Mo sat down to meditate the next morning, temples throbbing from sucking on too many cigarettes and bowls. He had promised Glory ten minutes a day…ten minutes of staring at a knot in his oak dresser, trying to clear his mind of all the thoughts that flashed and scraped and boomed through this head.
Today it seemed particularly futile. He was still wobbling from his skin to his stomach from the decaying alcohol. He placed himself in his semi lotus position, and his mind leapt and crackled violently like the split electrical wires do in movies about earthquakes. He wanted to hurl, he wanted to plant his face back in his pillow, he wanted to take a handful of ibuprofen.
Bell made a date with me!? She just came up to me at like three in the morning at the party and said, “you want to see Fists of Legend II on Monday.' Really? Was it the weed?
I'll blow it, somehow.
I had to call Dad!?
What did that fight between Alex and those assholes look like?
Why the fuck do I have so much Barry White in my head?
Shit, it was kangaroos…
And then Mo could see it so clearly, a nature documentary about kangaroos, and how they would wrestle each other with their feeble little arms. The best those arms could do was irritate the other's eyes, but then one would get in the right position, sit back on its tail, and kick those super strong legs, and— boom—the other kanga would be half way across the desert. Mo had missed Alex knocking out Liam. By the time he looked behind him, Alex was grappling awkwardly with the fellow in the orange vest. It felt odd. Mo had never seen Alex in a fight before, but he had imagined what it might look like from some of the stories he heard—he realized then how much like comic book frames and how little like reality those imaginings were. Just when it occurred to Mo that maybe he try to help, the two fell, and Alex used Sunny's face to break his fall. Not exactly Beowulf, but the fight was unquestionably over.
Must. Stop. Thinking…
Dad thinks Alex will get off. I wonder what lock-up is like. Does Dad like Alex better than me? How did I end up so short? Dad wanted both of his sons to be tall.
Jesus fucking Christ! Stop thinking!
“DUDE YOU ARE THE BEST DRUG DEALER, EVER!”
He screwed up his face, gritted his teeth and stabbed psychic meat hooks into each of his thoughts and dragged them away with all his might. The clutter started to clear. But then…
Wait a fucking second…was Min going to kiss me last night?
He fell back. The ruckus scared off Pavlov who had been sitting next to him sharing in his meditation the brief while it lasted. Mo had made it four minutes.
Min had been sitting on the bed alone with him a little stoned and drunk, then her eyes softened looking down at his lips, and she started to inch her head forward into personal space….
And he just sat there oblivious to it, thinking about how different she had looked that day—about how as soon as the fight and the crisis with the cops began she transformed. Party girl Min was gone, like she had never been there in the first place, replaced by a person far more together than she would like to show. Min explained everything she could to the cops, called ahead to the hospital, asked Mo if he would be willing to call his Dad, hailed a taxi to the hospital, talked to the doctor, and lied just enough to get them admitted to visit him in his hospital cot. All through it she had been calm, together, and absolutely beautiful.
No, no. I have to be wrong.
It was a mathematical impossibility. Mins don't kiss Morowitzes. He had accepted that and moved on.
But the thought haunted him when he stopped by her apartment later that Sunday. It was her last night in Philly. She was bringing some stuff over to Glory's for storage and taking the rest in a massive rolling bag on a bus back to New York early the next morning.
She blushed slightly when she answered the door in her blue jeans and tank top. She was a little self-conscious around him, once smirking awkwardly at the mention of the night before. In her mind something—not necessarily something huge, but something—had happened between the two of them.
Oh my god, what haven't I done?
When the night faded into the time to say goodbye, they stood in front of each other for a half a minute. Then she hugged him tight, her surprisingly strong body squeezing a laugh out of him. When they pulled out of the hug, their faces passed close to each other. Mo looked to her to see if the missed opportunity would present itself again. It didn't. She kept her eyes firmly downwards.
