Tales Told Tall 2 (Elliptical Epilog) – Part 1
M C Alves
‘The only people who know where the Edge is are the ones who have gone over it.’ – Hunter S. Thompson
‘I just finished fucking your best friend!’ the Russian pathologist hissed when Phillip picked up the phone. The three thousand miles between them did not seem nearly far enough, and it certainly did not lessen the shrill tone nor the hatred it conveyed. It was the first he had heard from her since his most recent refusal to return and her vitriolic response, vowing revenge. The fact that he had not actually done anything to her made no difference nor the fact that she had been the one to throw him out. He had refused to return and, in her mind, that was enough justification to unleash her fury upon him. She had never needed much cause to unleash her hatred at the world, if any. That call had been a few weeks ago and this now must be her promised revenge. He imagined she was referring to his buddy the pseudo-psychologist, not quite a “friend” much less his “best”. She would need to do better than that. But Phillip was painfully aware of his lack of friends. He certainly could use one.
‘Did you hear me?’ she screamed, ‘I just fucked your best friend!’
‘Well, I guess I’ll have to send him a “Thank You” note,’ Phillip answered. He hung up and left it off the hook.
Life hurts, he mused. Death holds promise.
The land north of Oakland, Knight’s and Napa Valleys, the road to Mendicino’s cliffs, is neither east nor west of Eden. It is Eden. Supple and soft, warm and shimmering to the eye and touch, rather like a virgin’s charm and a loving mother’s embrace, that golden earth. To be danced merrily upon, given every half-chance. The bears know. Swim the Pacific. Live off the “fat ’o the land”, the grapes and peaches and plums. But, as Sam Clemens was heard saying, since nothing in life has any business being perfect, it can still get quite chilly at night. The evening chill was seeping into Phillip’s bones as he sat alone in a long-abandoned railroad station, once some last stop, somewhere. He was not quite sure exactly where. He had been walking the back roads for a few hours after Daniel had yet again thrown him out and had finally stopped to rest a while. He should be able to find his way back without a trail of breadcrumbs but he did not know where he was. He was Here. He would, of course, have to go back to Daniel’s eventually, he had nowhere else to go, but he did not want to yet. Daniel would still be drunk and it might take until morning for him to sober up. Until then it was best to stay out of his wildly wanton cross-hairs.
For a guy who wishes harm on no one, he thought, I sure find myself on the street an awful lot. Phillip was a good man, or at least not a bad one, although at his young age he had not really had much of a chance to be otherwise, but unlucky in his family and at times unwise in his choice of companions. He had failed to notice the early warning signs of mean-spirited madness in his Russian girlfriend, ex-girlfriend, and his half-brother Daniel had always been bad to the bone and proud of it. Other than those two Phillip had no one. It was during moments such as this one that the sad fact troubled him deeply.
He had done the “right thing”. He had. He needed to keep reminding himself of that. California Dreaming on a cold night in Napa. The Right Thing. Had he stolen the money Daniel had left for him to, Daniel would have been blamed. Not that his half-brother had ever done anything for him except bully him, torment him as a child and berate him still but Phillip simply could not cross that line. He understood Daniel. He had always felt sympathy for him. He could not shaft him. He had done the Right Thing. He took consolation in that. But alone on a cold night in a ramshackle railroad depot at the end of the line that thought was slim consolation indeed. Had he grabbed the cash and bolted he would have been miserable and ashamed of himself. But he would have been warmer. He would not have had to endure Daniel’s subsequent contempt. He would not now be at his mercy with nowhere to go. He would have been gone. But he had done the Right Fucking Thing.
It had been a few weeks since that incident. Daniel was not at all happy about Phillip staying. He allowed him to because Phillip had promised that he would pay him rent as soon as he got a job. But he had yet to find one. That very morning he had been rejected by a trucking company, he had applied for work at all of the local farms and refineries but he was told it was off-season. No hand-truck jockeys, buggy-luggers, barrel bung bangers or prune pickers required. Every time he returned “home” without success Daniel would berate him. And about twice a week he threw him out. Phillip would sleep under a bush in the yard and Daniel would let him back in the morning. Lassie’s understudy. The end result of doing the Right Fucking Thing. Hard to feel noble when sleeping under a bush.
He looked down at his wrist. After months in a fiberglass cast it had become ivory-white and emaciated. Without the damn cast he could now rest his head upon it and so noticed its progress often. It was still weak but becoming firmer, less fragile. Phillip’s emotional wherewithal, however, was exactly the opposite. He had always had a somewhat melancholy disposition, always prone to withdrawal and dark meanderings but during the last years he found himself sliding up then down some spiritual scale having spent them with an industrial-strength case of wacked for a lover. Now this.
Since High School Phillip had attracted always the Wacky Wicca Queens and Aquatic Tarts. It can be really cool being a Head instead of run-of-the-mill Jock and having an iconoclastic girl on your arm but he began to wonder why he was found interesting by only the floundering female. Did they see a Kindred Spirit? Was his own flavor of wackness glowing outward? It stops being cool and grows old quick. He tended to be a man who did not do things well in half-measures. When his internal darkness rose it often engulfed him. Suicide had intrigued him early, his thirteenth year, and his first broken heart had been crushing. That was his first recollection of being tempted to off himself. He and Daniel were polar opposites – Daniel lashed out, he lashed in.
He had considered suicide a few times but never came any closer than that. Until today. He came home and Daniel had been cruel, particularly cruel. Or maybe he was just weaker than usual. Daniel and his son were arguing. They often did. The boy was the unhappy result of a one-night-stand in West Texas. His mother had followed Daniel to California, eventually finding out where he was living and brought the boy with her. Such liquored-up liaisons ran in the family, as did the suffering of their offspring. Daniel referred to him as the Fat Bastard. The boy was now seventeen and would show up now and again and ask for money. Of course, a fight always ensured. But the boy was getting braver and more stubborn in his acceptance of the refusal. They had already reached a nasty level of conflict when Phillip got there.
‘Fuck you! Fuck YOU! Go ask your whore of a momma, you little shit! Fuck you! Fuck her! Fuck all y’all …’
‘No! Not this time. All I need is ten bucks, Dad.’
‘Do NOT call me that! Do fucking NOT!’
‘Ten lousy bucks …’
‘Dad, if you don’t give me the money I’m gonna … gonna … go mug some old lady! Yeah. I’m gonna go out there and steal it.’
To be continued tomorrow …
Bio:M C Alves (Manny) is a freelance writer, author of a collection of short fiction, a former journalist and editor as well as author of two books on Information Technology and operating systems. He is a contributor to various publications and is currently working on a novel. Manny is a longtime resident of New York City.