By the time 8pm rolled around Henry was at Jack's house in the kitchen watching him open bags of microwave popcorn.
"Is that kettle corn or movie theater butter?" asked Henry.
"It's kettle corn, my favorite," replied Jack.
"Cool, that kind is my favorite too," Henry said as he lifted a glass of water to his mouth then promptly spilled it down the front of his shirt.
"What?" asked Jack as he turned around to see Henry jumping up from the table and heading toward the counter for the dish towel that was hanging on the cabinet door. "What happened?"
"You gave me a dribble glass and then missed the joke when I spilled the water down the front of my shirt."
"You dumb ass, we don't have any dribble glasses. You just missed your mouth." Jack couldn't help but laugh at Henry as he watched him dab his shirt with the dish towel. "What were you doing?"
"Not paying attention I guess," Henry responded with more laughter to his voice than annoyance.
Jack rolled his eyes at Henry. "Just take your shirt off and I'll throw it in the dryer. You can wear one of mine while it dries."
Jack hesitated before heading to his room to get Henry a shirt. He knew he shouldn't wait around for Henry to take his shirt off, but he couldn't help himself. The problem was there was no reason for him to hesitate. He became aware that Henry too was hesitating. He felt his face go red. Was it possible that Henry had silently noted that Jack had run into his arms? Was it possible that Henry was paranoid now? Could he know that Jack had feelings for him? Shit thought Jack as he abruptly left the room. He knew he had to get a shirt and walk back into the kitchen acting like nothing was out of the ordinary. He would act clueless like Kevin.
After he found his favorite blue shirt he quickly took it into the kitchen for Henry.
“Where is Kevin?" he said as he gave Henry the shirt and tried to inconspicuously drink in every inch of his chest. He turned away hoping it was nonchalant and natural instead of obvious like he felt.
Henry stood there for a second holding the shirt before he put it on. "Hopefully he's doing his homework. We were talking about that in the yard after you went home."
"I was standing on my front porch watching you guys talk. I didn't mean to stare, I was just so curious. You guys looked a little intense."
"It's okay, I probably would have told you anyway," said Henry. "Kev was upset about me having straight A's. He said he was trying to be like me, you know – easy going, blowing everything off, cool rider. I just told him he should be himself. Do what he wants to do. He's got this complex that I will only be his friend if he acts like me."
"Really, he thinks that's the only reason we're all friends?"
"Yeah. I told him I liked him for him, not for who he thinks I want him to be." Henry walked to the cabinet, got another glass and filled it with water.
Jack emptied the popped bag of popcorn into a bowl and then put another into the microwave.
"He's just insecure that's all," said Henry after taking a spill-free drink of water. "He sees you as smart and popular and he sees me as easy going and popular and he sees himself as popular only by association."
Jack was leaning into the corner of the counter watching Henry as he talked about the conversation with Kevin. He felt proud of him. That's the only way he could describe it. He was proud of the way Henry had handled the situation with Kevin's fragile ego.
The microwave dinged, signaling the end of popping for the second bag of popcorn. Jack turned toward the cabinet to get a second bowl, but Henry was standing there with a bowl in his hand. Jack was surprised and the look he gave Henry said as much. As he took the bowl from Henry, his pinky finger grazed Henry's hand. His senses were already heightened from Henry's naked chest. He turned quickly and placed the bowl down on the counter too forcefully.
"Thanks," he managed to say trying to cover up the fumbling noise.
"You're welcome," replied Henry as if nothing was out-of-the-ordinary with the bowl exchange.
They heard the door opening in the utility room off the kitchen. It was Kevin.
"Hey, Jack, it's Kevin. You guys here?"
"Yeah, we're in the kitchen," Jack said as he started toward the utility room.
"Don't mention the homework conversation okay. I don't wanna embarrass Kevin." Henry spoke sincerely.
"I won't," Jack said without missing a step. "What took you so long, Kev? The popcorn's gonna get cold."
"Yuck," Kevin crinkled his face. "I hate cold popcorn. Am I that late?"
"No. I'm just giving you shit," Jack punched Kevin's shoulder. "Seriously, where were you?"
"Homework dude. It's a bitch." Kevin gave Henry a tentative smile after he said the words. Henry smiled back and gave a slight nod to Kevin.
"Did you get done?" asked Henry.
"Good,” interjected Jack as if he wanted to change the subject. “No homework talk tonight. Tonight we watch Miss Genevieve. You two grab the bowls of popcorn and I'll get the beanbags. Meet you in my room."
"Good going, bro," Henry said as he squeezed the top of Kevin's shoulder.
