The Mechanical Boys Album of Wonders (Book from 1935)

Lester: So I’d say it’s pretty well over with that ladyfriend, yeah.

Interviewer: I’d say so.

L: Thanks a bunch.

I: Does it usually go that way?

L: Usually.

I: But there was one time when it didn’t?

L: One summer when I was twenty-three …


L: Well, I was living on the water, subletting for way cheap from this bald old lady who thought it was still 1972.

I: What was that, the year her stupid son died in Vietnam?

L: Geez, guy, I don’t know. Anyway, out by the beach, beautiful. And I meet this girl at a Hooters.

I: Classic.

L: For an interviewer you sure get kinda non-objective.

I: That’s what a good interviewer does, we get involved.

L: Yeah. Anyway, at this Hooters. And I’m there with my friend from work. Except he’s not really my friend.

I: I think I know the type.

L: Yeah?

I: Square jaw, slick hair, big dick? Management material. A regular Chad.

L: Pretty much, yeah. Except his name is Gavin.

I: But he is a Chad, even though his name is Gavin. His demographical type is Chad.

L: Okay, whatever you say. Chad slash Gavin. We go to this Hooters, yeah, and of course they have no shortage of beautiful ladies there. I mean like mostly. Like there’s a couple who maybe their midriff is more like midbulge and you wish that hairy mole wasn’t right fucking there but mostly it’s like walking into a magazine. Which is intimidating, horrifying.


L: So we’re there, and this girl comes up. And it’s like all those songs, man. I mean you can’t talk about this stuff without sounding like a jackass, but I think she’s the one, at least visually. And of course your imagination does the rest in terms of building a personality behind the visual. But then I remember before she talks that I’m just projecting and objectificating you know and that there is absofrutely nothing doing here. So while I’m trying to sort out whether I’m supposed to like her or not, Gavin starts talking.

I: Here we go. What’s he say?

L: He says she’s looking at the two hottest shots ever to grace the offices of Welker-Maxxin Tin Co. He says we’re taking the place by storm. And she says, kind of sly, like she’s maybe half-interested, never heard of it. He says she’s gonna have heard of it, everybody’s going to have heard of it by the time we’re done there. And I’m like dude, we run spreadsheets. We are spreadsheet men. We are slightly above average at Microsoft Excel. We went to state college. You were on the dumb side of the state I was on the smart sensitive side but we’re in the same place because you are a go-getter and I am not. And you, Gavin, are quickly going to outstrip me because, like you, the interviewer, said, management material.

I: You say all that.

L: Well, I say that we’re pretty good at running spreadsheets. Which elicits a smile — from lady not Gavin — which I convince myself I imagined or exaggerated.

I: And Gavin’s already way ahead of you.

L: Good guess. He very knowingly asks for some special beer, which she says they don’t have. And then he asks for another one that they do. He also asks winkingly for a glass of milk on the side, like implying a glass of milk squeezed from your special breasticles please. I have a good beer in mind but don’t want to trouble her further or seem snobbish so I just ask for ‘beer’ and when she asks which kind I say whichever. I check the menu after she left to make sure I’m not missing out, which turns out I am, but oh well.

I: So she comes back with the drinks.

L: She brings him a glass of milk in this huge plastic thing more like a bucket than a cup and he just starts slurping it and makes sure to give himself a milk mustache. I drink my beer quickly even though I find it hard to do that because I like the idea of getting drunk as maybe it will prevent me from caring about him hitting on my lady-friend-to-be(-in-my-dreams) but it doesn’t. I order chicken tenders because I need to feel safe, and she brings them with what I imagine is a smile. He orders breast, that is chicken breast he corrects himself, and I look at the knife in my hand and figure it’s probably not sharp enough to go all the way through his windpipe. I do three beers and my chicken tenders so I’m a little altered and the boobs and beerlight are swimming.

I: Why didn’t you just leave?

L: Cuzza her, man. Gavin is slash was just a garden variety asshole. And I was in love with her.

I: Already.

L: Already.


L: So eventually it gets to be time to settle up. And he doesn’t tip well but I do, I leave a tenspot on the table because I feel bad slash love her. And he says, throw another five on there and she’s liable to give you a lap dance.

I: Oh boy. What are you feeling?

L: Like ninety percent uncomfortable slash itchy slash embarrassed. And about ten percent blind rage.

I: Q.

