“Been fifteen years,” said Strider, who propped up the doorway to the old house, thumbs through a couple of the belt loops on his jeans, “but I don’t see no profit in it.”
“No,” agreed Tanaka, “no profit.”
“Sure, Peet,” said Strider, “you ain’t the first to see a dead Beatle walking through town.”
“Lennon probably takin’ up with Mary Lou.” Tanaka nodded his head sagely as he spoke. “She’s loose like that.”
The old liars made subtle signs of agreement. Peet was still confused.
Peet wanted to take the blame for his lack of motivation and industry in life, but there was always an excuse waiting in line in front of him. He liked the Fabulistas—as they were known around town—and coveted their leisurely lifestyle. They were cordial, but he still felt like an outsider most days. Perhaps it was the age difference. The old liars had a twenty-five year head start on him. Still, he wanted to crack that nut and get inside. They felt like his people. And there was the added attraction that the Fabulistas were revered throughout town. At the diner and beer hall people perked up when they entered. Everyone smiled and nodded at them. Peet craved some of that action, some of their notoriety, even just a spadeful.
It was a lazy day for Peet. The kind that made sweat run down his back with the smallest exertion. When he saw John Lennon crossing Main the old house where the Fabulistas gathered was his top priority. He thought he could contribute, ingratiate himself. Maybe, he even reasoned, win favor among the old codgers.
The old liars weren’t fazed by his story. They’d heard it all in their time. They examined the details and tried to smithy out something passable in it while the iron was hot. They knew Peet, knew him well. He’d peter out and lose interest before long, a lack of concentration, they reasoned. Lying, they told all who inquired, required stamina, experience and an intimate relationship with the lubricant JC, Jose Cuervo.
“I wonder,” said Tanaka after a while, “if Lennon still wears that skirt and those heels?”
“You got it wrong,” Strider corrected. “That was the astronaut they said was on the moon.”
“That’s right, I forgot. Age does that to you, Peet—makes you forget. When was that ’75 or ’76?”
“Something like that,” mused Strider. “My memory is faulty around the edges.”
Tanaka shuffled his feet and looked out across the pond. “Am I correct in thinking, gentlemen, that Mary Lou also took up with the astronaut?”
“Of course,” replied Spiro who sat on the stairs tonguing a blade of grass and connecting the dots made by the liver spots on his hands. “She’s loose like that, always been.”
“Those were her young days,” said Strider, “before she had to go two counties over for something fresh.”
The world was spinning in the wrong direction for Peet, which was odd on several levels. It was his experience that when the Fabulistas got together everything stopped. Nature quit buzzing. The bees and flies and gnats all took a seat to listen to what was being said. Even the breeze lingered off to the side, whispering at a respectful level. Peet was having trouble focusing. He was young compared to the others and he had mostly learned to keep his mouth shut when one of the Fabulistas peddled advice. He even practiced patience as far as he could, despite the fact that it rubbed him raw.
But his confusion won out. “What astronaut?”
Peet immediately felt awkward, as if he’d asked a question that shouldn’t need answering.
In their heads, the Fabulistas flipped through the catalog to locate the details of the story. That was part of their creed: stories were living things that needed curating. Tanaka wasn’t certain he remembered the minutiae any longer. A few synapses had busted loose sometime after one of the Bush’s left office and he’d never found the time or motivation to drink them back into place.
Spiro connected the last dot on his pudgy hands and dusted off the sleeve of his Member’s Only jacket and said, “Pretty sure I’d have to consult JC to get it all straight.” All of the old liars channeled JC when they needed to remember.
Peet was dismayed. “What’s Jesus got to do with it?”
“Can’t remember, that’s why I need to consult Jose.”
Strider decided the old door wouldn’t collapse without his assistance so he managed to straighten out his willowy frame, stood erect and slowly ambled to the porch railing that overlooked the roses and rabbit holes. “Am I correct in thinking the astronaut was the Russki who defected back in the day? Wasn’t he the one who was so well trained they supposedly sent him to the moon instead of one of our boys?”
“That’s right,” said Spiro, scratching his bald pate. “But they told everyone his name was Wilson or Armstead, something like that. That was back during the Cold War, remember?”
“Sure, I remember.” It was coming back to Strider now, something about the roses triggered his gray matter into overdrive. “They put him up in town during the show. Right down the road.”
“It was all filmed not thirty miles from here, Peet—out in the desert.”
Tanaka regarded Peet with mild disbelief. Peet didn’t notice. Tanaka’s calm, asian features had a way of loosening the connections between Peet’s synapses. “What show? The moon landing, of course. You didn’t think that was real, did you?”
Spiro and Strider stiffened and gazed hard at Peet. Even Nature paused and bent her ear. Peet’s throat went dry.
“The boy don’t know,” said Strider at last, “too young. It was a big Hollywood production—camera crews, men wearing sunglasses and some slide rule geeks buzzed about for a few days.”
“Then it all went away,” took up Spiro. “except the astronaut. He hooked up with Mary Lou. She’s loose like that.”
Peet thought, But I saw John Lennon just down the road, on Main. Then he chastised himself. The Fabulistas knew more about the world than he ever would. How could he believe he had something new to offer them? It was damn near embarrassing.
Tanaka was still considering Peet’s story. “Still don’t see no profit in it.”
“No,” said Strider, “no profit. Peet, you might keep Lennon to yourself. Ain’t gonna get you nothin’ around here.”
“I’d stay away from Mary Lou, too,” added Spiro.
“Sure, you’d put her in an awkward position. You don’t want to do that. Mary Lou is a fine woman.”
Peet was having more trouble focusing; the astronaut, the Russki, Lennon, Mary Lou and Hollywood were crowding his mind and stealing space before any form of independent or coherent thought could gel. He felt something else stirring in him, clearing a path, a nexus of energy that set his mind to wandering and fostered a sense of industry, however slight. It crept up on him and made him believe he could niggle some fries out of Donna at the drive-thru on Main. Might take a little work, but he figured he was up for it. Suddenly, he was hungry and had a hankering to leave the old liars.
“Thanks, fellas, for all the info. Ah, la vache!” Peet waved absentmindedly.
“Probably should keep Lennon to yourself, Peet.” Strider grinned at Peet’s back as he walked away. The Fabulistas watched him disappear down the road.
“Ah, la vache?” It was Tanaka’s turn to be confused.
“Means Such is life,” said Spiro.
“Is that so?”
“Sure it is. He’s young, Peet, but he’s been around some. Plus, Lennon speaks French and Russki, probably got it from him.”
“Had to get it off Lennon,” reasoned Strider, “not much of an imagination in ol’ Peet.”
“He’s lazy, but he’s still young—and he doesn’t know Jose well, yet.”
“Lacks stamina,” said Strider.
“Ah, la vache.” Spiro rose from the steps. “Holy cow! I’m thirsty. That’s a lot of ground we covered in that history lesson. I need to consult Jose and make sure we got it right. I don’t want to confuse the details. It’d be bad on us to hand down a bunch of gibberish to the next generation.”
Spiro tugged his Member’s Only jacket down over his waist. Tanaka and Strider nodded and joined him. The three of them shuffled toward the back of the house.
Strider turned and watched as Peet disappeared from view. “I never knew Peet had a tail.”
“Sure he does,” replied Spiro, chuckling, “keeps it tucked between his kegs.”
in category Fiction