They walked through a maze of buckets collecting water from the leaky roof, as well as walking over several cigarette burns that were all over the worn carpet. As they made their way through the doorway to the kitchen, a bat flew into Serena’s hair.
Screaming, Serena smacked around at that bat. Eventually, the bat moved on, probably to its hide-y hole.
“What the fuck was THAT!?” Serena yelled.
Dave started scolding the bat. “KEVIN! Kevin, bad bat! Bad, bad bat! Don’t! Scare! Serena!” His demeanor changed, “Sorry about that, Serena. Kevin was trying to make a nest in your hair.”
Serena looked at Dave like he was a serial killer. “Here,” Dave motioned to the kitchen, “come on in and I’ll make you a drink to calm you down after dealing with that.”
Serena and Ken walked into a room stacked with large piles of newspapers. They carefully sat down at the kitchen table, also covered in stacks of newspapers. “Where’s my hospitality?” Dave laughed, “Let me move my stuffin’ supplies.” Dave managed to remove the stacks upon stacks off the table and onto the floor where they belonged. Now everyone could see each other. As Dave began mixing a strange concoction, Ken took it upon himself to ask something that he’d wanted to ask Dave since they arrived.
“What would you do if you had an overbearing mother who made you decide to run away from home so you could run away and get married and start a new life?”
“Well,” began Dave, “…first of all, I’d find a good axe. I mean a sharp, sharp axe…” Serena began to get nervous. Dave turned around slowly. “…so you can build your own log cabin like your buddy Dave here!” Dave was beaming with joy. “Sure, if I could do it all over again, I would have built things a little differently, but any time you need help to build your own log cabin,” he pointed to himself with his thumb, “I’m your man. I know all about HVAC and CVC pipes and making just about anything out of tires.”
“This is really useful to me, Dave,” responded Ken, engaged in conversation.
“Anything I can do to help… As far as the running away from home thing to be with your sweetie, boy, I’d say that’s a tough one. Best to get more detail.” Dave served Ken and Serena their drinks. Ken got a scotch on the rocks and Serena got a cosmopolitan. They both thanked him for the drinks.
“Oh I’ve got the details for you, pal.” Ken could name a laundry list of reasons to leave his home. “For one, my mother, she grounds me for 2 weeks if I wear mismatched socks. She yells at me if I get a B in school instead of an A. Sometimes she makes me lick myself clean with my tongue and hand like a cat.”
“And another detail, I’m in love and I’m ready to start my own life as an adult. I mean, I’m 17 years old. That’s fucking old to still live with your mom1!!”
“I still live with my mom.” Dave seemed to not be offended.
“Oh I’m so sorry, I—“
“Hey MOM!” Dave bellowed, “MOM I LOVE YOU.”
“I don’t hear anything back. Where is she?” Serena questioned. Ken and Serena looked around themselves.
“OH, you meant alive! Hoo boy is that a mix up!” Dave started pouring himself some Jack Daniel’s.
“What do you mean, Dave….?” Serena seemed afraid again.
“Oh right, I mean momma’s in the closet behind you, in the room where you’ll be staying tonight… I kind of like to think about it like momma’s watching over you like an angel.” Dave was nearly in tears.
Serena was frozen. Ken asked with fear in his heart, “Is she… did you taxidermy your mom?”
“Haha! Heavens no! …she’s a skeleton!” Dave shook his head and had a good laugh. “But back to the problem at hand, you’re asking me if I think you should run away from home to be with your sweetheart, and I say…” Dave thought carefully for a moment, “I say, good Lord we got a toilet in the front yard and it’s pissin’ time!!!”
Dave let out a boisterous laugh. Ken and Serena didn’t know what this saying meant, but Ken at least took it as a good thing. “You know what, Dave? The moment I met you, I knew you were a friend that was after my heart…”
“I’m a big sap. So yeehaw! Let’s get married!” Ken jumped up and down and started dancing a square dance with Serena in the kitchen. She wasn’t that into it at first. Dave turned on the radio and a familiar song was playing, “Don’t Break My Heart Sayin’ The Beer’s Warm, Baby.” It was a fast song that had them twirling around and knocking various piles over of newspapers. Normally, Dave would have raced to protect his clippings but in this moment, he was wiping away tears of joy. The song ended and a commercial came on. Dave turned off the radio and out of breath, Ken and Serena sat back in their seats. Serena was sort of smiling but also uneasy? Probably.
