SATURDAY, 4:15 A.M.
Down a quiet residential street, Aecca/Decca walks alone. His hands are balled up in his front pockets, his arms squeezed tight to his sides in an attempt to ward off the early morning chill that precedes the onset of sunrise. A hazy, dreamy expression hangs on his face, as he recalls the evening's events.
FRIDAY, 10:07 P.M.
He had just emerged from the side of the house, bladder freshly drained into the adjacent overgrown hedgerow. Scooping up his beer from it perch on the corner of the porch where he'd placed it, he was mid-step on his way back into the house, when he noticed someone rollerblading back and forth on the sidewalk in front.
"Hey," she said, noticing his gaze, "c'mere!" waving him over. Decca pauses briefly enough to make sure she's talking to him, and then heads down the walkway.
"What's up?" he says.
"Nothin'. How's the party?" she asks.
"S'kay," he replies around a sip of beer, "I think we'd call it a success."
"Oh, you live here?" she says. She hasn't stopped moving this whole time, instead in a constant series of languid figure eights and slow spins and backwards skating. Aecca finds it somewhat hypnotizing.
"Yeah," he answers, "uh, I'm Aecca/Decca, but people call me Aecca. Or Decca."
"I'm Creet," she says with a grin, "people call me Creet."
"Nice to meet you," says Aecca. He finds himself attracted to her. With her skates on she's about as tall as him, but without them she'd probably qualify as petite. She's wearing tan cargo pants, a plain yellow t-shirt. Her black hair in a short pixie cut. She's Indian. Sub-continent India Indian.
"Likewise," she says, "you gonna offer me a beer or what?" a little of that mirthful grin again.
"Yeah, c'mon in," Aecca says, turning to head back to the house.
"Don't like houses.'Specially crowded ones," Creet says, a hint of apology in her voice, "can you get me a beer and bring it out here?"
"Yeah, sure," says Aecca. Over five minutes later Aecca remerges from the crowded house, and tries to conceal his relief that Creet's still waiting outside, and also that no one else is talking to her. They chat amiable for the next forty minutes, interrupted only by occasional concentrated bursts of yelling and cheering from the house. She asks if they'd rented the house for long (yes), if this was their first party (no), if he was from Portland originally (no).
At some point, Aecca feels Creet's eyes looking over his shoulder. He looks behind himself and finds El Humidor and Mudman standing at the end of the walk looking back. He turns, greets them, "oh, hey guys."
"Hey," says Mudman.
"Uhhhhhhh," says El Humidor, steeping to the sidewalk, "we're, off, uh, to get that second keg."
"Cool," says Aecca, noticing that Humidor's eyes are darting back and forth between himself and Creet, "uh, this is Creet." He looks at Creet, motions at other two, "these are my housemates, El Humidor and Mudman."
"Nice to meet you," says Creet. That charming smile, again.
Humidor walks backwards, toward his van parked down the street, jingling his keys, "we'll, uh, be back soon."
"Yeah. Soon," says Mudman.
"Okay," says Aecca, turning away from them.
"They seem... interesting," says Creet, arching her eyebrows.
"Yeah. They're okay, I guess," Aecca scratches the back of his scalp.
"So, there's no more beer inside, I'm guessing," say Creet, eyeballing the insides of her plastic cup.
"Well, there'll be more, trust me," says Aecca, a confident, knowing smile.
"Mhmm," Creet seems unimpressed, "there was a sixer of talls in my fridge when I left. Wanna have one of those?"
"Uh," Aecca hesitates, looks at the house. Rig's still in there. The others will be back with the second keg soon enough. The party will survive without him. "Yeah, sure."
"Its not far," Creet reassures.
The two walk to Creed's place. Well, Aecca walks briskly, while Creet skates around him. Turns out she lives in the basement of an old Victorian house, one of those one's with the little garage that connects to the basement, and the house is up on top on a little raised manmade hillock. Creet produces a small key from a cargo pocket, unlocks the old garage doors. Aecca steps into darkness Creet follows, Aecca hears a deadbolt thrown. Creet flips on the lights and skates through the open door that separates the garage and the basement, tugging at a shoelace. A few uncovered bulbs light up from the basement ceiling.
