Dreamt us four were going to take a trip to Mars, where Mike had lived for a while.
I woke from the dream, looked around my bedroom. Mom was too lazy to take off the moon-age wallpaper. She just painted over it in white spackle. Through the spackle I could see the solar system.
On my table, COLLECTED FICTIONS by Gordon Lish.
I put on some pants and a shirt that said something like,
MY OTHER SHIRT
IS A HAIRY CHEST
I left the Gordon Lish where he was and walked out the door.
CAT lived next to my parents’ house.
He lived alone.
CAT was an asshole, but I didn’t mind. CAT was the way he was, and I respected that.
I knocked on his door. He answered after about 3 minutes. He was in his famous overalls.
“You better have something to give me.”
CAT swung the door wide open and started walking back to his recliner.
Before he sat down he walked back toward me.
“I think I’m gonna have some ice cream.”
I sat on his fucking futon and looked around his wood-paneled living room.
“What are you doing up?”
CAT finished scooping his ice cream. It took him 1-2 minutes to answer my question.
“Had a little party in a can earlier.”
I didn’t feel bad about making him say it. The Steel Reserve was right there by his recliner, clearly empty.
And there was one at the foot of the fucking futon, also empty.
“Got anymore in stock?”
“You haven’t had 1 already?”
“What do you mean? I just woke up.”
“Oh man, you gotta slake yourself then.”
I stood from the fucking futon because I already knew CAT wasn’t going to go so far as to fetch me a can.
His fridge was fairly empty and dirty. That didn’t bother me enough to say anything about it, at least not when I saw the 2 remaining cans of Steel.
“I could’ve sworn you had 1 earlier.”
“Maybe I did. So I slept it off.”
I shrugged my shoulders. 1 gaseous exhale later, my thirst was slaked.
I didn’t quite know what he meant even though I really knew exactly what he meant.
“That’s the sparkle.”
I tried to be semi-theatrical about it all, just to get a laugh out of CAT. He earned it after this gift.
CAT bent over laughing. He slapped his hands together and got lost in his own hilarity.
He pried open a thing of natural peanut butter with the oil already mixed into the butter.
3-4 spoonfuls went directly on top of the Rocky road, and on top of all that, 1 banana, sliced.
I walked back to the fucking futon and stared at the smoldering fire.
Before sitting, I threw some logs on there and used the bellows.
It was really cold outside and all I had on were some pants and a shirt.
CAT sat Indian-style on his recliner and started eating his bowl of ice cream. The last can of Steel Reserve leaned against his lap.
The can sweated some.
I couldn’t tell what CAT was all smiley about because he had so much to be thankful for.
The fire shared its warmth. Not much else went on in the living room. My eyes stayed on the fire, but I didn’t zone out. I was completely focused. No discursive thoughts.
“I dreamt we were going to Mars.”
“It’s a sign. Now’s the time.”
I considered this heavily. CAT may have been right, but something didn’t feel right about the whole thing.
“You’re not dressed warm enough. You think it’s cold here? Try Mars.”
He was absolutely right. Mars was farther away from the sun.
“You think I should change?”
CAT shrugged in his recliner.
I didn’t need to be told.
On the walk back to my parents’ house, I saw WNU on my porch. He was cold under the lightbulb. I saw him injecting the air around him with icicles.
“What’s up, man?”
“I had a feeling you were going to tell me that.”
The door was unlocked. We went upstairs. I put on some warmer clothes. WNU thumbed COLLECTED FICTIONS.
“Mind if I take this on our journey?”
“It’s kind of heavy, don’t you think?”
WNU used his hand like a balance.
“I like the idea of having a book weigh me down as we hurtle through space.”
CAT took 2-3 minutes to answer his door.
While I was gone, he had put on a lumber jacket over his famous overalls.
The shoelaces on his leather walking shoes were still untied.
And he swung the door wide open.
“What’s up, man?”
“Nothing but the sparkle tonight. Wish I had some to give you, but this asshole drank more than his share.”
“Don’t worry about it, man, I brought my own.”
He snuck out a newly purchased contingency can of Reserve and pumped his eyebrows.
“The spaceship’s finished.”
CAT made some friction against his overall straps with the webbing between his thumb and forefinger.
Meanwhile, I found my Steel Reserve as I left it. I stepped closer to the fire and felt thankful for the warmth.
All the girls I ever kissed bounced through my brain.
Without turning around, I said,
“Think we’ll miss anything here?”
CAT hit my shoulder and jostled my torso, his idea of a friendly pat. He didn’t say anything comforting. He just stared at the fire with me, impish delight plastered all over his face.
I didn’t know what the warmth made him feel.
WNU stood next to CAT and cracked open his Steel. He took a sip and nodded.
I trusted that was the best answer I’d ever get.
“At least we’ll have a place to stay when we get there.”
“Yeah, man. Mike’s there already. He says it’s cool.”
I chugged the rest of my Reserve and muscled the can.
“Why don’t you throw it on the fire there, Mr Jellyfish.”
I didn’t hesitate. Pyromania was something I liked to indulge in.
“I think we should take a cooler of Reserve. They probably won’t have any out there.”
