Authors: Todd Hasak-Lowy
Â HIS MOM
Hi, honey. I want to apologize for today. For me breaking the news like I did. That wasn't fair to you on your birthday. I'm sorry. We do still need to talk about the whole thing, though, and soon. But okay, I suppose it can wait a day or two. I love you.
Objects Confounding Darren, Who Is Thankfully Way Less High Than He Was an Hour Ago
Â His phone. Which is actually pissing him off. Not just the messages and all that, but the actual phone. Because how did everyone (as in, everyone in the whole damn world) just agree that it was a good idea to haul these things around all the time? They're like little monsters or something.
Â And why do the Weisses have a jukebox in their laundry room?
Family Members to Whom Darren Texts the Message
We'll Be at Green Llama at 730
Â His mom
Â His dad
Conversations, Only Three of Which Actually Take Place, and None of Which Go All That Well
Â Eight seconds later his phone rings. His dad. An impossible call to ignore in light of the timing.
“Hi,” Darren says, sitting down on the landing of a flight of stairs he somehow didn't walk up to get to the second floor, which is the floor he's on. Unless there's a third floor.
“How's your day?” his dad asks.
“Enjoying the car?”
“It's nice, yeah.”
“Great. Well, I wanted to be sure you're okay with the arrangements for tonight.”
“Yeah. Sure. Whatever.”
“Didn't you see my text?”
“Yes. Of course. But it was rather terse.”
“It's a text message, Dad.”
“Okay, okay. I just wanted to check. And see how you're doing.” Darren is now lying down on the floor. When he tilts his head back he still can't see the end of the hallway.
“I'm fine, Dad.”
“I mean, I was rather surprised when you showed up at Dr. Schrier's like you did.”
Darren says nothing.
“Though I was pleased to see you turning to him for help. Assuming that's what you were doing. He said nothing to me about what you told him, of course.”
“Of course,” Darren says, with no discernable emotion.
“And you're not angry about anything?”
“Well, like about what you said to me in the car this morning.”
Was his dad always like this? Darren can no longer remember for certain, though he doubts he was. Either way, there's some troubling chicken-egg something here, as far as his dad is concerned.
“Dad, c'mon, please. Not right now.”
“Well, Darren, it's just, I'd just really like us to talk through this, however briefly, before dinner tonight. Otherwise, otherwise it may just cloud everything.” Darren closes his eyes. Tries to remember to breathe like Nate said. It's not working. “If you want me to drop it, I will, butâ”
“What do you want me to say, Dad?”
“There's no need to raise your voice like that, Darren.”
“Seriously. What do you want from me? You're kind of weird sometimes, Dad. You are. It's true. And I don't know what you want me to do about it, becauseâ”
“You don't need to do anything, Darren. All I need from you is for you toâtoÂ .Â .Â .”
“What? Do I have to say that I'm glad you're gay? That it's awesome? That nothing could make me happier? Is that what you mean? Is that what you're waiting for? You're gay, Dad, I get it. You're gay. I'm okay with it. I am. I swear. And Ray's a cool guy. He is. Like, way cooler than you, in fact. Like, ten times cooler. But okay, what else do you want from me? Do I have to ride the float at the next parade with you? Do I have to say I'm proud of you? Do I really have to like it? Is that what you need for me to say? That I'm psyched you finally found the right guy to fuck from now on?”
Extremely awkward silence.
“Dad, shit. IÂ .Â .Â .”
“I'll see you at dinner, Darren.”
“Sorry, Dad. No, don't. I'm sorry.”
“No, it's okay. It's good you were able to say that. But I think I should get off now.”
And he does.
Â Eight seconds later he calls his dad back.
“I'm sorry, Dad. I didn't mean that.”
“Darren, there's no need to lie.”
“We'll get through this.”
“I know you are. I know this is hard.”
“I love you, Dad. I do.”
“I know, Darren. I know. I love you, too.”
“So then, canâ”
“I'll see you at dinner, Darren. Good-bye.”
When you're in a weird place, or maybe just a bad place, and you recently had a couple of weird conversations, or maybe a couple of bad conversations, it's impossible to know if you're high still. Because being high means being not normal. And everything is so far from normal right now that Darren can barely even remember what normal's supposed to mean.
So maybe the Sour Haze is responsible for Darren being stuck to this floor like he is. Or maybe it's not.
Â Darren stares at Zoey's number. Maybe she'd understand. Maybe, while she's busy fixing herself, she could fix him, too. Whatever, might as well try. Only, before he can make the call:
“Darren!” Nate screams. “Hide-and-seek is over. Get your ass down here.”
Â “I'll tell you what,” Nate says after closing the trunk on Ray's car about ten minutes later. “When they write the history of the Accidents, that house is going to be like ground zero.”
“They loved our shit,” Darren says.
“You want to know why? Because it was the opposite of shit.”
The day is winding down.
“We rocked absurdly hard,” Nate says.
“Yeah,” Darren says.
Where the hell did the sun go?
“Can you believe it?” Nate asks. “I mean, can you effing believe that shit?”
“Hey,” Darren says, “why'd you play âWhen You Were Young' in G instead of C?”
“You played it in the wrong key.”
“No I didn't.”
“Yes you did. You forgot to put on the capo.”
“Shit, you're right. But so what? It sounded fine, right?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“Yo, what's the dealio?”
“I don't know. It's just, I had to like figure it out on the spot.”
“And you're a beast, so you did.”
