This is Chapter One of John Molik’s novel which you can download free to read on your Kindle or mobile device. Find out more about John Molik — buy the full ebook here.
‘And all the voices, all the goals, all the yearning, all the sorrows, all the pleasures, all the good and evil, all of them together was the world. All of them together was the stream of events, the music of life.’ -Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
September 24, 2012
There was that strange odor again. Jeremy Hughes had first started noticing this peculiar aroma about a week ago. What the hell is that? It smells like sweet burnt beans with just a subtle hint of paint thinner. The location of his lecture hall at UC Davis was just a stone’s throw from the Coffee House, the local student dining hall and entertainment venue, so he was not immune to the unexpected food smells fit for starving students, but this odor was different. Hopefully, it wasn’t wafting down from the Chem lab. There were rumors going around that with the UC budget cuts, some of the filters at the lab were not being replaced regularly. Surely, these aren’t some sort of carcinogens, for heaven’s sake. Nevertheless, he made a mental note to ask around.
As Jeremy had only been a lecturer at UC Davis for just over a year, this placed him near the bottom of the academic employment hierarchy. He had little hope of surviving the next round of budget cuts. Last year had been a real drag too. The Department Chair had left after the second term to work in the private sector and Brigitte Sheen, his interim replacement, was a haughty cold bitch who had no qualms about showing who’s boss by playing mind games with her faculty. Dr. Brigitte Sheen was an imposing, solid, nearly six foot tall Korean American woman who, at first glance, looked like a cross between the gorgeous Moon Bloodgood and the Chinese Hercules. When Jeremy first met her, he looked carefully into her eyes. Someone had told him that if you could hold eye contact with her long enough, you could verify that she did in fact have horizontal pupils. Brigitte’s straw-thick, tea-colored bangs appeared to be cut with a 4 stroke line trimmer. Her solid, thick, musculature was formidable, and was built from 15 years of Olympic style weightlifting at the University of Washington, where she routinely lifted the equivalent of a completely loaded fridge/freezer over her head dozens of times per day.
Last year, on Jeremy’s first day, he received his first taste of venom.
‘You make a problem for me, I will make your life a living hell. If you are not prepared or call in sick to take day off to go Tahoe or something, it’s over. Just get in your car and drive away. Fast. I’ll do the paperwork,’ she had snarled. Brigitte was definitely a woman to avoid by strategically flying under her radar.
So when he switched on his laptop and hooked into the Chemistry Department’s roster list intranet and saw Brigitte’s name again, he quivered. The last time Jeremy had met with Brigitte was in April. After that, she had spent four months down at UCLA working on a joint research project. He could only hope that some time away in Southern California had mellowed her out a little.
He hit the icon that got him into the main roster list of over 150 names, and began to laugh when he became conscious of his mindless humming of Katy Perry’s ‘Roar.’ Then, he caught it. What, the hell? Kyle Pickens? He closed the list and turned off his laptop. I guess I’ll find out on Monday.
It was a clear and viciously hot Sacramento Valley morning. The temperature had already reached 92F at 9 am. Jeremy strolled past Putah Creek, swatting the gnats that stuck to his sweaty body like tiny beads of tar. In the distance was Mrak Hall, the Administration headquarters for the campus. A few lazy bicyclists with huge overstuffed backpacks rolled on by on their way to the library to study for their last summer term finals.
Mrak Hall was deserted. There were a few university staff members milling about, but nothing too serious. The heat had finally gotten to Jeremy, so he ambled on over to the vending machine and grabbed a bottled water.
‘Hey Jeremy!’ shouted Tina, the Assistant to the Dean. ‘How fortuitous. Brigitte needs to see you right away.’
He winced. ‘Ahh, really?’ Jeremy replied. ‘Do you know why?’
‘No details, but, I think it has something to do with like kicking your ass,’ she replied with a cheeky grin.
‘Well, isn’t that just great,’ he added. ‘I’m playing Frisbee golf this afternoon and will need the use of all of my limbs AND the ass.’
‘Well, she’s in her office now, so good luck.’
Jeremy walked past Cindy, Brigitte’s assistant, while softly singing Katy Perry’s ‘Roar.’ She lifted the sides of her tightly closed mouth just a tad.
‘Good luck. Raar!’ she growled back, then laughed quietly as he entered Brigitte’s office.
Dr. Brigitte Sheen was seated in a chair with her back facing. She looked huge in her casual summer blouse and shorts. Jeremy also noticed that her hair appeared different, less severe. She’d grown it out so now it was shoulder length. On her back, just behind her shoulder was a small beautifully rendered oriental tattoo of a tiger. As Brigitte turned to face him, he quickly noticed that she was more relaxed than the last time they had met. She wore fashionable earrings and subtle makeup, and had trendy Wayfarer solid thin black frame glasses that clearly communicated ‘hipster nerd geek.’ Coupled with her new longer hairstyle, the specs complimented her face beautifully. Behind her was one of those inspirational posters with a dazzling silky waterfall complete with a quote by Robert Frost. Freedom lies in being bold.
‘Sit down, Jeremy,’ snipped Brigitte. ‘You’re late.’
‘Don’t want to hear it.’ Brigitte snapped back before he could finish. ‘Now, how was your Summer break?’
‘Err. Good. Thanks.’
She shook her head in acknowledgment while looking down at a huge box of textbooks, then continued. ‘As you know I’ve been down in LA for about four months and have just returned.’
‘The budget cuts are worse this year. The Chancellor said that funding levels will never return to where they were a generation ago, and we need to ‘step up’ our private fund raising by kowtowing to the global corporates even more. Can you believe that? We’re supposed to be a non-political free-minded public institution. Everything is being slashed. I’m having to teach and manage this year with less money and honestly, I find this entire situation disconcerting.’
‘It’s been a real strain.’
‘Strain?? Is that what you think this is? Strain… hmm. Like a sharp twist of the ankle?
‘No, I didn’t mean..’
‘Because this is serious. Not a strain! This is an amputation. Surgery without anesthesia. Do you understand?’
‘So, I have to cut. And the university has a LIFO policy. Last In First Out. But, I don’t agree with them.’
‘So, are you saying that I’m out?
‘No. Are you not listening to me? I have one Associate professor that I’d much rather let go than you.’
‘Really? I mean, but how could you… the department…?’
‘Is it always about HOW?’ Sometimes it’s about WHY, Jeremy. Have you ever thought about that?’