"Get the popcorn." Kevin knew what Henry was doing. He gave Henry a look that included a slight smile to let him know he accepted the advice from earlier and appreciated the support. "I'm gonna see what's in the fridge that's good for mixing."
“Well alright,” Henry said nodding his head in approval.
Kevin searched the refrigerator as Henry grabbed the two bowls of popcorn and headed down the hall to Jack’s room. The room was empty. He put the popcorn bowls down on Jack’s bed and walked over to the entertainment center. He started to look through Jack’s DVD’s, but caught sight of a framed picture of Jack, Kevin and himself on the top shelf. He picked it up and looked at it. They had gone camping last summer in the woods not too far from where they live. They had had such a good time. Henry was remembering the moment leading up to the taking of the picture. The three of them had been sitting around the campfire smoking cigarettes and drinking beer that Kevin had lifted from his parents’ refrigerator in the garage. They were so relaxed. They had just been talking and laughing. There wasn’t a care in the world. As close to home as they actually were, they felt like they were in an isolated forest miles away from anyone who knew them. During a moment of serene quiet, Kevin farted so loud that it shocked them all. They started to laugh and couldn’t stop. Then the smell hit them. It was obnoxious. It smelled like what they imagined a corpse would smell like. That led to more laughter. They doubled-over, laughing so hard that Henry remembered his abs hurting the next morning. When the laughter was under control enough to allow them to breathe again, Jack had pulled out his Blackberry® and long-armed a picture of the three of them.
“That was my favorite moment of that whole camping trip.” Jack had walked into the room while Henry was lost in the memory. Henry jumped at the sound of his voice and inhaled sharply. As he turned toward Jack’s voice, he exhaled and laughed a little at being startled. Jack was standing there, holding the beanbags, smiling at him.
“That fart was pretty rancid though,” said Jack as he threw the beanbags onto the floor between the bed and the entertainment center.
“It was pretty rancid. I don’t know what Kevin had eaten that day, but it smelled like something died inside of him.” The two of them were laughing when Kevin walked into the room with three glasses of ginger ale, one about to fall from his grasp.
“What’s so funny?” asked Kevin as he walked to Jack’s dresser to put them down before he dropped the stray.
Henry held up the picture for Kevin to see. Kevin started to laugh along with his friends.
“Man, that was the most rancid fart,” Kevin said through his laughter. Henry and Jack looked at each other when Kevin said ‘rancid’ and laughed even harder. “I seriously thought for a second that I might have shit my pants.”
That moment of laughter transported the three of them right back to the woods. There might has well have been a campfire in the bedroom. When at last they each managed to draw breath again, they stood up straight and smiled at each other – lingering shoulder shakes of laughter still visible. Kevin was the first, this time, to lift a fisted, out-stretched arm toward his friends. The other two made their way toward Kevin to explode-the-finger-fist-bump.
Kevin turned toward the dresser to retrieve two glasses and hand them to his friends.
“What’d you find?” asked Henry.
“Ginger ale,” replied Kevin.
The three of them took a drink. Kevin was no fool when it came to mixing drinks. He knew as soon as he saw the ginger ale in the refrigerator that it was the perfect mixer for the whiskey he had put into his dad’s flask. The other two seemed to agree with his choice. Kevin gave them a yeah I know smirk and plopped down on one of the beanbags.
“So, what’re we gonna watch?”
“We have two choices,” Jack said as he crossed the room to the entertainment center and started fumbling through the DVD’s. He hadn’t actually gotten out the ones that starred Genevieve like he had planned so he was going to have to look through the stacks. He didn’t think it would be too difficult to find them as they were relatively new and he hadn’t had a chance to watch them yet. This proved to be the wrong thought. As it happens most of the time, the two he was looking for ended up being near the bottom of the third stack of DVD’s. He realized he must have messed them up the day he was searching for the one that helped him confirm why he recognized Genevieve’s face.
“Here they are,” he said as he turned toward his two friends. They were sitting on the beanbags; heads slumped, tongues hanging out. They looked like they had fainted or died. It was part of the little joke they played on each other when something, or someone, took to long. They called it “dead man…”
“Really?” said Jack with sarcastic disbelief. “It didn’t take me that long to find them.”
Henry and Kevin stayed as frozen as possible where they sat.
“All right, we’re done here,” said Jack as he sat on the floor facing the two of them.
Kevin started to laugh. “Dead man on a beanbag.”
Henry joined Kevin in laughing. Jack just sat on the floor rolling his eyes and shaking his head. He couldn’t help but smile though. These were his best friends and “dead man” was one of their jokes. It might be stupid, just like laughing so hard you can’t breath because of the smell of a fart, but it was something they did and he loved it.
