Slow to Grow

Published on May 2016 | Categories: Topics, Books - Fiction | Downloads: 90 | Comments: 0 | Views: 758
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Laced with self deprecating humor and laced with a healthy dose of pathos, the novel, Slow to Grow, follows Lloyd Kulligan as he matures (slowly) over the course of 25 years from a lonely sex starved teenager to a middle aged married man (still sex starved). His story runs the gamut from the frivolities of youth to the realities and obstacles of an ordinary life, punctuated by the tragic deaths of his son and mother.Lloyd Kulligan is a clueless, oedipal 13 year old just trying to fit in with his classmates. Women are a foreign and untouchable species, and will continue to torment him for years to come. The story follows him through his lonely and torturous high school years, the supposedly free-spirited college years and through his barren early twenties, where the road unsurprisingly, is no less bumpy.

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Slow To Grow

By: Lonny Sirelle

Chapter 1 Kulligan steps up to the plate, seemingly cool as a cucumber, which I consider near impossible considering he was a virtual unknown just mere days ago...This is an unprecedented situation, and I think the fans are as equally perplexed as we are...Cubs Manager Jim Frey is either a genius or a lunatic..Possibly both, Harry. I don=t get it Harry, you have Jay Johnstone, Richie Hebner, and Gary Matthews on the bench, and Frey calls upon Kulligan, who just two days ago was a fan sitting in the bleachers, when the Cubs found themselves short one hitter, and he offered his services.

Well, anyhow, that is the situation we find ourselves in, 2 outs, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, and the Cubs trailing 4-2 in this Game 7 of the playoffs. Kulligan has looked just absolutely foolish on the first two pitches from future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton. Well, Steve, anyhow it is obvious this absolutely ridiculous managerial move by Frey is going to cost the Cubs their first chance for a World Series in 75 years. Absolutely inexplicable, flabbergasting. Here is the pitch from the crafty lefty and Kulligan flails at the curveball, 0-1 count. I sit in here in pure astonishment, the fans will remember this forever, I wonder if Frey has some kind of death wish, or just wants to be fired. Carlton rears back and fires the pitch right pass Kulligan, I think he just finished his swing now. O-2 count. The crowd is going absolutely mad, the cheering is deafening as Kulligan glares back at Carlton. I think I see Kulligan=s knees quivering. Here comes the pitch from Carlton. He rears back and we brace for the inevitable, Kulligan HIT IT, IT IS WAY BACK IT IS GOING TO CLEAR THE FENCE...IT IS ON WAVELAND. LLOYD Kulligan HAS JUST SENT THE CUBS TO THEIR FIRST WORLD SERIES SINCE 1908...I DO NOT BELIEVE WHAT I HAVE JUST SAW. HE CAN BARELY MAKE IT AROUND THE BASES AS FANS ARE MOBBING HIM AND HERE HE COMES CROSSING THE PLATE TO HIS WELCOMING AND CHEERING TEAMMATES!! CUBS WIN 5-4 ON A GRAND SLAM BY CUBS FAN LLOYD Kulligan, A VERITABLE DREAM COME TRUE. Lets see if we can find him in the sea mass of people gathered in front of home plate. There are literally thousands of people who have stormed the field and are carrying Kulligan on their shoulders! We have an interviewer down there, Lloyd, Lloyd can you hear me? I hear you loud and clear, Steve! What an indelible moment, how does it feel? Well, I don=t know what indelible means, but I can tell you, I am on cloud 9. I had faith in myself and knew that there were a lot of naysayers who doubted a 15 year old could step up to the plate and deliver, but I knew I could do it and I am so happy for the fans to finally have a chance to route for the Cubs in the World Series! Let me ask you, two days ago you were sitting in the bleachers heckling Garry Maddox, and here you sit now maybe the most famous Chicagoan and cub player of all time. How does that make you feel? I feel great, Steve, I have always known I had this sort of thing in me, and that you hear people say it is a dream come true, but I have to tell you, IT IS

REALLY A DREAM COME TRUE!!! That is awesome Lloyd, I have one more question for you, can you tell me what the total of the hypotenuse is, if x equals 7? What=s that? The voice was harsh and feminine, pretty much a redundancy to Lloyd, and he felt a shock run through him like he had just hit his funny bone, but it wasn=t very funny. He rubbed the spittle off his lip and stared ahead groggily. He wasn=t sure where he was for a second but then recognized his dank classroom and his swollen egg of a teacher, Miss Malone. AMiss is right,@ he thought, Awho would marry that grotesquery@ and a slight grin crept over his face. AThe hypotenuse, THE HYPOTENUSE. Lloyd H. Kulligan, the hypotenuse.@ Ugh, the stark realization and even starker tones of his eighth grade teacher hammered home the point that Lloyd was back in enemy territory. School. The walls may have kept his body but his spirit and mind were long gone, wandering the vast recesses of his fantasy universe. AThe hypotenuse is the longest side of a right triangle, the side opposite the right angle@, replied Lloyd, dodging yet another bullet. He was just beginning to learn the best ways to get away with as much as possible. He was still a novice at cutting corners, but no doubt he possessed the tools and skills needed to become an accomplished half ass. These were the training grounds. Many times Miss Malone wouldn=t check to see if he did his homework, so he wouldn=t do it for a few days. Procrastination was not just a word in Honors spelling anymore It was also at this critical juncture in time that he noticed certain hypotenuses forming in the shirts of the blossoming young women in his class. Girls were and always would be a foreign species to him and would continue to vex him for years to come. In 8th grade, the current subject of his desire was one Laurie Johns, current being used loosely, as it was going on three years. She first caught his fancy in 5th grade. He said that once, she catches my fancy. That sounds pretty gay he thought. But he wasn=t going to do anything about it. He never did. He observed in the same way that a cat stares at a squirrel through the window. All bundled curiosity and wound up anxiety, but with absolutely no chance of catching it, and certainly no clue what to do with it if caught. Actually that was giving Lloyd too much credit, it was more like traveling to the moon. Way out of reach, and no clue on how to get there.

She was exquisitely pretty, that was all he knew. Well he didn=t use the term exquisite, more like smokin= because that was what the cool kids said. He got vibrations up and down his spine when he saw her. He did not know what those vibrations were, but they were new and distracting and odd and pleasant. He also had an annoying propensity to fixate on things. His current fixation was her. Always in his thoughts. In class. Look at me. Look at me. Look at me. Ok, if she touches her hair that means she likes me. TOUCH YOUR HAIR, GODDAMMIT. Nothing. If she makes eye contact, smile. She just looked back here, shit I hope she didn=t see me looking. At home shooting baskets. Ok, if you make this she likes you. Clank. Ok, two out of three. With friends. She was watching one time when he was playing baseball. If you hit the ball over the tennis court fence it was a home run. She is watching. Ok, choker, bear down. if I can just park this one over the fence. Oh man, would she be impressed. He had never come close. Ever. Just settle down, you can do it. Don=t choke, Choker. A massive swing and a miss. It was slow pitch, mind you. No biggie, no biggie. Oh god, she saw me miss a pitch. She must think I am the biggest loser ever. She must think I suck. Cause I do suck. This is the most humiliating day of my life. He glanced over, she was not paying any attention to the game. Thank god. Now show her what you got, tough guy. Bear down. Bear down. The pitch arched gracefully and Lloyd=s eyes got wide as saucers, it was perfect. He gracefully leaned back on his right leg and geared up for the

power swing. He swung and made contact right on the sweet spot. A picture perfect confluence of bat and ball. A slight grin of complete satisfaction crept upon his face. The powerful swing sent the ball dribbling past the mound, and Lloyd chugged down the line as fast as he could. The fact was, a piano could outrace him. He was out by 15 feet. Fuck. I hope she didn=t see that. She didn=t. She was making out with Paul Sandler. He was always thinking about her in class. Hey Laurie, how is it going? You look really pretty today. Oh, thank you Lloyd, that is really sweet of you, you are looking as handsome as ever. I really like how your hair is untussled and looks like a bird=s nest. I find myself daydreaming about you all the time. I love all the sports uniforms you wear. That Cardinals one is really awesome. And I really like your Cubs uniform you wear twice a week. The home one. Not the road one. And during the winter months I enjoy seeing you in your Vikings jersey. The purple looks good on you. Aw, thanks, Laurie. That is cool that you know the difference between the home and road colors. White for home, Blue for the road. I figured you knew the difference. That is so cool that you like sports. Anyhow I was wondering if you wanted to go and get some ice cream? I would pay for it! Oh, Lloyd I have been waiting for you to ask me for so long. I told Tina to tell Lisa to tell Mary to tell Karen to tell you I have been crushing on you, and this makes my life complete. Of course I will go with you. Sounds cool, I will see you after school. He ran into Laurie in the hall after class. AUh, hey.@ AUh, hi, Leo.@ AIt=s Lloyd.@ She seemed genuinely perplexed. AListen Leo, could you please stop staring at me so much, it creeps me out.@ And she turned and left. AUh, bye.@ she didn=t hear him.

Miss Malone called him back into her classroom. He figured she would lecture him about not paying attention to her or not getting his homework assignments done on time. ALloyd, I have something I need to discuss with you@, she whispered in her hushed whiskey laced tone, Abut do you ever comb your hair?=

Chapter 2 Lloyd had one genuine girl friend, Karen. For some reason Karen understood him like no one else, she was amazingly mature for her age and saw something in Lloyd that he himself didn=t see. What that was, he had no clue. It was purely platonic and would always be, in a good way. She was like a sister to him. She was pretty and Japanese, not that those are exclusive traits of each other, but that is what Lloyd did. He had to stereotype everything and everyone. You were characterized by something and once that declaration was made in his head that was it. Miss Malone was an egg, The Gym Teacher, Mr. Gerber was a drunk, Laurie Johns was pretty, and Karen was his friend. He never violated that, not even when she offered to go with him to Senior Prom. He wanted to earn it. Anyhow, Karen had recently told him that NaSheen Lemkis, the pretty Israeli girl, had a crush on him and that she wanted to go steady. Lloyd never heard that directly from NaSheen, but it sounded good to him. It wasn=t Laurie, but it would do. Lloyd overheard NaSheen telling Rick, Nancy, John, Holly, and Lisa, about their plans to go to an afternoon movie at Orchard Theater, and he asked if he could come along, which he didn=t think was too much to ask considering they were going steady. AUh, whatever@ she replied in deep lust, and Lloyd was on cloud nine. AWhat time is it at?@ he asked dreamily, and she shrugged her shoulders. From eavesdropping, he determined that they would be leaving from the park across from the school at 4 O=clock. It would take about 40 minutes to walk there, but hey it=s with friends, and his Agirlfriend!@ Lloyd went home and put on his best football jersey. Should I wear the Chiefs one or the Dolphins one? Does she like Red? Or Aqua? Aqua seems girly, Dolphins it is! At 3:57 sharp he marched over to the park for his date with destiny. He was strangely arrogant. That dissipated fast. They were long gone. He was naively undeterred.

Oh man, she is going to be so impressed If I walk all the way there by myself just for her. I have never walked that far before, but it will be worth it, she will definitely want to hold my hand. Oh my gosh Lloyd you walked all the way here by yourself? That makes me swoon. You are just like a real life Danny Zukko! And I am your Olivia Newton John. That is so romantic, I can=t wait to tell all my friends about how cool and sweet you are. I draw her face into mine slowly, and plant a long kiss upon her Semitic lips. It was no big deal, NaSheen, I knew you would be expecting me, even though you left without me. I am sure that wasn=t your decision, you just went along with the others. That is ok, I am sure you were upset about leaving me behind. Oh, I was, it was just awful, I begged them to wait, Lloyd, and I was going to stay behind by myself, but then I wondered if you would show up, because you can have your choice of any girl in the world and you chose me, so I left with them. I understand. NaSheen, I totally understand. Don=t feel bad, the hour walk was nothing, especially by myself, I knew you would be here waiting for me. Oh, I was, I even left the seat empty for you in the hopes you would appear, my prince. Lloyd arrived at the theater exhausted and sweaty, for it was 92 degrees out, but flush, knowing that NaSheen would be agog at his Moses through the desert like devotion. The movie apparently started at 4. He bought his ticket and triumphantly entered the theater, awaiting the glories that were to be bestowed upon him. NaSheen was making out with Rick in the back row. Lloyd quietly sat down in the row in front of them. When NaSheen came up for air she was incredibly annoyed to find the screen blocked by what looked like a giant mop. ALloyd, why are you here? And could you scrunch down or something? In the dark your head looks likes Bozo.@ Lloyd immediately obeyed and slunk deep down into his seat. It was a long, lonely walk home. His only solace would take place 15 years later when Lloyd found out Rick was gay and living in San Francisco with their 8th grade Spanish teacher Mr. Javierito.

Chapter 3 Lloyd lived in a suburb about 10 miles due north of Chicago. It was a mix of blue collar families that had lived in the town for generations and an influx of upper middle class whites who had moved there within the previous 20 years. They were commonly referred to as Along nosed Jews.@ The funny thing was that most of the Jews in the neighborhood were of the reformed variety, by which means they were barely Jewish, no kosher stuff, no yarmulkes, no real outward displays of Judaistic tendencies. Including the Kulligans. But to the old timers they might as well been swinging chickens over their heads and sacrificing lambs in their backyards. To them a Jew was a cheap, money grubbing, money obsessed lawyer, slash doctor slash lawyer with hook noses and horns growing out the top of their heads who drove fancy Cadillacs. It was only partly true. Lloyd got along with most of the kids even if their parents personally blamed him for killing their lord and savior. Kevin Folian=s mother used to make Lloyd pray when he came over, she would ask him if he knew the Lord=s Prayer, and then would mutter Jew under her breath. When Lloyd would ask what she just said, she would answer like a knock knock joke. Jew eat? Jew want some food? She sounded Hispanic when she did it. One time Kevin thought he would pay Lloyd the ultimate compliment by telling him he was quote, ACool for a Jew.@ Kevin died of a drug overdose twelve years later. There was an easy way to tell the difference between the semites and the gentiles. Very easy. The Gentiles spent approximately 27 hours a week working on their lawns and automobiles, while the Jews paid someone else to do it. Lloyd didn=t understand why someone would want to spend hours bent over the engine of a greasy car and letting the oil out of the carburetor or the manifold or wherever the oil went, and clanging away at the mangilating hulifax pipe credenzil when you could just pay someone to do it. Those goyim, always good with their hands. Ugh, and the incessant car washing. Every single Saturday, Bob Mitnek would be out washing the crap out of his van. A Van. Every week. Who gives a shit if a van is clean. The Kulligan cars probably went to a car wash once a year, in fact Lloyd never remembered their car ever going to a car wash. The Van. The Blue Mitnek van. Beloved more than his own children. That isn=t a joke. Mitnek beat his wife and kids. You could hear the screams emanating from his house almost daily. Mitnek lived right next door to the Kulligans. His driveway was right outside Lloyd=s bedroom window. Bob Mitnek. He slunk down his driveway like a

Cro-Magnon. He always wore the same old fruit of the loom white t-shirt with all his back hair and chest hair bursting out of it like sasquatch in a dago t. The Kulligans called it his hairshirt. And his face. If Adolph Hitler and Mike Ditka mated you that would be perfect caricature. Mustache included at no extra charge. He was the bane of the existence of the Kulligan Family for every single day of the 25 years they lived next door to him. Except for the 32 days he was locked up in Cook County Jail on a domestic. That was a pleasant time. Lloyd=s dad once said Mitnek would survive a nuclear holocaust, because he was a cockroach. Every morning EXACTLY at 7:10, he would slink out of his house, slam a few of the doors and then start his beloved blue Ford van and let it run for exactly 13 minutes. EXACTLY. Lloyd did not awake until 7:30, so every fucking day the incessant rumblings of the van would arouse Lloyd from his deep slumber where he would immediately start cursing. Fucking Mitlek, you fucking cockbag douche, let me guess it=s 7:10. Oh what a shock it is. RUMBLE RUMBLE RUMBLE RUMBLE, the van idled for the 1212 th day in a row. Lloyd lay counting the 780 exact seconds before Mitnek would come back out and pull out of the driveway. And slam the door another 6 or 7 times for good measure. And then when he came home from work. BOOM BOOM BOOM What the hell is he doing that he needs to slam those goddamn doors?! BOOM. HE DID IT AGAIN!! What is he doing!? BOOM. That is the fourth time. What is that cockbag doing? Loading dead bodies into there? And then Lloyd would go to the window like he did every single day to watch Mitnek do what he inevitably did EVERY SINGLE DAY. THE SAME DAMN THING. He would get in the van, and then he would get out of the van. And then he would get in the van, and then he would get out of the van. Four sets of that EVERY FUCKING DAY. In between that of course would be the screaming at his kids, and then at his wife, who would then peer out the window and sneer at the Kulligan family like they were the white trash. Yes, sneer at us, we are the ones who are staying married to a guy who beats us on a daily basis and abuses the children. Yes, you should hate us for knowing what goes on behind your doors. That is our fault. We deeply apologize for noticing the bruises and the crying. We will try not to let it happen again.

