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  • It had never occurred to him that his life would actually go on in the adult world. Harrison Loam, the recent college graduate, the impassioned laissez faire artist, the self proclaimed writer and skier, the most confused person in the world was having coffee in his underwear, on his faded green couch.

    The off-olive pillows vibrated mutely with the brilliant horns of John Williams’ Star-Wars theme. Shit. He dropped the laptop onto the floor and scrambled for his phone. Under-seat crumbs stuck beneath his fingernails as he slid his hand along the bottom of the cushion. A quarter, a paperclip and then the ringing stopped. One missed call was flashing in electronic green on the outer screen of his phone. It had been his father and soon there would be a message.

    He set his phone on the table and rubbed his eyes. Crimson bolts of sunlight crept across the faded wooden floor bending and shaping themselves around the various controllers and pieces of clothing that littered the planked landscape. Tiny particles floated, illuminated across the gap of air and then faded quickly into the morning shadows. It was warm outside for November, especially for Colorado. Each morning amazed him still, but this beauty came at a cost, of which his parents covered most. He was worried about money though. It seemed like the adult thing to do.

    Plastic rattled against the wood of the table – there was the message he was reluctant to hear. It even gave his phone a certain malicious aura. Looking away from the responsibility that waited, he stood up and stretched and suddenly felt a faint tint of mischief – a surge in his pants. No one was in the house. He had to continually remind himself that he lived alone now. Carefully avoiding his cell phone, Harry reached for his computer and crept into the bathroom.

    The white porcelain was freezing his ass cheeks as he browsed the various sizes, shapes and penetrations available to him through the online bazaar. Hot tendrils of steam drifted over the shower curtain. As the precious water drained downward Harry got hard. Turning the shower on before he took a shit had always relaxed him. It was as if he was fooling all the non-existent people avidly watching him. He sometimes felt guilty. He sometimes only turned the cold water on. Today was different; Harrison wanted to afford himself every pleasure possible to contradict what was really on the top of the back of his mind. Guilt was little explanation for what Harry was feeling as the water the pipes brought to him pooled and vanished into the hair-clogged hole in the floor. He flushed, stepped into the shower, and let the hot water work his back muscles. Closed eyes, his mind wandered.


    II.

    Billowing white-capped waves argued around the edge of the fiber-glassed schooner. The cheap black tint of his gas station wayfarers barely blocked the sun as he turned his gaze up to his brother perched atop the main mast.

    “You’re such a show off,” Harry ladled in defiance.

    “You’re such a shit fuck.”

    Harry turned his now green glazed vision back to his book with a half-cocked smile.

    “What a genius” He managed under his breath.

    “You’re just jealous!” Was the yell Harry heard just as his round hair-covered doughnut of a brother leapt from the thirty foot mast into the sparkling glitter of the North Atlantic. Caroline put her cold feet on Harrison’s back and giggled.

    “You know we have some of his genes.”

    “Don’t remind me.”

    Fourth of July off the coast of Rhode Island was just about the most American thing Harry did. He enjoyed it though. He enjoyed his red, white and blue bathing suit. Caroline, his seventeen-year-old sister, was as always far more tan than any of them. How she managed it while living in Vermont was beyond him, but here, now, she fit right in.

    “You know you’re about the same color as those hot dogs dad has on the grill.”

    “The hotdogs are bronzed goddesses are what you are trying to say to me?”

    She stuck a toe in his ear. He listened to the squish. Just then the blazing morning sun beamed onto his brother’s rotund shape pulling, exhaustively in an attempt to mount the corrugated deck. Harry began to laugh, and so did Caroline, and then so did Sam, his brother. Sam laughed, struggled until his face was tomato, then let loose a ball of snot from his strained nose that shot right on to his sister’s Oscar Meyer stomach. Harry went into convulsions as Sam absolutely gave up, and laughing out loud, crashed back into the water.

    “Ew ew gross ew!” Reported quickly from Caroline’s mouth, piercing the morning air. She lept up and over Harry flailing wildly as she went into the water.

