Your best friend, Layla, thinks the fresh scent of pine needles will do you a world of good. You agree, considering your recent hassles with dividing up the furniture, the Journey albums and the road sign collection you both spent nights in jail for and if that isn’t enough, there’s your teen-age son’s obsession with werewolves to worry about.
You trip into the living room of Layla and Henry’s luxe mountain cabin, your overnighter catching on the door jam. You've arrived after a three-hour drive in your clunky Subaru because your ex claimed the Caddie in the divorce.
Henry is sprawled on the couch watching a sports-talk program, something about the Dodgers, and holy crap, next to him is Rex the blow-hard, the braggart, the Bluster-Fuck. It’s all you can do not to flip a bitch and head home. Then Henry, lovely, oblivious Henry, gets up and gives you a hug. Bluster-Fuck grunts his greeting over his shoulder.
You met B-F before with his wife so why the hell doesn't he at least paste a grin on that tubby face of his and say, “Hey, how you doing?”
But no. Eyes glued on the TV screen, he says to Henry, “You know my dad drank beer with Koufax. I shook hands with Garvey and The Penguin.”
Henry’s eyes go wide. “Steve Garvey?” and you decide it’s time to search for Layla and Bluster-Fuck's wife, old What’s-Her-Name.
You don’t remember much about his wife because when Bluster-Fuck’s around, he opens his mouth and vacuums the room dry, pulling every last dust mote into his gut. Even the skin cells of your own face feel like they’re going to peel right off and zoom down his gullet.
Oh, there she is, B-F’s wife, out there on the back deck with Layla, drinking Chardonnay—or maybe it’s just a shadow cast by one of the redwoods? Hard to tell.
Later, down on the dock in lawn chairs, the five of you drink cocktails and watch the sun drop behind the peaks; Bluster-Fuck announces he’s a wine connoisseur. “One of my college buddies owns a little winery in Santa Inez.” And a chef: “My aunt went to high school with Alice Waters and I gotta say, there’s something to be said about organic cuisine.”
In the growing dusk, What’s-Her-Name, B-F’s vaguely there mate, coughs. At least, that’s what your underdeveloped echo-detection skills tell you, but B-F ignores her, too deep in his dissertation on the differences between pure olive oil, virgin olive oil, and extra virgin olive oil.
Over grilled sirloins and iceberg lettuce wedges, Henry mentions golf. You quickly ask What’s-Her-Name if she plays golf.
The woman looks startled, unaccustomed to being spoken to directly, and before she musters the ability to form words, B-F says, “Oh she’d be good if she practiced her swing. She uses too much shoulder. I try to show her...”
You glance at Layla who shrugs and you sit back against the cushion to take an eyes-open nap.
You’re vaguely aware of Buster-Fuck’s voice, its expansive tenor, the occasional trumpeted pronouncement that makes you cringe. He segues from golf to tennis, his tennis elbow, his new top-of-the-racquet—blah-blah-blah—the agonies and ecstasies of being a real estate developer, day-trader, ad-hoc advisor to the town council—blah-blah-blah—little league coach, beloved husband, adored father of three highly intelligent and successful children one of whom is dating a billionaire's granddaughter with houses in Maui, Vegas, and a co-op in New York—blah-blah-blah. He yammers about his mother whose refrigerator he's just repaired, his uncle who takes him to the Dug-out Club at Dodger Stadium, the sexy neighbor who has a crush on him. Every once in a while, you unglaze your eyes to see if his mouth is cramping, but notice instead the bobbing of his stubbly red neck, and want to barf.
He sees himself as jovial, hilarious, but humble, too, don't you know, just another wealthy Joe out of Westwood. You, however, have a different take, and picture him head down in the toilet, under the wheels of your Subaru, or better yet, down the mountain tied to a railroad track for the 4:30 Amtrak pass.
Dishes done, coffee brewing, the fragrant smell of baking shortcake fills the kitchen. You and What’s-Her-Face are cutting up strawberries, Henry’s whipping the heavy cream, Layla’s digging out silverware, plates, and napkins, and Bluster-Fuck’s flapping his jaw. Of course he is. “You know, I give the produce manager at Vons tickets to the Lakers a couple of times a year and he always saves the best berries for me—”
Some switch in your brain toggles “on” and you finally raise your voice. “I saw a terrific movie the other night—”
Bluster-Fuck: “Me too. Oh, you shouldn’t use a knife to take off the stems—”
You (a little louder): “The movie is based on an ancient Roman play—”
B-F (louder still): “We went to Rome last month. Paolo Regetti, the famous Italian historian—”
You (very loud): “The movie is about an Italian soldier who brags—”
Layla (shouting and giving me a look):“The shortcake’s burning!”
B-F grabs a kitchen towel, dives at the oven, and pulls out the golden cakes. “Ta-da. These are perfect. I’m just in time to save the day!”
You give up and chop strawberries, stems and all, into the bowl, each stippled berry reminding you of Bluster-Fuck’s jiggling neck. When the twice-sharpened knife winks at you, conjuring up the urge to slice Bluster-Fuck from stem to stern, you high-tail it out of there, glad you haven't unpacked the weekender and you've still got some gas. Glad too, that maybe you don’t have it so bad.
published 22 August 2011