The Foxwood Chronicles
He was going to die.
He was certain of it. There was no way the ancient turboprop would make it to the next airport. The rattling and shaking had convinced him that there was only one way the flight could end, and that was in a massive, horrific fireball. He took comfort in the gruesome image.
That would show them, all those aunts and uncles who came up with all those lame-ass excuses for not taking him. If he were to perish in a flaming plane crash on a flight to go live with his grandmother, they’d all feel so guilty. It would be a delicious way to go. It was too bad he wouldn’t be alive to enjoy it.
The plane lurched and he decided to take his mind off the possibility of his early demise by pondering the incredible erection in his shorts. What could be the cause of what had to be the biggest and most engorged boner of his fourteen year life?
Well, he was ten thousand feet high. Perhaps, that was it. Maybe the cabin wasn’t pressurized, or pressurized to as much as ground level, thus causing his boner to swell even more than it normally would.
Or, not. Maybe he was harder than normal because of the hot strawberry blond guy two seats over from him, the one who looked like Richie Cunningham. Evan was having serious difficulty keeping his eyes off him. Any other time, Evan would have done everything he could to flirt with the guy, even if he was probably in college. Evan liked older guys. However, this was not the flight or the day on which to get picked up.
Another possibility was that Evan kept remembering the good-bye fuck he had gotten the night before from his best friend Ricky and Ricky’s older brother, Robert. Sandwiched in between the two at three in the morning, Ricky below him, his olive skin, those dreamy brown eyes, his thick black hair so long and wavy; and Robert on top, those swimmer’s legs pushing that thick, uncut cock deep into his ass. Evan almost felt the tears return as he thought about how that would be the last time he would ever make love to sweet Ricky, the last time Robert would ever make him glad to be a bottom.
Would he ever see Ricky and Robert again? Would he ever see California again? Was he doomed to spend the rest of his life on the empty plains of the upper Midwest?
He bit his lip and looked out the window at the Nimitiq River as it wound its way nearly two miles below him. The midday sun was reflecting off the rippling water as a barge heading south left a long and quivering “v” behind it. He turned the volume up on his new Walkman and began to tap his fingers against the armrest to the rhythm of the Human League tape. He thought of the day a few months before when he had gone to Peaches with Ricky to get the tape. Would he ever see California again; at least, before he was too old to enjoy it?
They were descending. He could tell. The horizon seemed to angle the opposite direction from what it had the first part of the flight after they had taken off from Kansas City. He suddenly felt a slight sensation as if he were leaning forward. He sighed. Soon, he would be there. The thriving metropolis of Foxwood. Oh, my God.
Evan pushed the off button on his Walkman and removed his headphones. Seconds later he heard a chime.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We are beginning our final descent into Foxwood Municipal Airport. At this time, we ask that you place all trays in the upright and locked position, stow all belongings, and extinguish all smoking materials in preparation for our landing. The conditions in Foxwood are beautiful, with prefect visibility and a temperature of ninety-seven degrees. We thank you for flying with us and hope the next time you fly, you choose North Central Airlines.”
Evan ran the fingers of both hands through his thick, perfectly cut, ash-blond hair. Oh, my God, he thought. There isn’t going to be anyone in this entire fucking state who knows how to cut hair the way Manuel does. There won’t be a single place where I’ll be able to get decent Mexican food. Hell, there probably isn’t a single Mexican in the entire state.
He’d never find another Ricky Martinez, never find anyone else to hold him, and make him feel like he was the only person in the world, to look into his eyes and make him feel that nothing existed except the two of them, no one to whisper sweet Spanish words in his ear.
The elderly lady separating Evan from the Richie Cunningham clone smiled at him. Her blue hair looked like something from a parody on Saturday Night Live.
“I’ll bet you’re going to spend the summer with your grandmother up here, aren’t you?” she said in her overly precise, overly pronounced Midwestern English.
“Owe, yes, I yam,” Evan wanted to say, Instead, he simply smiled and replied, “How did you know?”
“Well, you don’t look like you’re from Foxwood. You look more like you’re from California. And, you don’t look very excited,” she said with a kind smile.
“Actually, I am from LA. And, um, I going to live with my grandmother, not just stay for the summer.
“Owe,” she replied uncomfortably. “You’re living with your grandmother?”
“My mom died.”
He didn’t think it was necessary to go into detail. Besides, he didn’t think the old lady would deal too well with hearing that his mom had offed herself.
“Owe, I’m sowe sorry, you poor thing. Well, how wonderful that your grandmother can take you!”
Evan bit his tongue and looked away. Instead of replying, “Oh, yeah; especially since no one else would,” he simply nodded. He couldn’t take any more conversation, so he looked out the window as the plane was dropping down over the corn fields and the gently rolling hills south of the airport. Evan sighed.