“I don’t know about that. Last time I talked to Mike he was drinking some.”
No one said anything to this even though it didn’t make any sense. Mike was the only person living on Mars. How could he possibly be drinking high-gravity lager?
“Well, either way, I don’t think it could hurt much if we took some more.”
“Yeah. It’s 4 years transit time each way.”
CAT threw his can of Steel Reserve into the fire and made some friction against his overall straps. His can popped like a gun. Instinctively, I caught the bullet.
“I have a ways to go, fellas.”
Me and CAT completely understood.
In unison, we said,
“T a k e y o u r t i m e , m a n.”
The fire crackled like buttons. I threw another log in because I wanted the thing to be raging before we left.
CAT walked upstairs to pack a duffel bag full of clothes. He would probably also pack a heavy book, maybe something like Keats.
Me and WNU stood in silence. We heard the wood floor creaking wherever CAT pressed his weight.
“It’ll be good to see Mike.”
“He hasn’t been doing much out there, right?”
“Well, he built his house. I’m not sure how he’s living out there, but I don’t think he could have things as easy as he wants.”
“We’ll get everything set up. I’m just glad he already got electricity and hot water going. That’s really all I need to start everything else.”
“Yeah, I mean, what else is there really?”
“Well, we need internet. But everything else is extracurricular.”
CAT trundled down the stairs with his duffel bag. He stood still on the last step, like he forgot something semi-precious.
“While making myself some pasta with brocolli, cheese, and corn tonight for dinner, I was trying to decide whether to put in the last couple florets in the bag. I thought to myself “screw it, you only live once” and indulged. It’s good to be a thousandaire.”
After living poor for so long, CAT relished in his glory and looked straight ahead at the future.
“At least you know what to do with all that cash.”
WNU finished his Reserve and threw the can into the fire without further ado.
The last thing I saw before we reached the door was CAT’s scraped bowl of ice cream on the recliner. I imagined how hard it would be stuck to the porcelein by the time we got back. Encrustation.
The fire crackled strong while we walked down the street. The electric lamps made civilization around us eerie and beautiful.
I looked into the window that looked into my first girlfriend’s bedroom. A girl I didn’t even know by name anymore.
But we kissed twice, the second time with tongue.
WNU didn’t live with anyone else. In fact, I was the only one who still lived with my parents. It was a temporary thing.
A cat sat fat on top of WNU’s car. The cat looked directly at me. When the cat slowly blinked, I slowly blinked back out of courtesy.
WNU already had his bag packed by the door that led to the backyard. He put COLLECTED FICTIONS into the front pocket and brought us into the kitchen to show us a camo case stocked with Steel.
CAT couldn’t hide his enthusiasm.
I was a little more realistic, assessing how long this supply would last 4 adult males.
“How are we going to populate Mars?”
“In due time. First we gotta get things set up just right.”
“Then we’ll colonize.”
I looked at a hairball in the corner. It had a piece of red paper tangled in it.
I walked over to the door that led to the backyard.
“It won’t bite, man.”
I needed another Reserve. Things just didn’t seem right. First of all, our spaceship was made out of wood.
CAT swiped WNU’s last ripe banana without asking and put it in his duffel bag.
WNU shook his head at CAT, wondering what kind of person he was. He took out a bottle of Knob Creek from his freezer.
We each threw back 1 shot and then poured another. We didn’t say cheers.
I looked around at the way our tumblers were arranged on the countertop and tried to understand that everything would be in precisely the same place when we came back.
WNU opened the door to his backyard.
The spaceship looked like something that dropped out of the sky.
I touched the whittled edges.
It was go time.
WNU packed the cargo and invited us inside.
I looked at the moon. I looked at the stars. I could see Mars. It didn’t look too far from here.
WNU turned the thing on and started a 60 second countdown. I could see into my first girlfriend’s bedroom. From this height, I could see her under the covers. The first time we kissed, we both had braces. She was the first to slip her tongue. I could still taste the squirmy thing.
At 13 seconds, I said,
From the corner of my eyes I could see WNU and CAT trying to guess where the booby call came from, but neither of them knew.
“3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .”
Flawless takeoff. So flawless it was boring. We sprung into the sky.
Still, something didn’t feel quite right.
“What about food? What’s Mike do for food?”
WNU couldn’t look at me. He was guiding the spaceship with fine motor skills.
CAT, on the other hand, didn’t look too busy. But that didn’t mean he was going to bother with an answer.
“What about oxygen? What’s Mike do for air?”
I tried to think of one good reason why I should keep on rocketing toward the upper reaches of our atmosphere.
If where I was going didn’t have any food or oxygen, at least not that I could see, why should I go any farther?
Then I thought of Mike out there. He made the trip in the same model wooden spaceship, 8 months earlier.
“I don’t know about this.”
“I’m almost there, but-”
“But I’m going to have to call the whole thing off.”
WNU looked at me with eyeballs that should’ve been more bugged out.
CAT put his hand over the EJECT button before I could get there.
“Not on my time you’re not. Man-up, man. We’re doing this.”
I looked out my window behind me and saw 1-2 continents and rocket fire pushing us away from everything we knew.
I scrubbed my hairy chest.