And God forbid somebody park on the street in front of his house. He would peer through the hole he made in his window curtain and come storming out and pace and mutter and swear. The person who had parked out front had no clue what was they had done wrong, considering they were functioning in the real world, and would carry on with their normal proceedings. He would yell anti-semetic rants and threaten to call the cops on them. Inevitably each time it happened the person would glance over their shoulders assuming he was talking to someone else. It was a public street and they parked in an open spot. One time Mitnek chose the wrong person to berate for having the temerity to park in front of his house. Milt Catner, Kulligan family friend and former law partner of Lloyd=s dad, Nathan. Well it so happens that two days after Mitnek berated Mr. Catner for parking in front of his house, the local police received an anonymous call about a man beating his wife. As the police arrived, saw fresh wounds on Deirdre Mitnek (they could have been inflicted at any time) and took Mitnek away. And that=s how he served his aforementioned domestic charge. As the police led him away, he starting threatening the Kulligan House. Literally, the house, since the Kulligans were not home at the time. Or so he thought. They had parked their cars on the other block. Always thinking ahead. Unfortunately, the police do not release the names of those making 911 calls, especially to the Defendant. And when Mitnek appeared in court, guess who the prosecutor was. Milt Catner. When Mitnek was released after his sentence, his rage was at an all-time high. He wandered up and down the driveway screaming and hammering random bricks on his house and slamming the doors of his beloved van. He started ranting like Robert Deniro in Cape Fear about the Kulligans, convinced they were behind his incarceration. ACome out, come out wherever you are,@ he menaced. Lloyd=s father had enough and stormed outside and yelled at Mitnek AGO BACK INTO YOUR WORMHOLE, YOU WEASEL!@ Lloyd, buoyed by his father, added, AHope your cornhole isn=t sore!!@ Bonding didn=t come better than that. Chapter 4 At 10 pm sharp on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, Channel 44 changed formats. By day, it showed the greatest in odd Japanese style cartoons from the 1960's, like Speed Racer, Johnny Sokko, and Clutch Cargo. By night, their audience was a more mature one. In fact, it was for mature audiences

only. Very mature. And you unless you were a subscriber it was forbidden fruit, unless you tried really hard, no pun intended. Which Lloyd did. He tried REALLY hard. It was called ON-TV and oh, it was ON. Soft core style porn. Perfect for a 13 year old boy. God Bless UHF television in 1982. While his parents were downstairs, Lloyd would situate himself on his parents bed, and as Freudian as that sounds...well it was. But it was the only tv that had the twisty dial that could make all the squiggly lines less squiggly. You needed hands like a surgeon to get the perfect picture and at this point Lloyd could have graduated from Med School Cum laude. Sometimes he could make the picture hold for at least 10 seconds. Which was fine, because he only needed 7. Like marijuana, it was his gateway drug. Soon he would move on to Hustler magazine, to rented porn, and then the next thing he knew he would find himself sprawled out in the alley asking hookers if he could jack off on them. It was destructive man, destructive. One night he settled in with one hand on the dial and the other hand elsewhere, he was a maestro at this point, and was conducting his orchestra, if you catch the drift, and did not notice his mother scaling the stairs. The concert came to a screeching halt as she stopped cold in the doorway and noticed the solo Lloyd was performing. She hastily retreated back downstairs as he stopped the performance mid song and cancelled the rest of the evening=s show. It was like she was John Wilkes Booth and Lloyd was Lincoln. Except Lloyd had the pistol. The incident was never discussed and is only mentioned as a seminal event in his life, as it would be the first of many solo performances interrupted and discovered by an unsuspecting audience. He shouldn=t have been surprised at being caught, considering the frequency at which he partook in these particular proclivities. Nobody bats a thousand. Literally, a thousand. His parents had recently installed plush dark carpeting in his bedroom and little could they comprehend what that change of scenery would do to young Lloyd. And neither did the poor carpet. It was made to be walked on, not violated in disgusting fashion by a young boy in the throes of puberty. Though it was non-consensual, the carpet just laid there and took it, just like Lloyd=s first wife. His sister would come into the room and ask why certain parts of the carpet were stuck together and so prickly and sharp. Lloyd would first giggle at the word prickly, and then shrug and say he must have spilled something. In

retrospect, Lloyd=s fascination with hirsute women can be traced to these dramatic events. He relied mostly on Penthouse and Playboy to get him though such trying times. Five were accorded a prime spot under his mattress, which he referred to as his starting rotation. The ones less used were referred to as the bullpen, or the relievers, and kept under his bed. When one of the starters got tired and beat up and became worthless and worn from use, Lloyd would signal to the bullpen for a fresh one, it was just like the Cub pitching staff. It was a close call on which was beaten more. His mother never moved them or mentioned them when she would come across them. Everyone knew it was there, but no one talked about it. Sort of like the Carter Presidency. Once in awhile he would babysit for the 7 year old girl in the neighborhood, Amy Hartigan. They Hartigans lived in the fanciest house on the block, which was like saying the coolest guy in the high school band, but nonetheless it was a large house. The mother, Linda Hartigan, was quite the looker, and young Lloyd always found himself staring gawkily at her luscious rack as she gave him the day=s directions. One day out of boredom, while young Amy took her daytime nap, Lloyd sauntered into the bedroom, and inconspicuously rifled through her underwear drawer. The mom=s, not the kids, Lloyd was no pedophile, just a young creep. And would turn into a juvenile creep and an adult one, but that is a digression. As he was rummaging through the undies and the teddies and the stockings and things he had no clue about, he found a cassette tape labeled Linda. A few thoughts raced through his head about doing the right thing and respecting the privacy of others and blah blah blah. But once he rationalized the irony of debating about doing the right thing moments after he rummaging through her underwear drawer, the mental debate was rendered moot as he raced downstairs and shoved the tape into the VCR. It was a rather phallic move. At first the tape was all grainy and he went to turn it off, but then, there in all her glory, was Linda Hartigan, on all fours with a ball in her mouth and her husband Leonard behind her in a diaper and scuba mask. Lloyd learned a hard lesson that day about respecting people=s privacy. A hard lesson. He never babysat for them again, which Lloyd chalked up to a coincidence, but in truth Linda and Leonard Hartigan played that tape every Tuesday night and knew exactly what spot they had stopped it previously. In retrospect Lloyd realized he never spoke another word to her again.

Even though he never saw that particular video again, the memories were ingrained in his brain like the batting averages of the 1977 Cubs starting lineup. His carpet cringed every time he came into the room. No pun intended again. Yuck. Lloyd=s parents were very open sexually, much to the chagrin of Lloyd and his sister, Ellen. It was commonplace for their Dad to tell them to leave the house for awhile, to give him and their mother some privacy. The same thing on vacations. Leave the hotel room, we need privacy. We need privacy was the all encompassing slang for, AI am going to defile your mother.@ Sometimes they wouldn=t ask the kids to leave the house at all, just shut the door and go at it. Ellen and Lloyd would cower in fear and disgust at the noise emanating from behind closed doors. To this day, they have never been able to figure out what the horrific popping sound was. It sounded like a champagne cork bursting out of the bottle. POP. But sort of with a M at the beginning. MPOP. MPOP. Just thinking about it brought Lloyd to the brink of tears. Many years later Lloyd also realized that the spongy round toy he used to grab out of the cabinet and play with in the bathtub was his mother=s diaphragm. It took six years of counseling before that nugget rose to the surface. Chapter 5 Kulligan was not, is not, and will never be an inherently Jewish name. In fact it isn=t Jewish at all. Lloyd=s Zayde, the Yiddish term for grandfather, Lionel Kullizczwoksi was an immigrant from Russia who traversed to Ellis Island in 1927 at 21 years of age. For many years, Lloyd was under the mistaken impression that Zayde Lionel had made it to the United States by donkey. He heard his father once reference a donkey ride and coming to America and somehow it had meshed into his head as fact. He never took the time to think about the logistical implications involved in riding a donkey across the Atlantic, though. Lloyd was mesmerized by the thoughts of this heroic character crossing thousands of miles of land by donkey to grasp the promised fruits of freedom in these great United States of America. The truth was not quite on par with the life affirming heroics of someone like the Great Lawrence of Arabia. In fact the truth was kind of off-putting. Lionel was a con artist who traversed the wicked and bitter lands of Soviet Russia by horse to sell veal to peasants, where the meat was considered a delicacy. He would ride village to village with his cadre of horses who

supposedly were stocked with the aforementioned beef. As he would leave the town no one would notice that he was one mule lighter than when he had entered. One day as he was exiting the hinterlands of Kasaksya, a small town in a province of Siberia, a little child with his father, asked why he didn=t have the same amount of horsies that he had whence he came, and Lionel laughed and said he must be mistaken. The father then commented about the toughness of the meat, and suddenly the light bulb went off in his head. Before the man could stop him, Zayde hopped on his last remaining donkey, Yuri, and headed for the border. Soon he found himself at the Sea of Okhosk, where he hid in a barrel full of dead mackerel on a Soviet fishing vessel headed to Japan. Once arriving in Tokyo, the irony of mule meat being considered a delicacy was not lost on him. Three weeks later he boarded a boat headed for New York. The boat took an arduous route across the Pacific, up through the Arctic, and finally to Hudson Bay. At Ellis Island, it was customary for all immigrants to be routinely assigned new names, pretty much at the whim of the agents working there. When Lionel proudly stated his name, Lionelovich Theodor Kullizczwoksi (pronounced Kullizczwoksi), the agent rolled his eyes and asked him what country he was from. ASoviet Union@, Lionel fiercely barked in his broken English. AYour name is now Kulliano@ replied the agent. This sent Lionel into spastic fits of rage under the notion that Kulliano was a deeply Italian name. He raged about the stink of the Italians and that he would rather be named after a Slavic Pig than a dago wap. He had never met an Italian in his life, but knew enough about Mussolini to hate them all. While illiterate, he was very knowledgeable about the doings in the world. Everything he knew he learned from a one eyed Serbian prostitute named Natasha, whom he frequented, and paid handsomely to read the Moscow papers to him in a Polish accent. Many times she would call him an impotent bastard, and to his ears it sounded like a compliment. In lieu of money he would stock her iceblocks with fresh meat, for which she was quite appreciative. Sometimes he would break down and pay her. It wasn=t until many months after he had left did Natasha realize he had been paying her with counterfeit bolshevik fennels. She never did connect him to the rash of mule robberies in the village. The station agent, somehow swayed by the man=s rants and ravings renamed him Kulligan. Lionel once again became incensed and started

railing and ranting about Irish drunks, and calling them potato vagabonds, and that their women were uglier than Stalin. He had never met an Irishmen either but through Natasha he knew they were all drunken potato eaters. At this point the agent had enough and had Lionelovich Theodor Kullizczwoksi Kulliano Kulligan escorted to the stockades where, ironically, he shared a small room with a drunken Italian and a fascist Irishman. In Russia, Lionel had heard tales about how many of the Russians previously had immigrated to the Midwestern United States. The weather was similar and he thought it would be good to go to a place with others like oneself. But that was not the main draw for him. He fashioned himself as a small time gangster and was ready for the big time. That meant Chicago. Gangsters. Al Capone, boom boom boom. He soon found his way there in a concerted but ill conceived effort to become a henchman for Capone. He didn=t know what a henchman was or what they did, but Natasha the one-eyed hooker regaled him with stories from the Gelehdzhik Herald and Times about the proclivities of the Capone gang. He was sure once the local hoodlums and scalawags heard about his counterfeit donkey meat scam the doors would lead straight to Capone headquarters. He took to asking every Italian looking man in the Chicago area for the gangster=s whereabouts and found himself on the short end of many punches. Nothing ever came to fruition as unfortunately the Capone gang had no openings for a Jewish, non-English speaking Russian, illicit horsemeat vendor. Finding it difficult to find a racket that he could take advantage of, and because of a depressing lack of donkeys in the Chicagoland area, he found himself a job as an apprentice to a Polish tailor on the North Side of the City. It was here that he met the tailor=s daughter Eileen, who would read him the Chicago Tribune in an authentic Polish accent. It was love at first voice. She didn=t understand why he left bolshevik fennels for her, but found it both charming and quirky. They were married in July, 1935 and Lloyd=s father, Nathan was born in September of that year. Hint hint. Lionel Kulligan was not a very religious or pious man, yet his Jewish identity was so strong that he felt compelled to attend Orthodox Synagogue. This was the most strict of the Jewish sects, women and men were separated by a wall, and every word was spoken in Yiddish or Hebrew. Zayde Lionel was quite the enigma to young Lloyd. Lloyd could never reconcile the fact that his grandfather could break so many of the tenets of

the Jewish faith, like eating pork, or not eating Kosher, and not being cheap, while still practicing at the highest arc of the religion. It would not be the first time Lloyd questioned the thought processes of the religious. It seemed that non-secular folks seemed to tailor their religion to suit themselves, when it seems it should have been the other way around. Zayde only went to Temple once a year, on the high holidays, and Lloyd could never reconcile the fact that God somehow forgave all sins just by saying sorry. That was what Yom Kippur was for. AAtone for your sins. Fast for the day. All is forgiven,@ said Zayde. Murder someone? Fine, Rape? Fine. All is forgiven. Oh, But never consort with a black woman, he said. The schvartzes! Straight to hell. Though there was no real concept of hell in the Jewish teachings, so Lloyd was never really sure what the consequences were of angering God. Or G-d as he was taught in Hebrew school. Hey Lloyd, you lived a wonderful life, welcome to heaven. But God, I killed 7 people and ate their livers for sustenance. That is no problem my son, you asked for forgiveness and that is what you shall have. But remember that one time when I raped my neighbor=s wife? That is way worse than coveting her. No problem again my son, you went to Temple once a year. You are absolved. But God, I was a lawyer. Don=t push your luck, my child. His friend Henry was a Protestant, and always worried about being sent to hell. Don=t eat your meat? Going to hell. Say goddammit? Oh man, there is no turning back from that. He used to have to go deep into the bowels of his house to rifle through his father=s old swank magazines. The basement was foreboding and scary, but Henry had important business to take care of. His mom once caught him down there abusing himself and she sent him to bible camp without passing go. He ended up feeling his first tit while there and was eternally grateful. Religion was currently at the foreskin, make that the forefront of Lloyd=s life at the moment. He was just a month away from his bar mitzvah, the ceremony marking a young Jewish boy=s entry into manhood. Another thing that didn=t make sense to him. The slow kid in his class, Bobby Capici

