(As I noted yesterday, nine years ago I wrote a novella for college. It's not great because I had a lot to learn–still do–but I'm sharing it with y'all at a chapter a day. To read the prologue, scroll down a little.)

Chapter 1

Friday, April 16, 1999

Morning sunrays glanced soft light across the landscape of a little-league baseball field. On the outfield grass, a black Labrador Retriever awoke as the sun danced across her eyes. She stretched, yawned, shook off dew from the previous night’s sleep, then slunk through a hole in the right-center field fence and emerged in a small creek at the foot of a long, winding hill.

Ducks scattered as the Labby galloped through a shallow creek. Birds ceased singing as the dog charged up the woodland hill. At the top of the hill, the little Black Labrador found her favorite morning spot: a cement porch on the side of a red, two-story house. She sat on the side porch and felt the warm sun climb up the hill. She searched around for breakfast.

With the exception of some patio furniture, the porch was empty.

The dog howled and barked. She pounded the sliding glass door with her paws.

Behind the sliding glass door, a figure slowly rose from a messy, heavily populated bed.

“I hear you, Lulu,” he griped.

The figure, a naked man of eighteen years, staggered across the dark room. His bare feet felt the cold floor of his kitchen. He almost fell on his face as he reached for the refrigerator handle. He caught the door of the freezer in his right hand as he vomited on the linoleum floor. After removing a covered plate from the refrigerator and stepping slowly around his own bodily waste, he walked the length of the basement and opened the sliding glass door.

“Here, Lulu,” he said, placing the plate on the porch.

The ungrateful pooch stuck her snout in the food and ate heartily without so much as a thank you or a smile.

The blond young man closed the door, turned on the lights and cringed at the sight of his basement apartment. His kitchen was littered with empty beer cans, spots of vomit, cigarette butts, cigarette burns, overturned ashtrays and broken drinking glasses. The smells of liquor, vomit, sweat, stale smoke, stale beer and dirty sex emanated from every corner of the large room. Next to the kitchen, a big-screen television flickered images of a cartoon elephant. Three warm bodies snored on two recliners and one couch in front of the entertainment center. On top of the entertainment center, strobe lights danced offbeat rhythms. The king size bed, located in the middle of the room, also stank. Though three beautiful women slept in the bed’s alluring comfort, they slept amongst condom wrappers, empty rum bottles, dried silly-string, empty pudding containers and other unrecognizable wastes, both solid and liquid.

The young man turned on his stereo, found an appropriately upsetting CD and awakened the room’s occupants.

As the blond man put on his robe, he watched the morning’s progression with glee. The six AM sounds of love always gave him a sense of accomplishment.

“Ethan, you suck.”

“Fuck you Ethan, it’s six in the morning.”

“Aw, man.”

“You mean you don’t like eighties punk?” Ethan asked.

“Here’s the deal,” Ethan spoke in a heavily cadenced, admonishing voice after turning down the stereo. “I am now going to clean up this room with the help of Lulu.”

He opened the door and the happy dog ran into the kitchen and began licking up the pile of vomit Ethan had earlier expunged.

“Anyone who wants to help me clean is welcome to stay. Everyone else, get the fuck out.”

Ethan turned off the music. Two of the males who had been sleeping in the recliners departed. A tall, black-haired man named Joe Corolla stayed.

“You want me to kick out these bitches,” Joe joked in a Mexican voice before one of the blond women opened her eyes and said, “Huh?”

“No, Joe. The bed’s last.”

Ethan and Joe had cleaned the basement-bedroom plenty of times. Ethan and Lulu cleaned the kitchen. Joe cleaned the bathroom. Joe vacuumed the basement. Ethan took out the garbage.

“What about Christ?” Joe asked, pointing his thumb near the corner of the room by the sliding glass door.

Ethan’s four-foot, plaster statue of Jesus Christ had been desecrated. Someone removed J.C.’s crown of thorns and replaced it with an Oakland Raiders cap. The nails through Christ’s hand helped his holiness keep a firm grip on two empty beer cans. Sunglasses, plastic beads, and a black, leather vest spiced The Lord’s ensemble. Someone had attached a half-burnt cigarette to Christ’s plaster lips with a wad of used chewing gum.

