Fangirl: Chapter Eleven

Chapter 11

Henry stood on the low stage of the school cafe-torium, trying to look casual as he hugged his aching ribs. Waking up in the wrecked Chevy several weeks ago, he lucked out again with minimal injuries. Laurie was nowhere to be found. Except for the red ribbon from her hair tied to the rear-view mirror, there wasn’t a trace of her. He kept the ribbon in his pocket. Fucking rabbits. Henry thought, repressing a wince from a twinge in his right side.

He agreed to speak to an eighth grade class at the school where his mom was a music teacher, thinking it would lighten his mood. Now he was suffering through Mr. Reid, the young Paul-Simon-look-alike music teacher, strum his way though “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” by the Beatles. The kids looked painfully bored.

“P. C. Thirty-one said, “We caught a dirty one”
Maxwell stands alone
Painting testimonial pictures
Oh, oh, oh, oh

Rose and Valerie, screaming from the gallery
Say he must go free
(Maxwell must go free)
The judge does not agree and he tells them
So, o, o, o
But as the words are leaving his lips
A noise comes from behind
Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Came down upon his head
Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Made sure that he was dead
Whoa, oh, oh, oh
Silver hammer man…”
“Thanks, class!” Mr. Reid bowed to the smattering of polite applause. “I know how y’all love my Beatles covers. Now, for the main event, we have a guest… speaker…” He chuckled as if that were a joke. “Creator of ‘American Family’ Henry O’Connor!” The faces of the kids lit up at the mention of one of their favorite cartoons. Henry stepped up to the microphone, eating up the wild applause.
“Thanks, Mr. Reid.” Henry gave a nod to the music teacher, who put his guitar in a stand and waited in the wings, grinning. “Wow, I’ve never enjoyed a song about a serial hammer murderer more.” The kids laughed at Mr. Reid’s expense, he just kept grinning. Henry continued, “It’s an honor to be back here at Woodbury Middle school where my mom taught music for 30 years and I attended 6th-8th grade. I tell ya, it’s nice to be able to leave this cafe-torium and not be afraid of getting shoved in a locker!” The crowd giggled, Henry smiled through the pain in his ribs. Mr. Reid did a rim-shot on a drum kit.
“I didn’t ask him to do that.” Henry said, pointing a thumb at Mr. Reid, who did another rim-shot. “Anyway… Mom would be proud to see me up here today, so proud she would say…” He switched to his mother’s voice, almost indistinguishable from Angela Foster. “Henry, did you remember to practice your scales? What is that you’re drawing? Did you put on clean underwear today?” The kids burst out laughing. No rim-shot from Mr. Reid, who grinned, still waiting for the joke.
Henry shook his head at Mr. Reid before continuing in his own voice. “But, she would be disappointed in me if I didn’t teach you guys something you want to know. So, I’m gonna open it up for some questions…” He sat on the edge of the stage with the mic in his hand, taking time with his bruised ribs. “Tell me what you want to know, what are you guys interested in?”
“Boobs.” said a large, mulleted teenage boy in the back row. The kids all screamed in laughter. The door opposite Henry opened and in walked his dream girl. This time she was dressed in cutoff daisy duke’s, black and white striped knee socks, converse, and a red flannel, open-down the middle to reveal a thin white tank top… no bra. In red sharpie on the shirt, she had drawn a heart with an arrow through H and L. Her hair was crimped up in a 1980’s Blondie fluff. She stood at the back of the crowd, adoration gleaming across the room. Henry was the only one who seemed to notice her again.
“Yeah, I shoulda seen that one coming.” Henry said, getting a few snickers from the crowd. “I can tell you it’s pretty great being an animator because I can draw all the side-boobs I want. Next, green shirt?”
“So, when should I take it out?” Green shirt said in earnest.
“Never. Not unless she asks. Okay, does anyone have a question about one of my shows? How about a question from a girl? Yes, pink hoodie, third row?”
“Yeah, I’m a boy, my name is Taylor, my pronouns are they/them. I heard you were bringing back ‘The Universe’ with astrophysicist Carl Sinclair-Tyler…” The stoic child in the pink hoodie responded.
