Mark Finn returns with the latest installment of Con-Dorks: One in a Million. Some great reading can be found… you know where… After the Jump!
NOTE: If you are not up to date on the story, the first two novels have been run in their entirety at revolutionsf.com.
The Transformation of Lawrence Croft: http://www.revolutionsf.com/article.php?id=1827
Chance of a Lifetime: http://www.revolutionsf.com/fiction2/condorks2/condorks2_00.html
- Read Chapter One here
- Read Chapter Two here
- Read Chapter Three here
- Read Chapter Four here
- Read Chapter Five here
One in a Million – Chapter 6
When Larry pulled his sputtering, chugging van up to D.J.’s home in Oakland at shortly after eleven o’ clock on Saturday, he saw that the front lawn was already covered in boxes and bags. Turk gazed at the assortment of household items and said, “how are we going to do this in one day?”
Larry motioned at the Comix Comix Comix van, parked in the driveway. “We’ve got two vans, plus Leslie’s car and Holly’s car.”
“The girls are going to be here?” Turk asked, the picture of innocent curiosity.
“Holly, Linda, and Leslie, for sure,” said Larry. “Rhonda’s the wild card today.”
From the back of the van, Burt said, “She’s here. They’re pulling up behind us as we speak.”
Larry glanced at his side mirror and saw Holly’s Toyota hatchback gliding to a stop behind his van. Leslie (with Rhonda visible in the passenger seat) pulled around and parked her red Volkswagen Beetle behind the Comix cubed van.
They all tumbled out of the cars together, talking in their groups. D.J. came outside to greet them. “My friends!” he cried.
They all cheered half-heartedly as they assembled in front of him. D.J. slapped a high five with Larry and got a light hug from Leslie.
“Okay, let’s get this going,” said Larry. “What’s what? Where’s it going? What are we doing?’
“Most of what goes is here,” said D.J. “I’m pretty sure we can do this in two trips. Thanks to Holly and Les for bringing cars.”
Leslie curtsied. Holly, wearing baggy shorts, a Ramones concert t-shirt, and her black hair pulled back into a messy ponytail, smiled thinly and said nothing.
“Obviously, the bigger things, boxes and furniture, goes into the vans. Clothes and dishes and smaller stuff goes into the cars.”
“What’s left?” asked Burt. “This looks pretty complete.”
“I’ve got my bed, and a desk, still in my room,” said D.J., “and, um, Mom is insisting on going through the attic right now.”
“For what?” asked Rhonda, horrified.
“Try us,” suggested Turk.
D.J. took a deep breath. “Okay, over the years, we’ve gotten Christmas presents and sometimes birthday presents that my mother insisted we don’t really need. Rather than take them back to the store and exchanging them, which would make sense, she would keep the present so as not to offend the giver and chuck the thing into the attic.”
“That’s very weird,” said Leslie. “But I’ve met your mother, so it makes a kind of sense.”
“Yeah, well, now she’s going through the five toasters, the four blenders, all of the towels, the boxes of Christmas ornaments…”
“Jesus,” said Larry.
“Well, on the other hand, it’s going to keep her busy so I can get this done. She’s been crying all week.”
“Oh, that’s so sad,” said Linda.
D.J. shrugged. “I know, but what can I do? I have to go. My dad was the one who moved all of this shit out here. I woke up this morning to find it like this.”
No one said anything for a minute. Larry broke the silence by slamming one hand on top of the metal filing cabinet he was standing beside. “Burt, give me a hand with this.”
“Yep,” said Burt, grateful to be in motion.
One by one, they all grabbed boxes and got to work.
D.J.’s new apartment was nothing of the sort. Located in the Tenderloin, it was around the corner from Larry’s apartment in the more rundown area of the neighborhood. His mother took one look at the burnouts, the hippies, and the skate punks that were strewn down the street like discarded Christmas wrapping and promptly freaked out. “You can NOT move here,” she exclaimed.
“Mom, it’s a ten minute walk to work. Larry lives two blocks away, and he’s never had a problem.”
“Larry’s a gorilla. He can take care of himself.”
“Dad?” D.J. turned to his father, who was watching the young woman with gigantic hoops in her ears walk up the steps with a canvas bag of groceries. “A little help?”
D.J.’s father turned to face the family. “Huh? What? Oh, yeah. Listen, it’s your money. You want to live in the ‘Hood, that’s your decision. And when you get robbed and killed, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.”
