The question that I would hope some people would have – assuming anyone is reading this – is "what the hell happened to Larry?". The whole thing starts with him and then he largely goes missing (yes, I'm aware he gets to rewire Nancy's parents' house, but that section isn't about him) for four sections. There is no real answer for that other than the fact that I lost track of what the story was supposed to be about. By this point I was writing it about an hour here or there, between classes and studying. There may still be some good writing in there somewhere, but it certainly is not the story I set out to write. And even though Larry comes back, he still doesn't get proper attention.
There are clearly some problems with this section. Sorry about that. The dream is an adaptation and amalgamation of one had by a close friend and one I had, and it is purposefully confusing in its presentation (because that is how it his explained to me). When I get around to revising this story, this section would be completely torn apart – though I could definitely see trying to work some of the ideas into more logically presented scenes.
Anyway, if you want to think of the opening here as a zombie apocalypse without zombies, that may help.
Larry couldn't figure out for the life of him why his car didn't start. The gas tank didn't lie when it read that it was full, and the battery was working. What a time for this to happen.
The sky hadn't been so overcast a minute or two ago, but sometimes things got worse all at once. It didn't look as if it would rain, but the mood it cast was enough to make it intolerable. From where his car was situated, Larry could see the fields on either side of the ridge take on a darker, richer shade of green. In the sunlight they looked sick, but for some reason grass always looked better in diffused light.
Larry wanted to get out of there. If he thought he could make it without his car he would have ran. Then he would still have to come back for the car. What would be accomplished then? He heard something on down the road and he knew it was a caravan of sorts. That didn't make him feel any better. That would just be a group of people with transportation.
No, there was more to it than that. There was some reason why Larry didn't want to be here. There were men moving through the field, though for some reason they were less than distinct. It was almost as if they were wearing camouflage. Military men with rifles. Why out here?
Larry didn't know why, but now the people around him were panicking. He didn't remember them behaving so just a minute ago, in part because they didn't seem to be there before.
Then the shooting began. Maybe it was too distant to hear but Larry could hear it none the less. He knew now that he was in great danger. That must have been what was motivating his panic. Larry had often been told by his father that the government would turn on the people one day. Larry had been certain that he would never see that happen, but he knew that is exactly what he was witnessing.
Why here? Larry was no more than ten miles from home, just outside of Cook County. Why would the government start by attacking? Shouldn't it still be hoping it need only subdue dissidents? Larry grabbed at the people who brushed against him. He didn't recognize any of them, not from the terror-filled distortions of their faces. He knew he had to try to save them.
The soldiers were upon him in no time. Most of the people were off the road, but Larry doubted that it would do them much good, He moved back toward his car. Maybe it would start. The hell with that, it would start this time, and Larry would make it home and his father would be ready to fight back.
Wild shots removed the windshield from his car. It was old enough that it didn't have safety glass. Larry paid no heed to that. Somebody had knocked one of the soldiers down, maybe unconscious, maybe dead. A rifle lay unclaimed next to the body. Larry dove for it, landing just short but he quickly scrambled over to it. Where he had been standing was now filled by some panicked citizen, who in tern was quickly filled with bullets.
Larry had the gun and made his way back to his car. Somewhere above a helicopter made its ominous sounds. Larry tried to track it but there was surprising brightness in the overcast sky. Giving up on the helicopter, Larry braced himself against the driver's side front door. He couldn't see much detail now. The breeze – and maybe the helicopter's wash – were swirling wisps of colored smoke the soldiers were using. The screams of the people weren't so loud now. Larry searched his pocket for his keys.
"Oh Jesus Christ," Larry cursed. The keys were still in the car. He opened the door, trying to see if there was some way he could save some of the people. Better to be at home. Larry started to get into the car. He saw something coming around from behind it.
Larry raised his rifle but didn't have a finger on the trigger. The soldier couldn't have been out of his teens and Larry didn't even notice the pistol in his hands until it was too late. Larry was slammed back against the car by the impact of the first bullet. He was beginning to notice the heat of the bullet when a second shot hit him in the gut. Both Larry and his rifle hit the street at the same time. The soldier loomed above him, and it was true, Larry mused, that the barrel of a gun – when pointed straight at one's eye – looked as if it were a vast tunnel.
The third bullet was enough. Larry was dead before it exited out the back of his head. The soldier still stood above him, but the helicopter must have been directly overhead. It grew smaller and smaller until all that was discernible was swirling smoke and the green fields on either side of the street.
* * * * *
"You read that right off the fax?"
Melissa cocked her head and smiled. It was a little early in the afternoon for her to be drinking, but she had already enjoyed one of the beers stocked in Jason MacLeod's refrigerator and was working on her second. She looked good, which was to say that she looked better than she should have.
'This is some piece of work, huh?"
"So what does it mean?" She had been patient in letting Jason read Larry's three page report of the previous night's dream. She didn't say anything as he went and retrieved some text books and made notes of what in the dreams he wished to address."
"It's not an exact science. It's like Interpretative Lit."