He could hear the grinding and groaning of gears and pumps as the flaps dropped and the landing gear descended. The whine and roar of the engines seemed to lesson somewhat as the ground rushed toward them. They shot over the rows of lights leading up to the runway and then crossed over the threshold. In seconds, he felt the plane lurch as it touched down and reversed its engines. Soon, it was taxiing up to an old, small, white art deco building with the word “Foxwood” in metal thirties-style letters bolted to the wall above several wide glass doors. He could see his grandmother in the picture window as the old Martin turboprop pulled up to the gate and the stairs were rolled out. As people started standing and the stampede to disembark began, Evan waited, along with the lady beside him, until the crowd had thinned slightly. Of course, Evan’s intention was to buy time for something else to diminish, as well.
His neighbor finally looked over to him with a grandmotherly smile and said, “I hope, young man, that you are happy in Foxwood. I know it will be a big change for you, but it’s a lovely town.” She took his hand and said softly, “I’ll be praying for you.”
Evan found he couldn’t be his usual cynical self in response. He smiled and, with unaccustomed gratitude, replied, “Thank you.”
The lady stood and removed her bag from the overhead storage bin and moved on. When there was another opening in the exodus, Evan glanced at his khaki shorts and decided he had deflated enough not to be completely humiliated when he descended the stairs outside.
Even for early afternoon, the heat radiating up from the white concrete as he walked across the tarmac was shocking to him. Accustomed to the perfect weather of southern California, Evan had not expected to be drenched with sweat by the time he had walked the few dozen yards or so to what this town laughingly referred to as a terminal. With his carryon in one hand and a tennis racket in the other, he was unable to wipe the sweat from his eyes when he walked through the door into the waiting room. It dripped into his eyes and stung.
His grandmother’s greeting was not quite as restrained as he had expected when he walked into the terminal. She smiled warmly and said, “I hope you didn’t have trouble changing planes in Kansas City, dear.”
“Nana, I live in Los Angeles. If I can get through LAX, I can get through any airport in the country!”
She rolled her eyes and smiled indulgently.
“Typical California superiority. Evan, I want you to meet my neighbors.”
An old couple, though not older than his grandmother, stepped forward. The man wore red plaid shorts, a yellow Munsingwear pullover, black socks pulled almost up to his knees, and white comfortable shoes. His graying hair was slicked back and he presented an almost demented grin. His wife wore similar red plaid shorts and a white blouse. The canvas purse slung over her shoulder could have passed for one of Evan’s suitcases.
“Evan!” the man boomed. “I haven’t seen you since you were stark naked and peed all over your father’s face!”
Evan felt it necessary to turn to the startled people to their right and explain, “I was six months old.”
He shook hands with Grant Sinclair and smiled politely as he fought the urge to run back to the stewardess and beg her to return him to LA. Rosemary Sinclair wrapped an arm around his shoulder and planted a big, wet smooch on his cheek as he suppressed a shudder of dread and revulsion.
“I hear,” Rosemary declared in a nasal screech, “it never rains in southern California. Is that true?”
Evan gave an insincere chuckle as his grandmother raised a warning eyebrow before guiding them toward the baggage claim.
“How was your flight?” his grandmother asked the obligatory question of anyone disembarking from a plane. Evan thought of replying, “A screaming, gut-pumping nightmare,” but decided a simple, if monosyllabic, “Fine,” was sufficient.
“And, how’s your sister?”
Once again, Evan censured himself, deciding that “Fucking,” was not the appropriate answer. Besides, his grandmother was probably expecting an adjective, not a verb; though, in his sister’s case, either would have been appropriate. He settled on “busy.”
“Busy? Doing what?”
“Well, she was pretty pissed at having to take me to the airport this morning. She was meeting some of her sorority sisters for brunch.”
“How wonderful,” Rosemary gushed, “that she has friends to comfort her in this time of need.”
Evan started to say that he, too, had friends who offered him great comfort the night before, but figured that probably wasn’t what Rosemary had in mind.
Grant retrieved his suitcases from the baggage claim and his grandmother led them out the front door and across the sweltering parking lot toward her Cadillac land yacht.
“Is it always this hot here?” he asked as Grant unlocked the trunk. The man laughed.
“You’ve gotten too used to perfect weather, there, son. A summer in Foxwood will turn you into a man!”
“A winter, too!” Rosemary added with a chuckle. Evan gave a forced, withering smile even as he cursed his mother’s relatives in California for finding every possible excuse to pawn him off on his father’s mother. His grandmother watched his lack of enthusiasm silently as they all climbed into the car.
The men sat in front and the ladies in the back as Grant drove them out of the parking lot and up the two-lane highway toward town. As they passed cornfields and cow pastures, Grant and Rosemary regaled him with assurances of how much fun he would have in his new home town. Evan sighed as they came to the edge of town, crossed a rusting iron bridge, and passed a large sign in need of paint which announced, “Welcome to Foxwood, Population 18,243.”
