Benefits Ch. 08byMrFantastic©
All events in this story are totally and completely fictitious. None of it EVER, and let me repeat, EVER happened.
After a long flight, long mainly due to my thoughts over all the shit that had just gone down recently, I had arrived in good old New York. Home of the Yankees, the Mets, and the good ol' Nick's Dive bar, which I was headed to right now in a cab. I hadn't seen my uncle Nick in about two years; same went for his son, my cousin Kyle. But since I was going to be living with Kyle and working for uncle Nick, now was as good a time as any to reacquaint myself with them.
After a long ride, I finally got to the bar. I knocked on the door fairly loudly. After a few minutes, the door creaked open.
"Sorry, this bar doesn't allow the lower class in," a voice said sarcastically.
"Really," I replied. "Then how in the blue Hell did you get in?" I saw the door slowly open up. Before me stood a guy, my height, jet black hair, soul patch, and tattoos on his arms. He was wearing blue jeans and a white tank top. It was Kyle.
"What I don't look high class Mr. Monopoly?" he asked with a belch in tow. "How ya been ya fucker?" He grabbed me by the arm and dragged me into the bar, picking up my bags and throwing them behind me. "What brings you here? I mean, Pops told me you'd be droppin' buy to stay for a bit. Didn't really give me any details."
"Well, let's just say I need to clean my head, and nothing like the semi-fresh air of NYC to clear the brain."
"Fine, fine, keep your secrets Mysterio. Just remember, I see all........that and I can be a real jackass when a secret is being kept from me."
"Antsy over secrets are we?" I asked, handing him one of my bags. "What are you, a ten-year-old girl? Now come on and help me get settled in."
"WHOA, do I look like your bitch?"
"I'll buy ya a slice of pizza."
"All righty then," he replied, grasping two duffles and leading me to the apartment above. "And for the record, I want deep dish bitch."
After I had most of my stuff set up in the apartment, we went to a close-by pizza place to get Kyle his precious slice of deep dish. We settled down in a booth, him with his slice and a beer, myself with a salami sub and a Dr. Pepper.
"So tell me Mr. Mystery, what's with the sudden move?" Kyle asked between bites. "I mean, last I heard, your store was doin' well enough, ya had a nice girl, things're great; so what makes you drop all that and drop off right in front of the good ol' Dive?"
"Nothing I really want to talk about right now Sherlock," I grumbled. "Let me just say, it's something I just can't deal with back home. I needed to bail so I could just get clear of it all for a good long while. That and all those California hippies were drivin' me nuts."
"Okay, you got it. No more questions about that subject. But on to more important crap. Like for instance, you wanna go out, get some tail tonight?"
"No, sorry man."
"Why not, you lose yer dick or something on the flight?"
"No, it's just I feel I should start working tonight, you know? Pay your Dad back starting tonight for letting me stay for a while." That sounded reasonable. I couldn't tell him the truth. That I was basically still fucked on the inside after everything that happened between me and Elisha. And what Dyl and Mila had done to me. I didn't even want to start thinking of being back on the single scene again. Bad enough I had thoughts of Elisha with other guys in my head.
"Dude, I'm sure Pops will let you out for at least a night. You're family. It's no big deal."
"Fine, if uncle Nick says yes, why not? Might as well start having fun here. Gonna be here for a while most likely."
"That's the fuckin' spirit my main man!" he exclaimed, getting looks from people in the restaurant. "Oh, pardon me, I come from a long line of obnoxious jackasses."
"Thank goodness my mom doesn't carry the obnoxious gene," I said. "But I did unfortunately get the jackass disease."
"Don't worry fair cousin, there is yet a cure."
"Ladies. In the words of a great scholar, giggidy giggidy gigg-a-dy. Allllll right."
"Dude, you do know that impression really freaks me out."
We headed back to the bar the long way; I decided I wanted to take a bit of a relaxed walk and Kyle decided to come along to try and get me to spill about what had happened in L.A. Fortunately for me, spending most of my summers growing up with the guy, I knew this tactic, and decided to do the one thing that would get him off the subject for good. It would trap us in a pointless, stupid argument for the rest of the day, but it would be worth it.
"You know, no matter how much you bug and annoy me, I'll always hold one fact close to my heart," I said to him as we walked by a hot dog cart.
"What's that?" he asked.
"That Kyle Rayner was easily the best Green Lantern EVER. Better than Hal Jordan. Way better."