was 12 and had a mustache. Now that was an entry into manhood. He heard that Bobby got a blowjob from Gail Assisi, which was the talk of the school. No one knew what it meant, though, so Lloyd asked his father what a blowjob was. His dad replied it was when a girl blows into a boys mouth and fills his cheeks with air. Lloyd didn=t see what the big deal was. He then asked his dad what a cunt was, as he had heard that term recently. It=s a bad person, replied his dad. The next day in history class they were learning about World War II and Adolf Hitler. The teacher asked what Hitler was, and Lloyd excitedly raised his hand and yelled, AHe=s a cunt!!!@ His father had to talk to the principal to get Lloyd out of detention for that one. For 4 years, he attended Hebrew School. Four years of slogging every Tuesday and Thursday to the bus and then walking a mile the old decrepit Temple where school was held. Four long years to learn an obsolete and useless language. Strange looking hieroglyphic-like letters that were to be read right to left, with no vowels. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. No wonder everyone hated the Jews. What was the point of the whole thing? What possible benefits could be gained by reading a language but not understanding it? Four years, and Lloyd had no clue what any of the words that he was Areading@ meant. They didn=t even teach what they meant. Just read them, the teachers would say, God will understand. That never made any sense to him. He took Spanish in school, he knew how to say about a hundred or so words. That made sense. Learning a foreign language. Hebrew was an alien language. Like from outer space alien, not the illegal across the border type, hombre. And he was supposed to believe the stories? Moses parted the red sea with a gesture of his hands? A bush burned for a long time, a dude lived in a whale? At Hebrew school, his Old Testament teacher was Mrs. Lipschitz, and Lloyd took immense pleasure in goading her on. AMrs. Lip Shits?@as Lloyd purposely pronounced it, which always left Mark AMoshe@ Greenleaf tittering in the back row. AYes, Lloyshen?@ Of course you needed to be called by a Jewish name. Lloyshen. As if Lloyd wasn=t bad enough. Lloyshen asked the question in as sincere a voice as he muster. AWhy are Jewish people thought to be cheap? My Uncle Herman and Aunt Bernice

spend 20 minutes dividing up the restaurant check with her sister and brothers. A Lloyd affected a ridiculously Jewish caricature accent. AMarvin, Lloyd had a 7 up, not water, like my Steven did, so you owe thirty one dollars and 13 cents, and I tabulated our meals which came out to twenty nine dollars and sixty seven cents, so our tip is two dollars and ninety seven cents, wait, wait gimme another nickel...@ To say Mrs. Lipshitz was exasperated was an understatement. ALloyd Kulligan our people have not suffered for five thousand years for you to be repeating ugly stereotypes, especially regarding your own family, have you no shame?@ but she was overmatched. She was 67 years old and had taught little shits like Lloyd for 44 years and was tired of his type. ABut Miss Lip Shits@, Lloyd continued, Athe waitress didn=t deserve her tip, My Aunt had to keep sending back her soup, it was too hot, then too cold, then too hot. And they hated the food. Plus the portions were so small...@ ALloyd stop it this minute...@ Idelle Lipshitz didn=t need this and Lloyd knew it. But he was on a roll. AOy vey, could you imagine being a waitress at a Jewish Restaurant? All complaints and no tips. That has to be the worst job in the world. They probably get more complaints than the IRS.@ Moshe fell out of his chair he was laughing so hard. She struggled mightily to get back on topic. AThe Israelites marched through the desert for 40 years to find their home...@ ASomeone must have dropped a wallet@, yelled Lloyd. Her patience was pushed to the limit though she had no clue of the depravity that ran through his head. Irving, I=m home! Irving Lipshitz, a 69 year old yarmulke salesman, gallops into the room on all fours, buck naked, except for the authentic Roy Rogers saddle straddling his back. He whinnies, as Idelle Lipshitz coyly takes off her babushka and her thigh high legging supporters. Are you going to mount me like the stud you are, Adolph? I am going to take this horsewhip and make you bleed!

Yes, Eva, YES.... He was sent to spend the rest of the day with Rabbi Schmeulik. The learned Rabbi had a story at hand. ALloyshen, I have a story to tell you. It is about Avi and Chaim, and is about dignity. Please listen... He began to tell the story... >Avi, fancy meeting you here. I thought that I was the only one who knew this shortcut home from school. Not at all Chaim. I have been going this way for a long time. I like walking past these new homes. Look at that one, the front door is wide open. Wow, you can see straight into the house. Hmmm. That is really interesting. It looks like they are doing some remodeling in there. Avi, should you be looking into someone's front door? Well, they left it wide open. They must know that people will look in. I see that they have left it open. But I still do not think that we should look in. After all, looking into someone's home is an invasion of privacy. People do things inside of their homes that they do not want others to see. I guess you're right Chaim. But why do they build their home in such a way that you can see right into the front door from the street? That's a good question Avi. The homes should be built to provide more privacy. Just as it was in the desert. The desert? Who has a private home in the desert? The Jewish people's homes were very private during their wanderings in the desert over three thousand years ago. Didn't they live in tents? They surely did. Tents are not very private. Usually not, Avi. However, they were very careful to pitch their tents in such a way that no two openings faced each other. That is not so easy to do. How do you know that Chaim?

It is in this week's parsha Avi. Bilaam HaRasha, the wicked Bilaam wanted to curse the Jewish people. G-d would not allow him to curse us. He only let him bless us. He went to the top of a mountain and looked down on the Jewish encampment. He said, "How good are your tents, Jacob, your dwellings, Israel". Rashi comments that Bilaam saw that the openings of their tents were not facing each other. This was a true blessing, complimenting the tznius (that means dignity) of the Jewish people. They respected each other's privacy. They would not look into each other's homes. I see what you mean, Chaim. Looking into someone's house is really prying into their business. We have no right to do that. It shows a lack of self respect and respect for the other person. Exactly Avi. One of the trademarks of the Jewish people has always been our tznius. We express it in many ways. Our clothing, manner of speech, even the way we walk, all reflect our dignity. Chaim, I am so proud to be a member of this people. We have maintained our dignity through the many struggles of our three thousand years of history. I have to make my effort to carry on the tradition. I will try never to look into someone's home again. I won=t even think of asking them a personal question. Avi, I am going to stand up the next time that you walk into the room. Why Chaim? Because I am in the company of a visiting dignitary. ASo, Lloyd,@ the contemplative rabbi asked Ado you understand what that story is preaching?@ AHaha, you said, pitching a tent,@ Lloyd boasted. AGo back to class, Lloyd.@ One more month, thought the Rabbi, one more month. I am going to sabotage his bar mitzphah. I am going to put a whole new Hebrew page in front of him, he won=t be able to read it, and he will stumble and stumble, oy that would bring me such naches. Oh lord, forgive me for thinking such vile thoughts. But can=t you make him screw up yourself? Maybe stumble and start crying up on stage? That would be nice. Oh lord there I go again. Please forgive me for wishing Lloyshen ill. But maybe just a little fuckup?

The Bar mitzphah came and went with just one minor hitch Before the ceremony, it was learned that Lloyd would not be wearing a yarmulke or a tallis. The Rabbi was a progressive and this was a reformed temple. Pretty much the polar opposite of Zayde Lionel=s orthodox synagogue. They were trying to move away from the antiquated notions that had been sustaining the Jews for lo these five thousand years. The Reform Temple ideals were supposed to tap into the zeitgeist of the upwardly mobile suburban Jewish families of the late 20th century. Lloyd didn=t understand the uproar, but the usual ironies of religion always amused him. How was it possible a Rabbi did NOT want a yarmulke, the cherished headwear that connects Jews to their god, and the tallis, the scarve like garments worn over the shoulders. Was he afraid it made the bar mitzphah boys look too Jewish? The noses and curly hair took care of that, thought Lloyd. On the day of the blessed event, Lloyd stood on the dais fluently reading words without vowels with no meaning whatsoever to him. No one in the audience knew either. For all he knew, he might have been praising Hitler and assailing the Jews for murdering Jesus. It was rather farcical to Lloyd. He considered just making up words but he feared the Rabbi would nullify the whole thing, and he might not qualify for all the money he was going to reap from his family and friends. And when he was done, he officially entered the hallowed halls of Jewish manhood. Yet he still barely had any pubes. Didn=t make a difference, he didn=t care. He was done. His bar mitzphah party was held in a moderate hotel in downtown Chicago. It was a baseball theme. Each table had different flower arrangements in the name of Lloyd=s favorite Cub players. The Larry Biittner table was for distant relatives on his mom=s side, The Ivan Dejesus was for his school friends, and Lloyd himself was seated with his family at the Bill Buckner table. That=s right. Bill Buckner played for the Cubs, before his infamy with the Red Sox. And he was Lloyd=s all-time favorite Cub. A sweet swinging lefty first baseman who gimped around the bases on a bum ankle. And later in life, it pissed Lloyd off to no end that all Billy Buck is remembered for is missing a ground ball in the World Series. Lloyd would rant and rave till no end about it. ACalvin Schiraldi is the real goat. The Red Sox were up 2 in the 10th and he blew it. And it was Game 6! They could have won game 7. Bill Buckner should not have the legacy he has. Being a Cub fan was like a perpetual Charlie Brown trying to kick the football, and the world was Lucy. Just like he was a self hating jew, he was also a self hating Cub fan.

Same thing with Steve Bartman. Only dumb baseball fans would blame him for the Cubs demise in 2003. He was a fan going after a foul ball. If he wasn=t wearing that hat and headphones and looking nerdy no one would have taken a second thought. Moises Alou, throwing that tantrum was babyish, the ball was in the stands. And good old Dusty Baker not visiting Prior at the mound during the whole debacle of that inning. Nice Managing Moron. And then Alex Gonzales blows an easy double play ball. Now there is someone who should be thanking his lucky stars. Alex Gonzales should be remembered like Leon Durham and Bill Buckner before him. No No, blame Bartman. You retard Cub fans, have another drink , you drunken frat boy douches. And a dessert table. Their must be a dessert table. The dessert table at a Jewish wedding or bar mitzphah is on par with the open bar at a Gentile wedding. I don=t know who would be more angry, a Jew at an event without a dessert table, or a goy at a wedding with a cash bar. Close call. One of the main benefits of attending a bar mitzphah, or bat mitzphah as it is called for the young ladies, was the dancing. The family would hire a band to play popular hits of the time. The band was Kiki and the Vanwalkers, whatever in hell a vanwalker was, and they kept the crowd pumped with the latest from Styx, Toto, and the Gap Band. And the requisite Celebration, by Kool and the Gang.

But what all the kids were waiting for was the traditional champagne snowball dance. Now, the regular snowball dance, that was no big deal. When the emcee said snowball, you switched partners. Very sedate. But add the champagne to it. Yikes. That meant kissing your partner goodbye. A very, very, very big thing for 13 year olds. In the scheme of things it didn=t count for anything, because it was part of the game. But Lloyd had never kissed a girl until these things came along. In retrospect it seems like it should have been an even bigger deal than it was. No one considered a champagne snowball kiss a real kiss, or their first kiss. But a kiss is a kiss. One time all the cool kids somehow ended up at Lloyd=s house and were playing spin the bottle and truth or dare in his back yard. How they all ended up there remains lost to the history books, but all Lloyd remembers is that the bottle somehow never ended up on him. It would get close and every girl who spun it would come up with some excuse of why it wasn=t pointed at him. But in truth or dare, he was dared to go into his shed with Michelle Fishman, an attractive young lady that Lloyd currently had a crush on. There were

about 9 that he currently had a crush on, so the odds were with him as it were. His excitement level peaked as he anticipated what was about to ensue behind the closed doors of his moldy woodshed. This is it! Finally going to make out! She has to do it, I mean there is no way around it. This is going to rule. I hope my breathe is ok. God I had onions for lunch, oh man that is going to gross her out and she is going to mock me. And what if I kiss funny, oh god, what if my lips are all chappy and dry and she starts laughing?This is going to be horrible. I am going to be mocked forever, Jesus Christ I don=t want to go in that shed. This is going to ruin me. All my life I want to kiss a girl and here it is and I am going to blow it. This is hell. They went in the shed and he immediately closed his eyes and pursed his lips for what seemed like an eternity. Finally Michelle asked him just what the hell he was doing. He stammered, AUh, nothing,@ and they stumbled out of the shed to uproarious laughter from the others. Lloyd didn=t get what they were laughing at, but he went along with it and gave a thumbs up. They laughed even harder. Anyhow, back at the bar mitzphah it was time for Lloyd to choose the lucky girl to dance with him in the champagne snowball. All the girls crowded around in a circle. There was Jill Cohen, his best girl friend since 1st grade, he was still good friends with her. And Karen, his confidant and female companion. There was NaSheen, his supposed girl friend. And Laurie, the girl of his dreams. There was a look of anticipation on their faces, as it was an honor to be chosen first, even if it was just Lloyd Kulligan, a mildly athletic, mildly asthmatic, non threatening, nondescript beanpole of a fellow. Oh man, who to pick, I should pick Karen, she deserves it, she really understands me. Or Jill, I have known her so long. Laurie, oh man, I don=t have the balls to ask her, look how hot she looks in that dress. I can=t do it. I just can=t. I am going to ask Karen, that is the right choice. Cathy will you dance with me? What the fuck did you just do? Cathy Melraz?, you barely know her, and she has always shown disdain for you. You are an idiot, nice job Slick. She didn=t kiss him when the emcee yelled AChampagne!@ He spent another part of his own bar mitzphah crying in the bathroom, after which he stumbled into Laurie making out with his friend Jeff Nieber in the coatroom.