“Now that was a hoedown! How were your drinks? Feeling a little looser now? Heh heh…” Dave was like a waiter but the kind that you also wonder about. Like if he will kill you in your sleep, that’s all.
“It was great. I feel tipsy. I’ve never had so much to drink before. How about you, Serena? You haven’t said a whole lot.” Ken seemed concerned but also getting drunk.
“Me?” Serena snapped back into reality, “I guess I have a lot on my mind. Do you think we could see our room, Da—“
“Serena, are you drunk or not?” Ken was getting annoyed with her buzzkill attitude. He just wanted to play drunk monopoly, have drunk sex, and then have drunk sleep. It’s not that complicated.
“Um, yeah, I feel a little drunk, I—“
“Another cosmo, please! We got a wet blanket on our hands, Doctor!” Ken was getting in the spirit of this stranger.
“You got it, bud. Hey, you guys want to shoot guns in the woods after I show you your room?” Dave was elated.
“Darn tootin’!” Ken couldn’t help himself. Dave’s jovial status was contagious.
Serena didn’t seem as excited. “I’m pretty tired. It’s 4am, Ken. I haven’t slept more than an hour.”
“Ok fine. UGH!” Ken stood up, his cracking chair scraping the floor. He began walking to the doorway. “Oh and just to let you know, Serena, I hate sex.” This wasn’t true, but Ken was trying to use reverse psychology on her.
“Good, Ken. Thank you for saying that in front of me and a stranger.”
“Who you calling a stranger?” Dave snarled.
“I’m sorry, I—“ Serena stammered, scared out of her mind.
“Hahaha! I’m just kidding! I’ll lead you to your room now and leave you crazy kids to it! Just remember, if a baby gets made tonight, promise me you’ll name it, ‘Dave.’ Heh heh…”
“You got it, Dave!” Ken went back to his excited attitude. Dave brought it out of him. Serena? Not as much.
Down a short hallway, the three of them arrived at the guest bedroom. “Now,” said Dave, “I brushed the crumbs and dead cockroaches off the bed but they’re still on the floor so you might want to keep your shoes on when you sleep. Also, I should warn you this is Kevin’s room. He might pay you a little visit if you’re real still.”
Before Serena could object, Ken interrupted her thoughts, “Who is Kevin again?”
“Oh of course, how could I be so absent minded? Haha! Kevin’s some kinda reptile that comes through that little hole over there.” Dave pointed to a small bitten out hole in the floor board. “Now an iguana or whatever it is, can’t bite a hole through a floorboard like that. I think it was the rats. Anyway, he usually likes to spread out on the bed but I saw him earlier and whispered in his little ear that we had company coming tonight so he’ll probably leave you alone.”
“Thanks, Dave. You’re the best. Well, goodnight!” Ken replied. Serena began tiptoeing around even more stacks of newspaper clippings and sat on the edge of the bed.
“See you in the morning, friends!” Dave left the room, probably to get some sleep too.
Serena whispered to Ken, “Did you notice anything about all these newspaper clippings?”
“No, what about them?” Ken asked.
“All the clippings have to do with the local zoo. This guy is obsessed with his gross animals. I’m too scared to sleep. Can we just go? If you don’t want to go, I’ll leave by myself. I’m serious, Ken.”
Serena got up to find where Ken had placed his keys in his room. She bumped into the closet door and CRASH! A dusty skeleton came tumbling out of the closet onto Serena, with the finger joints tangled in her hair.
Dave rushed into the room. “MOTHER!!!!”
He ran over to Serena, carefully moving his mother’s skeleton back loosely into the closet but the finger bones were still lodged in Serena’s hair. She was still screaming.
Just when it couldn’t get any worse, Kevin showed up! Serena screamed even louder now as Kevin the salamander climbed up her leg. “Heh, heh, looks like somebody wants a little kiss from a hometown girl!” Serena started kicking the air trying to shake the lizard off her body.
