The Spectacular Now (Page 17)

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The only car I recognize in front of her house is a little red sports car. It belongs to Kevin’s buddy Jeff something who owns Boomer Imports down in Norman about a mile away from the University of Oklahoma. Everything’s clear now. They want me to go to Kevin’s alma mater while selling red convertibles to middle-aged divorced men who have delusions of becoming playboys.

Inside, my sister gives me an air kiss like I guess she thinks upper-crust types are supposed to do and leads me into the living room, where everyone else is already sitting around with their drinks in their hands. Of course, she doesn’t offer me any booze, but that’s why I hauled along the big 7UP.

Besides Jeff and his wife, there are five people I haven’t met before, and I forget their names as soon as my sister introduces them to me. Except for this girl—Jeff’s daughter as it turns out—who looks like she’s about my age and has the most gorgeous red hair you’d ever want to see. Her name’s Hannah and her sugar-cookie skin electrocharges my bloodstream on first sight.

Is it possible, I ask myself, that Holly’s thinking about fixing me up with more than just a job?

If it hadn’t been for Hannah, I would’ve been tempted to just wave at everybody and take a seat in the corner, but as it is, I work the whole assembly line, shaking hands till I get to her at the end of the couch. I hold on to her hand a little longer than the others.

“Where have I been all your life?” I say, flashing my irresistible space-between-my-two-front-teeth grin.

She doesn’t say anything back. She only looks down shyly and then up again, and the green of her eyes just about cuts me in two.

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Chapter 14

In a situation like this, you have to play it cool. You can’t just squeeze yourself into a place on the couch and start drooling all over the girl. So, first, I go round up some of the fancy cheese Holly laid out and take a seat across the room on a stool at the bar. Maybe I take a quick glance or two at Hannah, but mainly I pretend to be interested in the conversation.

For the men, the talk is something like, “How was the golf out in Tahoe?”

“It was fantastic!”

And for the women it’s “Have you checked out that new little antique shop on Havenhurst and Hursthaven?”

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“No, how is it?”

“It’s fantastic!”

I swear to myself on the spot that I will never have a party like this no matter how old I get. Is this what’s supposed to pass for friendship when you get out of college? I don’t see how you can hardly even call these people friends, at least not according to the definition of that word as I lived it growing up.

I guess it’s different once you get out in the world and you don’t have the same experiences every day like you do in school, but these folks don’t have any inside jokes or old stories or theories about how the universe works or anything. There’s no deep connection. They barely seem to know each other.

For a while, I test my psychic powers by trying to will Hannah over to the fancy cheese table so I can start a conversation with her, but I must not have been blessed in that department—she just continues sitting there, straight as a nail, with hands folded in her lap and her lips frozen into a polite smile. Now, with the way my mind works, I don’t get bored too easily, but at this point in the party, I’m starting to feel like if something entertaining doesn’t happen pretty soon I might just topple sideways off my bar stool and splat on the floor. Then I remember the blaze Ricky gave me this afternoon. That ought to spice things up a little bit.

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The upstairs bathroom—the one connected to Holly and Kevin’s bedroom—seems like the perfect place to fire it up, but what happens when I get up there? Right on this huge chest of drawers of theirs, I spy a tall bottle of thirty-year-old Macallan scotch. Thirty years old! That’s Kevin for you. As much as he loves to impress people with swank brand names, he’s not about to share his three-hundred-dollar bottle of scotch at a nothing little party like this. His boss isn’t even here.

Me, I never was much of a scotch fan, but my big 7UP is starting to taste a little thin, and besides, how many chances am I going to get to slug down something like this? I mean, I read an article online about a sixty-year-old bottle of Macallan going for thirty-eight thousand dollars! And so what if it’s not open yet? It’s not like I’m going to drink half the bottle or something.

But I would prefer to open it somehow so that Kevin won’t be able to tell. That’s going to be a problem. Even if I crack the seal as carefully as possible, I’ll have a hard time replacing it. I inspect it from every angle, chip at it a little with my thumbnail, and twist back and forth, but no luck.

Finally, I decide to go ahead and light up my smoke, thinking maybe a little weed might help me figure something out. After taking a couple of drags and holding them in nice and deep each time, my mind starts to expand, and sure enough an idea hits me—I could break the neck of the bottle against the nightstand and start chugging away, gulping down liquor and glass both. And then when I threw up, it’d come out in perfect little airline bottles of scotch!

This is why I don’t smoke pot as much as Ricky—my imagination is way too wired-up to handle more than a puff or two.

Anyway, the mental picture cracks me up, and I can hardly stifle my giggle when another picture pops into my head—Kevin stalking into the room and me waving the shattered bottle at him like a bar fighter in some old movie. I can’t help but laugh out loud at that one.

Then the stairway creaks. Somebody’s coming. Probably Kevin, worried about me getting into his three-hundred-dollar bottle of scotch. Talk about paranoid. You’d think he’d trust his wife’s own brother.

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