5:10 PM/Pre-things.

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Here are some disclaimers, for your reading pleasure:

The following is a work of fiction, mostly in the sense that it isn’t a work of fact, journalistic or otherwise.  Any resemblance to real events or persons is entirely coincidental (seriously). This is the third of a multi-part narrative that I could, but probably won’t, finish. (Parts One and Two)

5:10

The phone buzzed again, this time to inform the group that the parents were gone. Well isn’t that nice. The five got up off the benches and walked down to the place, which was on 71st street not too far from Columbus Avenue. After a short walk, they climbed up the small stoop into the vestibule of the brownstone apartment (this is the Upper West Side, after all), and buzzed the apartment. It should here be noted that the area already had the overpowering stench of one particularly popular, generally inhaled, controlled substance.

“Who the fuck is it?”

[door rudely buzzes unlocked]

The five went up the winding set of stairs—the apartment took up the whole fifth floor of the building. At the top of the stairs, an old friend greeted them with a cross between a welcoming smile and a sarcastic smirk.

Meet Ben Gutnick. The son of two mysteriously well-paid city bureaucrats (don’t ask), Ben was another alumnus of the same middle school of James, Steve and Alex. He wore a smile of easy cynicism, and had a sense of humor from the same place. His grades were crap, and he was into drugs—stuff even bored, semi-affluent white teenagers would be skittish about experimenting with. He also had one mysterious, monthlong disappearance from the city back in January—some sort of boot-camp drug rehab retreat in the deserts of Nevada, went the whispers. For his part, Ben consistently refuses to comment on the situation, only saying that he had to “sort out some business” that month.

“So yeah, I guess we’re going to have this thing start at 8? It’s not like people have better things to do around now,” Ben argued,  “and no one’s going to pregame something like this.”

“I’m down with that”

“yeah, word”

“So whose buying?” asked James.

Steve interrupted: “Well, obviously me, but the fuck if I’m paying for all that shit. Six way split.”

Richard groaned inwardly. He was a generally cheap person and didn’t have much money to throw around, but with five others chipping in, even a large supply shouldn’t cost too much.

“What are we going to do,” Alex asked, “about other…stuff?”

“People can bring whatever they want, but if shit goes down, I knew nothing,” Ben responded. Famous last words, one might say.

“Maybe we should get dinner or something?”

“Nice try, but you’re helping me clean this place first,” Ben said.

And so they did, shifting around assorted detritus and under-read copies of The Economist and The New Yorker. After all, this is a brownstone on the Upper West Side. Gotta look—and at least pretend to read—the part.

6:30

The house cleaned to some reasonable standard, the group made their way to 70th and Amsterdam, the southwest corner. The name of the place does not matter for our purposes, except that it sells, well, you know.

“So what, exactly, do we actually want?” Asked Steve

“well, beer is a bit of a necessity—do they even sell that here?”

“vodka”

“wine?”

“oh, would you listen to the classy motherfucker, amirite?” said one, to mild laughter.

“alright, got it.” Said Steve.

The other kids moved out of the view of the windows, and waited.

6:45

“Alright, they had most of the stuff. I’ll go to the drugstore to finish off the selection, but let’s put this stuff inside for now. Also, of course you all owe me,” Steve said, exiting the store with several bags.

“How about we get something to eat? That pizza wasn’t the most filling, in hindsight,” James pointed out.

There was agreement.

7:00

The big problem with writing a story about even interesting people—let alone this band of fairly uninteresting misfits—is that there are boring parts, lots of boring parts. This is one of them, so we’ll be brief here. They went to a nearby fast-food chain location. They ate. They left. There you are.

7:20

Wait a second; some of them are getting soda refills. Don’t you love those places that give you free refills?

7:25

Standing outside the location, James posed the obvious question;

“How do we get people to come to this thing?”

“I believe it’s a thing called texting,” Alex said sarcastically. “Maybe you could learn about it. Again, like Ben said,” he continued, “nobody has anything to do this time of the year. They’ll be people.”

James started going through his contacts, with a special emphasis on the women, and the group walked back to Ben’s house.

On the way there, they passed a newsstand. On the cover of that day’s Post was one of their often-lurid headlines:

“BUM COP COPS YOUNG BUCK”

The line was next to a grainy picture that looked like a screengrab from a surveillance camera. Had the kids stopped to read the story, they would have learned that an officer in the Bronx was caught on camera punching a kid who had just been caught trying to swipe a bag of chips from a bodega down the street, in the Tremont section.

That’s not the only thing they would have learned from the newsstand; there was an article in that week’s Time magazine on college admissions (not that they needed the information), and a certain magazine for women was running its usual selection of sex tips (not that they would have been subjected to such recommendations), and a personal finance magazine had some bad investment advice from an already rich businessman (not that they had the money to lose on the markets). It’s funny what’s in a newsstand, or that there still are newsstands…

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