“Leave it,” Ethan said. “When I find the crown of thorns, I’ll put it back and clean him up.”

Ethan looked solemnly at his plaster lord.

“Do not judge them for they know not what they do,” he said as he removed the burnt cigarette from the lip of Christ.

“Paper Rock Scissors for the shower,” said Joe.

“Loser kicks out the women.”

“Two out of three.”

After Ethan won Paper Rock Scissors, he stood and let the warm water caress his beaten body. He attempted piecing the night together but gave up.

All these nights are the same, he thought.

Bite marks all over his body, pudding in his hair, a thick coat of green grime on his tongue—he just didn’t care. He figured he had fucked, drank, smoked dope, maybe even got into his personal stash of ecstasy and crystal methamphetamine—though he hoped not for the sake of his income.

At any rate, school started in an hour.

Ethan came out of the shower and discovered Joe lying on his back as one of the women (Ethan thought her name was Darla but wasn’t sure) rode him uncaringly, as if obligated. Ethan watched in disgust as Lulu licked whip cream off the firm thigh of the young, lady volleyball player who wore a look of casual empowerment on her small face.

“You have to go, Darla.”

“It’s Darby, Ethan,” she said.

“Shut up and fuck me,” Joe said.

“Where are the other two?” Ethan asked as he put on a pair of stone colored slacks from The Gap, a nice black, short-sleeve button-down shirt from Banana Republic and a pair of black Timberland shoes.

“They left,” Darby said. “Don’t wear your gold watch with that outfit.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be fucking Joe?”

“I am,” she smiled lasciviously.

“Then fuck him in the shower, I don’t want to be late.”

“Ah, she’s a lousy fuck anyway,” Joe said as he pushed her off him. “You still keep my clothes—”

“Top shelf in the bathroom.”

Joe left her on the bed.

“You wanta’ fuck on some rolls?” Darby asked Ethan.

“No. But I do want you to get the fuck off my bed so Lulu and I can fucking clean it.”

“Fuck you, Ethan Lee. You think just because you’re gorgeous with your golden hair and your pretty face, your fucking body and your sweet pad that you can treat all women like shit, but I’m here to tell you—“

“Tell me what?” Ethan snapped as he poured himself a cup of coffee. “That you’re a dumb slut who fucks in groups. Or how about that your self-esteem is so low you probably think one of the four guys you fucked last night may actually love you. I don’t treat you like shit. I feed you drugs you want, sex you want, alcohol you want and you take it. You treat you like shit. But that’s your problem. My problem is that you’re still in my fucking bedroom.”

She gathered her clothes slowly, spit on the floor and offered Ethan the middle finger after she dressed.

“Fuck you!” she screamed as she slammed the door behind her.

“I tell you, Lulu,” Ethan petted the dog. “You’re the nicest bitch I know.”

Lulu licked all the dried cream and pudding from the bed mattress and frame while Ethan put the sheets and pillowcases in the washing machine.

Joe, dressed in Gap blue jeans, a white Hanes T-shirt and a pair of Doc Marten’s low cut shoes poured himself some coffee.

“Hey, you got a better pick-me-up than coffee?”

“You know I do,” Ethan responded.

Joe looked at the clock on the wall. “We got half an hour until school starts.”

Ethan disappeared into his walk-in closet wherein he had hidden a fireproof safe (wherein he had hidden his supply of drugs) and emerged with a little white bag.

Joe, to whom this was a custom, pulled a little mirror from under Ethan’s bed.

“One line,” said Ethan. “Just a pick me up.”

Joe nodded.

Four lines later, Ethan, Joe and Lulu departed a clean room. Ethan locked the sliding glass door from the outside.

Joe and Ethan sat in the comfortable leather seats of Joe’s ’98 Mustang while Ethan rolled their morning joint.

A little Black Labrador, whom some called Lulu, defecated on one of the neighborhood’s well-manicured lawns as Ethan Lee and Joe Corolla drove by laughing.

“Man,” Ethan said as he lit the joint. “That dog is the shit.”

