CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
|Trophies We Don’t Deserve
Here’s my best friend Davis’s stupid idea: mix up a bloodlike substance, pour it all over my face, knock on some old guy’s door, tell him we’ve been in a car accident, come in, rob him. It’s the kind of stupid idea that doesn’t work, and even if it does, in the long run it doesn’t because you go to hell—or if there’s no hell, bad stuff happens to you for the rest of your life, guaranteed. I don’t know how Davis talks me into these stupid things. Last year he convinced me to go to the airport with him, stand there at the baggage claim until we saw a piece of luggage go around three times, take it home, then wear something from it to a party that night. I wore a crappy brown tie with ducks on it and basically freaked out all night, thinking it belonged to whoever I was talking to. Davis wore a nice white dress shirt, though the sleeves were way too long for him so he cut them off with a pair of scissors—a seventy dollar shirt, probably. Snip, snip. Really, you’d think I could’ve found a more constructive best friend by now. Davis and I grew up two houses away from each other and spent like a thousand hours watching our moms eat deviled eggs and talk about how much they hated our dads, and that can create quite a bond, I guess. Anyway, I said no fucking way to his new stupid idea. Usually he gets all whiney when I say no, but this time he just said fine, like he knew how stupid it was and he was happy to have it pointed out to him. Then, like three weeks later, not only did he bring it up again, but he’d done all this research and he said he’d found the perfect old guy to rob. I said no. He said just listen. I said OK because you can’t go to jail for listening but at the end of your spiel, the answer is still going to be no. He said fine, just try to keep an open mind. I said no.
He said first of all, this old guy was a racist and deserved to be robbed. He said there’d never been any consequences for his being a racist and sometimes people have to help other people’s karma along, especially if it’s bad karma. I asked him how he knew the guy was a racist and he said because he found out from someone who lives near the guy, in this cluster of condo-type things called Ridgewater or something. He said there’s this mower guy, like, that’s part of the package when you buy the condo, you know, it comes with a mower guy once a week, and this mower guy happened to be black, and the old guy said he’d rather cut his own grass than have an n-word set foot on his soil (in my head I was thinking he should’ve said soil my soil but that probably would’ve sounded dumb) so the condo people said fine, then mow your own lawn, only he didn’t, and pretty soon his lawn got really out of control and people complained and said they were scared of ticks but they were actually scared of people thinking they lived in the ghetto, so the condo people confronted the old guy and he said fine, the n-word could mow his lawn but it’d have to be Sunday mornings when he was at church so he wouldn’t have to see the n-word through his blinds. Isn’t that fucked up? said Davis. Those church people kill me—the guy probably spent all Sunday morning listening to a sermon about how to love thy neighbor and probably never even made the connection. I told Davis to stay on track with his story, so he said the condo people said fine, whatever, the mower guy mows on Sundays anyway. I asked Davis who he heard all this from and he said some guy, which is dubious because I know everyone Davis knows because Podunk Pennsylvania’s pretty dang small so some guy usually means some guy he just thought up. Whatever, it’s not that important.
I asked Davis if the old racist guy had a wife and he said no, that he’d been watching him and there’d never been anyone else there, and no dog. I said, Isn’t that like karmic punishment already then—he’s a racist so he has to spend his days alone? No, Davis said, that’s not enough. There are plenty of good TV shows and you can jerk off 24/7 and no one’s nagging at you to put away your food so no, being alone is not punishment. I think Davis just said that because he’s self-conscious that he hasn’t had a girlfriend in five years, and the last one was lame. I’m not one to talk though. Davis said his plan with the fake blood and everything was perfect for this guy because he lives pretty far from the other condos. I asked how far. He said you can see them but they’re all facing the other way. It doesn’t matter which way they’re facing, I said. Condos have windows on all sides. Trust me, he said, they’re far enough away, plus, no one will recognize you because you’ll have blood all over your face. What about you? I asked. I’ll have a little blood on my face too, he said, and a hat on. Trust me, the old guy will be so surprised he won’t remember our faces. And then what? I said. What do you mean? he said. What happens after we tell him we were in a car accident? I said. After that, you go into the bathroom and I tell him he needs to hold something—a towel or whatever—against your head hard to stop the bleeding, and then while he’s doing that, I take out my phone and say I’m gonna call the police and then I wander into another room while I’m talking—you know how people always do that—only I won’t really be calling them, duh, I’ll be robbing the guy. What are you gonna take? I asked. Whatever’s there, he said. I’m sure he’s got some stuff lying around—he probably leaves his wallet out on the coffee table. No he doesn’t, I said, he probably keeps it in his pocket. No way, wallets are uncomfortable, no one keeps them in their pockets when they’re at home. I do, I said. I’m home—here’s my wallet. And plus, I said, they’ll have my DNA all over the towel or whatever the guy uses to stop my blood. Richie, he said, do you know how much a DNA test is? No, I said. Twenty thousand dollars, that’s how much, twenty thousand—no joke. Do you think the police department of Millfart Pennsylvania have twenty thousand dollars to spend on a DNA test for petty theft? I guess Davis had a point there, though he didn’t have to use the same tone of voice he’d use with a telemarketer.
