Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chapter 11

Johnny was returning home after another long day at the bank. Today, he would take a route that would lead him through a few alleyways. He was still upset about the night before, and didn't want to confront Lisa right away. The sight of the red bricks and silver garbage cans seemed to match his ever darkening circumstances.

A voice came from behind him. Johnny recognized it instantly as Michelle's boyfriend, Mike.

"Hey Johnny, what's going on, man?" he said.

The two embraced in greeting. "Oh hi Mike, what's new? What's going on man?"

"Actually, Johnny..." Mike started, "...I got a little bit of a tragedy on my hands."

Johnny nodded for him to continue.

"Me and Michelle. We were...we were making out, uh, at your place."

Johnny laughed to himself. Those two!

"And, um, Lisa and Claudette sorta...walked in on us, in the middle of it."

Mike paused to gauge Johnny's reaction. Johnny simply stared at him with squinty, sagging, empty eyes.

"That's not the end of the story."

"Go on," Johnny invited, "I'm listening"

"OK. We're going at it, and I get out of there as fast as possible. I get my pants. I get my shirt. And I get out of there, and then about half way down the stairs I realized that I have misplaced, um...I have forgotten something..." Mike stammered, "...uh, my underwear."

Johnny laughed again. Mike shook off a his own giggles and continued with the story.

"So I go back to get it, you know? And I pretend that I'm looking for my book. You know, I'm like, looking for my book. And then I reach in and put my underwear in my pocket and just try and sort of slide out real quick? Well Claudette, she saw it sticking out of my pocket, so she pulls it out," he mimed stretching out a pair of underwear, "And she's uh, showing everybody...me underwears."

Johnny scrunched up his face in laughter, "You must be kidding, underwear! I got the picture!"

Mike shrugged, "I didn't know what to do!"

"That's life!" Johnny said, patting Mike on the shoulder. Both men shrugged it off.

"Hey Johnny!" it was Denny for some reason, also in the alley. The boy ran up to the two older men with a spring in his creepy steps. "Hey Mike!"

"Oh hey Denny!" Johnny greeted.

Denny had the football with him.

"You guys want to play some football?" he asked cheerfully.

"I gotta go see Michelle in a little bit," Mike said, avoiding Denny's invitation the best he could, "...to uh, make out with her. So I'm sorry."

Denny wasn't buying it. "Come on!" he pleaded.

Johnny agreed. "Come on! Let's do it! Come on!" he said.

"All right, all right whatever." Mike grabbed the football from Denny.

"Let's go for it!" Johnny said, and moved into position.

"I'm going out!" Denny proclaimed excitedly, running a few paces opposite of Mike. Mike threw him the ball and Denny caught it happily.

The three friends stood a meter apart from one another, tossing a football around in the alley like friends do.

"I'm sorry you had to see that." Mike said, throwing the ball to Johnny.

"I'm not...sorry!" Denny said, and the three laughed. "Studying right!"


"I don't study like that."

Johnny smiled, "He doesn't!"

"Hey Denny, what's up!"

It was Mark, who was also there, in the brick alley way, for some reason.

"Hey what's up Mark!"

"Oh hi, Mark!" Johnny greeted, throwing him the ball.

"What's up Mark?" Mike asked.

"Not to much," Mark replied with a handsome smile, "how about you guys?"

"He's just telling us about an underwear issue he had." Denny started mischievously

"Dude! Don't worry! Don't--" Mike tried to stop him, but it was all ready out. Mark curled his face in disgust.

"Underwear?" he asked, "What's that?"

"It's embarrassing man, I don't want to get into it." Mike replied sheepishly.

"Underwear man? Come on!"

And to emphasize the point, Mark pushed Mike the fuck over into a bunch of trash cans The other three men tried to break his fall, but Mike hit the ground. Hard.

"Oh god!" Mike screamed in pain.

"Are you OK!?" all three asked in near unison, helping him up.

"I'm fine!"

"Are you sure?" Johnny asked, reaching for his arm to pull him up.

"Uh-huh." Mike assured, slowly getting to his feet.

"You want to see doctor?" Johnny asked.

"No, no. I'm good. I'm all right." Mike said, and Mark wrapped the man's arms around his shoulders. "I'm fine."

