The International Writers' Magazine - First Chapters

Summer On Cadillac - Chapter Three

Mike Blake - a serialised novel

“I can’t do another winter around here,” he said. “I mean I’ll keep in touch with Gloria, but …

We didn’t often have the same day off, but when we did Kevin and I went off hiking and rock climbing together on different parts of the island, usually as far from town as we could get. There were some small “towns” or communities actually, in other places near the water, but nothing close to Jordan Harbor as far as commercialism went. We had gotten a map of trails that went through the large state park that covered more than half the island, and after getting out on one of the official trails, we’d veer off and do a little bushwhacking, looking for challenging rock faces to climb. This wasn’t difficult to do, for there were plenty of rock formations all over the island, not to mention some of the sheer and dangerous cliffs near the water.

            These few times hiking and climbing with Kevin enabled us to escape from Jordan Harbor and anything connected with it; we lost ourselves in the activity; it was just us against nature. And concentration was definitely required when trying to scale these lichen scaly boulders, walls and ledges, inserting our hands and feet in whatever openings or crevices we could find. We carried no safety ropes, so there was no room for careless mistakes, particularly when we reached certain heights. In most cases, once we had gone so high, there was no going back down the same way. And in this element of challenge and risk, we couldn’t help but feel a bond. Nothing else mattered but to get to the top of that rock wall. We would be hurt or dead if we didn’t. We realized this, though neither of us said anything (just a quiet smile if anything) Occasionally, whoever was in the lead would give a warning or some advice, but that was pretty much it until we got to the top. When we arrived at the top of some formation, we’d sit quietly for a few minutes, smiling and appreciating the view over the trees; and then, relaxed again, we’d talk about whatever came to mind, usually something from our pasts, places we had been to and people we’d met there. I had done a two-year hitchhiking trip prior to that summer in Maine, and Kevin, a few years older than me, had done four years in the army, so we both had our share of stories.
            Kevin talked about going back to Germany some day, or some other place in Europe. He had come back to the States to see his mother and what little family he had (a brother and sister in Texas), and he had spent a couple months driving around the country, and ended up in Maine.
            “I couldn’t go any further in this country,” he said. “But I liked the look of it here. It’s plenty different than the Texas I come from, and that’s just fine with me. I’ve had enough of Lone Star country.” He smiled in a tired way.
            I told him I’d probably make it out there again in a couple years or so. There was so much of the country I wanted to see at the time, and Kevin could relate to that restlessness in me; he had plans to move on somewhere, soon.
            “I can’t do another winter around here,” he said. “I mean I’ll keep in touch with Gloria, but …” He shook his head. “She just don’t have enough of what I want.” He looked at me.
            “I could see that right off the bat,” I said, and he laughed.
            “She’s not a bad person,” he said, “and she knows how to take care of a man in some ways, but … there’s something missing there.”
            “She’ll find somebody more suited to her,” I said. “She’ll settle with someone from her own backyard. It won’t be long before she has kids and a place just down the street from her mother.”
            “That’s it, man. That’s exactly what’s going to happen. I can see that. And I’ll be happy for her when it happens.”
            “I can’t get tied down myself,” I said. “Although I wouldn’t mind having a little fun with one of those summer girls.”
            Kevin laughed.
            “How ‘bout Sherry?” he asked, referring to one of the cashiers at the store who usually worked the first shift. “She looks like she’d be fun, and she’s not butt ugly like some of these local women around here.”
            “She’s got those lovin eyes, doesn’t she? But doesn’t she have a guy?”
            “She had one. I’m pretty sure he’s history. I don’t think that woman stays with any one man too long.” He laughed.
            “I was thinking about going to one of Frank Doyle’s parties,” I said. “He’s always after me to come, and he says there are plenty of women around.”
            “Frank says a lot of things,” Kevin said. “Half of it I wouldn’t believe. To hear him talk you’d think he was the biggest stud around. But I’ve seen women laugh behind his back. The only reason he has the party girls around is that he has money. His daddy has money. That’s why he can afford to stay out here all summer without a job.”
            “I wondered about that,” I said. “He seems to have a lot of time to drink beer.”
            “Yeah, that’s why. His old man owns some big company, and he has a place here on the island. Has one of those big boats down in the harbor too. But Frank has his own apartment in town. He says he does work around the old man’s house and boat for his rent, but I doubt it. He doesn’t do anything but sit on his fat ass. You should see that apartment of his. A regular pig sty.”
            This description didn’t surprise me. Frank Doyle seemed like anything but the ambitious type. Still, I thought I’d visit him one night, just for something different in the small town. I had already been to all the popular night spots, which just overcharged you for everything; and I had spent a few evenings sitting in the town park by the harbor, watching the couples and families walk by, and the celebrations in the boats. I felt like really getting ripped one night and having a time that I would remember months from then, a memory to take with me when I left town.

