A Record Year for Rainfall, Chapter 3

A Record Year for Rainfall is my second book, originally published in 2011.

Download A Record Year for Rainfall and my other stories in the books section.

Please note that the subject matter in this novel can be pretty graphic.

Tess’ balcony, though no farther away from the lights of the city than Album’s, faced the opposite direction. Sitting on cheap, gift-bag peach beach chairs, Tess and Bret peered into the desert horizon, looking past the suburban ring, past the highway darkness. There was still a little sun, still a little warmth to the open air.

Bret’s nose bandaged, his blood cleaned off; Tess offered him a drink. Tess had returned to the apartment several minutes after her friend had sucker-punched him, gave him a hug, and became a nurse.

“I’m almost out of clamato juice,” she said, handing him a thick, tall glass. She sat down next to him with her own caesar. She stirred the drink with a spike of celery. But it’s the least I can do. I’m so sorry. I had no idea she was going to do that.”

Outside of the beach chairs, Tess’ balcony contained only hanging plants. Bret didn’t know the names of any of them, and he figured she didn’t either. Only two were green. The rest were red and white and long and probably fake.

Bret took a sip and said, I figured that wasn’t the plan, but what’s her deal? Who is she?”

Tess grinned. Let’s just say she doesn’t like you, and that it’s for a very good reason.”

“Well, it’s not about Jenny, or anything to do with Reggie.”

“No,” Tess replied. It doesn’t. But it does have to do with your camera.”

Bret had to breathe through his mouth for the moment, and the entire time he felt a little high. This made him look surprised when he wasn’t, alarmed when he wasn’t.

Tess continued, slowly drinking her own caesar. It wasn’t your fault, really. But you didn’t help. Her sister, she’s a promotions girl too. She was doing a gig at the MGM during a private gala, dancing topless on an island stage. There were something like three or four girls doing the same thing. It was a big celebrity fundraiser, no cameras allowed; the usual. This was around three months ago. Remember it?”

Bret remembered vaguely. I was there, wasn’t I?”

“Apparently you were,” Tess said. And apparently you’d snuck in some hardware.”

Bret was a good paparazzi partially because he worked for a website. When you work for a website and not a newspaper, you can afford to take pictures with a small camera. Small cameras take poor shots, but they’re easy to conceal. It was a growing fad in the industry, as pocket digitals got better and smaller every year. In a few years, phones would do this job twice as effectively.

Tess said, There was this shot you took that ended up on that wonderful little site of Album’s that got your attacker’s sister in trouble.”

Bret knew the plot before Tess even explained the rest. Bret didn’t take pictures of promo girls, but promo girls ended up in his pictures. They were, by definition, around people with money and influence. The picture wasn’t even of her, but it didn’t matter. Bret still didn’t remember the exact picture, but he had no doubt it was true. Her nudity was the killer. Normal people fade into the internet ether of too much information. Bret had tons of extras in his shots, but very few were nude. While nudity may be the most abundant product found on the internet, nudity mixed with some level of celebrity attracted scandals. With scandals comes fame. With fame came friends and families finding out all about all your secret shit.

Tess said, Apparently the family won’t talk to her at all. They’re totally shutting her out.”

Bret spat over the balcony rail. Shit. This sucks.”

“Look, as much as I wish we lived in a world where it was easy to tell our parents about all the embarrassing things we do for money…” Tess stopped mid-sentence. There was no need to explain the rest. Bret thought about the kind of lies that came out of nudity, sex, or money. He didn’t have to wonder long. Those were pretty much the only reasons people lied.

The wind picked up a little. The sun died a little. In Vegas the chill comes quick. Tess stood up and went inside. Bret followed, comforted by the instant warmth of a cluttered space.

“I feel terrible,” Bret said. More than I already do. As if last week wasn’t bad enough.”

Tess said, It’s terrible, and it’s absolutely because of you, but you’re not entirely responsible.”