"Mark, why don't you take him home and Mike, listen, if you need anything call me. Anytime, all right?" Johnny said, patting Mike on the shoulder. "All right?"

"Yeah!" Mike moaned.

"See you guys!" Johnny called out as they left.

"See you guys!" Denny also called out as they left.

Denny sighed and reached for the football. He was still up for another round, but Johnny was done for the day.

"Let's go home, Denny." he said, a reassuring hand over the young man's shoulder.

And the two walked home from the brick alley.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chapter 10

Michelle lay on Lisa's couch, her hand wrapped around a cold glass of red wine. It was just her and Lisa this time, no Mike.

"So, how's Johnny?" she asked.

"He didn't get his promotion." Lisa replied, and dread crept into her voice.

Michelle grimaced. She knew how important that promotion had been to him. "Oh, is he disappointed?" she said.

"Quite a bit." Lisa's tone was cold as steel. "He got drunk last night. And he hit me."

Michelle nearly spat out her wine. "He hit you?!" Johnny didn't even drink last time she checked. Not after what happened to him in his home country. And domestic violence...she didn't think he had it in him.

"He didn't know what he was doing." Lisa said.

Michelle looked her friend up and down for bruises. "Are you okay?"

"Well I don't want to marry him anymore?"

"What!?" Michelle nearly spat out her wine again. Like her boyfriend Mike, this was coming so fast.

"Johnny's...okay." Lisa said, putting down her wine, "But I found somebody else."

Michelle giggled. "Lisa! This isn't right! You're living with one guy and you're sleeping with another guy?"

Lisa looked at Michelle with sad, sunken eyes. "I'm doing what I want to do."

"Who is he?" Despite her repulsion at the idea, Michelle couldn't help but ask.

Lisa grinned. "His best friend. And he lives in this building."

Michelle's eyes nearly shot out of her head. "I can't believe you're telling me this! It's Mark, isn't it?"

Lisa nodded and reached for her wine.

Michelle let herself have another giggle, then softened her tone. As a friend of both Johnny and Lisa, she couldn't let this go by without comment. "Lisa, you know, you're just thinking about yourself. Somebody's going to get hurt. You've got to be honest with Johnny."

A lump in Lisa's neck began to bulge out. It was a tick she'd had since she was a child, triggered by intense guilt or stress. Like an alien struggling to burst it's way from her neck, it resembled a disgusting mobile tumor. She hoped Michelle wouldn't notice.

"I can't do that. He would be devastated." she said.

"Well, if you care so much for him, why cheat on him?"

Lisa paused a moment, struggling for the words that would excuse her actions. They didn't come.

"Look, I really don't know what to do." she said finally, "I love Mark, I don't have any more feelings for Johnny."

Michelle sighed. "Johnny is so excited about this wedding!"

"I know." Lisa grumbled.

"You've got to tell Johnny."

Lisa leaned in and hardened her features. "No guilt trips."

"You don't feel guilty about this at all?"

"No," Lisa said, "I'm happy."

Michelle shook her head. "Something awful is going to happen."

"Please don't tell anybody." Lisa pleaded.

Michelle felt a heavy weight press down on her shoulders. Something awful was going to happen and she wasn't sure if she, or anyone, could do anything to stop it.


Johnny hopped off the street car and started walking towards his home. Another hard day at the bank. Johnny did all right, certainly enough to support his future-wife, but had he gotten the promotion he was promised he would have been a millionaire. On top of his work stresses, Johnny was still mulling over Lisa's claim that he had hit her. Of course, he hadn't. Don't even ask. He was drunk, sure, but not drunk enough to strike his future-wife. Not even on Denny's drugs would he do that. No, he was sure Lisa was making it up. But why? He intended to ask her tonight.

He came up to his door and noticed the paper still on the stoop. He picked it up and looked through the headlines. 'St. Martin Wildfire Burns Through 30, 000 Acres of Trees'. Huh, thought Johnny, and he went inside.

"...don't worry. You're secret is safe with me." The words, only audible as Johnny walked in, were from Michelle. She and Lisa toasted wine on the couch.

"Hello Michelle," Johnny said, "I heard you. What secret?"