OK, I can’t describe my transition from this is a stupid fucking idea to OK, I’m in. I don’t remember it. See, that’s Davis’s whole thing—he just talks and talks and talks and it makes me understand how they get information out of spies and terrorists—it’s like he just talks until you’re all confused, like he’s put a cog in the gear of your trying to make sense of things, like, you’re trying to write the pros and cons out on the blackboard in your head but you can’t write because you’re bombarded with the enthusiasm in his voice while he tells you his stupid plan over and over and eventually you just say fine, just so he’ll shut up. So that’s what I did. Like an idiot.
Davis said it’d be best to do it on a Friday night because that’s when everyone’s out of their houses, except for our old guy who never goes out. Also, Fridays are good because I only work the lunch shift at Jake’s, and Davis has Fridays off completely because he’s privileged. So the following Friday, we met at his apartment at 4:30 to make the bloodlike substance. He had a half-tube of Halloween blood from his vampire pimp costume (the half-tube was the genesis of this whole stupid idea) but there wasn’t nearly enough blood for a major car wreck so we had to add something. I suggested ketchup. Davis asked me if I was like eight and then said ketchup would make everything smell like ketchup and didn’t I think that might tip the old guy off. I said no, old guys can’t smell, that’s why they always smell like Salvation Armys. He said point taken but red paint would be better. I said I didn’t want to put actual paint anywhere near my eyes. He said as long as it’s water-based, it’s fine. So we walked to the hardware store and picked up some maroon acrylic paint—Davis figured that’d be more lifelike than cherry red, especially at night. He wanted to put in Tabasco sauce too, just to tell people we used Tabasco sauce, but I wouldn’t let him because I know how that would feel in your eye. We stirred it all up and Davis started doing this goofy giggle which made me nervous. I told him to be serious, that I didn’t want to fuck this up or we could go to jail. He said you can do something serious and have fun doing it. Sometimes Davis sounds so much like a guidance counselor it makes me glad we don’t hang out in groups because I’d probably always be embarrassed. We put two other red things in and then stirred it around and ended up with something that didn’t look like blood, though Davis convinced me it would look like congealed blood in dim lighting. So then we basically just had to wait a few hours. Davis made us bologna sandwiches but I couldn’t eat them because I felt sick, not so much from nerves but because I always feel sick after working at Jake’s since the food is so nasty—especially the quiche—and I have to keep looking at it all day. I guess I felt a little bit sick from nerves too, maybe.
We sat there chewing sandwiches, drinking water, not saying anything. I stared at the Sonic Youth poster that’s been Davis’s token decoration for like fifteen years. They’re standing there looking cool and holding a sign that says Angry, Very Angry. I asked Davis how come I’m the one getting covered with blood, not him. Because, he said, you’re the more honest one so you’d have a hard time stealing from an old man, and I admire that in you. He was right, I would have a hard time with that. And it was nice of him to point that out. I couldn’t really eat this sandwich because Davis skimped big time on the bologna, and the bread slices were so thick it was more like eating meat-flavored cake. I started thinking of all the what ifs, you know, emergency plans and so forth. Davis did this little smirk thing every time I said what if, as if I were being a baby, which pissed me off because you can get in major shit for pulling something like this so you really have to think everything through. Like, I said, what if the old guy figures out it’s not blood? Well then we run out of the house and get in the car and drive away and we haven’t committed a crime, he said. What if he’s got a gun? I said. He doesn’t, Davis said. I’ve been watching him, I’d know. That’s ridiculous, I said, you haven’t been watching the top shelf of his closet. No, but I know him well enough to know he’s not the kind of old guy who owns a gun. Fine, I said, not convinced at all.
