snippings from Book II
By Dusty Middleton
Teddy got home and took a shower. He gave both his dogs a crunchy treat and filled up their water bowls.
Teddy was fully awake now. An hour earlier he had been stumbling with exhaustion, but something about that moon had filled him with a second wind.
He put on his nicest clothes with the decision that he was heading out on the town. Teddy checked his wallet, flipped through a good stack of twenties, grabbed his keys, grabbed his phone, pulled a ziplock from a jar by the sink and stuffed it into his pant’s pocket, patted both his dogs on the head, clicked off the apartment lights and locked the door behind him.
He figured he’d head down to O’Maileys and have a beer or two. See what was going on. He didn’t have anywhere he needed to be in the morning. There was no one waiting for him except his dogs, and they were fine. Teddy had an itch to have an exciting night out. He tapped at his hip pocket and heard the plastic bag crinkle.
An hour later he was staring into a cold amber pint, grinning, listening closely and pushing his ear across the table.
Teddy was squeezed into a booth with eleven other grinning, well dressed, rosy cheeked humans. Seven of them were lovely, wide eyed youthful, college aged ladies- giggles and batting eyelashes. Teddy felt completely comfortable and happy squished between them, the ratio perfect, letting the music pour over them, the noise of hundreds of happy people, and the proud monologue at their table, the speaker, by far the oldest one there, closer to forty than twenty, slurring his words, but holding everyone’s attention, laughing, looking each one of them in the eye, making each one his confidant in turn.
His name was Lentil. For as long as Teddy had been on the scene in Honolulu, Lentil had always been there, usually hammered, rubber faced, holding the center of attention. Teddy had become close friends with Lentil five years earlier during a music event at the Shell. They had both been working the three day festival. Lentil on the lights crew. Teddy on the sound board. The fine line of professionalism and sobriety had slipped away, and each night, as the ten o’clock hour ended the show, and eleven had them clocking out from work, they’d head off together into the nightclubs of Waikiki, the first night, within an hour of stepping through the door, they were leaving with a gaggle of European women who had rented the top of a beachfront hotel, and the long weekend melted into a pleasurable water slide of ecstasy and adventure. Lentil and Teddy making it back to work the next day, and then rendezvousing immediately back with their new friends, another wild night, and then back to work, barely hanging on. And after that final night of the concert Teddy returned to the party, but used all of his self control, and snuck away back to his quiet apartment, got some sleep, and was able to make it to the Shell the next day to finish packing equipment, finish strong and keep his job for next time. Lentil had disappeared. Months later they ran into each other back at the bars and Lentil had told a strange tale of being invited to Maui with the ‘Euro Babes’ as he called them, and spending two long weeks in hash-filled rainforest blur.
But tonight, with this new group of gorgeous young women, Teddy listened happily to Lentil spill a long silly story of surfing misadventure. A horrendous wipeout where his leash had popped, board gone, and his boardshorts blown off. Swimming in, along the packed beach, eyeing all the cameras, hundreds, maybe a thousand spectators, and Lentil waving for the Lifeguards. The guy who jogs down and jumps in the water, swims out to ask Lentil what’s wrong, they know each other, and when Lentil asks if maybe they can spare a towel or something, the lifeguard says, ‘No way. You gotta walk up on your own,’ smiles and swims back in.
And Lentil shrugs and knows that he’s gotta go for it, cause the rip is about to pull him out to sea. So he swims in, slides up on the sand and starts jogging up the beach. And of course there’s a roar of laughter and pointing, and he kind of laughs it off, get’s to his car, and remembers that the key to the door was in the pocket of his boardshorts. So now he’s in the parking lot, butt naked and locked out of his car.
The first few people he asks for help just scuttle off and give him dirty looks. Finally a boogie boarder with a South American accent throws him an old towel and tells him he can keep it. Throws him a shaka, chuckling as he gets in his car and drives away.
Lentil standing there. Happy to at least have a towel. Shivering and shaking his head.
“Listen,” Lentil was now leaning over the back of the girl sitting between himself and Teddy. She was leaning, underneath his chest, across the table talking to another girl on the other side of Lentil. Lentil put one arm on the back of the bench and his other wrist across the girl’s shoulders. He leaned over so he could talk to Teddy without shouting. The bar was packed. The music loud. It wasn’t easy to have a calm conversation.
“Do you have much work right now?” Lentil asked. His head was bobbing in slow motion, and his eyes were floating with apparently more than just the drink affecting him. But he held Teddy’s gaze and waited patiently for an answer.
Teddy leaned over, so that their faces were a foot apart. Lentil’s head softly floated sideways, his ear extended, listening.
