Author Archives: tk

jack // one step more and you die

It only took another two episodes of My Little Pony for Jack to sober up enough to realize that he had been sitting in a drug dealer’s living room for about two hours watching My Little Pony, and he politely excused himself from Jeremy’s company.  In another five minutes he realized that he was trying really hard to put his coat on backwards, and after a paltry twenty minutes of admiring his Volkswagen’s “Check Engine” light to the tune of an old Slint album, he managed to start the car and head for downtown.

He took a parking space next to the courthouse (not for its logistical advantage, but rather because it didn’t require parallel parking), killed the engine, and tried once more to remember any details of his evening, no matter how small.

His blank, almost-pensive stare was interrupted by the grumbling of his stomach, unsatisfied with his tribute of Crunch Berries and plain Ritz Crackers.  If he was going to explore the vast, mile-and-a-half long expanses of downtown, he was going to have to put more fuel in the tank.  Luckily, Carmen’s Taqueria was a mere block away, and with a carne asada burrito in one hand and a bottle of fruit punch Gatorade that he had somehow convinced the staff to let him fill with sangria, Jack set off in search of his next clue.

As he walked, he began to doubt that he would find anything.  If he had gone anywhere, it probably would have been any number of the bars he had been known to haunt, and at 2:30 in the afternoon, none of them were even close to opening.

“Jack?”

The best idea was to kick around until they opened, then go around asking about last night.  The plan was solid, if not more than a little imprecise, but Jack and his dwindling checking account were prepared to face every last happy hour, buy-one-get-one-free, and two drink minimum in town if it meant finding the next piece of the puzzle.

“Jack!”

No longer pressured to do anything until about five o’clock, Jack drank deeply from his Gatorade bottle and allowed his vision to fuzz along the edges, paying attention to nothing but the crackle of sand and salt as it grinded between his sneakers and the icy sidewalk.

“JACK!”

A hand tapped irritatingly on his shoulder.  Jack obliged to see who it belonged to, finding a slightly ponchy, extremely pale seventeen-year-old, garnished with a mop of bunchy red hair that probably begged to be made fun of back in grade school.

“I’ve been yelling your name for about three minutes now!” the boy whined, frantically rubbing his arms for warmth since they were regretfully left exposed by the “CHOCOBO X-ING” t-shirt he had decided was not only cool enough to buy after his second play-through of Final Fantasy VII, but was cool enough to continue wearing after his seventh play-through.

Jack just stared back.

“You’re kidding!  It’s Freddy!”

Jack continued to stare.

“You know, ‘Final Freddy’?” he attempted, tugging on his shirt as proof.

Jack scratched his right thigh and turned it smoothly into a shrug.

“Oh for God’s sake, Freddy, from Saving Throw!  We met last night?”

Jack’s eyes widened.  “OHHHH!  RIGHT!  Freddy!  How could I forget?!” he replied with his best cheer, stretching his hand out.

“Give it up, you don’t remember me, you prick,” Freddy challenged, refusing to shake Jack’s hand.

“Okay, you’re right, I’m sorry, but I really am glad to see you.”

“How you can you be glad to see me if you don’t remember me.”

“Because you saw me last night.”

“So?”

Jack stuck his hand in his pockets and quickly searched around him for someplace warm to loiter.  “You look like you’re absolutely freezing; I can’t believe you chased me down without a jacket on.  Can we go inside somewhere and talk?”

“Yeah, fine.  Follow me.”

Freddy and Jack backtracked a couple of blocks and entered the nondescript storefront of Saving Throw, the hobby shop where Freddy worked and spent most of his free time.  Jack absorbed the various Magic: The Gathering and Warhammer paraphernalia lining the walls, and as soon as Freddy took his place behind the counter, and the clang of the front door’s bell dimmed, Jack began his interrogation.

“So, I was here last night?”

“You were here all right,” Freddy called back as he helped himself to a Mountain Dew.  “My friends and I found you in the alley out back breaking fluorescent light bulbs on the pavement and giggling.”

