Round and round we go. I reel them off. He declines them. Its our daily exercise in independence, something I might have done with Piper when she was four years old.
Thursdays are something of a highlight, particularly that hour before the matinee, when we come to the food court at the mall to ogle women. Few spectacles are more conspicuous and ungainly than the masculine figure in crisis. Trev, at least, has youth in his defense. Im just pathetic, I guess. From our preferred vantage opposite Cinnabon, we objectify, demystify, belittle, and generally marginalize the fair sex, as though we werent both completely terrified of them. Look at the turd-cutter on her, he says, of a poodle-haired blonde in tight jeans. Would you tap that?
In a heartbeat, I say.
Lolling his head to the side, he looks me in the eye. Id give her a Gorilla Mask.
Id give her a Bulgarian Gas Mask, I counter.
Id give her a German Knuckle Cake.
Thats fucked up, I say.
Thanks, he says. Should I ask her out for a pizza and a bang?
A bang and a pizza.
How about just a bang?
No, trust me, the pizza part is classy.
Poodle Hair breezes by toting two Cajun corn dogs and some curly fries, with a boyfriend trailing in her perfumey wake. They take a table in front of Quiznos and begin eating together silently, as though theyve been eating together their whole lives.
What is she doing with that tool? says Trev.
I wave them off. Shes probably a psycho.
Yeah, theyre all psychos.
We lapse into silence, and I wish I had a smoke. Strip away our routines, and we are little more than our hypotheticals. Last year, in this same food court, I asked Trev what hed do if he awoke one morning with all of his muscle functions, which is about as hypothetical as it gets since his condition is progressive and incurable. I was thinking: Climb a mountain, run a marathon, chase a butterfly down a hill. He said: Take a piss standing up.
Poodle Hair and I exchange brief glances. Or maybe Im imagining it. When I go fishing for a second glance, she is evasive. Shes getting cuter by the second. She looks good holding a corn dog. Im now convinced I could spend the rest of my days beside her. Then we lock gazes. And for one delicious instant there is a spark of possibility. Possibility of what? Of getting my ass kicked by a two hundred pound cuckold? Or more pathetic still, the possibility of being loved again, by anyone?
Now Poodle Hair is whispering something to her boyfriend who lowers his corn dog midbite. I was wrong hes at least 220. Hes staring holes in me. All I can do is look at Trevs checkered Vans and feel the heat of my face.
What? says Trev.
Showtime, I say.
And without further delay, we stand to leave I stand to leave, anyway, acutely aware of the boyfriends eyes in my back like daggers. Trev hunches his shoulders to buttress the weight of his head, clutches his joystick with a knotted hand, and whirs around in a semicircle, piloting himself toward the exit.
Regal or Cineplex?
Regal, he says.
Its always the Regal.
Excerpted from The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison. Copyright © 2012 by Jonathan Evison. Excerpted by permission of Algonquin Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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