Michelle shifted her eyes uncomfortably towards Lisa.

"It's between us women." Lisa quickly, and firmly, interjected.

Michelle smiled nervously. "Hi Johnny."

"Did you get a new dress?" Johnny asked.

"Umm..." she began to sit up, "...well I guess I better be going. Uh, I'll just, talk to you guys later?"

She started to make her towards the door but Johnny's big legs were in the way. She stepped over them.

"Excuse me." she muttered, then opened the door. "Lisa, remember what I told you."

Lisa swung around to meet Michelle's gaze. She met it with a cold retort. Michelle waved a quick goodbye and was gone.

Johnny, seated in front of his collection on spoon photos, turned from the door to Lisa.

"What is she talking about?"

Lisa swung her head in annoyance. "It's girl talk. I just told you that."

Johnny opened his mouth to say something, but paused before anything came out. He stood and took off his jacket. Here we go.

"I never hit you." he said.

Lisa stared a silent admission. She wasn't going to keep up that charade any longer.

"You shouldn't keep any secrets from me," Johnny continued, throwing his jacket onto the couch, "I'm your future husband."

"Are you sure about that? Maybe I'll change my mind." Lisa's voice was full of venom.

"Don't talk like that. What you mean?"

Lisa put down her wine with an air of finality. "What do you think? Women change their minds all the time."

Johnny laughed. "Hahaha! You must be kidding aren't you!"

"Look." Lisa said, standing and walking for the stairs "I don't want to talk about it. I'm going to go upstairs. And wash up. And go to bed."

Johnny stood abruptly, pushing Lisa back onto the couch. "How dare you talk to me like that! You should tell me everything!"

Lisa looked up with a muddled sense of fear and anger. She'd never seen him like this...

"I can't talk right now."

Johnny sat beside her, emotion bubbling up under his skin.
"Why Lisa, why? Please talk to me. Please!"

She simply looked away.

"You are part of my life. You are everything. I could not go on without you, Lisa!"

Lisa shook her head. This had gone on far enough.

"You're scaring me." she started to stand.

Johnny pointed a finger into her shoulder. "You are lying! I never hit you!" He said, then suddenly pulled at the air with his giant fists, exclaiming with all his considerable might "You are tearing me apart, Lisa!"

"Why are you so hysterical?" she yelled back.

"Do you understand life?" Johnny pushed her onto the couch a second time, "Do you!?" he prompted.

She stared, defeated, then got up once more, heading for the stairs. Johnny watched her go with regret. She took a few steps up, then turned to face him.

"Don't worry about it. Everything will be all right." she comforted.

"You drive me crazy!" Johnny said. But it feels all right, he thought just to himself.

"Goodnight, Johnny."

"Don't worry about it. I still love you." He called out after her as she ascended the spiral staircase.

"Goodnight Lisa."

She took the last few steps up the stairs, and was gone.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Chapter 9

"I miss you." Lisa's voice came through Mark's receiver. After the affair with Denny had wrapped itself up, Mark had returned to his apartment and lit a few candles to calm down. No sooner had he laid his head upon his pillow did a ringing come from his portable phone.

"I just saw you! What are you talking about?" Mark's voice stung with annoyance.

"I just wanted to hear your sexy voice. I keep thinking about your strong hands around my body. It excites me so much. I love you."

Mark couldn't deny that he liked the sound of her sexy voice. And his hands around her body...well, it excited him too and he couldn't help it. But before he could get too excited, his mind snapped back to his best friend.

"Is Johnny there?" he asked.

"He's...in the shower."

He fought back another wave of attraction.

"God! I don't understand you! Why do you do things like this!" his hands clamped hard onto the phone.

"Because I love you. You just don't care do you?"

"I do care!" Mark assured, "But we agreed, it's over between us."

"I understand, it's our secret. But I still have feelings for you. You just don't care!"

Mark sighed audibly. "God! I do care!"

"I have to go now." Lisa said, "I'll see you later darling."

"Don't call me that."

"OK." she said, not believing it for a second, "Bye."

Mark slammed down the phone before she had chance to hang-up herself.
This was never going to end, was it?