Jack winced.  “Sorry about that.”

“It’s not a big deal,” Freddy assured.  “They were all burnt out anyway.  You were such a fumbling idiot when we caught you that you offered to immediately clean everything up.”

“So I cleaned it up, then I left?”

“No, actually.  You started asking about all these questions about where you were and what this place was, and then instead of waiting for the answers you pushed us out of the way and barged inside.”

“And then what?”

“Well, since you weren’t of the geeky persuasion you started asking us what all this stuff was and what we were doing with it.  I explained all that to you, then explained that we were in the middle of a game of Dungeons and Dragons and politely asked you to leave.”

“Where did I go after that?”

“You didn’t.  You stayed and demanded that we let you play Dungeons and Dragons with us.”

“I did?”

“Yeah, and for some reason we let you.”

“I played Dungeons and Dragons?”

“You played Dungeons and Dragons.”

Jack blushed at his lapse into nerdiness.  “How’d I do?”

Freddy chuckled.  “Surprisingly well.  It was obvious you’d never played before.  You were making things up about your character as you went along and couldn’t grasp the concept of rolling a die with more than six sides, but it was actually because of you that we won the campaign.”

Unwilling to let an opportunity to stroke his ego pass him by, Jack pressed further.  “Really?  How?”

“We were playing a campaign in which we had to save a kingdom from an evil warlock that had been terrorizing it.  We let you join as a human knight named Matthias, but you insisted that we call you ‘Sir Matty the Donkey Puncher’.  Long story short, we encountered a succubus—”

“A succubus?”

“You didn’t know what it was last night either.  It’s a demon that copulates with male adventurers and steals their life force.”

“All of it or just like, some of it?”

“You asked that too—and the answer to that is all of it.  There is no halfway life stealing.”

“Bummer.”

“You were also disappointed by that, so you said, ‘Fuck that I’m still going to fingerblast her’,” Freddy explained, prudishly stumbling over the two F-words.

“So how did that not steal my life force?”

Freddy tried to remain inert, but an awkward excitement crept into his voice.  “Long story short, you left your Gauntlet of the Gnoll King inside of her, which acted as a dildo, which acted as a decoy, and we managed to flee.  Shortly thereafter, we ran into the warlock, and you used your high constitution stat to challenge him to—and win—a drinking contest with him, and while he was passed out our party’s mages sealed him and his magic away, and we won!”  He recognized the fever pitch he had hit and brought himself back down to his nerdier-than-thou tone.  “It was certainly unorthodox…but it was effective.”

“Effective?  That sounds kind of awesome.”

Freddy smirked.  “Yeah, it kind of was.”

“So then what happened?”

“You yelled ‘Huzzah!  Come my lads, and we shall quaff many goblets of hearty mead in honor of our most righteous victory!’ and dragged everyone who was old enough to drink out to the bar with you.”

“Great!  Where did we go?”

“I don’t know.  I’m not old enough to drink.  Roger would though.”

“Who’s Roger?”

“He’s the owner.  You gave him such a bad hangover that he was throwing up all morning.  If his text messages are any indication, he’ll be here in about an hour.”

“Mind if I stay and geek out with you until he shows up?” Jack asked.

Freddy smiled warmly.  “I would be honored, Sir Matty.”

jack // friendship is magic

Jeremy came to his front door, his eyelids at half mast.  Jack stopped a moment to take in Lizzie’s neighbor’s dirty white wool poncho that gave way to a pair of Scooby Doo boxer shorts at his waistline.  His unwashed brown hair stood up in various strands and locks.  Combined with the cloud of cannabis smoke that habitually followed him around, he looked like a stoner version of Pigpen.

“Well hey man, what’s goin’ on?” he welcomed, each word drawling smoothly together with the same rehearsed quality of an answering machine; a greeting, though clearly there was no one home.

“Are you even trying to pretend you’re not a weed dealer anymore?” Jack replied.

“Nah.  I’ve been calling the police with anonymous tips about ‘huge drug deals on the south end’, so they’re too busy chasing geese to give a shit about what I’m doing,” he explained with a self-satisfied chuckle.