I was feeling pretty crappy about the whole thing by now, like I’d been talked into something that was about to shipwreck my life. On the other hand, I was kind of excited because there’ve been some really boring nights, you know, in Jerkoff Pennsylvania, nights where you rent a DVD and it skips so you decide to get a little drunk by yourself but you only have one beer so you go sit on your front steps and listen to people’s relationships fall apart through their screen doors—you know, stuff like that. And nights with Davis are never like that, that’s one good thing about him. But I didn’t know what I had to gain from this, really, aside from a story to tell my kids after they grow up, if I have kids, which I probably won’t at this rate since no wife has presented herself as of yet and I’m already twenty-two. I was starting to feel paranoid about someone turning me in and I hadn’t even done anything yet. I guess one thing I was kind of looking forward to was the whole acting part of it, you know, like having to create the role of a guy who was just in a really bad car accident. I used to be in plays at camp and I’ve been told I was pretty good. Even if we made out with like twenty thousand bucks, that’d be the best part about it—feeling like I’d been a good enough actor to make a guy think I was someone who’d just flown through a windshield.
We poured the blood into a Tupperware bowl, put it in Davis’s backpack, and went out to my car. Davis said he’d mapped out where to park—by the woods, right around the corner from the old guy’s condo. I drove there slowly, making sure to come to complete stops whenever I was supposed to. I parked where Davis told me to. From the car, through the trees, you could see the side of the old guy’s condo—just one window, and the blinds were pulled but you could see light behind them. He was home. Davis was right, the guy’s condo was pretty far away from the others. My stomach made a noise like a sea creature. I could tell Davis was nervous too because he was talking fast and his voice gets higher when he’s nervous, like he just took a Helium hit or something. I took the cover off the Tupperware. How’re we gonna put it on? I said. Simple, he said. I’m gonna dump it down your face. We’re not gonna dump it all over my car seat, I said. It’s not a car seat, he said, car seats are for babies—you mean the seat of your car. I told him to shut up and then recommended we get out and do the blood application on the grass. Then everyone will see us, he said. Fine, we’ll do it in the woods, I said. We went out into the woods. I knew it wasn’t gonna look real if he just dumped it down my face and I was pissed that we hadn’t thought of bringing a sponge or something to apply it with. Davis put his hand in the Tupperware and stirred it around a few times. It feels gross, he whispered, I feel like I’m at a haunted house. Then he took a handful of it and slapped it across my temple, hard. Ow, fuck! I said, grabbing my head and trying to be quiet. He laughed. It’s to get you in the mood, he said, you just flew through a windshield, remember? I was pretty much hating Davis right then, and I had a wicked headache. He poured about half the container down my face. Then he smeared some on his face and hands. It didn’t look like blood on him, it looked like pizza sauce. I smeared it around his face a little with my shirtsleeve and then wiped most of it off and that made it look better. I started to have some real respect for those horror movie make-up artists because it’s not as easy as it looks. Davis was staring at where I was supposed to be cut in the head and I knew what he was thinking—it didn’t look anything like a cut. Here, he said, take your flannel off and hold it against your head so he won’t see where the cut’s supposed to be. Then, instead of the towel idea, we’ll tell him to hold your shirt there, he said. But why would we need him to hold my shirt there if I’m already holding it? I said. Just be all woozy, he said, like you can barely do it on your own and I’ll tell him he needs to apply a lot of pressure to your head because you’re so weak.