Nieber was kind of a loose cannon and that is what drew Lloyd to him. He didn=t care what other people thought about him and he strolled through life with a reckless abandon that was the complete opposite of Lloyd. All Lloyd cared about was what people thought of him, his look, his walk, his face, his hair, his nostrils, his ear shape, very important stuff. Nieber wore sweat pants and tees all the time and had disheveled hair and told girls they were ugly. And they loved him for it, apparently. It would take another 20 years before Lloyd figured out that confidence wins out overall no matter the package it comes in. Though even then he was never confident and comfortable enough to try it out himself. One day in the hall at school Nieber dragged Lloyd over to gaze at Sandy Kriss and her hot legs. He and Lloyd sauntered over to her and Nieber subtly kept nodding down. Sandy was wearing a skirt, showing a lot of eighth grade leg, the thought of which normally would send Lloyd fleeing to his hand lotion. But he couldn=t do that at school. Could he? I could go into the bathroom stall, who would know? I could be grunting from a big shit, what do they know? Note to self. Consider it. Anyhow, Lloyd couldn=t figure out what Jeff was up to until he glanced down. Nieber had affixed a dentist=s mirror to his shoes and had put his foot directly under the unsuspecting young lady=s pantaloons. He angled his foot so that he could see just a hint of the pink smurf panties that Miss Kriss was wearing. He smirked and winked at Lloyd and strolled down the hall to Miss Stewart, the insanely hot art teacher who was currently clad in an inappropriately sexy red miniskirt. He got away with it. Back to the champagne snowball, Lloyd continued his slow dance to nowhere with Cathy and caught a glimpse of Karen, who looked disappointed. It would not be the last time he disappointed a woman. He had invited most of his schoolmates to the big shindig. One glaring omission was Marty Fiffton. Fiffton made Lloyd=s life a living hell whenever he was around. His sole purpose and satisfaction in life seemed to be tormenting Lloyd . He was his personal punching bag. Every day Lloyd would search the halls for him and deeply inhale with relief when he didn=t see him. Inevitably he would turn a corner right into Fiffton=s fist. He never retaliated. Ever. It wasn=t like in the movies where the bullying victim garners the courage to fight back, and all the kids watching start clapping rhythmically in appreciation and respect. In retrospect the bullying was minor, and if you asked Fiffton today, he

wouldn=t even remember it, not like those after school specials where the grown man tearfully goes to the door of his victim and begs forgiveness. That aint going to happen. There would be days when Lloyd would wake up and really just feel like shit and be groggy and be in no mood for school. Indubitably, Fiffton somehow possessed a sixth sense in which he would somehow seize on Lloyd=s gloom and ramp up the punching and bullying. It was amazing to Lloyd how he did it. He wondered if he gave off some minute aroma that triggered the bullying reaction in Fiffton. He figured that would serve Fiffton well when he inevitably served his time in prison. It is also a hallmark of the afte- school special for the hero to rise to the occasion and confidently confront the bully and put an end to the terror for once and for all. Usually that involved punching the person back and beating them at their own game, for you know, all bullies are just wimps inside. Like his neighbor, Mitnick. So one day, Lloyd mustered up the courage to confront Fiffton, not with his fists but with his words. I will tell him how his bullying makes me feel scared to come to school and that could he please take pity on me and leave me alone. I am appealing to your sense of fairness, man. You are such a cool dude, why focus your energies on negative traits instead of positive ones. I think he will really think that is cool of me, to be thinking of him in those terms. I don=t know, maybe we would turn into friends, and one day he will thank me for telling him that. Thanks, Lloyd, that means a lot to me, my parents neglect me and while I am not physically abused by my father, he does abuse me emotionally, Lloyd, that is why I lash out at you. I...I...will stop, oh god, Daddy! Daddy why do you yell? I will eat all of my Cocoa puffs, I promise! I know you don=t print your own money. I am not ugly, daddy. I am not ugly...I HATE YOU.... The next day he mustered up all the courage he could and went up to Marty. AMarty, your bullying makes me feel too scared to come to school and could you please take pity on me and leave me alone. I am appealing to your sense of fairness. You are such a cool dude man, why focus your energies on negative traits instead of positive ones and...@ Marty punched him in the ear. He had never done that before. Later on that day he would piss on Danny Tremski in the gym showers. So at least Lloyd had some company. Towards the end of the school year, it was time to start making the mental transition to high school. No more grammar school. No

more nerdiness. No more Fiffton! On the last day of school, the kids received an envelope with their home room assignments for the next four years of high school. The room they would report to at the beginning of each day. It was a huge high school, 500 incoming freshman in at least 20 different home rooms. Lloyd thought to himself, finally, finally I will be rid of him. Lloyd opened his envelope. Room 204. Unbelievably, Karen got the same one. After three years together in junior high, they would be together again in high school. He was really excited. Fiffton opened his envelope. Room 204. Lloyd buried his head in his hands and silently whimpered. Chapter 6 With high school dawning just a few weeks away, Lloyd went on an introductory tour of the high school, led by a student tour guide. The main point of her lecture was a warning that high school was much tougher than elementary school and would require a heightened level of studiousness. He was momentously fazed by this development and found himself alarmed at that reality. His mother was adamantly sure that he was a top notch student and should be in top notch classes to match. His elementary school grades spoke otherwise. Undeterred, she took it upon herself to personally speak with the administrators and was pointedly adamant that he be admitted into some honors level classes. The administrators fairly pointed out that his straight Caverage over the last 2 years of grammar school did not qualify him for such lofty status. But his mother would not be swayed and much to his own chagrin, and as a compromise with the administration, Lloyd was entered into the Honors English program. Merrill Kulligan was a force of nature. She was the dictator of the family and would have a hand in most of Lloyd=s life decisions all the way up and through parts of his marriage. She was a loving mother and was devoted to her children, and they were almost cultlike in their devotion back to her. She stood out in the mostly bland Stepford like town they grew up in. She didn=t involve herself in her kid=s lives like the other mothers did. She didn=t come to many school events, she didn=t cook for the bake sales, she didn=t participate in the PTA, and she didn=t base her life around her children, which caused much consternation amongst the other mothers. She had a very standoffish manner that tended to make people think she had airs about her. But she didn=t, she just didn=t care like they did.

Growing up, Lloyd and his sister knew not to expect her to involve herself in school functions and held no resentment towards her for it. She was a fiercely intelligent woman who gave up a rewarding career in teaching to raise her two children. She had an unorthodox mothering style that seemed odd to others but worked for the Kulligans. She was a voracious reader and would stay up until 4 a.m. each night pouring through library books. In his late teen years Lloyd would come home in the middle of the night to find her engrossed in her reading. She was never waiting up for him like a worrier, she was just up reading. It was always comforting to Lloyd. She was always bemused by her son and his various predicaments he brought upon himself, be it his lack of self esteem, his underachieving ways, or his usual befuddlement. ASlow to grow, slow to grow@, she would say to him, and that always soothed him. He was slow to grow in many ways and it would be a hindrance for him his whole life.. She was also the funniest person Lloyd ever knew. She had a quick wit and did not suffer fools gladly. One time on vacation, they were in a hotel, and she called the front desk looking for scissors. The clerk at the front desk said that they didn=t allow guests to borrow scissors. Well that made no sense to her. AWhat do you mean, you don=t have scissors@, she asked. AI am sorry, Ma=am, it is hotel policy.@ the overmatched clerk replied. ASo, I can=t get any scissors?,@ she calmly asked. AThat is correct.@ AWell, I just gave birth! How am I supposed to cut the umbilical cord?!@ she shrieked. The scissors were delivered. She was known for her quirkiness and one such vagary was her staunch determination to not have any overdue library books. On the due date, she would direct Lloyd=s dad to drop everything and head straight to the library to return her books. The fine was all of five cents a day, Nate Kulligan would say, we can afford it. Merrill would scream at him to do it and he would comply. The money wasn=t the problem, it was her deep fear that the library would ban her if she kept returning her books late.

Palmer=s Grove was not a town known for its culture or intellect. For many years there was a ban at the town=s swimming pool disallowing people from bringing books into the facility. Let that one sink in for awhile. Apparently the village puritans were worried that the ink would get in the water or some gibberish like that. Merrill Kulligan attended a town board meeting to protest the absurdity of the law. She passionately and mockingly expressed her feelings on the matter to the perplexed board of senile old men and virulent racists. After careful and thoughtful consideration, the town president replied, AAre you some sort of intellectual or something?@ like she was in front of Joseph McCarthey in 1954. Though in fairness, the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities was way less offensive. In the end the board removed the stupid ban, while most likely muttering Astupid Jews@ under their breath and vowing to ban bar mitzphahs. Merrill would rise at 7 each morning to make breakfast for the kids and send them off to school. She would then take the phone of the hook, crawl back into bed, and go back to sleep until noon. She saw her kids off like every other mother. She was charitably known as a character. She liked going to botanic gardens and when no one was looking she would snip a flower, most likely a gardenia, which were her favorite. She could do no wrong in Lloyd=s eyes, and he was extremely devoted to her and sometimes she would catch him staring at her lovingly. AWhat is it, Eddie?@ she would say. Eddie was her affectionate name for him. Lloyd was hopeful that in high school he could somehow change his image, though how do you change invisible? His first week of school was daunting, lots of new people, and of course, new girls. Maybe they would give him the time of day. In his first week he was sauntering the halls and came up upon one such new girl, the name long forgotten. She had a strangely angled face and beady, prick eyes and a crooked ugly mouth. Sort of like a trout. Goodness, he loved girls with prick eyes, the kind that look permanently squinty and menacing. He felt the familiar beads of sweat forming in his anus and his forehead starting dripping. He was trying to be casual, and in an effort to instigate some form of conversation, but before he could she pointed at his head, laughed, and asked him if he had ever had a haircut. For extra emphasis and one more twist of the blade, she wondered why it looked like it housed cobwebs and when the Bozo tryouts were scheduled. Only four years to go.

He returned to his locker where his supposed best friend Chris had taken his brand new kickass, lime green and yellow Oakland A=s satin jacket and glued pieces of yellow paper all over it. Chris also had taken to mocking everything Lloyd wore and how he behaved. If he had a jacket he really liked, Chris would say he looked stupid, if he dared wear loafers instead of gym shoes, Chris would point and laugh. They had been friends since kindergarten. Everybody had to change in high school, apparently. It did a lot of damage to Lloyd=s ego that his good friend of so many years took to lambasting him and it contributed deeply towards his bourgeoning case of severe lack of self esteem. He found some solace with his sense of humor. He was making a lot of new friends. Mostly male, of course. There was one good thing to come out of his aforementioned honors English foray, besides his solid C grade the first semester and even solider D, the second. He had no business being in the class from the get go, learning about Greek entymology and the synopses of predicated ellipsi or whatever. He was way out of his league academically, but some of the dorks did make him feel better about his social standing. But the class was notable for one thing. That is where he met his lifelong friend Steve. The teacher was Mr. Slattery, a failed theater fag with a falsetto voice and a southern, genteel manner, and Lloyd did a spot on imitation of him. The theatrical hand motions and the effete voice sent Steve into hysterics. AI don=t unduhstahn wah yu ah in this clahss, Lloyyyyyyd. You done seem to wanna learn, wah is thaht.@ he would routinely ask Lloyd. AMy mommy thinks I is smart@, Lloyd would answer. AToo smaht for your own good I might dare say, hoo hoo.@ Mr. Slattery was fired two years later for banging a sophomore girl in the rafters of the school theater, shocking the crap out of Lloyd. ADoan judth a book by itth cover@ he said to Steve. Being somewhat of a social outcast, he decided to seek out some after school activities to join, and he tried out for the freshman baseball team. He was a real good fielder, exceptionally slow on the bases, and couldn=t hit the ball out of the infield. Surprisingly those skills carried over to the tryouts. He actually made it through the first round, and stumbled just a bit in the second round, whiffing on 20 of the 20 pitches thrown to him. At one point they timed everyone on their speed to first base. When Lloyd finally made it there, the coach told him to go back and pick up the piano he was lugging behind him and not to bother coming back the next day.

There was a computer club that he tried, but he found the programming aspect tedious and he quit. Way to think ahead there, Bill Gates. So, he settled on nothing, which would proudly continue for the rest of his high school years, adding a nice emptiness to his college applications. As to the silly girl who mentioned that high school was tougher than elementary, Lloyd scoffed and proudly displayed his 2.2 GPA to all who asked after his Freshman year. It was at this time that he got his first job. A friend of a friend was a busboy at The SteakJoynt, a restaurant in town that his family had never, ever frequented. In fact they had never eaten at a place with the word steak or joint in it. It was gentile central, in fact, it is unlikely a Jewish person ever stepped foot in there. It was wood paneled with nice tablecloths and candles on each table, pretty much exactly how Jews pictured Hitler ate his meals. But in truth it was mostly members of the Elks Club and the local Moose lodge, two other notoriously Jew-lacking organizations. Lloyd was to be a busboy working eight hour shifts. His first day they put him right to work. From 4 till Midnight. Lloyd was clearing tables, filling water glasses, mopping the bathroom. Pure hell. Afterwards he was told he was going to get paid under the table, which perplexed him. Was he supposed to sit under there and wait for a hand to give him the money? One patron, asked him his name, and Lloyd replied, ALloyd Kulligan, sir.@ AKulligan?@ he answered with a patronizing tone, AThat aint no Jew name. You look like a kike. Hey that rhymes like a kike. Heh, Hey do you know what they said on Hitler=s birthday? Lets bake a kike!! Hahaha.@ He pulled out a cigar and sniffed his brandy. Two more things Jews never did.. Lloyd parents let him quit after a month, after he lied to them and told them the manager called the waitresses Acunts@ and that he had Nazi paraphernalia hanging in his office. The cunt part was true. And he knew what it meant by now. After a well deserved six month sabbatical, he got a job at the Orchard Theater as an usher. It was the same ill fated movie house where NaSheen had spurned him so callously two years previous. This job suited him a bit more than the busboy one. Cleaning up the theaters after shows was easier than trying to keep the members of the Knights of the Klans=glasses filled, anyway.

He enjoyed movies and came to be friends with many of the other ushers. Lloyd was able to hone his comedic skills as plenty of the other ushers were goof-offs like himself. They took particular pleasure in enacting their own sociological tests on the unknowing patrons. Lines of people would stretch around the building for popular movies, and as they poured through the doors like the sheep that they were, Lloyd and his cohorts would take the tickets and randomly insult them. They would throw in expletives amongst the usual platitudes, because they knew that no one ever paid a whit of attention to what they were saying. ABig Chill to your left in theater 3.@ ABig Chill to your left in theater 3.@ ABig Chill to your left in theater 3.@ ABig Chill to your left in theater 3, asshole.@ABig Chill to your left in theater 3.@ABig Chill to your left in theater 3.@ ABig Chill to your left in theater 3.@ ABig Chill to your left in theater 3, your mother=s a whore.@ ABig Chill to your left in theater 3.@ No one ever noticed. Another time, one of the other ushers lied down in the supply closet and stuck his hand out the door like he was passed out dead on the floor. People just stepped over the hand and continued on. It was priceless. Got to get a good seat! Another thing the ushers did to amuse themselves was to go into a movie just as it was ending, and right at the end, maybe right after the main character had died or something gayly emotional happened, the two ushers would stand on each side of the theater and start clapping in unison. Inevitably it would get the whole crowd doing it. The slow clap was the best. Clap......clap.......clap........clap...clap clap clap clap clap. It was an early lesson to Lloyd in something he dubbed the sheep effect. People would just follow the others instead of thinking for themselves. The hive mentality. Many times people would line up 20-30 people deep in one line while the other side was empty and the usher would have to tell people to come over to him. He would notice the sheep effect many times in his life. He also saw more than his share of crazy things at the theater. One time he was summoned by a patron, that was what you had to call them, patrons, who was complaining about a couple engaging in physical activities in the back of the theater. Lloyd went to check and saw a head bobbing up and down in the lap of a rather happy looking fellow. As he got closer he saw that it was two men. He let the manager handle that one. The theater was in a town that had a rather large, elderly, Jewish population and when Yentl opened it was pretty much a national holiday. They lined up around the building, creaking with anticipation.. As Lloyd took their tickets he would speak to them in Yiddish, which he had picked up over the years from his grandparents. AHello shegetz (female drunk), hello shicker (male

drunk), ultacochers (old farts) to the left ! Schvartzers (black ethnic slur) to the right! Shockingly none of them heard him. By sheer coincidence (rolls eyes), that day set a record for customer complaints Another benefit was it was easy to tear peoples tickets and not give them back the other half, allowing the usher to keep the full ticket for himself, for use at any time. He had a whole slew of them at home, that he doled out to his friends. Other times, kids from school would come by and ask to be let in, and out of some misguided notion that it would make him cool, he would let them pass. He neglected to take into account that the powder blue suit jacket, the face full of acne, the incredibly poor posture and the clip on bow tie pretty much rendered coolness impossible. In one of the theaters there was a private room up above the actual seats where dignitaries were able to watch the movie in privacy. It was empty most of the time, so Lloyd would sit there many times during his breaks and memorize the movies and yell at the screen. People would be looking around and shushing people behind them and look flummoxed. They had no clue to actually you know, maybe look up. It didn=t figure into their psyche at all. He learned a lot about sociology during this profession. The room was also good for masturbating. Especially during Debra Winger=s death scene in Terms of Endearment. There was a mental home next door and sometimes some of the residents would come see the movies. One guy was especially creepy as he was always trying to talk to Lloyd about comet, Mayan death rituals, and the second coming. Comets were Jesus= ejaculations and if one hits earth, it would birth itself into Jesus 2. Like a sequel to a movie. He said Jesus II was coming soon. And that he would shoot nonbelievers with his homemade potato cannon. Lloyd made the mistake once of egging him on by asking what kind of potatoes Jesus would use, he guessed Russet, and the guy stared at him for two minutes straight without saying a word. He finally said, AYou remind me of my brother.@ Lloyd later found out he had murdered his brother with a pickaxe. Some of the ushers themselves were pretty strange. Sherman was about 24 and had been working there for 6 years, which was really long. And odd. One night he asked Lloyd if he wanted to go out with him and some other guys. Lloyd didn=t really want to, but he figured he had nothing better to do. Sherman picked him up at home. Just Sherman. He said the other guys cancelled. All they ended up doing was driving around desolate areas of Chicago, with the guy alternatively crying and screaming about his dead fiancé, and how he still contacts her through seance=s and that she had told him it was ok to be attracted to young boys. Lloyd told him it was time for him to go home as he was due back on planet earth. He was channeling

