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Authors: Brad Land

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BOOK: Goat
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I nod, bring the Jim Beam and Coke to my lips and take a small swallow. The bourbon burns my throat. I crunch an ice cube in the back of my mouth and look around for someone to talk to.

   

RUSH WEEK LASTS from Sunday until Friday, when bids go out. Sunday I leave the Kappa Sigma thing and walk around the quad to some of the other fraternities, but they all seem the same, so I decide I might as well stick with Brett.

On Monday when there’s nothing official to go to at Kappa Sigma, I go with Chance McInnis to a bar called TD’s. Brett and I grew up with Chance and he wants me to be in the fraternity. Even though TD’s isn’t technically rush, it’s important, because Chance is a brother, a popular one, and this whole rush thing is about being around brothers as much as possible.

Chance pounds on my door at nine-thirty. When I open it he’s standing there all smiles and I hold out my hand. He takes it and places his other hand over our locked grip. When he lets go I tell him to go over and sit down.

Got to put on my shoes, I say. He sits on my bed and I sit in the metal desk chair at the back of my room. He looks around like he’s trying to think of something to say to me. I begin to pull on one boot.

So this is a cool place, I say.

Oh yeah, he says. Plenty of pussy here. Says this like it hurts. I bend to tie both boots.

Yep, he says. Plenty plenty.

And that’s a bad thing? I say and I know that he’s leading me to ask what’s wrong with him.

Nah, he says. I guess not. It’s real good. He rubs a hand across his chin. Not for me though.

Oh yeah?

Yeah. Got this new girlfriend. Jill. Jill LaSalle. She’s a Kappa.

That’s good, I say but I don’t really know if it’s good or not. And it’s going well?

Pretty good, he says. I mean I was doing pretty good. Kinda messed up today.

Yeah?

Yeah. She won’t find out, I don’t think, but I guess I feel bad. I didn’t mean to, I mean I just went over to this girl’s room to study. Marketing. We already got a test. Already. So I was just going to study. And I go over there and she opens the door in a bathrobe. A fucking bathrobe. I was like fuck but I couldn’t just leave, you know, I had to study because of the test, right. I was like okay, Chance, this doesn’t mean anything but the robe it was all silk, you know, I could see her tits through it. I sit down on the bed and she says she’s sorry that she just got out of the shower and I’m like no it’s cool and I start pulling my stuff out of my book bag all my notes and shit and I open my book and pretend to start looking at the chapters because she’s not saying anything. I look up and she’s just standing there in front of me. She lets the robe fall open right in front of my face, these big fucking tits right there. I didn’t know what to do.

And? I say. What did you do?

I fucked her, he says. I feel bad, man. But I just couldn’t help it. I mean the robe and all that. The tits.

Yeah, I say. The tits.

I look at Chance sitting there on my bed and he looks concerned. We get up to leave and we walk down the stairwell toward Chance’s four-door Jeep that’s parked behind the dorm. On the second flight down I look over at him.

So what was her name? I say.

Who? he says.

The girl.

Oh. Yeah. He rubs one hand along the chipped black railing. I don’t remember, he says.

   

INSIDE TD’S THE smoke is thick and collects beneath the fluorescent lights. A few people at scattered round tables.

We sit at a long polished bar and Chance looks over at the bartender. He’s wiping the inside of a glass with a towel. Chance snaps his fingers. The bartender looks up, comes our way and keeps wiping the glass.

What can I get you, bud? he says.

You know what I want, son, Chance says. Same over here. He nods at me. I hold up two fingers and mouth the word two. The bartender opens a gleaming metal cooler and pulls out two Budweisers. Twists the caps into a trash can beside the cooler, places the beers under two napkins in front of us. Chance hands him a ten.

Why do they always give you the napkins? Chance says. I shrug. Put the napkin in my right pocket. He looks at the bartender punching keys on a cash register.

Hey, he says. He snaps his fingers and the bartender looks up while he counts change.

Why do you always give us napkins? The bartender shrugs. He finishes counting the bills and walks back over to us. Throws the money down in front of Chance.

I don’t know, the bartender says. Protect the wood. He knocks a fist against the bar.

Well, yeah, Chance says. This looks like strong wood though. Plus you wipe it all the time, right? The bartender wipes a spot beside Chance.