The red Mustang pulled into its designated parking spot as the late bell rang.

“See you in the gym,” said Joe as he darted off for the shop entrance in the rear of the building.

Ethan Lee, an honors student at Luther S. Dunby High School, dropped eye drops in his eyes, popped a stick of gum in his mouth and walked to the side door nearest his class.

As he walked through the hallway, a brunette cheerleader named Sky asked, “When are you gonna’ call me, Sexy?”

Sky rubbed Ethan’s well-conditioned chest.

He kissed her on the cheek but did not answer.

Ethan peered into the door of his class through a small, narrow, rectangular window. After concluding that the teacher had paused his lecture, he opened the door and took his seat.

“Nice of you to join us, Mr. Lee,” said Mr. Browning, a plump, ex-minor league baseball player who looked like a baked potato with a head of light brown broccoli for a hairpiece.

“Nice of you to have me, Mr. Browning,” Ethan said.

“Perhaps honors English is not important to you, Mr. Lee, but for the sake of those students who care, I’d appreciate prompt arrival in the future.”

He hated the way honors English teachers spoke.

“And you shall have it,” said Ethan as he took his seat.

“See me after class,” Mr. Browning said, peering down at Ethan through square eyeglasses.

Mr. Browning lectured on the pervading opinions regarding the interpretation of Shakespeare’s, Hamlet. Ethan argued that Hamlet was a weak character in any age, that his hesitancy to act stemmed not from an overactive imagination, a sense of respect for life, nor a fear of God, but from mere cowardice.

“But,” interjected Mr. Browning. “When Hamlet finally does act, he does not do so cowardly.”

“No,” said Ethan, mildly agitated by the racing heart he had incurred through the ingestion of crystal methamphetamine. “First, he asks for proof by writing that play, then he feigns insanity in an effort to postpone action, and then, when he finally does act, it is not to avenge his father but to protect his name.”

“I suggest you read the play again, Mr. Lee,” said Mr. Browning as the bell rang. “Or, we can talk about it after class.”

The honor students all chuckled their way out the door. Ethan stayed in his seat.

Mr. Browning, all three hundred fifty pounds of him, stood above Ethan.

The teacher winked.

“It is both, Mr. Lee. He fights to protect his name and to avenge his father—as well as to save his kingdom.”

“Maybe,” said Ethan.

“Mr. Lee, why do you insist on trying my patience with your tardiness?”

“I’m sorry, Sir, but you don’t know what I go through in the mornings.”

“I know a druggy when I see one, Mr. Lee. You may be able to keep your grades up, but in the years to come you will find your young body, your engaging personality and your intuitive mind all twisted and listless if you don’t choose a more sobering path.”

Ethan withheld the comment that crawled into his brain: Could you tell me how you maintained such perfection, Mr. Browning?

“I don’t use drugs.”

“Get to class, Liar Lee,” Mr. Browning said.

How witty, thought Ethan as he crammed his body into the overcrowded hallway.

Luther S. Dunby High, built for three thousand students, admitted over six thousand. As a result, walking through the hallways was essentially the same as pushing through a herd of stampeding steers. Ethan heard many hellos, saw many hallway faces he recognized, felt his ass grabbed twice, heard people ask him for drugs and signed some girl’s yearbook all in three minutes. He was the first person in his calculus class.

The second person in the class, a beautiful female whom Ethan did not recognize, sat down in the desk beside him.

“Hello,” he said. “My name is Ethan.”

“I know,” she said. “I’m Deborah.”

They shook hands.

“Are you new here?” he asked.

“Not exactly,” she said. “I moved to this school three weeks ago from Iowa, but they put me in all the regular classes because my transcripts took awhile. They talk about you all the time in the regular classes. Everybody loves you, you know that?”

“No” he sighed, his eyes on the newly arrived teacher. “Only a hungry dog, and if I ran out of food, not even her.”

“Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you. They tell me you’re the only person in the school who keeps a four-o grade point average and parties like—”

The bell rang.

The class entered noisily.