    Each year the Loams would take their yacht out into the usually cutting waters of the North Atlantic, which seemed to subside briefly, if not patriotically, for the whitened bodies of America’s most wealthy families during early July. Harrison loved, without comparison, these cliché trips. He wouldn’t have his sister’s toe in any other ear. He wouldn’t have his brother’s bear like girth wasted on any but his eyes. His parents planned, argued, and eventually smiled, eventually had time to grill the hot dogs. There was always some political book his mother was shoving into his face on these trips – some drearily covered book. Harrison liked books with appealing covers. He thought about the color of his towel in Colorado, the navy was similar to one of the affronting shades of those terrible motherly mandates. He turned the knobs clockwise and reached for his mother’s gift, the blue towel.

    III.

    It was 10:30. Of the events that were in store today, the one that stuck out the most was his father’s visit. He arrived tonight at six-thirty (which he had told Harry pointedly). It was possible that he would be there earlier, or perhaps even later, but his father was rarely lacking in punctuality. He was driving to Telluride after a meeting in Santa Fe. It wasn’t as though Harry was loath to see his father, but his father wasn’t a particularly easy person to be alone with. David Loam did seem to have a certain sense of terrestrial dominance over anyone he chose to stand close to. Literally, the man was huge. Harry really had no idea how it was possible that a fifty six year old man could still stand so straightly when he himself, at only twenty-three, appeared at most times a hunchback. He attributed his slumped state to the time period that he grew up in. Surely the middle ages, the fifties even, would have blessed him with a much straighter back, for they didn’t have the internet back then, as his mother frequently reminded him.

    Posters covered Harry’s bedroom walls. He had some pictures. He had some framed pictures. The main bulk of the horizontal surface in his house was covered in pre-tacked posters. Some dating back to his college days, some even further. Harry held great pride for his ability to find and retain some of the classiest posters around. If you were sitting on the toilet you were staring up, or rather, being scrutinized by Albert Einstein in a golfing outfit, the bottom of the poster having been sheared clean of what Harry believed to be a tacky quote, but the suspenders were smashing. Above his dresser, Mark Hamill hoisted above his head a beaming light saber with a scantly garnished Carrie Fisher glued to his legs. There were world-war two airplanes, landscapes of Patagonia, Africa, and the Nile. There was even a picture of Telluride Harry had snapped with the camera his sister had given him several Christmases previous - an aspen covered mountain that glowed, golden, yellow.

    Harry rummaged through his laundry bin for one of his flannel shirts, surely now de-saturated from the smoky perversion of a few nights ago. He stuck his nose into the armpit of the shirt and inhaled. Old sweat mixed with a faded stench of cigarettes infiltrated his nostrils, mingling with the unclipped black hairs guarding the dark abyss. Bearable. What bothered Harry wasn’t the arrival of his father, but the news that he supposedly carried with him. Another one of those terrible phone messages had arrived early in the week. His father had said it’s bad news, bad news, bad news. Harry assumed that it was bad news, and had discovered from his brother, who has much closer to his sister, that this tri-bad news had something to do with his inability to get a “real job.” In his typical fashion though, Sam would not reveal more. He had lectured Harrison,

    “Listen, this is shit you need to hear from dad in person.”

    “Alright.”

    He had put it out of his head almost instantly and for the whole week only the bike shop, his writing, and getting drunk had occupied the recesses of his brain. When it began to creep up in the grease of the bike shop, when his problem began to worry him, he kept oiling, kept writing; he had a flask he took to work.

    Pulling on his duck boots Harry shoved a granola bar into his pocket. He slung the brown, oiled satchel onto his back. Inside, his computer squeezed against a full pack of Marlboro reds. The opened pack stuck, angled, out of the front pocket of Harrison’s corduroy jacket. What should have been a biting frost came only as slight breeze, which met Harry as he opened his front door. He unlocked his bike and began riding up one of Telluride’s many side streets turning north towards the distant waterfall and Rube’s bike shop.

    IV

    Harrison Loam had been in love. The only reason he believed he could write anything is because of this fact, and the girl who had captured his attention years ago now meant little to him. At the time of their breakup he had callously, perhaps uncharacteristically gone through it with little emotion. Friends and family had urged him logically, naturally that this was the correct decision, and he had listened. Sam had even spoke of the merits of being single at is age. Usually his brother would not advise Harrison on something so important. Sam was good at giving Harrison his space – speaking with him about interesting things – and then leaving him alone again. But his writing, well, most of his ability in it came from, as Harrison believed, the fact that he had been in love: the ultimate human feeling, Harrison thought, not emotion, but certainly feeling. His published works extended to only three short stories, one of them almost flash fiction, but in each story a woman and a man, a boy and girl fell in or out of love. Torrential emotions that come with these occurrences, and writing about them was what Harry believed he was best at, but he had become sick of his love stories. His lovers had come about in an enlightened period, or what Harry was beginning to believe, a blissful ignorance. All of them had been written pre-graduation and before the confusion had set in.