Aecca walks casually to the middling area of the space, while Creet skates over to a mini-fridge plugged in in the corner. "Now," she says, opening the fridge, "the beer!" Five tallboys of beer can be seen in the crowded fridge. "Hey!" Creet sends one tall boy somersaulting through space across the room. Aecca barely catches it. "Have a seat," says Creet, rolling over to a boombox, shuffling through a shoebox of mix tapes.
Cracking open the cold beer, Aecca moves over to a chair covered with a blanket. He plops down. And curses in shock and pain. He lifts up the blanket.
"Oh sorry," says Creet as Aecca discovers the 'chair' is actually cinderblocks arranged to look like a chair, "I forgot, I don't have any normal furniture down here. I let my housemates keep it all upstairs."
"Uh, its okay, I just got caught by surprise, that's all," Aecca looks around for somewhere more comfortable. Realizing suddenly that there's nothing else to sit on (Creet appears to sleep in a sort of nest of sheets and blankets on the floor in the corner), he settles for sitting on the floor with his back to a vertical support beam.
"So," says Creet, as she inserts her selected tape and opens her beer, "you haven't told me yet what your powers are."
"Uh, oh, really?" Aecca sips at his beer, "well..."
Aecca/Decca explains that he constantly attracts static electricity, like a lightning rod. And he couldn't discharge it in energy bolts or anything cool or destructive like that. Instead, it just discharged the old fashioned way by giving him a mighty jolt whenever he touched a doorknob or whatever other random thing.
Every hair on his body stands on end 24 hours a day.
Rubber socks and shoes, and occasionally rubber pads glued to his fingertips, helped in small facets to allow him some degree of normalcy, but the rest of existence was now an endless parade of essentially random electric shocks. For a long time he had not slept more than 3 hours at a time, although recently he'd gotten the hang of just not rolling around much in his sleep. Bathing was fine but toweling off not an option. His last girlfriend left him when she couldn't stand the random convulsions and yelps during foreplay anymore.
Aecca stopped talking at this point, embarrassed he'd broached the subject of girlfriends and sex. Thankfully, Creet took the opening to explain her power.
Creet is blessed with the ability to be invulnerable to concrete. For her, falling face first into a sidewalk or the street or anything made of concrete (or cement or asphalt) is akin to falling into an ocean of pillows.
"Get out!" says Aecca/Decca.
"Yep, check it," says Creet, and before Aecca can object, she rises from the floor where she's been laying on her stomach, pads barefoot back a few steps, spreads her arms, and falls face-first smack into the floor.
Aecca cries out, startles forward.
But then Creet springs up, grinning, arms spread: no bloody nose, no marks at all, "taa-daa!!" she says.
"Jesus..." murmurs Aecca, understanding now her lack of regular furnishings.
"Wanna 'nother beer?"
"Sure," Aecca glances at her clock. Its quarter past two.
Not surprisingly, she continues, this has translated into a lifetime of street-sporting. In no particular order, she's casually competent at roller skating, inline skating, skateboarding, long boarding, razoring, and street hockey. She mainly supports herself competing in sports of this nature, namely long boarding, which requires less trick-learning and more just reckless abandon, which she's fine with given the asphalt doesn't hurt.
Her problem, she confesses, is that she tends to feel a bit paranoid when NOT standing on a poured surface. Since moving out on her own she's opted to rent basement rooms and garage apartments. Her dream abode is a large, openspace loft with concrete floors where she can actually build a poured-concrete bed. For time being she makes due with cinderblock chairs, sofas, and even a bed. Regular "soft" beds & chairs give her the willies.
"We should form a team," Aecca suggests, smiling.
Creet chuckles, "oh yeah? What's your angle?" All the good teams have an angle.
"Everyone's paranoid of household furnishings."
"Yeah!" Creet laughs, sips more beer, "and we could get a guy who can control dust bunnies but is terrified of vacuum cleaners!"
Aecca's turn to chuckle, now, "We could call ourselves The Living Room Set!"
They continue in this vein for the remainder of their second beers. At about 3:15 A.M. Creet pours half of the last beer into one of Aecca's empties. As 4:00 creeps closer, the beer is gone. The conversation's losing its momentum. Aecca's
putting the finishing flourishes on his retelling of how El Humidor once threw up on the floor after donating plasma. Creet smiles thinly, looking tired.
