By Raymond Deej
Daniel woke alone and crept down the hall, discovering Jill with Bill in Bill’s hammock, where the two bounded through a jailbreak monkey screw.
“Daniel, shit!” said Jill.
“Oh man,” said Bill. “Oh man!”
Daniel went for Bill and got him by one arm and one leg, dragging him to the floor. He gouged and head-butted Bill. He spit in Bill’s mouth. Then he flipped Bill over and stood, stomping at his neck and between his shoulder blades. Meanwhile, Daniel’s initial lunge and wild elbow had caught Jill flush. She’d spilled from the hammock and come up with mouth gore and several teeth in her hands. She wandered about shrieking and babbling, as if casing a village massacre, while Daniel finished working Bill over.
After a helter-skelter hour in which the beating let off and began again in random, diminishing spurts, the three sat near one another no different than they had through childhood and adolescence, knees tucked to their chests, each sifting through his or her version of recent events, deciding which had led to what others and how might even the second-worst outcome have been attained, but in the end returning to the same base frustration over those few levers pulled against the many thousand let alone, with Bill’s ribs visibly broken and all the while pressing his boxer briefs against an irreparably damaged eye, and Jill slack-jawed, tonguing her fresh gums like a swamp monster. Daniel’s forehead did swell. And it bled a little. Though he was otherwise unharmed.
“Dammit! I got too mad,” he said.
“And me too horny and ramped up!” offered Jill, in her new way of speaking.
“Same here. Same here,” said Bill. “God, I was like a friggin’ lunatic horse. I hate myself!”
And the three then huddled and cried through what remained of the night, for it had been learned just then how they were not so dissimilar people as those Hales and Madsens who had fucked and fought freely whilst selling exotic pets out of crates lining a cinder block carport, and how none of them was, had never been, nor would ever be exempt from the riptide of discourteous circumstance and the requisite brain chemistry.
Decades on, after Bill had succumbed to a giant sack of hell-fired tumors, Daniel and Jill would reunite, and on a Thursday at the edge of winter they sat watching bullfights on a cute little flat screen in a tidy apartment.
“What makes the bull dance like that?” asked Jill.
“Easily the adrenaline,” said Daniel.
“I think the bull knows he’ll get him.”
“The matador? Never,” said Daniel. “Or the odds are just incredibly slim. I’ve heard of it maybe once. And even then, if not the matador—”
“Yet he knows it,” said Jill, deploying her timely pensiveness and grace that had forever been the cue for Daniel to let up and recalibrate, which he did in this moment.
“I guess—Well, I guess that’s it, then. That would be all he needs in this life.”
“Yes, I believe that.” Jill took Daniel’s hand, then suddenly jerked at a thought and laughed and said, “You know what I keep forgetting to tell you?”
“In ‘89, Bill changed his name to Ranger, and I changed mine to Aruba Jamaica.”
“Holy hell, woman. Did you change back?”
“Not until OJ.”
“Right. Because that one sobered us all.”
Then Jill pointed and laughed because Daniel had understood exactly what she was thinking and the exact premise behind her desire to say the story. And when Daniel recognized what he’d accomplished, he too laughed, and soon they were both on their sides in a healthy fit of delirium, which for them was an experience neither emergent nor uncommon.
And yet, diminishing returns would lead to a parting once more, and the two would settle permanently with uglier, less fun partners, the final proof of them being this biannual scenario in which one of the two strolls along someplace unawares, catches sight of the other at distance, takes a breath, then crumbles before the acme of sensation in their world.