The Spectacular Now (Page 81)

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“But you’ve been all set to go to OU for months.”

“I was, but I have the right to change my mind if I want to.”

“But surely it’s too late to get enrolled somewhere else now.”

“No, it’s not. The application deadline isn’t until June 15. I checked.”

“What about your parents?”

“They’re the ones who encouraged me to come out here and look it over. You know how they always thought I should go to school out of state and get a chance to see more of the world and everything. Besides, they absolutely love Marcus.”

No big surprise. I’m sure her parents figure Marcus is an enormous step up from me. I don’t mention that, though.

“How about the cost?” I ask. “Won’t it be a lot more expensive, out-of-state tuition and everything?”

“I’ll get a job. Anything’s worth working for if you want it enough.”

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“So I’ve heard.”

“It’s like a whole new era in my life is unfolding, Sutter.”

“Well, that’s great,” I say. “That’s very cool.”

What’s the point of arguing? I should be happy for her. We’re just friends, after all.

“So, what were you calling about?”

For a second, I completely forget why I called. “Nothing,” I say. “It’s just been a while since we talked.”

There’s not much to say after that. She tells me she’ll e-mail me some stuff about the college, pictures and all. She’ll fill me in about the whole excursion when she gets back.

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I’m like, “That’s great. That’s great.” Somehow just about my whole vocabulary has frozen up, except for the word great.

A second later, she’s gone, vanished into the enchanted New Mexican night. She’s gone, Aimee’s soon to be gone, and me, all of a sudden, I’m hit with this absolutely incredible thirst.

Chapter 66

Sure, I’ve pledged to only drink on the weekends, but this is summer. I mean, what’s the difference between a weekday and a weekend when school’s out? As long as I keep the drinking down to once or twice a week, everything should be hunkydory. Unfortunately, in a less rational moment, I emptied the faithful flask into the gutter down the street from home, but that’s no problem. My favorite liquor store is but minutes away, and then it’s just around the corner for the big 7UP, only this time I go for the giant size instead.

Yes, the hometown streets already look friendlier. Cars honk at me left and right. The night is warm and girls flow past with their windows rolled down, their beautiful hair cascading back in the breeze. Wouldn’t it be lovely if one flashed her tits at me? I might even chase her down this time. “The summer belongs to the Sutterman,” I’d tell her. “You want to come with?”

Talk about enchantment. Forget about working for something just to have it fall apart on you. Let the magic come. That’s what I say. Let the magic come and fill in every inch of that little black crack behind your breastbone. Commander Amanda Gallico has her spaceship, and I have my bottle of whisky. We’re both on our way to the same planet.

Who knows how long I’ve been on the cruise when I come across this bar called the Hawaiian Breeze. It’s a small baby-blue cube of chipped cinderblock with palm trees painted on the side. A gravel parking lot with four cars. I’ve always wanted to go in there just to see what it’s like. It couldn’t be much worse than Larry’s place down in Fort Worth. Except for not owning a pistol or a switchblade, I’m bound to fit right in.

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Of course, I’m not old enough to buy drinks in there, but I figure what do I have to lose? Inside, there’s one rumpled drunk at the bar and two gigantic escaped convicts playing pool. The bartender looks like a junkie version of Buffalo Bill in a Hawaiian shirt.

The rumpled drunk doesn’t do anything but continue staring into the top of the bar, but everybody else glares at me like Who is this twerp and what’s he doing in our sanctuary? Junkie Buffalo Bill is getting ready to tell me to get the hell out, but I cut in first. “Sir,” I say, flashing my famous gap-toothed smile. “My name is Sutter Keely, I am eighteen years old and sore at heart, for my romances have all collapsed out from under me. I am in great need of a whisky and Seven.”

Just that fast, Junkie Buffalo Bill’s scowl turns into a broad, snarly-toothed yellow grin. “Ha! That’s the best one I ever heard.” He looks at the escaped convicts. “What do you think, boys? The kid’s sore at heart. Should I slide him a cocktail?”

The slightly more enormous of the convicts goes, “Hell, yeah. Give old Sutter a drink. I’ve been sore at heart myself.”

The rumpled drunk doesn’t comment, except to raise his pasty-white face and howl, “Whooo-weee!”

“One whisky and Seven coming up,” says Junkie Buffalo Bill.

The next thing you know I’m buying whisky shots all around. To break the dank silence, I crank up every Jimmy Buffett song on the jukebox and go into the tale of Cassidy and Aimee and my long-lost dad. Everyone’s enthralled. They’ve been there, a long time ago.

“Am I wrong for letting Aimee go like I did?” I ask the boys, and the slightly less enormous escaped convict, the one with the bandanna tied on his head, goes, “No, you’re not wrong, Sutter. You’re a hero.”

“That’s right,” says Junkie Buffalo Bill, and the rumpled drunk goes, “Whooo-weee!”

The boys of the Hawaiian Breeze love me. I’m their mascot. You should see their eyes light up when I tell the story of the dinner party fiasco and how I burned up Kevin-pronounced-Keevin’s thousand-dollar suit.

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