(AN- Just a short note about this one. It was my NaNoWriMo novel for this year, and YES, I did make it to 50,000 words! I posted a few of the chapters at the beginning but gave up, so I'm re-posting them now since before the chapters were all mixed up. So the story will finish. It's just a matter of me going through each of the chapters and making a few changes here and there. Thanks to Save The Pixies, who was my only reviewer for the first part of this story. I had to erase your reviews, but I did appreciate them. Enjoy, all.)
Shrantok stared out at the craggy rock, wondering.
"Will I ever get to see Wilhelma again?" He thought, pondering a future without his bosomy bride.
One thing was for certain, the journey he was to embark on was one of peril and unknown danger. It was. . .
Adam Abel, author undiscovered, lifted a blue ballpoint from the scrap piece of paper. He chewed on the end and thought about what sort of journey Shrantok would be taking.
He re-read what he had written.
"Pure crap," he muttered and cast his eyes about an empty store, making sure some small child or quiet old lady hadn't snuck in during his brief moments of literary inspiration. It had happened before, and he had gotten in trouble for it. This time though, the boss was occupied in the back, and no stealthy intruder was lurking about the air fresheners and wiper fluid.
Adam looked down at his paper and sighed. Maybe best selling author wasn't the way to go. And Shrantok was a stupid name.
The slip of paper slid across the counter. Adam jumped a little; he hadn't even seen Rocky standing there.
"Dude," he said, making a feeble attempt to take back his fantasy novel-in-progress.
"Abel, are you writing on the back of the car count forms?" Rocky laughed and turned away from Adam.
"What is this? 'Bosomy bride'? Seriously, man," Rocky's eyes scanned the rest of the paper, and then looked to Adam, amused.
He didn't know what to say. He could feel the heat creeping into his cheeks, intensifying as Rocky tried to hold back his laughter.
"It's stupid," said Adam. "Just something I was goofing around with. Give it back."
"I don't thing so. This is going in the break room," Rocky grinned.
"No. . ."
Rocky whooped, wagged his tongue and gave Adam devil horns before launching himself over the counter and running toward the back of the store. Adam started after him, but stopped when the bell to the store rang. He closed his eyes. He was the only one there, except for Rocky. The bell had him trained, like a seal. Ding. Stop what you're doing. Smile.
"Hi, can I help you today?"
It was a woman. Old. Grey. In the middle of the day. The worst kind.
She grunted, digging into her purse.
Adam returned to his side of the counter, and waited. He scratched his neck; the orange polyester vest Otis made them wear was giving him a rash. Maybe it was the bleach his mother was using.
A liver-spotted hand slapped a wrinkled piece of paper onto the counter. "I have coupon," she said, peering up at Adam through plastic-rimmed bifocals. Her accent was thick, somewhere eastern European.
Adam grinned despite the involuntary cringe he felt whenever the hard-to-please came a-calling. Though it didn't look like she would be much of a problem then, he could always tell in advance. After seven years in the service industry, it was like sixth sense. He looked at the coupon. "I'm sorry ma'am, but I don't think we can honour this."
She peered at him and frowned. Adam tried to look away from the dark whiskers growing from the top of her lip.
"Why not?" She asked.
"Well, I'm sorry to say this, but this coupon is for Wishy Wash, we're Otis Car Wash. Plus, this expired two years ago." Adam placed the coupon back on the counter. "So, that'll be $6.50 please."
"No, no, this says $2.00 off. I only pay you $4.50." She began digging through her cracked plastic coin purse, slapping quarters and dimes on the counter.
"We can't honour this coupon," said Adam, typing the full price into the till. Why should he have to deal with this? Why isn't Rocky here? Why do people even need to wash their cars anyway?
The woman finished counting her change and looked up at Adam, frowning. "There. You know, you're not a very nice boy. I should talk to manager about you next time."
Adam swept the coins into his hands and counted them. $4.00. He looked up only to see that she was already out the door.
"Hey!" He yelled. She didn't even look back. Adam's shoulders slumped and he punched in the $6.50, jotting down on a notepad beside the till that they would be $2.50 short at the end of the day. He slammed the drawer shut and ran his hands through a mess of rusty-red uncombed hair. Looking across the depressed store he wondered for the millionth time how this could be his life. Why was he working here? How could he be 24 years old and still living at home? How the hell could he consistently let tiny old ladies get the better of him?
He wanted to cry. He wanted to break a window. He wanted to take the stupid, dusty sunglass display rack and just – Ding. Smile.
"Hi, can I help you?"
Rocky Shaw was a bastard, but Adam couldn't blame him for that. It was an innate quality his friend and co-worker had, like having brown hair or blue eyes, save for the fact that his boorishness couldn't be covered by aqua blue contacts or dyed wild cherry red. There were a lot of people who hated Rocky, fundamentally, but like most other situations in Adam's life, he'd been thrust into their friendship and as a result, could think of no other way out other than to deal with it. He did like him, in a way, but it was purely because of convenience that he talked with him on a regular basis.
