IDea: A gy tells another guy a story at a national park, high up on a mountain. Both the protagonist and the narrator are messed up. The protagonist is in love wiht one of the woman he just met, Sheryl, who vaguely remembers the narrator, Michael. Sherly is there with her brother, Burt, and his prized dog, Newt, a mongrel who loves bathing in, and drinking his own urine to the delight of others. For Burt, it’s just the cause of his shiny coat and health. Sheryl remember, vaguely, Michael from a meeting between friends and considers him an acquaintance. Michael laughs and makes a joke of it, calming the awkwardness of his fringe rrelationship with her and the other friends. A young ethnic boy, Varnish, holds Newt’s leash and he is attracted to a portal, a gateway carved naturally in the rock that actually is an overlook, and almost goes off the cliff. He’s always wanting to go off that cliff, Burt says, Well buddy, if you do that, ain’t nothing there. Nothing but wide open death. There is another man, Ben, who is interested in Sheryl and she notices and mentions ina sweet way, after a verbal and physical tick appears for the first time, that she and her husband sometimes watch Newt and take him here and he always does that.
Anthony, anti social all of a sudden, goes with Michael to a room in the visitors center where antique furniture and a window out into the valley are. Michael, jovial and drunk, asks Anthony about love and tells him he once knew a girl he fooled around with years ago when they were kids and he asked her to marry him. She never spoke to him again and he was heartbroken, and passed by her house every day on the way to work which became on the way to get drunk with the losers he grew up.
The protagonist, Anthony, becomes violent when he drinks. In a room at the park, he sits on a chest of drawers and begins to tell Michael about how he hit his father.
“Did your Fatha hit ya back?” Michael says, sober voiced.
Anthony ignores this and begins to go into platitudes about his hard upbringing, the kind of man his father was, and his love for Sheryl – which is the real reason he became antisocial. Sheryl is pure, she is innocent, she is beautiful, and she is married to a man who doesn’t treat her right, he knows this. Why isn’t the husband here? Michael asks again. Anthony blinks at him. Is Michael trying to get a rise out of him?
“Mine did. Hard, broke my nose,” Michael is telling the truth. He’s won the story of hitting your own father, and which quiets Anthony and also makes him resent Michael for stealing his thunder. He tells Michael this, and then begins to talk about Sheryl again. Her accident, which left her with a speech impediment and memory loss, makes her charming and pure, in his eyes.
Anthony is done and begins to grow violent at Michael, menacing him with his stare and tone and his voice begins to rise. Shushing him, Michael comes closer, braving injury. He puts a hand over Anthony’s clenched fist and looks fearfully outside. Quiet, they’ll hear.
“Hear what? You’re full of shit?”
Now Michael becomes the narrator and tells the story of that sunny afternoon. Halcyon, sepia toned, warm autumn afternoon. The girl with curls and a lollypop while the mayflies danced around her. There was dirt on her sock and shoes. Michael was older by about three years, and already a bit of a vagabond. Michael goes into great detail about how the girl looked, and looked at him. And people were drinking and lemonade was spiked and Michael was on the way to the last swim at the river by the valley and she brought him in to play. She touched him. Anthony is enraptured.
The two of them mess around, amongst the stuffed animals and photo of the girl and her brother as little children. The brother is away in the Army now and bears a striking resemblance to Burt, the quiet and lonesome dog owner.
The girl was Sheryl, Michael cackles, tears beginning to shimmer in his eyes. Anthony is stunned.
So every day, I pass by the house of the girl I could never see again, who I wanted to marry. An angel, you know she is, you said it yourself. She got scared and told her parents, and her father swore he’d find me and kill me. But she’d never tell who it was, cuz she was scared. And when I saw her again, she just shook her head and said “no, Michael.” And then, the fall. And she forgot who I was for real. And every day, he laughs more, crying now, I go by that house and remember “Please marry me, Sheryl!” And my boys make fun of me until their own hearts are broken for me, cuz I’m always thinking of her, and how it should have been me, always should have been me. I never wanted to hurt her, she was trying to protect me. And now her memory is all screwed up and she’s afraid of me and what I did and that’s why she got married to that goon, you said it yourself he’s a goon, who mistreats her and thinks she’s stupid. She thought we met for the first time five years ago, what a joke.