This prompted a fresh round of wails from his mother, but for once, father and son were in a weird kind of mutual agreement. The building was older, a walk-up tenement that used to rent twelve rooms. Over the years, those rooms were combined, opened up, and remodeled until there were now four decent apartments, two on the bottom and two on the top. D.J. was renting the right hand downstairs apartment. It boasted two bedrooms, one bathroom, a decent kitchen, and two separate living spaces, divided by a set of French doors. The whole building had satellite cable for high speed Internet access. The real amenity was a working washer and dryer beside the modest bathroom, but D.J. had never done his own laundry and couldn’t possibly realize what a convenience something like that really was in the Tenderloin. The flat rented for about a hundred bucks more than D.J. could realistically afford a month, but he wanted high speed Internet access. He wanted it like he’d never wanted anything else in his life. Besides, he still had a sizeable nest egg from their porno module endeavor. So with little trepidation, he signed an 18 month lease and broke his mother’s heart.
When the gang walked in, all carrying armloads of D.J.’s stuff, they were greeted by a folding lawn chair, a TV tray bearing an empty bottle of Mountain Dew, all arranged next to a five feet tall, eight feet square stack of comic book boxes.
“Wow,” said Turk, dropping his boxes. “That’s your whole stash?”
“Yeah,” said D.J. proudly. “It’s all there. Justin was thrilled that I finally took it all home.”
“How’d it end up at the store in the first place?” asked Burt.
“His mom used to freak out when he’d bring more comics home every week,” said Larry, “so he just started buying them and stashing them at the store for safekeeping.”
“That’s genius,” said Turk.
“No, that’s passive aggressive and more than a little fucked up,” corrected Burt.
“People in glass houses, Burt,” said D.J. “How’s your dad these days?”
“Okay, Deej,” Burt said quickly. “Come on, folks, let’s get going.”
Burt’s father was a police sergeant in Chicago, and for some reason, it was mortifying to Burt. His friends never understood it fully, but never failed to bring it up whenever Burt overstepped his bounds.
The Turk watched Rhonda out of the corner of his eye as she chatted with Leslie and Linda about how to organize D.J.’s kitchen so that it would make sense to his socially unskilled brain, and yet be easy for them to find everything needed to make margaritas whenever they threw his housewarming party.
The second he’d laid eyes on her, his pulse rate doubled and threatened to send him into cardiac arrest. At least, that’s what it felt like. Today’s ensemble was a pair of loose fitting jeans, tucked into cowboy boots, a pink spaghetti-strap tube top with a blue button-down work shirt over it. Rhonda knotted the work shirt at her ribcage. It was hypnotic. All Turk could think about was tugging the knot free.
But he’d kept his distance, and he’d kept quiet. Ten years of rejection had slowly, inexorably imprinted the wisdom that it was better to remain silent and be thought of a fool (or in Turk’s case, slightly pathetic) than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.
He thought back to all of the mental energy he’d expended (not to mention the sexual energy) in the past two weeks talking to her every single night for hours on end. Playful banter gave way to heartfelt conversations which turned into erotic flirting which turned into…Turk blushed as he recalled some of the things he’d typed, one handed, to her just last night. And yet, there she was, chattering away (looking better than ever), not even knowing that he was right here. TrancersFan, the guy who was capturing your heart, if not your masturbatory time slot, was standing in the doorway, holding a new toaster and blender. This could not go on, Turk decided. He would have to tell her. But how to begin? How to make it not creepy?
He composed himself as he walked slowly and deliberately into the kitchen and set down his charges. “Blender and toaster,” he announced. “At least D.J. has that going for him, if nothing else.”
Leslie grabbed the toaster and started to open the box. “Nice,” she said. “It’s red!”
Rhonda took the blender and said, “How’ve you been, Fred?”
He swallowed. “Good, real good. Just trying to get through school, you know?” So far, so good. As Rhonda struggled with the packaging on the blender, he added, “You look great. I mean, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you, but you just look…great.”
She turned and smiled. “You’re sweet!” She returned to the blender, swearing cheerfully as the cardboard refused to yield to her charms. “I guess I’ve got a spring in my step these days.”
“Oh Jeez, not this, again,” said Leslie.
“What’s up, Rhon?” asked Linda.
Rhonda turned to Linda, putting her back to Turk, and said “I’ve been dallying with this guy on my website for a couple of weeks, now. It started out as just flirting, but lately it’s become downright…interesting, if you know what I mean.”