There was a pause in the conversation. Brigitte got up from her chair and adjusted the A/C dial. ‘Is it just me, or it getting hot in here?’
‘Definitely feeling it.’
Brigitte sat down, leaned forward with her forehead balanced upon the butts of her palms and let out a sigh.
‘I pulled up your details from Personnel.’ Brigitte turned and looked at the laptop screen.
‘So…hiding behind that bushy reddish blonde goatee and Brad Pitt hairstyle is a man who…let me get this straight,’ she continued reading, ‘leaves a prestigious career at Temco Colder Plastics to go work on a vineyard owned by a retired man in Sonoma County?’
‘Well, yes, but…’
‘No BUTS!’ shouted Brigitte. ‘I don’t want excuses. I want to know WHY!’
Jeremy felt like he just got hot coals thrown in his face, but quickly continued. ‘I hated the Temco job. The corporate politics. The ass kissing and long hours.’
‘Ass kissing and long hours are a part of mostly every career on this planet,’ reminded Brigitte.
‘All that sacrifice from academics. The long hours studying, the lack of social life, monk-like austerity. It just seemed so, well, anticlimactic.’
‘Now we are getting somewhere,’ Brigitte said with a slight grin. ‘So, you kept it up for…’ she looks back at the screen. ‘about twelve years. It took you that long to figure that out?’
‘Not really. I knew within the first year that I wanted out.’
‘Yet, you stayed. Why?’
‘I guess because I had bills and such, you know living expenses.’
‘Oh. So, you sacrificed your principles merely to pay Verizon, Chase Bank, and the IRS?’
Jeremy just stared into space. This last question somehow changed everything in an instant. He had agonized over this before, but having Brigitte sling it back at him made him angry, sad, rebellious. And it made him sick to his stomach. He bowed his head and quietly reflected. Where have I gone wrong? And who does this control freak think she is sticking it to me like this?
‘Hey! Are you still awake?’ charged Brigitte.
‘Yeah. All too awake,’ replied Jeremy with his feathers well ruffled.
He stared out the window and out over the Putah Creek river area all the way down the expansive valley. On the wall, to the right of the window, were all of Brigitte’s academic, sporting, and achievement awards. There was the Perkin Medal for contribution toward ‘liquid membrane technology improvements,’ diplomas from UC San Diego and UC Berkeley. There were many others such as the Olympic Weightlifting, IPF Powerlifting, WMA, and Gymnastics Achievements and awards. All this and here she is sitting right in front of him in an office doing paperwork, chewing peoples asses out every day, and having to lay-off someone she can’t afford to.
‘So, what do you really want to do?’ asked Brigitte.
‘I don’t know,’ replied Jeremy in a surly tone.
‘Good answer. Not many know the true answer to that question. And those who say they do, usually haven’t lived long enough yet.’
‘I guess what I’d really like to do is to have my own business.’ Jeremy stared back out of the window. There was a flock of crows flying over the building and a hot air balloon way in the distance. ‘You know, like romantic hot air balloon rides… or making wine.’
‘Ha!’ laughed Brigitte. ‘I see nothing on your CV about any of that other than this rather odd Sonoma Valley job.’ Brigitte paused, then asked, ‘This winery. What would you call it?’
‘Not sure. Haven’t really thought about it.’
‘Bullshit. Let’s hear it,’ implored Brigitte.
‘Well, depending on circumstances, Hughes Estate would have a nice ring to it.’
‘You’re just making this up on the cuff!’ She softened her tone. ‘That name is so bland. It’s so boring. Sounds like a Chemist is making the wine.’
‘Do you like wine?’
‘It’s not about me today Jeremy. It’s about you. She points over to the wall next to the window. ‘Besides, do you think I’d have all those pretty plaques if I was a Napa Valley wino?’
‘No. I guess not.’
‘So, this elderly man in Sonoma. Tell me why you wanted to work for him.’
‘Well, I left the plastics company and felt that I really needed to find myself. I needed to go from kissing someone’s ass to helping someone’s. James was dying of cancer and needed support running the winery, the staff, his personal errands. He was a very rich man who had no wife, no kids, not even a pet, but had plenty of money though. He was a retired United Bank of America V.P.’ Jeremy paused and looked down at the floor. ‘I don’t know. Call it my ‘search for something bigger’ moment. Bigger in the spiritual sense, of course.’
‘So, you are a spiritual man then?’
He fidgeted. ‘Not in any organized religious sense. I’m not a member of any church or cult if that’s what you’re asking.’
Brigitte leaned back in her chair and stared straight through him. ‘So, let’s see, you were born. Where was it?’ She quickly popped forward in her leather chair and leaned her thick forearms on the maple desktop assuming a position of control. She squinted at the computer screen. ‘San Diego. Oh, so you must like Mexican food then.’
‘Of course,’ replied Jeremy assuredly. ‘But, did you know that San Diego was also the birthplace of Jack-in-the-Box? and strangely enough WD-40?’
Brigitte snickered slightly. ‘WD-40? You mean that canned oil stuff?’
‘The very one. Back in 1953 by a Dr. Norm Larsen. He later founded a San Diego based organization called The Rocket Chemical Company.’
Brigitte leaned back in her chair and began to twirl her pen in her hand. The agile fluid motion of the dancing ballpoint reminded Jeremy of a scaled down version of the well-balanced baton twirler, feminine, authoritative, and with a beautifully strict precision that could lead a marching band down a serpentine parade route. She sighed, looked up and over at her mausoleum of hanging achievements. ‘Hmm. So, is this why you became interested in Chemistry? Dr. Norm Larsen?’
Jeremy softened and dropped his shoulders in a more relaxed position. ‘Heh. Not really,’ he snickered. ‘It may have something to do with being pushed toward medical school. That’s where my parents wanted me. But I, well, I sort of don’t like anything to do with blood, guts, you know, all that sort of thing.’
Brigitte laughed. ‘So, you prefer just playing with the building blocks of the tissues, rather than the tissues themselves.’ She then paused for dramatic effect, raised her shoulders, and filled her lungs with dry air conditioned air then continued loudly, ‘Has anyone ever told you that you need to dig a bit deeper and overcome your insecurities?’
Jeremy pulled back slightly. ‘Well, no, not to my face, but, I guess you just did.’
Brigitte got up out her chair, gave Jeremy a quick look of excuse me and headed straight for her office door. She opened the door, popped her head out and yelled for her assistant. ‘Cindy! I need a copy of my CV. It’s in my Doc folder on the J Drive. Print it and bring it to me.’