I did feel weak, actually. And woozy. I wondered if it was my bad karma at work already. I knew the old guy wouldn’t believe it was blood. The whole scenario played through in my head and it wasn’t pretty—I was sitting there with this old guy and Davis robbed him and then left without telling me, and then the old guy figured out he’d been taken so he kicked the shit out of me and tied me to a chair and starved me for like three days. Davis, I said, promise me no matter what that you won’t leave the condo without me. He looked at me like I’d just told a joke without a punch line and I said, Just promise me. He said, Promise. He didn’t know what to do with the Tupperware so he just threw it further into the woods. It landed in plain sight so he went over and covered it with fern leaves. Then he asked me if I was ready and I nodded and held my shirt against my head, thinking my life as I knew it was about to end. We walked over to the front door. We checked to see if anyone had seen us—there was no one around. The guy’s car was in his driveway, a crappy off-white Cadillac. It would have been perfect for Davis’s vampire pimp costume. I took a deep breath. Davis winked at me like a guidance counselor. He pounded three times. No answer. He pounded again and said, Open up, it’s an emergency! I looked around and tried to figure out whether anyone heard him through their windows. I didn’t think so. It’s an emergency! he said again. Nothing. And then, to my disbelief, he turned the handle and pushed the door open.
And there was the old guy, sitting there, facing us. And he wasn’t alone. On the ottoman in front of him was a girl who couldn’t have been more than seventeen, wearing an old-time saloon girl outfit, all black and red and lacey, holding a bottle of beer and looking at us like we’d just shot her. The old guy jumped to his feet and stepped in front of the saloon girl as though we were shrapnel headed in her direction. His eyes were so wide and freaked out, he looked like he was gonna have a heart attack, and for a split-second I thought, Great, we’ve killed the man. Nobody said anything. We all just stood there staring at each other. It was clearly Davis’s move, but he got all tongue-tied and the only thing I could think of to do was to moan like I was in sheer agony. So I did it, I moaned. Loud and long. That shook Davis out of whatever coma he was in and he said, We’ve been in a car accident, and then he gestured towards me with both hands, like he was Vanna White and I was a sparkly vowel. The saloon girl gasped and put her hands over her mouth—I probably did look pretty gruesome, standing there in the dark. Davis grabbed me by the arm, pulled me into the room and said, Can’t you see?! My friend’s bleeding! Where the fuck is your bathroom?! The man looked totally disoriented and just stared at us—at me, then at Davis, then at me again. He had this long, ghostlike face, and he was wearing a tight sweater that was almost the same color as his powdery skin. The saloon girl pointed vaguely down the hall and Davis pulled me in that direction. When I looked back at her, she had her hand over her eyes, like any second my head was gonna blow off and she wasn’t gonna want to see that. Davis tossed me into the bathroom and I sat down on the toilet seat and let out another moan, only this one sounded so fake it made Davis and me both cringe. So then we just looked at each other, wondering what to do next. We figured one or both of them would come in after us, but they didn’t. Davis took my shirt and started pressing it against my head, and I was like, What are you doing? and he shushed me. I watched the bathroom doorway. Davis pressed harder, holding my head with his other hand so it felt like my head was in a vice. I wished he wouldn’t take his nervousness out on my head. I heard the front door close and the old guy said something to the girl, sharply, like he was ordering her to do something. Then she scampered past the bathroom, peeked in for a second and then gave another little gasp and disappeared into what I assumed was the bedroom, closing the door behind her. And I thought, Shit, she’s in there calling the police. And then the old guy showed up behind Davis and peered over his shoulder. I swear to God, it was right out of a ghost story, his head just hovering there—I couldn’t see his body because Davis was blocking it and it reminded me of some Japanese cartoon I saw, of a little girl wandering through the woods at night and suddenly these heads of dead Japanese soldiers floated down and freaked her out. I shuddered. I looked closely at his face. It was the face of a guy who was already dead and made-up for an open casket. He was looking me straight in the eye and I knew for sure we weren’t going to fool him. Davis squeezed my head so hard, it made me see two old guy ghost heads. All I could think of was, Dear God, Davis, don’t leave me alone in the bathroom with this man. And at that very moment, Davis turned to the old guy and shouted, I’m gonna call an ambulance—sir, you need to put your hand right here and press hard, we gotta stop this blood, and don’t let him lose consciousness, I mean it, talk to him. And then Davis took out his cell phone and pretended to dial as he walked out of the bathroom, his backpack hanging off his shoulder. The old guy came over to me and tentatively put his hand on my bloody flannel. He was still looking me right in the eye. His eyes were all bloodshot and they reminded me of those dogs, you know, the duck-hunting ones who always have those sad, bloodshot eyes. I closed my eyes because this was the creepiest thing that’s ever happened to me. His breath smelled like whiskey, I think—I should just say alcohol, to be safe. I had to think of something else to focus on, to distract myself from the fact that an undead man’s face was six inches from mine, so I thought about the saloon girl. Who was she? How old was she? What the fuck was she doing here, in a saloon girl outfit that didn’t fit? He must’ve given her money, right? I mean, why else would she be in an old guy’s condo dressed up like a saloon girl? It was one of those dresses that’s supposed to push your boobs way up and make them spill out all over the room, but the poor girl didn’t have boobs so there was like a half-inch of space between the boob cups and her skin. Sad, you know, how people find themselves in situations.