“Yes, I think we get it,” said Leslie, cutting her eyes at Turk in a meaningful way. Turk was staring at the blender, his mouth slack. As Rhonda began describing how TrancersFan made her feel, he deftly plucked the blender from its protective wrapping.
“Here you go,” he said, presenting the blender to Rhonda. “Unwrapped for your protection.”
“You sir, are a mechanical genius,” Rhonda said, taking the blender from him.
“Don’t just think of me as a mechanical genius, but rather, a mechanical genius who would really love to buy you a coffee after we get finished here.”
Rhonda didn’t bat an eye. “That’s a very sweet offer, Fred, but I’ve kinda got a date tonight with this online guy, TrancersFan. I know that probably seems weird, but there’s just something about him that is making me crazy right now.” Her eyes met his, and he quickly looked away and down. “Can I get a rain check?”
“No problem,” he said, backing out of the kitchen. “I’ve got, um, something to do tonight. Rain check. Yeah.” He hurried out for another armload of D.J.’s stuff.
“Oh. My. God.” Leslie was horrified. “That was maybe the most insensitive thing I’ve ever seen you do, Rhonda.”
“Yeah, that was a little too brutal,” added Linda.
Rhonda spun around to stare at both of them. Her eyes were bright blue and almost on fire. “Shut up,” she said. “Just shut up. Drop it now, and drop it forever. I know exactly what I’m doing, and so does Fred.” She turned on her heel and walked out of the kitchen.
“What a bitch,” said Linda.
Leslie was forced to agree.
The day took longer than anticipated, not because D.J. had miscalculated on the amount of stuff he had, but because he had miscalculated the size of the scene his mother would make as he was leaving.
“You’ll come by for dinner once a week?”
“If I can,” D.J. said.
“And you know, you can swing by with a load of laundry to do, anytime, right?”
“I don’t think I’ll need to do that,” D.J. said.
“I can’t believe you’re leaving home!” his mother wailed, throwing herself into her husband’s arms.
“I give him two months,” said his father.
“Dad, I’m right here,” said D.J.
“Yeah? So? Prove me wrong, then.”
He smiled. “Yes, sir.”
His father stepped in and handed him a sheaf of papers. “I took the liberty of hooking up your gas and your cable.”
“Whoah. Thank you.”
His father smiled thinly. “That’s the last freebie. Start thinking ahead, son. Act, don’t react.”
“I know you know. Now, go do.” His father turned away and dragged his bereaved mother into the house.
Once they unloaded everything, D.J. called Gumby’s Pizza and ordered four pizzas. He gave Larry money to go get beer and soda, and everyone sat around on boxes and his forlorn and scattered furniture as they ate and drank.
“Deej, you need more places to sit,” said Leslie as she pulled the crust off of her sausage pizza.
“What she said,” said Holly. “If you’re planning on entertaining, that is.”
D.J. turned to Leslie. “So, would you help me out? You know, get this place looking like a place?”
Leslie snagged another piece of pizza and began stripping the crust off. “Okay, sure.”
“Cool,” said D.J. “I want the place to look like I live here, only, I don’t want it to look like…I live here.”
Leslie grinned. “Well, first thing I’d do is get all these fucking comics out of the living room.”
“Yes,” said Holly. “Amen.”
“What’s wrong with comics in the living room?” asked Larry as he put his arm around Holly.
“Ew, stinky,” she said, but she snuggled in anyway. “Nothing, as long as there are less than seven of them and they are on the coffee table as reading material.”
“Is this going to be a house rule?”
“Not here, it’s not,” said D.J.
“No, I mean…” Larry stopped. “Well, now that you’re moved in, I think this is a good time to break the news to everyone.”
“News?” D.J. looked confused.
“Holly and I are moving in together.”
Everyone, even the people that knew it already, made approving noises and wished them both well. D.J. said, “So, does that mean we won’t be neighbors?”
“Well,” said Larry, apologetically, “Holly’s place is bigger. And nicer.”
“Dammit,” said D.J. “Now I’ve got to actually meet my neighbors.”
“You’ll do fine,” said Burt.
“We’ll make this place the party house,” said Leslie.
Turk slapped Larry on the shoulder. “Congrats, man. Big step. Good on you.”
“Thanks, Bud.” Larry didn’t turn around, or he would have seen that Turk was staring at Rhonda, and inexplicably, Rhonda appeared to be staring right back.