“You mean you sent them on a wild goose chase?”

“Yeah, something like that, if geese still lived in the wild I guess.  You wanna come inside?”

“Sure.”

Jeremy pointed Jack down the short hallway leading to the living room and motioned for him to sit down.  There was an open box of Crunch Berries on the coffee table and a paused episode of My Little Pony on the TV.

“You know man, I’m really glad you came by.  You haven’t bought from me for, like, months.  I was starting to miss getting baked and playing Street Fighter with you.”

“Jer, I’m sorry to say that I’m not here to buy or toke—”

“Not even a puff?  Come on dude, I just got this crazy shit in, this past week.  You have to.”

“No, really, I can’t—”

“Jackie.  It’s called ‘Berserker’.”

“…as in a six-and-a-half-foot tall, axe-wielding maniac Norse warrior covered in wolf pelts?”

“I don’t know man.  I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing.”

“Alright, fine.  But do we really have to watch My Little Pony?”

“Yeah we really do.”

Jack looked over with a slight glare crossing his face.

“Dude, Jack, it’s chill.  The purple pony brought this bug into Pony Village and then it multiplied and all the multiplied bugs started eating everything, so they cast a spell on them to make them stop eating shit but it backfired and now they’re eating even more shit and the pony in the cowboy hat can’t figure out how to get rid of them.”  Jack raised a skeptical eyebrow.  “It sounds pretty dense and complicated, but don’t worry; you’re a smart guy, you’ll catch up in no time.  Now here, start catching up,” Jeremy implored, handing his beloved moss green glass bowl, “Toady”, to Jack.

Jack took a deep pull from the pipe, holding it in for a few seconds before breaking into an uncontrollable sputtering cough.

“Whoaaaaaaaaaaa, easy big guy.  It really has been a while for you, hasn’t it?” Jeremy politely teased as he handed Jack a stale glass of water, just before taking a hit of his own.  He then tried handing Toady back to Jack, who stifled a cough and waved it away.  “Come on Jackie, it’s like they say: in for a penny, in for a gallon.”

Jack was grounded enough for him to notice that was not how the saying went, but already high enough for its logic to check out.  He took a sip of water and nodded with reserved excitement.

After each had had four hits, the bowl was kicked.  Jeremy resumed the episode of My Little Pony.  Jack sank deep into the cushions of the couch, sticking to it as if the green suede had sprouted thousands of tiny hooks, velcroing him in place.

Episode after episode of My Little Pony galloped by, the two so absorbed by it that they didn’t really acknowledge each other until the end of the fourth episode.

“So…it just kinda hit me,” Jeremy began as he searched his DVR for the next episode to watch.  “If you weren’t here for weed, why did you come over?”

“Do you want me to leave?”

“No, no, no.  Stay as long as you want, man,” Jeremy backpedaled.  “But when you came to the door you said you weren’t here for weed.  What were you here for?”

“Huh? Uh…”

Centuries passed inside of Jack’s labored “uh”s.

“Oh, right.  I wanted to know what happened to me last night.  After Lizzie’s.”

Jeremy burst out into giggles.

“Oh no.  Jer.  What did I do?” Jack pleaded, his worry more than palpable.

“No, nothing bad.  Just funny,” Jeremy assured him, snickers punctuating almost every syllable.

“TELL ME!”

“Duuuuuude, you’re freaking out.  Calm down, it’s fine,” Jeremy cooed.  Another chuckle crept out.  “After you convinced me to help your prank and call those trannies I met in jail, we went to this house party in the North End.”

“Who do we know in the North End?”

“We…we don’t.  I do though.  Some rich kid from the university who buys from me invited me to some kid’s house, and you were in the mood to party, so I took you with me.”

“So what happened then?”

“It was a typical college house party.  You know the deal, a couple of chill people and a bunch of underage morons.”

“So what was so funny about that?”

Jeremy started packing a second bowl.