When Mo got back to his apartment, the sun was going down and he entered hoping to find Pavlov home, but he had escaped out the kitty door for a romp as a city cat. Mo felt like he was banished back in time, to that lonely apartment that existed the hour before the writing class, before he met that stunning girl he was only now getting to know, before Ben called to tell him about Alex being in town—he had always been afraid it was too good and he would just find himself in that bleak room again.
His phone rang.
“Hey, I forgot to ask, how are you going to end my screenplay?” Min asked.
The delusion of cyclical life fizzled out and he put on his headset. This was going to be a long conversation.
“So I figured out a way that Professor Locksley could redeem himself, save both our reality and the Bannite reality, and Professor Piedmont and Jessica Troy could be together. Locksley uses the time machine to create a warp that shores up the dimensional divide and…”Mo said.
“So what are you going to do with Juarez?” she asked a few minutes later.
“He lives and totally kicks ass in the end, too,” he said, loading his dishes into his dishwasher. It had been a long time since they had spent the night gabbing on the phone with each other. Maybe they would be doing more of that when Min was in New York. “Yeah. Call me Mr. Hollywood, but it's a very happy ending.”
He could hear Min smile on the other end of the phone.
“Good,” she said. “Don't tell anyone, but I am a sucker for happy endings.”
Mo met Dane the next morning at Philadelphia Java. Mo—having realized that despite his boss's tough talk, he completely relied on him—had felt powerful enough to call out of work for the morning. Dane and Mo had a mission: to pick up their friend from the pokey.
For whatever reason, the two had decided to walk to 21st and Hamilton. Glory had said it was a little rough up there but how bad could it possibly be so close to the art museum steps Rocky Balboa had immortalized?
But it was a long walk, through uncharted territory, on the warmest day of the year so far. They crunched through broken beer bottles in Love Park. They passed many statutes that didn't have signs so Mo was left to guess which tri-corner-hatted figure they were trying to celebrate. They passed a different statue dedicated to the holocaust with wooden Jews crushed under wooden lightning. Mo hesitated as Dane led them through another small park he had never seen before. Each of the concrete benches were makeshift apartments for homeless men. Some were spread out sleeping, shirts above their distended or gaunt bellies, a few others were awake. One with facial and body hair as white as snow, who was shaking and smoking the rest of someone's left over cigarette, whistled at Dane.
“Ain't that a pretty white boy!” he yelled. They hurried along and passed over to a large open wooded space, bound by what looked like a castle.
“What the hell's that?” Mo asked.
“It's juvie,” Dane said. It was a federal penal institution, but there was a river of blankets and cardboard boxes lined up against the wall where homeless had set up shelters of their own. And it looked like they had been there for years.
As they passed the police station, one cop was sitting on the hood of his car another was munching on a bear claw. They both looked at Dane, with his hipster clothes and geisha hair, and shook their heads.
They went inside to the tiny lobby, covered in stained gray and brown tiles.
“We are here to pick up Alex Gromov,” Mo said.
“Your IDs,” the lady cop behind the bullet-proof glass said. Mo reached into his pocket and his heart stopped. His bowl was so very stupidly still in his pocket; the sealed chamber was loaded with weed, and he was in a police station. His eyes twitched around nervously looking for drug sniffing canines.
“Sir?” she asked, as if tasting his guiltiness.
Mo calmed himself, found his wallet, and gave her his ID.
“Have a seat. It'll be a while,” she said, handing his ID back without looking at it.
Dane and Mo looked behind them: there were only three orange plastic chairs and a fat man with hair coming out of his ears in bushels and covered head to toe in Eagles gear sat in the middle one. Dane and Mo sat down on either side of him. He smelled like urine soaking in Old Spice.
Mo's hands felt numb, his ears roared. He looked around. Dane was trying to read a Philip K. Dick paperback. Mo should have brought something to read. Mo looked up at the stinky Eagles fan. He wasn't asleep. He was crying quietly to himself.