And then the old guy said to me, Can you remember your name? I could hear a lot of phlegm in his voice, like he needed to clear his throat two or three times to get it all out. And I thought, He must be onto us now that he’s seeing the bloodlike mixture up close. I wondered if he was playing along, you know, to get me to say my name so he could tell the police. Dang, I thought—that was one detail I hadn’t thought through: my name. I’d come up with all the circumstances—someone was trying to pass us on a double-yellow, etc., but I hadn’t thought up a name. The only one I could think of was Davis’s but obviously I couldn’t say that so I said David. That’s good, the guy said. I heard Davis in the living room saying into the phone, Yeah, he’s hurt real bad. It didn’t sound convincing at all—Davis is a bad actor. He’s not leaving enough space between his responses and it reminds me of those old black and white movies when you can tell no one’s really on the other end of the line because if they were, they wouldn’t have time to get two words in.
So then the old guy said, What’s the capital of Pennsylvania? And it killed me, that question, because it’s such a—how do I put it?—it’s of another generation, that question. Like, my generation would ask which dumb celebrity hosted which dumb reality show or something—it wouldn’t occur to us to ask the capital of a state. I said Harrisburg and he said, That’s good. He put a little more pressure on my head, nowhere near how hard Davis had pushed. I felt like I’d been sitting there forever with this guy and I was getting so creeped out I was about to jump out of my skin. I considered running out of the bathroom, grabbing Davis, and running out the door, but then Davis came back in. He was talking really loudly again, and he said the ambulance was already out so we should just tie the shirt really tightly around my head and then drive to the hospital ourselves. It didn’t make any sense because we were supposedly just in a bad car wreck, right? so how would our car be drivable? But the old guy didn’t ask questions, he just stepped back and let Davis tie the shirt around my head so tightly I thought my eyeballs were gonna pop out and roll around in the sink. Then Davis grabbed me around the waist and we went careening past the old guy and down the hall. On the way out, I saw some blood on the walls and some more on the carpet and I knew the poor guy would never be able to wash it off, and when it dried, it’d be obvious it wasn’t blood. Davis opened the front door and I turned around to yell out thank you but Davis hurled me through the doorway and before we know it, we were sprinting off into the night, Davis laughing like an idiot hyena.
Twenty minutes later, we’re sitting on Davis’s nasty braided rug and he’s still laughing like that—really high pitched, taking in way more air than he needs. It’s an eerie laugh and I think there’s something wrong with me, having a best friend who laughs like that. The backpack’s between us, closer to me, and I haven’t touched it yet because I feel so bad about everything. I’m hoping there’s nothing in there. I’m still seeing that old guy’s ghost-face, floating there right next to mine. And I’m seeing the petrified look on the saloon girl’s face when we first walked in—a level of panic I’ll probably never know. I wonder why the old guy hadn’t locked his door right after she came in. He was probably distracted. I tell Davis flat out to stop laughing. He gets all sullen and I realize he didn’t actually think what we did was that funny—it’s just how he lets off steam. I let off steam by walking around, Davis laughs. I apologize for snapping at him. He cracks open two beers and I peel off my T-shirt and wash all the crap off my face, and then we sit back down on the rug and he puts on an old Stereolab CD. We have an ongoing argument about whether this band is really bad (the singers sound so bored) or really good (they’re so recognizable), and we switch sides every time we put them on. Though Davis wouldn’t admit this, we put this band on when we feel the need to be connected, to be reassured by the fact that we’re two human beings hearing exactly the same sounds in the same way. Maybe I’m off base here.