Ethan scribbled furiously on his notepad as the mysteries of Calculus unraveled in his overactive mind. He felt an unfamiliar tinge of nervousness and avoided eye contact with the new student.

When the bell rang again, he watched Deborah exit, noting her beautiful, petite figure, wavy chestnut hair and slender legs.

The words, “it’s a pleasure to meet you,” caressed his brain like a tender hand made from sunbeams.

Ethan’s third period, an independent study, was his easiest class. His assignment: complete a poetry book by the end of the semester. Ethan had completed his poetry book before the semester began. He walked outside into the beautiful day.

Ethan sat in the woods just off school property, staring up at the sky, catching the sun’s gentle light in his blond eyelashes, trying to warm his soul.

As he walked by the rows of cars in the parking lot, receiving waves from seniors heading for fast-food lunches, Ethan found himself singing the words of an old Nirvana song.

“You’re in high school again,” he sang. “You’re in high school again. You’re in high school again. You’re in high school again! There’s no recess! No recess! No recess.”

A few baseball cap-wearing juveniles pumped their fists in the air as Ethan walked by screaming the song.

“Preach on, Brother Ethan,” his friend Steve Shermer said. “Preach on.”

“You know it, Steve,” Ethan responded as he walked through the double doors of the gym entrance.

Weight lifting was the only class that actually made Ethan feel productive. Ethan loved weight lifting, not only because he was vain and valued his appearance, but because the class actually improved his mental and physical health.

Ethan saw Joe in the locker room.

“How’s your day been treating you, Joe?” asked Ethan.

“Good. I finally finished building that speaker box. I called the old man and told him I’m leaving work before nine. Pretty eventful, all in all. How about you?”

“Discussed some Shakespeare, learned some calculus, spent third period in the woods. You know, the usual.”

“You going to Jessica’s party after the game?


After dressing, Joe and Ethan hit the weights. An hour of working out on crank left them worn down.

Ethan’s body felt like chewed bubble gum. His brain felt squeezed under the pressure of pumping blood. His lungs gulped air.

The warm shower loosened his nerves.

“Where do you want to eat?” asked Joe as the freshly showered duo walked across the parking lot.

“Let’s hit that fast food, Chinese place.”

“Ching’s Wings, it is.”

“The little freedoms are so precious,” Joe said as he and Ethan ate their wings in the parked Mustang outside of Ching’s.


“You know, shit like this. Being able to go somewhere and eat lunch, not having to worry about the police or the teachers or anything. It’s refreshing, being able to be your own boss.”

“Joe, we each fucked three women last night. We drank ourselves silly, we copped the ultimate buzz and no one tried to bring us down.”

“What’s your point?”

“I’m saying,” Ethan paused, then threw the Styrofoam container with the remains of his chicken wings out the window. “Chicken wings pail by comparison.”

“But man,” said Joe. “Fucking bitches and getting wasted is like a regular part of life. There’s nothing really special about it. However, leaving hell for a few minutes in order to enjoy each other’s company over a few chicken wings—that’s real freedom. No responsibilities for forty minutes—that’s priceless.”

“So,” said Ethan as he pulled a freshly rolled joint from behind his ear. “You don’t want to smoke this? Ain’t priceless enough for you?”

“No,” said Joe as he grabbed the joint and lit it. “I’m just saying, sometimes it’s the little things.”

“Quit talking about your dick, Joe.”

“Fuck you, Ethan.”

Joe, who attended school for only half a day in order to work at his father’s car wash, dropped Ethan off at the main entrance in the front of the building.

Though he was late for class, Ethan meandered outside. He thought of sunshine. He thought of chicken wings. He thought of cocaine, crank, pot, acid, ecstasy and sex. He thought of Deborah.

“The little things,” he said to the sky. “Mean shit to me.”

Ethan straggled from hallway to hallway until finally reaching his class: honors American Civilization. The teacher, a nice, old man with a long, white beard, made students do a push up for every minute they were late or receive a tardy. Many out of shape geeks couldn’t even do one push up and were always on time as a result. Ethan felt eyes all over him as he did seventeen pushups during the lecture.

Near the end of the lecture on the early expansionism, the teacher, Mr. Rhabomeyer, made an announcement.

