Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Summer of My Disco Tent or How I Sprayed Beer All Over Tom Perrotta

This #fridayflash was inspired by an event I attended a couple years ago, where I got to hear Tom Perrotta read from (at the time) his soon-to-be-released book The Leftovers. This is (mostly) fiction. 

The Summer of My Disco Tent or How I Sprayed Beer All Over Tom Perrotta

I blame my ex that I'm pretending to follow the argument of whether Gatsby or Tom is a better lover—the plot synopsis on Wikipedia didn't mention sex—so my answer to "Rosie, what do you think?" is "Did anyone fuck in that novel?"

Kaitlyn, my best friend, follows me to the kitchen. "Are you trying to get us kicked out of book club?"

"Come on, that was funny."

Kaitlyn pushes me aside and yanks open the oven. I wrinkle my nose as she flaps a dishtowel, dispersing the smoke. "Why'd you agree to this if you aren't into it?"

"And throw away rotting bananas?" I'm sort of proud of my tone—two-thirds incredulous and one-third sarcastic. "That's wasteful."

Kaitlyn rolls her eyes and flips the loaf pan. She rummages in my cutlery/flatware/old cork/shoelace drawer, finds a knife, then amputates the banana bread's burnt bottom. "You said yes." I hear the reproach in her tone.

Problem is, I did agree to book club; I just wasn't paying attention. When she prattled on about what "summer of my disco tent really means" I was watching my ex Jason, sitting at the table across from me at Barnes & Noble cafe with That-Whore-Andrea. He slid his hand under her skirt. T-W-A lowered eyelashes as fake as her rack and reciprocated by licking whipped cream from the corner of his mouth. In front of me! I was so pissed that I answered yeah whatever to Kaitlyn's question. Her I thought you'd never agree! surprised me, but I dismissed it. I was staring at the book on Jason's table. T-W-A got 50 Shades of Grey; I joined a bunch of sexually frustrated women in a book club.  

"But we're reading Gatsby!" I say to Kaitlyn. "We're only reading this because Leo's in the movie, not because it's a classic."

Kaitlyn stomps back to the living room. Before she can offer anyone a slice of my mediocre baked goods, Marta stands up. The other ladies look at their feet, their manicures, the covers of their books until Marta clears her throat.  

"Thank you Rosie, Kaitlyn, but I don't think book club is for you."

I smile sweetly as they leave. Once the door closes, Kaitlyn whips her head around and almost spits. "You owe me," she says.  

# # #

"Did you punch in the right address?" Kaitlyn asks. We're going to a Boston Book Festival fundraiser. It's my make-good to her. I'm driving, because Kaitlyn gets all panicky if there are more than two lanes. We're lost. The bitchy GPS voice is no help—she's the one that told me to turn left onto a dead end.  

I get onto a real road and stop next to a cabbie at a traffic light. I roll down my window. He seems to be ignoring me, so I shout. He shakes his head and rolls down his window. "What is it mon?" he asks.

"Do you know how to get to the Middlesex Lounge on Mass Ave?"

His eyes widen. He looks at the traffic light, looks at me, opens his mouth, snaps it shut. The light turns green. "Dis way," he says.

"You're not going to follow him, are you?" Kaitlyn says.

"Um, yes," and I punch the gas.

She clutches the oh shit bar with her right hand, braces her left against the dash. I do my best to keep up with a Boston cabbie in a ten year old Ford Escape.

Sixteen turns and surprisingly only four "sstts" from Kaitlyn later, we stop in the middle of our lane. An empty space is on my right. The cabbie leans out his window, says, "You are here," then executes a u-turn, leaving tire marks and a chorus of blaring horns. Sure enough, Middlesex Lounge is across the street.

"See? We weren't raped or anything."

"Lucky us." Kaitlyn smiles wanly. At least her sense of humor is returning. So is her color.

We pay the cover charge, then help ourselves to "free" hors d'oeuvres. Kaitlyn gulps a glass of Chardonnay, holds it out for a refill. I order a beer. A woman at the front of the room asks for silence, then welcomes us. She blathers on about all the ways we can help the Boston Book Festival, encourages us to purchase BBF swag before we leave, then thanks us and hopes we enjoy tonight's get together.

"I thought this was a reading," I say to Kaitlyn.

"Later. Right now, just mingle. Look! There's Hank Phillipe Ryan!" And Kaitlyn leaves me at the bar to try to blend.

I hear a man say he was in a wedding band once. I turn and realize, I'm standing next to Tom Perrotta. The guy talking to him is wearing a vest that is screaming 1988. So is his mullet. He says, "How did you research 'The Wishbones?'"

"That's the first one I read. I loved it," I pipe in. Mullet gives me a withering look, but Tom smiles at me.

"'The Wishones' was good to me. It got 'Election' noticed and produced as a movie."

"Loved that one too!" I say.

Mullet sort of harrumphs and says, "Tom, so were you or weren't you in a wedding band?"

Tom adjusts his glasses on his nose, then says, "Only for one gig. The bride and groom wanted Faithfully as their wedding song. I learn the song by ear, never bother to get the lyrics. My band is at the reception and it is time for the bride and groom's first dance. I go up to the microphone, croon my way through the first couple verses and the chorus. So far so good. I begin the third verse with—"

—I take a swig of my beer. I'm listening to an anecdote from Tom Perrotta!—

"—and I sing circumcised by the big time lord."

—and beer shoots out my nose, all over Tom Perrotta. 


Sulci Collective said...

This starts with great works of literature (gatsby) which are supposed to be all about the depth of emotion, but the emotions of the women you write here are way more satisfying & evident and then you move it into a different gear with the comedy payoff at the end!

marc nash

Tim VanSant Writes said...

Rosie, you're alright. ;-)

What a fun story.

Larry Kollar said...

I loved this. The cynicism, the T-W-A, the "oh shit bar" (which I call "panic handle"). I laughed out loud at the ending.

Quin Browne said...

Loved every word of this, Peggy. I laughed at this, loved phrases used and, as usual, enjoyed the entire ride contained in the tale.

John Wiswell said...

I was hoping for a true story of you dumping a drink on such a talented author. I loved The Leftovers. Such a piece of work. Still smiled for the ending double-barreled beer hose!

Tony Noland said...

Great story, very true to life. I've never gone in for book clubs - they always seem to be reading the wrong books for the wrong reasons.

Timothy P. Remp said...

That was great Peggy. Great characters! Now I want to go to a book club.

Beer out the nose .... awesome!


Li said...

You have a great way with writing humor - loved it! (Especially the Oh Shit bar - my mechanic will love that).

Chuck Allen said...

This was fun! I especially enjoyed the way she ran off the book club so quickly. :)

Helen said...

I've never been into books clubs either - good story!

Harry said...

Hahaha, love it! Great story!

Sonia Lal said...

I thought it was going to be a true story! Really enjoyed it.

Richard Bon said...

Love Rosie's character. Blunt, funny, real. Favorite line was the one about reading Gatsby just because Leo's in the movie, such a ridiculous thought and yet it wouldn't even surprise me nowadays if it were true.

Mike Robertson said...

True or not, I believed every word. Great work, no surprise, except that it's such a short piece.

But hey, why not.