Davis is staring at his backpack like he can’t remember what’s inside. Suddenly he says, That was really fucked up, with that girl. Yeah, I say, she must’ve been like seventeen. No way, he says, fifteen at most. No way, I say. At most, he says, and what’s with that outfit? I don’t know, I say, I have a feeling it was his, not hers—it didn’t really fit. Also, he says, did you notice she was like Puerto Rican or half-black or something? No she wasn’t, I say, she was just wearing a lot of make-up that made her skin look darker. I swear to God, he says, I think she was a mulatto—isn’t that fucked up?—a racist guy with a mulatto girl? I say, I think it’s kind of racist to say mulatto nowadays, you’re suppose to say multiracial, and anyway, she wasn’t multiracial, she was white. He pretends he doesn’t hear me. He unzips his backpack and dumps two items out onto the rug: a purse and a trophy. He sets them upright in front of me. I pick up the trophy. It’s about a foot high—a brass skier, mounted on a white marble base. No plate to tell us the whos and wheres. I set it down and pick up the purse. What’s this? I say. It’s the girl’s, he says, I took it because she’s obviously underage and we need to figure out who she is, to protect her. You took her purse? I say. We can send it back to her, he says, I just think we should report this guy since he’s obviously a pedophile. You took her purse? I say again. This poor girl’s over at some skeevy guy’s house playing dress-up for like fifty bucks probably and doing God knows what else for him—I mean, she’s hard up enough to spend her Friday night doing this and you steal her purse? Davis looks hurt. I’ll send it back to her, I promise, he says, just look in. You look in, I say, and toss it in his lap, feeling like Davis is the biggest prick in the whole world right now—such a gargantuan prick that I want to get in my car right now and drive the stuff back to its owners and apologize. Davis dumps the contents of the purse onto the rug. There’s a gazillion clinkety make-up bottles, a cell phone, an iPod with a pink cover, and sixty-one dollars. I pick up the phone. It’s off. I flip it open. I consider turning it on but then I think she’ll probably call the second I do and that freaks me out so I close it and put it back on the rug. That’s all you took? I say. That’s worth something, he says, pointing at the trophy. No it’s not, I say. Everybody has one of those. It’s gold, he says. It’s gold plate, retard, I say. No, he says, now everything’s gold plate but that’s from like the 40s or 50s, back when they actually did use gold. I get up and walk around. I can’t even sit on the rug with him, he’s such a reject. Why is it so heavy then? he says. Because of the marble base, duh, I say. No, I know, he says, but it’s not just heavy at the bottom—hold it sideways, it’s heavy at the top too. I don’t want to hold it sideways, I say, because I don’t care. You’re so negative these days, Richie, he says. And that really stings, his saying that, because I just went through his whole stupid thing with him and put fake blood all over my face and then sat there on the toilet while a scary letch pressed on my head, and I, the actor, pulled this whole thing off, and now I’m so negative? It really pisses me off. Plus, I probably am sort of negative these days and I really didn’t need him pointing that out. Plus, I have crap in my hair, crap that didn’t wash out with Palmolive. I need a shower and I always get cranky when I need a shower.