Yeah, he says. Drapes the towel over his forearm. I guess we do. Just the rules, man.

That’s what they teach you in bartender school, huh?

Exactly. The bartender looks down at a page pinned under a clipboard and walks to the other end of the bar. Chance looks over at me and smiles.

I don’t believe I like his attitude, he says. I laugh and take a pull from the beer.

——

AFTER AN HOUR the bar starts to fill and someone has played AC/DC on the jukebox. I’m on my fourth beer and Chance is on his seventh. He gets louder every time his mouth opens.

Damn, son, he says. Leans over. Breath hot and sweet from the beer. How many of those are you gonna smoke? He points at my cigarette. I blow smoke in his face, he fans it away and coughs.

Give me one, he says. I shake one from the pack and he takes it between his teeth, drops his lips around the filter. I bring the lighter up.

Thanks, he says. Blows a mouthful of smoke into my face. I don’t flinch and he looks disappointed. He props his elbows against the bar railing. Two girls beside him. He looks over at them and then back at me. Points across his chest toward them. I tap my cigarette into the ashtray and shake my head. He looks puzzled.

I’m no good, I say.

What? he says over the music.

No good, I say again but he just shakes his head. He turns, starts talking to the girl beside him. He leans back and points at me. My hands start to shake and I rub them together. I crush my cigarette in the ashtray and push the stool out. I’m about to get down but Chance puts his hand flat against my chest.

Hold on, he says. Got somebody wants to meet you. I look over and the girls have gotten down from their stools and are standing in front of Chance and me. One girl’s tall, the other a little shorter and they’re both done up and have on tight clothes, small black pocketbooks draped over their shoulders. One girl looks at me and sticks out her hand. Her black hair reaches her shoulders.

Hi, she says. I give her my hand.

Hi, I say. Brad.

Michelle, she says. Chance leans in.

This is Jill, he says. I look at him. He skirts his eyes, coughs and shakes his head quickly because he doesn’t want me to ask if this Jill is his girlfriend.

Hey, I say shaking her hand. Nice to meet you both.

Brad here’s gonna be a Kappa Sig, Chance says. He places one hand on my shoulder. The girls nod and smile.

I hope, I say.

You hope? Chance says. You’re a damn lock, boy. He slaps my back and turns toward the bar, holds up four fingers toward the bartender. Michelle climbs up onto the stool beside me. Places the pocketbook in front of her and the bartender brings over two beers. She looks into the pocketbook, pulls out a cigarette. I scoop my lighter up, bring the flame to the tip of her cigarette. She cups her hands around my hands, her eyes move up to my face and the flame makes her skin glow. I look away.

Thanks, she says.

Forget it, I say. Chance leaning into Jill with one hand on her small arm. She’s smoking and nodding. Chance bringing the beer up to his lips. I look back over at Michelle.

So, I say. What year are you?

Freshman, she says. Lets out a mouthful of smoke. Fans the smoke away. You?

Junior, I say. I just transferred. She nods.

So you’re gonna be a Kappa Sig, she says.

Well, I say. I hope. If things go well. I peel the edge of the label on my beer.

Oh, I’m sure you won’t have a problem.

We’ll see. Are you rushing?

Yeah. We’re almost done. I think it’s either Tri Delt or Kappa right now. I nod.

They’re both really great, she says. I love the girls in both of them. I don’t know how I’m going to decide.

They both sound good, I say.

Yeah, she says. It’s just such an important decision. I look at her again with her small nose and black eyes. She smiles when she sees me looking at her and I turn away. She touches my arm.

It’s okay, she says. You can look at me. I turn back toward her.

She brushes the hair back from my eyes.

You have a great face, she says. I look down at the beer and then back at her.

You too, I say. You have a great face too. She tucks one side of her hair behind an ear and twists the cigarette into the ashtray, reaches into her pocketbook and pulls out another.

Chain-smoker, she says. Puts the cigarette between her lips. Sorry.

No, I say. I am too, sometimes. I light her cigarette again. She exhales.

You want one? she says. I have my own but I nod and reach over to the pack she’s holding. I light the cigarette and take a pull.