Adam had a feeling it was the other way around as well.
Otis was in the store today so Rocky and Adam took their lunch break together at 11. The car wash was a convenience store as well, so the kids from the local high school would swarm the shop, buying nickel candies and stealing Popsicles for the entire hour, making a normal lunchtime near impossible. Rocky was smoking, which Adam found mildly disconcerting considering Rocky's grandmother had died of lung cancer five years ago.
"Dude, they're herbal," said Rocky blowing a plume of acrid smoke toward Adam.
"As in weed?"
Rocky coughed. "Man, even I wouldn't bring that shit to work. I bought this stuff at the health store across the street. Tastes horrible."
Adam took a frozen dinner from the fridge, stabbed a few holes in the filmy cover and threw it in the microwave.
"What's the point of smoking it then?" he asked.
"Who cares? It's cool," Rocky coughed again, this time stubbing the cigarette on the table. There were no ashtrays, as Otis had decided to make the entire building smoke free after his doctor made him quit six months ago. "So what's with Shrantok and his wifey, Wilhelma?" Rocky grinned, waving his hand toward Adam's scrap of paper, tacked to the bulletin board.
The microwave beeped and Adam got up, poked at the still-frozen Salisbury steak and potatoes and chucked it back in.
"I don't know, it's just something stupid I was trying. Give it a rest, okay?"
Rocky only threw back his head and laughed. Brushing ashes off the table, he opened the fridge to rummage through lunches left over from the past week, eventually coming out with a stale donut.
Adam turned back to his microwave and watched as his lunch rotated and glowed. It's not like he wanted to become a world famous author, just anything to get him out of the car wash. Anything that didn't involve school or hard labour. He had briefly supposed that maybe there was some literary talent in him he hadn't yet discovered, but even he, having read two books since graduating from high school, knew that no amount dedication would make him a good writer. That wasn't a big deal though, he didn't particularly care about writing. He did care about not having to work for Otis anymore, and the failure of his latest inspiration left him feeling deflated.
"You still living with your parents?" This was Rocky, talking through a mouthful of cruller.
The microwave dinged again and Adam pulled out his lunch. It was still frozen in the middle, but he decided to eat around that part.
"I live with my mom, yes," he said.
"Dude, that's sad," laughed Rocky.
Adam wondered why he was friends with such an asshole.
"Not everybody has parents who'll pad their minimum wages with thousand dollar allowances at 24, Rocky. Plus, you live with your parents too," said Adam.
"In their pool house. You've been there Abel, it's got a kitchenette and everything. It's basically my own place."
Adam rolled his eyes. He was one of the few who really knew what the deal with Rocky was, beyond the obvious social retardation. Sammy Shaw, Rocky's dad, was host of the top rated late night cable show from 1985 to 1987, Shaw Before Shut Eye. The money he made then was enough to keep him and his family happy for 100 years, but after all three seasons were released on DVD, the royalties were enough for the family to live comfortably on a tropical island for the rest of their days. Unfortunately, the Shaws felt that Rocky should work for at least some of his money, and thus had forced him upon the rest of the working world which was left to deal with him 40 hours a week, and that's if he showed up.
It was arguable as to whether Rocky would have turned out any different if his dad hadn't have been rich and famous, but Adam tried not to think about it.
"So my dad's got this pile of shit house about three blocks south of here. He bought it 'cause he wanted to reno it, maybe make a few bucks. Then the contractors he'd hired were sued for a shoddy job they pulled for some city councillor, so my dad figured he wouldn't do it after all, so he's like — hey, could I have some of that cranberry sauce?"
Adam slid his tray over to Rocky, who dipped his fingers in to chilly sauce and scooped it into his mouth.
"What was I talking about?"
"A house," said Adam, his appetite suddenly gone.
"Oh yeah. So he was going to sell it, but I guess there's some tax thing that if he keeps it until the end of the year, he'll save money or something," said Rocky, picking up what remained of the Salisbury steak and gnawing on the frozen part.
"Okay," said Adam, wondering why his Rocky had become suddenly interested in real estate, even if it was only a tenuous grip.
"So do you want to move in with me, or what?"
No, would have been the default answer, but Adam still had no clue what Rocky was talking about. He resorted to a blank stare.
Rocky licked his fingers. "My dad, he's letting me stay there 'til he sells it. It's a big-ass house, Abel, think of the parties we could have. Or, like, just the fact that you won't be living in your mother's basement."
"You're asking me to live with you?" Adam still couldn't fathom why anyone would voluntarily live with Rocky, but the idea did have it's appeal, especially when you were a 24-year-old car wash employee who still had his own mother touch his underwear on a regular basis.
"No, shit! Yes, live with me. God, you're dense." Rocky wiped his hands on his pants and gave Adam an exasperated look, as though it should be a privilege that he had even asked.
"Sure, I guess," he said, ignoring good portions of the last three years in which Rocky had managed to screw, cheat and metaphorically kick him in the balls repeatedly.