The next day Mark went up to the roof to clear his head. He was relaxing on one of the chairs they kept up there, football in hand, when Johnny came in through the door, muttering to himself and holding a water bottle.

"I did not hit her! It's not true! It's bullshit! I did not hit her!" he threw down the water bottle, "I did not!" He turned and noticed Mark, sitting quietly on the roof. "Oh, hi Mark."

"Oh, hey Johnny. What's up?"

Johnny made his way to the adjacent chair beside Mark.

"I have a problem with Lisa. She said that I hit her." he sat.

Mark gasped. "What? Well did you?"

"No, it's not true, don't even ask!"
Johnny paused a moment. He considered the subject closed.
"What's new with you?"

"Well I'm just sitting up here thinking, you know?" That much was true. Of course, he couldn't tell Johnny the specifics of what he was thinking about, but maybe he could still depend on his best friend's guidance to help him through this mess with Lisa. "I have a question for you."

"Yeah." Johnny invited.

"Do you think girls like to cheat like guys do?"

Johnny titled his head with reserved curiosity, and, Mark thought, maybe even a hint of suspicion. He hoped that was just his imagination.

He stood up and leaned against the brick ledge.

"I don't know. I don't know, I'm just thinking."

Johnny looked off into the San Francisco skyline. "I don't have to worry about that," he said innocently, "because Lisa is loyal to me."

Mark frowned inwardly at the bitter dramatic irony of his words.

"Yeah man, you never know. People are very strange these days."

Johnny sat with his hands behind his head, listening. It's true, people were strange these days. Denny was living, breathing proof of that, he thought.

Mark continued.

"I used to know this girl. She had a dozen guys." His eyes went distant as he thought back to the girl. He, of course, had been one of the dirty dozen. He wasn't proud of it. Mark, despite his best efforts, just always ended up as the other man. His attention returned to Johnny. "One of them found out about it, beat her up so bad she ended up in a hospital on Guerraro Street."

Johnny threw his hands up and laughed "Hahaha! What a story, Mark!"
The thought of a adulterous woman getting what she deserved amused him. He stood to join Mark.

"Yeah, you could say that again." Mark said sternly. If Johnny should find out of his betrayal, would he go after Lisa? With a reaction like that...

Johnny leaned up against the side of the ledge next to Mark. He put his hand on the younger man's shoulder. All this talk of betrayal...he was relieved that he'd never have to worry about such things, surrounded as he was with people whom he loved and trusted.

"I'm so glad that I have you as my best friend, and I love Lisa so much."

"Yeah, man." Mark replied, "You are very lucky."

"Well maybe you should have a girl, Mark?" Johnny suggested gently.

Once again, the irony of Johnny's words struck deep, inspiring a stabbing guilt in Mark that was getting harder and harder to suppress.

"Yeah, yeah. Maybe you're right." Holding the football, he took a few steps towards the other ledge of the roof, "Maybe I have one all ready. I don't know yet."

"Well what happened? Remember Betty, that's her name?"



"Yeah, we don't see each other anymore. You know, she wasn't any good in bed. She was beautiful, but we had too many arguments." God, Mark thoughts turned again to Lisa, what is it with me and dating beautiful women who aren't any good in bed and with whom I argue so much!

"That's too bad, my Lisa is great, when I can get it." Johnny said.

Sure, if you consider dry humping on the stairs great. Mark thought, then sat down again with the football.

"Oh, man! I just can't figure women out. Sometimes there just too smart. Sometimes they're just flat out stupid. Other times they are just evil." Mark said, and of course, Lisa was all three.

"It's seems to me you are the expert, Mark!" Johnny exclaimed excitedly, sitting down once again beside his best friend.

"No," Mark said, smiling at his best friend's naivety, "definitively not an expert, Johnny."

Johnny noticed something in Mark. Something he was holding back perhaps? Some secret? Their talk had been exceedingly vague.

"What's bothering you Mark?" Johnny asked.

Mark looked at Johnny a moment, guilt plaguing at him. Abruptly he stood and went for the door.

"Nothing man."

Johnny quickly chased after him.

"Do you? Do you have some secret?"

He slapped a hand on Mark's shoulder and turned him towards himself. Now he was sure something was wrong.

