Authors: Tao Lin
“How will it be fun?”
“We are both named Andrew,” the bear says. “I don’t know.”
“Your name isn’t Andrew,” Andrew says.
“My name is Andrew,” the bear says. “What the fuck?”
“I don’t know,” Andrew says. “I’m stupid. I feel stupid.”
“Let’s go,” the bear says.
“How will it be fun?”
The bear scratches the wall and stares at Andrew.
The bear looks at Andrew.
The bear points at the corridor they came from.
Andrew walks there and stands there.
The bear pushes Andrew a little.
Andrew walks through the corridor they came from.
He glances at the nook without moving his neck; there are two aliens standing on a moose.
The moose’s head is covered with a blanket.
Andrew keeps walking; the bear is behind him.
He makes it to where the ladder is and stands there.
“The next time I have to point I’ll also punch you in your face,” the bear says. “And eat you.”
“Do it,” Andrew says.
The bear makes a fist, slowly moves the fist to Andrew’s face, touches Andrew’s face with the knuckles, with its other hand holds the back of Andrew’s head and slowly smushes Andrew’s face into the knuckles of its hand that it had slowly moved toward then touched the front of Andrew’s face with; the hand is furry.
“Stop,” Andrew says.
The bear stops.
“Do it for real,” Andrew says.
The bear punches the air by Andrew’s head.
“Do it with good aim,” Andrew says. “And with eating. You said ‘and eat you.’ ”
The bear climbs up the ladder.
“Do it with a free laptop computer,” Andrew says. “Or I’ll kill you.”
The bear climbs down and stares at Andrew.
“There’s nothing to do,” the bear says.
“I know,” Andrew says.
The bear looks at Andrew.
“Why were there statues of the president?” Andrew says.
“Life is stupid,” the bear says.
“I hate life more than you do.”
“No,” the bear says.
“No,” the bear says and disappears.
Andrew stands there.
Then climbs up the ladder and walks to his car.
The door and the top are back.
Andrew opens the door and the door falls on the street.
He drives out of ‘Windy Brook.’ The top of the car falls on the street. Why did Joanna become very happy after exiting the car? Don’t
think about it. Start a band with Steve, if his plane doesn’t crash. Romantically pursue Joanna’s sister, Ashley, under the pretense of needing a bass player. Don’t strategize. Just get her number after fourteen days and start a band under the pretense, somehow, of a killing rampage. E-mail, phone-number, marriage. Martial arts, deer, nothingness. A band can make Andrew happy. Every song will be depressing, which will make Andrew happy. It is not impossible to be happy. One song will be about U-turns. ‘Allegorical.’ ‘Profound.’ When Steve comes back from New York City they will start a band. They’ll ‘screw around’ for two hours then feel depressed and go to Denny’s. (“Remember when my mom died?”) They’ll ‘jam’ for ten minutes and feel bored, and fucked. The word ‘jam’ embarrasses Andrew a little. ‘Screw around.’ Andrew needs to go back to Denny’s and apologize. He’ll throw a wad of cash at the doomed waitress then apologize sincerely. He will not overturn a table. He’ll blame Steve. Steve will go to jail. Use fake names.
Thomas ran away, not me. I
got caught up in the moment
. Use clichés of language and fake names; give the cash in a manila envelope, smile contritely, apologize sincerely, use one or two clichés of language.
Gotta run, don’t spend it all in one place
. It’s 9 p.m. Do it tonight? Andrew is better, as a person, at night. In daylight he feels like a bad actor in an independent movie, about to go on a melodramatic killing spree.
At home Andrew writes “Sorry” on an envelope. Below that, “For Real.” On another envelope he writes “Really Sorry” and puts two twenties in. Sounds sarcastic. On another, “Sincerely Sorry,” moves the twenties. The alliteration is too commercial. Writes “Sorry.” Moves the twenties. Andrew feels sorry for the twenties. At least they are a pair. The twenties are in love. Andrew is jealous.
He drives to and parks behind Denny’s, turns off the car.
I made a fucking U-turn
. If Sara were here they’d walk around giving away envelopes containing mystery things. One envelope would have three wishes, and it would be real. In the morning they would climb a tree.