“Oh, uh… Sorry about that? And yes, ‘The Universe: A Space Journey’ will be premiering this fall. Did you have a question about space travel or the history of astrophysics… Taylor?”
“No, but could you sing a song for us? I love it when you sing on your show! Mr. Reid only sings the Beatles except for that one day he played Rick Astley.” The kid in the pink hoodie riled up a cheer of agreement from the crowd. His dream girl nodded, excited. Henry stood up and grabbed Mr. Reid’s guitar.
“Can I borrow this?” Henry asked after putting the strap around his neck to Mr. Reid’s fumbling grumbles of protest. He turned back to the crowd “So, what kind of song do you want to hear? What do you guys like?”
“Alligators!” yelled one kid.
“Birds!” Yelled another.
“Outer space!”
“Rock n’ Roll!”
“The moon!” Yelled Henry’s dream girl from the back of the room. He was still the only one who seemed to notice her.
“I know just the song…” Henry felt the stitch in his ribs kick into high gear, but he took a deep breath and started playing “Moonage Daydream” by David Bowie. Her eyes glowed bright green in admiration from across the room, becoming the focal point of his tunnel vision while he played the song.
“I’m an alligator, I’m a mama-papa coming for you
I’m the space invader, I’ll be a rock ‘n’ rollin’ bitch…”
The kids broke up in screaming laughter at the word “bitch”. A walrus-like principal in a brown suit grumbled in warning. Henry pretended not to notice.
“…for you
Keep your mouth shut, you’re squawking like a pink monkey bird
And I’m busting up my brains for the words
Keep your ‘lectric eye on me babe
Put your ray gun to my head
Press your space face close to mine, love
Freak out in a moonage daydream oh yeah…”
The class was enraptured with the lyrics and Henry’s trained tenor soaring over their heads, through the piercing pain in his sides. His dream girl licked her lips and swayed to the music.
“Don’t fake it baby, lay the real thing on me
The church of man, love, is such a holy place to be
Make me baby, make me know you really care
Make me jump into the air
Keep your ‘lectric eye on me babe
Put your ray gun to my head
Press your space face close to mine, love
Freak out in a moonage daydream oh yeah…”
“Okay, that’s enough for today!” The walrus principal said as he wrestled the microphone away from Henry. “Thank you, Woodbury Alumnus Henry O’Connor. Let’s make our way to fifth period, class!” Henry handed the guitar back to Mr. Reid and jumped off the stage, high-fiving kids who held their hands out as he walked down the aisle towards his dream girl. He beckoned with one finger and they ran out of the cafe-torium holding hands.
“I’ve always wanted to do this in here!” Henry said in the stall of the bathroom across from the art room. She took a hit off of the vape pen and kissed him while blowing a cloud of cannabis oil into his lungs. “What’s your name this time?” He exhaled through a plume of vapor.
“Let’s go with Lexi…” She whispered in Henry’s ear as she handed him the vape pen. He took a hit and wiggled his eyebrows at her. Lexi giggled and started kissing him again. The vapor trailed out of their nostrils, enveloping them in a hazy bubble of fuzzy warmth. Henry slipped the vape pen in her back pocket, gripped her ass with both hands and pulled her close. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pressed her hips into his, and her near-naked tits onto his chest. He could feel her hard nipples rubbing against the ribbed fabric of her tank top.
“Sexy Lexi…” Henry growled in her ear. “Say dirty words to me…”
“I can do better than that!” Lexi said, pushing him away and pulling a red sharpie out of her other pocket. She turned to the door of the bathroom stall while Henry watched her, amused and annoyed that her frizzy 80’s punk hairdo obscured what she was writing. She turned around, presenting the word with one hand as if it were an art project.
“PoppyCOCK.” Lexi said. Henry burst out laughing, then started kissing her again. He reached under her shirt and played with her hard nipples. Lexi let out a long moan of relief and gratification. He sucked on her breasts, out over the low-cut neckline of her tank top, his fingers slipped inside her cut-off jean shorts, his thumb stimulated her engorged clit with the crux of the seam.
