An Abundance of Katherines

Page 50

“Well, whatever. I saw it first. ”
“They’re like an old married couple,” explained Lindsey. “Except instead of being in love with each other, they’re both in love with Colin. ” TOC laughed heartily, while the two other boys repeatedly asserted their heterosexuality.
For a while, they drank. Even Colin stomached down the better part of a beer. Only Hassan abstained. “I’m back on the wagon,” he said. By then the sun was sinking fast toward the horizon and the mosquitoes had come out. Colin, already sweaty and bloody, seemed to be their favorite target. Lindsey was cuddled up against TOC, her head nestled between his pec and shoulder, his arm around her waist. Hassan sat next to Katrina, chatting with her in whispers, but they did not touch. Colin was still thinking.
“You’re not so talkative today,” Lindsey said to Colin eventually. “Stings getting to you?”
“They burn like the fire of ten thousand suns,” Colin said, deadpan.
“Pussy,” TOC said, showing the grace and eloquence for which he was widely famous.
And maybe it was for the right reasons and maybe it wasn’t. But right then, Colin pulled the minirecorder out of his pocket and rewound it. To Lindsey, he said, “I’m really, really sorry. ” And then he hit play.
“. . . dated when we were sophomores and we’ve been hooking up occasionally ever since. But we came out here and I was going to end it. ”
Lindsey bolted upright, staring at Katrina with a gathering malice. TOC, strangely, was frozen. He’d never expected Colin Singleton, noted sitzpinkler, to say a word. Colin hit fast-forward, then play again.
“. . . she just said it’s over, okay? So that’s it. It’s over. I’m not cheating. ”
Lindsey raised her beer, chugging it, and then crumpled the can and dropped it. She stood up and stepped toward TOC, who was still leaning, in a state of apparent calm, against the obelisk. “Baby,” he said, “you don’t understand. I said I wasn’t cheating and I’m not. ”
“Screw you,” she said, and then she turned around and walked away. TOC caught her in his arms from behind, and she wrestled to get free of him. “Get off me right now,” she shouted, but he held on tight, and then she sounded panicked, screaming, “GET OFF! GET HIM OFF ME. ”
“Let her go,” Colin said softly. And then behind him, he heard JATT. “Yeah, Colin, get off her. ” Colin turned around, and saw JATT march up to TOC and grab him by the collar. “Calm the hell down,” JATT said, and then TOC threw Lindsey to the ground. TOC hit JATT in the face with a right cross, and JATT fell to the ground like a dead man. As JATT lay there, unmoving, Colin wondered at the fact that JATT had gone after TOC; Colin had underestimated him. TOC quickly turned around and grabbed Lindsey by the ankle.
“Let her go,” Colin said, standing now. “You paardenlul. ”76
She was kicking against his grip, but he was persistent, holding her tighter, saying, “Baby, stop. You don’t understand. ”
Hassan looked at Colin. Together, they ran toward TOC, Hassan aiming for a body slam in the midsection and Colin going for a crazed punch to the head. At the last moment, TOC reached one hand out and hit Colin in the jaw so hard that the hornet stings didn’t sting anymore. And then with his leg, TOC swept Hassan’s feet out from under him. They weren’t much for damsel-in-distress saving, Colin and Hassan.
But then again, Lindsey wasn’t much for being a damsel in distress. After Colin hit the ground, he opened his eyes and saw Lindsey reach up, grab TOC’s nuts, squeeze, and turn. TOC fell to his knees, hunched over, and released Lindsey.
His head scrambled, Colin crawled to the Archduke’s obelisk, the only geographical location in the world that wasn’t currently spinning. He grabbed hold of the obelisk with both hands and clung to it. Opening his eyes, he saw JATT still facedown. Lindsey and Katrina were kneeling over him.
And then Colin felt angels lifting him by the armpits, pulling him toward their home in the sky, and he felt light and free. He turned to his left, and saw Hassan. He turned to his right, and saw SOCT.
“Hey,” said SOCT, “you all right?”
“Yeah,” Colin said. “That was nice of your friend to, uh, get hit like that. ”
“He’s a good guy. This is f’ed up, man. We been dealin’ with this Colin and Kat crap for two years. I love Colin, but this is ridiculous. Lindsey’s good people. ”
TOC interrupted. He seemed to have recovered. “Stop talking to that little bitch. ”
“Aw, c’mon, Col. You screwed this one up, bro, not him. ”
“You’re all such goddamned pussies!” TOC shouted, and then Hassan said, “It’s three on one,” and charged TOC.
And sure, it was three on one. But what a one. Hassan’s run was met by a body punch that entered cartoonishly far into his gut. Hassan started to fall but couldn’t, because TOC had his hand wrapped around Hass’s neck. Colin rushed in then with an overhand right. The punch connected, but (1) Colin forgot to close his fist, so he was slapping not hitting, and (2) instead of slapping TOC, he ended up slapping Hassan flush across the cheek, whereupon Hassan finally succeeded in falling down.
SOCT jumped on TOC’s back then, and for a brief moment, it seemed the fight might be a draw. Then TOC grabbe
d SOCT by one arm and threw him halfway across the graveyard, leaving Colin and TOC standing more or less toe to toe.
Colin began by employing a strategy he’d just invented called the “windmill,” which involved windmilling his arms around to keep his attacker at bay. The strategy worked brilliantly, for about eight seconds, until TOC caught hold of his arms. And then TOC’s square, reddened face was inches from Colin’s. “I didn’t want to do it, dude,” explained TOC with a remarkable calm. “But, you know, you made me. ”
“Technically,” Colin mumbled. “I kept my promise. I didn’t say anyth—” but his thoughtful explanation was cut off by a fast-coming kick. In the moment before the strike, Colin felt it in his loins—phantom pain—and then TOC’s knee came up into Colin’s groin so hard that Colin briefly left the ground. Flying, he thought. On the wings of a knee. And then, before he’d even fallen, Colin vomited.