There will always be the absence of Sara. There will always be the sad martial arts champion. In the distance there are apartments. There are trees, storage places, a few moose. There is a bear riding a moose like a horse. There is a retirement home with a fence and a moat around it. The fence is not enough. They need the moat in addition to the fence. One manager is not enough. (“Don’t rape her.”) The sad manager. The sad manager is fucked. Andrew as a small boy slept in the same room as his parents and sometimes woke to them having sex on the carpet. They had sex on the carpet instead of the bed. One time Andrew’s mom and dad were fighting in a restaurant. Andrew was seven or eight. His mom was angry that his dad had given her a disease, was how Andrew understood it. Andrew thought it was AIDS. He was crying. He wanted his mom to tell what was wrong because he thought she was going to die. A bear opens Andrew’s passenger door and sits in the passenger seat.
“You lied,” the bear says.
Andrew does not look at the bear.
“Did you lie?” the bear says.
The bear is breathing loudly.
Andrew stares outside.
There is a tree.
The old people’s home.
There will always be the old people’s home.
“You lied,” the bear says. “You lied and made me sad.”
The bear hesitates then leaves.
Andrew’s mom said she would tell if Andrew stopped crying. He stopped crying and felt nervous. She said she would tell in the restroom. In the restroom Andrew felt very small. Andrew’s mom locked the door. She bent over and said in Andrew’s ear that it was herpes—Andrew was looking in the mirror; his eyes were just a little above the counter and he looked at the top part of his head—and that she wouldn’t die. Andrew felt very happy and enjoyed his lunch even while his mom and dad kept fighting so that it was uncomfortable for everyone else in the restaurant. After college Andrew kept his job at the library and got another in a movie theatre. They tricked him at
the movie theatre and he lost the job. At the library he began to take two-hour lunch breaks; one day they surrounded him and fired him. He had no money left and went home and lived with his parents in Florida. His mom was keeping things from him, he could tell. She had cancer or something but wouldn’t talk about it. Andrew’s dad was like,
Your mom doesn’t want you to know, but I think I should tell you
—and Andrew interrupted and said that if his mom didn’t want him to know he shouldn’t know. His dad walked away. Whenever there was partial nudity on TV Andrew’s dad would say, “This isn’t for kids.” Even when Andrew was twenty his dad would tell Andrew not to look. He’d say it in a strange tone that was serious and nervous and his face would look meek.
A minivan parks adjacent Andrew. A girl and a boy, and some dolphins, talking loudly and laughing. Andrew leans over and pretends he is looking for something in the passenger seat. He is crying a little. “Your car has no top or driver’s side door,” says a boy. Andrew stares at the things on the passenger seat. CD
cases, blue pens, a receipt from Albertson’s. He takes the receipt and stares at it, leaned over in the car. It’s dark. He can’t see anything. He folds the receipt and puts it in his pocket. He sits a while then gets out and walks toward Denny’s. He can feel he’s about to start thinking about Sara. He keeps walking and thinks about the future. The future. He has some vague images of things happening, or not happening, and then it feels like the future exists, already, for him to go home, lie in bed, and think about, like a memory; it feels like the past.
Driving, delivering pizzas. No Sara. No future. At a stoplight Andrew feels very calm suddenly. Feels like being filmed. He is in Florida, being filmed for an independent movie starring someone else. Sara, probably. His life must change. Things must happen and explode because of being in a movie. Andrew will teleport into a perilous situation, punch someone in the face; teleport to Sara, hug her. He was driving. There was a field and she was like,
should drive into that tree, like a garage
. He was like,
Let’s climb it and eat in it
. They sat on branches and licked Popsicles.
Light turns green. Andrew doesn’t want to go. He goes. He should drive into something. A mountain. The mountain would explode. There’s nothing to drive into. If Sara were here there’d be things to drive into, for some reason. Andrew passes the neighborhood he’s supposed to turn into and U-turns over the median, knocking over a small tree. A row of cars go by honking. Andrew laughs. He has no future. He is embarrassed for knocking over a tree. That was wrong. Representing Domino’s Pizza Corporation. He shouldn’t be making illegal U-turns. He feels bad. There were birds in that tree. An enormous family of baby birds, and squirrels. The mother bird will fly back and feel confused.
At home Andrew calls Steve. 10 p.m. Either cards at Justin’s or the arcade. Cards will lead to drinking; everyone will end up depressed. Arcade, then. Andrew drives to Steve’s house. As Steve is walking to the car his two little sisters
throw water balloons. Both miss and land on the grass. The sisters run, pick up the balloons, throw them. One bounces off Steve’s face, the other splashes on the driveway. The sisters run to the side yard, do high-fives, and run away.