"You motherfucker.........Hal was TEN TIMES the Lantern your bitch boy Kyle is. Fuckin' Hal was totally fearless and honest; that's a fucking hero!"
And the mouse took the cheese..........
"All I'm sayin' is Grant Morrison, who did the best JLA run ever, refused to ever do a flashback story because he thought Hal was bland and boring, whereas Kyle was a fleshed out character," I said as I walked through the door of the bar. We had been arguing for the better part of a half hour. Sure, it was odd, two grown men arguing over a fictional character with a super-hologram power ring, but it was better than poking at a fresh wound.
"Fuck Morrison!" he exclaimed. "Motherfucker wouldn't know a good hero if one came off the page and kicked his ass."
"I didn't ever hear you complain when he had Batman single-handedly beat the living shit out of a bunch of Martians."
".......Go fuck yourself. We're going up to that apartment and reading every GL comic I can find 'til you ditch Kyle GAYner and go for the real hero."
"Whatever dude. Live in your little fantasy world."
"Like you don't?"
"Well, yeah, of course I do. But in my world I get to drive both the Batmobile AND the Mach 5."
"What's that I hear?" a voice asked in the store room. "Is it the sound of two grown men arguing over men in tights? It can only be two people.....welcome back Kyle, and how ya doin' Jake?" Out burst my uncle Nick, a big guy. Kingpin big, i.e., muscle, giving me a big hug. He looked like an older version of his son. Older plus muscles and about an extra foot of height.
"Uh, uncle Nick," I managed to get out. "I think you're bruising my ribs."
"Sorry 'bout that kid. Ain't seen my favorite nephew in a while, or heard Nick here talk with as big a dork as him in a while. Made me all sentimental-like. How're things going by the by my boy?"
"Good so far. I was actually gonna ask you if I could start working here tomorrow. Kyle thought it'd be good if I went out with him tonight. I believe the term he used was, 'get some tail.'"
"Well, since it is something of huge importance, why not? I wasn't really gonna have ya start working tonight anyway unless ya wanted to. Thursdays aren't the busiest ya know."
"All right! Party night my almost-bro!" Kyle exclaimed.
"Yeah yeah, but first sonny boy, you and Jake are gonna eat dinner here first. Give Jake a proper welcoming into our home."
"All right Dad. The usual classic Cassidy home-cooked meal?"
"Oh, but of course."
"Take-out Chinese it is."
After the hearty meal of MSG-smothered goodness, Kyle and I went up to the apartment to get ready for the night. Kyle would, no doubt, be dressed in some blueish suit, black shirt. Like Chris Kattan from A Night At The Roxbury. It's his way. Me, I decided to at least look better than I felt. Put on a nice leather jacket that Laura had convinced me to buy before I left, simple white t-shirt and some black slacks. I walked out into the living room, ready to go out. Kyle saw me and started to laugh.
"When the Hell did you become Mr. Fashion Plate?" he asked. "As opposed to your old title, Mr. Potato Head?"
"A good buddy back home kind of got me into looking more like James Bond than Indiana Jones," I replied.
"Gonna have to meet this miracle worker. But only if it's a really hot chick."
"Well, you may meet her. Don't know yet if she'll even have time to come up for a hello."
"Dude, ya gotta intro me if she's hot. Speakin' of buddies a'yours, how're Mila and Dyl?"
"Hey, let's get going, don't want other guys to be gettin' the women-type folk, do we?" I asked abruptly. I wasn't even ready to start speaking on the subject of Dyl or Mila. I got a little pissed off at the mere thought of them. A whole conversation would turn me into the Hulk. Albeit in a stylish leather jacket and not garrish purple pants.
We arrived at the club right in the middle of the ripe time. Not too many people, but more than enough women. Perfect timing. We got in with no trouble. Kyle went immediately out onto the dance floor. I headed to the bar. I've never been one for dancing at all, and electronic music...just ugh. I ordered an MGD and watched Kyle as he effortlessly went up to ladies and got them laughing and interested. Kind of the opposite of me. Especially in my current state of mind. I came here to get my mind off....her. But no matter what I tried, nothing worked. I turned around, I saw a blonde girl who looked like her. I hear her laugh if any girl laughs. But when I think of her, I think of what I did, and what she did.......then I want more beer.
I ordered my second one. I took a sip a noticed a girl across the bar looking at me. She was amazingly cute. Nice smile. Long brown hair. Brown eyes. She got up and started to walk towards me, giving me a full view of her. She was wearing a simple enough black dress and black-strap heels, but on her the simple outfit looked flat-out gorgeous. She walked up and sat on the stool right next to me.
