Thursday, July 7, 2011
This is the first part of a science fiction comedy novel I'm writing. Enjoy.
Gerald woke to a splitting headache. The inside of his mouth felt like it had been painted with the leavings of his tomcat’s litter box.
“Oh… God!” The words came out as a whimper. “ I should have never had that fifth
Long Island.” He levered himself up to a sitting position, forcing his left eye open with his thumb and forefinger. The blinds were closed, allowing just a bit of the daylight into his flat, but right now even that was too bright for comfort. He struggled to stand up but after a couple of failed efforts he gave it up as a bad idea and collapsed back onto his bed.
"Maybe if I lay here long enough my body will do me a favor and die. If there's any justice Sergio's got it twice as bad, that wetback, beer guzzling....."
He didn't get any further in his recriminations of his best friend because the bedside phone chose that moment to imitate an indoor artillery barrage.
“What the hell do you want?”
“ Hey man, is that any way to talk to your drinking buddy?”
“My ‘drinking buddy’ is the reason I feel like this now.”
“You wound me Gere. You didn’t have to join me in my experiment.”
“Some experiment. ‘Hey man, let’s see if Long Island Ice Teas work as depth charges!’ I should come over there and puke all over your imitation zebra stripe bed spread.”
“Come on man. That was a gift from my mother.”
“Your mother needs to leave the 70’s where they belong, dead and buried. What’d you call at this ungodly hour for anyway?”
“Take a look outside man, it’s almost .”
“Like I said...”
“OK, OK. I just wanted to know if you’d help me move my new cooler into the restaurant.”
“I’d be glad to except I’m planning to commit suicide after I hang up.”
“You got it bad, huh?”
“No, I enjoy the feeling of my brains draining out my ears.”
“Hey I know the feeling man.” Gerald could have strangled Sergio for the following chuckle. “I’d feel just like you do now if I hadn’t prepared for it when I got home last night.”
“What was that, man?”
“I said, ‘What - do - you - mean?”
“Oh, I just took a healthy dose of Sergio’s all American one-of-a-kind patented hangover cure before I went to bed.”
“Listen to me man, do I sound like you? The walking dead?”
“ You listen to me, man, I want some of that stuff and I want it now! Or I WILL come over there and puke all over your bed.”
“Hey, hey, hey. Chill, Gere. It’s Geritaid.”
“Man, you’re wide awake this morning. Geritaid. You know, like grandma’s vitamins?”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Cross my heart, etc., man. Remember that big do last summer?”
“Uh.....oh yeah. When you tried to get that big redhead drunk, and lost.”
“ Everybody’s allowed one. Anyway, the next morning I woke up and wished I hadn’t.”
“I know what you mean.”
“Yeah. So, I started scrambling. I couldn’t find anything man. No aspirin, no Tylenol, no nothing. You should have seen the mess, man. I had stuff tossed everywhere in that bathroom. Finally I looked under the sink and saw this old bottle of Geritaid.”
“The one I gave you when you turned thirty!”
“Yeah, funny guy. Anyway I drank half the bottle, took a chance.”
“You could have OD’d.”
“Didn’t though. I don’t know, maybe the alcohol offset the vitamins or something but after about a half hour I felt better. Much Better!”
“Get me some Geritaid, Sergio.”
“What am I? A delivery boy?”
“Get me some Geritaid, Sergio, and you’ll live.”
“OK, OK. I was just kidding. Be over in a flash.”
Gerald hung up the phone, lurched over to the shower, turned on the water and let it bounce off his head until he started to feel slightly human. As the spray was starting to cool down the doorbell rang. He toweled dry on the way to the door, tripped over a couch pillow on the floor and banged his head on the book shelf next to the jam.” Christ! What next God? Lightening bolts, or locusts?” He was sitting with his back to the door but he couldn’t get any rest because someone kept banging on it. “Go ‘way! Let me die in peace.”
“Open up man. It’s me Sergio. I got the stuff.”
“Ok, OK.” Gerald turned around and reached up to unlatch the deadbolt then opened the door. Sergio’s grinning face was almost too much to bear. “One word Serge. That’s all it’ll take. One word and you’re a dead man. Gimme the stuff!”
“Sure man, sure.” Sergio handed him a brown quart bottle of Geritaid tonic. “ Couldn’t find the size I normally get, but…”
“Gerald, you in? Hello?” Standing in the doorway was a vision in blue jeans and white men’s shirt, Gerald’s girl friend, Amy. “What in the world is going on?” This said due to the sight of Gerald grunting in frustration over a child-proof top. Sergio backed off a couple of steps.
“ Uh-oh, here it comes.”
Gerald looked up at Amy,” Uh...”