He tried to imagine what his life would be like at Rocky's house. He had been to his parents' house before and it was almost what you'd expect an aging b-list celebrity's house to look like: dusty awards on the mantle pieces and framed magazine covers from publications that he had never heard of. The décor was stuck in the mid-90s, though Adam assumed the Shaws had redecorated since the release of the DVDs.
Of course, Rocky had the pool house and the only time Adam had ever been in there, it smelled like oatmeal and pickles. Rocky didn't have an explanation for the smell but he did show Adam his collection of autographed glossies of old wrestlers.
"It's a big house, right?" asked Adam, belatedly worried. He'd already said yes and Rocky was half way to the phone, presumably to phone his dad.
"Yeah, for sure, like I said, big-ass," said Rocky as he dialed.
"Abel, get your ass out here."
Otis, a burly man nearing or slightly past 50, poked his head around the corner of the break room.
"You're on till. I gotta head over to Home Depot, buy some rope. Can you close?"
Adam looked at his hands. He'd opened and Rocky had stumbled in just two hours ago, yet he couldn't stand up to his boss, even if he was a toadish slob who had long since lost the will to live and did everything to make sure his employees were also miserable. No, Adam was too chicken shit for that and he reluctantly, but predictably agreed. What did he have to do after work anyway? Sit at home, talk to his mom. Yeah, he may as well not talk to his mom and sit at the car wash. Ada might even stop by.
He pushed himself from the table and left Rocky babbling on the phone. There were already half a dozen kids in the store.
"You watch them Abel, the snot heads took off with a case of cheery cherry air fresheners yesterday," growled Otis. He put his old trench coat on over the same grey shirt he wore everyday and trundled toward the door. "I won't be back. See you tomorrow, Abel."
Adam watched his boss jaywalk across the street, then turned toward the growing line of high school kids with $2 purchases. There was Anita, his 17-year-old sister, along with her pack of hangers-on. She barely looked at him, but that wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Anita came into the store almost every day, mostly for the 10 per cent discount Adam got.
"Hi, Ani-bear," smirked Adam, using Anita's dreaded childhood nickname.
She only smiled sweetly and placed eight cherry lollipops on the counter.
"Hey, your brother's cute," giggled one of the girls, pink gum smacking.
"No, he isn't," said Anita. "Adam, you clogged the toilet this morning. Please try and be less disgusting tomorrow."
This was what passed for wit as far as Anita was concerned, which wasn't very far. Her world revolved around boys, lip smackers and prime time dramas. Adam's world, wherever that was, didn't mesh.
"How old are you?" asked the bubble gum friend, pushing through her friends to the edge of the counter.
"He's like, 50, give it up Destiny," said Anita. She pushed the candy toward Adam, "can you just ring it up so I don't have to look at you anymore?"
"I'm sorry Ani-bear, I think I forgot where the discount button is. You'll have to pay full price," said Adam.
This didn't bode well for his sister who threw up in her hands in exasperation and stomped her feet. "Oh, my God. You suck, SO bad," she said through clenched teeth. "Come on you guys let's go to the dollar store."
Anita flicked her hair and turned on her heels, followed by her henchmen and a reluctant Destiny who gave Adam one last look over her shoulder on the way out the door. He mentally chalked one up for himself in the perpetual battle between brother and sister and turned to the rest of his customers; they're demeanour toward him ranged from surly to blatant hostility. He felt so special.
Eventually the lunch crowd petered out, leaving behind the magazine readers and harried soccer moms with half-washed vans. Adam leaned up against the back shelf and examined his nails. From the corner of his eye he could see Rocky sidling up beside him.
"So it's all set. You can come over tonight," he said, eyeing a middle-aged chubby man rifling through a fitness magazine.
Adam grunted. He still wasn't so sure this was a good idea. Then again, living with Anita was its own sort of hell; she could never be alone, there was always at least one of her "girls" after school and in the mornings, at least half a dozen of them on the weekends. Most guys would relish a steady flow of pretty girls in their home, but Adam had had enough of it by the time he'd turned 13, the appeal certainly wore off after their excited squeals over anything was permanently etched into his nightmares.
Rocky or Anita. It was a tough call, but the fact that Rocky was currently poking him in the back with an unsharpened pencil tipped the scales to the former. "Yeah, sure," said Adam. "Can I bring my junk over after work?"
"That's what I said," said Rocky.
"I need a ride," said Adam.
Rocky slammed his fist on the counter, "fine. Whatever." He dipped back from behind the counter toward the back of the shop. "I'm gonna empty the cash boxes in the wash."
Rocky stopped at the door to the washing bays. "Oh, and I'm going to bring Asshat with me, that cool with you?"
Asshat was Rocky's dog, a mutt, really, with no discernable features and a severe drool and flatulence problem. His name used to be Zeke, but that changed several years ago for no apparent reason.
Adam started to say yes, but Rocky had already left to steal quarters from the machines – not enough to get caught, but just the right amount to buy a jumbo slurpee from the gas station down the block.