“I’m going to kill them,” Steve says in the car.
“They gave each other high-fives,” Andrew says.
“We should go on a killing rampage,” Steve says. “In my front yard.”
“Good idea.” Andrew wishes he were one of the little sisters. He feels depressed suddenly; and bored. He should be one of the sisters and Sara the other. “Now what. Arcade?”
“I hate the arcade,” Steve says. “It’s depressing and a waste of time. I’m broke.”
“I always say things are depressing and a waste of time. Don’t steal my identity.”
“Go fuck yourself,” Steve says.
“I will. Tonight. In my enormous house.”
“Yeah,” Steve says. “I was giving you a friendly suggestion.”
“Yeah.” Killing rampage in the arcade. “I should play arcade games and kill myself on purpose and go around saying I’m killing myself.”
“Don’t kill yourself,” Steve says. “Kill my siblings.”
“Why do you call them siblings?”
“I’m stupid,” Steve says. “Don’t kill my siblings. Kill me.”
“I killed a tree today. I felt bad. I should kill my job. But with kindness. The kindness of strangers.”
“First kill me and my siblings,” Steve says.
“I need to use your bathroom.”
“Go,” Steve says.
Andrew goes into Steve’s house. It’s very dark inside. Andrew is afraid an alien will grab him. The alien will be lonely and want a hug but Andrew will have a heart attack and a seizure at the same time. Steve’s third sister, Ellen, the one in high school, is sitting on the sofa in the living room. She is sitting there, in the dark, not doing anything. She picks up a book and looks at it.
“I’m using the bathroom,” Andrew says.
It is very dark in the living room.
Ellen stands and walks away. Her book hits her leg and falls and she walks away faster.
Andrew uses the bathroom then comes out. Ellen is walking very slowly through the living room. She looks a little confused. Andrew follows her to the kitchen. Ellen opens the refrigerator and without bending her back stands looking in.
“What book were you reading?” Andrew says.
“Weren’t you reading a book?” Andrew says.
“I don’t know,” Ellen says. She leaves the refrigerator open and walks away. She comes back and closes the refrigerator. It is very dark without the refrigerator’s light. Ellen trips on a chair and falls and stands and walks into another room.
“You took a long time,” Steve says in the car.
“I tried to talk to your sister.”
“Don’t be an asshole,” Steve says.
“No, I tried to talk to her for real.”
“You are an asshole,” Steve says.
“She was sitting in the dark staring. It was good.”
“She has no friends,” Steve says.
They go to Wal-Mart. They look for something to use against the little sisters. Can’t find anything. They stay at Wal-Mart over two hours. In the car Andrew has a videotape,
“You son of a bitch,” Steve says.
“Did you see this?”
“You son of a bitch,” Steve says again.
Steve on a killing rampage; mass grave in the side yard. “It won every award,” Andrew says. “Because the director is a hundred years old or something. It’s the Jhumpa Lahiri of movies.” Doesn’t make sense. Oh well.
“You’re the Jhumpa Lahiri of stealing shit from Wal-Mart,” Steve says.
“I bought it.”
“You bought it with cunning and speed,” Steve says.
“Yeah. And a ten dollar bill.” Andrew turns on the car. Sara. The music is loud and depressing. Andrew turns it down. “Jhumpa Lahiri makes me want to kill a blue whale or something. I told you about her, right? Yeah. I don’t understand her … name. Her name looks like a killing rampage.”
“We should hunt her down,” Steve says. “With cunning and speed.”
“She probably lives on a diamond boat with her Pulitzer Prize.” Sara lives in New York City. They had classes together. She drew a penis on Jhumpa Lahiri’s face. They went into bookstores. She graduated early, met someone else. Andrew met no one, moved back to Florida, and has no future.
They drive to Justin’s house and throw
in the front yard. Probably five guys inside playing cards and drinking; all depressed, though none will admit it. Five guys drinking, admitting being depressed. They would go on a depressed rampage, killing things languidly. Andrew killed an extended
family of birds and squirrels. He climbed a tree with Sara. Her Popsicle was blue. It was strange. It was opaque or something.
Why is your Popsicle confused?