“You really don’t remember any of this?”  Jack shook his head, Jeremy took a hit from the refreshed Toady.  “Alright.  This is how I remember it.

“We showed up…I don’t know.  Let’s sayyyyy 9:30?  Yeah.  9:30. So we get there and almost immediately some chubby 19-year-old latches onto you and you two start making out.  So you sat on the couch and did that for a while.”

“A chubby girl?”

“Dude it’s not like she was the Michelin Tire Man.  I’m a better wingman than that.”

“Okay, then what?”

“What?”

“The story.”

“Oh.  Right.  Where was I?”

“Chubby girl.”

“Word.  Okay, so you were probably macking on that girl for like…a half hour, when all of a sudden this kinda beefy-looking guy and some chick started going at it in the kitchen.”

“Fucking?”

“Nah man, fighting.  After some shouting, he ended up hitting her pretty hard.  You must have heard it or seen it out of the corner of your eye or something, but you shoved the chubby girl off of you and stormed into the kitchen and separated them and started having words with the guy.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, really.  I’ve never seen you like that man, it was so weird.  But it’s not even done getting weird.  Not even done.

“You start getting into it with this guy.  And you are really giving him the business.  Like there was some insult you used on him that somehow combined references to OJ Simpson and Spongebob Squarepants.  I don’t even know.  It was like watching a star explode.  You were out of your mind.

“Eventually he comes at you, and out of nowhere you cold-cocked him with a bottle of Newcastle.”

“I what?”

“I shit you not; you knocked this guy’s fucking lights out with an empty beer bottle,” he confirmed, with a note of rising excitement in his voice.  “I don’t even know where you got that beer bottle.  It was nuts.  Everyone was just sort of standing there shocked as hell, and you wiped the prints off the bottle neck and put it in the guy’s hand, as if he’d done it himself.  Like anyone would believe he’d done it to himself.

“Then you grabbed that chick by the shoulders, shook her and said something insane, like…” Jeremy took another hit and coaxed forth his best Jack impression.  “‘Run!  Flee from this place!  Spread your wings and fly into the inky purple night!  Head for the stars my angel!’”  He shouted, sounding more like Jack doing an impression of Jeremy doing an impression of John Cleese before deteriorating into raucous laughter.

“Okay now you’re just making shit up.”

Jeremy composed himself just enough to answer.  “Mostly.  I don’t know.  I’m like…paraphrasing.  Or alterna-phrasing.  Or something-phrasing.  I don’t know, you said some kind of nutty ‘knight in shining armor’ bullshit.”

“Alright, what next?”

“You can’t guess?  Someone called the cops.  I got you the fuck out of there.”

“Where did we go?”

“We started walking downtown.  You said you wanted to follow that girl and see if she was okay.”

“Really?  Did I know her or something?”

“Before you gave her boyfriend a concussion?  I don’t think so.  Actually from what I could gather, no one did.  I think they were crashers or something.”

“What did she look like?”

“I don’t really remember.  White girl.  Brown hair.”

Despite the description’s vagueness, Jack managed to peel himself up from the back cushion of the couch.  “Was she wearing a weird jacket?”

Jeremy raised an eyebrow.  “Yeah, she was wearing this dumb, like…marching band uniform jacket or something.  I thought you said you didn’t remember anything!”

“I don’t, but Cliff said that girl walked out of my bedroom this morning!”

“Dude!  You smashed that!?  No way!”

“Yeah way!” he affirmed as they shared a rubber-armed high five.  “That’s why I’m asking about last night.  Why do you sound so surprised?”

“Because we never found her.  We ended up walking around downtown and I got a call from Lizzie about those hookers.  I turned my back for about a second, and when I got off the phone you were gone.  So instead of running after you, I blamed you for the hookers and I took a five minute cab ride back here so I could help her get rid of them.”

“So I ended up downtown?”

“Yeah.”

“And you’re sure you don’t know anything else?”

“Yeah.  I guess you should head downtown if you’re gonna keep trying to figure that shit out and find out who that girl you banged is.”

