Untitled - Undated
By: Xim Xom
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When I finally let Larry Filibuster take me out, nothing went right. But that’s how things go when you date Larry Filibuster.
Nothing goes right.
He took me to Kings Island, the largest amusement and waterpark in the midwest - according to Larry. On the drive over, I asked him if that was really true. He gave me a look.
“Of course it’s true,” he said.
“It’s in the commercials.”
I took his word for it.
Larry was dead set on taking me on the “Banshee”. It’s an inverted roller coaster, he explained. The longest of its kind in the world, with seven inversions located in the former location of “Son of the Beast.”
“What’s ‘Son of the Beast’?” I asked.
He gave me another look.
“I think there used to be just a regular ‘Beast’ and then they made like a smaller version of it.”
“Oh,” I said.
“Do you know that for sure or is that just a guess?” I asked. Larry looked frustrated.
“That’s definitely what happened. My cousin actually designed the ‘Banshee’ and a bunch of other rides, so I know a lot about these coasters.”
“Is there a ‘Mother of the Beast’ too?” I asked. Larry was confused.
“Since there’s a ‘Son of the Beast’…” I gestured, waiting for him to figure out where I was going. He just stared at me.
“...And there’s a ‘Beast’, which I assume is his dad.”
“You shouldn’t assume things,” Larry told me, knowingly.
“The ‘Beast’ could very well be ‘Son of the Beast’s’ mother,” he made his point, parked his car and walked directly toward the entrance. I let myself out. I was starting to regret this already.
The line for the ‘Banshee’ was long. We stood together in silence for 45 minutes, waiting for what Larry promised would be the “thrill ride of the summer.” When we finally boarded, he turned to me to offer reassurance.
“If you feel like the inversions are too intense, just remember, these coasters are designed by top physicists.”
“Like your cousin,” I said.
“Right. These guys don’t make mistakes.”
I sank into my seat. The gears began to whir and slowly, we ratcheted up to the peak. The climb felt interminable. Larry was sitting at the edge of his seat, giddy as a schoolboy. I was beginning to feel a bit nauseous, but whether that was from heights or the possibility of being seen with Larry, I couldn’t say.
The roller coaster climbed and climbed until it reached the top. Then it stalled. I closed my eyes in anticipation.
I peeked down. We were just sitting there. I looked over at Larry. He shrugged.
“Does this happen often?” I asked.
“How would I know?” Larry replied.
“I thought your cousin designed this thing?”
“Oh, yeah. Well, I’m sure it’s nothing.”
This was all starting to get to me. Sick to my stomach, stuck hundreds of feet up in the air with Larry of all people, on some faulty equipment that may not work for who knows how long. We could be up here all day.
“So how long do these delays usually last?” I asked.
“Uh, well. They’re not supposed to happen at all, so chances are something’s really …” he trailed off.
“Nothing,” he said. He looked around nervously.
“This isn’t going very well, is it?” he asked.
I put my head in my hands and started to cry. This made Larry very uncomfortable. He fidgeted around as if looking for a fire extinguisher. Of course, there was none, so he tried talking to me instead.
“Hey …. there,” he said, placing a hand on my shoulder. This only made me cry harder. He gave me two abrupt pats on the back.
“There, there,” he said awkwardly, one pat for each 'there.'
“You know,” he said after a moment, “this really isn’t so bad.”
“Oh isn’t it,” I scoffed moistly.
“No, really,” he insisted.
“I’ve known guys in way worse situations who came out ahead.”
I wiped my nose on my skirt and dried my eyes.
“Larry, we could literally die up here,” I said with disgust.
“I could tell you a story about someone I know who’s been through way worse,” he said.
“You know, to pass the time.”
I took a deep breath and accepted his offer. Like he said, to pass the time. It’s not like there were many other options available - and as awful as it may be, nothing eases a difficult situation quite like taking pleasure in someone else’s struggle.
“So there was this guy named Neil,” he began.
Neil was a friend of Larry’s dad. They went to high school together in Chicago. Neil was exactly 5 feet tall and had a bit of a Napoleon complex about it.
“They used to call him ‘li’l bitch’,” he told me.
“That’s awful,” I said. It was. Truly awful.
