“That’s what Lindsey calls them. The folks at the nursing home in Bradford—a lot of them live off pensions from Gutshot Textiles. Lindsey used to visit those folks all the time before she started,” Hollis sighed, “dating that,” Hollis sighed again, “boy. ” Hollis craned her neck around and shouted down the hall, “LINDSSSSEEEEY! GET YOUR LAZY ASS OUT OF BED!”
And even though the sound of Hollis’s thick voice had to carry down the hallway and through two closed doors to reach Lindsey, Lindsey shouted back moments later, “PUT A QUA RTER IN THE GODDAMNED SWEAR JAR, HOLLIS. I’M ABOUT TO TAKE A SHOWER. ”
Hollis got up, put a quarter in the swear jar on the mantel, walked back to Colin, mussed his Jew-fro, and said, “Listen, I’ll be late. Long drive back from Memphis. I’ll have my cell on. Y’all be safe. ”
By the time Lindsey got downstairs, wearing khaki shorts and a tight-fitting black GUTSHOT! T-shirt, Hassan was on the couch, watching reruns of Saturday Night Live.
“Who are our victims today?” asked Lindsey.
“The oldsters. ”
“That’s cool, actually. I’m a veteran of that joint. Okay, off the couch, Hass. ”
“Sorry, Linds. I called in sick,” he said. I’ve never called her “Linds,” Colin thought. Hassan laughed at some joke on the TV. Lindsey blew hair out of her face and then she grabbed Colin by his upper arm and led him out to the Hearse.
“I can’t believe he’s calling in sick,” said Colin, but he started the car. “I’m fugging exhausted from staying up half the night reading a fugging book about the invention of the television,60 and he gets to fugging call in sick?”
“Hey, why the fuck do you and Hassan say fug all the time?”
Colin exhaled slowly, his cheeks puffing out. “Have you ever read The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer?”
“I don’t even know who that is. ”
“American novelist. Born in 1923. I was reading him when I first met Hassan. And then later Hassan ended up reading it because it’s all about war, and Hassan likes actiony books. Anyway, it’s 872 pages, and it uses the word fug or fugging or fugguer or whatever about thirty-seven thousand times. Every other word is a fug, pretty much. So anyway, after I read a novel, I like to read some literary criticism of it. ”
“Color me surprised,” she said.
“Right. Well, when Mailer wrote the book, he didn’t use ‘fug. ’ But then he sent it to the publisher and they were like, ‘This is a really excellent book you’ve written, Mr. Mailer. But no one here in 1948 is going to buy it, because it contains even more F-bombs than it does Regular Bombs. ’ So Norman Mailer, as a kind of fug-you to the publisher, went through his 872-page book and changed every last F-word to ‘fug. ’ So I told Hassan the story while he was reading the book and then he decided to start saying fug as an homage to Mailer—and because you can say it in class without getting in trouble. ”
“That’s a good story. See? You can tell a story,” she said, her smile like bright white fire crackers in a starless sky. “It doesn’t have a moral, and it doesn’t contain any romance or adventure, but—it’s a story at least, and you didn’t share any meditations on hydration. ” In his peripheral vision, Colin could see her smiling at him. “Turn left. We go down this fugging road forever and then—oh wait, wait, slow down that’s Chase’s car. ”
A two-toned Chevy Bronco approached from the other direction. Reluctantly, Colin brought the Hearse to a stop. TOC was behind the wheel. Colin rolled down the window as TOC rolled down his. Lindsey leaned across Colin to look up at her boyfriend. “Hey, Lass,” TOC said.
“Not funny,” Lindsey said emphatically, as Chase, riding shotgun, howled with laughter.
“Listen, Chase and me are gonna meet Fulton tonight at the Camp. See you there?”
“I think I’m gonna stay home tonight,” she said, and then turned her head to Colin and said, “Go. ”
“Aww, Linds. I was just screwing with you. ”
“Go,” she said again, and Colin hit the gas and shot off.
Colin was about to ask for an explanation of the scene when Lindsey turned to him and said very calmly, “It’s nothing—just an inside joke. So anyway, I read your notebook. I don’t really understand it all, but I at least looked at everything. ”
Colin quickly forgot about the weirdness with TOC and asked, “What’d you think?”
“Well, first, it kept making me think about what we talked about when you first got here. When I told you I thought it was a bad idea to matter. I think I gotta take that back, because looking at your notes, I kept wanting to find a way to improve on your Theorem. I had this total hard-on for fixing it and proving to you that relationships could be seen as a pattern. I mean, it ought to work. People are so damned predictable. And then the Theorem wouldn’t be yours, it’d be ours, and I could—okay, this sounds retarded. But anyway, I guess I do want to matter a little—to be known outside Gutshot, or I wouldn’t have thought so much about it. Maybe I just want to be big-time without leaving here. ”
Colin slowed as he approached a stop sign and then looked at her. “Sorry,” he said.
“Because you couldn’t fix it. ”
“Oh, but I did,” she said.