They sat down on Tess’ couch. Bret had to move a handful of tiny pink pillows.

“Don’t put those on the floor,” Tess said. She grabbed the pillows, piled them on to the back of the couch.

Bret asked, You want to explain how I’m not responsible for getting her tits on the internet?”

“Well,” Tess said, taking another sip. You took the shot, sure. But Album put it up without fuzzing her out. And I know that sleazy ass left her in there to up his hits. I get it. It’s more scandalous that way. But it’s not his fault either.”

“So what?” Bret asked. We’re going to blame societies’ fascination with sex?”

“No, we’re going to blame all four,” Tess said. Yeah, our society is totally sex obsessed. But there’s only so much you can control that. And you and Album are both sad little products of that. I guess I am too, and Trice, and her sister. You shoot celebrities because celebrities do stupid shit sex-wise, and Album runs a crazily popular blog for the same reason. Me and the girls get paid to make sure rich people buy the right kind of vodka. But let’s not forget the parents, here.”

Tess continued. The problem isn’t that the world is obsessed with sex. That shit’s natural. And the problem isn’t that there are assholes like you and Album profiting off sexual exploits. Profiteering is, well, profitable, and some people will do anything for a buck. The problem is that when parents freak the fuck out over nothing. I mean, her parents are fucking ex-hippies. They used to do that freaky key party shit and hang out half-nude at concerts all the time. At least she’s getting paid for it!”

Bret looked around, tried to distract himself. He used to live here, when none of this stuff was around. Tess had replaced Bret with free things, advertisements, proof of her life as a sexy billboard.

“Hey,” Bret piped up. Why did you get into the promo stuff?”

“I needed money, and Trice had been begging me to come along for weeks.”

“No, I get that part,” Bret said. But I mean, you’re the one who wanted to stay here. That’s why we broke up, right? I was ready to go back home. You weren’t.”

“That seemed to be part of it,” Tess said. But don’t pretend you didn’t just go and fall in love with someone else. How is the republican, anyway?”

“Come on,” Bret said.

Tess held back obscenities. She flexed both biceps and looked for something to stroke her ego a little. Did she leave you? You know, because of the picture?”

“I don’t know,” Bret said.

“I want you to know that I’m not angry anymore,” Tess said, changing the subject away from Jenny. Fuck. I was. I was in bad shape over you, buster. And I’m not afraid to say that to you. I came down here because I wanted this relationship to work, but Vegas killed us. It turned you into a different guy entirely. And you know what? I kinda fell in love with the city, the whole bright, dirty thing. It sorta shines on me, and I think you saw that, and then you didn’t like me anymore.”

“That’s not it,” Bret said.

“It is,” Tess said. Don’t try to pretend you respected my decision to find work down here, to actually enjoy it here. I know we were just supposed to be taking a breather from real life. But people don’t vacation for months on end, Bret. We either needed to find work or go home. So I found work.”

Bret sank a little into the couch, the cushion collapsing beneath him. It was a cheap couch, on a cheap carpet. He moved his fingers across the top to distract himself from getting too deep in with this conversation.

“This city changed us,” Tess continued. You thought it would give us a nice breather from our life at home. Your job was stressing you out and you needed a sabbatical, and I was working at that coffee shop, spinning wheels. We both needed a short uprooting. But it went too long and wore on us. We learned things about ourselves I think we weren’t supposed to learn. Not if we were going to work out together, anyway.”

“You should have come back with me,” Bret said. We would have been okay.”

“No,” Tess declared. I was finally having a good time here. I was finally making friends, making money. Promo work was really fucking fun.”

“Was?” Bret asked. You’re not having fun anymore?”

“It’s slowly becoming work, if you know what I mean. Those first few months, man. It was something else. It’s an experience I wouldn’t have traded for anything. I met so many people, did so many awesome things. I wore some seriously out of this world outfits. And I felt sexy. You know I never really felt sexy in Vancouver? It’s not that it’s bad, but every night isn’t filled with novelty and charm like it was when I started. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Nothing stays shiny and new forever.”