L: So I haul back and punch him in the throat.

I: That seems ah, a little out of character. For you. Standing up for yourself. Slash your lady.

L: Yeah.

I: So how’d that work out.

L: He had a very meaty neck.

I: Played lacrosse at ASU. Asshole State.

L: Ha-ha. Sure. I see the veins stand up, the eyeballs roll around. He asks if I is for real, he says is, he says ‘is you for real’ like we’re still just playing around, like we’re bros. Which we’re not. And I say I guess I is. I guess I is for real. She wasn’t even in sight, which he said was the stupid part, but I wasn’t doing the stunt for her to see it. I mean she hadn’t heard the last bit either. So at this point it’s entirely a foolhardy quest for vengeance and honor and all those other stupid things. So I hit him again.

I: Where?

L: In the stomach, which is like flabby, but doesn’t exactly yield. More like it absorbs the blow. Like those movies where the hero guy punches the giant henchman and hurts his hand. And he slugs me real good in the stomach, one of those punches (I receive a lot of them) where you feel like shitting and barfing at the same time. Especially with the three beers and chicken tenders and social anxiety. And I throw up. And he says my shoes, my shoes. They didn’t look so nice before in my opinion but in his opinion barf was not an improvement.

I: Q.

L: And the next thing I know my head cracks somewhere in the distance on the bar table. Beer and barlights are swimming real good. And I look up. And Gavin is like toddling a little, and even though there’s no way I hit him that hard, the breast and the gallon of milk have to be working wonders, and the smell of barf on his pleather, or crocodile, or whatever the hell they were, boat shoes. And he throws up on my head.

I: How was it?

L: Like a warm and chunky waterfall. Like wearing a bowl of spoiled chili for a hat. How do you think it was? It was like getting thrown up on. A river of shit.

I: Vomit.


I: Q.

L: Well I wake up and she’s crouching under the table with me, looking like she’s deciding whether or not to cradle slash assist me or just let the paramedics and waste disposal folks hash it out. But I guess I musta looked pretty pathetic, because she pulls my head up on her knee, and it reminds me of that old statue, where Jesus’s mom is holding him. She has a halo too, which turns out it’s just one of those incandescent bulbs hanging down — the place is a refurbished old factory, you know, but the brick walls and the old-school lighting suddenly make it seem very warm, even if the halo was my imagination. And I ask doesn’t she mind that I have barf all over me and she says she doesn’t mind. And anyway, she says, I barfed too. And I see that it’s all over her chest, the orange-and-brown Hooters logo covered with orange-and-brown vomit. And I look up at her, like in that old painting, and we start making out.

I: Right there? On the floor of the Hooters? With the barf and shit?

L: Just barf.

I: Right.

L: …[reminiscing]

I: Q.

L: Well she took me home and cleaned me up. We cleaned each other up, but maybe seventy slash thirty her because I had got knocked down. And the old lady asked if this was my sister come to visit and I said no this is my lady friend.

I: Q.

L: She put me down in bed. We didn’t do anything. She did pat me on the head, I guess. Count that. And the next day, I go into work.

I: Oh boy.

L: Turns out I’m fired, because Gavin kinda spun it as I had gone wild and assaulted him. Which I guess is sorta what happened. Except everybody at the Hooters also saw what happened, and it shows up in the local rag.

I: What paper? What was the headline?

L: The Coastal Weekly. “Perv Gets Punched,” something like that. Only it’s a little confusing because Gavin is supposed to be the perv who got punched but I also got punched, and a lot harder, so some people in the community start making me out to be this perv, except this loses traction once my supporters — friends? except friends I didn’t know I had yet? — at the Hooters tell those folks what’s what.

I: So you’re a hero.

L: I mean, I have enough clout to get a job as the Hooters ad guy. Pretty much the only job I’m qualified to do there. Not a lady, ergo don’t have hooters, cannot be a waitress, not assertive, ergo not going to be manager. So I get a job selling my new lady friend’s boobies. In essence.

I: She’s your lady friend now?

L: Well, I mean I did my usual move when I like a lady.

I: Which is?