“Aw, man, this is so great.  Thanks.  Then that’s where I’m headed.  It has been an enlightening visit, Jer, as per usual,” Jack said as he tried to get up.  His equilibrium was a little more than off, so he quickly sank back down onto the couch.  “Actually I’m just gonna stay riiiight here for a little longer.  That cool?”

“Yeah man.  We still have half a season of My Little Pony to crank through.”

“Solid.

“Hey, wait, you pinned the whole drag queen stunt on me?”

“Why wouldn’t I?  All I did was give you a phone number.  I just left that part out so she’d continue tolerating me as a neighbor.”

“Okay.  That’s reasonable.  I get that.  Pass me the Crunch Berries.”

jack // bad scene, everyone’s fault

The first stop was Lizzie’s house.  She lived on the west side of town, across the river and a couple of blocks from the hospital.  Her neighborhood had become gradually seedier over the past several years, but in recent times the weed dealers living around the corner, across the street, and in the other half of the duplex had actually managed to spice up Lizzie’s historically dull get-togethers.

As Jack approached her brick duplex, it seemed anachronistic in every sense of the word—too classically designed and well-lived-in to be modern, too maintained to seem older than the surrounding circa 1983 split levels still wrapped in crumbling, defective Masonite siding.

He gave her front door three solid knocks and quickly jammed his hands back into the pockets of his dirty jeans.  In a perfect world, he would have put on a clean pair, but they were the only pair he owned that smelled like anything besides spilled booze and cigarette smoke; instead, they smelled faintly of old, damp leather.  He half-jokingly thought that they went well with his road-salt-encrusted Nikes and his homemade gray Ampere t-shirt covered over by an olive green flannel covered over by a sky blue hoodie covered over by a black peacoat from Old Navy.  Not only was he well insulated from the brisk mid-winter winds, but he fancied that he looked “hungover” but “like he meant business”.

Moments passed without any signs of life from inside.  Jack’s firm but polite knocks turned into demanding pounds.  They were answered by the sound of bottles and cans tumbling onto hardwood floor.

“JESUS CHRIST.  I’M COMING,” a voice shouted from inside.

The door swung open to reveal an unkempt and extremely unhappy looking Lizzie.  She was clad from head to toe in pink-on-gray American Eagle sweats.  The bags under her eyes looked like they could have held a week’s worth of groceries, and her dirty blonde hair was pulled into a greasy ponytail that burst, without irony, from the very top of her head.

“Hi there, sweetness!” Jack greeted with a smirk.

“No.  Absolutely not,” Lizzie scowled.  “Go the fuck home.”

“Come on, I just came to see if you wanted some help cleaning up!” he lied, smiling harder.

“You’re going to actually help?”

“Yeah!”

“Fine.  The second you stop cleaning I’m throwing your ass out,” Lizzie threatened as she opened the door the entire way and let Jack in.  He immediately took off his peacoat, grabbed a broom, and began to tidy up.  He soon took it upon himself to try and break through the uncomfortable din of crinkling PBR cans.

“So…hell of a party last night, eh?”

“I said you can help clean, I didn’t say you could talk.”

Jack accepted those conditions for another few moments before trying again.  “You seem kinda mad about something.”

Lizzie dropped the Heineken bottle in her hands, shattering it on the floor.  “Did you really just say that?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re kidding.  You’re fucking kidding me.  Right?”

“I kinda…don’t really…”

“Don’t remember?”

“Yeah, not so much.”

“Jack was blacked out, shocker of the century.”

“Did I even do anything or is this going to be just like when we were dating and kept having that argument about my drinking?”

“You’re really going to bring that up again?  It was a mutual breakup, we both decided we were just going to try the friend thing again, why do you keep acting like I ruined your life?”

“Hey, I’m not the one who’s making it weird.”

“I’m making it weird?  I’m making it weird?  What do you call ordering two gay escorts for my new boyfriend last night?  That’s not weird?”

Jack straightened up for a second.  “Wait, what?”