"You know, you have to be the most depressed looking guy I have ever seen in a nightclub," she said. "And that includes the Goth clubs."
"You don't look like much of a Goth girl," I replied.
"Eh, the thrills of youth," she said with a bit of a laugh. "So what has you so down Mr....."
"Jake, you can call me Jake Parker, Ms........"
"Josie. Josie Maran."
"Wow, I got a swimsuit cover girl that I've never met before talking to me with a bit of concern. Next up, I'l be handed the Nobel Peace Prize. Then someone will hand me the keys for the Batmobile and I'll be fuckin' set"
"What, you don't get attractive women coming up to you at all?"
"Not when I'm holding a beer bottle like its my only bud in the world."
"Well, if you only pay attention to the beer bottle, it just might be your only friend."
"Okay Ms. Maran, you have my undivided attention."
"Good. Now you come over to that booth there and talk to me. Think you can handle that Mr. Parker?"
I followed her over to the booth she was pointing at and we sat down.
"So, Mr. Parker," she asked playfully. "Why so resistant to the charms of a lady?"
"Just some personal stuff really," I said. "And you can call me Jake by the way."
"Okay then Jake, how bad can the personal stuff be to make you ignore any woman giving you the eye?"
"What is this 'eye' you speak of? No woman has ever given me the eye, at least none worth mentioning now."
"Ouch, I pity the poor girl then."
"Believe me, you shouldn't," I said gruffly, the mere thought of Mila enough to start a slow simmer of anger.
"I sense whoever the girl is, she's a subject that should not be spoken of."
"By George, I do think you're right Ms. Maran!"
"A-thank you kind sir."
"Perhaps you could solve another mystery for me," I asked, taking another sip from my beer.
"What's that?" she asked with a smile.
"Why exactly would a swimsuit model-turned-actress come up to a visibly depressed guy in a bar when there are more than enough happy, although most likely shit-faced, guys on the floor and at the bar?"
"You want the truth then? Well, I know your cousin, we used to date, but are friends now, and he said you were a bit on the down side, and someone like me talking to you might cheer you up."
"Because I'm of course shallow enough for that to work."
"Hey, don't take any offense Jake. He just thought it'd cheer you up. Obviously he was wrong, and I'm sorry if I bothered you." She got up to leave before I grabbed her arm.
"No, sit down please. I'm sorry if I'm coming off as rude, but it just kind of gets to me that someone thinks they need to goad women into talking to me, thinking it's A) A GOOD thing, and B) Like it's gonna magically wash away what's going on in my life."
"He was just trying to help, so don't be too pissed at him. Damn, whatever happened to you must have been big to make you this aggressive."
"How would you know what I'm normally like?"
"Kyle talks about you a bit. And from the picture he painted, you come off more as a Picasso version of it right now."
"Well, I am sorry if somehow the holy image of Jake was distorted."
"Could you please lay the sarcasm on a bit thicker?"
"Sorry," I said, sipping again.
"Listen, I'm sorry if me coming up to you bent you out of shape at all. Let me make it up to you."
"Let me take you out tomorrow for a day of 'making it up to you' fun. Eveything my treat. Movie, you got it. Food, whatever restaurant you want. Las thing Kyle wanted was to get you more into whatever funk he thinks you're in."
"You have a deal there Ms. Maran," I said, taking her hand and shaking it. "Wise man say, 'One who turns down free food, is also total moron'."
"You told a friend of yours to talk to me," I said to Kyle, playing darts with him in the apartment.
"Yeah, so what's the big deal?" he asked, leaning on the couch arm, sipping at a soda.
"The problem is, it kinda made me feel like a leper. 'Oh please kind miss, talk to my socially inept friend there. I promise you he can form sentences.'"
"Jake, you know it's not even remotely like that. I just knew you were bummed, so I figured I could call in a favor from a pal."
"Who just happens to be a former swimsuit, among other things, model. That you used to date."
"Yeah. Ain't living in New York grand?"
"I suppose. You know, when your own family isn't treating you like an emotional retard, I guess it can be pretty good."
"Oh stop whining. I swear, you're the only man on Earth who would get pissed because his cousin is responsible for him meeting an insanely hot woman. I shudder for the poor soul who'd dare give you a tip tonight at the bar."
"Oh shut up. What time is it anyway?"
"Around 11:30, why?"
"I gotta go. I'm meeting Josie at some coffee shop at noon."
"I fucking knew it. All this bitching and moaning, and you wound up with a date. Ungrateful prick."