“Uh, nothing! You’re hung over again. Aren’t you?” She rounded on Sergio before Gerald could formulate the proper lie. “...And you did it to him again, didn’t you?”
“Well, you see...we....”
“Typical!” She knelt down and took the bottle from Gerald’s nearly nerveless fingers. “What’s this stuff?” She looked closer at the label.” Geritaid?? Why are you wrestling with a bottle of Geritaid?” Sergio cleared his throat.
”Don’t tell me...a new cure-all for what ails you, hmmm?”
“Well, as a matter of fact...”
“Stuff it Sergio! I want to hear it from Mr. Wonderful here.”
Gerald lifted his head, which now felt like it was about the size of the
blimp (Amy had been shouting, not whispering), and looked at her. God, she was beautiful, even now, when she was trying to kill him with volume. “He says it worked for him,” his voice came out like it was wrapped around sandpaper,”so I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.” He took the bottle from her and held it up to her cap first. “Help me?” Fuji
“Men!” Somehow Amy managed to consign all the sins of the universe to the sex in one syllable. “You’re so helpless. Here, let me open it for you.” She handed the open bottle back to Gerald. He grabbed it and downed the entire quart before Amy or Sergio could take it from him.
“Gerald!” If anything, Amy’s normally large voice increased exponentially. Sergio’s ‘Gere’ was almost lost in the background.
Gerald grabbed his head and fell back to the floor. Amy screamed once more, falling to his side and lifting his head in her arms. “Gerald.” This time she said it softly with concern. Gerald opened his eyes after about five minutes.
“Amy. You still here?”
“Of course I’m here. How do you feel?”
“Uh....” He rubbed his scalp, flexed his arms and toes, massaged his torso, ”I feel better. I feel better. Sergio! I feel better man! I really feel better!” He jumped up and began bouncing around the room, banging off the walls and head-butting the furniture, all the time yelling at the top of his lungs,” I feel better! I feel better!”
Halfway down the stairwell Amy whispered to Sergio,” Gerald worries me Sergio. In the three years we’ve gone together he’s never acted this way at all. I, mean, besides romance, the only energy he’s ever shown is cheering for the Forty Niners.”
“It’s the vitamins Ame”, Sergio replied while taking the steps two at a time trying to keep up with the bounding Gerald. “I’m afraid he overdid the dose.”
“Afraid he overdid!!??” Amy gasped out. The pace Gerald was keeping was starting to tell on her reserves.” He took enough for the whole of
with some left over for St. Petersburg !” Fort Lauderdale
“Yeah, I think we’re going to have to get him to the Doctor. That is, if we don’t have to go first. Come on Gere! Give us a break. Slow down!”
They caught up with Gerald in the foyer of his brownstone. To their mutual disgust he wasn’t even breathing hard. His left toe tapping impatiently Gerald waited for them to get within reach He hooked his arms under each of theirs and bounded out to the street.
“Gere. What the hell are you doing, man?” Sergio dug his heels into the pavement. “You trying to get us run over? Those cars don’t think of us as pedestrians, they think of us as targets.”
“Lighten up Sergio.” The grin on Gerald’s face was blinding. “I feel so good right now, I just want to share it with everybody.”
“You’re going to share yourself right into the emergency room, you idiot!” Amy pulled Gerald and Sergio back up onto the sidewalk. “I’m taking you to the doctor right now.”
“But , Amy...”
“Don’t ‘But Amy me”, Gerald Webster. You could very well die from this hangover remedy of yours and I’m not going to let you.”
Gerald grabbed Amy by the shoulders.” Look Amy. I’ll go to the emergency room, the doctor’s office, or to where ever. I don’t want you to be ticked off at me. Just let me help Sergio and then I’ll go with you.” Amy gave Gerald a long look. Little furrows appeared above her nose and then she sighed as if giving in to the nineteenth plea from a three year old
”OK, Gerald, we’ll go over to Sergio’s, you can prove your masculinity and then we go see the doctor.” Sergio’s restaurant occupied the third door on the left inside Opera alley. Across a quaint bricked drive into the parking area a group of transients shared a bottle of white port. One of them looked across the drive and watched Gerald skipping and singing his way into the restaurant. He winced, shook his head and handed the bottle to the stocky blonde to his right, "I want what that dude’s drinking."
Inside the restaurant, Sergio moved over to the wall and switched on the light. “The cooler’s coming in through the storeroom. I’ll call and see how long the truck’s going to be.” He lifted the receiver and dialed. After a short wait he said, "Yo! Mike! Serge, here. Yea, when's my cooler showing up? Uh huh...uh huh...ok, see you then. Caio baby." He turned to Gerald and Amy while hanging up the phone, " Cooler'll be here in about 15 minutes. Want to see where it's going to go?”