“Young scholars, I would very much like you to meet our new student, Miss Deborah Van Klein. She comes to us from Sioux City, Iowa and from what I understand, she’s smart as a whip. However, she lacks the notes to prepare for Monday’s examination. Therefore, if anyone would be so kind as to loan her their notes, well, such a person would be… so kind, wouldn’t they?”

Ethan raised his hand.

“Someone with good notes,” said the teacher.

The class laughed.

“No,” said Deborah. “I’m sure Ethan’s notes are fine.”

“Miss Van Klein,” began Mr. Rhabomeyer. “If you wish to suffer so, you may. I extend the test a week for you. Good luck with whatever notes you use. Now depart, all of you. Go learn from someone else; I’m a tired, old man.”

Ethan followed Deborah out into the hall.

“That was nice of you,” she said as they walked down the hallway.

“Well,” Ethan said. “I know how it is to be the new kid.”

“Really, when did you move here?”

“I was born here.”

She laughed a sweet, angelic sound. Ethan gazed into her brown eyes as clumps of adolescents pushed around them. His eyes froze on her. His heartbeat picked up speed. She leaned up and kissed him on the cheek.

“So, can I have your phone number?”

He wrote it down on the notebook she cradled in her hands.

“Um, Deborah,” he said. “Why do I suddenly feel so innocent and pure?”

She laughed again.

“From what I’ve heard, Ethan, you wouldn’t know innocent or pure if they sat on your face.”

A comment surfaced in Ethan’s mind. He repressed it.

“Sure I would,” he said, realizing how stupid he sounded.

She walked away, leaving him to enjoy her shape from behind once again.

I hate my reputation, he thought.

Ethan skipped sixth period and walked home.

The plaster crown of thorns sat on his white, plastic patio table.

“Always find your way back, don’t ya’?”

Ethan cleaned up the statue of Jesus, put the crown back on his holy hunk of Plaster’s head, drank three shots of rum then went to bed.

That afternoon he dreamt he lived underneath a waterfall wherein he spent his time playing with animals. He wore no clothes in the dream, nor did he care. Each second felt like bliss.

He slept very well.

At eight thirty PM, Ethan awoke to the sounds of Jim and Steve pounding loudly on the sliding glass door.

“What do you want?” he said when he opened the door.

“Your sexy body,” said Steve.

Steve Shermer, a tall, brown-haired, brown-eyed, starting quarterback, had been a friend of Ethan’s since the day the two were kicked out of Boy Scouts for burning all the ropes designated for knot tying.

“I noticed Mom and Dad are still at work,” Joe said.

“Why do you always call my mother and father Mom and Dad like you’re related to them?”

“Simple, I eat and sleep over here a lot more than at my house.”

“So what do you call your parents?” Steve asked.

“Waste of Space and Old Man.”

“To their faces?” Ethan asked.

Joe laughed.

The three sat on Ethan’s porch, drinking red wine, smoking joints and calling for Lulu.

“How’d you get to know Lulu, anyway, Ethan?” Steve asked as Joe shouted whooping noises into the nearby woods.

“Funny story. One day, I was tripping on some acid and I sort of freaked out. I got real depressed and came to the conclusion that everyone hated me, that they used me for drugs or reputation building or you know, anything but who I was. So I kicked all the acidheads out and walked down to the ballpark.

“When I was a kid that ballpark was like, such a pure and decent place. You know, little kids playing around, walking in and out of the dugouts, wishing they were old enough to play. People barbecuing. Cardinal game on the radio. Parents of all different nationalities respecting each other’s differences all because their kids are on the same fucking team. The ting of the aluminum bat. The smile on dad’s face when you win. Pure times. So, I went down to the ballpark and sat on the bleachers. It was winter so there wasn’t a game, but I pretended there was. As my imaginary game played on, this black Labby came and sat next to me. She watched the whole game with me. When the sun came up, she followed me up to the room and I fed her. I called her Lulu because Coach Krevner, you know, the Legion ball coach, he always used to say, ‘that’s a real lulu’ whenever he was torn between starting two different players. So, to make a long story longer, I fed her and she left almost right away. So, most mornings since, she comes and barks at the door around sunrise—she always wakes me. I guess you could say she’s my alarm clock.”

