Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Shake Night"

            A blessing when Cassandra called the boys up. Her and Zac, Kyle, and Anthony. She usually was a nocturnal little eccentric—calling up at odd hours for hang-out whenever eight o’clock had passed. Mostly week days. Weekends she devoted to her boyfriend Alex or aging parents.
            Tonight, it was to In N Out Burger in San Ramon. Kyle was recruited to pick up everyone, starting the rounds with Zac in the foothills of Clayton’s polished country suburbs and then to Cass on old Concord Boulevard. Anthony was last. Chivalric courtesy, Cass called shotgun and no one objected. They were even forced to listen to her iPhone which she hooked up to Kyle’s stereo and put on blast Elvis, Orbison, Frankie Valli—it was a sentimental cruise along I- 680 as she laughed along with the tune. “You look like Frankie, Anthony,” Cass exclaimed and turned back to her closest friend, “only taller. Your voice is deeper too.”
            “He’s not gay, pretty much,” Zac added with a laugh. Cass ignored him.
            The lights were dark around San Ramon as Kyle’s white Mazda pulled off the freeway and made some turns towards the bright illumination of In N Out, a square kitsch block of palm trees and large red outdoor seating flooded with cars— parked or strung on in the line to the drive-through that edged into the main street. Fuck that, they all agreed, swooping into one of the last available parking spaces shadowed in some trees off to the corner of the lot. Inside, Zac, not hungry, reserved a seat for the four of them. Cass pulled aside to get a better view of the menu. “It’s all shit,” she concluded to Kyle.
            “Do the secret menu,” he suggested with a wink, “The animal fries, those you never go wrong with.”
            “Agreed!” Cass nodded. “No, what you getting Ant?”
            Anthony shrugged. “Well the animal fries, no doubt,” he decided, “and a four-by-four.”
            “Bold,” she said, looking up. “Give me everything. Gosh, this secret menu shit’s just the best thing that ever happened to these people, ain’t it?” They looked around after getting the orders: high school hipsters walking in and taking a look around scornfully at the place; hulky bros flocking from their raised 90’s trucks; occasional t-shirted families piling in from their sons’ victorious little league game. They refrained from the likes of these crowds and continued to talk on about most things, relevant and irrelevant. Cass only was bold to mention the irrelevant, such as Billy Bogart shying away from the gang. “It’s been like the whole summer and he’s not invited us to shit!” she spat after a big slurp of her Neapolitan milkshake, another secret menu delectable. “You’re all fair game, good sort of guys—he’s just a jackass.”
            “It’s whatever, who gives a fuck,” Anthony was saying lightly, “Since we all got back from college, he’s been M.I.A. with all those other people we barely spoke to in high school—kind of odd he should start messin’ about with them now.”
            “He’s a puss,” Kyle started, “a smart tool that’s going where the fun is. Sorry we like to eat and sit around and get fucking fat, dumbass.”
            Cass admired his sarcasm, eyeing Kyle while she sucked her straw. One of the boys, she was. Anthony could see that, they all could. More so Anthony, he knew her longest, practically introduced her to his guys. All was casual and deep with them, though their emotions and quick jabs of general subjects from good new music on Live 105.3 to rating attractive peers seemed shallow. “I don’t see why you’re being left out of the cuts Cass,” Zac began, “You’re a fun person. You’ll do anything.”
            “Make me seem like a slut, thanks asshole,” she snapped at him with a grin. Zac flinched at first, returning an uneasy smile. Anthony looked to Kyle and both smirked—Zac’s wounded experience with women always made him alert with their impressions and ready to retreat from hurting any girl. Cass’ strong sarcasm didn’t help much.
            Fuck Billy Bogart, they moved to sitting outside where they tossed their trays and sat around with milkshakes. When’s the next hang-out, who’s throwing a party that weekend when their folks were away, if you saw that funny shit on Tosh.O, what dates they were all leaving back to their colleges. “Poor Anthony, he sits around on his ass just waiting for us to come back on holidays,” Cass shrugged.
            “It’s not bad, Cass, I got only a semester left at DVC.”
            “Oh man, you know how hard it is to fucking transfer into the spring,” Zac sprung up. “God, it must suck getting stuck there.”
            “You talk like I’m going to be there for-fucking-ever,” Anthony remarked. “I got a semester left, and then if all goes well, Cal Poly. Fuck, I wasn’t so lucky as Kyle to afford that school, forgive me.”
            “Calm your tits there, Zac,” Cass came to his defense, Zac’s expression moving through mixed phases.
            “Yeah Ant, hurry it up so you can come move in with me down in San Luis,” Kyle said. “You get the good side of life there. The ocean, the town’s alright, girls are amazing—“
            “Sorry, Oregon’s better with the girls, you should ask me, going there,” Cass cut in.
