Michael Brown

The Paradise Wars and Clark Ransom Thrillers

Off Pebble Beach (2)

Short Story by the Author of The Consecration of Jacob Jordaens off pebble beach, distraction, short story, memoir, disturbing, coming out

Off Pebble Beach: Distraction

Part Two: Distraction

Michael J Brown

Go here for Part One: Off Pebble Beach: Darkening Waters

The man next to me at dinner introduced himself as Gabriel from Boston. Since I lived in Providence there was common ground. Even so and unfortunately I suppose, the shop talk that followed was inevitable.

Gabriel reacted to Joy’s boss from Microsoft now at the podium: “So what if Microsoft manages 130 languages? How does that help me struggling to manage four?”

Of course, he couldn’t expect me to answer. I smiled and began to scan the room. If Gabriel, as handsome and well-dressed as he was, was indeed a dud, I needed to know my options. Then I saw Joy across the room. She was watching me. I whipped around, back towards Gabriel, and our knees touched. I didn’t move; I left my knee in place and felt his begin to tremble. I inched my knee so more leg made contact. David shifted, and our outer thighs, hip to knee, were pressed together. Suddenly embarrassed, I recoiled and knocked a fork to the floor. I bent down to get it and came up looking the other way so as not to face him. Instead there was Joy across the room still staring, ignoring her friend on the dais, intent on me.

Gabriel noticed Joy’s fixation and said,”You do intrigue her. You two have something going?”

“God no. She’s someone I barely knew in high school.”
Gabriel nodded toward the speaker, “What an arrogant asshole.”

I agreed that the man was tedious and told Gabriel that he was Joy’s friend.

“Now I really pity you.”

I laughed, realizing I liked this man, and as our legs settled together again, I grew hard. Maybe we could skip dinner? I slid my hand between our two thighs as if to scratch, when . . .

“Is there a David here?”

It was my pink-eared angel who had served me and Joy hors d’oeuvres. “I’m David,” and I took the folded note from the boy.

“From your lady friend?” Gabriel asked.

I read quickly. “Neither a friend or a lady,” I said. “Exactly who does she think she is?”

“If I’m not intruding, what does she say?”

I read the damn thing to him.

David, sorry, but that was no way to begin our reunion. Please, I must meet you later. If you can’t or won’t, then do you have Michael’s number or email? Although, it would be so much better if we could call him together and tell him about this miracle. Joy

“Miracle? I tell you she’s nuts. And like I’m going to drag Michael into this?”

“Who’s Michael?”

“He’s . . . ” I stopped. What could I tell him? Nothing really. “He’s just someone we knew in school.”

“Maybe you should hear her out. At least it could be a hoot, fodder for parties back home.”

“I’ll send you as my emissary. You bring back the intelligence. I’m not getting near her.”

“You think I won’t? I’ll be back in a jiffy with the dirt.” He rose from his chair.

I put my hand on his arm and settled him back into his seat. I liked this bad boy streak in him. I was going to suggest we leave as soon as we were done eating, when I saw her crossing the room. “Fuck. She’s coming. Let’s get out of here. My room?”

He laughed, “How about we start with the bar?”

I jumped up and headed for the closest door, but she anticipated the maneuver and cut us off before we made it. She grabbed my sleeve. “You don’t remember any of it,” she said.

I tried to free myself.

Gabriel extended his hand, “Hi Joy. I’m . . ..”

“Don’t tell her your goddamn name!” Then turning to Joy, I yelled, “And you! Drop the arm.” She released the sleeve and I continued, “No, Joy Remington, I do not remember. What I do recall is that we were not of the same circle, socially or academically. Not in high school and I doubt now. Now if you want to embarrass your Microsoft buddy at the podium, keep up this harassment and I’ll call hotel security. We’re going to return to our seats and finish our dinner.”

She said nothing. I held her gaze as her green eyes filled and flooded over. I felt nothing. No past I shared with her could account for this hysteria. This poor woman was unhinged but she had nothing to do with me. I knew there was nothing to remember, nothing at all.

Later at the bar, for the first time since I first saw her several hours ago, I felt good.
Gabriel said, “You are tough. That was severe. I hope I keep on your good side.”

I raised my glass of Napa something and smiled.

“No hard feelings?” Gabriel asked.

We were both on our way to Saturday’s first workshop and had met in the lobby before heading down different wings.

He continued, “I’m so sorry David. The pinot noir and the Verdi last night were seductive, but I think boy-on-boy isn’t for me.”

“Maybe a little too much pinot?”

“No, I don’t think it was the booze.” He laughed. “Anyway, I hope I didn’t ruin your night.”

I wanted to say that I knew he started out interested. I wanted to know what happened. I was ready to beg. Again. Had I actually pleaded with him last night?