“Yeah,” said Joe. “Imagine how much worse your grades would be if it wasn’t for Lulu.”

“I owe that crazy, stray bitch. That’s for sure.”

Steve, wearing a white cotton shirt, a pair of black, Gap slacks and a pair of shiny, black Florsheim shoes, glanced at his silver, imitation Rolex and said, “It’s ten guys, we should probably get moving.”

“Let me get my product.”

“Ethan,” Joe shook his head. “Always working.”

The trio drove out of the driveway, passing Ethan’s parents and their Jeep Grand Cherokee Sports Utility Vehicle on the way. Everybody waved.

“I ain’t seen them in three days.”

“You complainin’?” asked Steve from the backseat of the Mustang.

“Nah, we go to the six PM service and have dinner afterwards almost every Saturday. That’s usually when we talk and stuff. My parents are nice people, you know?”

“Yeah we do,” said Joe. “And jealousy overwhelms us.”

Ethan, sensing the very real message in the sarcasm, turned up the stereo. The mathematical, electronic, chaotic sounds of Incubus filled the car.

“Hey, Joe,” Ethan said. “Where you going?”

“With that gun in your hand,” Steve interjected from the backseat.

“Oh, shit. Sorry Ethan,” said Joe.

Joe turned the Mustang around. Within a few minutes the Mustang sat in front of an antique, dilapidated, white house.

“What’s the deal?” asked Steve.

“I’ll meet you all at the party,” Ethan said as he left.

“What the fuck are you doing?” asked Steve again.

“Mind your own business,” said Joe. “’Cause that’s what he’s doin’.”

Joe and Steve drove into the night.

Ethan walked around the house towards the back yard. The house had been condemned shortly after earning historical status from St. Louis County due to its age and the fact that it had once been a school for slaves. No one could build on the site and no one could live there, so it was perfectly empty and unguarded, just like Ethan wanted it.

A half moon hung morosely above his head as if that desolate orb were hushing his footsteps. Ethan looked up at the moon as he calmly removed the car cover from his brand new Lexus LS 400. He opened the trunk of the vehicle and looked inside.

The trunk’s false bottom opened when Ethan pulled on a strap hidden under the carpet near the end of the trunk.

“Let’s see,” he whispered to himself. “Gun, check. Books, check. Cell phone, check. Black zipper bag, check.”

He tossed his little metal box containing the night’s product into the false trunk. Even though it was unseasonably warm, he shivered as he folded the car cover and put it in the trunk.

The quiet moon glinted light across the silver perfection of his Lexus.

Work time, he thought.

Ethan parked the Lexus four blocks over and two blocks down from Jessica’s house, removed the metal box from his trunk and breathed in the clean air. He walked by rows of healthy green lawns, wooden fences, and two-story brick houses. He glanced at his Silver Cartier watch: Ten PM.

The work of a drug dealer had always seemed appealing to Ethan. Granted, he hadn’t grown up with dreams of becoming a drug slinging burden on society, but years before he had inhaled his first hit of marijuana, he had loved the business. Morality aside, it was great work. He met people. He partied for free. He had saved over thirty thousand dollars for college (carefully hidden above his drop ceiling, wrapped in leftover pink insulation)—not bad, for an after school job.

He hated dealing in the county where the cops ferociously attacked and searched the homes and cars of high school students on the grounds that minors possessed no rights, but it was unavoidable. Slinging drugs in the clubs was money, but dealing drugs in the county was easy money—he already knew whom to trust.

A sign on Jessica’s door said, in big black letters, Go Around Back. Ethan laughed, reached under the mat and used the key to enter.

With the exception of three women and two men sitting at a the kitchen table drinking beer from plastic cups while playing cards, the well furnished, middle class home was empty.

“Ethan,” Jessica said as she ran up and embraced him. “The life of the party.”

The party, as it were, was around back. Ethan heard the music, the chattering and the occasional raised voice through the open windows.