“Cockadoodie Brat…” Henry said, kissing her neck. Lexi cried out in ecstasy, grabbed his glistening hand and put it to her throat. Like magic, she unzipped his pants and took out his hard cock and slipped it inside her without taking of her shorts. Henry had one hand gripping the stall, the other pressed down on Lexi’s windpipe, an euphoric grin spread across her face as he fucked her with her ankles linked behind his head. Fighting through the twinging pain in his ribs made him determined to feel her orgasm.
“Your mother sucks cocks in hell…” She growled, red faced and smiling.
“You dirty bitch…” He said, kissing her lips and his grip on her throat matching her Kegel grip on his dick. Three teenage girls entered the bathroom, chatting about whatever it is that kids are into these days. Henry and Lexi froze. She put a finger to her red lips, but refused to stop fucking. He thrust his hard cock up inside her as silently as possible while she held his hand up to her throat. The teenage girls did not seem to notice what was going on in the stall or they were used to kids fucking in there all the time. Lexi’s whole body convulsed without making a sound, Henry felt her pulsing orgasm drip down the shaft of his cock. The girls left the bathroom and they were alone once again. Lexi got on her knees in front of Henry.
“Spray my cunting face with your hot fucking jizz!” She said, pressing his dick between her tits. He moved his hips back and forth, using her come as lube while he fucked her tits. Her tongue flicked the tip of his dick through a wicked grin.
“I fucking love you!” Henry yelled as he came in her mouth. Lexi’s outstretched tongue let it drip down her chin and onto her voluptuous, juicy tits. She stood up with a milky strand hanging from the corner of her smiling mouth.
“I fucking love you too, my dream guy…” She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. He removed the string and wiped it on the back of her shorts. Henry pulled back.
“Are you even real?” He asked, his dark eyes searching her evergreen ones for the truth.
“Nope. But, none of this is real. Just go with it!” Lexi pinched his cheek. Henry shrugged and kept kissing her.
“What’s the matter?” Jess asked, dragging a blue suitcase down the stairs behind her. Leena was pressing her shoulder into the front door of her building, trying to get it to open. A dead weight was keeping it closed.
“Some… fucking… junkie… passed out… god damnit…” Leena grunted as she pushed on the door. Jess put down her suitcase and helped Leena push. A body rolled heavily out of the way as the door swung onto the front steps. They looked down. It was John. Someone had written “YOUR WELCOME” in red sharpie on his dirty white t-shirt. His lips were blue, his skin had the pale waxy pallor of death and he didn’t appear to be breathing.
“Oh, you little shit! If you make me miss my flight, so help me!” Leena shouted, kicking John in the ribs. Jess gasped.
“Oh my god, is he dead? Is he breathing? What do we do?!” Jess started to panic, Leena started searching the chaotic abyss of her purse.
“Calm the fuck down, Jessie. What kind of compassionate liberal New Yorker would I be without Narcan in my purse at all times? Ah, here it is!” Leena sprayed the Narcan syringe up each of John’s nostrils. He gasped once, then remained motionless. “Fuck. I’m calling the cops. They can deal with this piece of shit before I toss him in the East River.”
“Did it work? Is that how it’s supposed to work? I thought he was supposed to come out of it like in Pulp Fiction!” Jess shouted as Leena called 911.
“Hello? There’s an overdosed junkie blocking my doorway, I gave him a hit of Narcan, but the little bitch is still laying here, not breathing. Uh huh? Oh, right. Hold on, I’ll put you on speaker.”
“Someone needs to give him two mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths and then chest compression for thirty seconds, can someone do that?” Pleaded the 911 operator. Jess and Leena looked at each other, held up their fists for Rock, Paper, Scissors. Jess picked rock. Leena picked Scissors. She bent down, grimacing over John’s motionless face. Leena breathed two lung-fulls of air into his chest, which expanded like a balloon.
“I got the chest compression’s.” Jess said, moving Leena aside while she wiped her mouth.