Anthony is in tears now, hugging Michael who is a baying hound.
The sound brings men to the visitors center and it is night. We meet Sheryl and Burt’s father, Firt, a tall man with a moustache who looks out with watery eyes tinged with anger. “Firt, like the definition of gay, Firt,” he shakes Anthony’s hand and sizes up Michael wordlessly. He carries a gun under his overcoat and represents the law in some way, he alludes to. Other men and dogs are there on the porch and around it, and some of their wives and family members. The way that Firt touches Sheryl, seems wrong. Is HE the “husband” Sheryl talks about?
There is a party that the rich folk go to, in a white alabaster Greek palace of a hotel called the Atrium. There are two criminals in the midst of the party goers, a brother and a sister named Amanda and Joey. No one knows they are related. The protagonists here are David (me), and Lucinda. Telling you now, there is a climax where Lucinda and Amanda get into a catfight in the semi-indoor balcony overlooking the rushing river below. There is an apparatus Amanda gets tied up in and Lucinda thinks about killing her because that’s what Amanda had been trying to do during the fight, but doesn’t and instead “Batman’s” her foe and saves the day. Both Amanda and Joey are revealed as the criminals, and the partygoers and even the security and police who are present almost don’t care. David and Lucinda have to make a toast to people shutting up and hearing that there are criminals and people need to be careful, because they have all decided they will reform on the spot and participate in the party but “Watch your wallets and purses, folks!”
David hears from his dad that the $2,000 in an envelope, meant for charity, is still on the buffet table. He curses and goes after it, bumping into the bumbling, fat, black Mr. Hodges who is head of security and bears a resemblance to a hairier Al Roker in his prime rib. David finds the envelope and collection intact. He stores things in a safe and reassures his father who has dementia but always wants to help as he used to all his life.
As the party goes on, David is drawn to Joey who reveals that he is gay and it has made him miserable and turned him to a life of crime with his truly evil sister. He tries to kiss David who rebuffs him. Joey apologizes and draws away. David feels for, but doesn’t understand nor ever will, the plight of the gay man.
Michael comes in, depressed, with a new friend, Anthony. They join the revelry, looking for women. Targeting Lucinda and her friend, who are not interested in Michael, they dance. Anthony can dance. Michael grows weary and morose and drifts away back into the fringes called by the baying of his brothers. Anthony is dashing and forgets his own bleakness; his target was Lucinda’s friend by chance, but it is clear Lucinda is a prize. What is perplexing to Lucinda, who knows her worth, is that she is perplexingly attracted to Anthony when she knows damn well she shouldn’t be. For all her strength, she even saved the day and almost died and almost killed just a couple of hours ago!, she is a sucker for handsome, charming, wounded men like Michael who never got over Sheryl. And Anthony is more handsome than Michael or any man in the town she’s ever seen.
David busies himself about the party, observing the various town folk. The Millers, thin and frail and honky. The Gustaffsons, strong and blue eyed and full of merry life. The candy girls and licorice guys. He thinks he sees Sherriff Firt but it’s his half- brother, that goon, Cleanthony, who is stuffing his overweight self and talking to a candy girl. The uncle who married his niece. Keep it in the family, Firt had thought. THe pious doing intermarriage sin. David spits into a spittoon.
David seeks out the two smartest men in the town, Elan Jones and Charles Marsh II for advice on what to do with the money. Jones calls for investment in invention, while Charles Marsh says he must stick to his guns and donate it to charity as promised. David is torn between ideal and reality. Jones and Marsh fight a duel that leaves both of them dead in the dewey grass underneath the stars, David torn up by his own thoughts on life that he doesn’t seem to notice the great tragedy.
The funeral is held in the rain, dual florida for the two smartest men in the town who died in a duel. The town is besot. The wives and families of the deceased begin a blood feud the likes of which will have never or will ever be seen again. It is blood feud good because it’s lack of blood, but bad because it wracks the families and the town in every other conceivably possible way. People are financially ruined, their children bullied and tormented, jobs lost, rumors spread. The Jones and the Marshes.
Anthony leaves the romance behind, and Lucinda. Lucinda vows to find and kill Anthony.
David searches for Anthony. He asks Sherryl and Burt and Ben and everyone who was at the national park that day. Finally he gets around to Michael.