‘Ah, sure thing Dr. Sheen,’ replied Cindy with the efficiency of a robot.
Brigitte closed the door, walked over to her window and began to look out over the sprawling campus of UC Davis. The town of Davis, originally named Davisville, after a then local prominent farmer, started merely as a junction depot of the Southern Pacific Railroad. In the early 1900s, the Chancellors of the University of California, Berkeley, chose Davis as the site for the agricultural college campus. The college was initially called the University Farm, but was later renamed as the Northern Branch of the College of Agriculture. Luckily, that convoluted name didn’t last long and in the late 1950s, it was incorporated as the seventh branch of the highly successful University of California system. Today, the college consistently ranks as a top school in both California and the nation. Davis is a friendly, yet laid-back University town and is known for its progressive politics. Davis has also become one of the most bicycle-friendly towns in the world.
She turned back around to face him. ‘We’ve had it way too damn easy.’
‘Uh, here you go Brigitte,’ Cindy remarked as she entered. ‘Should I just leave it on your desk?’
Brigitte quickly turned around, now more focused. ‘Yes. Thanks.’
She sat down, gave him a furtive glance, then began reading. ‘1994. Graduated UC San Diego, BS Chemistry and Physics, summa cum laude. 1999 obtained PhD UC Berkeley. Associate Professor, University of Washington, 2000. Five white papers leading to potential patents pending on liquid membrame technologies. Tenure established. Awarded Perkin Medal in Chemistry 2012. Competed in dozens of national and international Olympic Weightlifting meets, obtaining California State records in all three lifts by 2001, IPF record by 2002. Over 15 years schooled in the disciplines of Muay Thai, Kickboxing, and Taekwondo with numerous meets and awards. In 2004, became Women’s Mixed Martial Bantamweight champion. Last year, I filed yet another patent and of course became appointed as Interim Department Chair right here in Davisville.’
Jeremy listened but his attention had faded about halfway through the extensive exercise. For Christ’s Sake. Does she really have to read her entire CV out loud?
Brigitte finished and placed the sheet of paper down on the desk. Oddly, her expression was one of surrender, not of imperious victory. ‘Well? Have you anything to say?’ imploring him like a hungry cat poised over a crippled starling.
Jeremy sat there motionless and expressionless. ‘You’re a total machine.’ said Jeremy in a monotone. ‘A respectable impressive machine nonetheless.’
Brigitte tensed slightly then quickly stood up, walked over to the big box of textbooks, then laughed as she picked one up. ‘They keep sending me their damn samples. These hardcover textbooks keep getting bigger, more expensive, but packed with way less useful information on Chemistry.’
‘Yeah. I thought about asking you to switch 101 to the Organic Chemistry for Dummies text this year. At least some of my more financially challenged students could pick it up on Ebay, for, like, six bucks.’
Brigitte opened the text, leafed through it quickly and slammed it shut. ‘About six hundred pages, about two hundred and fifty more than last year.’
‘At least it comes with a sturdy glossy cover, five more authors and less pertinent information,’ replied Jeremy sarcastically.
‘And all that direct to the student for just $329. Plus tax.’
‘You’re kidding me.’
Brigitte put the book down on her desk and relaxed her shoulders. ‘So what is it like working for someone like me?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Oh, Jesus Jeremy. Don’t fuck with me. You know what I mean. I’m a hard ass. I’m a dyke. I’m a this. I’m a that. A fucking bitch. The brazen Asian. The Sheen Hulk.
‘Sheen Hulk? That’s good. I hadn’t heard that one.’
She shook her head. ‘Yeah? Well, last year I got an interoffice mail package and guess what was in it?
‘A letter bomb?’
‘Very funny. Green body paint. And a note that said, Paint yourself Sheen Hulk. At least you’ll be more likeable as a cartoon character.’
‘That’s pretty mean spirited, but, honestly, you can be a little demanding and harsh on some people.’
‘Demanding? Harsh? Of course. That what this job requires. It’s not a popularity contest. I have had no time in my life to fuck around with becoming popular. Besides, you thought the same. Quick to judge. Quick to sentence. Quick to be content kissing someone’s ass. The social media age. Trolling. That’s what’s important now. Not discipline or discovery. Do you see all those plaques? All hanging there before my 38th birthday. Do you know how much focused strength it required to get through all that? Absolute superhuman determination.’
Jeremy looked out the window. ‘It must be hard running this department, you know, Chemistry it’s not normally a woman’s domain, so to speak.’
Brigitte’s eyes narrowed. Jeremy could almost feel the heat from the photons bouncing off his forehead. ‘So, do you have a problem working for a younger woman?’ She paused slightly for effect then continued with a sarcastic tone, ‘in this so-called man’s DOMAIN?’
‘Absolutely not,’ quickly replied Jeremy. ‘No. no. er, what I was implying…’
Brigitte cut him off, ‘What you were implying was a stereotype.’ She looked uneasy for a second then added, ‘Do you know what a male boss said to me once? We were talking about women in the MMA. He thought that women should not be allowed to fight and that they would get plenty of exercise washing dishes and vacuuming the house.’
‘Sounds like a real Neanderthal.’
‘He then added that the ideal woman would be made of Gumby plastic so you can form fit them into any position you want.’
‘Wow! Gumby. Now that’s an action figure you just don’t hear about anymore. I don’t know if I should ask, but is this man still alive?’
Brigitte paused then picked up the textbook. She twisted it around a few times and looked back at him. ‘Men like him just help feed the blue flame of anger.’
‘The flame inside us all. The one that never goes out. Here. I’ll show you.’
In one quick motion, she braced the bottom of the book on the top of her hip just above her thigh. Then, with both hands gripping tightly on the top of the book, she clenched her upper body into one static rip cord of steel sinew. Then she unleashed. ‘Hiiiiiigh!’ The book bent backward quickly. The back binding tore then popped. The book was severely curved, broken and nearly in two halves. She then opened the book and with one quick rip, ‘Yaaaa!’ the book split in half right down its spine.
‘Holy shit!’ exclaimed Jeremy.
She wiped the sweat from her brow, then breathed heavily. ‘Nothing holy about it. Just focused blue flame.’
She handed him one of the two halves. ‘Here. If we are doing our job properly, that’s all we need to teach this class.’
Jeremy looked stunned. He put his half of the book down and grabbed another out of the box. ‘Can I have a go?’