Teddy spoke loud and clear towards the ear, “I finish the job I’m on this coming Friday. Nothing after that. Clear schedule. Why what’s up?”
Lentil’s cheekbones lifted, his face was shiny with sweat and he closed his eyes, “That’s great man. That’s perfect.” He opened his eyes again and locked his gaze with Teddy’s. “You want to go to Japan with me?” Lentil’s hand was petting the girl’s back the same as Teddy would pet his dog’s absently as he watched a movie. The girl glanced up at him, and then went back to her friend, laughing.
Teddy leaned over her and asked, “What’s in Japan? A job?” He took a sip, and squinted at his near empty pint glass, he’d need to order another when the cocktail waitress stopped by again. “I’ve never been to Japan. You?”
Lentil nodded enthusiastically. “Oh, I love it. Great food. Nice people. Good trains. I went snowboarding there last year and had a great time. It’s winter there now, so maybe we’ll get to sneak up to the mountains while we’re there. We’ll have to play that by ear. You’re gonna dig it man, it’s great. The surf’s ok too, but I doubt we’ll jump in the water, it’s pretty cold. Although, you never know. I have a friend with all the gear. Extra wetsuits and boards, so if there’s a swell we could go. But we’re headed more inland. Up towards the mountains. So I doubt we’ll get a surf in.”
Teddy was trying to catch all of this, hoping to get some real information, and he was already doubting whether it was a good idea to even consider traveling and working with this guy. He knew Lentil. But it was pretty much all a blur of parties, women, drugs, and alcohol. And Teddy doubted that he could trust the rubbery, sweaty face that was still talking away, telling a story of some hot springs he had visited near Kyoto. The creatures in the trees. The monkeys climbing down and sitting across from you in the hot pool. The old Buddhist temples squeezed together around a green waterfall.
“It’s magical really,” Lentil said as much to himself as to Teddy. He paused, his eyes unfocussed, his lower lip hanging.
Teddy made eye contact with their waitress, waved, smiled, pointed at his empty pint, held up an index finger, pointed at himself, nodded.
Lentil dragged one finger down the girl’s spine, and then walked his fingers back up toward her head. She was pretending not to notice. He looked up at Teddy smiling. “So, the flight is next Tuesday. At night. I’ll take care of the tickets tomorrow, but you’ll need to get me your passport number and how to spell your name right… You have a passport, don’t you?”
Teddy nodded. He was feeling rushed. And his ears were warm. And he needed to calmly hammer out some details. His dogs came to mind. Money. Bills and rent.
“Is this a job? Is it work?” He said louder than necessary. It was almost a shout.
“Two weeks should do it, I think…” answered Lentil, staring over Teddy’s head, nodding. He looked across the crowded club. Lentil shifted his body and pressed his back against the bench. The girl between them, given the chance, stretched up and back too. She whispered into Lentil’s ear and his eyebrows shot up. Teddy watched as Lentil mumbled something and smiled. The girl nestled in closer to him and whispered more into his ear.
Teddy scanned across the club. He looked for the waitress but she was gone. He finished what was in his cup, and let his eyes scan across the masses. When he brought his attention back to their table, he realized that the friend of the girl whispering in Teddy’s ear was staring at him appraisingly, challengingly. He held her eyes, waited calmly, raised his eyebrows in ‘hello’ and she blinked once, slowly, in response.
Seconds passed by. Teddy fell softly into her stare. Smiling across at her. Accepting the contest. Calm, content. Seeing if he could read anything in those eyes. Looking for an electricity behind her gaze. He was amazed that he didn’t really know what the girl looked like. All he knew about her, at that moment, was the hazel gaze.
In his periphery he noticed Lentil and the other girl were locked together now, making out, aggressively. And in his girl’s face he saw that she had taken notice too, a split second, a break of their attention, both of them raising their eyebrows, looking back into each other, laughing.
And then the people to Teddy’s left were gone. And the girl across the table had wiggled from the booth, sailed around the table in slow motion, and she was sliding in close to Teddy, introducing herself. Pushing a shoulder into his shoulder, and taking his left hand in hers.
And then Lentil was chuckling, and pushing his girl, shuffling her closer, squeezing in toward Teddy. And their waitress was dropping off his drink, appraising the situation with one eyebrow up, and half a smile.
Teddy smiled at her, and relaxed back into his seat. Lentil was off on another monologue and the girls were giggling, their heads leaning together in front of Teddy’s chest to share some whisper.
The music was loud, and across the crowded pub, on the other side of the masses Teddy heard loud cheers and singing.