“So here are the two choices,” Jack said as he held up the two DVD’s. “We can watch The Setting Sun of Yesterday about a wartime nurse on her deathbed, recalling the soldier she loved and lost during World War 1. Or we can watch Spark of Denial about a daughter returning home to reconnect with her estranged family only to try and steal the family business.”
He sat there looking at Henry and Kevin waiting for them to make a decision. He wanted to play “dead man with DVD’s” it was taking them so long.
“Okay, so The Setting Sun of Yesterday is from 1965. It’s the movie she did right after winning her Oscar®. She plays the nurse, obviously. It’s probably gonna have some war scenes.” He threw war scenes part in because he thought it might help the testosterone-laden room make a choice.
“She plays the returning daughter in Spark of Denial. It’s from 1967. It sounds like it might be a little more melodramatic than the other one. Although,” a thought had just occurred to him, “they’re probably both melodramatic.”
“I say we watch Spark of Denial.” Henry said nonchalantly. Jack was surprised. He was certain after the mention of war scenes that Henry would choose The Setting Sun of Yesterday.
“That’s fine with me,” said Kevin, ever the follower in Henry’s footsteps.
Jack got up from the floor and placed the DVD into the player, closed the carriage then pressed play. He then made his way to his bed and grabbed his two pillows. He threw them on the floor between the beanbags as the orchestra started playing the main title for the opening credits. He settled himself on the pillows between his two friends and focused on the screen. Every time he watched an old film he thought about how the credits were presented at the beginning instead of at the end like they are in today’s movies.
Henry and Kevin were each holding bowls of popcorn. Jack chose to eat out of the bowl Henry was holding. He thought to himself that he should share out of both bowls, but then decided that it was just popcorn. Henry was sitting on his right and he was right handed after all. Paranoia be gone.
About halfway through the movie there was a close-up on Genevieve’s face. Her character’s father had just discovered that her character was trying to steal the family business. The look on her face was loathing. She was filled with so much hate for him, yet she had been so sweet in his presence leading up to the moment of discovery. Her façade had cracked. The sweetness turned to the sting of vinegar. Even though she was seething with anger at her father, she had but one single tear fall from her left eye and roll down her cheek. The scene left Jack breathless. He turned to look and Henry and Kevin. Both had ceased eating popcorn and were staring, riveted by her.
Jack turned back to the screen, a feeling a pure joy and happiness that his two best friends not only wanted to watch an old film with him, but they were actually enjoying it. He was smart enough to know that it was mostly because they had met Genevieve, but it didn’t matter. He was sitting in his room, sharing popcorn with Henry, drinking a drink made by Kevin. This was a moment that he wished he could long-arm a video instead of just a photo.
When the movie was over the three of them sat there for a moment. Henry was the first to stand up. Jack looked up at Henry, but Kevin kept watching the screen like he was processing a thought.
“That moment of realization by her father, played across her face like…I don’t know,” said Kevin.
“Stoic anger,” said Jack. “She was like…an incensed volcano, ready to blow, but everything stayed below the surface except for that one tear. That was the release. It was her anger, her despair, her embarrassment.
“It was a cool movie, Jack,” said Henry. “Thanks for letting us come over to watch it.”
“Anytime guys. I’m just glad you wanted to watch it.”
“I’d be up for watching the other one too,” said Henry. “I may not be a movie buff like you or as into classic movies, but now that we’ve met Miss Genevieve, I’d really like to watch it. It’s kinda cool to see how movies used to be.”
“Anytime.” Jack responded to Henry then quickly included Kevin. “The three of us can watch the other one whenever you want. You in Kev?”
“Sure. I’d watch the other one.”
“Cool, let’s do it,” said Henry as he started out of the room with the two popcorn bowls in hand.
The three of them walked to the kitchen. Henry placed the two bowls in the sink and Kevin the glasses. Jack knew he would have to wash them before his mother got home from the class she takes on Tuesday nights.
“So listen, are you two up for a visit with Miss Genevieve tomorrow? I’m just kinda antsy to get back to her story.”
“I’m in,” replied Henry as he stood at the door nodding his head.
“Yeah, me too,” answered Kevin.
“Then let’s try to get as much homework done tomorrow during our study hour as possible so we don’t have to worry about it after we get home. Agreed?
“Agreed,” said Henry and Kevin in unison.
“Okay, so I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
“Later Jack,” said Henry.
“Thanks again for the movie,” said Kevin.
“Thank you for the whiskey,” replied Jack.
After closing the door behind his friends, Jack watched them cross the street and walk toward their respective houses. He lingered a little bit longer on Henry. He was standing in the dark with no one to catch him so he indulged himself. When Henry was inside his own house Jack walked to the sink and began to wash the dishes.
©2010 Michael Rohrer