    Taylor, the girlfriend that was now two years in the past had grown up alongside the Loam family in Vermont. She had only lived three houses down – across the street. Deep in the winter of Harrison’s fourth year of high school the driblets of heated snow were sliding sideways, sticking and moving against the windshield pane. With fingers intertwined across the grey black cloth of the ashy center console, Harrison was seventeen. He could recall the evening he had first kissed Taylor, the soft touch of her lips in the backseat of his car and the breathy, jerky passion of two kids.

    The temperature had dropped almost five degrees since he had left his house, but he was soon to arrive. The ride took only fifteen minutes and the sun warmed the cold pavement and his red nose.

    Work went quickly. Harry was too concerned about his father’s news to concentrate. He had muddled a simple break repair and used red handle tape instead of maroon on a blue Schwinn. Rube, Harry’s boss and unlikely mentor was a small balding Jewish man with the largest calves Harry had ever seen. His biking phraseology and adherence to a strict tie-dye dress code shook him from his religious roots in Harry’s mind.

    “Hey Hare you doin’ alright? You look like you’re swimmin’ today.”

    “Yeah, sorry I…’

    “Hey did you see that taco that came in yesterday? Some poor bastard endo’d off the backside of breakwater trail – looked like some giant had squeezed the tire,” Rube interrupted, then let out a throaty chuckle.

    The greased palm slapped against Harry’s back and Rube sauntered back out to the register where a woman was trying on helmets. Clouds had rolled in around mid morning and the grey light that filtered through the thick panes brought the woman’s crimson hair into contrast. It has to be dyed. He snatched the once white rag from the back pocket of his jeans and wiping his hands walked to the front of the store.

    “Yeah I like the feel of this strap but I like helmets to be real damn tight. Yeah yeah. So do you like the green one? Yeah, yeah great breath-ability,” Rube smiled in satisfaction as the woman stuck her fingers in the vents on the helmet.

    Harry acted occupied with the cash register while glancing up at the girl. She was older than him, but her hair was real, at least, her eyebrows were the same fiery red. Rube was doling out some sort of corny joke when she turned her emerald eyes directly into Harrison’s gaze. His hand fumbled the pencil he had been holding. His temples darkened a shade.

    She let her eyes drop back to the rumblings coming from a now crouched Rube searching for a pair of pink bike gloves. Harry recovered his pencil, his dignity and was quick enough to see the edge of her faded pink mouth pull up into a slight smile before he turned back towards the shop.

    V.

    Lunch that day was with Rube. Harry had a few friends that were going for beers at a local bar, but he was telling himself he didn’t have the coin, and he didn’t want to be in any state of mind deviating from clarity when his father arrived. Besides, Rube had been telling him about this new sandwich at a pub down the street all morning.

    “These new steak and cheese sandwiches are abso-fuckinglutely amazing,” Rube’s claim was followed by a punch to Harry’s arm.

    “I mean they put these little peppers in em’ and it’s only five bucks Hare five goddamn bucks, in Telluride!”

    Harry chuckled to himself as Rube’s excitement sped them up a beat. There had been brief moments when Harry had seen through Rube’s guff and felt his real sentiments. Nothing was insincere about the man, a quality Harry loved but could not mimic. He was one of the few that could describe a processed, dry sandwich like some kind of rarity amongst delicacies. Harry could already feel his mouth watering.

    Harry liked to consider the town as transitory; it was in many ways a ghost town for real intentions. Everyone who lived there was visiting or working for a brief period or waiting to die. Ski bums like Harry came out of their multiple job shells when the winter took on its snowy form. During the summer, and this year the beginning of winter, Harry and his like were anticipating, almost tingling for the snow that was on its way. It meant an icy release from summer work. Fun merged into a job when the skiers started to flock. Work the lifts all morning, ski in the afternoon, get warm with a few beers, a few shots after work and try to find the exact same sentiment in a different sex and go home with a bed warmer. The inside of most restaurants catered not to the bum ilk but that of the wealthy vacationer, the investment banker from Boston, the actress from LA. The sandwich shop that Rube and Harry frequented was one of those restaurants where they both knew almost everyone working there, offspring of the privileged, the knit and grit pot smoking class of post collegiate scaredy cats. They took a seat by the window. The waitress approached.
    “Hey Harrison how are you?” She looked directly into his eyes with a smirk.