“Well, hey. My session’s about to start.” He paused, then ran up to me threw his arms around me and whispered, “Really, I am sorry.” He kissed me on the neck, then walked away.

What the hell was he doing? I wasn’t nuts. All the mutual groping at the bar. And it was Gabriel who led him upstairs. And just now hadn’t he felt Gabriel swell against his thigh? It isn’t me. That boy is confused. I turned and yelled after him, “Let’s get a drink later.”

Gabriel waved his hand above his head and kept going.

Yet, I wondered as I went into “Content and Global Translation”, if I were delusional? Was he straight?

A wave of embarrassment shuddered through me and I took a first seat on the aisle. I tried to read the workshop handout, but instead replayed last night. This wasn’t going to work. Before the first speaker, I had to get out of there. Maybe I could talk Gabriel into dropping his workshop and over coffee we could talk?

Resolved, I got up to leave, but there was Joy, ready to enter the aisle and take the seat next to me.

I blocked her. “Are you fucking stalking me?”

The lights dimmed.

“David! Move over and sit down. It’s starting.”

“Our speaker received her doctorate in Asian philology at Oxford . . .

I froze.

The woman in the row behind hissed, “Sit down!” and I shuffled down the aisle and dropped into a seat midway.

“By the mid-nineties she had already completed major localization initiatives in Hong Kong and Singapore. Currently, she is . . . ”

“David,” Joy whispered.

“Shhhh! They’re starting.”

“It’s just the introduction. You have to talk to me. I need . . .”

I ignored her and turned toward the podium.

“It’s become a management cliché that content management is the way to shorten delivery time and increase quality.”

I was going to learn nothing here. Standard corporate bullshit. Besides I really had to talk to Gabriel.

Then Joy leaned into my ear, “You always sat in the middle, David, keeping me from Michael, and I hated you for it. I may have driven the car to San Gabriel that night, but what happened was your fault. I was determined to hurt you.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Was she crazy? Hurt me? I couldn’t help myself, “The only time you drove was to the Junior Prom. I was with Charlene. Michael with Linda. You were with someone, and we went to the Moonbeam in Moss Beach for burgers after.”

I was shouting. The woman behind tried to shut me up, shushing me.

Joy snapped “I never went to the prom. Charlene drove you two. Who would take me? Every other night I was with the two of you. It was always me, you, and Michael. Always.”

“My God! You are unbalanced.”

“Please,” the woman behind leaned forward. “Be quiet or leave.”

Whipping around, I forced her to rear back, “And you are Ms. Bitch who?”

I half noticed Joy heading up the aisle, while I continued to stare the woman down until she finally settled back. Only then did Joy’s absence register. When I saw Joy exit out the rear, instead of letting her go, I ran after her, trampling feet in my rush down the row.

Tearing through the back door, I saw her across the lobby. She was slumped on a sofa near registration. She looked up, wan, her eyes rimmed with red, and asked, “Do you remember anything David?”

Of course I did. I said, “Your car was a Buick and black.” God I even think I remembered that it was an Electra. Not bad for thirty years.

“Black?” I saw her grip the top of the chair in front of her. “Black? For Christ’s sake David. Did you know I was so jealous that it was always you that Michael picked!?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I was so jealous. I thought maybe this would get his attention.” She unbuttoned the tiny buttons at the cuff of her cream-colored blouse and rolled up her sleeve.

Two purple cords extended from the bottom of her palm to the crook of her elbow. Lord, had she used a meat cleaver? Definitely pitiful. The girl was mad. But what in the hell did it have to do with me? Where was the relevance?

“Thank God my Mom found me in time. Back then I didn’t know what else to do, because . . . ”

“I don’t care why, Joy. A sane person doesn’t do that to themselves. Let’s end this. O.K.? Enough is enough.”

She looked down as she re-buttoned her cuff, then stared me in the eye and said,”Asshole.” She got up and walked towards the elevator.

I wanted to yell after her, to fill the peach ambience of that so California lobby–even with all my associates mingling, networking, judging–to ask her just who the fuck she thought she was? Instead, I screamed just before the elevator doors closed, “You’re right bitch! He did pick me.”

I felt myself trembling. I just wanted too get up to my room and bed. About to push UP. I felt someone beside me. It was Gabriel.

“Hey kid. Maybe we should talk?”

Thank God, distraction I thought, still trembling on the brink of some unwanted recall.

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3 Replies

  1. Chris

    And anxiously waiting for the next installation. Something has happened here and the reader wants to know. Joy may not be as loca as she seems–she knows something, huh? And is Michael dense, or in denial? Time will tell.

  2. Lori

    Just as I’m a binge watcher… I’m a binge reader!! Hurry up with the rest… I can’t wait !!

  3. Tom

    Takes me back to remembering weird encounters with old high school friends and such. Keep the episodes flowing!

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