            “We’re not going to touch on USF Zac, the tuition fucking blows,” Kyle sneered.
            “I’m not saying Ant should try it there. I practically sold my soul to get in.” Anthony’s face was growing pale. He hated talk of college, when everyone had their situated homes away from home and adventures and he would never know of until next spring. He slurped on his shake, nothing was left. He still slurped.
            “Take it easy Ant,” Cass then told him, sensing his sulk. “God-damn you guys, poor choice of subject. Fuck you all, rocking—no, shaking,” she swept up Anthony’s empty carton, and shook it to the other guys playfully, “the boat. Ant feels left out.”
            “I don’t,” he quickly said, taking the carton from her and tossing it to the far-distant overrun trash bin, where it missed, “it’s just a headache to think about the future. I haven’t even started classes yet at DVC. Must get past that first before I can even think to Cal Poly.”
            “True, true,” Kyle agreed. “But the future’s not all to avoid. I don’t even want to touch on after graduation—fuck—but the basics at least: finding a job, your own place—mostly the job. Do what you want to do. That’s the main bit of it all ain’t it.”
            Cass was shaking her head, mouth and flickering lashes all about ready to laugh, “Then there’s the in-between. The future is going to be so great! You see, when I graduate, here’s this,” she leaned in and proceeded; “Get the hell out of Oregon, probably get something going with Pixar or whatever my graphic design degree will take me. Pick up my dog Keefer from my parents, stop in occasionally to say ‘hi’ and send my love to them—in the meantime I’ll have found my own place.”
            “Where?” Zac asked.
            “Oakland probably. Or wherever my job will be. I’m just certain I’ll stay in the area for a bit. But you know, I can’t stand it to hell being lonely, Keef’s not enough. So I’ll save up, muddle on down to San Luis Obispo, and snatch Anthony up so I can marry him.”
            Zac and Kyle laughed, Cass was smiling still. Anthony was mute.
            “The dream team, you two,” Zac was saying, “Yeah, the future’s pretty fantastic when you put it that way. But why Anthony?”
            “So that Kyle doesn’t get there first,” she bluntly said. “Duh!” Kyle dropped his jaw and stood up defiantly. “Challenge accepted,” he announced, he and Cass shaking hands to bind a hypothetical contract.
            Anthony never could get the shake night out of his mind after that. It made him nervous to get singled out—nervous it should have been Cass to do so. Such thought reoccurred amongst the group, merely a whole year after that night happened. Give or take a week, it was summer once more, a cold cloudy day that miraculously transitioned into blue skies and refreshing heat as Kyle’s car made it down the coast of Cabrillo Highway to Santa Cruz. They were visiting the Boardwalk, the five of them—Cass’ friend Reyna from University of Oregon was visiting and as of that May officially dating Kyle; she had called shotgun, and no one, not even Cass, objected.
            The rest of the gang was making its way ahead through the bunches of tourists and families and half-clothed teens strolling up and down the game stalls, fried food stands, ticket booths and photo-taking in random corners. Anthony and Cass were taking it slow, sight-seeing and observing rather than participating with the others.
            “One of you better win me something at one of these games,” she said, looking forward. “Of course, I won’t count on Kyle, he’s got Reyna. She’s probably eyeing a cute fuzzy big-ass monkey or whatever, I just want a stuffed Kenny from South Park.” Anthony laughed at her suggestion of prize.
            “Zac needs some practice,” Anthony returned lightheartedly. She looked at him with disgust.
            “He’d surely miss, but don’t say anything that’ll make him nervous and he might knick the bottle or make the skee ball at 20.” The group ahead steered out toward the adjacent beach, vast and crowded while fresh cool waves as blue as Cass’ eyes sporadically swept in and out. Zac, Reyna, and Kyle, the latter two hand in hand, descended the sandy wooden stairs that met with the sand; Anthony and Cass made it to the second step down before taking a quick stop to admire what was before them. Cass stayed quiet, until a sigh: “What’s Anthony thinking, I wonder?”
            He shook his head. “All the babes on the beach. No big deal.”
            He’d made her laugh. “Just find those up in Oregon. They’ll flock to a tanned Californian boy like crazy.” She sighed and nudged at his elbow. “Too bad Alex hates roller coasters—crowds. Something he’ll never get over, I guess.” She got quiet, lost in her own thoughts which anybody rarely saw. The laughter and glow in her face seemed to be fading.
            “Don’t worry about it, Cass,” Anthony assured her, “He gets it.” He didn’t really quite know what he meant. She looked up at him, and crooked her arm loosely in his. “Silly Ant,” Cass said to herself. She seemed to have understood.
            They remained blocking traffic, standing firmly on the second step adoring the big ocean. The last question, he asked, “You in love with me, Cass?”
            She smacked her lips together with a smile. He was surely joking. It was their way of things.

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