    “Hey what’s up, Laura? I can’t believe it hasn’t snowed yet and all”, Harry let his gaze wonder down her hourglass shape fiddling his silverware. “Oh this is Rube by the way I think you guys have met.”

    “Yeah that’s right, the bike shop?”

    “Yes mam.” Rube nodded intently at a text message he had just received.

    “So drinks, what do you guys need? We’ve got Coors for three bucks until three.”

    Backseating his pre-prescribed abstinence, Harrison ordered a beer and Rube put his finger up pointing for one more just as he picked up his phone. Laura nodded and floated away. Rube stepped up out of his chair clutching his Motorola.

    “Be back in a sec Hare.”

    Harry looked after Laura remembering her clumsy teeterings to the distortion of some 80s song two nights previous. She was pretty cute but most of the girls Harry hung out with in Telluride were. They were all like him. Paths to a successful future bothered more of them than Harry believed, but only a few were actually pressed for money. Laura’s mom was a lawyer in Denver. She had been working in Telluride since she graduated some three or four years earlier. Harry watched as she tilted the wooden handle towards her letting the golden liquid slide into the recently washed glass. On the second glass the foam cap broke rank and began to slide down the side. Laura slid a finger along the glass and sucked up the remaining liquid. She gave that beer to Harry, and knelt down by the table bouncing on her knees. Harry glanced at Rube pacing along the sidewalk out the window.

    “Thanks,” Harry said as he touched the cold perspiration and took a quick sip of foam.

    “Yeah, no problem. Hey, I had so much fun at your house on Tuesday. What are you up to this weekend?”

    “Well, skiing hopefully.”

    “Oh yeah, me too for sure, are you going out tonight though? Mark, one of my good friends, have you met him? Anyways, he’s playing in the park around six if you wanna come around.”

    “Yeah I may.” Harrison assured although he knew that he’d be having dinner with his father that evening.

    Usually Harrison would have shown more interest. He might have asked if it was an actual gig or if he was going to accompany the other vastly overrated hippies with guitars sprinkled here and there around the central park. He might have said, something like, “oh really? Awesome.”, or “Nice, what kind of music?”, just to assure this girl that he was an interested and exciting person. Today he wasn’t satisfied with his response, but it was all that could be mustered. Laura didn’t seem to notice.

    “Well, if you want to come, call me because we might be hanging out before we head over.” She winked at him and walked away.

    VI.

    The rest of the afternoon mimicked the morning. The quiet, calm hole that usually drained most of Harry’s difficulties was clogged with his father’s arrival. Rube seemed to notice the lack of focus, so he let Harrison go home early telling the boy that there wasn’t much traffic in the store, and that he was planning on closing early. Harrison was reluctant to shirk the little duty he had, but not adamant enough to disagree with Rube. He left his apron on the paint chipped oaken peg by the back door and went home. It was 4:30.

    The puffy and dense clouds had begun stacking themselves against the Rocky Mountains since around noon and now their moisture filled bellies drooped downwards towards the sharp peaks. Soon the soft airy flesh would burst open with what Harrison hoped would be a sticky, soft snow. The bike ride back to his house was blustery and made his eyes water.

    Harrison’s parents had always exaggerated the seriousness of situations. It was one reason, on reflection, that Harrison chocked up to his nonchalant attitude. As a kid, Harry had often felt that his parents’ intensity regarding matters of every importance would often entangle the problems more. His mother’s verbose reprimands to waiters and cab drivers, his father’s frantic two-hands-clutching-the-wheel calls for silence as he squinted at road signs. Harry often wondered if all human beings were doomed to such self-imposed stress. Sam or Caroline sometimes seemed to be on his side, but it wasn’t as if the feelings he had were childish. On more than one occasion his brother or sister, at young ages, had engaged in fretful jitters based upon problems at hand. If Harry couldn’t stand on his belief in disengaging, then what did he have? It certainly didn’t have anything to do with being cool, but it was this sentiment, or ability to pass off setbacks, which Harrison was having a hard time finding recently.