“I know. They’d say it to his face in the halls, in the lunch line, wherever. Worst part was, it was true. He was too little to do anything about it so he just had to take it.”
I felt bad for Neil, however, the fact that he and Larry were both the exact same height was not lost on me. Maybe that was why I felt uncomfortable with him, I wondered. That wouldn't be very cool of me. Then again, it could also be his lack of manners and inability to respond to social cues. Or the bleached but still visible spaghetti stains on his turquoise deep v-neck t-shirt.
Larry told me not to feel too bad for Neil, who was more resourceful than I’d given him credit for. Like the namesake of his height complex, he endeavored to rebuild himself in reaction to his inadequacies, hitting the gym and putting on 50 pounds of muscles over the summer. He returned senior year with an imposing physique, never to be referred to as ‘li’l bitch’ again.
“They called him other things - ‘meatstack’, ‘tiny thickness’, 'muscle bitch' - but never to his face,” Larry said. Neil secretly liked these nicknames because they paid homage to his new build.
I asked Larry if he lifts too. He gave me a confused look.
“Why do you ask?”
“No reason,” I said. I encouraged him to go on with the story.
Senior year was a personal success for Neil socially, but academically, he was lost. Constant bodybuilding had caused him to neglect his studies, and he found himself ill-prepared for college. He made the decision to drop out of school in order to find his true calling. His guidance counselors strongly advised against this, asking him what his plans were. Did he even have any? Neil told them not to worry.
“When I find what I’m looking for, I’ll know,” he told them, and with that, he left boyhood behind and hit the open road as a newly minted man.
Neil stood on the side of the road, thumb stuck out, waiting for fortune to find him. That’s when he encountered Big Red. They didn’t have guys named “Big Red” in Chicago, so Neil was interested in getting to know his ride. Big Red was all smiles, glad to have a friend aboard for a long drive home. He was from Indianapolis, Indiana, a traveling salesman heading back from a lengthy business trip.
“Tell me, what’s a strapping young lad like yourself doing standing on the side of the road on a day like this?” Big Red asked Neil with a toothsome grin. Neil explained his situation, that he was looking for something else.
“Well, how on earth will you know when you find it?” Big Red asked excitedly.
Neil told him he’d just know.
“Well, holy shit, in my opinion,” Big Red remarked.
“That’s the kind of faith I like to see in a young man. You’re welcome to ride me with all the way back if that’s what your heart desires.” Neil’s heart was not opposed to this, so he made himself comfortable and the two headed south.
Night fell and trouble reared its troublesome head on 1-65 South in the form of a busted transmission. Big Red pulled over to the side of the road and popped the hood.
“What do you make of this?” he asked Neil, who pretended to fiddle with the machinery before admitting the damn thing was broke.
“That’s a mighty fine crock of shit we’re in, my friend,” Big Red muttered.
“I got no AAA membership and there ain’t another vehicle in sight. You and me might be in for a long night.”
But Neil wasn’t in the mood for a long night. He made Big Red an offer. If he couldn’t push his car all the way back to Indianapolis himself by sunrise, he would cook him breakfast for a month. But if he could manage to push that car all the way home before morning, Big Red would have to give him the car.
“Buster, I’ll do you one better. You push this here car home by the time the cock crow, I’ll let you marry my god damned daughter.”
I had to stop Larry here.
“So Neil is trying to get out behind this car and push it himself?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Larry said, matter-of-factly.
“He’s very strong.”
“From where, exactly?” I asked.
“Just outside Frankfort,” he said. I looked it up on my phone.
“That’s 43 miles,” I said.
“That would take 14 hours by foot.”
“I know,” Larry said.
“What kind of car is it?” I asked.
“Honda Civic,” Larry replied.
“And this guy is going to sell off his daughter to Neil if he can pull this off?” I asked.
“I don’t know if I’d say ‘sell’,” Larry said.
“It’s more of a wager than anything.”
“When did this happen?” I asked.
“In the 70’s,” Larry replied.
“Were they in some sort of cult?” I asked.
“No, she was into it. I mean, she was kind of a spinster. Her husband passed away in an accident years ago and she never remarried.”
“What kind of an accident?” I asked.