“Hey, Baby,” he said.

Jessica had what the fashion world deemed a model figure. At five foot nine inches, she was about five inches shorter than Ethan. Her long sandy hair hung straight past her shoulders. Her petite nose and icy green eyes had appeared in many local newspapers and television advertisements. Her long legs escaped a tight black mini-skirt. Her breast implants pushed aggressively through a miniature sleeveless, white blouse that exposed her belly button and her taut, tan stomach.

He kissed her passionately on the lips for what seemed like an eternity but what actually was about five minutes.

“Whoa,” she smiled. “I felt that in my toes.”

“Hell, I felt that over here,” said one of Jessica’s female model friends.

Everyone at the table was a model of some kind. The two men were about Ethan’s height and he found himself vainly sizing them up. They were no more attractive than he—in his mind, anyway. One was blond, the other dark. Each had incredibly short hair in the ever popular I-tried-to-make-my-hair-look-messy with mousse style.

I could’ve been a model, Ethan thought.

The two women, one an imitation redhead with fake breasts; the other a natural blonde with collagen lips, seemed vaguely familiar to Ethan. Local models always seem familiar, Ethan thought, because they’re always on television and in the paper.

“Ethan, this is Tamara, Janine, Todd and Mark.”

Ethan shook hands with the four advertisements.

“Wait, I know you,” said the blonde.

“No,” said Ethan. “I’d remember you.”

“I’m flattered,” she said as she stood. “But I’ve seen you in so many clubs around here.”

“Wasn’t me,” said Ethan. “I’m too young to get into clubs.”

Everyone laughed. The blond sat down.

“Have it your way,” she pouted.

Jessica handed Ethan an envelope.

“If you’ll excuse me,” he said to the room.

Ethan walked slowly down the hallway and entered Jessica’s room. She followed. Like the bedrooms of all the models Ethan had known, hers was a raging mess. Undergarments strewn everywhere, snapshots of Jessica with celebrities (local and national) pinned randomly on the walls, makeup supplies and jewelry on the dresser and bed, overflowing ashtrays on the floor and beauty magazines stacked in messy piles all over the room, all screamed, “I’m too busy to clean.”

“That’s eight hundred dollars,” she said as she kissed him, rubbing her hands up and down his back, his ass, his legs and his genitalia.

“Damn. What’s the order?” he said as he took off her shirt and softly nibbled her neck.

“Two grams of meth,” she said as she took off his shirt and began biting his over-conditioned chest. “And forty rolls. We’re planning a private party,” she whispered.

Ethan removed the little metal box from his pocket as she slid off his pants. He removed two little bags of a white powder and a small case of pills. With one hand on his testicles and another on his ass, she licked his ear and nibbled on his ear lobe.

“Here’s forty bucks,” he said, putting the money on her dresser. “I only have thirty eight rolls left.”

“That’s fine,” she said as she took off his boxer shorts. “Now lie down on that bed and hate fuck me like the cheap slut you know I am.”

Models, Ethan thought, always so mature.

Ethan did a line of crank (crystal methamphetamine) down her pelvis and proceeded to pleasure her orally. As he did so, he saw her eat four rolls (eighty dollars worth of drugs) and wasn’t surprised. Ecstasy was the cocaine of the new drug movement: not as addictive and a lot more fun.

She grabbed his little glass jar of crank.

“That’s my personal stash,” he said.

“I don’t care.” She pushed him off her and ran her hands up and down his torso while sitting on his legs.

He watched in disbelief as she sprinkled some of the meth on to his testicles and licked them off.

“Baby,” she said. “Prepare for take off.”

An hour later, Ethan, showering in Jessica’s bathroom, heard his cell phone ring.

He quickly dried his hands on the towels above the toilet, stepped out of the shower and grabbed his phone from his pants on the floor.

“What’s your order?” Mario asked.

“One hundred pounds of black beans, one pound of sugar and a jar of marmalade.”

Mario, always the communicator, hung up without a word.

One hundred pounds of black beans was code for one hundred rolls. One pound of sugar was code for one ounce of crank. A jar of marmalade was code for absolutely nothing (an attempt at humor that Mario no doubt missed).