L: To do nothing. But she would bring me little snacks, like from the kitchen, while I was in the back office with the manager trying to figure out the website or designing flyers like on his old boxy computer or helping him cheat on his taxes. And I ask her one day when she brings me some chicken tenders if there are any jerks she knows that need beating up. And she says she’ll think about it, and then brings me another basket of chicken tendies and leaves. Now I’m not so hungry. But I smell something’s fishy. So I have a couple chicken tendies, change the font on some shitty flyers. And then I scrabble around a little with my fingers and realize that there’s a piece of paper in there, in the chicken tendies basket. And I pull it out but I have tender dust on my hands but unfold the paper and it’s a seven-digit phone number.

I: So you’re in.

L: Well, that’s not how I’d put it. But I call her from the bald landlady’s landline when I get home, after asking permission because obviously it’s her phone, and call my lady friend. And she comes over. I ask her what she wants for dinner and she said not Hooters. And we have a good laugh about that and then start making out.

I: For a neurotic weenie you sure seem to be a man of action.

L: Yeah, well sometimes.

I: How was it.

L: Well we had to be quiet because the old lady was in the living room downstairs watching TV.

I: Waitwaitwait. How’d she get in in the first place? I mean if the old lady is so opposed to you having female company.

L: She’s not that, lady-friend came in the front door, it’s just landlady says then that it’s so nice my sister is back to visit me. So I don’t want to make it seem as my sister is fornicating with me. And so we have to be quiet. But it’s nice. We have the window open and hear the waves, feel the breeze. Smell the sewage and hear the gunshots too but overall nice.

I: Finish on time?

L: What’s it to you, dude? What kinda interview is this?

I: Hey, just asking. Just doing my job. Don’t think about it so hard.

L: Yeah, well. Fine, I did. I do. Which I always worry about. But she doesn’t seem to mind. Really she seems like that lady in the painting, you know, who wouldn’t have minded.

I: The Virgin Mary, you mean.

L: Right.

I: So when did you mess it up.

L: I was getting to that.


L: So eventually it seems like my job at the Hooters is kinda superfluous. If people are gonna come to a Hooters they’re gonna come. It’s a franchise. There’s no need to do local ads. That’s how the manager explained it. People had forgotten about the thing in the Coastal Weekly after like a week, so I wasn’t like a big draw. Also the ladies found me somewhat repulsive I think, or were put off by the fact that I was with Janine.

I: Her name was Janine.

L: Yeah.

I: Why didn’t you say that before?

L: It seemed unnecessary to the story. Plus you seem kind of stalkerish, like you might go track her down or something.

I: Me?

L: You. Why do you wanna know about my life all of a sudden? What’s it to you? What’s the big idea?

I: Documenting. For posterity. This’ll go faster if you don’t ask so many questions.


I: Q.

L: So I have a little money laid by from working, on account of rent isn’t much and the food was free. So I keep living with the old lady living in nineteen seventy-two. The summer was ending and she was watching a lot of MASH reruns and talking a lot about Bobby Fischer, and by extension of Bobby Fisher, the Russians and the Jews. So most days I eat cereal in her living room and watch MASH reruns and wait for Janine to come home, i.e. to visit me, because actually we haven’t moved in. And we keep doing it in secret, while the old lady watches MASH.

I: Wouldn’t it have made more sense to go to her house?

L: That’s what I asked, and we did a couple times. Cute place. Lot of clothes from old boyfriends. Pretty soon though I start to wondering about those clothes and what they’re doing there and what we’re doing together, I mean it’s mostly just sex with a little nice talking in between which is nice but not what I lie awake dreaming about, ya know?

I: Especially given your sexual inadequacy.

L: Thank you. Thank you so much for making that explicit.

I: But it’s still fine and dandy at this point.

L: I try to make it that. I tell myself you always do this Les, you always mess up a good thing by thinking too much. Don’t think about it. But I show up one day to her house, because I can’t wait, I have a feeling, whatever. And she comes home in Hooters uniform and I say hey and her eyes bug a little and I say what’s up and she says nothing. Nothing is up, she says. I say she seems a little creeped out and she says I seem a little creepy. Nice, but definitely creepy. Ha-ha, a wonder we’re even together. We have our last laugh. She goes inside, I follow her, she asks if I want to go to my place, kind of blocking me in the doorway. No I say otherwise I would already be at my place wouldn’t I yes I would. And so we’re in the kitchen and this fucking Chad-looking guy comes in, wearing a black T no undies munching a bowl of captain fuckin crunch. And I say who’s this, is this the other guy, and she says no. No, you idiot, you’re the other guy.

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