“And it's âI can't take you apart,' not âI can't take you to heart.'â”
“What are you talking about? I didn't sing that.”
“Yeah you did, it's in the chorus. You sang it that way like four times.”
“Man, listen to you. Haters gonna hate.”
“I'm just saying.”
“That, I don't know, we can do better.”
“Better? Are you kidding me? Didn't you feel us getting drenched in the multiple orgasms blowing up all over that room?”
Darren doesn't say anything.
“This is about Mom, isn't it?” Nate asks.
“It is, man. She pooped on your birthday cake with her high-tech master plan. Even the Haze couldn't help your stunned ass.”
“What, like you don't care that she's moving?”
“Not really. Far away but making mad bank. Kind of ideal if you ask me.”
“She's not going to give you anything if you're not in school.”
“She's not. She told me.”
“Whatever.” Nate extends his right hand. “My turn to drive.”
“You just smoked up again,” Darren says.
“And? Give me the keys.”
“Ray didn't say you could.”
“Oh, you're such a puss job.”
“Must I remind you that I was, until about four hours ago, a professional driver?”
“So,” Nate says, “there is no way in the world he explicitly told you not to let me drive. Am I right?”
“Sorry. You can't.”
“D, man.” Nate takes hold of Darren's hand. “Don't forget, he's going to be my gay stepdad soon too, you know.”
“Make me, weenus.”
“You can't drive.”
Nate's other hand gets involved in the struggle. “Give me the keys. Now.”
And then, just like that, they're on their way to the ground.
Potentially Iconic Black-and-White Photographs That a Professional Photographer Would Be Capable of Capturing from the Jacobs Brothers' First Physical Fight in More Than Four Years
Â Nate tackling Darren
Â Darren putting Nate in a headlock
Â Nate driving his right knee into Darren's left thigh
Â Darren pressing Nate's face into the grass just north of the Weisses' driveway
Â Nate elbowing Darren in the ribs
Â Nate freeing himself from Darren's headlock
Â Darren tripping Nate
Â Darren climbing on top of Nate
Â Darren pinning Nate's right arm under his left knee
Â Nate bending Darren's left pinkie back
Â “Ow!” Darren more or less screams. “Let go!”
“Get off me.”
“Let me drive.”
“Just to the lake.”
“C'mon. It's only like two blocks from here.”
“You're a dick.”
“I know. But you shouldn't care so much.”
“Just to the lake.”
“So get off of me.”
“Let go of my finger.”
“Fine. On three.”
“One, twoÂ .Â .Â .”
Darren rolls over next to Nate. They lie there, breathing loudly.
“How the hell did Haze make you so angry?” Nate asks.
“Blow me. It didn't.”
“Bullshit. We just rocked and you're shitting all over it.”
“You need to get better.”
“And you need to lighten up.”
They lie there silent for a minute or so. Darren stares up at the sky through the empty trees. Why do they make it so hard to become an astronaut?
“What?” Nate asks.
“Did you ever think how if DadÂ .Â .Â .”
“What about him?”
“If he admitted he was gay all along.”
“If he did that, we never would have been born. You know?”
“And you think I'm too high to drive.”
“I'm serious. Think about it. Like, he had to be in the closet, or whatever, for us to even happen.”
Parts of a Story Nate Tells Darren While They Sit on a Large Stone Near the Shore of Lake Michigan
Â “You know, the summer we moved up to Skokie, right before I started kindergarten, we went to the beach one day. Back when we lived on Belden. It was probably on a Saturday like today. Except it was the summer, so it was warm and there were a million people everywhere. And there was this street performer. He was doing the one-man-band thing. Bass drum on his back, cymbals between his knees, some kind of horn under his armpit, the whole deal. And I was mesmerized. Could have watched him forever, because he couldn't just play all the instruments at once, he could play entire songs and it sounded good; I remember how good it sounded. It was the most amazing thing I had seen in person in my entire life.
“But then I don't know what happened. At some point he must have finished, and I look around but don't see Mom or Dad. I search for them all over the place but can't find them anywhere. And I was scared, but, I don't know, at some point, I swear, I was like, âOkay, they're gone forever I guess, time to figure this out myself.' I swear I thought that; I swear I wasn't that worried. I had a quarter in my pocket, because Dad gave me one earlier in the day to get a gumball, but the machine was broken, so I just kept it. I looked along the trail and found a couple of penniesâI didn't know how much things really cost back then, but I thought that I could probably find enough coins to last me for a while.
“And then there was this guy selling pretzels, this old guy with a thick, bushy mustache and a really thin face. He must have noticed me wandering around by myself, because he called out to me and asked in some weird accent, âYou lost, son?' So he gave me a pretzel and had me sit down on this wooden stool he had next to his stand. He said, âWe wait here for them. They come soon. I am certain.' And I'm telling you, I was sure they were gone forever, and I wasn't happy about it or anything, but I was like, âOkay, there's this guy and he gave me a pretzel for nothing and is letting me sit here. I could do this tomorrow, too; I'll be okay.'
Â “Eventually, of course, they found me. And they were freaking out, crying and pretty much hyperventilating, especially Mom, who was wearing you in that baby carrier they used to have. She hugged me, just smothered me, with your legs dangling in my face. And I was glad to see Mom and Dad, relieved I guess, because I knew living by myself was going to be hard. But, I don't know, I was mostly thinking, âOkay, that was some kind of test, and I passed it, because if I had to, I could be okay on my own.' You were literally tied to Mom, but I was surviving on my own; that's how I felt then.