Bret smiled. He liked how Tess still talk about belief systems while not at all talking about belief systems.

“Speaking of work,” Bret said. I was really just stopping by for a quick chat. I actually have work to do tonight. I should probably get to it.”

Bret got up. He handed the glass back to Tess. It held half a celery and a little ice. She followed him back down the stairs.

“Hey, buster,” She said. Come around again when you’re not as busy. We’re still not even close to being done catching up.”

“Yeah, definitely,” Bret said. He thought about telling her he’d quit, but held back because he hadn’t. He knew himself. He knew he hadn’t quit until he actually left town. He decided he’d tell her then, when he got to the city limits. He’d give her a call.

# # #

Rosario Dawson had recently dyed her hair a darker shade of brown, as if that was going to deter anyone. To Album and Bret, it was nothing but a subhead. Maybe pregnant? New hair color reveals clues!

The lobby of the Bellagio was busy and gorgeous. Chiluly glass adorned the ceiling of the front desk area, painting everything below with a colourful reflective glow. The concierge area was crammed with men in suits, carrying briefcases, jacket breasts adorned with name tags above corporate logos.

Just past the lobby lay a huge indoor garden with rare plants and inventive fountains. Thin flutes of water shot from fake plant to fake plant, above and around the bona fides. Families and tourists were taking pictures of the exhibit. Bret fit in perfectly. Nobody would question why he had a giant camera. It’s a cliché, but paparazzi really do hide behind tall plants in hotel lobbies. Bret imagined his kind used to do this was so hotel security wouldn’t bother us while they reloading film, but now it’s really about the sportive elements. Any idiot can walk up to a famous person and take a picture and be a dick. But going in guns blazing leads to a bad reputation and, sometimes, a confiscated camera. Bret preferred it this way. Wait in the weeds for the perfect shot, secure the illusion that nobody’s watching, and then shoot when the moment’s perfect. Anything else felt like amateur work.

Bret saw Rosario walk in through the over-sized rotating gold doors. Tall and lean and healthy in ways only people with money can be in America, she sauntered with confidence and security, which made sense, considering the size of the mountainous, dulcet security standing next to her. She was wearing black slacks and a bright red top and short heels. The way she strolled, holding a glittery-black handbag—without any hint of gait—there was no way this girl was pregnant.

Bret fired off half a dozen shots from across the room, just to see if anyone would notice. Not only did his camera fail to draw any attention, but Rosario herself drew oddly few stares from the mostly bespectacled conference-goers. Maybe they didn’t recognize her with the new haircut, but they also could have had no idea who she was. She sashayed past the group, past the giant plants, into the restaurant at the end of the hall. She disappeared behind the door, and Bret knew he’d have to wait until after the meal to get any kind of quality shot.

    • *

In no culture is taking pictures of famous people a respectable position.

Jenny always said she had a problem with Bret’s job. She would continually argue with him over the ethics of it, over America’s predisposition with worshipping false idols. She would dissect the gossip rag culture, how little of it ever mattered, and how it only made people less interesting. And then they would fuck, because no matter what she said, Jenny was dumb in love with Bret. That his profession disgusted her actually helped in the bedroom, where she found the debasement a reason to smoulder.

To Bret, Jenny was everything wrong with America. She was for privatized health care, capital punishment, and the President. She was pro life, pro gun, and more than a little racist against Mexicans. On paper, they had absolutely no reason to be with one another. But Las Vegas is a weird place ruled by weird logic. The wrong things become irresistible.

And now, she wasn’t sure if she wanted anything to do with him. What the hell was he going to do with that?

    • *

In Vegas, you can lurk behind a fake plant all day long and nobody will bother you, but it gets boring pretty quick. Bret circled around the foyer. He did his best to keep an eye on the restaurant entrance, but something caught his eye.