Gerald shrugged his shoulders, "Sure,
's letting me help you. Might as well check out the plan first, lead on, McSanchez." Ames
Sergio looked at Amy. "You're right, after this, straight to the doc's office."
Sergio and Amy spent the next 15 minutes watching Gerald pace nervously back and forth whistling bad renditions of old Beatles tunes. Amy was nearly to the point of throwing a cleaning rag at him when Sergio's cooler arrived.
"Where d'ya want it put, Serge? " Mike was your ideal freight worker. He massed about 375 pounds in a package that filled the doorway to the restaurant. His slightly battered face held a pleasantly vacant smile that held nearly all its original teeth. He was always Sergio's first call when any heavy lifting needed to be done and heavy thinking would just get in the way.
"Oh...how about the middle of the floor right now, Mike. I haven't made up my mind yet."
"Uh...ok, Serge." Mike turned around, disappeared to the side for a moment and the reappeared with a battered mostly white upright refrigerator that he wheeled through the storeroom door and set down in the middle of the floor. "That OK, Serge?"
"Please don't tell me you paid money for that thing." Amy looked at the fridge as if it was the victim of a ghastly accident.
"Hey! I got a great deal! I paid..."
"You got ripped off!"
"Like I said!"
"People, people. Can't we just get along?" Gerald put both arms around Amy and Sergio while managing to place his body between a possible second Mexican -American War.
"Just what we need, a white Rodney King!"
"Amy, Amy. Settle down. It's Sergio's money. And if he wants to waste it..."
"It's his business. But I don't think he wasted it."
"Sure. But right now you'd think Adolf Hitler could have been reformed the shape your in."
"You mean he couldn't?" Gerald ducked a respectable right cross and danced over to the appliance in question. "Just take a close look at this baby. It's beautiful!"
"HUH?" Amy and Sergio in chorus.
"Sure. Why with a little elbow grease we can make this cooler an appliance to be proud of. C'mon let's get started!" Gerald spit into his hands, causing Amy to retch, rolled up his shirtsleeves and opened the refrigerator's door. One minute later, when the last bit of moldy rust had fallen from its interior, he turned to face his friends and said, "see, What did I tell you?"
"Whew!" Sergio wiped his forehead with the back of his sleeve. "He's got to run down sooner or later"
"I know." Amy unwrapped a hot dog from the vendor outside the pawnshop next door. "He's got me worried Sergio. Did you see how he cleaned that junk cooler of yours? He looked like a silent film actor in fast forward. When he crashes he could wind up in emergency. Pass the mustard."
"OK people! Let's plug her in and turn her on. Heh Heh Heh."
"Gerald! You're a beast!"
"Want a bear hug? You'll see I ain't lion."
Sergio stepped to the rear of the refrigerator, picked up the cord and handed it to Gerald. "Ok, m'man. Since you did the cleaning, you do the honors." Gerald took the plug from Sergio, bowing at the waist with exaggerated formality.
"As you wish, my lord."
"Yup, he's gone." Amy leaned against a window sill doing double duty as a fly graveyard and munched her hotdog in resignation. Sergio leaned over to her while Gerald fiddled behind the refrigerator.
"You distract him and I'll drop a bag over his head. Whad'd'ya say?"
"And just how am I supposed to distract him in his condition? Do a strip tease?" "Sounds good to me...oophhh!"
Amy sunk her elbow into Sergio's midriff while muttering something about finding a nice amazon tribe somewhere in the jungle. A loud 'KZZAPP' brought her back in time to see Gerald flying backwards across the restaurant in a low parabolic.
"Gerald!" All thoughts of the Brazilian jungle a distant memory, Amy raced over to where Gerald lay. She turned him over, cradling his head in her lap. He seemed impossibly still. She bent her head to his chest, nearly sobbing in relief when she heard his heartbeat.
Sergio knelt down with a glass of water in his hand. "Hey buddy! C'mon man! Speak to me! C'mon, Gere, open those baby blues....Oh, man. I should've checked out that piece of junk. I should've spent the money at a real store. I should've...”
"You should shut up."
"Gere! Gerald!!" Sergio and Amy nearly smothered Gerald in a joint embrace.
"Hey! Come on. What's going on here? What are you guys doing in my bedroom?"
"Huh?" Another chorus.
"....and the next thing I know is I'm lying there in Sergio's restaurant and he and Amy are treating me like I was some sort of accident victim."
"You are a victim, of two accidents.”Amy crossed her arms and muttered, “One of 'em's named Sergio."`
"I heard that, man!"
"Can you hear this?"
"Hey man, you gonna let your girl do that to me?"
"I'll do more than tha..."
"If you two don't settle down you'll have to leave the room...That's better." The emergency room doctor unhooked his Stethoscope, dropped it into the pocket of his coat, where it rattled against a half dozen other bits and pieces of medical paraphernalia. Some of them looked suspiciously like rather large needles, Gerald thought.