She sipped some beer from her bottle. "Okay. So, what does it mean?"
'The truth? I think it's a father-son conflict. That may seem too easy, but since Mr. Pudenski and Carver are working with Larry..."
"Still valid, then."
He finally sat beside her on the couch. "So what brings you to my dingy abode, milady?"
"I was just wondering why you would rather get drunk with Larry and Jeff Binghampton than have sex with your girlfriend."
"Nancy wondered the same thing."
"She called." Melissa leaned closer, though not close enough for her liking. "She called, and we thought it would be better to have our conversation face to face. That and we lounged around the pool and got drunk." She caught the arch in Jason's eyebrows. "Why is that what you guys think?"
He got up and moved toward the kitchen but stopped short. "The truth? What is there not for guys to like in that idea. It's naked women and sex. If they can't be directly involved, it is the next best thing for guys."
He finally moved back toward her. "You know that I live in constant fear that someone is going to take you away from me, and Nancy has money. She's attractive, too, if you were into that. So it's in my best interests that you find the idea of being a lesbian repugnant."
"Care to reaffirm my heterosexuality?"
"Now? Melissa, but that would mean we couldn't waste time conversing."
"Sometimes I think you're gay."
"Everyone has homosexual fantasies." He sighed, like it was work to be in such an easy relationship. "Okay, I'll stop being a smartass if you're willing to wait until seven o'clock."
They fell into a pleasant conversation, something that was common for most couples. Occasionally it was as if they had a standard relationship. Then something would happen.
"You sent J.B. over to Nancy's?!"
"Will you please, just tonight, call him Jeff?"
"You sent him over to Nancy's." He would wait just long enough for her to begin to say something. She knew the game and she would oblige. "Why would you do that? He's the horniest man you know. And Nancy?" Jason got off the couch. They had been in each other's arms, a rare moment of tenderness and an almost guarantee she wouldn't have to wait until seven. "This is all going to fall on me. Shit."
"Please be more melodramatic. I'll make it up to you." That lured him back toward her. "He's not my friend, but I'll bet that Jeff can control himself. You know you don't have to worry about Nancy so long as Jeff can keep it in his pants."
Jason thought of what had happened the night before and shuddered. That broke the mood. He checked the clock and saw that he still had two and half hours to forget it.
"What do you say to some Chinese?"
"There will still be some for after. And I don't have any food."
She held him. The food arrived and they ate lightly.
"Isn't this backwards?" she asked. "Shouldn't you be chasing me. Isn't that the way all these stories go?"
"Did I ever tell you about Shashi, the guy I roomed with my sophomore year? He was a Psych major and hell bent on proving that the idea of the liberated woman was a myth. He thought that women's nature was what allowed them to be dominated by male society."
"Bullshit. Shashi? What was he, Indian?"
"Nice racism, Melissa. I don't know, but he was born and raised American. At any rate, he thought that men had to be retrained instead of women losing their natures. He thought it was the Equal Rights movment that actually created a false increase in lesbianism."
Her look said it all.
"I know, but not just that. He was convinced that adopting more masculine type characteristics and patterns of life caused women to look for feminine partners."
"So that's what you want? For me to bring home a nice feminine girl for both of us?"
Jason tried to stifle his laughter. "Okay, but I was thinking that his theory made me a bit of a sissy and all, you being such an athlete and competitor."
"And the roommate?"
"Are you asking if he is a sissy? No? He is at his job until midnight, and then there is never a guarantee that he'll come back. That's what I look for in a roommate, provided he pays the rent on time."
"Think not. He's two years behind me, using my notes for the same subjects and has access to all my papers and research. I let him pay the whole thing."
Melissa blushed. "So everyone but you and Jeff has family money?"
"We're poor, but we're happy." Jason noted that his glass was empty. Where Melissa was drinking beer – she was on her fifth – Jason was drinking Coke. He still had a two litre in the refrigerator and there was a case in his room. "Mind if we separate long enough to get something to drink?"
"And ruin this romance?"
"For me, this is romantic."
He came back with a cold beer for her, and a shot glass and a bottle of Speyburn single malt scotch. He smiled weakly and poured himself a drink. He gulped it down and quickly poured another but left it on the table and rejoined Melissa on the couch.
"A night out with the boys makes you quite a drinker." He had no reaction to her statement but she was happy enough to have him back. Was he though? "Are you happy, Jason? I know it seems like a simple question to ask, but..."
"You've really never paid attention to that I study, have you?" He didn't want to chide her, just to make her understand the weight and complexity of that question. "Okay, I'll skip the lecture—"
His eyes alone gave thanks. "Is the question 'am I happy today?' or 'am I happy now?' or even 'do you make me happy?'?"
"I'm glad you've decided to throw away your academic future on me."
She would have to be back in Evanston before her morning classes on Tuesday but Jason wanted her to stay. He could have said as much, but there was an eerie sense of comfort in that nothing was said. Melissa was gone before Jason's roommate arrived back at the apartment, and it fell to him to clean up the remnants of food the lovers left unattended.