Bret turned around and noticed a tall man in a grey trench coat. He had just entered the exhibit. He wore black jeans. His hair fell in greasy, unordered lengths, his jaw grubby, whiskered. He looked to be around 40. He skulked around for a minute. He wasn’t heading toward the slots. He wasn’t heading for the world’s largest chocolate fountain. He was sticking around.

The man stopped at a bench, lowered his side-bag, and removed a tank of an SLR, a giant Canon and a white, foot-long lens. He screwed on the lens. That kind of lens wasn’t for macro shots of flora; it was for capturing the sweat of Olympic sprinters.

The camera man pointed that thing directly at Bret.

Bret quickly ducked behind a tree. Did he imagine that? Of course he did. Why would anyone want to take a picture of him? He cracked his jaw, still sore from earlier. He found himself sweating, nervous, simultaneously paranoid and aware it was in his head. All week, he was wondering if someone might start following him. He’d killed the career of a vicious politician, and he knew there may be consequences. But a man with an over-sized cock of a camera? Seemed excessive.

Bret took a quick glance back where the man stood, but he wasn’t there. He scanned the room, but couldn’t locate him. He walked over to the bench where the man stood only a minute before, assuring himself he’d just been a little worked up over nothing. He calmed down, checked his watch. Dawson should be finishing up soon. He began to walk toward the restaurant entrance, but then he saw the bastard again.

This time, the camera man stood closer to the entrance. Bret could barely make him out. But there he was, standing straight, holding up that hulking telescope, aimed at Bret, moving as he moved. Now, he knew this was happening. Bret slowly inched back, into the hallway, away from view. He didn’t want a confrontation. The last thing he needed was another blow to the jaw, either by this man or security.

After a minute, Bret looked back. He made a quick tour around the concierge area, the bar, and the entrance to the casino. There was no sight of the man.

Just Bret’s luck, paying attention to the weird trench-coat guy made him miss Rosario’s exit. By the time he caught her, she was already heading for the door.

He moved as fast as he could, but there was almost no way he was going to get ahead in time. He could also run right up to them and handle the situation like a fucking monkey, but that wouldn’t help anyone.

Rosario hit the gold doors. She was outside. Bret figured he had about 30 seconds before she got in the car. They would have it ready for her. He pushed through the doors, the quick blast of air conditioning startling his eyes.

As Bret walked, he again caught sight of the guy in the trench coat. He was standing still maybe twenty yards away. He faced the doors. He took a camera out of his pocket. He aimed.

Come on, Bret thought.

The camera man was in the perfect position, the one Bret would have loved to have been in if he had a minute over Dawson. Rosario noticed them both. She gave a look of distaste, shook her head, and ducked into her car. It drove off, leaving the drop-off point still filled with people with cameras. Bret counted three other people who whipped out handheld cameras once they saw her.

Bret turned back toward the camera man. He was standing there, stoic, staring straight at Bret. He smirked. Bret began to inch towards him, but he got into an adjacent cab.

He had to make some calls.

# # #

Bret had called Album immediately after leaving the Bellagio. Album told him to meet him at the Veer. He was there looking at apartments, because Album was apparently the sort that wanted to own a condo on a street full of hotel rooms.

They stood in the centre of an empty living room. Devoid of furniture and well-lit, the realtor conveyed, in his surprisingly pubetic voice, This is where you can put, like, a couch, or entertainment unit. Or, I suppose, an ottoman. Anything, really. It’s a living room!”

The Veer Towers were a new pair of condo buildings at the front of Vegas’ new City Center, a behemoth project meant to either push Vegas into the 21st century, or revert it back to the 60s. Nobody was really sure. The Veer Towers were one part the residential plan, along with the Mandarin Oriental building, just south of Veer. Placed behind them from the strip was Aria, a ludicrously expensive hotel to build. Below the Veer Towers was a shopping mall filled with the most expensive brands on the planet.