“Don’t make him mad,” Dave explained, “you don’t want to see Kevin when he gets angry. Just let him bite you a little bit.”
“NO!” Serena yelled. Finally, Dave untangled her hair completely from the skeleton. “I’m going home, Ken. Give me your keys!” Serena seemed pretty mad? Maybe it was mad.
“Ken doesn’t have your keys, Serena.” Dave slowly raised his hand to reveal Ken’s keys dangling off Dave’s fingers. Serena’s heart stopped.
“Hahah! Come and get ‘em! So nice to finally meet you, Serena. You’ve been a real charm.” Serena started breathing again. Dave tossed her the keys but when she went to grab them, Kevin hurtled through the air and grabbed them in his mouth, scurrying away quickly.
Luckily, Dave had quick reflexes, despite the several glasses of whiskey settling in his belly. Dave grabbed the iguana and wrestled him to the ground, pulling the keys back and forth from Kevin like he was a fun dog.
Finally, Dave pulled and the keys were in his hands once again.
“Sorry about that,” Dave offered. Serena quickly grabbed the keys and ran outside to the car. In the distance, a car engine could be heard trying to start but not turning over. Another few seconds went by. Nothing. The car wouldn’t start, it just kept clicking.
“I better go get her,” Ken got up and left the room. Dave nodded to him with understanding. The front door shutting behind him, he walked through the pouring rain to the car. When he opened the car door, there was Serena, a crying mess.
“Serena…” Ken’s heart was broken. “I’m sorry, I thought this would be a good place for us to go. It’s the only place I know of where we can escape our families that are trying to tear us apart for their own selfish gain.”
“Your family, Ken. I don’t want to escape my family. I just want to go home. I’m going to call a Lyft. I doubt there’s busses out here. What’s the address?” Serena pulled out her phone. “Ken, I need to use your phone, mine is dead.”
“Serena… please don’t leave. Dave’s kind of a weird guy but he has a good heart. We can stay here tonight, he probably knows how to fix a car because… well, look at him… and then we can be on our way. You can go back to your house and I’ll… I guess I’ll stay here.” Ken seemed disheartened as he spoke.
“Ken. Your phone please.”
Ken dug around in his pocket but couldn’t find his phone anywhere. “I… I don’t know where my phone is. Honestly, it was in my pocket.”
“Looking for… this?” A dark figure was in the doorway staring at them. It was Dave holding up Ken’s phone. Serena’s blood ran cold.
“Um, yeah…” Ken replied nervously.
“Hahah! Well come on over and get it! I don’t want it to get rained on. It must have fallen out of your pocket, I found it on the kitchen floor!” Dave let out a jovial laugh.
“Thanks, Dave,” Ken responded as he walked up to Dave to receive his phone.
“Oh no,” Ken thought. He looked at Serena in the car. His phone was also dead. “Do you have a phone charger, Dave?”
“Boy, I don’t have a cell phone. I have the kind that plugs into the wall with a phone cord though. Will that work?” Dave said genuinely.
“Can it call a lyft?” Ken spoke as though he already knew the answer.
“It’s an app, it’s… nevermind. Do you know anything about fixing cars?” Ken seemed more hopeful that Dave could help with the latter. He looked like a mechanic based on his hands which were stained black, probably from oil? I don’t know.
“Hoo boy, do I! I love a good car project. What seems to be the problem?”
Hopeful, Ken explained their situation. “Well, the car won’t start. I don’t know why.”
“Hmm…” Dave stroked his beard. Oh yeah, he had a beard. “It could be a lot of things. Probably the starter. Maybe you just need a jump. Really, it could be different things. I’ll have to get down and dirty with it. Not in this rain though, I’m not opening that hood, not knowing what lies beneath, and then letting it get all wet. It could just be the rats got to it.”
“Thanks, Dave. Let me talk to Serena. Maybe I can convince her to come back inside and stay the night. She’s just homesick, that’s all. She’ll be fine. She’s never run away before.” Ken walked back to the car.