“Jet ski,” he said.
I sighed and looked down from the roller coaster car. The people walking around in the park looked like little ants. I felt bored by the obviousness of my own metaphor and decided to let Larry continue to humor me with his ridiculous story, which I was pretty sure he was making up as he went along. Nevertheless, I asked him to continue.
“So Neil gets out and pushes that car, and he pushes and pushes it all the way from Frankfort to Indianapolis. Big Red can’t believe it. They’re standing out there on the front lawn with the sun coming up just like Neil promised, and Red’s so impressed, he takes Neil right in to meet his daughter.”
“What’s her name?” I ask.
“Charlene,” Larry says.
At 36 years old, Charlene is exactly twice Neil’s age. She was sitting in the kitchen with her hair in curlers, smoking an American Spirit when her father introduced her to Neil - and all that talk about knowing what he was looking for when he found it proved true in that moment - Charlene was what Neil was looking for. He was sure of it.
“I’ll let you two get to know each other,” Big Red said, before walking straight up the stairs and tucking himself into bed with the covers over his head.
“Over his head?” I asked.
“Yeah, that’s how he likes it,” Larry replied.
Neil was so smitten by Charlene he could barely get a word out. She looked him over and came to a swift conclusion.
“You look a mess,” she said. She let him have her room for day to recover from his journey while she worked her shift at the gas station. Before dozing off, Neil spotted a copy of Miranda July’s “No One Belongs Here More Than You” sitting on Charlene’s shelf. He had read it prior to his muscular development and always imagined he would fall for someone interested in this variety of twee introspective musing. Although it was a small sign, he decided then and there, before going to sleep, that his search for meaning was over. He had found it in Charlene.
When she returned home from her shift, Charlene was surprised to find Neil in the kitchen waiting for her. He had taken the liberty of cleaning the entire house and baking her a meal of roasted pheasant and curly fries. Big Red came down from his room to make himself a plate.
“I’ll let you two lovebirds have some peace and quiet,” he said, scuttling upstairs, plate in hand.
“Did he tuck himself under the covers again?” I asked.
“Yeah, he ate the whole thing under the blanket,” Larry responded.
Neil found himself tounge-tied once more, unable to profess his love for Charlene with any level of articulateness - at least not to a degree that would match the intensity of his feelings for her. Charlene observed his struggle. She felt his desire and sensed his intentions were genuine. She set aside her plate and spoke to Neil from her heart. She told him that she could tell how he felt, and that she was starting to feel the same for him - but before things went any further, there was something he needed to know.
“Tell me,” Neil said. He told her he was prepared to accept anything she was about to disclose.
“It’s isn’t something I can exactly tell you. It’s something I need you to see,” she told him.
“So show me,” he said.
The two got in the Honda Civic and drove out to the country.
“Where are you taking me?” asked Neil. Charlene shushed him.
“You just have to trust me,” she said. Neil did. They drove on.
They drove on and on until it became dark. Charlene pulled the car over on the side of a dirt road. She looked at Neil and gestured toward the adjacent cornfield. They got out. Neil followed Charlene about 100 paces in the dark to a clearing. Two shovels lay on a pile of freshly packed dirt.
“Now what?” Neil asked.
“Now you dig,” Charlene replied.
So he dug. Deeper and deeper into the ground, while Charlene stood above him waiting.
“Wait, stop,” I said.
“So she’s just standing up there watching him?
“Yeah. That’s what she wants.”
“Oh my god. Larry, is he digging his own grave?”
“He trusts her,” Larry said.
Neil kept digging. He dug and he dug until his shovel clanged against something metal.
“What was it?” I asked. At that moment, the roller coaster lurched forward abruptly and the “Banshee” descended into its first drop. I screamed at the top of my lungs at the passing of each inversion, all the while wondering what Neil had unearthed.
The ride came to an end. A sweaty park attendant offered each of us free gift cards for our inconvenience. I snatched my compensation and power walked to catch up with Larry, who was briskly walking several steps ahead of me.
“Wait, Larry, wait!” He turned around.
“So what was in the ground? What did she need him to see?”
“Oh, right,” Larry said.
“I thought it was obvious. A jet ski."
TO BE CONTINUED ….