The doctor paced back and forth, in front of Gerald, while rubbing at the advanced five o'clock shadow on his chin. "So, Mr. Webster, what you are telling me, is that you got stinking drunk last night, woke up with a well deserved hangover, tried to poison yourself with an overdose of vitamins, and then topped off your little spree by plugging in an obviously dangerous appliance, thereby receiving a severe electric shock." "Gee, if you're going to put it in that light..."
"The only thing I can't figure out is why you're not dead. In fact," he looked at Gerald's chart for a few seconds," you seem to be almost obscenely healthy."
"Huh?" Sergio and Amy said it together.
"Quite frankly, Mr. Webster, if you didn't have that little electrical burn on your index finger, I'd be inclined to think this was all some sort of fraternity stunt. As it is, and after listening to you and your friends...I do believe you would actually pull something this stupid."
"Now wait a minute! I don't have to..."
"What I'm going to do," the doctor overrode Gerald's protests," is give you an injection to counteract your overdose, just in case. Drop your pants."
"Eloquent, aren't we." A rather evil grin spread across the doctor's face. "This might hurt a bit."
"Wait, wait, uh...what about my arm?"
"What about your arm?"
"Why can't you give me the shot there?"
The doctor's grin grew broader. "You got into your fix the old fashioned way; we take care of it the old fashioned way. Now, like I said...drop 'em!"
Gerald gulped and complied, trying to ignore Sergio's snide chuckles and Amy's sotto voice wolf whistle. He felt the needle just begin to prick his right buttock, as a sharp zap! Sounded and the doctor suddenly cursed and dropped the syringe.
"What happened Doc?" Gerald quickly pulled up his pants and looked around. The doctor stood there, gripping his right hand with his left, staring at the syringe lying on the exam room floor. The top half was melted as if it had been stuck into the flame of a cutting torch. Amy and Sergio were busy mimicking a pair of gold fish out of water. Amy had her eyes fastened on his rear.
"Will somebody tell me what is going on?"
"You tell me, man. You're the one with the electric ass."
"What's happened to you Gerald?" Amy's breath came out in a half-sob, as she reached out to take his arm.
"What the hell are you two talking about?"
Sergio took a deep breath." Look Gere. You know me. I kid around a lot, but whenever the chips have been down, I never lied to you, and I'm not lying now when I tell you that you are a walking science fiction story here. Let me finish. Doc here, was starting to stick you, and well, you...uh… you see, it...”
"You sparked!" Amy pointed at his rear. "You just up and sparked like lightning, Zap!"
"She's not kidding, Gerald." Gerald knew something had to be serious. Sergio never used his real name this often.
Sergio bent and picked up the syringe. "Check it out man, your ass melted this sucker."
"Extraordinary!" The doctor straightened up, and, rubbing his hands together, began a running monologue, while pacing back and forth in the exam room. "Unbelievable, but think of the articles. No, no one would ever believe it. But what if they do? No, never in a thousand life times. Geraldo? Montel? Maybe, just maybe..."
He spun around and thrust a forefinger at Gerald's face," You, young man, have some explaining to do!"
"Explain what!?" Gerald batted the finger away like an annoying insect." How the hell do I explain something like this?" He grabbed the melted syringe out of Sergio's hand and waved it under the doctors nose. " Look Doc, this isn't some comic book and I'm no super hero. You're the one with the hundred-thousand dollar education. You tell me what's going on."
Amy tightened her hold on Gerald's arm and looked at the doctor. With all of his faults Gerald was still hers and she didn't want to lose him. If he was in any danger she wanted to know.
Sergio moved to Gerald's other side. All the joking was forgotten now. Something weird was going on and besides he owed him. Gere had been there for him when it got down to the short and curlies. He damn sure wasn't going to let him down now.
The three of them faced the doctor waiting for an answer. He looked at them and sighed. All he saw was three kids caught in an unbelievable situation looking for some explanation of what was happening to them. Sometimes you got lucky and the patient didn't blame you for what happened to them. It appeared that this was one of those times. He opened his mouth to tell Gerald.
Sergio slapped his hand to his forehead, interrupting the doctor's answer. "Dummy! She said it! That's got to be the answer." He started to laugh, " This is a comic book, Gere. And, you're the super hero."
"What did I say? Oh God!" Amy felt everyone's eyes on her. It was a distinctly uncomfortable feeling. Like being center stage and forgetting your opening line.
"You said it sister. You said it."
"Said what?! "Amy's yell coming from a vicinity of about 1mm from Sergio's ear blew him back against the exam room's door.
"...Zap..."Sergio managed to squeak it out with his bellybutton back against his spine.