An Abundance of Katherines

Page 14

“Yes. I am Salinzhay,” Hassan said, his accent passable if not magnificent. “This is my cousin Pierre. We visit your country for the first time, and we wish to see the Archduke, who started our—how you say—first Earth war. ” Colin glanced at Lindsey Lee Wells, who suppressed a smile as she smacked orange gum.
“I’m Colin,” the boyfriend said, his hand extended. Hassan leaned over to Pierre/Colin and whispered, “His name is ‘The Other Colin. ’” Hassan then said, “My cousin, he speak very little English. I am his man of translate. ” The Other Colin laughed, as did the two other boys, who quickly introduced themselves as Chase and Fulton. (“We will call Chase, Jeans Are Too Tight, and Fulton shall be Short One Chewing Tobacco,” Hassan whispered to Colin. )
“Je m’appelle Pierre,” Colin blurted out after the boys had introduced themselves. “Quand je vais dans le métro, je fais aussi de la musique de prouts. ”24
“We get a lot of foreign tourists here,” said the only girl besides Lind-sey,who was tall and thoroughly Abercrombified in her tight tank top. The girl also had—how to put this politely—gigantic gazoombas. She was incredibly hot—in that popular-girl-with-bleached-teeth-and-anorexia kind of way, which was Colin’s least favorite way of being hot. “I’m Katrina, by the way. ” Close, Colin thought, but no cigar.
“Amour aime aimer amour!”25 Colin announced quite loudly.
“Pierre,” said Hassan. “He has the disease with the talking. The, uh, with the bad words. In France, we say it the Toorettes. I do not know how you say in English. ”
“He has Tourette’s?” asked Katrina.
“MERDE!”26 shouted Colin.
“Yes,” said Hassan excitedly. “Same word both language, like hemorrhoid. That one we learned yesterday because Pierre had the fire in his bottom. He has the Toorettes. And the hemorrhoid. But, is good boy. ”
“Ne dis pas que j’ai des hémorroïdes! Je n’ai pas d’hémorroïde,”27 Colin shouted, at once trying to continue the game and get Hassan on to a different topic.
Hassan looked at Colin, nodded knowingly, and then told Katrina, “He just said that your face, it is beautiful like the hemorrhoid. ” At which point Lindsey Lee Wells burst out laughing and said, “Okay. Okay. Enough. ”
Colin turned to Hassan and said, “Why’d it have to be hemorrhoids? How the hell did that idea pop into your mind?” And then The Other Colin (TOC) and Jeans Are Too Tight (JATT) and Short One Chewing Tobacco (SOCT) and Katrina were all abuzz, talking and laughing and asking Lindsey questions.
“My dad went to France last year, dude,” explained Hassan, “and he told this story about getting a hemorrhoid and having to point at his butt and say the French word for fire over and over again until it came out that the word was hemorrhoid in both languages. And I didn’t know any other fugging French words. Plus that’s some funny shit, you having Tourette’s and hemorrhoids. ”
“Whatever,” Colin said, his face flushed. And then he overheard TOC saying, “That’s awful funny. Hollis would love them, huh?” And Lindsey laughed and reached up on her tiptoes to kiss him and then said, “I got you good, baby,” and he said, “Well, they got me,” and Lindsey faked like she was pouting, and TOC leaned down to kiss her forehead, and she brightened. The same scene had played out in Colin’s own life frequently—although he’d usually been the fake pouter.
They trudged back through the field as a group, Colin’s sweat-soaked T-shirt sticky and tight against his back, his eye still throbbing. The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, he thought. Even the name rang true. He had waited so long for his breakthrough, despaired so many times, and he just wanted to be alone for a little while with a pencil and some paper and a calculator and no talking. In the car would work. Colin tugged softly on Hassan’s shirt and gave him a meaningful look.
“I just need some Gatorade,” Hassan responded. “Then we’ll go. ”
“I’ll need to open up the store for ya, then,” Lindsey said. She turned to TOC. “Come with me, baby. ” The gooey softness of her voice reminded Colin of K-19.
“I would,” TOC said, “’cept Hollis is sitting out on the steps. Me and Chase is supposed to be at work, but we skipped out. ” TOC picked her off her feet and squeezed her tight, his biceps flexing. She squirmed a little but kissed him hard, her mouth open. Then he dropped her down, winked, and trudged off with his entourage toward a red pickup truck.
When Lindsey, Hassan, and Colin arrived back at the Gutshot General Store, a large woman wearing a pink floral dress was sitting on the steps talking to a man with a bushy brown beard. As they approached, Colin could hear the woman telling a story.
“So Starnes is out there to mow the lawn,” she was saying. “And he turns off the mower and looks up and appraises the situation for a bit and then calls out to me, ‘Hollis! What the hell is wrong with that dog?’ and I says to him that the dog’s got inflamed anal sacs that I just drained, and Starnes chews that one over for a while and then finally he says, ‘I re c kon you could go ahead and shoot that dog and git you another one with regular anal sacs and wouldn’t nobody be the wiser. ’ And I tell him, ‘Starnes, this town ain’t got any men worth loving, so I might as well love my dog. ’” The bearded guy bent over in laughter, and then the storyteller looked over at Lindsey.
“You were on a tour?” Hollis asked. When Lindsey nodded, Hollis went on. “Well, you sure-God took your time. ”
“Sorry,” mumbled Lindsey. Nodding to the guys, she said, “Hollis, this is Hassan and Colin. Boys, this is Hollis. ”
“Also known as Lindsey’s mother,” Hollis explained.
“Christ, Hollis. Don’t go bragging about it,” Lindsey said. She walked past her mom, unlocked the store, and everyone walked into the sweet air-conditioning. As Colin passed, Hollis put a hand on his shoulder, spun him around, and stared at his face.
“I know you,” she said.
“I don’t know you,” Colin responded, and then added, by way of explanation, “I don’t forget many faces. ” Hollis Wells continued to stare at him, but he was sure they had never met.
“He means that literally,” Hassan added, peering up from behind a rack of comic books. “Do you guys get newspapers here?” From behind the counter, Lindsey Lee Wells produced a USA Today. Hassan paged through the front section and finally folded the paper carefully to reveal only a small black-and-white picture of a thick-haired bespectacled white male. “Do you know this guy?” Hassan asked.
Colin squinted at the paper and thought for a moment. “I don’t personally know him, but his name is Gil Stabel and he is the CEO of a company called Fortiscom. ”
“Good work. Except he’s not the CEO of Fortiscom. ”
“Yes, he is,” Colin said, quite confident.