    In fact, sometimes Harry had no hope. He would consider the ramifications of riding his bike off a cliff or assassinating the president. Then, his mind would register these actions as completely pointless. As pointless as lawn gnomes. As pointless as dry toast. As pointless as marriage or any other human experience. Where did adults get their energy? Perhaps it was the annoying intensity his father had that Harry needed to find. Maybe there was hope in that. Harrison shook these thoughts from his head. Too many ideas often brought forth a shutoff valve in his mind. He’d play a game with himself in order to ignore unanswerable questions. It was called “what was I just thinking?” The answer was always, I’m thinking about a game in my head called “what was I just thinking.” And on and on. It was like smearing cold milky paint on a rotting fence.

    VII.

    After three spoonfuls of peanut butter, the snow started falling. Harry was standing in his kitchen looking through the window. His habit of eating peanut butter with a spoon had almost choked Harrison when he was seven. While it may be difficult to put more than ten marshmallows in your mouth or consume eight saltine crackers without water, it is easy to kill yourself with only three large spoonfuls of peanut butter. Without his brother rushing him to the sink to drink some water, Harry would have passed into that world that now he thought so much about.

    As he sipped milk, Harry categorized the type of skiing he would have on the following day. The snow was heavy and wet. It would stick. But Harry had little idea about how long it was supposed to snow. He opened the door to his porch and stepped out onto the cold wood with his woolen socks. He lit a cigarette and looked up. The sky was a shapeless gray. Large thick snowflakes fell on Harry’s shoulders as he inhaled and the tip of the cigarette flared and died. Harry told himself that death didn’t scare him. He had once been in an airplane when suddenly an air pocket had left him floating for a few moments. During those few seconds, Harrison was more terrified than ever before. He reached out and mauled the elderly woman to his right with his hand in an effort to find some security. There was no composure. It was several minutes after he apologized to the woman that he felt a respect for life. Later, and now, he remembers that experience but couldn’t recall the sensation associated. He believed that he was more scared to be alive.

    He walked in from the snow rubbing his thumbs underneath his eyes and turned towards the cabinet in his kitchen on the right. In it was half a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey. He slid the bottle off the shelf and unscrewed the black aluminum lid and drank. The miniature cracks in his dry lips were flooded with the cutting alcohol, making them tingle. Liquid fire slid into his throat. The vapors flared his nostrils, inside to out. He felt alone. In a way, Harry wanted to feel alone. He needed the emptiness as a reminder that there was a container, but he told himself that there was only a certain amount that was bearable. His socks were wet. He took another, longer drink. His adams apple rolled up and down twice. He put his hand on the faux wooden floor (it was a stick on plastic substance) then he let his body slide down so that he was sitting with his back against the window on the door that faced his porch and the snow. In his left hand, the bottle of Jack Daniels had one quarter left.

    Harrison thought about some clichés that he hated. The grass is always greener on the other side was the worst. He said the words out loud in a baseball announcer’s voice. Then he said: “There is no grass. There may not be any sides either. There is no grass and there are no sides to have the grass on. Everything is flat. There are only thousands of large potholes that line up in a row, and you can’t go around them, and they are all the same depth. It’s an annoying depth but will not kill you when you fall in it until you reach the last one and then you will die.”

    Happiness, Harry thought, must be the two feet of flat space in between each pothole. He drank again.

    It was 6:00 when Harry woke up on his kitchen floor. Having slid down the door he was now lying completely flat on his back. The bottle of whiskey had a sliver of brown left in the bottom. He frowned, sighed, and breathed the word, fuck, up into the air. Then he closed his eyes and opened them and stood up on his feet. He placed the bottle in his recycling bin and took his phone out of his pocket. Two missed calls from Dad. Harry hit the call button while his father’s number was selected.

    “Hello?”

    “Hi Dad, sorry I was sleeping when you called.” Harrison put his other hand on his head and stretched backwards.

    “Fine, it’s no problem anyways. I’ll be there in about thirty minutes. Are you ok?”

    “Yeah Dad, I’m good. I’m just tired.” Harrison slid across the floor and stared at the bumps in the white dry wall in his hallway.

    “Well wake up because I’ll be there soon, and we need to talk.”

    “Ok.”

    “I’ll buy you a steak?”

    “Heh, ok, sounds good Dad.”

    Harry closed the phone and smiled a little bit. Then he turned down his hallway to get in the shower. He was thinking about medium-rare steaks and his dad’s large hands. He wasn’t worried about the snow anymore.
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