It was all too much…but he remembered his promise to Glory.
Ten minutes a day.
He placed his hands on his knees, sat up in his chair, trained his eyes on the edge of a dirty cracked tile, and focused on his breath. The fog horn was louder than ever. The phones ringing, flashes of fear that the famed crime dog, Hooch, was going to show up and leap for his drug-smoking jugular, the smell—it seemed hopeless.
But something was different. Maybe it was because he wasn't hung over, maybe because he felt all talked out. It wasn't long before he was even able to quiet the last lines of the Thomas's Toaster Cake song. It lasted only a little while, but it was the oddest feeling. He was just a bunch of nerves floating in space; it felt like his white-hot mind had just been dipped in a bucket of ice water, it felt for a glimmering moment that there was some larger Mo, a Daniel Morowitz that wasn't just the roar of his thoughts.
“Mr. Lawton. Your son is gonna be out in a minute,” the lady cop said. The Eagles fan stood. And something under his pants ruffled like diapers.
He was an old man, Mo realized, he couldn't help the smell. His son came out; tattoos of slang in calligraphy circled his shaved head. He hugged his Dad.
“I'm sorry,” was all he said.
Dane moved over in his seat, and the two talked about Flan O'Brien, the Hale Bopp cult that killed themselves in their running shoes, and how much they both hated Star Trek: Voyager, until the cop lady finally announced that Alex was coming.
The person who appeared at the door was puffy and red with his hair whirled up in a filthy spiral. Dots of blood, now dried, had soaked their way through the bandage on his hand. The blue sling sealed his arm close to his torso, and his body warped around his wounds to protect them. It took a moment for his eyes to find Mo. Mo had never seen an adult that frightened in his life.
Maybe the judge saw that too. He let Alex go on his own recognizance. A hearing would be scheduled. Everyone Mo had talked to said the same thing; Alex could expect to get a few weeks of jail time. Mo's Dad as usual disagreed.
“I can get him out of this in my sleep, Daniel,” he had snorted over the phone. Mo suspected this was bullshit, but Dad was nothing if not a great lawyer.
Mo and Dane decided to take him back to Mo's apartment—they certainly were not going to leave him alone, but Mo figured Alex's place was probably a disaster.
They walked him out and managed to hail a cab. Alex struggled in the cab, every jostle sending a new shockwave of pain through him that Mo could feel. Mo looked at the little bag of personal effects and found the pain pills the doctor had prescribed. Nice stuff.
“…the cops would only let me have the minimum dose…and haven't given me any today,” Alex mumbled, blankly.
“But you're a fucking giant….” In the back seat of the taxi, Mo read the indications, doled out the maximum dose, plus one, and popped them in Alex's mouth. Dane gave him his Gatorade to wash it down.
“Do you think I can get away with not telling my Mom about getting arrested?”
“Yes, I do,” Mo lied.
“I should go home and check my messages,” Alex said when he entered Mo's apartment.
“Those can wait,” ordered Mo.
They sat Alex down on the couch. Dane put on a pot of water to make spaghetti for lunch. Mo pulled out the bowl and his lighter, took a hit and offered it to Alex. Alex shook his head. Alex didn't feel like talking—or he did feel like talking but he didn't know how to begin. His eyes were flickering around the room.
Pavlov curled around Mo's ankles. Mo picked him up and placed the package of cat on Alex's lap. Alex looked up at Mo a bit surprised, looked down at the cat and puzzled, but then he smiled faintly and started to pet him. Pavlov responded as usual—in a complete state of rapture.
“Don't mind the drool,” Mo warned. Alex didn't mind.
After a few minutes, Alex looked up at his old friend. “They don't have windows in the holding tank.”
Mo sat down to listen.
Tune in next week for the short 3 part Finale to X!
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The final chapter of the novel before short the finale/epilogue. Mo's changes are more subtle than the others but note where he is now from where he started. Thanks to everyone for reading it.
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