The joke of it all was just how empty the place was. The mall barely had any customers, though half the stores were still under construction. And the condos were barely sold. It was a conflux of sorry intentions and short term thinking. The people who made these buildings thought there would always be money, but they also thought that people who would want to live in Vegas would also want to be this close to it.

Up on the 23rd floor, Bret circled around the kitchen’s island again. He kicked the cupboards as if they were wheels on a used car. He opened the fridge. He wondered if he was the first person to ever open it. He walked around. He looked out the windows. Beyond the speckle of neighbourhoods, Bret mostly saw desert.

“It’s quiet,” Bret said. You can’t put a price on quiet.”

“The question, of course,” Album said, mostly to the realtor. Is whether it can be loud in here and quiet elsewhere.”

The realtor smiled, doing his best to not scare us off. He had a little sweat on his forehead, and his game face was lame. He was too short to be authoritative, and too young to know better. Bret felt old even looking around this place, even though no one over 40 would ever consider it.

“Can we talk?” Bret asked. Something really weird just happened to me.”

“No, you can’t move in here with me,” Album said. I know you’d want to. It’s nice, right?”

“Sure, it’s fine,” Bret said. Wait, no, that’s not what I’m asking. I quit, remember? I’m quitting. I quit yesterday. It feels nice to keep saying that. Anyways, there was another photographer at the Bellagio.”

Album put his hand on the floor-to-ceiling glass windows looking out. He pushed. The realtor took a step forward. Album was testing him.

Album said, Really? Another paparazzi where a celebrity was spotted? Come on, man. That’s not news.” He touched the blinds near the windows and scoffed. Seriously though, these blinds? Are they removable?”

The realtor shook his head, and told us about the remote control that shuttered them, turning the entire apartment into home theatre-quality darkness.

“I don’t think he was there for Rosario,” Bret continued. I think he was taking pictures of me.”

Album hadn’t looked straight at Bret since they started touring the place. He disappeared into the bedroom.

“Hey,” Bret said, following. This is a problem.”

“The problem,” Album responded, fingering the closet door open. Is that there is not nearly enough room in here for a double king.”

Bret said, Seriously? Double King?” He shook his head. You know what? Your frame size isn’t important right now.”

“Frame size says so much about a person, Bret. You should know that. You sleep on a couch.”

“That’s not my fault. That’s your fault. All of this is your fault.” Bret spat. I’m worried about this guy, and you’re picking a nice place to wreck.”

“It’s likely Fane’s man.”

Bret closed the door of the bedroom, just as the realtor was trying to come in. He leaned against it. He heard the faint knocking and um”-ing of an insecure man.

“Do you think Fane’s having me followed?”

“Probably,” Album said. You ruined his career and he has a lot of money. That’s pretty easy math, mate.”

Bret could hear the handle, jiggling. The voice of the realtor was muffled. Album quipped, I am impressed with how little sound comes through that door.”

Bret opened it, and the agent nearly fell in. Bret caught him, and stood him up straight. He patted down his jacked, as if it was dusty. He walked out. Album followed him through the apartment, out to the hallway. It was even quieter, there.

Bret stammered. I don’t know how you can be calm about this. First off, if someone is tailing me, then someone is probably tailing you. Secondly, how am I supposed to be calm about someone tailing me? It’s tailing. I know. I’ve done it. I’ve tailed.”

“I don’t know,” Album said. I highly suggest getting stoned and playing some video games tonight. It will show the guy who’s tailing you how harmless you are.”

Bret chewed on a fingernail.

“What do you think of the apartment?” Album asked.

“I don’t think you should take it,” Bret replied. It’s not you. It’s not anybody. I have no idea what kind of human being this place was designed to make feel at home. Like, you remember those old point and click adventure games from the 80s?”

Album replied, Like, those ones that were just flat pictures you had to maddeningly click on a thousand times before anything happened?”