Before he could find a sharp object with which to sever his carotid artery, they came to an intersection. Across the street, to their right, was something called Wal-Mart. And, on the left…
“And, look, Evan! You can cruise the shopping mall with your friends! Just like back home in LA!”
Grant was pointing to something that might have resembled a mall if the anchor store on one end hadn’t been an IGA grocery store. There was a department store on the other end, but it was called “Slinkenberg’s,” which rather spoiled the effect; and the giant sign on the corner announcing that Southgate Mall was YOUR summer time headquarters didn’t help at all. At this point, he was even willing to accept a blunt object with which he could simply beat himself to death.
“Oh, yeah,” Evan replied, finally unable to suppress the sarcasm he felt. “Just like home.”
“OK, that’s enough,” his grandmother finally declared. “Look, young man, I’ve heard nothing from you for the last month but whining and moaning about moving up here. This may not be as exciting as California, but there are good people here who will be kind and helpful and go out of their way to make you feel welcome if you give them half a chance. Foxwood won’t have all the fancy stores in Beverley Hills. And, Slinkenberg’s probably doesn’t carry your silly Ralph Lauren horsy shirts and those ridiculous boat shoes you insist on wearing without socks. You’re going to have to adjust to a few changes. Foxwood’s not Malibu and you’re not going to have all your rich friends here. But, you could show a little gratitude.”
Evan was shocked by his grandmother’s outburst. He looked back on the weeks since his mother died and their conversations after the funeral and on the phone since. He didn’t think he was any more of a spoiled asshole than he usually was. What was she getting all wet about?
“Gratitude? Because you were the only one in the family who couldn’t come up with a good enough excuse not to take me? Aunt Shirley says that Uncle Tom’s worried about the drop in oil prices. Uncle Bill said I couldn’t stay with them because Aunt Betsy’s having a hysterectomy. Hell, my own sister’s too busy to take me. I might get in the way while she’s banging her way through the UCLA football team.”
Grant blushed and seemed to pay more attention to the traffic. Rosemary looked discretely out the window. His grandmother watched with an emotionless face as Evan lost it.
“Nana, I’ve giving up all my friends. All my friends! I can’t go to the tennis club anymore. I’m giving up the best private school in the city. I can’t do any of the shit I like to do for fun. And, for what? To sit on the porch and watch the fucking corn grow?”
Rosemary was looking down and clutching her hands nervously while his grandmother turned and looked out the window.
“Oh, and, by the way,” Evan added, “my Mom just killed herself.”
He paused for a moment and took a deep breath,
“So, I hope you’ll understand if I’m not gushing with joy over this.”
The car came to a stop at a red light. No one said anything. Evan rested his elbow on the door and leaned his head against his fist, staring ahead toward the north. When the light changed and the car started forward, Grant reached over and adjusted the air conditioner. Then his hand patted Evan on the knee.
“Son, we all know it’s hard for you. And, I don’t blame you one single bit for being angry. I can’t guess what it must be like to have a wonderful life, to have it all, and then lose it all. I can’t guess what it’s like to be fourteen and lose your mom like that. No one here blames you for being angry. We all know it’s gonna be hard for you to get used to it. I know. But, I want you to know, that Rosemary and I will do anything we can to help you and your grandmother get through this. Heck, if you want to go to Omaha to shop for your fancy clothes, we’ll be happy to drive you down! I don’t think they have a Nieman Marcus there, but there’s a Nordstrom’s in Minneapolis and a Macy’s in Kansas City, I think. And, we could go to Worlds of Fun while we’re there. Hey, you like baseball? We’ll check out the Royals! They may not be the Dodgers, but they’re still good. And, Omaha’s got a farm team for the Royals. And, your grandmother tells me that you’re going to Foxwood Catholic instead of Foxwood High. That’s a pretty darn good school. Life’s not gonna be the same. Life is never gonna be the same. But, we understand you’re going through a real hard change, Evan. And, no one blames you for being mad. It’s OK. But, we’re here for you, young man. We’re here for you.”
Tears were flowing down Evan’s cheeks by the time Grant finished. He didn’t know why tears were flowing down his cheeks, but he was full of emotions: shame, embarrassment, anger, hurt, loneliness.
Evan had a sudden realization. This was the first time he had cried since he had found his mother, laying in bed, dried vomit caked on her face and chest, dead.
After a moment in which the others were quiet and he sniffed and silently wept, Evan coughed.
“I… I’m sorry. I… I didn’t mean to be such an asshole. I know y’all are nice people and all. Nana, I’m sorry I yelled. I know you didn’t ever think you’d have to raise another kid after Dad went off to college. I know I’m not the only one who has it rough.”
His grandmother reached forward and squeezed his shoulder.
“It’s going to be all right, Evan. We’re going to make it all right, aren’t we?”
Evan looked back with red eyes and a runny nose. He blushed, feeling like a child instead of the worldly fourteen year-old he saw himself as. Smiling at his grandmother, he softly replied, “I love you, Nana.”