Thanks, I say. Turn my head up to blow the smoke at the ceiling. It hangs there tangled in the lights. I look over at Chance and he’s kissing Jill, one hand resting on her waist. I look back over at Michelle. She runs a hand along my thigh and stares at me. I hunch over the bar because I’m getting hard. She holds the cigarette at shoulder level and I don’t know what to say or do and this is the first time a girl in a bar has ever even touched me and we’ve barely talked and I don’t even know her last name. I breathe in deep, take another pull from the cigarette and then the beer. I drink it fast, let it burn my tongue and throat. In the mirror behind the bar I can see my face, my nervousness, everything I know that’s wrong about me. Michelle rubs my thigh and leans over toward my ear. Her wet lips graze my earlobe and I can feel her breath and the hand moving up and down my thigh and I turn my head back toward her and she’s perfect there with her pursed lips and her chest rising and the smoke gathering around her through the lights and I know she can fix me, I can feel my fingers through hers, I know I’ll wake up with her, I can see us maybe married and then I feel a hand on my back. Grabs my shirt and pulls me down from the stool.

Time to go, bud, Chance says and we’re walking out of the bar and I’m trying to hide the fact that I’m hard walking hunched over and Chance pushes the door open. I look back and Michelle is smiling after me, crushing her cigarette. She uncrosses her legs and crosses them again the other way. Holds up one finger toward the bartender. Chance lets his hand fall away from my neck. We walk toward his car and I pat my pockets.

I forgot my cigarettes, I say. Chance reaches into his pockets.

Here, he says. Hands me a pack. Take these. I stole them from that whore.

What whore? I say. The girl you were making out with?

Chance turns and glares at me. Points his finger toward my chest. That, he says, was not meant to happen. I nod because I don’t want to push him and because I need his vote, but also because I know that Michelle wouldn’t have touched me if Chance hadn’t told her I was going to pledge.

Don’t say a word, he says.

I won’t, I say. Swing my head back and forth. I swear. I don’t want to leave but I just keep walking with my hands in my pockets and my head turned down to cracks in the sidewalk.

I can’t be around all that shit, man, he says. It’s too much. We stop beside his car and he pulls his keys from his pocket. I go around to the other side, wait for the lock to click. I open the door and get inside.

Inside the car Chance doesn’t speak. He looks straight ahead. When we pull into the dorm parking lot he turns to me.

Listen, bud, he says. I’m sorry I snapped at you back there. And I’m sorry we had to leave. You didn’t want that girl anyway. I’ve seen her around. She’s a groupie.

I don’t know what he means.

I kind of liked her, I say.

Yeah, he says, you would. You’re new. But those girls just want a fraternity man. Especially a Kappa Sig.

It’s like he’s teaching me an important lesson.

Well, shit, he says, laying his hands across the steering wheel. Sometimes it’s okay. Most of the time actually. You’ll get more chances, I promise. You pledge and you’ll get it all the time.

I place my hand on the car door and open it. Chance grabs my arm when I turn to go.

Don’t say anything, okay? he says. The girlfriend. You know?

That’s the last thing you need to worry about, I say. It’s between you and me. Got stone lips. Fucking granite, man.

Chance smiles.

That’s my boy, he says. He slides the gearshift into reverse.

Listen, he says. I’ll make it up to you. I promise. Next time we go out it’s all the groupie whores you can handle. I nod and shut the door and wave as Chance backs the car from the parking lot. He thumps over a raised parking guard and stops, looks around and starts back again. I stumble up the steps to my room.

   

I GET A BID.

I’m in Brett’s room on the Kappa Sigma hall on Friday, the day after the vote to decide who gets in. Rush is quick. Pledge season is not. Brett shuts the door. I’m nervous because he looks serious. This is what he tells me: Last night the brothers went into the lounge to vote on me and came out after a few minutes. Brett was not allowed in because I’m his brother and he waited in the hall outside. A few brothers shook their heads as they piled out toward their rooms like something was very bad. Brett almost shit his pants. Ben Moore started to laugh when Brett grabbed him and Dixon Lynch slapped his back. Dixon said they were just fucking with him. Brett says he was actually scared for a minute. Brett says fuck the details. You’re in. It’s all that matters.

——

AFTER I LEAVE his room, I go and get the official bid in paper form from the Residency Life Office. They have someone there just to hand out bids. In my dorm room I stick the bid under my bed.

BOOK: Goat
6.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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