He braced the book and pulled back. The book bent slightly. He then gave it a really big pull and groaned with his face turning crimson red.
‘Don’t hurt yourself.’
‘Ahhhh! Damn. I almost got a hernia.’
‘Well, of course.’
He looked at the results of his hideous attempt. ‘How the hell can you generate that much force?’
‘The key is to generate the force very quickly. It’s all about power, not just force. And power comes from within, from discipline…from training.’
‘So, you’re relating life back to physics again?’
‘Of course. What is the dependency for power?’
‘Time. It’s the rate of work done over time.’
‘Correct. To accomplish the impossible, we need power. Our lifespan on Earth has only a finite amount of time. So, this should be our life’s most crucial variable, not the work. The work is a necessary condition, not a sufficient one.’
‘It’s about the will. The determination over the power. The blue flame of anger is dualistic. Anger can be used as a beneficial tool and as a destructive weapon. You must have complete control over it.’ Brigitte paused, looked up at the ceiling, then back at Jeremy. ‘There is a saying in the Tao that says, He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.’
Jeremy paused for a moment and collected his thoughts. His contemplation led him to a slightly uneasy cognitive dissonance about this woman. Who the Hell is she? Strong on the surface, but deep down, there is something precious, something wounded.
Brigitte sat back down looked over the Chancellor’s memo. ‘So. Do you want this job or not? Or is it just another means to an END for you?’
‘Excuse me?’ replied Jeremy
‘You heard me. Tell me the truth.’
‘I don’t know. I really don’t.’
‘Well, I want you to stay. You had the best student rating of all teachers in our department, so obviously, I can go to bat for you. Do you want that?’
‘Honestly, can you give me some more time to think about it?’
‘Time? Or Power? It’s your choice, Jeremy. So, get to work, and quickly.’
Jeremy got up and realized he was shaking slightly. Perhaps it was the heat of the morning, the long walk through campus, or the fact he just witnessed a 38 year old woman rip a textbook in half.
‘I’ll need a reply by the end of the week,’ she instructed as she got right back to work.
‘Uh, yeah,’ said Jeremy slightly confused and agitated. ‘Thanks Brigitte. Really.’
Brigitte grabbed the telephone and started verbally assaulting some poor sap on the other end. Jeremy passed Cindy who was now on the phone, then continued down the hall and past the recycling bin and vending machine. He then walked right in front of Tina’s office.
‘Hey! How’d it go?’ She noticed the half book in his hands. ‘You seem to be all in one piece. Not so sure about your text book there.’
‘Yeah, she definitely ripped me a new one.’ Jeremy sighed as he walked back out into the burning cloudless morning.
The intense morning sunlight glinted through the gap in the dark green curtains. It burned straight through his eyelids. Jeremy had spent the previous night hanging out with a few colleagues at the Sudwerks brewhouse and cafe. His tongue was swollen and plastered to the roof of his mouth. The dehydration was unforgiving.
The sky was filled with puffy clouds. A low pressure system had blown through last night, just south of Chico and while this was not enough to bring an early rain to the Valley, it brought the forgiving Delta breezes which cooled the morning down from the mid 90s to the low 80s providing a much needed relief.
Jeremy locked his bike in front of the Chem building, made his way into the lecture hall, opened his laptop, and arranged his notes. He began writing lecture notes onto a double sided whiteboard. A gentle orgasmic tingle ran up his spine with the first smell of the whiteboard marker. Jeremy ruminated on how such a simple smell can bring such temporary titillation, yet on the other hand, incapacitating neuronal diseases for those with more long term inhalation desires. C’est la vie.
As students began arriving, he noticed that slight twinge of anxiety building. His mouth became drier, so he took several large sips from his bottled water as a ritualistic calming mechanism. This seemed to work temporarily.
‘Good morning everyone. My name is Jeremy Hughes and I will be your source of entertainment this term for Chem 101.’ He bowed slightly. ‘First off, I’d like to let everyone know that if you chose this class because you have heard that it’s an easy 5 units, something to breeze through to get your GPA up, well, then, I’m afraid you’ve been misled. That would be Physics 101, next building over.’ Jeremy received a feeble, albeit honest low grumbling chuckle.
Someone raised his hand way in the back.
‘Yes!’ Jeremy said while pointing to the student.
‘Do we get to make aspirin in this class? ‘Cause I got a serious headache already.’
‘Very funny. You will have to ask your lab instructors. But, as you may be aware, we have serious budget cuts here at the University, so if we still are producing salicylic acid in the labs, I’m sure we’re selling it private label to Rite Aid now.’ This comment received a slightly heartier low-level grumble, but it was obvious to Jeremy that he may have to up his game in the coming weeks.
His anxiety seemed to wane as he dived headfirst into his prepared lecture notes. Frameworks are like that. They provide structure to move properly when the world becomes jelly.
The lecture proceeded without a hitch. There were discussions on what would be accomplished in the term, how the class would be structured, and where to get help, office hours, tutors, etc. As everyone left the lecture hall, Jeremy reminded them to all pick up a copy of the syllabus and reading lists. The students pushed and pulled, creating a frenzy of human frequencies and mass in motion.
‘Kyle? Jesus. Is that really you?’
Kyle looked up with a cheeky grin. ‘Well Hello there, Mr. Hughes!’
‘I can’t believe it. What, er, why? Jeez, it’s been so many years.’
Kyle sniggered. ‘Saw your name on the course list and well, I just had to take your class. But, I had thought that you were working for some big plastics company?’
Jeremy flashed a quick grin and mild throaty ‘Hmm’ and continued. ‘It’s a long story.’
‘So, what brings you to my class?
‘I’m doing the Masters Brewers diploma. I’ve done most of it through the open campus extension, but I just need to pass this class to get that piece of paper.’
‘But this is introductory course. I don’t understand.’
‘Look, it’s a long story. Maybe catch you during office hours or something?’
‘How about meeting for a cup of coffee? Are you busy later?’
‘Umm.. Yeah, OK. Just gotta head over to Contemporary Notes. There’s no way that I’m going to be sitting in your class. No offense, but I just gotta pass. I don’t need the full entertainment value of valence bond theory again. Well, at least not LIVE and in-person.’
‘Fair enough. So, say, 5.30? At the Coffee House?’
‘Sounds great.’ Kyle picked up his paperwork, slung his backpack on and gave Jeremy a quick, slightly uneasy smile. ‘And, yeah, wow.. good to see you again.’