Ken started, “He said—“
“I heard, Ken.” Serena was still crying. God! “I just want to go home. Why did you take me here? Why are you trying to get me to run away with you? I have no interest in that! And now I’m trapped here.” Tears of anger rolled down her cheeks.
“Baby,” Ken replied, “you can go home tomorrow morning. We just need to stay here one night and then you can go.”
“Wait a minute, what about you, Ken? You’re not planning on living here, are you??” Serena finally thought about someone other than herself. “Look, I know your mom is difficult, but you can’t live here. It’s not even sanitary.”
“Serena,” Ken explained in a whisper, “I’m finally feeling a sense of independence for the first time in my entire life. My first taste of freedom.” A few moments passed, Serena was probably in disbelief? “Just… come on, let’s go inside. We might as well make the most of it. Dave has monopoly. And probably some weed.”
Serena slipped out of the driver’s seat and held hands with Ken as they walked back to the front porch, where Dave was standing in the doorway, smiling as always.
“Serena, so glad to see you again.”
“Can it, Dave.” Serena was in no mood for niceties.
“Hoo-hah! I like a fiery woman who speaks her mind. Yes ma’am.”
“Dave, you got any weed?” Ken asked. “I think Serena needs it.”
“Boy do I! I’ve got Strawberry—“ Dave responded but got cut off by Serena.
Serena was irritated. “I’m not getting high. I’m not getting plied with anymore drugs. I’m not a drinker or a smoker.”
“Look, baby, I’m going to be blunt with you for a second: You need to smoke weed to chill.” Ken was ready to be slapped but also wanted to express himself.
“You want to get high and play monopoly?” Ken asked both of them.
“Yes, sir!” Dave was ecstatic.
“Fine.” Serena lightened up. Finally.
YAAAY! Dave and Ken were so excited. They’d been looking forward to monopoly all night.
Dave went into his dresser drawer to get some weed from a crumpled sandwich bag. He returned to the coffee table in the living room where everyone was. Dave sat on the couch to pack a bowl and Serena and Ken sat on the floor. Where it was clean.
Dave crushed a bud into a glass pipe that looked like a penis. “Get it?” he said, “It’s a penis.”
“That’s hilarious, Dave!! I can’t wait to suck it.” Ken was into it. “How do I do it again? I forgot. It’s my second or third time. I’m basically a virgin.”
“Yeah Ken, you’re basically still a virgin if you’ve only had sex 2-3 times.” Serena said this!
Dave and Ken had a good laugh at that one. Maybe weed was good for Serena.
“Ok,” Dave was like weed Socrates right then, “you put your thumb on the pipe, light it, let go of the thumb over the hole, inhale, then exhale. That’s all there is to it!”
Ken started setting up the board. Dave was passed the pipe and lighter to Serena. “Greens, for the lady?”
“Um, ok…” Serena was not impressed. But maybe it would calm her nerves. She started thinking about her parents and what they would think if she really did run away with Ken. After that she lit that bowl, made it cherry, and took a huge rip. A terrain of smoke fell from the ceiling like snow on a wintery day.
It was beautiful.
Then it was Ken’s turn. He stopped dealing out monopoly money to hit it. He took the lighter and pipe from Serena. “Wow, there’s not much left,” Ken said. “Sorry,” Serena said.
“Jesus, Serena… you’re like a professional.” Dave sat on the couch astounded. Serena smiled a very little bit. She burped girl burp.
Ken had never loved her more.
It was his turn now. Ken lit the weed and inhaled fast and deeply. He began coughing like a total amateur. “You ok there, buddy?” Dave asked. “I think I’m going to throw up,” Ken said, choking.
“Yeah, looks like you got a lung full of ash, pal. Here, let me go get you a water,” Dave looked at Ken like he was very concerned about his ability to handle his weed. He left the living room to the kitchen to get Ken a glass of water.
“Ken,” said Serena. “Yeah?” whispered Ken.
“I… think… I’m going… to be ok now.” Serena spoke slowly.
“Sweet,” responded Ken.
“Ken,” Serena said, “if we don’t make it out of here alive, I want you to know something.”
“I almost love you.”