Woody Allen in Annie Hall, and Sherman was just as weird as Christopher Walken. The dude started crying again and asked Lloyd if he could touch his thighs. Sherman quit two weeks later and joined a monastery. As an adult, Lloyd always thought that it made a perfect place to set a sitcom, but he was too lazy to put any effort into writing it. One night he went with one of his usher friends, Vince and one of the candy girls, Vanessa, to an underage nightclub in the area. Vanessa was exceptionally attractive and as such, Lloyd stammered and acted like the usual neutered puppy he did around all attractive women. The only time he could be himself was when he was bitching about not every having any girlfriends and never having kissed a girl, and how he is always nervous around them, and could she help him figure it out, and does she think he is attractive at all, and would a girl want to kiss him ever? Yeah, it took a real Sherlock Holmes to figure out why it had never happened. Once they pulled into the bar parking lot, Vince pulled out some metal contraption and a bag of green stuff. Marijuana. Lloyd had never seen it before, and he had no urge to even try it. SCARY VILE WEED. Don=t do drugs and all that bullshit. It still scared him. He had his first beer recently, one can, and he woke up in the middle of the night with the room spinning. He woke up and started panicking that he had a brain tumor and got out of bed and fell onto one of the many splotchy parts of his carpet. He tasted vomit in his throat and rushed to the toilet and puked his guts out. He never had another Schlitz. Beginning a trend that would last deep into his 20's, he went into the bar with his two baked friends, found a spot in the back and proceeded to stare daggers in the chests of all the hot girls, never even coming close to making any sort of physical, let alone verbal contact. Vince and Vanessa ended up getting it on and Lloyd had to drive them around while they fooled around in the back. His anger boiled over and he slammed the brakes really hard at a red light and they smashed into his seat. Lloyd told them a squirrel darted across the road. He masturbated really angrily that night and didn=t care at all about cleaning his carpet. Later that summer, he was hanging out with a bunch of kids and one of them whipped out a joint. He decided he would finally partake and take his first Ahit@of the devil weed. That=s what he said, AI=ll have a hit@, and everyone laughed at his efforts to seem cool. He took the one hitter, he was hip with the lingo by now, and inhaled deeply. He choked out half a lung and went on a massive coughing jag, much to the stoned laughter of the other dudes. He tried again, this time inhaling slower. A small buzz came over him, but he didn=t think it was that big a deal.

The group headed out to see the movie Risky Business. It was at Lloyd=s theater and all the dudes were making Lloyd get them in free. He was stoned and didn=t want any of his coworkers to see him. But peer pressure is a bitch and he found himself talking to Vince at the front door. Vince told him his eyes were redder than menstrual blood, which made Lloyd start choking again. Vince let him go into the theater and Lloyd held the back door open and let the other guys in. As luck would have it, after the movie Lloyd ran smack into his parents, who had just seen the same movie. He broke out into a huge sweat. He knew he was caught green handed, it had to be written all over his face. The skunky stench, the bloodshot eyes, the stupid giggling. He tried to play it cool, but he knew it was all over. His father asked if he liked the movie and Lloyd mumbled something about it being funny. His father was a lawyer, he knew criminals when he saw one. Lloyd was dead meat. His father sternly looked at him and asked him why he looked so guilty. Lloyd started to tear up, he was halfway to boarding school, he knew it. His dad smiled and said, AHow did you get into an R rated movie, you rapscallion@, and headed off to the car chuckling. I believe that is what pilots refer to as a near miss. Two months later Lloyd and Ellen found a bag full of weed in their parents dresser. How about that. By his junior year, Lloyd had sprouted to 6'1 but had gained no weight and was 150 pounds wet. He looked just like an upside down broomstick. His self esteem was plummeting like the Challenger, and his self image was non existent, crushed by the merciless rejection of every girl in school. The truth was that they didn=t even notice him, and he made no effort to make them. But try telling that to a broomstick. His only solace was his sick brain. Holy crap, Rachel Mencina is wearing a miniskirt. I wonder what color underwear she has on. Her pubic hair is right under that material. I mean it is right there. Right at the top of her legs. And her thighs are right there too. She is naked under those clothes. I want to look at her naked. Mind you, he wasn=t thinking of Afucking@ her or grabbing her. No, no. Just picturing her naked. What a dork. He was too naive to think anything more obscene than that. Those impurities would pollute his brain later down the line. He hadn=t quite honed and perfected his creepiness to the high art form it would eventually and inevitably evolve into in his later years. She has nice boobs. I wonder what boobs feel like. I bet just like silly putty, they just mold in your hands and stay that way. And the hand prints just stay there for a few seconds and then fade away.

He didn=t even allow himself to even contemplate what a vagina looked like up close or what sex felt like. It was like contemplating what the surface of the moon felt like under his feet. And he was more likely to walk on the moon than get a little feel. But oh, could he bitch about not getting any. His friend Henry was the prime recipient of the bitchfests. Henry never had trouble getting girls and Lloyd was envious and more than slightly jealous. Henry was on the short side, and Lloyd wondered why that didn=t hinder him. Henry would say he didn=t care, and that girls liked him for him being himself and being sensitive. Henry also made an effort, something that was annoyingly lost on Lloyd. Even Lloyd=s dad told him it was better to go1 for 100 than O for O. Didn=t matter, he was afraid of being mocked. Not being rejected, but being mocked for whatever his shortcomings most certainly were. Oh my god, Lloyd Culligan totally asked me out, what a loser. Who does he think he is? Someone who deserves affection from a woman? Hahahahahah. No way. Tell everybody that ugly assface Kulligan asked me out. Oh my god, did you hear Lloyd asked out blah blah blah, no way, that skinny twerp, hahahaha. And so on and so on and so on. One of Henry and Lloyd=s weekly rituals was to head out to the local park and pontificate on life=s mysteries. Henry would ponder his purpose in life and Lloyd would whine about not ever kissing a girl and just knowing that it would never happen. They would go at night because that made it just pretentious enough. With the stars and the moon. Deep questions like, Is there a god? And if so why won=t he let me kiss a girl? If there is a heaven God is going to show Lloyd the tapes of his blathering bullshit just to mock him? And also a tape of all the places he masturbated? It is going to be a long tape. After one of these marathon sessions Henry somehow convinced Lloyd to ask a girl out that he liked in his study hall group. Her name was Melanie and she was tall, pretty, with curly blond hair and a cute figure. A direct replica of his sister, Ellen. That stark realization hit him just as he was approaching her. He excused himself and went into the bathroom and masturbated in a stall. His groaning sounded like he was taking a shit, so he wasn=t worried about being caught. He never got around to asking her out. Later that year, somehow he found himself driving Henry and some homely girl named Reba to lunch and they started making out in the backseat. Lloyd would have none of that and started swerving the car back and forth until their heads banged together and Henry got a gash on his forehead. He said a squirrel darted across the road. It was turning into a ritual.

For leisure, Henry and Lloyd would go to the mall and speak in a made up language that sounded vaguely Slavic. ABorkachta beraktuka schmelkdika?@, Lloyd would ask. AMershlader kerkpta ashlemenka@ Henry would reply. They would sit by people and try to annoy them. One time some old-timer yelled at them to go back to France. ABut ve are frum schlovakia,@ Lloyd vould say. AWell go back there you foreigners,@ the old Ukrainian immigrant replied. That was the type of humor they would employ to amuse themselves. They made a good team. Henry had an alter-ego named Bill. Unfortunately, Bill was affected with downs syndrome. AMy name if Bill@. Oh man, would that inappropriately crack Lloyd up. In later years ABill@ would call Lloyd at work and leave him messages. ALloydy, this is Bee-yill. How are you tooday? I miss you.@ Ah, the good old days of political incorrectness.. Lloyd had always heard that women liked men who were funny. Well, he thought he was funny, and it didn=t get him anywhere. And years later, there was never that chance run in with some random girl from high school who confesses she always had a crush on him. That never happened. Stupid television and movies with their convenient twists and satisfying endings. By this time, Lloyd and Steve were enlisted by their nice Jewish grandmothers to join the Bnai= Brith Youth Organization, where they met other nerdy Jewish folk like themself. It turned out to be another situation where Lloyd would be placed in close proximity with other people of the female persuasion and be totally clueless. He was comfortable around Jews because he felt better than most of them. To him, most Jewish males were emasculated wusses with curly hair, who displayed above average intelligence, matched with exceedingly nerdy behavior. In his deluded mind, in the land of the blind, the one eyed man was king. He felt he didn=t look Jewish, which was a capital offense in his book. So he had that going for him. There was a pretty redhead named Debbie that he found himself attracted to. She was what he called Jew Pretty. It was the same pretense as what he felt about his own Jewish looks. She was pretty for a Jew, but not stacked up against the real goyisha girls in his high school. Land of the blind and all that. And she appeared to tolerate his presence. The big Jew dance was coming up and he figured he would ask her. But his brain was still his great enemy. She=s going to say no. she=s going to say no. this is stupid. She just likes me like a friend. You are just like a brother to me, she will say for sure. Fuck that brother shit. Does your brother want to mush your boobs?

So in his defeated fashion he stammered out the question. And as he lowered his head for the likely rejection, she shocked the hell out of him and said yes. It took his brain a split second to process this and then being the suave dude that he was he played it cool, though the sweat beading down his forehead gave him away. That gave him 7 days, or 300 hours or 18,000 minutes to ruminate over it. And he ruminate he did.. Oh man, I wonder if I will get a kiss at the end, or more! Maybe more! Should I wear a tie? A bow tie? Jeans? LOAFERS? Oh, man. She said yes, a girl is going out with me! ME! I can=t contain myself. Must masturbate. His first date ever! Everyone gave him advice. Henry told him to just be himself. Steve told him that she was Jewish, so it doesn=t really count as a real date. His Mom said he should been laid by now. AEddie, Eddie, Eddie,@ she would say as she shook her head. Lloyd wondered if he could nervous sweat through a blazer. His ass produced more precipitation than Hurricane Katrina. Steve and him referred to it as AS. Ass sweat. He was producing enough to open his own water bottling company. He didn=t sleep the night before and was a nervous wreck the whole day. By nightfall he was pacing more than the panther in Lincoln Park Zoo. When he got to her door, he stammered something about how nice she looked and she said thanks, and made no mention of his looks. His brillo pad reddish hair was styled as much as it could be, combed into a giant lump, sort of like rotten cotton candy. He escorted her to his car and by escort that means he walked next to her like a Nazi guard, and then nervously farted as he shut her door. He hoped she didn=t hear. She had. The memories of the dance and after party are lost to history, but there is one thing Lloyd would remember for the rest of his life. As the date was over he walked her to her door, and didn=t even come close to making any sort of move towards kissing her. She said bye. He said bye. The whole evening started out with the highest expectations and ended up utterly forgettable. He woke up in the middle of the night in a pool of AS. You choking piece of shit, He didn=t even try to kiss her, Harry. Llloyydd, lloydddd, the crowd is booing him after Kulligan just made his third error of the inning. This guy should be sent to the minors. Get laid? He can=t even hold a girls hand What a pussy, Steve. I know, Harry, but he sure has a strong right hand, he sure pumps that a lot, Harry. She never talked to him again after that. Was it the farting? The Sweating? The deep insecurity? No kiss at the end? He had a plethora to choose from. Another notch in the insecurity belt.

Now things sexual weren=t always against Lloyd. He had some good luck. The scrambled porn on TV was one. Another time he was scrounging the trashcans behind the local convenience store and found a whole stash of Penthouse, Oui and Playboy magazines. Oui was the classy one apparently, as the women spread their labia in a very delicate French fashion, as opposed to the Penthouse ladies who were apparently doing impressions of the Holland Tunnel. And Playboy was Playboy. Nothing but bush. No lips. The vagina lips were scary to him. He never liked seeing them. It was like looking directly into the sun, he was afraid it would blind him. That even carried over into adulthood. Another time he was driving down the road and saw a bunch of porn magazines in the middle of the road. He took them home, even though some of the pages were stuck together. In his naivete he thought it was from the cars driving over them. So he had some luck with sex. While incredibly shy and nervous around girls, he was not like that around his friends. He had English class with Henry,(by junior year Lloyd=s mother gave up and he was enrolled in regular english) and would waste the time joking around. One time Lloyd went to sharpen his pencil and looked at Henry, who was sitting directly behind Lisa Simone, the hottest girl in the class. He shoved the pencil in and out of the sharpener in an immature and hilariously sexual motion and then proceeded to put his fingers up to his mouth in the classic V style, implicating that he was performing oral sex on Miss Simone. If he would have known it would be another six years before he would even get that close to a real one, he would have thrown himself out of the window, post haste. Anyhow, Miss Simone looked up at the exact time Lloyd was cunnilinging his fingers and shot him the dirtiest look this side of Oui magazine. The look of disgust on her face was something he would not see again until his marriage. By this point his grades were pretty much nonstop in the tank, and he was constantly scrambling to maintain his C average. Doing so little work took a lot of work. In his social studies class he would cheat by writing answers on his wrist. Didn=t help during the pop quizzes. And his teacher, Mrs. Candleswipe, wasn=t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. She had to be pushing 70, he thought. Turns out she was 48. Lloyd always wondered why she never caught him cheating. It was so blatant, and he wasn=t the only one. Scott Kerflank would hide notes in his underwear and reach down there during the test. She thought he was scratching his balls and lectured him after class regarding his hygiene. On at least three occasions, Lloyd would ride his bike to school, for the specific purpose of riding home at lunch to steal his report card out of the mail. He would bike the two miles home and pray that the mail came on time. His mom didn=t check the mailbox until late in the day, but he had to

sneak around to the side of the house, hoping she wasn=t looking out the window. It was quite the reconnaissance mission. Once he got the report card he would skillfully change the type. Usually from a D to a C. And by skillfully, that meant erasing the typed out letter and typing in a new one and leaving eraser marks in the spot. Sometimes he would change his other C=s to a C just to make it look like the whole thing was symmetric. He would explain to his parents that its these newfangled computer thingees that were doing it. That excuse flew in the early 1980's. And most of the time they bought it. Though one semester they caught him and made him study every night in his room. He would inevitably crack out the Oui=s and go to work. One time Ellen caught him and shrieked. He said he was scratching his balls. She said save if for History class. She also told him he plays with himself more than an only child. He laughed and finished himself off after she left. He also had a propensity to blow off classes. Every missed class resulted in detention. They would also come in the mail, and he would tell his mom the school made a mistake and then tell her he had to stay after school for a study session. In retrospect it really made no sense. Was blowing off a class really worth being forced to stay after school? One time he asked Mrs. Candleswipe to go to the bathroom and then he never came back. He hooked up with his friend Ray and hung out in the library. If he was cool, he would have gone behind the school to smoke a doob, or sneak a drink in the bathroom. But he was a slacker, not a fuckup. Candleswipe told on him and he had to go to the Dean to explain himself. He gathered his wits about him and told him that he had explosive diarrhea and was in the bathroom the whole time. He started saying how he had cheese for lunch and that sephardic jews from Eastern Europe are prone to such maladies and that it was inherited and that he is seeing a doctor for it. Seriously, if he had expended as much energy on his studies instead of covering his tracks he would have gotten into Harvard. The dean gave him a one day detention just to get him out of the office. He was an enigma. Around males he was sarcastic, funny, edgy, and a bit cocky. But that cockiness was purely humor related and meant to amuse his friends. Women and sex were part of another world that he genuinely felt he had no part of and never would. To continue the previous analogy, they weren=t just the footing on the moon, they were the moon. He could look at it and enjoy its curves, but there was no way he would ever get there. And that feeling would last a better part of another 10 years, cementing his low self worth and confirming what he felt all along. He didn=t fantasize about fucking chicks, he fantasized about getting any attention from them at all. Have them tell them they like him, touch him. Anything. As an adult his favorite lyric of all-time was, I want you to notice when I=m not around, I wish I was special, you=re so very special. But I=m a creep, I=m a weirdo.