"I have to call it a night," she says, standing.
"Oh, okay," says Aecca, also standing up.
"Thanks for coming over," she says with a tired but sunny smile. A little part of Aecca wilts.
"Yeah, it was fun. We should, uh, do it again, sometime."
She shows him out. He waves good bye, and begins his walk home.
At first he walks slowly, head down, lips pursing and eyebrows arching and head tilting as he reviews and replays the evening's conversations in head. He feels silly for thinking he was gonna get laid. But Creet's cool, regardless. Like, too cool for school cool. As in, too cool to hang with him, cool. So its kinda a win-win. He feels good about himself. Then the pre-dawn chill and damp starts to get to him.
SATURDAY, 4:15 A.M.
Hands are balled up in his front pockets, arms squeezed tight to his sides in an attempt to retain a little body heat, Aecca/Decca emerges from a unimproved footpath slotted between two high walls of blackberry brambles, then cuts diagonally across a church parking lot and comes around a corner to bring the house into view. The cacophony of voices and yells is gone, replaced by the occasional laugh or murmur of drunken late night conversation. The front door is open and all the lights in the house are on.
The yard stinks like spilled beer and cigarette butts. Worse than usual.
Aecca heads up the steps and into the house. He closes the door behind him, hesitates, and locks it with a shrug (who else is coming over, after all). He starts to head for the kitchen, because he hears voices floating through the back door from the back yard, but detours through the living room to kill the analog hiss of the not-playing-anything stereo.
Looping back into the kitchen he checks the second keg with a rattling shake. Hearing a reassuring slosh, he grabs a nearby plastic cup. Finding it full of cigarette butts and spent matches, he grabs another and rinses it out pretty good, and pours himself a beer.
Emerging from the backdoor, Aecca surveys the backyard from the top of the steps. At the base of the stairs, Jerry Rig, chuckling, tears at the corners of his eyes, refilling a mason jar with beer from a plastic pitcher ("BEER $" note still clinging on) nods to Decca. In the approximate center of the back yard El Humidor stands on top of a cinder block. He's wearing a real combat helmet (which that Mudman found in the basement) and brandishing a fencing foil (which Aecca found in a hall closet) in the air like its Excalibur, both presumed to have been left behind by previous renters.
Humidor, mid-sentence, apparently, is taking a deep draught form his beer cup. Lowering his cup, wiping his mouth with his sleeve, he continues,
"So just give it your best shot, Man of Mud! I dare ya! I'm armored!" taps the helmet with the foil. He then initiates a sort of taunting chicken dance, "I. Am. El. Humidor. El. Hum-i-dor. El. Hum-i-dor. El. Hum-i-dor."
Mudman is off towards the far back corner of the yard, by a pile of broken concrete. Once, long ago, there was a paved driveway into the back yard. The owner busted it up and left all the fragments in a pile. Rig likes to call it "The Ruins of Troy VIIb," some sort of academic reference the rest of the 'mates either don't get or ignore. Mudman's giggling through Humidor's tirade.
"Ah yeah? Let's see your smoke obfuscate THIS!" and in a surprisingly graceful and fluid motion, Mudman scoops up a broken piece of concrete (but surprisingly large: about the size of a cantaloupe, or a very large zucchini), turns, and overhands it right at El Humidor. The concrete rock dully clangs into Humidor's helmet, a few inches above his left eye. Humidor goes down off his perch like a sack of potatoes, the helmet coming off in the process. He hits the ground pretty hard.
If the backyard was a room the air would have been sucked out of it. But then El Humidor sits back up, looks around. Getting up, he picks up his helmet. Looking at Mudman, his hands playing across the helmet's surface, "Hey!" he starts to laugh, "Mudman, look at this!"
Grinning broadly, El Humidor holds up the helmet. There's a nice, solid, inch-across dent where the rock hit. Mudman laughs, deep and long, "I could have fucking killed you!"
Everyone laughs hysterically. "I could be brain damaged!" adds El Humidor, setting off a cascading effect of hyena howls. Somewhere nearby, a dog barks in response, as the sun begins its slow creep over the Portland horizon.
Words & drawings by D.D. Tinzeroes