Press down hard in the middle of his chest at the rate of two beats per second, ready? Go! One and two and three and four…” Jess pressed along to the counting of the 911 operator, her hands clenched over the “YOUR WELCOME” written on his chest. She tried to break at least one of his ribs. John was still motionless after thirty seconds.
“It’s not working!” Jess shouted, standing over his body. John’s face flushed with color, his eyes sprang open and he sat up, ducked under Jess’s legs and stood up in one motion.
“The Aristocrats!” John shouted, before puking all over himself and collapsing on the sidewalk.
“Hack.” Said Jess. The EMT’s arrived and shuffled John’s limp form onto a stretcher.
“Wait!” Leena shouted, taking a red sharpie out of her purse. While John was dazed, strapped to the stretcher, Leena corrected the grammar on his shirt so it said “YOU’RE WELCOME!” Jess shook her head at Leena and smiled in relief. “I’m a publisher, damnit! Take him away, boys! Back to his mom’s house in Westchester.” Leena hit the side of the ambulance as it drove off.
“That was intense.” Jess sighed.
“Meh, that’s any day in New York, baby.” Leena put her phone to her ear. “Daddy? I missed my flight and I need a cocktail, Jess and I just had to deal with this fucking rapist junkie OD’d on my doorstep, can you take us out to lunch?” Leena whined to Jess’s Uncle Adam on the phone. Jess gave her a weary smile because she knew the answer already.
Uncle Adam looked like a distinguished Ben Stiller, but he had the energy of Willie Nelson. He sat between Leena and Jess in the circular booth of their favorite Italian restaurant, eating huge bowls of warm pasta for lunch. Leena slurped up her fettuccine Alfredo between sips of a cosmo.
“I can’t wait to get out of this goddamned city for a while.” Leena slurped.
“Don’t worry, baby.” Uncle Adam put down his smartphone and nibbled at his primavera. “Daddy’s got you on the 6pm flight out of LaGuardia. You’ll be on your journey to sobriety soon enough…” He clinked the ice in his empty scotch glass, indicating for the waiter to bring him another.
“Are you doing okay, Uncle Adam? I haven’t see you since…” Jess couldn’t bring herself to say “Aunt Rita’s funeral” because she was stuffing her face with penne ala vodka. She washed it down with a fish-bowl sized glass of red wine. New Yorkers dealt with the stress of overpopulated city life by sedating themselves with delicious food and alcohol. Jess was enjoying the feeling of warm fullness for the first time that day. Uncle Adam swirled the ice around in his glass. His salt-and-pepper hair was longer than usual.
“Oh, you know… I get by. I stay busy at work… and Leena always needs help moving a piece of furniture she finds on the street.” Uncle Adam elbowed Leena in the ribs playfully.
“Hey, that armoire would have fit through the fire escape if we had a crane!” Leena said, giggling through a mouthful of pasta. The waiter brought over fresh drinks.
“How’s the writing going, Jess?” Uncle Adam asked. Jess swirled her pasta around with a fork.
“I couldn’t finish my story, so I’m going back to Grandma’s.” Jess admitted.
“What do you mean you couldn’t finish? You’re a writer, Jess. That’s what you do. Just write it! It’s in your head, put it on paper. Simple as that. Work a day job until you can sell something you wrote.” Uncle Adam had a way of telling Jess what she needed to hear when she didn’t want to hear it.
“It’s not as easy as it sounds.” Jess whispered to her pasta.
“Eh, sometime’s it’s all who you know.” Uncle Adam shrugged.
“There’s one guy I wish I knew…”
“Who? Maybe I know him…”
“Henry O’Connor.”
“Don’t know him…”
“Nobody seems to. I’m starting to wonder if he’s even real.”
“Well, he is hosting Saturday Night Live tonight.”
“He is?!” Jess shouted. Uncle Adam put up his hands to calm her down.
“Yeah, you could try meeting him at the stage door at NBC.” Leena belched after finishing the last of her pasta, full and slightly drunk for her trip to a Florida detox center.
“People do that?” Jess asked, feeling like a rube.
“There’s no law against it.” Uncle Adam shrugged.

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