"Forget it! Come on, forget it!" Mark dodged.

"Why don't you talk? Is it some secret? Come on!" Johnny grabbed the football out of Mark's hands.

"Forget it! Talk to you later!" Mark couldn't be stopped. He went for the door.

Johnny threw the football in the air and caught it.

"Well, whatever." he muttered to himself.

Mark charged past Denny, who himself was on his way to the roof, and they exchanged a hurried glance. Denny smiled but Mark couldn't be bothered. He descended into the building and was gone. Denny walked out onto the roof, shaking his head in confusion.

He noticed Johnny on one of the chairs, tossing the football, and walked over.

"Oh, hey Johnny." he said.

"Oh, hey Denny, what's up?" Johnny replied.

"What's wrong with Mark?" the boy asked.

Johnny smiled and laughed. "He's cranky today! Haha. Girl trouble I guess!"

It must not be that bad then, Denny thought.

"What's new with you?" Johnny prodded.

"Nothing much!" he said, then leaned up against the brick of the wall. "We still going to the movie tonight?"

"Sure, we are."

"What kind of movie are we going to see?"

Johnny caught the football and held it for a moment. "Well we'll see..." he threw up at the ball and caught it, "Denny, do not plan too much. It might not come out right!"

Johnny was always filled with wisdom like that, and Denny was happy to have him as his father figure.

"All right! Let's toss the ball around." Denny said with a smile.

Johnny stood up and tossed him the pigskin. "OK."

Denny caught it and ran his fingers over the stitching, contemplating.

"I got to tell you about something." he said after a moment.

Johnny held open his hands and Denny threw him the ball back. He caught it.

"Shoot Denny." he said, than tossed the ball back again.

Denny caught it. "It's about Lisa."

Suddenly, the ball wasn't being tossed anymore. Johnny leaned back and focused his attention, not harsh, but serious suddenly at the mention of his future wife. "Go on."

"She's beautiful. She looks great in a red dress. I think I'm in love with her." he paused to gauge Johnny's reaction. It was unchanged.

"Go on." Johnny offered. If he was upset, he wasn't showing it.

"I know she doesn't like me because sometimes she's mean to me but...sometimes when I'm around her? I feel like I want to kiss her and tell her that I love her. I dunno, I'm just confused."

To Denny's surprise, Johnny smiled. "Denny, don't worry about that. Lisa loves you too! As a person, as a human being. As a friend. You know, people don't need to say it. They can feel it."

Denny stumbled into one of the chairs. "What do you mean?"

Johnny sat down too. "You can love someone, deep inside your heart and there is nothing wrong with it."

Denny listened attentively. Johnny was leaning back in his chair, hands behind his head.

"If a lot people love each other," his words echoed with meaning, "the world would be a better place to live."

Denny shook his head. "But Lisa is your future wife!"

"Denny don't worry about it! You are part of our family, and we love you very much. And we'll help you anytime. And Lisa loves you too! As a friend. You are sort of like her son."

Denny stood in surprise. "You mean, you're not upset with me?"

"No, because I trust you and I trust Lisa." the irony of his words were lost on Denny.

"What about Elizabeth, huh?" Johnny asked.

Denny smiled sheepishly.

"Well...I love her."

Johnny nodded his head. "Um-hm"

"When I graduate from college, get a good job" Denny continued, "I want to marry her and have kids with her."

"That's the idea!" Johnny said, walking towards the boy.

"You're right."

Johnny came right up next to Denny, and Denny used the moment to thank Johnny once again.

"Thanks for paying my tuition."

Johnny put a fatherly-figure hand on Denny's shoulder and started walking him to the door.

"You're very welcome Denny and keep in mind. If you ever have any problems talk to me and I will help you!" he said.

Denny smiled again. "Awesome. Thanks Johnny!"

"Let's go eat huh?" Johnny said. "Come on, lets go!"

The father-figure and son-figure went for the door, laughing all the way.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Chapter 8

The roof air flowed through Denny's hair as he dribbled his basketball in solitude. The rippled leather of the ball felt good to his fingers. He liked to come up here to think sometimes, especially when he was high. It felt right to be high up, literally, on the roof of the building, when his spirit was high off of drugs.