"Hey, it's not a date. She felt bad for making me feel like a tool with the social graces of a turnip."
"Oh, so it's a pity date. So sorry buddy."
"Like I said before, shut up."
"So Mr. Parker, let's get to know you a bit better," Josie said, taking a sip from her coffee cup. "What makes you tick?"
"Like I said last night, call me Jake," I replied. "And could you be a bit more specific on the facts you want to know. What makes me tick isn't the greatest thing to ask for specifics."
"You sure you want me to ask specifics?" she asked in a playful tone.
"I think we both know that there is at least one subject you can do well to steer clear from."
"All right then. Let's see, what do I want to know.....let's get the basics out of the way. What do you do for a living, back in L.A. I mean. Kyle said something about you being a bartender up here."
"Well, back home, I own and run a bookstore. Pretty good business. My parents are watching it for me while I'm up here though."
"Sound like nice folks."
"They're great actually."
"Okay, next question....hmmmm...what music you like? What gets Jake Parker groovin'?"
"Good old fashioned rock and roll of course. Nothing but the best, little lady."
"You play any instruments?"
"Just some really bad guitar playing."
"And now for the drumroll question," she said, drumming her hands rapidly on the diner table. "What does Jake Parker want to do with his life?"
"For a living you mean? Well, I want to write basically. Anything. Movies, books, warning labels on medicine, anything."
"Sounds like a nice dream. You ever go anywhere with it?"
"Well, I've had a few short stories published, nothing huge though. Kind of lost the spur to write recently."
"And something tells my sixth-sense that asking what caused that leads us to the forbidden conversation topic."
"Damn, you should have your own Ms. Cleo line, you're that good."
"It's a gift," she said with a laugh. "So, what do you want to do next Jake?"
"Hmm, let's go catch a movie. I think I read that a theatre around here is playing some Chaplin flicks."
"You wouldn't rather see something more... modern?"
"Hey, don't underestimate the genius that is Charles Chaplin. Let's go."
The marathon was great idea, at least in my eyes. A bunch of Chaplin's shorts, rounded out by a showing of his film, The Great Dictator. Great stuff. I just wish I could have enjoyed it a bit more. But Josie, not that she was chirpy or anything during the movie, kept me distracted. She hung her head on my shoulder, snuggled close to me. A bit more friendly than I had anticipated, and it did bug me a bit. Not that I minded a woman like Josie being around me. But I still had leftover issues I had to deal with. I would have felt like a total clown shoe though if I had said anything, so I just let it go on. Still, the bother lingered.
After the conclusion of the movie, we left and headed back to the bar. I still had to work tonight after all. She dropped me off and gave me a kiss on the cheek goodbye, leaving me feeling, well, awkward I suppose the word is. Didn't matter really though. From the impression I was getting, she was just friendly, and she was simply saying goodbye. Still, any kind of affection from a woman felt pretty weird from where I was standing. I was still sporting an open wound from the Elisha Affair, so any female affection felt undeserved.
But, couldn't focus on that at the moment. I spent too much of my time away wallowing in the fallout from those events. Time to focus on working.
"So, how was your first night on the job Jake?" uncle Nick asked, helping me stack the chairs as we closed up.
"Not bad uncle Nick," I replied. "Got some tips, watched as Kyle scored on some female customers, and got beaned with a liquor bottle as a result of Kyle's lack of flair skills. All in all, pretty much what I expected."
"Good, good. And how about you, how're things goin' with you?"
"Ah great, you too now?"
"Hey, I just know you wouldn't up and leave your store over nothin'. Wanna tell me what's up now, or wait a bit?"
"I'll take the latter sir."
"Suit yourself. But you'll feel better when ya let it all out. It's not healthy to bottle whatever you got inside all up. Eventually it's gonna explode."
"I know, I know, but I just want to handle MY problems MY way."
"Okay kid, I get it. Have a good night then."
"You too," I said, as I walked up to my room.
I stood up on the roof that night, my cell phone in my hand. Elisha's number primed to call. Maybe if I just heard her voice, I would feel better. Maybe I could get her talking to me, rethink the decision. Maybe I could get her to see how much I loved her, and how much this tore me apart. Hell, perhaps she's at her house, thinking about calling up my cell phone right now.
I turned the phone off. Yeah right. And maybe I'll be first in line for a Barbara Streisand greatest hits collection. She never wanted to see me again. And maybe it's better that way. For her at least. I sat down against the the ledge, my head hanging down.