Man, Radiohead had him nailed. He had a thing for the Greeks. Minerva Perdaitis sat right in front of him in study hall. She has no clue who I am. None. I have sat by her for two years and she passes me in the hall like I am invisible. You are so hot. So hot. Those Mediterranean lips. Oh my god. I wish she was my girlfriend. Didididooo ddidididoooo didididooo Let=s have sex tonight, Lloyd. No, no, I want it to be special Minerva, we can just keep oralizing each other for now. Oh, Lloyd but I want to be your first, and you mine. And I would remember it forever and ever, even when I am married. Well fine, Minerva, but don=t tell your friends, I want this to be our special secret. Oh, Lloyd, your brand of self-confidence and assuredness, while also being exceedingly popular and approachable makes you just the perfect male. I am going to tell my friends we are doing it, but only because they deserve to know how thoughtful and intelligent you are. And the way you respect women is going to garner you a lot of lays after you break up with me after getting tired of the monotous sex. Thanks Minerva. One day Minerva showed up at the theater as he was taking tickets, and as he saw her he felt the familiar buildup of ass sweat beginning to form on his person, and he panicked as he tried to think of something suave and laid back to say. As she neared, she made eye contact, and a glimpse of recognition crossed her face. This was a crowning achievement, she recognized him. Something to finally hang his hat on. He relaxed. And then smiled. Their eyes met. AHey, Lowell. I would appreciate if you didn=t breathe so hard on my back in study hall. You sound like a neanderthal. And maybe cut back on the onions.@ She knows who I am! She knows who I am! This is a day from the gods!!! One day he was sauntering the halls in his usual daze and a girl from his biology class, Deena Saperstein came up to him and started talking. She was a POPULAR girl, and was dating one of the football players. They continued walking down the empty hall.

Oh my god, I am walking in public with Deena Saperstein down the halls of the school! Scanning mind for mocking. Is she mocking me somehow, are there cheerleaders around laughing? Scanning completed. NO MOCKING DETECTED. This is for real, I have no idea what she is saying, but what if people see me with her, they will mock me for walking with a popular girl, this is going to be no good. On the one hand a cool girl isn=t embarrassed to be seen with me, but maybe she will tell everyone how dorky I am. Concentrate, Kulligan, don=t trip. Just walk straight. This is awesome, right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. ALloyd. Lloyd are you listening? Can I copy your homework?@ He had just banged into a locker. AUh, sure, Deena.@ He was on cloud nine. Never mind that he was being used. It was contact. He may not have made it to the moon, but he had made contact with an alien. The walk was maybe a total of three minutes, but for those three minutes he knew what it meant to be king of the world. The In crowd. With it. Hip. Mr. Cool. Two weeks later he was in the gymnastics room and saw Deena walk in. He had no skills at all, but for some reason decided to start swinging on the rings. She saw him and he started to feel a swell of something building inside him, a small bit of esteem maybe. He was swinging back and forth and thought, alright time to impress her with the dismount. He timed it perfectly, the mat was directly beneath him and he was going to land smack in the middle. He let go of the rings at just the right time, and.... missed the mat by 3 feet. He slammed to the ground, knocking the wind out of himself. He stumbled to his feet, and went and puked in the bathroom. Nice job, Gaylord. 84 Olympics? Mitch Gaylord? Anyone? Anyone? Yeah, it was a huge insult back then. Chapter 7 By his senior year, his grades were so middling that there was no chance for him to even consider getting into a decent college, but that didn=t matter. Lloyd knew what he wanted to be. A sports announcer. He lived and breathed sports, though with being a Chicagoan there wasn=t much to cheer about until the 1985 Bears came along. He wasn=t much of an athlete, but he was good for a Jew, and he always figured he could have

started at the Jewish High School, but then he wouldn=t have any women to look at. A veritable Sophie=s Choice. His only recourse was getting a good score on his ACT, if not, hello Northern Illinois University. He was a classic underachiever who managed to do well on standardized tests and save his ass. He couldn=t tell you the participants in the Spanish Civil War but he knew the name of every actor on Mr. Belvidere, and the career RBI totals of the 1982 Cincinnati Reds by heart. The ACT test was a four hour affair and it was no big deal except for the fact that his whole future would be determined by it. Most of it was by scantron, a multiple choice testing system from the Paleozoic age known as the 80's, in which you would shade in the A B C or D area. He was a good guesser so he hoped he was guessing right. He had applied to four schools, The University of Iowa, The University of Illinois, Northern Illinois, and the hallowed halls of The University of Kansas. The rejections from Iowa and Illinois were sent back faster than Carl Lewis. (ugh, another tired 80's Olympic reference. Wait until you see the Mary Lou Retton jokes!) He got ACT results in his Trigonometry class, coincidentally the last time he EVER needed to know any of that stuff. The average score across the country was an 18. A good score was over 22. He got a 24. Hello, University of Kansas! For the rest of his life people would ask, Why did you go to University of Kansas, and the answer was always the same. Because he got in. Steve and his 34 score on the ACT was off to the University of Illinois. Ooh, a 34, Steve, Lloyd would jokingly taunt, why didn=t you get a perfect 36? For shame. For shame. Such is the burden of excellence. Lloyd and Steve were hanging out a lot on the weekends now. Henry had a long term girlfriend and combined with Lloyd=s jealousy they didn=t see each other as much. But they did have gym class together during their Senior year. They were playing Soccer which sucked balls and they both hated it. The running back and forth and barely touching the ball, what a stupid sport. Right up there with wrestling. God, wrestling sucked. Hey, lets invent a sport where you grapple with sweaty dudes in very little clothing, who lie on top of you and smush you like a walrus having sex, and then twist your arms and legs into pretzels. No, no homoeroticism there at all. And free asphyxiation at no charge! The wrestling coach was a slick fella who seemed way to into it. Lloyd had

worked with dudes at the theater who were on the wrestling team and they were nonchalant about how the coach would leer at them in the locker room and touch them inappropriately. Like it was a joke. Seriously, why would you choose to wrestle? Seriously. Makes no sense. Anyhow, to the shock of no one the coach was arrested a few years later for sexual misconduct in regards to a male minor at the summer male youth camp he ran in Indiana. Nobody saw that coming. Insert eye roll. Anyhow, back on the soccer field, instead of running back and forth like chickens, Lloyd and Henry would station themselves at one end of the field and engage in fake drug transactions with a supposed real drug dealer by the name of Davey Miter. Miter was about 350 pounds and was as odd as the number 13. He was way off kilter. AHow bout two kilos?@ Lloyd would ask, and Davey would say he would have it the next day. Then Henry would sidle up beside him and say he needed 13 dimebags, and Miter would calculate a price. They did it every day for a month, until one day Miter said he had the stash. Henry and Lloyd freaked out and didn=t know what to do. Miter said to meet him at his locker after class. They figured what the hell and did it. When they got there they affected their drug personas and pretended to be all nervous and twitchy, and begging for a hit. Miter opened his locker and two hamsters ran out. Miter screamed at them, one he called Bob, and the other Marley, as he chased them down the hall and berated them for their malfeasance. They decided to find a new dealer. chapter 8 Most of Lloyd=s weekends were spent either playing cards with his buddies or going to the harness races with Steve and some other hangers on. The track was a rundown place with a bunch of riffraff and old men in dungaree hats. They fit right in. Steve and Lloyd would look around at all the sad sacks at the racetrack and be totally amused at how invested they were in the races. It was Harness racing, which was as fixed as a neutered dog, but as long as you didn=t know who would win it wouldn=t matter. It was so blatant. The jockeys would yank back on their horses right before the finish line and out of the blue another horse would win. And they would lose more than they won, just like everyone else. But they had fun. If someone was screaming for the 7 horse both would immediately start screaming for its opponent. It amused them till no end, until one time a guy came over and intimated he was connected and to cease and desist in their mockery. It scared them at the time, but in

retrospect, he literally said he was connected, and someone who was really connected wouldn=t say they were connected. Or something. Their card games were raucous affairs that would last until 3 in the morning and be staffed by a bevy of topless waitresses and full of drunken shenanigans. Check that, it was 6 or 7 nerds sitting around smoking cheap cigars and drinking Manischewitz until about midnight, with no women within a 3 mile radius. One night after years of playing, Steve caught two of the others passing cards under the table, obviously cheating. They were working Stanley, the meek fellow who didn=t know a flush from a straight. Nice to know they were screwing their friends out of five bucks or something. To the shock of nobody they both became lawyers. Pissed off, Lloyd and Steve stormed out, taking Stanley with them, and decided to drive the ten miles downtown to pay homage to the recently deceased mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington, who was lying in state in City Hall. There were hundreds of people in line, and The Mayor was a rather large black fellow, which caused Lloyd to say he looked remarkably like a dead gorilla which caused Steve to start to choke. A kindly, old black lady consoled him with a hug and a prayer under the mistaken impression that he was crying and was proud that a whitey was crying for old Harold. Racism is funny. Afterwards they headed to a rundown strip bar named Puss in Boots (Clever!) to satisfy their adolescent urges. It was the sort of classy joint where you would put quarters in a slot and a window would slide up and lo and behold a skanky women would wobble off a lace couch and start undulating in a most likely cocaine induced haze. Lloyd and Steve decided to go into the same booth in order to save 50 cents, and yucked it up as the lovely Shelly grimaced while pulling her legs over her face. It looked like a roast beef sandwich. As the window mercifully came down they heard Shelley the Elastic woman yell at Stanley who was occupying his own booth. ANow go home to your mommy, little boy,@ she taunted. Stanley came out redfaced and looking ashamed. His Superman underwear was showing and his zipper was half down. They never asked him what the hell went on in there. They didn=t want to know. But they had an idea. Speaking of which, Lloyd was now 17 and his virginity was settling in for the long run. He had stumbled into a rote routine of fondling himself at a rate of once every three days. It was like clockwork. He would even mark it off on the calendar. Monday, Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday. It would serve him well for the next 10 years or so. They always say you should stick to a schedule. Though there would be crimps in the routine, especially if he rented a porno from the local video shop. You could only keep the pornos short term, so he would crack out two or three "productions" a day. Being a Jew, he was good at making sure he got his money's worth. And always girl

on girl. Who wants to see cocks? He saw enough of his own. And he would get jealous of the men and lose his erection. And no vag close ups either, thank you very much. It looked like a hairy spider with a gaping pink mouth that devoured everything in it=s path. Which was pretty much true. By the end of his high school years, Lloyd had not gone to any Proms or Homecomings or any other school function, which comes as a shock I am sure, dear reader. He did not meaningfully kiss a girl nor did he get to Asecond base.@ He barely made contact with the ball. The sharp reader will note the word meaningfully in the previous sentence and maybe their interest is piqued. Most probably not. But it is going to be detailed and discussed in minutia anyway. Feel free to skip ahead to the next chapter, but the next few paragraphs will be like a one car crash into a streetlight. Lots of carnage and you may have a hard time looking away During the summer Lloyd would hang out at the local pool near his house along with many other teenagers. One day an unbelievably gorgeous girl showed up in a tantalizing white bikini. She was an absolute bombshell. Stunning body and pretty face. He would sit cross-legged whenever she walked by in a failing effort to hide his excitement. She was friends with a few of his friends and he was introduced to her. For some odd reason she took a liking to him. Her name was Mia and she went to the local Catholic Girls high school. And she loved attention. And Lloyd was more than happy to provide it. He was like a puppy, and had the drooling to match. He fantasized about her all the time. Every day he would hope she was there. She would walk along the length of the pool and heads would turn from every direction. She had a husky voice that mesmerized Lloyd and sent him into fits of priapism at the moment she opened her mouth. She was the prettiest girl who had ever gave him more than a minutes attention. He figured it had to be ulterior motives but he didn=t care. Just being in her presence made him feel popular. And that was enough for him. One time she asked him over to her house and told him no one would be home. Do you think he got the message? Yes. If the message was that there is no way a hot girl like her wants me and wants me to come over to her house when no one else is home and wants to just be friends with you. Idiot. He went over to her house and she was just wearing a robe. He didn=t know what to do with himself. She asked him if he was a virgin. He blushed profusely. He asked if she was. She said no. He could see almost all the way up her robe.