“Yeah, as I kid I wasted hours trying to figure that stuff out. I gave up. I took up lacrosse instead.”

“You did not take up lacrosse. Lacrosse is not a thing that exists.”

“I did. I played lacrosse all through high school.”

“No, this is serious now,” Album said. If you do not admit that you, along with every other Canadian, has entirely made up lacrosse, then I am calling Fane myself and turning you in.”

Bret, with his hands in his grey hoodie pockets, his feet shuffling like an eight year old who has to pee, he shrugged his shoulders. My point, was, if that apartment was one of those games, you’d click on the window, and you’d click on the walls, and the floor, and, you know what the game would tell you? There is nothing here. Let’s go.”

# # #

It was getting near four in the morning. Tess felt the air on her, closed her eyes slowly, breathing in through whatever pore arched feeling, before letting her back go limp and her feet leave the ground. She sat on a plush black stool, girded permanently to the floor with thick enough metal to hold the obese. The cushion was soft, a burnt dark red kiss that let her sink in a little. It made part of her feel good and left the rest to fend.

Tess’ shoes, bright-silver bedazzled platforms the club demanded but didn’t provide stuck to the bottom of her feet. She’d lost feeling in her heels an hour before, but blood was beginning to recirculate. Her legs, naked and smooth and warm, hugged one another and wrapped around the stool’s cold thick single leg.

She wore a tassel-filled white vest, cut low and with the sides opened up. The outfit, meant to synchronize with the team of other girls than impress or titillate the crowd, looked less like clothes than a Halloween costume for a cheerleader. It was cheaply sewn, its half life barely a weekend.

She’d asked for a tall pint, and by the time it arrived she hadn’t yet breathed enough to down. After almost every hard shift, Tess unwound in a nearby bar. She didn’t always drink, but she always breathed deep. After too many hours of being a prop, she had to reemerge a real person, and that required a few minutes alone. She used to do more yoga. She used to go to a class. She thought, then, about finding a class here, and putting down a deposit and signing a contract. She blinked, her eyes staying closed longer.

Snaked around her index finger was a silver ring, and she liked to clink it against glasses of beer. She loved the sound, how it started high and held longer the emptier the glass. She once had a crush on a bartender simply because he had a silver ring on his finger, and every time he picked up a glass it made that same noise, that same tingggg.

The temperature in every Vegas casino drew inspiration from Disney World, always blowing the same drift of light air conditioning regardless of season or weather. It was a permanence Tess had come to know but never love, as she sometimes missed the surprise climatical turns of British Columbia. That Vegas became cool at night did little for the case that she often?and often in times of slow, post-work reflection like this?felt that she lived in a place without time, without a world surrounding it. Las Vegas reflected the world using various methods, but had nothing to do with it in any way that really mattered. People would miss Paris or Dubai or Melbourne. Tess thought, could the same be said of here?

The drink in her hand was cold, and her hand felt chill holding it, like an ice pack on a sore lower back. It reminded her a little of her old laundromat. It was a block away from her apartment, and she’d learned it was wisest to stay, to make sure nothing was lifted. Even in the warmer months, the laundromat was freezing, which made for a musical chairs of people jumping in and outside to keep balance. Every time her laundry was finished, she’d open the dryer, engulfed in a hot haze. It was so much hotter for having stewed in this freezer of a room, and she would burn her hands on the door. The air would hit her, and her too half would steam as her legs stayed frozen.

Later, when Bret and Tess got serious, she’d bring her laundry to his place, and she didn’t feel two opposite climates on her skin anymore. But here, in a bar tucked deep in the Aria, she could all but touch the hot laundered air mixed with the frozen reality. She couldn’t bring herself to drink, but she held on.

# # #

Bret sat on Album’s couch, high and unhappily distracted. The controller in his hand was proving an unsuitable veil from his guilt. Album was doing a slightly better job with his rambling, a terrible habit he picked up from too many forum posts.