Speaking of drugs...

The door to the roof suddenly swung open, and just as quickly banged shut. A man in black tank top, black Addias pants and a black cap stood menacingly at the entrance. Denny knew him instantly. It was Chris R., the drug dealer he'd been buying from. And he knew why he was here too. Denny was late on a payment

Chris R. strode towards him. Denny grabbed the basketball and stared him straight in the eye. For a long time neither of them said anything. After a few moments, Chris. R spoke up first.

"Hi, Denny." he grumbled.

"Chris R. I've been looking for you!" Denny said, a smile stretched nervously across his face.

"Yeah, sure you have." Chris R. took a step forward and grabbed the basketball, snatching it from Denny's sweating hands. "You have my money right?"

"Yeah...it's coming. It'll be here in a few minutes." Denny fumbled. Of course, there was no money and even if there was, he wasn't sure how it would arrive within a few minutes. But Chris R. didn't know that. Or at least, Denny hoped he didn't.

Chris R. dropped the basketball and it dribbled away, each bounce a harbinger of Denny's oncoming doom. "What do you mean its coming Denny?" he leaned forward, his face inches from Denny's. "Where's. My. Money. Denny?"

"OK...just, just give me five minutes." Maybe if he could find Johnny and ask to borrow some money again... "Just give me five!"

Chris R. leaned back and pretended to consider it. But he'd waited long enough.

"Five minutes? You want five fucking minutes, Denny? You know what? I've got FIVE FUCKING MINUTES!" he ripped a gun from his pants, grabbed Denny by his neck and shoved him to the floor. He pushed the cold, hard steel of the pistol into Denny's shaggy hair. "I'm going to ask you again Denny. Where's my money?"

He tightened his grip on the boy's neck. Tears welled up and dripped from Denny's eyes. "I don't have anything!" he choked out.

"Where's my money Denny?" Chris are repeated, "WHERE'S MY FUCKING MONEY DENNY?"

Denny could only cry. Like a bitch.

"What did you do with my FUCKING MONEY DENNY?" Chris R. shouted.

"I swear to God its coming!" Denny pleaded. Chris R. jammed the gun into Denny's temple. "WHERE'S MY FUCKING MONEY DENNY?" he screamed again, over and over.

The door to the roof swung open and Johnny and Mark came flooding out, shock hitting them hard. They ran towards the confrontation, traversing the length of the roof within seconds. They grabbed at Chris R., pulling him off and away. Denny crawled back. Mark grabbed Chris R.'s gun and pointed it at the drug dealer, holding back his left arm while Johnny held his right. The man struggled, yelling, screaming at Denny. "You're fucking dead Denny!" he spat.

"Shut up!" Mark retorted.

"What's going on? Oh, somebody help!" It was Lisa screaming, her and her mother having randomly appeared at the door as well.

Mark and Johnny dragged the drug dealer towards the door while the women ran out to Denny.

"Lets get him to the police!" Johnny offered, and he and Mark disappeared back into the building. "You're fucking dead!" Chris R. yelled out as he sunk into the darkness.

Denny was leaning off the building, tears streaming down his boyish face when Lisa and Claudette reached him. Lisa took him by the shoulders and faced him towards her, shaking the creep frantically in her arms.

"Denny are you OK? What did that man want from you!?"

She pulled him away from the wall.

"Nothing!" he said.

"Oh,that was not nothing!" Claudette chimed in.

"Tell me everything!" Lisa was crying now. This boy was like a son to her.

"You have no idea what kind of trouble you're in here do you!" Claudette lectured.

"I owe him some money." Denny admitted.

Claudette started to say something but then stopped herself.

"What kind of money?"

"I owe him some money." Denny admitted.

"What kind of money?"

"Everything is OK! He's gone!"

"Everything is not OK! Denny, that is a dangerous man!" Claudette had seen too many people murdered by drug dealers in her life time to let her family (and that's what Denny was now, wether she liked it or not) be involved with them.

"Calm down! He's going to jail!"

"Denny! What kind of money! Just tell me!" Lisa was incredibly concerned as to the exact amount.

"What do you need money for?" Claudette began, but Lisa interrupted.
"Mom please! Denny is with me and Johnny!" she screeched.