            I knew where Frank lived, having stopped at what could have been called a frat house with Kevin one day. The place was just a big old, two-story house that the landlord had converted into a couple of apartments and some smaller single rooms, collecting a stiff seasonal rent while not putting much money into the upkeep. The landlord probably made enough money on the jacked up rents to send him to Florida in the winter.
            Anyway, Frank Doyle had one of the bigger rooms on the first floor in the back. He did have his own bathroom, which some of the other rooms didn’t, and a little kitchen area, for which he paid extra.
            I knocked on the old scarred door on my day off one late July afternoon, mainly to get out of the midday sun. Doyle was home, but not long out of bed, it looked like: tousled hair, sleep mark on his face, bleary-eyed and shirtless. I noticed he had a pretty big belly for someone his age.
            “I thought it was someone else,” he said, letting me in.
            I was relieved that I hadn’t interrupted something with a girlfriend.
            “Rough night?” I asked.
            “Oh, dude. A rough three days is more like it.” His trademark tired yet knowing grin. I saw it just about every day at the store. He looked around the one big room, and then just shook his head and laughed.
            “You can see for yourself,” he said.
            Yes, the place was a mess, as Kevin said it was. Pig sty hadn’t been much of an exaggeration. In fact, maybe it was an insult to pigs.
            Beer bottles and cans everywhere; that was the first thing I noticed. Pizza and food containers, milk containers, dirty glasses, cups, mugs, plates (disposable and otherwise), plastic garbage bags half full (flies busy around them), clothes discarded over every chair in the place and on the dirty, thin carpet, a bed mattress on the floor in one corner, with sheets that looked as if they hadn’t been changed since the beginning of summer. There was a big radio/CD player in one corner, with plenty of CDs scattered around it. Near the bed, besides clothes, was a pile of paperback books that I would have guessed hadn’t been opened yet that summer.
            “When does the maid come in?” I asked, and Doyle laughed.
            “I don’t know, but I’m gonna fire her when she does. So what brings you here, dude? This is a surprise. You’ve never been here before, have you?”
            “Not inside this party palace,” I said, grinning.
            “Yeah, well, it serves its purpose for this town in the summer. The rent’s the cheapest you’re gonna find.”
            Not as cheap as mine, I almost said.
            “Well, I got the day off and I just happened to be going by,” I said. “I said to myself: I know someone who likes his beer, and it seemed like a good day for that.”
            “Yeah, well, I’m glad you stopped. I’ve been telling you for how long to stop over?”
            “I know. But you know how many days off I get. I wasn’t even sure if I’d have this one off until this morning.”
            “I asked Rita for a job,” Frank said. “I know she could use another person part time. But she just laughs. You and Kevin ought to put a good word in for me, with all the business I give that place.”
            Rita had mentioned to me that Doyle had asked for a job, but she was reluctant to hire him, saying that he drank too much. “And he’d sell beer to all of his underage friends, I know that,” she added. “I don’t trust him.”
            So I knew that Doyle wasn’t going to be working at the store, but I didn’t want to get into that. The summer would be over in a few weeks anyway, and it didn’t seem like Frank needed the money that bad.
            “Are you staying here past the summer?” I asked.
            “No, dude. I go back to school.”
            He told me about his being a student at the University of Maine in Orono. Frank was a business major.
            “It sucks,” he said. “But I had to major in something or my dad wouldn’t pay for it.”
            “He wants to see something come out of it besides a knowledge of how to party, huh?” I said, kidding him.
            “Dude, it’s a good thing he doesn’t know how much I party,” Frank said, laughing. “Whenever I go down to that boat of his, or out to his house, I try to look as clean and sober as I can. You know what I mean? I play the game then.”