Oh my god, her legs are so fucking hot. I hope she opens and crosses her legs. Please God Please God Please God, oh my god I am going to beat off to this so bad later on. I see her upper thigh!!Please God Please.... She asked about his sexual history and he tried to change the subject. Finally he told her he had to leave. And he did. This is maybe the most embarrassing paragraph you will ever read. Ok thanks for coming everybody, Hope you enjoyed the Book! Can you get the lights? But Mia knew she had Lloyd wrapped around her finger. Her trap had been laid. It was the only thing that would be. It was all over for Lloyd. She would call him at all hours asking for rides to places and parties. And he would do it. Chauffeur her around anywhere she wanted and then leave. One time she asked him to drive her about 15 miles to a restaurant where two shady dudes were waiting for her. As she was exiting the car she gave Lloyd a kiss on the lips. It was like the scene in the Brady Bunch where Bobby sees stars after Millicent kisses him. So, in his mind that was his first real kiss. No fake Champagne snowball, no truth or dare, this was the real deal. In her mind it was a way to keep twisting the screws on his affections. She was no dummy. He was an idiot. Chapter Break Lloyd blissfully and obliviously frittered away the Summer before his first year of college and didn=t give leaving home a moment=s notice. He was scheduled to leave for Kansas in late August. LEAVE HOME. How could he not have given this any consideration? He didn=t like when his mommy and daddy went on vacation and left him and Ellen at home. Going away to school, with no friends there? Ominous clouds were settling in around him and he didn=t even notice. The night before he was set to leave, his friends and he decided to go out for one last hurrah. He was the first of his friends to leave for school, and even 24 hours before his departure, he was in denial of what was ahead of him. He had to delay things at the last minute because Mia called and needed a ride to a party. And he did it. For this user girl. His friends mocked him behind his back at what a pussy he was. He knew he shouldn=t have done it, but he didn=t want her not to like him. Even though he never saw her or talked to her again. It was not the last time he would be played the fool. They met at a restaurant in Greek town, an hour later then planned. The restaurant didn=t card for alcohol, and the seven of them split one pitcher of beer. With that huge buzz going on they headed to the bars on Division Street. They couldn=t get in but they could hang around and soak up the

party atmosphere of the frat boy douches and drunken tarts. He parked his car in a supermarket parking lot and off they went to watch the debauchery. They saw three dudes puke in an alley and one girl pull her skirt up over her fat belly to take a piss. It was great hilarity. They were there for about an hour, it was near midnight now, and time to head home. They went back to retrieve his car from the supermarket. It was gone. Towed. And cost 150 bucks to get back. So his last night before college consisted of Mia ruining the early part of the evening and his car being towed at the end. Not a very auspicious ending to his high school years. But an apt one nonetheless. It was also not a good harbinger to the beginning of his college years as it would soon prove. He was blissfully ignorant about going away to college. He didn=t think about it or anything, it almost didn=t seem like it was real. Just like sex. He visited the Kansas campus over the Summer and he really liked it. It was hilly and pretty, nothing like the flat plains, wheat stalks and creationists that took up the other 99.8% of the state. The next day he was awoken at 5:50 am to the lovely dulcet tones of Mitnek leafblowing the shit out of his driveway. Eeeeeeeeerrrrrr rrrrrrrrrrr rrrrrrr rrrrr rrrrrrrrr rrrrrrrrrr. EEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. Prick. There were about 7 leaves that had the nerve to fall onto his property and he had heard them strike the pavement and needed to rush out and clear them from ever existing.. Leafblowers were the worst noise in the history of mankind. There is no comparison. In order. 1. leafblower. 2. crying baby. 3. Incessant dog barking. 4. Lloyd whining about women. He rose out of bed and all of a sudden the truth hit him like a baseball to the face. He was a condemned man going to the electric chair. He was leaving home for good. How did he not think about this day? He knew how homesick he got. He cried everyday on the way to summer camp when he was younger. Every day he would whimper on the bus, wanting to stay home with his mommy. And it was a day camp. A three hour day camp. Not very mature for a 13 year old. Now he was leaving. What in hell? The flight was at 2 pm. His whole family was going with him, and his Aunt and grandmother would see them off at the airport. Lloyd sat in a daze. How did this happen. I can=t leave home. Why didn=t I go to Loyola or Depaul or Columbia, they have a great journalism school. I could live at

home. This is a horrible mistake. I can=t live on my own. This is horrific. I like my house. I like my bed. I like my mommy and daddy. And Ellen. What am I doing. I am just a little boy. College? I am going to miss Cedric way too much. Cedric was his turtle. I can=t do this. I don=t know anyone there. Kansas? Fucking Wizard of Oz. The land of Dorothy? That is all that stupid state is known for. This is not good. I have stepped foot there one time and that was enough to make this huge life decision? The phone rang and he answered it. It was his acquaintance, Neil. The one who cheated at cards, the one he never really cared for. AHey Lloyd, I just wanted to wish you well at school. And good luck@ Lloyd busted out crying, and couldn=t even respond. Sobbing like a little girl. He sputtered out a thanks and started convulsing. His family ran downstairs and asked what was wrong. AWhat=s wrong? what=s wrong? I am leaving home. It will never be the same. I like it here. I like my life. I like my family. I don=t want to leave.@ He collapsed onto the floor and started dry heaving and twitching. His family was stunned. This had come out of the blue. The psychoanalytic term for it was Mama=s Boy Syndrome. He cried for the next four hours, and then cried in the car as they headed to the airport. Then he hysterically wept when they arrived at O=Hare. It is important to note that his family was going with him to Kansas and staying with him for a few days. His aunt and grandmother sat stunned as the whole family bawled as they boarded the plane. This was supposed to be a BIG MOMENT in his life. Instead it was like an aerial funeral. The other passengers felt pangs of sympathy for this family that was obviously moving to Europe or something. The plane took off and Lloyd felt as if he was being flown straight to the gates of hell. Chapter 9 Once on campus, they dropped Lloyd off at his dorm, which to him resembled a dreary castle of doom, but was in fact the nicest housing on

campus. Unlike the other dormitories, the rooms were big and he didn=t have to share a bathroom with a whole floor of strangers. The rooms were set up with a bathroom in the middle and a room on each side of it. Each room housed two people. It was the swanky dorm, for the rich kids, of which Lloyd did not consider himself. But his parents were paying for everything just like most of the other spoiled kids in residence. He met his new roommate, so nondescript was he that his name is forgotten to the record books. As they shook hands, Lloyd noticed blaring music and screams coming from the other side of the bathroom. This was not good. Not good at all. He went through the bathroom and introduced himself to the two dudes, Brian and Larry, who reeked of marijuana and zima, and were cackling uncontrollably. They were high school buddies away from home for the first time. High indeed. Lloyd asked if they could maybe, like, you know, keep it down a little, since it was now after ten o clock. They looked at each other and cackled again. Lloyd went back to his room. The music continued thumping until 6 in the morning. Lloyd cried into his pillow all night (you would think he would run out of tears) and slept maybe 21 minutes. At one point he screamed, SHUT THE FUCK UP, and all he heard was laughing in response. And then a few minutes later they started a chant. ALllllooooooyddd. Lllloyyyyyyyyydddddddddd.@ and in their drug induced stupor guffawed like hyenas . They knew exactly what buttons to push. This was not good. Not good at all. The next day his mom and sister visited him and Lloyd looked like a condemned death row inmate, shuffled along like a prisoner at Dachau. He cried to his Mommy about the noise and begged her to take him back home to Chicago. As they walked to his room the music blared and they started chanting his name again. Lloyd=s mom kicked the door and told them to shut the fuck up. About 8 students saw it happen. So, now, not only was Lloyd the whiny buzzkill, he was also the wussy whose mother stomps through the halls protecting her little boy. But besides that college was awesome!. The next night, things changed wholeheartedly and Lloyd got a full 22 minutes of sleep. He couldn=t figure out when Brian and Larry slept. If he had any balls he would have banged on their door at 9 in the morning or something as payback, but he was more neutered than a shelter cat. The time had come for his Mom and sister to leave, and as they said their goodbyes, Lloyd crumpled onto his bed in agony. He looked out his window and as they left he watched them get into their car. They looked up and saw a little boy whimpering with tears streaming down his trembling face. They didn=t take the baby home with them. The scene was seared into his brain,

and Lloyd would be able to easily envision the harsh memory 20 years later. It was the same with his mother and sister. It was pathetic. He curled up in his bed, trying to shove pieces of the pillowcase in his ears. When he got up the next morning after his 33 minutes of sleep he called home for the fourth time in the 13 hours since his family had heartlessly abandoned him. He was nowhere ready to grow up and be on his own. He wanted to crawl back into the womb of his old house and he swore he would even cheer the relentless noise of Mitnek=s leafblower and van slamming. He wandered the halls of the dorm like Nosferatu and sat by himself at meal time. Everyone else seemed normal, like it was no big deal to be away. Some people even seemed to revel in it. Lloyd liked his parents. He liked being at home. He had no friends. He knew no one. No one. A few kids from his high school ended up going to KU, but no one he was close with. Deena Saperstein, the hot girl who watched him careen off the gymnastic rings was there, and strangely enough so was the girl who made out with Henry in the back seat of his car two years earlier. He saw lots of pretty girls, but in his current state of mind, he wouldn=t have been able to get hard if they all stripped naked and said hello to him. Usually all it took was an accidental brush across his arm and he was at full strength. Actually even in good times, if that really happened, where some girl came up to him and stripped naked and asked him to fuck her, he probably would break out into a full ass sweat and run away. One person came up to him and asked if someone had died in his family and offered his condolences. Lloyd thanked him. He called home 5 times a day and each time he mother would end with her standard, AOh, Eddie. Slow to grow, slow to grow.@ It soothed him in her inimitable way. He was still in full panic mode when another incident set him back. A girl came into the TV room where a bunch of people were hanging out and started lecturing about how college was harder than high school and that to succeed one would need to devote about two hours a night to studying and what not. It was like a repeat of his first week in High School and once again he was flustered. He did not want to study that much. In retrospect that girl was probably a kissass and should=ve minded her own business, and Lloyd would be able to pick up on it, but not at this moment. And in the end she was wrong anyway. Four years later he graduated with almost the exact same grade point average as high school, a solid 2.3 out of 4. As to the noise issues Lloyd was dealing with, there was a residential advisor that he went to speak with regarding said nuisances. The RA said he would do what he could. In private the RA confided to his superiors that Lloyd was the early frontrunner for biggest wussy whiner in the whole dormitory.

Which was a pretty impressive feat considering their were almost 400 in the dorm. About a week in he started to incrementally adjust, and there was a slight uptick in his sleep schedule. Maybe 4 hours a night. He calculated his first week and determined he slept a total of 11 hours the first 7 days. After about a month in, and after AT&T had renamed a phone line to Chicago in his honor, Lloyd was told that he could move to the nerdy quiet floor. Unfortunately, there was noise there too, but on a smaller scale. Apparently a bunch of 18 year olds living on their own for the first time tend to make a lot of noise. That little piece of information may have done him some good had he contemplated it AT ALL. His new suitemates were Joel, a white trash dude with a southern accent and mustache to match, and was proud of his confederate flag hanging on the wall, and Mark, a handsome, waspy, frat looking guy with what seemed a cheesy personality and a charming smile. He had to be biding his time before joining some date rape frat. Every night Lloyd would saunter into their room and ask them to keep it down, be it the Allman Brothers music playing at a normal level or the random laughter that normal adjusted college students sometimes partake in. One of them banged on the door and the walls at all hours on purpose just to annoy Lloyd. It wasn=t as bad as his first room, but it was still disruptive enough to Lloyd who flinched at any sort of thumping noise. Call it the Mitnek Slamming Van Door effect. Each time it happened, Lloyd would go and talk to them, and Mark would slyly gesture towards Joel and roll his eyes, confirming to Lloyd that Joel was the biggest douchebag in the world. Lloyd appreciated Mark=s candor, honesty and sincerity. He started to confide in him, and started to consider him somewhat of a friend. Some nights they would talk about their lives and their families. Mark=s dad was a former NFL player and Mark had tons of great stories about his life. Lloyd of course, would vent that he was a virgin and never kissed a girl and he would also complain about being homesick and all the noise Joel made. For some reason Mark didn=t hate Lloyd=s guts. As Lloyd began to settle in, he started to notice that there were an incredible amount of hot women in the dorm. It was almost overwhelming. Once the pathetic haze of loneliness and homesickness started to lift from his brain he realized he was in a pretty good situation. Just as long as he wore baggy pants. Then there was the whole Aattending class@ thing. Apparently that was what college was for. One glaring mistake he made early on was scheduling his first class for 9 in the morning. High school started at 7:30 so he thought

it would be a snap for him to make it to class that Aearly.@ It was not. He was going to bed late and waking up at 8:30 was a chore. From the second semester of his freshman year on, the earliest class he ever scheduled was 11 am. He also learned quickly that blowing off class in college bore no scars. No attendance was taken and most of his classes were held in auditoriums with 200 other students. He probably ended up with a class attendance rate of about 25% after four years. And the old adage, Youth is wasted on the young was true, as years later he regretted not learning more. But it was seriously kickass at the time. There was a bit of culture shock in his first class ever. Made him remember he was in cornpoke Kansas. It was a creative writing course and in the first week of school the teacher gave an essay assignment. AWhat do you do on Christmas Morning?@ Lloyd was stunned. This was a public university with 25,000 students of all ethnicities, creeds and religions and his teacher was this ignorant? He was wondering how the hell did he end up in Kansas if this is the sort of education he was going to get. He wrote the paper as follows: What I Do When I wake up on Christmas Morning by Lloyd Kulligan: I wake up and am happy I don=t have to go to school, but then I also feel a bit of guilt as it was my people who heinously killed the Lord Jesus and sent him to his crucifixion. But then I feel pissed because if none of that happened then maybe the Christians wouldn=t be so fucking annoying trying to ban this and that, and maybe you know, accept Evolution and stuff. Who can I get arrested for using that term in Kansas? Should I just refer to it as the E word? Seriously, think about it, if Jesus lives as just some rambling crackpot and dies as some crazy old coot rambling about God being his dad, who knows where our country would be today. Abortion for some, Homosexuality for all. It is a shame that Jesus had to die for your sins, because the rest of us have to pay for it. On Christmas morning I also get pissed that all my goy friends get gifts and I get shit. Oh sure Hanukkah, is something, but my cheap ass parents gave me a .99 cent gift every night. Woo hoo, a yoyo! Or maybe an Invisible Ink trivia game! Henry got a Colecovision. Bunch of bullshit. Anyhow, after rubbing the sleep out of my eyes I decide I want to go to the diner for breakfast, so I shower, get dressed, get in the car, and drive all the way there only to find out it is fucking closed because it is Christmas day. So I think maybe I will hit the mall...crap everything is closed. This sucks. So I go home and sit with my family and pray that Wu Sang is open so we heathen Jews can get our Chinese food we seem to crave on Christmas.

The end. He got an F. The teacher said it was disrespectful. He dropped the class. For some reason, the dorm housed an obscene amount of obnoxious, loud mouth Chicagoans. Mostly Jewish kids from money who were too stupid to get into a good school, but Mommy and Daddy had the money to send them to a big name school. Not a big name in academics, mind you, just in recognition. The University of Kansas. Sure sounded prestigious. They called it the Harvard of Kansas. These Chicagoans were incredibly annoying with their swaggering blowhardedness about Chicago this and Chicago that, and it was quite embarrassing to Lloyd. One night Mark and Lloyd gathered with a bunch of others to watch the Chicago Bears play the Minnesota-Vikings. The Chicago blowhards were acting like the imbeciles that they were and annoying the shit out of both of them. Mark was also starting to develop a great hatred towards these Illinois expatriates and their cocky attitudes, so felt he needed to do something about it. One douche kept screaming at the TV about the Bears defense and their shoddy ACONTAINMENT@. ACOME ON BEARS, CONTAINMENT!!!@. He had beady eyes and a cocky fratboy demeanor and would forever be known to them as prick face. Mark being the instigator that he was, starting cheering obnoxiously for the Vikings. When they scored a touchdown he screamed, Afuck, yeah. VIKINGS!@ and prick face shot Mark a dirty look like he wanted to fight. I mean why would someone in the state of Kansas not be a Bears fan. Mark looked at him and said, AHey, man, My dad played for the Vikings.@ Prick face backed off, ASorry man, that is so cool.@ and tried to high five Mark. Mark pretended to miss his hand and apologized for it. He nodded and winked at Lloyd in their nearly heterosexual way and leaned back, content. After the game Mark told Lloyd that it wasn=t true, his dad had never played Pro football. He was a podiatrist. Lloyd had his first man crush. It didn=t take long for Lloyd to figure out that Mark was mostly full of shit about everything and that he was really the one who made all the noise in their suite. Because of initial belief, Lloyd despised Joel, though in truth, he was a quiet and studious guy. Mark was the prick. Lloyd never would have been friends with him had he known that at the beginning.