Jeremy noticed on the front of Kyle’s T-shirt was that great quote by George Carlin: The planet is fine. The people are fucked. Jeremy concealed a chuckle. Yep. He hasn’t changed a bit.
Jeremy had to pop into Mrak Hall to pick up some administration forms and other general new school term business. He seemed to be struggling biking the way back. The temperature hit 101F in downtown Sacramento several hours ago and the dry valley heat seemed to press him down into the pavement. It felt like his tires were starting to melt and stick to the asphalt bike path. He parked in front of the Coffee House. It was nearly empty. Most of the undergrads were either partying, rushing a Greek house, or buying their books. In any case, the idea of a fairly placid cafe gave Jeremy comfort. He walked in and sat at a table close to the window which looked out over the beautifully landscaped quad area.
‘Hey!’ screamed Kyle as he made eye contact. ‘I’ll just grab myself a coffee and be right over.’
Jeremy gave Kyle a quick thumbs up sign and began reading the poster up and to the right of the table. ‘DJ Industrial Waste. tomorrow night. 7 pm’. Now there’s a gig I’m going to have to miss. Kyle moseyed on over and sat down with his big coffee.
Jeremy eyed the steam rising from his cup. ‘You’re not too hot to drink that?’
‘Well, some like their coffee served cold,’ suggested Jeremy. He paused to look up at DJ Industrial Waste poster, then continued, ‘caffeine works no matter how it’s sold.’
‘Truth,’ replied Kyle. ‘It’s just simple chemistry.’ He looked down quickly. ‘Doesn’t caffeine stimulate the GABA neurotransmitter or something like that?’
‘No. You’re thinking of the likes of alcohol or GHB. Caffeine is an adenosine antagonist. It binds to the adenosine receptors which are inhibitory. It basically lets the normal stimulatory neurotransmitters like glutamate and dopamine run rough shod over your nervous system.’
‘So, it’s sort of like removing the parking brake?’
‘Exactly. It’s not turbocharging the system like amphetamines,’ added Jeremy. ‘More like blocking inhibition of pathways that are already there.’
‘Right on,’ said Kyle. ‘So, it’s like a smart drug for the upwardly mobile.’
‘Heh,’ chortled Jeremy. He took a big gulp of his iced coffee then continued, ‘Studies have actually shown that caffeine improves speed, not quality. So more is done in the same amount of time, but the quality suffers.’
‘Working faster, but not better? Where’s the power in that?’ He sniggered. ‘Or is it just that we want to act like our evil impulsive twin?’
‘Great question,’ replied Jeremy as he sloshed his ice cubes and brown liquid around in his plastic cup. He paused slightly, reflecting upon of his earlier conversation with Brigitte.
Kyle added, ‘Well, at least we still have ritalins for mid-terms and finals. Hopefully my connection is still in the game.’
‘Do you really think you should be confessing this to your Chemistry teacher?’
‘Chemistry teacher? Come off it, Jeremy. You’re a dude. Just like me. Don’t you remember the shit we used to get up to in Mission Valley?’
‘Well, of course. But, I’ve grown out of that lifestyle Kyle, haven’t you?’
‘What’s growing out of a lifestyle actually mean? Being old, shrivelled up and in a desperate search for the lost joie de vivre?’
‘Huh.’ quipped Jeremy. ‘Yeah, something like that, but I still have elasticity in my skin.’
‘Dude, the way I look at it is you still got LIFE and you have well a little bit of STYLE, so what’s there to grow out of?’
Jeremy looked quickly to the left, then right and sensing the right moment, continued, ‘Sorry, I’ll be right back.’ He quickly headed to the restroom in the back next to the deli chiller. Kyle sat there and looked out over the expanse of green.
Jeremy returned, sat down, folded his hands and placed them under his chin facing Kyle. ‘So, I guess we sort of have some catching up to do.’
‘Yeah, well. I guess we do.’ Kyle looked a bit more downtrodden.
There was an awkward pause for several seconds as both stared at each other and fidgeted in their chairs like bored teenagers.
Kyle looked away. ‘Whatever happened to her anyway? Did you guys ever get engaged or married or something?’
Jeremy let his head fall down limp. He bounced it a few times, then looked up with glassy eyes. ‘No,’ he replied slowly. ‘Nothing like that.’ He then slumped his shoulders and looked out the window into the distance. His voice crackled when he finally spoke. ‘I guess you never heard.’
‘Gina died, Kyle. She died a year after we left. 1990. In April.’
Kyle felt awful. ‘Wow, man. I’m so sorry.’ There was a pause while both nervously looked down at the simulated wood grain table. ‘What happened?’
‘Car crash,’ Jeremy added without much feeling. ‘Driving down I-5 to see me.’
Kyle became more serious, more solemn. ‘Jeez, man. How’d it, like happen?’
‘Drunk driver. He drove up the exit ramp without his lights on. She was exiting. It was head on. The police said he was going about 50 mph driving blind. She never had a chance.’
Both felt the heaviness in the air. The Coffee House was well air conditioned inside, but that didn’t stop the thickness enveloping them both.
‘I am SOO sorry, Jeremy. Man. I just thought-‘
Jeremy cut him off. ‘It’s alright. It was a long time ago. I’ve moved on.’
‘That’s some serious shit, man.’ said Kyle. ‘I wonder why my Aunt Carol never told me.’
He took a big gulp caffeine. ‘I told her not to.’
‘What the fuck?’
Jeremy squeezed his eyes tight and shook his head. ‘It was when you were in the hospital. You had made it quite clear that you wanted nothing to do with either of us. I told her not tell you right then. You know, maybe wait for a while.’ He looked down. ‘But, I guess she just never found the courage to tell you.’
The two squirmed in their chairs. Kyle felt teary, but he was too cool to cry. His eyes felt heavy and welled-up. He tapped the table.
‘Jesus!’ Kyle shook his head as a tear formed.
‘You started losing it, man. Really losing it.’
‘Well, fuck me. What else would you have expected? Shit! The only thing that got me on the right track was my writing gig.’
‘I thought what the hell.’
Jeremy nodded affirmatively. ‘Don’t sell yourself short. You earned a living at that. And you did it for all the right reasons. Writing is hard work and reviewing rock bands, movies, festivals, well, that requires a unique talent and knowledge.’
He snickered. ‘Yeah, whatevs, man.’
‘No, seriously. It does.’
‘That and sucking up to the man.’
‘Yeah, well, welcome to the real world, my friend.’
