“If I wanted to get a close-up of crazy, I’d just look in the mirror.”
This line popped in my head as I walked out of the grocery store earlier in the week, and I laughed out loud. I don’t know if it’s about me or not (I don’t think I look that crazy, except first thing in a morning, especially when it’s been a while since a haircut). That line led me to write the following. It’s incomplete, but I actually see myself finishing this one. Forgive the typos.
The Only Beach Boy Who Could Surf
I found him at the bottom of the pool, deader than dead. I sat in a chair and smoked a cigarette, thinking about all the years I wasted with his sorry ass. 24 years. We were only a few months away from our 25th anniversary. He couldn’t have waited a little longer before he died? 25 is a nicer number, and it says more about my long-suffering. Yep, 25 years I spent with Walter, I could say. 25 years of his drinking, womanizing, lying, stealing, and all the other shit he got up to. It just sounds better than 24 years of his drinking, womanizing, and so on.
Marjory wandered out from the house, sleep still in her eyes, wearing one of my extra bathrobes. I had four or five, all gifts from Walter. He thought I liked them when the truth is, I couldnt give a rat’s hairy ballsack about bathrobes. I’m always hot after a shower or bath and I liked to parade around naked. Walter used to like that, way back at the start of everything.
Marjory bummed a smoke from me and stared in the pool. “That Walter?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Huh. He’s not floating.”
“Bodies don’t float for long.”
“And just how do you know that?”
“Saw it on a Law & Order or something. Or maybe I read it sometime. Does it matter?”
“No, I reckon not.” Marjory plopped her fat self in the chair beside me. She still had her rollers in but she’d put on lipstick. The filter of her cigarette looked bloody. “Well, now what?”
I flicked my cigarette in the pool. It hissed when it hit the water. God knows the last time we’d had the thing cleaned. Walter had died in some nasty water, for sure. “I guess we could call the police,” I said.
“You kill him?”
“No. I came out here and found him at the bottom of the pool. My guess is that he got drunk and tumbled in.”
“Like that Beach Boy.”
Lord, what was Marjory yapping about? I knew better than to ignore her. Just like my son, Nate, when he was four and he asked one of his endless questions. After what felt like the hundredth question, I’d ignore him, and he’d hitch his voice up a couple of octaves and say “Mama!” until I thought my damn head would burst.
I lit another cigarette. “What Beach Boy would that be?”
“The only good-looking one, Dennis. Remember, the drummer? He got drunk and fell off a boat and drowned. Did you know he was the only one who surfed?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“True. Not even the leader, that crazy one Brian, could surf. That always rubbed me the wrong way. I mean, how can you call yourselves The Beach Boys when only one of you guys can even surf? That song ‘Surfin’ Safari’ is nothing but a pack of lies.”
I often imagined finding Walter dead–dead in his chair, dead in the driveway from a heart attack, and even dead where he slept all those years right beside me. But I didn’t ever imagine sitting here with my best friend talking about how The Beach Boys betrayed the public’s trust while Walter’s body got about the business of decaying at the bottom of the pool.
“Well, I guess I’ll make a little breakfast and put the rest of my face on,” Marjory said, groaning as she lifted herself out of the chair. “Let me know what you decide to do.”
“Okay,” I said. “You’ll put on a pot of coffee?”
“You know it.”
I sat by the pool for a little longer before going back in to get a cup of coffee. Marjory made it extra-strong, which I liked. She’d been staying with us for about a week by that point. I remember Walter pulling me aside after two days and hissing, “Now just when is she gonna be on her merry little way?”
“Whenever the mood strikes her, I guess,” I said. “You know Majory. Free like the wind.”
“She’s not living here.”
“Lord, who said anything about her living here? She’s got a nice place of her own, you know that.”
“Well, I know women like Marjory and you don’t,” Walter said, ignoring the obvious problem with his statement. Walter fancied himself knowledgeable about many things when in fact he knew about air conditioners, cheap beer, and chasing ass. So-called “women like Marjory” scared the pants off him because they didn’t rely on a man and they mostly did what they well pleased. Like taking off on a whim and coming to visit me without a specific end date in mind. It was those kinds of things that really curdled Water’s milk.
Marjory was thumbing through the newspaper and eating a bagel when I sat down at the kitchen table with my coffee. She hadn’t put the rest of her face on; she was still just wearing lipstick, her curlers, and a bathrobe. Well, what was the hurry? It’s not like we had a dead body in the pool or anything. Ha ha.
“You think you’ll run an obituary on Walter?” she asked.
I sipped my coffee and thought. “I don’t know. Do I have to?”
“You’re the expert on death, not me.”
“What if you can’t bury the body unless you run an obit?”
Marjory narrowed her eyes at me. “What in the hell kind of sense does that make?”
“I don’t know. There are rules, aren’t there?”
“Your worthless husband is laying dead at the bottom of your pool and no one knows but me. You don’t seem like someone who’s real worried about rules right now.”
She had a point. I figured I could call Nate later and ask him, and he could look it up on the Internet. He was always bugging me to get one of those smart phones so we could text back and forth. I asked him what use I would have for that? If I needed him, I could just call him. He said he wasn’t always able to take a call, but I could text him. I asked if he could get a text, why couldn’t he take my phone call? He just sighed and told me to forget it.
Well, I didn’t forget it. It made me mad the more I thought about it. Like he was superior because he had the Internet on his phone and I was still using my phone. Excuse me, my land line.”
“Geri, you zoned out. Come on back.”
I blinked. “Sorry,” I said, “I was thinking about Nate.”
“Oh. Huh. I guess you’d better call him.”
“No, the thing about the obituary can wait.”
“About whether you have to run an obituary in the paper. I’ll ask him later.”
Marjory leaned over the table. “I meant telling him that his father died,” she said slowly.
“Oh, that. Well, that can wait, too. Nate and Walter haven’t talked in nearly five years. No reason to dump this on him so early in the morning. Maybe after lunch. Bad news can keep.”
Marjory shook her head and her curlers did a little dance. I was always envious of her hair. I could do something with mine, but I never saw the point. I sure as hell wouldn’t put rollers in at night, but I suppose it wouldn’t kill me to use a brush every now and then. I caught my reflection in the mirror the other day and thought I look like someone children should be frightened of.