“I’m better with the headset,” he said It’s just a fact. If I can’t control the group, the whole thing falls apart.”

“Winning a fake war is really important to you, huh?” Bret quipped.

Album proclaimed, Only if I get to mess with it. We’re the bad guys.”

“We are? I had no idea. They all look the same to me.”

“You want me to explain the whole backstory of the fourth world war to you? I can. I wrote part of the wiki.”

“We’re not even simulating a real war?” Bret paused for a second. I guess that explains some of the laser guns.”

“There’s a whole religion founded on those guns, Bret. Seriously. I can explain it all.”

Bret shook his head, his hands working independently, moving his character into a position he thought might be advantageous, though he really had no idea. Please, never ever tell me what you mean. About anything, ever. I don’t want to know you more than I do. Understanding Album Yukes, which can’t possibly be our real name, by the way, is not something on my to do list.”

“You don’t keep a to do list,” Album said, missing the point entirely. But fine, if you want to play without understanding the whole ethos behind it all, you go right ahead.”

“Thank you,” Bret said. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

They played in silence for a few minutes. Bret died several times. Album walked over to his fridge and carried a pair of beers back to the couch.

Bret asked, What do I do about Jenny?”

“Is she still taking your calls?”


“Good. Stop taking her calls. Tell her the whole thing has been harder on you than you originally thought. It’s been too hard. You can’t handle it anymore, and you need some time to think. That time will be all the time.”

“Album,” Bret said, swigging his beer. I cost her her job. I broke her trust. I am the bad guy here. I need to make it up to her somehow.”

“Shit, I didn’t realize she was out of a job.”

“We outed Fane. He lost his job. So everyone who works for him lost their jobs too. Politics, not unlike futuristic ground warfare that doesn’t make any sense, is a team game. We cost like, two dozen people their jobs.”

Album thought about it. Well, that happens Bret. This business has collateral damage. If I had a sackful of laundered money for every publicists’ job I’ve destroyed, I’d definitely have to get that new apartment. There would be no room for the sacs here.”

“My point is, I feel guilty. I want to make it right.”

Album paused the game. Bret thought it was because Album was about to make some profound point about the human condition and the inevitability of deeply cutting into the muscle of those you love most. But he unpaused a second later. It was long enough that Bret took his eyes off the screen, and was unprepared. Alvin’s character snuck up behind him and shot him in the back.

“Aren’t we on the same team?” Bret asked.

“I’m not really sure,” Album said. He let that linger. Then, he finally came through with the advice.

“There is no making this right,” he said. There is only moving on. This is one of those points in your life when you really do have all the choices in the world. You can stay with Jenny and try to make it work and make yourself miserable. You’re going to make all of us miserable in the process too, because being friends with a guy trying to make things work is the goddamn worst. Or, hey, how about you count your losses and move on? Why not try someone new? Or just be on your own for a while? I know you won’t listen to this part. I pegged you as a sad serial monogamist the second I met you. When were you last really single?”

“I think I was 17.”

“Fuck. You’ve gone from relationship to relationship for nearly ten years?”

“Not exactly,” Bret said. All of that was with Tess.”

Album’s mouth hung open, like Bret admitted to never having watched The Shining. Bret knew this, because six months before he’d admitted to never having seen Th Shining to Album, and Album proceeded to freak out, rant for fifteen minutes about how Bret had never lived, then quickly downloaded the movie and forced Bret to watch it twice.

“It’s like you haven’t lived!” Album spat. You were in the same relationship through most of your life? What the good fuck is wrong with you?”

Bret smiled. I loved her, Album. I still love her.”

Album started a new game. He slumped back down, his lumpy, oafish body withered into the couch. He said, It’s sounds to me like you know exactly what you should do.”

“What’s that?” Bret asked, now a little angry.

“Buddy,” Album said. If you don’t know that, you don’t know anything. No explanation of world war 4 is going to help you.”

March 11, 2011