August Will Be Better
A Short Ghost Story
By August I’ll forget to drink. Even dementia has its upside. Life cuts you any break and you have to take it, you follow?
This game I play to fall asleep. Picture putting everything out in the front yard. Not just dragging the sofa onto the driveway, but setting out your college diploma and wedding ring. The ketchup and mustard. Everything offered to the highest bidder.
A leather sofa that took you six months to pay off, you’ll let it go for as little as three days. The flat-screen television you spent three month’s salary to buy, you bring down the gavel on a winning bid of twenty-eight hours. A crowd collects on the sidewalk. Lookie-loos crane their necks. People thumb through their wallets and handbags, counting the days and weeks they might have burning a hole in their pocket.
An old-timer bids ten years for your drift boat. First of all, your drift boat isn’t worth a year, let alone ten. Second of all, you say, “Old-timer, you don’t have ten years to spend.”
He pulls his pockets inside-out to show you you’re right. An oldster like that, all wrinkles and no ass, he’s driving away business. You give him the boat just to get him gone.
Your graduate degree in Business Administration, it cost you three years, but you knock that down for a low-ball bid of three months. You throw in your undergraduate degree in Pre-Law for an extra two days of life.
The winning bidder asks, “Is it a big-name school?”
You ask, “For three lousy months, what do you think?” You yell, “You think it’s Pratt?”
We all make our best choice in the moment. There’s no rich man in bed crying because he’s not you.
Most nights you fall asleep before your house goes on the auction block. It took you thirty years to get out from under the mortgage, you start the bidding at twenty.
“Months?” some jackass yells. “I’ll give you twenty months.”
He gets his laugh, but not from you.
After the auction, if you’re not asleep you fantasy walk away. Even with your pockets stuffed with fresh hours and months and years, you’re not young. But you’re younger. With room enough to make a few more mistakes.
If by then I’m not asleep I picture a girl in a pink shirt.
Other people showed me this way to drift off. It goes like this. Like: You meet a girl typing in a chat room and go private, and she goes all Hitchcock and wants a walk-by in public, and types that she’s not an underage cop, and she types to meet her walking south on the west side of Seventh Avenue and to look for a slim girl in a pink shirt and tan shorts and to just put out your hand casual-like and as the two of you pass you can cup your fingers to feel her through the front of her shorts, and you do this, cop a quick feel down the front of her shorts, and she moans, and you look off to see a different girl in a pink shirt and tan shorts so you end up fucking them both, and after that up walks a different girl in a pink shirt until you nod off.
Me, I don’t know. Feel free to tinker with that one.
Either that, or you’re the beautiful tsarina of somewhere classy sitting on your throne watching a grand opera, only the dashing viscount of the Cossack legions in secret has carved out the center of your throne seat so he can put his face up from underneath the palace and nuzzle his mustache up against your nether regions so you can feel how handsome, and you can’t just jump up and scream, “Do you mind?” for fear of creating an international scandal even though this is The Ring Cycle, Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, so you simply have to perch there with an elegant expression fixed on your puss and endure hours of opera and unbearable oral pleasure or risk triggering World War III.
That should conk you out.
Either way works. Give it time. Usually in the same amount of time it took my sister and me to stand too close to the microwave receiver in our backyard and count in big hide-and-seek numbers, nighty-seven, nighty-eight, nighty-nine, until we both had matching headaches.
I’d run to brag, “Mom! Me and Batty gave ourselves headaches!”
Our mom, she’d correct me, “I didn’t know your sister was mean.” Correct my faulty grammar. Always-always.
Another story a guy told me to fall asleep, he calls it The Lake. He asks, “Have you heard about The Lake?”
To throw him off the scent I tell him about Batty. My big sister. How Mean Batty works off the books. On no particular night she’ll pull up in a Lamborghini Aventador.
That, the make and model of roadster that calls for your immortal soul just as the down payment. Somebody’s dream set of wheels, only as Batty sees it, “Ain’t no piece of ass you won’t outgrow.”
Her custom is to say this when she picks me up those nights. She’ll rev to the curb, sitting behind the wheel in some douche-magnet. A window-tinted Ferrari Portofino, for instance. Or one time a Maserati Quattroporte, barely street legal with an extra pair of latex gloves for me to wear. She’ll punch it, that extra-everything-synchromesh, to get big air over ordinary speedbumps. Mean Batty with her own microwave-scrambled brains, she’ll sling that million horsepower around corners faster than carnival rides.
My big sister, Bathia, stomps the gas to generate an ever-increasing force of G’s that make me, her grown-up little brother, swallow my Black Jack gum. Not just for the scratch does she do this. Not just for that cash money paid by rich drivers wanting insurance payouts for new rides, Batty cranks the steering wheel to kill that always-moving part of herself that all young people need to kill. That reckless, restless you who you don’t want to be any more by old age.
Here our mom would say, “Whom you don’t want to be.”
Batty says no one falls in love because you never meet the people driving the same speed as you. You only meet the boring slow-pokes or the crazed speed demons, and when you marry one or the other, you can kiss romance good-bye.
Just for the record, I’ve turned that age. The age when you won’t adopt a next dog because you’d never outlive it. That age when even you are sick of being you.
When you reach my age your body gets so it’s like puberty never happened.
Mean Batty skids the tires down to canvas trying to leave a good half mile of vintage Mercedes-Benz 60833 Cayenne Orange or Tesla Midnight Silver Metallic scraped down a freeway guardrail.
Whether we doughnut cemetery lawns or demolition-derby against traffic stanchions, every night ends the same, with a muffler-dragging, fender-dented limp down a dirt backroad to Batty’s secret lake. An ordinary lake past midnight with milfoil and a concrete boat ramp that slants steep into deep water.
Batty’s secret lake. There must be a parking lot on the bottom. The lake where no one ever wants to come up for air.
Not since Batty drove up to my place in a 1968 Stingray convertible with a supermodel riding shotgun. A redhead you’d have to look at a good long time to tell wasn’t flesh and blood. Batty says, “Denver? Meet Red.” She gives the redhead a sock in the skinny shoulder and says, “Red, here, is a custom job. Insured for twenty-five big ones.”