As he dressed in Jessica’s bedroom, he found himself overwhelmed by his own image. She had mirrors everywhere. He inspected his neckline length blond hair, his muscular physique and his blue eyes for more than ten minutes.

When he finally came out, he saw the beautiful people tooting lines and telling stories of people they ‘knew.’ Some joints had been lit. Ethan kindly puffed on a few then excused himself with the words, “Well, I better go mingle with the sheep.”

All the materialistic models, which were of course, all of them, laughed the laugh of the lucky white people.

As Ethan walked out the front door and went around back toward the keg party, he felt self-contempt.

“Do I respect anything?” he asked the moon as he urinated behind the air conditioning unit.

The moon told him to shut up and walk softly.

A typical keg party: underage individuals sucking down warm keg beer; rows of baseball caps, earrings, sideburns, baggy jeans, bad jokes, poorly rolled joints; hallway faces saying hello; women asking why he never calls. He heard the chiming rumors whistle like an off key wind.

He sat down underneath the deck on a wooden railroad tie next to Joe and Steve. They sat with three women—two of whom had been in Ethan’s bed that morning. Ethan pulled a joint from the breast pocket of his black button-down shirt. He lit it and passed it to Steve.

“So,” said Steve. “What the hell do you do at that house?”

“Yeah,” said one of the brunette women. “How come you look like you just showered?”

“Well,” said Ethan. “Not that it’s the fucking business of either one of you, but I get paid to maintain that house while the owners are in Bulgaria. I showered because I wanted to—is that okay with you, Mary?”

“Sure,” she said hitting the joint. “I wish more men would shower regularly.”

Ethan, pleased he got Mary’s name right, said to Joe, “I gotta’ go Man, you know. Business.”

Joe nodded, even though he never understood why his friend always left parties early by himself. Hell, Ethan didn’t even have a car.

“Have a good one,” he said.

Ethan walked up the side of the house on his way to work.

“Honestly,” said Mary. “What the fuck does he do?”

“I hear he’s in the Mafia,” Darby said.

“That’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard you say,” said Joe.

“Well, asshole, you’re his best friend, what do you think he does?”

Joe wanted to smash her stupid face into a disfigured pulp. He wanted to strangle her for bringing up such a touchy subject. So what if he didn’t know what his friend did when he left? So what if he wanted to know?

“The same thing we should all do: mind our own fucking business.”

Steve laughed beer through his nose. Much of it spilled on Mary.

Some freshman stuck his head into their conversation. Steve recognized him from football tryouts and knew his name to be Dirk.

“My older sister tells me that he works down on Washington Street selling drugs to all the clubs with some Italian guys. She says he drives a Lexus and that she heard rumors about him killing people.”

Joe, Steve, Mary and Darby, all seniors, laughed heartily.

“That’s a good one, Moron,” said Steve. “Go tell it on the mountain.”

“Well,” said Dirk. “What the fuck does he do?”

“He minds his own fucking business,” said Steve. “Why don’t you follow his footsteps and shut the fuck up.”

The party, like all LSD High School parties, would end without Ethan Lee. But he was there in spirit. Girls talked about how cute they thought he was or how good he was in bed or how they think he’s conceited and undeserving of their love. Guys talked about how they kicked his ass once, how they sold him drugs when he was younger and how they think he’s conceited an undeserving of their respect.

Joe and Steve decided to get a hotel room with the women; they would not mention Ethan Lee again the entire evening.

Ethan walked slowly past rows of cars. People parked and practically lined up for the party around back. Ethan heard his name a few times and waved, uninterested. After two blocks, he heard footsteps behind him.

“Ethan,” the voice of Deborah Van Klein turned the young man around.

“Deborah,” he hugged her.

“Where are you going? It’s only Eleven Thirty.”

“I got a night job.”

“Doing what?”

“I’m a janitor at Dexter Labs.”



“Well,” she kissed him on the cheek. “Tomorrow we should study.”

“Sure,” said Ethan. “Enjoy the party. I hope it can live up to the standards of Iowa.”

“Me too,” she said to his departing back.