“Yeah.  You used my land line to hire two drag queens to ‘party’ with Eric.”

He leaned playfully on his broom handle.  “If we’re being honest, I would call that pretty resourceful.”

“WHAT?!”

“I mean, I don’t know where to get a regular prostitute in this city, where would I find two drag queens?”

Lizzie lobbed a half-full can of beer at him.  “This isn’t a fucking joke, Jack!  It’s been more than six months since we’ve broken up, and every time I try to get back in the saddle and date other guys, you do something to try to ruin it for me.  You need to move the fuck on and stop bothering me like this.”  She began to hastily cram bottles into a black garbage bag, the glass clanging in time with her anger.  “I thought maybe, just maybe, you came back this morning to at least apologize for calling two gay hookers to my house and leaving before they arrived and started drinking and trashed the place, but obviously that’s giving you too much credit—”

“So you saw me leave?”

“How could I miss it?  You slapped me on the ass and said you had a ‘gay old time’ before taking off.”

“Who did I leave with?”

She stopped her frustrated cleaning.  “Is that what you came here for?  To ask me what happened to you last night?”

“It might be…”

“‘It might be?’” Lizzie mocked.  She took two wide steps around the party garbage to stand face to face with Jack.  “I’ll tell you.  But after I tell you, you will leave and I will not see you again.  Understand?”

“Forever?”

“Let’s just say it’s a long enough time that it might as well be forever.”

“Okay.”

“Alright.  You left with Jeremy and one of his buddies.”

“Jeremy, other side of the duplex Jeremy?”

“Yeah, that Jeremy.  Also, my TV remote is missing, and I’m betting you’re behind it.  If you are, have Cliff drop it by sometime.”

“Okay.”

“Now,” Lizzie began, thrusting Jack’s coat towards him at arm’s length.  “If you’ll excuse me, I have some cleaning to do.”

jack // if you liked it then you should’ve…

Jack stood alone in his living room, transfixed on the small bauble sitting on the kitchen counter.  Slowly, he began walking towards it, filling the room with the soft cacophony of the dirty, waxen soles of his feet as they stuck and peeled on the hardwood floors with every shaky but deliberate step.

Gradually, the mystery object came into focus.  It was round.  Its candy apple red exterior popped bright against the dull emerald faux-marble countertop.  But it wasn’t until he hovered over it that he realized it was a prize egg from one of those coin-operated glass machines still seen gracing the entryways and exits of supermarkets and drugstores; those machines that have the audacity to trade three Chiclets for a quarter.

He cracked it open to reveal a poorly folded Post-It note.

You’re sweet, but we both know why I can’t keep this, it read.

It was signed, “N”.  Just “N”, with a small consolation heart punctuating the initial.

Jack peered into the opened prize egg, then shook a plastic ring out of it.  The small, child-sized band was coated in a clumsy “metallic” finish, and instead of being set with any kind of stone, there was a glossy yellow happy face roughly the size of an M&M pressed into it.

As he reread the Post-It he tried idly to put the ring on but found he could only get it onto his pinky, and even then it was stopped abruptly by the bulge of his top knuckle.  He held his hand at arms’ length, inspecting the ring’s vapid happy face as one might admire the luster of a diamond.  Still finding nothing remarkable about it, he yanked it from his finger and studied it closely for a moment before allowing it to tumble unceremoniously onto the countertop.

“No, I don’t know why you can’t keep this useless piece of plastic,” Jack said aloud, hoping someone would miraculously respond.

He processed every possible reason why she wouldn’t take the stupid toy ring.  Did she have a boyfriend?  Did she wake up in bed with Jack and decide that she had made a huge mistake?  Was she just slumming it for the night and leaving because he was unemployed and broke?

Jack crumpled up the note, jammed it inside the band of the ring, stuffed the whole mess back into the egg, and looked defiantly out of the bay window of the living room at the chilly February mess outside.