A student approached the table and looked down at the two of them. ‘Mr. Hughes. Um, Hi. I’m in your chemistry class,’ he said sheepishly.
Jeremy twisted in his seat and quickly put on the serious smile, the one he reserves mainly for lecture hall. ‘Hi. Great. So, what can I do you for? I hope you’re not going to ask if we are going to make aspirin.’
The student laughed quickly and nervously. ‘Ha. ha. No. No. It’s nothing like that. It’s just that I wanted to ask you quickly if taking your class is something that I really need to do.’
Jeremy’s countenance changed slightly. He had a look of surprise, of mild admonishment even. ‘Well, how would I know that? Only you know what you need, or shall I say, want to do.’
‘That’s true,’ said the student. He shuffled his feet over the dirty tile floor which was covered in toasted bagel crumbs and other discarded food-like pebbles. ‘Can I see you during office hours to talk about it?’
‘Of course,’ replied Jeremy with confidence. ‘Come see me Tuesday 4pm. Do you know where Sproul Hall is?’
‘Yeah. I do.’
‘Very well. I’ll see you there,’ Jeremy said with authority As the student began to walk away he called to him. ‘Excuse me. What did you say your name was?’
‘Jim.’ There was a pause, then he looked down and said, ‘Jim Morrison.’
Jeremy and Kyle both let out a little laugh. ‘Like the singer?’ asked Jeremy with a grin.
The student looked semi-annoyed, but as if he has had this response over one thousand times. He quickly breathed through is nose in one puff and replied, ‘Yeah. Exactly. My parents were BIG Doors fans, and boy was I lucky to have a father with that family name.’
As Jim Morrison drifted out of the coffee house like a rider on the storm, Kyle smiled and said to Jeremy, ‘Dude, if my parents did that to me, I’d be so fucking pissed.’
‘You’d think he would have legally changed his name.’
Kyle thought, ‘Well, maybe not. Who’s to say that going through life with the Lizard King’s name might not be a good thing. Maybe it gets him laid?’
‘You seriously think so? Come on. Kids today don’t even know who the hell Jim Morrison is.’
They both chuckled at the thought of having just met Jim Morrison here in the Coffee House and not in the afterlife. The arrival of Jim actually fortuitously assuaged the guilt both of them had been swimming under in the earlier part of the conversation.
Kyle placed both palms on the table. ‘So, enough about me. What did you do after graduating UC San Diego?’
Jeremy reflected, ‘Well, let’s see. I got this big comfy corporate job in LA at Temco Colder Plastics. I was making the stockholders piles of cash peddling all the latest wonders of modern chemistry.’
‘Sounds enticing,’ said Kyle sarcastically.
‘Yeah, well, surprisingly it wasn’t. I worked there for about twelve years of my life. I was just three years from being fully vested with their pension plan when I quit.’
‘Why’d you quit?’
‘The question is not why I quit, but rather why did I start climbing corporate ladders anyway? Square peg round hole syndrome. Plus, there were other extenuating circumstances influencing my life at that time.’
‘At least you made your parents proud,’ added Kyle sarcastically. ‘They were pretty tough on you growing up. You were always the dude sitting up in your room studying while all of us were outside playing spin the bottle or blowing up mail boxes and shit.’
‘Yeah, well Dad passed away slightly after I started working for Temco. He was only 54 Kyle. Fifty fucking four. Can you imagine? All that money, hard work and he died coming out of his car after a long stressful weekend at the firm.’
‘Was he still a lawyer at that big firm. Er.. Pilltoe, ah, um Pils boe..’
‘Philco, Boze, and Temple. Yeah. He was still working there. After he died, Bob Philco, the managing partner called my Mom with his condolences. He told her that he was sorry that he couldn’t make the funeral as the case against Dad was still in court. He then told her that my Dad’s laptop, files, flash drives, backup hard drives were all property of the firm and that he’s sending Tim around the next day to collect them.’
‘Wow,’ breathed Kyle. ‘He really said THAT?’
‘Yeah. He said that whatever Dad did, was owned by the firm and that nothing was his. He even told my Mom later that he would need Dad’s last paycheck back as it was paid in advance.’
‘Bullshit! No way!’
‘No shit. He did,’ quickly responded Jeremy. ‘Eventually, he did shave his ugly hairy heart and let us keep the paycheck, but it never even phased him.’
‘To ask. That’s what,’ said Jeremy with disgust. ‘My Dad literally worked his heart into jelly for that bastard. He slaved for him for 30 damn years and all he cared about was his fucking money. His fucking firm.’
‘Maybe the files contained secrets, conspiracies even,’ suggested Kyle.
‘Maybe they did. In fact, I bet they did,’ said Jeremy with conviction. ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if those vipers were slithering through some serious swampy shit.’
Again, there was a pause as both looked for something to say. Jeremy continued. ‘I took a U-turn.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I just couldn’t see the point. I left all that bullshit to go work for a retired man who, unlike my Dad, made it successfully into his golden years.’ He paused and looked out the window. ‘His name was James Nelson, a retired banker with more cash than memories, loved ones, or even pets.’
‘Sounds kinda sad, dude.’
‘It was. It was totally sad. He owned all this land, beautiful vineyards in Sonoma Valley. He had no family, friends, nothing. It was as if his entire life had been lived in this money chasing corporate created bubble.’
‘Did you wipe his ass, change his diaper, that sort of thing?’
‘Nah. Nothing like that. More like running errands, cleaning the equipment. Supervising the staff, being his friend and confidante.’
‘Did he pay you well?’
‘He paid me very well,’ replied Jeremy. ‘When he died, he put me in his will and gave me $100K.’
‘The saddest thing is that once the estate was settled, the IRS ‘found’ indiscretions in his financial past.’ Jeremy paused and refolded his hands under his chin and stared right at Kyle. ‘They took the lot, Kyle. Everything.’
‘What the fuck?’
‘Yeah, some sort of non declaration of foreign capital movements. He didn’t report certain investments overseas, and wasn’t money laundering or evading tax, but simply had little bits of his financial life scattered about the world. He thought more good would come of it, but his lawyers and The Man, and the IRS fucked him.’ Shaking his head, he continued. ‘They even took this old property he owned, an abandoned grist mill in Marin County. His great grandpa had built the place and it was passed down through the family. He had a dream of redeveloping it into something that would provide some joy back in the world, something that provided experience, rather than cold hard cash. Well, apparently it got sold to a property developer, who intended to demolish the lovely old place to build a strip mall and condos.’