"A man like that! With a gun! My God!"

If Denny wasn't crying from Chris R.'s attack, he was certainly crying from this barrage.

"Denny, look into my eyes and tell the truth. We're your friends." Lisa pleaded.

Denny took a deep breath.

"I bought some drugs off of him. Things got mixed up. I didn't mean for this to happen!

Claudette rolled her eyes in disbelief.

Lisa broke down into a solid stream of tears.

"Denny..." she choked out.

"I don't have them anymore!"

"What kind of drugs, Denny!" Lisa sobbed.

"It doesn't matter, I don't have them anymore!"

"It doesn't matter?" Claudette said, "How in the hell did you get involved with drugs!"

"Mom..." Lisa tried to interrupt, but Claudette continued.

"What? Were you giving them to him, selling them to him? Where did you meet that man?"

"WHAT KIND OF DRUGS DO YOU TAKE?" Lisa screamed at him.

"It's nothing like that!" Denny tried to explain but--

"WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!?" Lisa shook Denny violently in her frenzy.

"I just needed some money to pay off some stuff!" he lied quickly.

"How much do you have to give him?" Lisa pleaded.

"This is not the way you make money!" Claudette piped in.


Denny broke out into tears again. "Stop ganging up on me!"

"Well it is time somebody ganged up on you! A man like that! Where in the hell did you meet a man like that!"

"It doesn't matter!" Denny repeated for what felt like the one-hundreth time. This was an infuriatingly useless and repetitive conversation, and Denny was quickly wishing that Chris R. had just shot him in the head so that he wouldn't have had to endure it.

"It matters a great deal! A man holds a gun on you! You almost got killed and you expect me to forget that happened?"

Denny couldn't take this from her anymore.

"You're not my fucking mother!" he shot back.

"You listen to me boy!" she grabbed his sweater and yanked at him. Lisa hugged him, bringing his head to her chest and sobbing for her mother to stop, but Claudette couldn't be contained.

"Somebody better do something around here!" Claudette threw his hand down violently and stepped back. Lisa cradled Denny's head, stroking his oily hair as they wept together. "It's OK..." she whispered.

The door swung open again and Johnny and Mark returned. Chris R. wasn't with them so Denny could only assume they had managed to successfully get him to the police, explain what had happened and gotten him sent straight to jail in few minutes they had been talking.

"Are you okay, Denny?" Johnny asked urgently, holding Denny around the shoulders.

"I'm okay." he said.

"Are you okay?" Johnny repeated.

"I'm okay!"

"What's OK? He's taking drugs!" Claudette hissed.

Johnny held Denny's head to his chest, while Mark held Claudette back.

"Come on stop!" he commanded, "It was a mistake!"

"A mistake! That he takes drugs." Claudette threw up her hands and shook her head. No one was taking this seriously.

"Come on, let's go home." Johnny said.

Mark agreed. "Yeah, come on, it's clear!"

"What's clear?" Claudette wasn't even sure what that sentence meant in this context, "I am going to call the police!"

"Mom stop! It was Denny's mistake! Just stop!"

"Uh!" Claudette turned her head in disgust. Mark pushed her towards the exit.

"Let's go."

Johnny lifted his hand off of Denny's shoulder. "Why did you do this? You know better, right? Why?!"

"I'm sorry!" Denny whined.

"You know better Denny! You almost got killed!"

"I'm sorry." It was more genuine this time. Johnny could tell he meant it. "It won't happen again, I promise."
Johnny frowned, and pulled Denny's head once more to his chest.

"Denny, you know that Johnny is like your father. And we're your friends, we're going to help you." Lisa said, sounding very much a like mother herlsef.

Johnny pulled at Denny's hair and looked as though he was having an orgasm. And, in a way, he was. An orgasm of relief. Despite his parental objections, he was glad Denny was OK. And now that this was done, he would never bring it up in any way ever again. Johnny was going to make sure that this incident didn't affect anything in their lives and was totally forgotten by everyone involved.

"Lets go home." Johnny said.

He extended his arm over Lisa too, and the three of them went for the door.

And with that, the plot about Denny having drug problems, was gone.