask about him but I forgot his name. I was hoping you'd bring it up. How's Aiden?"

"He's fine, you ass."

Erin pulled into the driveway of their childhood home, a modest 1970s ranch house in a slightly older neighborhood, of which there were few and getting fewer.

Randy and Erin walked in, their dad, Randall Senior, wa sitting, where he always did, at the small dining room table in a chair right next to the kitchen. A traveler's mug of probably cold coffee sat in front of him.

"Well look who it is," he snorted. "How you doing, Junior?"

"Please call me 'Randy', Dad," Randy corrected.

"I'm your father and I will call you whatever I want," Randall said. "Bastard."

"Aw, there's the love," Randy smiled at Erin. "How are you holding up, Dad?"

"Your Mom's the one who's dead," Randall began. "I'm doing great. How's the weather out in L.A.?" his Dad used a snarky tone for L.A., like most people from more conservative areas.

"It's good. It's weird not having a winter but after nearly ten years, I'm used to it. How's it been here?"

"Can't complain," he snorted again. "Where you staying?"

Randy quickly glanced at Erin and then back at his Dad. "Can I stay here? I didn't get a hotel, assuming I could just stay with you or Erin."

"That'd be fine," Randall said. "There's still a bed in your bedroom. You can sleep there."

"Great. We can get caught up on what's been happening."

"Funeral's in three days. Can we really catch up on ten years in three or four days? I doubt you'll stay much past the funeral."

"Hadn't planned on it but maybe I can stay a week. I do have to get a manuscript written and sent into my publisher soon though."

“You can’t write right here?” Randall questioned. “Your Mother would sit right there--” he pointed at the chair next to the large bay window “--
and do all her writing. Grocery lists, Christmas cards, get-well cards, thank-you letters…”

“Okay, I get it. I’ll stick around for awhile…”

“...Checks, she wrote a letter to the editor one time.”

“It’s not like I have anything waiting for me back in California,” he shrugged. “I guess I will go see my new room.”

Randy looked at the list he made as he pushed the shopping cart through the grocery store. The cart was already half full as during the last week, Randall hadn’t bought any groceries since he was at the hospital so the kitchen was pretty bare. He got to the meat section and began looking at and pricing the meat, trying to figure out how much he and his Dad would need.

“Randy?” a woman walked up to him with her own shopping cart. “Oh my God, what are you doing back in Overland Park?”

“Jess, right?” Randy was unsure.

“Yeah, it’s Jess. Jess Westgate,” she said.

“Okay, I knew that was right. Sorry, it’s been so long. How are you doing?”

She made an odd noise and exhaled loudly, her lips vibrated. “It’s been better but I’m back in school getting my degree in special education. I should be done next year.”

“Didn’t you marry Nathan?”

“I did. It was terrible and the marriage ended after three years. I still see him around. He lives with Brian,” Jess said.

“Brian? How’s he doing?” Randy asked. Brian was Randy’s best friend in high school. Randy always felt bad that he didn’t keep in contact with him but all ties had to be cut, not just 99 percent of them.

“Why I don’t I get ahold of everyone and we meet to get a drink? Can you come out tonight?” Jess asked.

Randy thought for second. “Who’s everyone?”

“You, me, Brian, Nathan and Chrissy.”

“Let’s do it. Two hours from now. I’ll meet the four of you at the Ace of Clubs.”

“Great. We’ll all see you then.”

“So what are you doing back in Overland Park?” Chrissy asked.

“My Mom passed away,” Randy said. “The funeral is in a couple of days. I said I would stay a week or so.”

“I’m so sorry, Randy,” Jess said. “How’s your Dad holding up?”

“Same ol’ Dad,” Randy chuckled. “He seems kind of lost though. Like he doesn’t know how to handle himself now.”

“As long as your parents were married, it’s probably like losing an appendage,” Chrissy said. She finished her drink and then looked at her cell phone. “Oh, it’s past eleven, I need to get home.”

“I should probably head out, too,” Jess said.

The girls cleared out leaving Randy, Brian and Nathan at the bar. “I’ve missed you,” Brian said.

“Oh, you’re going to get mushy aren’t you?” Randy whined.

“No, just letting you know,” Brian took a sip of his drink. “We were best friends and you decide to move to California and then you cut off contact with everyone. You only call your parents on birthdays and Christmas. How come you became such an ass?”

“I was always kind of an ass. It’s nothing new.”

“But it seems like after high school you reached a whole new level of ass. Tell me, how many friends do you have in California?”

Randy thought but then faked a laugh. “I don’t really have any but that doesn’t…” he looked at Brian and Nathan. “You’re right. Look, I’m here for a week and I would like to keep in touch after all this is over. We can hang out together, the three of us and the girls, when I’m not helping my Dad with funeral stuff.”

“It’ll be nice to have the gang back together,” Nathan said.

“It will,” Randy smiled.

When Randy returned to his Dad’s house, he grabbed his laptop and created a new document. He began typing and when he was done, he had ten pages of everything that had happened to him over the last three days.