Last night I had drinks with an old roommate of mine.
We used to live in a rundown old bungalow with spiders and cockroaches that ran over my body when I slept at night and neighbors who carried around shotguns.
Now he lives in a big mansion built as an homage to “Gone With the Wind” in the 1940s. His landlord has been renovating it for ten years, and is renting it to him for cheap. His landlord also owns the taco restaurant where he works. Once his landlord gave him a pack of underwear because he had bought the wrong size, but mostly they don’t interact that much. The mansion is perfectly secluded and, when he doesn’t work at the taco join, my friend likes to sit out back on the lawn and read novels.
Don’t you get scared living alone in an old mansion, I asked him.
Yes, I hear noises all the time at night and I have this frequently reoccurring dream in which this little girl grabs one of the broken light fixtures and gashes up my dick and then I try to chase her down by jumping out of windows.
You should write a novel about that. It’s so southern, I told him.
There’s not enough to it, he said. There’s no theme, nothing socially redeeming. Besides writing about one’s own life is cheap. It’s not like Pynchon wrote about his life. And I’m not a good writer yet. I don’t have control over the language the way Pynchon does. Everything he does is perfect. I need more practice.
(He really said that.)
So I said: You could contrast your current mansion with that trailer you used to live in when you worked at that horse farm. You could talk about the guy who lived there before you, how you found the stain from his suicide under the carpet. And you could talk about those ladies who employed you, how when they got pissed they would ride out and whip the shit out of the horses.
I can’t believe you remember that, said my friend.
Yes, and I also remember when they had you out in the middle of thunderstorm trying to keep a tree upright with a truck and you were scared shitless. And the fact that their dogs kept getting mangled in the farm machinery.
Yeah, those were some fucked up dogs, said my friend.
You could talk about your brother’s stint in Iraq. Then you could finish it with that story your told me about the beach in California, about those guys who stole the RV.
My friend wasn’t convinced.
This is the story of his brother. They grew up in the rural south and were home-schooled by their mom. When they graduated from their homeschooling, his brother went into the army to make some money for college. His brother was promptly sent to Iraq where something happened to his knee. After he was sent home, he promptly went back to Iraq to work for a private army. Now he’s back again, dating a photographer. The extended family is always asking him over for dinner and asking him to spot them some of the blood money. “You know your mom always wanted to be a country singer,” said grampa.
This is the story about the beach.
Having graduated from homeschooling, my friend fixed up an old motorcycle and drove out to see his uncle who lived in California. The last time he had seen his uncle, the uncle had just gotten divorced and they had bonded by getting drunk in Sacramento every night for a week. This time the uncle had married again and sold the truck. He didn’t really have time for my friend, so my friend drove his makeshift motorcycle out to the beach. There he met two pot-smoking guys who were staying in an RV. After a couple of days a van showed up. A redneck couple and their four kids poured out. They all spent a couple of glorious days on the beach drinking and playing poker.
One night after my friend won big in poker, the husband went to sleep in their tent and the stoners passed out. My friend and the wife went down the beach to drink. Soon he was having sex with her. It was the first time he’d ever had sex. He was totally wasted and everything was spinning. He was 18 years old. Then he looked up and the husband was standing above them cursing and crying. Then the husband pulled the wife by her hair away from my friend and up to the parking lot. As my friend lay there drunk in the dark he heard the couple gather up their crying children and tear out of the parking lot. They left the tent. He saw it the next morning when he was awakened by police officers handcuffing the stoners. The stoners cried and cried as they were shoved into the cop cars. "You're hurting my arm," one of the cried.
No, my friend said, that’s not good enough. Besides I don’t have time to write it down, I’m working two shifts at The Taco Shell. So I told him I would write it down. But I promised him some things I would leave out, like the one about the night he spent with the famous punk rock singer’s girlfriend, how he wiped her clean, how she showed him the famous bullet.