“I will be goddamned if I don’t figure out what the hell this all means,” he asserted to himself, the words hissing with forced heroism as they passed between his whiskey lips.  “It’s not even about pretty brunettes anymore; this is about pride and self-respect!  No girl skips out on a one night stand with Jack Sitwell before Jack does!”

He nodded in self-satisfaction at the tone and tenacity of his locker room pep talk and went straight for the shower, undressing as he went, leaving lumps of Hanes 100% Cotton in his wake.

jack // morning in america

Late morning sun poured in between old brittle blinds, washing Jack’s vision with the languid halogen orange of bright light being filtered through closed eyelids, causing him to wake.  He let out an exhausted groan, sharing the acrid stench of stale whiskey and flat Coke with the world.

“You smell like a fucking homeless person,” a voice scolded from a nearby office chair.

“Shut up, Cliff.  Just shut up,” Jack shot back.  He tried coming up with a better response, but his thoughts sloshed carelessly around his brain, a vat of concrete refusing to set.  Any words he could grasp in the harsh light of 11:36AM Saturday tumbled grossly out of his mouth.  “What happened?”

“Oh, you mean you don’t remember grabbing Melanie’s breasts with both hands and yelling ‘HONK! HONK!’ as you squeezed them?”

Jack shot upright in bed.  “Oh.  My god.  Cliff, I’m so sorry.  You know I would never actually—”

Jack’s roommate began to chuckle.

“You’re a dick, you know that?” Jack said as he laid back down.

“I’m sorry Jack, I couldn’t resist.  You didn’t actually sexually harass my girlfriend.”

“So what did I do?”

“You really don’t remember?”  Jack shook his head with an awkward, loopy grace.  “When does everything start to get fuzzy for you?  After Lizzie’s party maybe?”

“We went to Lizzie’s party?”

“Oh Christ, so you don’t even remember leaving the apartment.”  He stopped to think for a second.  “Yeah, we went to Lizzie’s.  You were acting like an asshole, but I didn’t think it was anything above and beyond your normal levels of asshole.  Then after…I don’t know, maybe forty minutes or so, we lost track of you.”

“You didn’t think to come find me or anything?”

Cliff’s amused grin faded.  “You’re twenty-four years old, Jack, and this wasn’t the first time you’d pulled a Houdini at a party,” he snorted.

“So that makes it okay to—?

“Listen, I have go into the office today to finish up some paperwork.  I figured you’d be fine.  I don’t have time to explain to you all the reasons why I should not have to take care of my drunken man-child roommate when we’re out in public together,” he leveled as he headed out into the apartment hallway.  “And considering you came thundering home at 3:30 in the morning with a girl, you did just fine for yourself.”

Jack clambered to his feet and ran after his roommate.  “Wait, a girl?  I didn’t sleep with Tanya again, did I?” he whimpered, priming himself for the shame he would feel if he had slept with his sister’s less-than-attractive friend for the fourth or fifth time.

Cliff didn’t bother looking up from tying his shoes.  “No.  I saw her this morning as she was leaving.  Not bad actually.  Not my type, but I can see why she’d be yours.”

“What did she look like?”

“Uh…mid-twenties, dark hair, slightly tanned skin.  She was wearing some kind of like…Sergeant Pepper’s jacket or something.  I don’t know, I didn’t get a good look at her.”

“Did she say anything?”

“Not really, but she left something on the kitchen counter for you.”

“What is it?”

“I don’t know I didn’t look at it.  You share a room with my home office because you can’t make the full rent.  That’s not enough for me to start giving a shit about your one-night-stands.”

Jack gazed over Cliff’s shoulder into the kitchen, trying to find the object in question, and then looked back at Cliff.  “Why you being so…like…this today?”

“I’m probably just cranky that I have to go down to the office in person today.  Or maybe I’m pissed off that I’m footing three quarters of the rent because my best friend slash roommate hasn’t felt like getting a job in the three months since the golf course he works at closed for the season, but he still has some cash to get obliterated drunk and keep me up all night as he humps random women a couple rooms away.”  He paused in the threshold to their apartment.  “It’s one of the two,” he stated as he closed the front door behind him.