            I wondered how much Frank really fooled his old man. Probably not as much as he thought. The old man most likely picked things up from word of mouth in this small town. After all, Frankie flaunted the partying image with his Hawaiian shirts and straw hats, his flashy necklaces and his one earring, his expensive shades and sandals, and even the goatee. Yet it all came off in a comical way. I know that nobody at the store took him seriously, and I doubted if his friends did. At times, when he didn’t know you were watching him, Frank looked like a lost kid, as if he had suddenly awoken in an unfamiliar place. And in these moments, you knew just how much of it was an act and you really couldn’t dislike him. After all, he wasn’t a bad kid; he had just picked up some things about “style” from some of his daddy’s rich cronies down on the yacht, and thought that’s what you needed to get by in the world. It probably did carry him a certain way, I thought.
            “Is your buddy working today?” he asked, looking in a little fridge he had plugged in to one wall.
            “Yeah, he’s on. One of us has to hold down the fort.”
            “Who’s with him today, Sherry?” He grinned at me, pulling two beers out of the unit.
            “I think so. Unless Rita’s pulling a double. Hell, I don’t care. I put in eight straight days in that place. I knew I was off.”
            Frank handed me a can.
            “What’s the story with Sherry?” he asked, still grinning in that knowing way.
            “I guess I gotta find out. Kevin says she’s on her own again.”
            “Let me tell you something about Sherry, dude,” he said. “This is my third summer on this island. I first met Sherry Duhamel my first summer here. She worked in an ice cream shop down near the park. We partied together all the time that summer. She even came out on my old man’s boat once. But in the three summers I’ve known her I’ve seen her with about ten different guys. That woman likes to have her summertime fun. I bet you get your chance before the summer’s over.”
            “Sounds interesting,” I said. “But how about here at the frat house? There must be some party girls around.”
            Frank chuckled.
            “You really are ready to go today, aren’t you?” he said.
            “Well, you know how it is, all work and no play …” I shrugged. “And this is the party place on the coast, right?”
            “I knew you weren’t just the quiet guy you are at the store. Kevin told me you liked to drink and get high.” He threw some clothes, draped over a chair, on the floor and offered me a seat. Then he flopped on his bed. If I tell you something honestly, dude, I don’t want you to be mad at me.”
            Of course, I was on my guard then.
            “See, I actually thought you were gay,” he said, not grinning yet until he saw my reaction.
            But Frank didn’t have to worry about me being mad at that; it wasn’t the first time someone had that idea about me. And, on my hitchhiking trip, I’d had fags make moves on me all the time, thinking I leaned that way. I even knew women who had mentioned the same thing, without intending offense. I just smiled at Frankie.
            “I did, dude. I don’t know what it was, the way you talked, something. It just seemed like you didn’t act like other guys. You didn’t seem interested in women. I mean, Kevin noticed that. He thought you were that way too before he knew you. After he got to know you a little, he told me he didn’t think you were gay.”
            I laughed, and then he did too.
            “No, I didn’t make any moves on him when we went out rock climbing,” I said.
            “That’s what he said, dude. He said he had known some fags in the army, but you weren’t like them. He said you hadn’t tried to pull anything on him.”
            “No, I haven’t had Kevin Hemming on my mind in that way,” I said.
            “Like I said, I didn’t want you to be mad. I mean it’s funny now. You’re just a partying dude like the rest of us.”
            Although, I wasn’t sure Frank was entirely convinced of this, and I didn’t care. Seeing him in his squalid living quarters hadn’t raised him up in my estimation. It was easy to be a partying dude when your old man had a yacht just down the road and paid your rent for you.
            But I didn’t want to get too spiteful; that wasn’t the idea for being here in the first place. I guzzled my beer and placed the can amongst the many other empties.
            “Not wasting any time today, are you, dude? And I keep telling myself I’m gonna take a day off, do something healthy for a change.” He snickered and looked at the can in his hand.
            “Well that’s a start,” I said, grinning at him. “Get your morning protein drink in you and you’ll feel better.”

© Mike Blake June '05

See also Chapter One and Chapter Two

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