Then Davis starts in on exactly what I didn’t want to talk about: If you looked at her hands, Richie, they were dark—they were not the hands of a white girl, and also, for your information, she was like fifteen. I shrug and look in his refrigerator. Nothing. Seriously, we should report this guy, he says. I mean, we were just fucking around with the blood and stuff but this is serious—the stuff with that girl. We just broke into the man’s house and stole his stuff, I say. We can’t call the police now. We can make an anonymous phone call, he says. I’m sure the old guy’s already figured out that he’s been robbed, I say, that the stuff on his wall’s not blood—he’s probably already called the police. What are you talking about? Davis says. He has a fifteen-year-old girl in there and you think he’s playing with his ski trophy? He has no idea it’s gone—it was on a bookshelf with like tons of shit. Well, I say, it’s probably not made of gold then, if it’s on a bookshelf with tons of shit. There you go again, being all negative, he says. Whatever, I’m gonna go report the guy, he says, standing up. How? I say. I’ll go down to the pay phone and disguise my voice, he says. Don’t, I say. Do it tomorrow if you’re gonna do it. Don’t do it right now. I have to do it right now, he says, ‘cause she’s over there right now. I want the cops to walk right in on them. What are you talking about? I say. We’re completely busted if they go over to the house right now. Plus I’m sure the girl’s gone—don’t you think we kind of ruined the mood for them? I’m calling, he says, and goes downstairs and outside. There’s no stopping Davis when he puts his mind to something. So I sit there on the grubby orange 70s dog-pee-stained rug and I realize something: Davis actually wants us to get caught. You don’t call the police an hour after you commit a crime unless you want to get caught. That’s it, he wants to be in all the papers for what we did. He’s given up trying to make a name for himself by doing something constructive and now he just wants to give Gizwad Pennsylvania a good laugh. That’s why he didn’t steal the old guy’s checkbook or cash or anything, he just wanted to get caught with the dumbest, most random thing, for the sake of the story. I sit there drinking my beer and wondering if I just obliterated my chances of getting an actual meaningful job, and trying to figure out whether Stereolab is a bad band or not, and picking paint out of my eyebrows, and wondering why in all these years I haven’t found a better best friend. I think it’s because people have always identified me with Davis and I enjoy being associated with someone, even a meathead, since I don’t have a girlfriend to be associated with. It’s like gang members who hate being in their gangs but it’s better than being alone, I guess.
Soon Davis comes charging back up the stairs and says, I can’t call from the pay phone because they’ll track it and it’s too close to my apartment. He picks up the saloon girl’s phone and turns it on. What are you doing? I say. I’m gonna do it in a girl’s voice, he says, I can do a girl’s voice really well. He can’t. I’ve heard him try—Davis is a bad actor. Then, he says, they’ll trace the call to her cell phone and that’s exactly what we want, and then they’ll know who it is. He smiles like a guidance counselor and goes into his bedroom, dialing as he walks. Then, in a high voice that sounds more like a girl’s than I expected, he says, Police please. Then he says, Yes this is an emergency, I am an underage girl and I’m about to be taken advantage of by a scary older man—I’m in Ridgewater condos, number 23, Avery Lane, please come quick, I have to go now. Then he walks back in, flips the phone shut, and sits down on the rug, smiling at me like he’s the greatest thing since beans on toast, as my mom would say. You didn’t call them, I say. Yes I did, he says. I smile. I know you didn’t, I say, because I can always tell when you’re lying. I swear on my dead grandmother’s grave that I just called the police, he says. Sure, you dialed them, I say, and then you hung up before they answered. Don’t be a dick, Richie, he says. I swear on all my dead relatives’ graves that I just called the police and spoke with an operator and that old racist pedophile ski champ is gonna get nailed in about three minutes.
I pick up the trophy. The top part is actually heavier than they make them now—it’s probably copper or something. The skier’s got this fish face, like someone hammered both sides of his head in a little. You can see where the plate had been glued onto the base—it looks like it just dried up and popped off. Pure gold, Davis says, smirking. He takes a swig of beer. I realize he was fucking with me the whole time about that—he knows it’s not worth anything. It’s not right, when you have no idea whether or not your best friend’s lying to you. I set the trophy down. I feel sad, looking at the trophy—sad that it’s possible to work really hard for something only to have some stupid guys with no lives of their own steal it off your bookshelf. It makes you wonder what’s the point of working really hard for anything, you know? I picture the old guy being led out of his condo in handcuffs, stammering to the police that he’d just been robbed and them saying, Yeah right buddy, get in the car, watch your head. I finish my beer. I tell Davis I have to go home and wash the gunk out of my eyebrows because it’s driving me crazy but what I really mean is I’ve had enough.
Greg Pierce writes plays and fiction. His stories have appeared in Confrontation and Berkeley Fiction Review. He lives in New York City.