Paranoia (035 of 170)

—of —
by Joseph Finder
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Macmillan: Paranoia

Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder.
All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.

Part Two: 16 (Cont'd)

I began to feel a pleasant, alcohol-fueled surge of confidence bordering on megalomania. I'd been parachuted into Nazi Germany, with little more than K rations and a shortwave radio, and the success of the Allies was riding entirely on me, nothing less than the fate of Western civilization.

"I saw Elliot Krause today downtown," Seth said.

I looked at him, uncomprehending.

"Elliot Krause? Remember? Elliot Portosan?"

My reaction time had slowed; it took me a few seconds, but then I burst out laughing. I hadn't heard Elliot Krause's name in years.

"He's a partner in some law firm, of course."

"Specializing in ... environmental law, right?" I said, choking with laughter, spitting out a mouthful of Scotch.

"Do you remember his face?"

"Forget his face, remember his pants?"

This was why I liked spending time with Seth. We talked in Morse code; we got each other's references, all the inside jokes. Our shared history gave us a secret language, the way twins talk to each other when they're babies. One summer in high school when Seth was working at a snooty tennis club doing grounds maintenance during a big international tennis match, he let me sneak in without paying. They'd brought in some of those rented "portable restroom facilities" for the influx of spectators—Handy Houses or Portosans or Johnny On the Job, whatever cute name they had, I don't remember—those things that look like big old refrigerators. By the second or third day they'd gotten full, the Handy House crew hadn't bothered to come by and pump them out, and they reeked.

There was this preppy kid named Elliot Krause we both hated, partly because he'd stolen Seth's girlfriend, and partly because he looked down on us as working-class kids. He showed up at the tournament, dressed in a faggoty tennis sweater and white duck pants, Seth's girlfriend on his arm, and he made the mistake of going into one of the Handy Houses to relieve himself. Seth, who was spearing trash at the moment, saw this and gave me an evil smile. He ran over to the booth, jammed the wooden handle of his trash-picker-upper thing through the latch, and me and a friend of ours, Flash Flaherty, started rocking the Porta Potti back and forth. You could hear Elliot inside shouting, "Hey! Hey! What the hell's going on?" and you could hear the sloshing of the unspeakable contents, and finally we got the thing flipped over, with Elliot trapped inside. I don't want to think about what the poor guy was floating in. Seth lost his job but he insisted that it was worth it—he'd have paid good money just for the privilege of seeing Elliot Krause emerge in his no-longer-white tennis whites, retching, covered in shit.

By this point, recalling Elliot Krause putting his shit-splashed glasses back on his shit-covered face as he stumbled out of the Handy House, I was laughing so hard I lost my balance and sprawled onto the floor. For a couple of seconds I lay there, unable to get up. People crowded around me, giant heads leaning in, asking if I was okay. I was definitely looped. Everything had gotten smeary. For some reason I flashed on an image of my father and Antwoine Leonard, and the thought struck me as screamingly hilarious, and I couldn't stop laughing.

I felt someone grab me by the shoulder, someone else grab me by the elbow. Seth and another guy were helping me out of the bar. Everyone seemed to be watching me.

"Sorry, man," I said, feeling a wave of embarrassment wash over me. "Thanks. My car's right here."

"You're not driving, bud."

"It's right here," I insisted feebly.

"That's not your car. That's an Audi or something."

"It's mine," I said firmly, punctuating the statement with a vigorous nod. "Audi—A6, I think."

"What happened to Bondo?"

I shook my head. "New car."

"Man, this new job, they paying you a lot more?"

"Yeah," I said, then I added, my words slurred, "not that much more."

He whistled for a cab, and he and the other guy hustled me into it. "You remember where you live?" Seth said.

"Come on," I said. "Of course I remember."

"You want a coffee for the ride home, sober you up a little?"

"Nah," I said. "I got to get to sleep. Work tomorrow."

Seth laughed. "I don't envy you, man," he said.

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