‘Holy shit,’ said Kyle as he started to lean his right cheek onto the palm of his right hand.
‘I ended up with like nine grand after settlement. I used it to purchase a slightly forlorn 1998 Subaru WRX with 80,000 miles on the clock.’
‘Dude. Talk about easy come, easy go.’
‘Yeah, something like that.’
‘So, how did you get to be a lecturer here?’
‘While I was working for James, I was drinking pretty heavily. James once saw me after one of my binges and told me, ‘Jeremy. Don’t scare me now. You need to enjoy your life, but don’t drink too much. I drank too much.’
‘Whispered words of wisdom, eh?’
‘Well, after he died, I figured I enjoyed school, so maybe I can teach, so I applied, and voila.’
‘Sweet. So, do you like working here?’ asked Kyle.
‘Yeah. It’s all good,’ replied Jeremy with all the conviction of a used car salesman.
‘You don’t, do ya?’ quipped Kyle.
Guardedly, Jeremy responded, ‘Well, yes and no. See, I like the lifestyle, you know, engaging my mind for the common good, and the pay and hours are great, but..’
‘Well, now, I don’t know anymore. Just before I recently met with my boss, I wanted out.’
‘Dude, you’re losing me’
‘Yeah, I’ve lost myself too. The thing is, and don’t you ever repeat this because I’d deny it anyway, but, up until this year I thought she was a total arrogant bitch whose soul purpose in life was to crucify me.’
‘You?’ Kyle said laughingly. ‘Why, you? You’re like kinda cool, in a, well, sort of different way.’
‘OK, not just me, but everyone who works for her. She is an overachiever and wants everyone to come up to her level. She’s irascible.’
‘Yeah, OK, but, what’s changed?’
‘You don’t sound so sure.’
‘Exactly. Well after meeting with her last week, well, I kind of changed my mind about her. About me. About everything. It was sort of like walking through hell without help from above.’
Jeremy looked out of the window with a glazed expression. ‘Look, it’s not what she did, but what I didn’t do,’ he replied sheepishly.
‘That I didn’t even get to know her. I made snap judgments like every one else here. I think I underestimated her and who she is. Who I am,’ confessed Jeremy.
‘Did she give you a blowjob?’ chimed Kyle with irreverence.
‘Get off it, Kyle. No. Nothing like that. It’s just..’
‘Don’t worry Jeremy. We don’t have to get into it if you don’t want to.’
‘Well, oddly enough, my story has a similar ring to it. I left that entertainment rag under duress, ended up in the emergency room. I nearly killed myself, man.’
Jeremy didn’t look surprised. ‘I heard about that.’
‘My mom still kept in contact with your family for a while after, well, after we graduated High School.’
‘Really? Wow, what a trip. I had no idea, well, even if I had known back then…’ He nervously shook his head. ‘Anyway, I floated around working at meaningless jobs, surfing and generally goofing off. I did have a good job at a dotcom startup based in Carlsbad, but got laid off. Dude, it’s been crazy. I had to take stock, you know, so I one day decided to go to get real qualifications in something I love.’
‘What made you decide?’
‘I don’t know. I guess I finally had to admit that, well, you know, I like the party scene. I thought that if I upped my game with a diploma in the masters brewing program, then I could open up my own brewpub entertainment venue.’
‘Sounds like a great plan,’ replied Jeremy as he placed his hands on the table, ‘but, it also sounds expensive. Have you thought about how you’re going to fund this venture?’
‘Remember my Aunt Carol?’
‘Well, of course! How is she doing?’
Kyle sniggered. ‘Well, she’s kind of got that Cougar thing going on, but hey, who am I to judge? I say, whatever floats your boat, eh?’
‘Hey, look, what’s that quote? It goes something like, the more mistakes we make, the less we should judge other peoples mistakes?’
‘Yeah, well, she legally divorced Peter, so if she wants a boy toy, who the hell cares.’ He smiled and nodded. ‘She got, like, a third of the company.’
‘She’d be loaded.’
‘And that’s where I come in.’
Jeremy chuckled then nodded his head. ‘Ahh. The Bank of Carol.’ He quickly looked out the window, feeling a bit uneasy. ‘Look, all this sounds, well, sounds great, but no offense, I never thought you had it in you to..’
Kyle moved his hand and knocked the glass container of sugar onto the floor, spilling its grainy contents all over. ‘Fuck! Sometimes I can be as clumsy as hell.’
‘Don’t worry about it. This place has so many ants and vermin crawling around, you’ve done the insect kingdom a big favor.’
Kyle stared into the pile of white. It reminded him of something. Something related to both of them. It came to him. ‘Dude! Remember when we were in like 9th grade and we had these wrist rockets and we were flinging firecrackers taped to pennies across the street?’
‘Yeah. Good times.’
‘You were in your room studying or practicing your tubaphone or something.’
‘Well, you came outside, remember? And me and Sean were like oh, shit he’s going to narc on our ass.’
Jeremy quickly glanced outside, collecting his thoughts. ‘Yeah, and you guys started bailing out of there and I yelled for you to come back, but you kept on running over the juniper hedges and down into the canyon.’
‘It’s because we thought you were going to tell my old man,’ remembered Kyle. ‘You guys were tight, you know. Like you and I were switched at fucking birth or something. He used to take you golfing, shooting.’ Jeremy paused and lowered his head. ‘He thought I was a total fuckwit.’
‘It was nothing like that, Kyle,’ said Jeremy apologetically. ‘It’s just that you were just always stoned or partying, or stealing shit from Thrifty’s. Marty felt sorry for me. That’s all.’
‘Well, you didn’t really know him. He was a total dickhead.’
‘He really wasn’t Kyle. You guys were just like oil and water. You know. He just never understood why you wouldn’t come around.’
‘Anyway, the thing is, you didn’t.’
‘Sorry, didn’t what?
‘You didn’t narc on us man. In fact, remember what you did the next day?’
‘Um, not really.’
‘Thermite, dude. Remember? You showed us how to make fucking thermite!’
Jeremy quickly closed both of his eyes and let out a slight chuckle. ‘Was it the next day?’
‘Totally,’ replied Kyle. He paused then continued, ‘You said that if we were going to become more successful suburban terrorists, we would need to know how to make it.’
‘I said that? I don’t remember.’
‘You did. We all went into your garage and you told us about oxidation-reduction and how electrons bail out creating an endothermic reaction.’
‘Exothermic reaction, Kyle. Jeez. No wonder you need to take my class again.’
‘Yeah, whatever,’ Kyle said flippantly. ‘You poured it on top of that big ass old skillet, and boom!’
‘Yeah, the chemistry is so simple, it’s beautiful,’ reminisced Jeremy.
‘One thing that I’ll never forget though,’ reflected Kyle with some seriousness, ‘is that my Dad found out and beat the shit outta me.’ He paused and swallowed slowly. ‘And I never ratted you out, man. Never.’
Jeremy felt the pressure of this last revelation. He slouched back in his chair just a tad. ‘I confessed to your Mom about that, you know.’
‘Jo? Yeah, big fucking deal,’ replied Kyle. ‘You knew she wouldn’t ever tell Marty.’ He sat up straight. ‘Dude, seriously. Marty was a fucking asshole and you just never saw it.’
‘I did see it,’ quipped Jeremy. He said more slowly, tactfully, ‘I just well.. I just, hell, I don’t know. Look, it was a different lifetime.’
Marty was a beat cop for the National City Police Department and he and his then wife, Jo Gervais, (Kyle’s mother) were in a constant marriage crisis. Marty met Jo in New York, while employed with a private security firm. Jo made her way to New York and attended the prestigious Stella Adler Studio of Acting. Unfortunately, she had to take on various odd jobs just to make ends meet. She was waiting tables at Howard Johnson’s in Manhattan, when she had met Marty Pickens, a detective from Brooklyn. In 1968, Jo was cast as Jeanie in the Broadway musical Hair. Marty was very concerned about the entire premise of the ‘play.’
‘Ah, for Chris’sake Jo! All them hippies and negroes dancing around nude and taking drugs. I don’t want you to do it!’
‘Marty, you big lug. This is my chance to be a star on Broadway. I’m an actress. This is what I do. I act. Besides, it looks kinda fun.’
‘What? dancing around with a bunch of hippy faggots?’
Jo was a success. The rest is history. Marty never seemed to get over his first lost argument. He knew that a man was a man. A hippy was a freak and nudity, no matter how tasteful, was pornography. Nevertheless, the marriage endured and Kyle was born in 1973 in Queens. Marty got promoted to an office job at Pinkerton and Jo was starting to drift into her own world of painting, acting, singing, and reading at poetry nights in Harlem. ‘You’re down with those negro faggots again.’
‘Oh, just stop it already, would ya?’ replied Jo. ‘You need some sensitivity training.’
‘What the fuck for?’
‘First, because you’re a moron. And second, you’ll get fired carrying on like that,’ replied Jo. These sort of arguments would get Marty fuming. He’d sometimes hit Jo to let her know he’s in control. The physical abuse was not too excessive though. The real abuse came from Marty completely ignoring his only son, whom Jo loved so much, he could then hurt her by proxy.
Jo’s parents were beginning to wonder if the relationship would last and worried about poor little Kyle. They wired money to Jo by Western Union in secret wanting her to divorce Marty and move back to Boston with them. Jo almost decided to make the move until one day when Marty came home from golfing with his buddy.
‘Honey. I have a lot to say to you and I hope you will listen.’ He went on about how he has lost the plot and how he wanted to make things better. He was a bit drunk, but seemed to be a happy drunk, not abusive as per normal. Feeling that they should start anew, he took a job in San Diego, California, in paradise in the sun and on the sand. The West Coast, the promised land, beckoned.
So, in 1983, at the tender age of 10 years old, Kyle arrived in the Mission Valley area of San Diego with his parents Jo and Marty. They enrolled him the local primary school at the start of 5th grade and shortly thereafter, he met Jeremy Hughes who lived down the street on Alcazar Avenue. They quickly became friends and asked the teacher if they could sit next to each other in class. She refused, of course, but at least they tried.
And here they were once again like leaves appearing at the end of convoluted branches. Lifetimes appearing in fractal.
‘So,’ said Jeremy, ‘when do you get on with, well, should we say, the rest of your life? Or more to the point, when do you intend to escape these hallowed halls?’
‘It’s a bit of a screw up,’ admitted Kyle, ‘but I’m almost there. Just have your class to go, which for some reason, the registrar said I didn’t pass. Apparently, my final exam got mixed with another student’s. I was hoping just to squeak by, but miraculously I get this A minus on the Final.’
‘Well, of course, this other guy didn’t take to well to failing the class.’
Jeremy slowly nodded.
‘Anyway, my delight at this unexpected result didn’t last too long, and after a simple handwriting comparison, here I am, sitting in your fucking class.’
‘Amazing,’ replied Jeremy.
Kyle paused as he began to look more nervous, a little less confident. ‘One thing that I’ve always wanted to do, of course, is to travel through Europe and Asia.’
‘You know like all our friends did after college.’ He looked away. ‘I sort of, well, spiraled out of control in my early twenties. I tried to convince myself that my life would be better, if I could just get away, you know? Try something new, you know, meet different people.’
‘Yeah, well, I never was able to do that either. I had too many bills and commitments. My thoughts had always been that I’d eventually do the world travel thing, well, if and when I find the right lady, you know, something we can do together.’
Kyle nodded and looked down at the table. ‘Yeah, that would be awesome.’ He quickly squinted and looked out the window. ‘I don’t see a special someone in my life, like, right now, or even on the radar, you know? I think I need to get this out of my system, like soon.’
Jeremy nodded. ‘How soon?’
‘Like before I open up this brewpub.’
‘It’s going to be a hell of a lot of work.’
‘Exactly. That’s why it’s now or never. I don’t want to wait until I’m, like, a member of the AARP and qualifying for the old age discounts.’
Kyle placed both of his palms down on the table and whistled. ‘Hey, look, I’m so glad we’ve finally reconnected after all these years.’
Jeremy smiled and nodded. ‘Me too.’
He shook his head and smiled. ‘One thing, Jeremy.’
‘I’ve always wondered how life would have turned out, you know, if we had never gone to that hangar party back in High School?’
Jeremy nodded. ‘Honestly, I’ve always wondered about that too.’
‘The flyer from the sky.’
Jeremy looked out of the window at the thin feathery high clouds. ‘Some things are better left floating in the air, I suppose.’
‘Hmmf. You got that right. One thing I’ve learned is that doing or not doing, well, they both require action.’
Jeremy sniggered. ‘And sincerity my friend, pure, unadulterated sincerity.’