Mark and Lloyd reveled in humor that made others uncomfortable or not knowing that they were the butt of the jokes. It was uninclusive and condescending but it amused them to no end. Mocking condescension was a good term for it. One time Lloyd was standing at the urinal in a bathroom at a bar when Mark came in and nudged Lloyd in a drunken manner. Lloyd stared hard at him and said, AWhat the fuck is your problem, frat boy,@ and Mark got in his face and asked Lloyd if he were a Jew and then two other guys got in between them and separated them. Lloyd left the bathroom stifling massive giggles and Mark did the same. It was sort of theater for two. They did that all the time. They liked to stage political arguments in front of random people, switching political affiliations depending on the scenario. If they were in a room with a bunch of women, Mark would argue against abortion and Lloyd would tell him that Roe V Wade is almost 15 years old and to get over it, and keep his hands out of their uterus=, and as the women would be about congratulate him for his forward thinking, he would add, Abecause they stink like halibut.@ Other times they would go to Gay Rights marches and engage in chatter with the marching homosexuals, who would appreciate the support. And then Mark would say he would defend anyone, as long as they weren=t niggers. Or Jews, Lloyd would add. Lloyd had a large amount of anti semitic self hate so once as they were walking by the Hillel House, the campus Jewish studies center, they starting arguing about the school allowing Mein Kampf to be sold in the campus bookstore. Lloyd loudly said it held some interesting and provocative viewpoints, and that Hitler wasn=t all bad. That provoked a horse faced Jewish girl to scream at him vehemently about the plight of Israel. Lloyd asked her why she had such a long face, which caused Mark to break character and start laughing. Lloyd told them both that his parents were Palestinian and killed in the raid on Entebe. They both apologized and said Israel wasn=t always 100% in the right. So it was dickish humor with a purpose. Lloyd had no idea what the Raid on Entebe was or if that is even spelled right. It was all good practice for Mark as he ended up becoming an actor, which Lloyd mocked mercilessly. There lived a pretty girl on their floor named Lana. Whenever Mark and Lloyd hung out together they noticed her glancing at them. Lloyd, while lacking self image and self esteem, was also a delusional idiot. Maybe she liked me, he thought, forgetting that Mark looked like a matinee idol. One day as Lloyd was in the midst of masturbating to his Cindy Crawford

posters there was a knock on the door. He threw the jergens under the bed and pulled up his sweat pants. There at the door stood Lana. He could hardly contain his excitement, literally, as his boner was showing through his sweat pants. He stood at sort of an angle, hoping she wouldn=t notice, and let her in. He couldn=t believe his luck. It was starting to turn, things were going to go his way in college. ASo, are you from Chicago?@, she asked. AYeah, Morton Grove, are you from there, too?@ He said nonchalantly as his spittle landed on her face. He was in heaven, he was actually talking to a pretty girl. He was a new man. No more of this pussy high school bullshit, where he had to make any move. The girls in college were much more aggressive, he figured, and this was just the start. He was starting to get comfortable, even though his hardon was still poking through his pants like Punxsutawney Phil. She wants you, don=t panic. Act nonchalant like this is no big deal, not like walking in the hall with Deena in high school, you pussy. Oh my god a girl is talking to you. Get it together, man. That is what happens in college. Random hookups, she probably doesn=t want to have sex just yet. Play it cool. Play it cool. Maybe a little kissing. Don=t seem desperate. They continued the small talk and Lloyd was waiting for the inevitable point of her asking him out for a drink, or maybe she would just take her top off right here, and that would be that. ASo, I see you with Mark a lot. Are you good friends with him?@ she asked. His hardon went down faster than the first World Trade Center. AUh, yeah.@ ADo you think he likes me, can you ask him? A GOD DAMMIT. AI don=t know, I guess so.@ And that was that. That was the first time Lloyd thought he could compete with Mark. Dumb. It was like Wilson Phillips. Remember them? The two hot chicks and the fat one? Well, Lloyd was the fat one. Except he was deathly skinny, so that might not make sense, but you get the point. In fact one day, at the dorm=s pool, that=s right the rich dorm had a pool, Lloyd was sunbathing on his stomach, trying to contain his manhood, what with all the nubile freshmen hanging out, and someone asked him if he was on the Auschwitz diet. Well the self esteem that was hanging by a thread was snipped.

Anyhow, two days later Mark banged Lana, and that was that. They dated for the next three years or so. Chapter 10 The University had a healthy fraternity and sorority scene that held zero interest to Lloyd. He may have been a self esteem lacking, twerpy, sad sack, lonesome, homesick stick figured virgin, but a sheep he was not. That is how he viewed the fraternity scene, a lot of frothed mouth misogynists acting in a homoerotic fashion. Sort of like organized religion. There was one Jewish sorority. But, uh, the less said the better. There were two Jewish frats on campus and....whoa, whoa, whoa, did you just say frat, tough guy? Uh yeah, what=s the problem? Uh do you call your country, cunt? I DIDN=T THINK SO. Uh, sorry about that, uh, anyhow, the two Jewish fraternities were distinct in their personalities. One was made up of the studious, nerdy jews, (now there is a redundancy if I ever saw one), and the other was the tough guy Jew house (an obvious oxymoron.) They recruited Lloyd=s dorm rather heavily but somehow never tried to get him to pledge. He took that as an honor, like there was some list with all of the new Jews on campus and he was not on it. Maybe it was the Kulligan that threw them off. He was glad not to have to deal with any of that. He had heard rumors that as part of the hazing they were forced to shove a ham up their ass as some sort of Jewish blasphemy. Probably untrue, but he always wondered what hazing would constitute in a Jewish fraternity. Make them not study for two days? Uncurl their jewfros? Make them mow their own lawn? He never would find out. He was making a few friends on his own, and slowly but surely began breaking out of his shell that he had unknowingly built to protect himself during his high school years. For every day of his high school career he had worn gym shoes. In college he started to wear loafers. It was a veritable Pygmalion make over. He changed shoes! Well to Lloyd it was. He felt that every single move he made in high school was scrutinized, though the truth was far tamer. Nobody gave

a shit. It=s an interesting dynamic with those with low self esteem. They think everyone is judging them, which is pretty arrogant if you think about it. He literally would think he would get made fun of in high school for wearing loafers instead of gym shoes. Same with blue jeans. He bought a black pair that he wore at college. It was an awakening, in regards to his self awareness. He felt no one would mock him for anything anymore. This was college, where people were freethinkers and unjudgmental. He was starting to adjust to life on his own, in fact he was only calling home twice a day by mid semester! Mark was dating Lana and wasn=t around much and Lloyd had latched onto another pretty boy named Clay. Women fawned all over him and his long hair. He was a soccer player with a good sense of humor. So far Lloyd had not reaped any benefits of hanging around Mark, and this friendship with Clay would also prove fruitless. But it did bring women into his personal space and that was better than nothing. It wasn=t calculated that Lloyd was drawn to these handsome guys but it might have been done subconsciously. He wasn=t gay, but he liked having a front row seat for what it was like to actually attract woman as opposed to repelling them. One night they were playing quarters with one such girl who had a crush on Clay. Unbeknownst to her, Clay and Lloyd had filled their beer cans with water and watched in glee as she got wasted. Though that reads like a lead in to date rape, it was not. She was slurring her words and finally let loose that she thought Clay was cute. She apparently felt bad for Lloyd and said he was nice, like her brother. She pulled down her shirt and showed her right tit and then puked under the table. His first live tit ever. Score! Clay was a townie and grew up in Lawrence, where the University was located, and he had a lot of lowlife friends in the area. One night three of them met up with Lloyd and Clay for dinner at a local diner. They had all planned to dine and ditch before going, which they murmured at the table, so Lloyd didn=t order anything. And then he started panicking, like how the getaway driver in a murder is still charged with murder. He should of gotten up and left, but he didn=t. He was nervous the whole meal. Finally, when everyone was done eating, the other four literally jumped up and ran out the front door. Lloyd didn=t know what to do and was a few steps behind them. The owner tried to stop him but he said he didn=t eat anything and ran out the door. They were all gone, they had ran to their car and took off without him. Those dicks. Lloyd saw the owner come storming out of the restaurant and he ran off into the woods. He climbed up a tree and hid there for about two hours. He always figured people searching for someone in a forest would never look up, and that was his theory and he was sticking with it. At one point he saw a police dog run by him. He knew he was dead meat. Though in retrospect the dog looked like a wolf and there was no officer with

him. When it was dark enough, he snuck out and walked the two miles back to the dorm. He was so pissed at Clay for leaving him, until he found out that they were all pulled over by the cops, someone had got their plate number, and given citations for dining and ditching. The next day, Clay=s friends told Lloyd that he needed to go to the police station and turn himself in, that it would make it easier for the rest of them. Being the pushover that he was, he agreed, even though he hadn=t ate anything and wasn=t a part of it at all. They drove him to the station and as he was walking up the stairs to confess, he thought, Awhat the fuck am I doing?@ And went back downstairs. To this day he doesn=t know if they were just fucking with him, or had sold him out. He wondered if the cops would laugh him out of the station or arrest him. Anyhow, he wasn=t friends with Clay after that. He flunked out anyway after freshman year and Lloyd never saw him again. As his Freshman year progressed it was becoming clear to Lloyd that he wasn=t going to get anywhere with any woman. He may have loosened up on the outside, but on the inside he was as insecure as he had ever been. But there were so many good looking girls in the dorm. This wasn=t like high school, maybe seeing them in one class here, one there, they were there all the time. Everywhere around him people were getting laid. Ugly guys, fat girls, Pretty boys, hot girls, people were hooking up across the board. And there he sat on the outside looking in. At least he had his Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue pictures. He had a special blanked tucked away in his closet. He had pasted Elle Macpherson=s face on it and cut a hole in it where her mouth was. Yeah. So, one time he was plowing away on his blanket envisioning Elle Macpherson pleasuring him, when Joel burst threw the door and immediately started laughing. Lloyd was busted. He was stark naked and pounding away on his blanky. Mark never let him hear the end of it. They started to call his blanket Elle. How is Elle doing there Lloyd, she a good blow? Don=t forget his sister=s name was Ellen, too, and the family called her El. Paging Dr. Freud!!! Sometimes he wished he were a Eunuch. Though he pretty much was, if you think about it. And there were all these pretty girls taunting him with their tight bodies and pretty faces at every corner. They were on every floor, in every break room, every class, everywhere. Walking on campus was intoxicating, exhilarating, exciting and depressing all wrapped up in a giant ball of suck. He was a twitching ball of creepiness and desperation.

The prettiest of them all was a girl named Annie. She lived in the dorm and was gorgeous with an unbelievable figure. He would just stare and stare at her. In the dining hall, she would look up from her table and he would be staring, transfixed. It had to be as creepy as Jeffrey Dahmer. But he remembered what had happened with Miverva, the girl from high school who told him his breath stunk like onions, so he kept his respectful distance. His lack of interaction with ladies also hindered him in other ways. Many times kids would gather in a room and get drunk and play sex games. Not actual sex itself, but verbal ones like, I Never or Truth or Dare. I never involved one person mentioning any particular sex act they had engaged in, and if someone else had also partaken in that particular proclivity they would have to drink. So if someone said, I never had sex outside or something, someone who did would have to drink. Lloyd would be the soberest person in the room at the end of the night. He didn=t know why he even stuck around, maybe just to whine about never having done any of the things. One time it was Mark=s turn, and he said, A I never cut a hole in my blanket and put a picture of a supermodel on it and pretending it was giving me head.@ Everyone tittered and looked at Lloyd. Being the good sport and pushover that he was, he drank. Only in later years did he figure out that everyone was lying about their sexual past and he probably should of faked it with the rest of them . One day he was introduced to a rather unattractive girl named Susan, whom he knew as Annie=s roommate. Of course he did. Maybe he could get to know her through her, he thought, in one of his lucid moments before the self doubt and self loathing could seep in. He wasn=t intimidated by ugly girls, like they weren=t worthy of his creepiness or something, so he wasn=t nervous around them. As he was about to introduce himself to her, she interrupted and said, AI know you, you are the guy who=s always staring at my roommate. You are pretty creepy.@ He said AAnd you have an assface@ and left the room. He was always surprised to get busted on stuff like that. In his mind he was invisible and it shocked him to think he was noticed, no matter the circumstances. He was just an observer, an outsider to his own life. Kissing a girl seemed liked it was never going to happen, Sex? He would probably die of a heart attack if it even presented itself. It was like the world around him was a pet store or zoo and he had to stare from behind the glass at all the pussy.

Oh, and assface was a pretty apt description of her. An assface is where it looks like a pair of eyes, nose and mouth are plastered on to an ass. Like butt. That sort of ass. The cheeks hang like butt cheeks. Hence ass face. Case closed. His was an odd existence. He was making some friends, but still desperately homesick, and making zero inroads on actually making physical contact with the opposite sex. He almost didn=t blame himself for the predicament, as if it was out of his control. In truth that gave him a partial excuse not to even try, he would think that if it was meant to happen it would have already. It wasn=t and it wouldn=t. Not for a long while. While not exactly excelling as a student, he was intrigued with his English Literature class and actually began reading some of the books, as opposed to buying the cliff notes. Ha, cliff notes. For you youngsters, the internet did not exist back in the Dark Ages of the 1980's. If it had Lloyd would no doubt have been kicked out of school for some sort of plagiarism. He felt very collegiate reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, with her suicidal heroine, Esther floating in the ocean debating whether to kill herself. He also enjoyed the Awakening by Kate Chopin. Her protagonist Edna comes to find that she is bored with her life and has an affair and leaves her family, with her Aawakening@ involving her going off on a search to find herself. That resonated with Lloyd. Was college going to be his awakening? He hoped so, if he could make it through his homesickness, I mean come on, he was wearing cool loafers and khakis instead of gym shoes and jeans, it was The Awakening circa 1986! In the end, though, Edna realizes she has lost everything and swims off into the ocean and dies. Just like the Bell Jar. Except in the Bell Jar, Esther tries to kill herself but chickens out and swims back. That was Lloyd, College was his ocean. Was he going to sink or swim? Though Sylvia Plath did stick her head in an oven right after the book was published. So, who knows. But the book that had the most influence on him was The Stranger by Albert Camus. Set in France, the book begins with the lead character Mersault not showing any emotion at his mother=s funeral. It sets the tone that he is an odd guy with a severe lack of expression and foreword thought. In the middle of the book he commits a senseless murder without really putting much thought into it. Ultimately he is convicted and sentenced to death on the grounds that he didn=t cry at his mother=s funeral. But the book was really about Mersault and his oddness. Mersault probably had Aspergers or Autism or something. Stupid French

Vaccines. His indifference from society and his turning his back on religion really struck a chord with Lloyd. Camus once said, "What is absurd is the confrontation between the sense of the irrational and the overwhelming desire for clarity which resounds in the depths of man." Lloyd learned in class that Camus did not believe in a world with absolute and/or divine forces such as God or an afterlife. In his world, when one died, that was all. Camus also said that Athus, the striving by the majority of humans to make their lives meaningful in the face of God was absurd. It was a journey by which Camus is immensely intrigued. As was Lloyd. The book really touched on some aspects that Lloyd wasn=t himself able to verbalize but personified him. When Mersault is in his prison cell a priest visits him. AHe was waving his crucifix almost directly over my head. (2.1.10) [Y] drawing himself up to his full height and ask[ed] ... me if I believed in God. I said no. He sat down indignantly. He said it was impossible; all men believed in God, even those who turn their backs on him. That was his belief, and if he were ever to doubt it, his life would become meaningless. "Do you want my life to be meaningless?" He shouted. As far as I could see, it didn=t have anything to do with me, and I told him so. But from across the table he had already thrust the crucifix in my face and was screaming irrationally, "I am a Christian. I ask Him to forgive you your sins. How can you not believe that He suffered for you. Then he looked at me closely and with a little ... sadness in his face. In a low voice he said, "I have never seen a soul as hardened as yours. The criminals who have come before me have always wept at the sight of his image of suffering." I was about to say that was precisely because they were criminals. But then I realized that I was one too. It was an idea I couldn=t get used to. (2.1.12)@ Lloyd listened intently as his teacher explained Meursault=s motives. APer Existentialism, Destiny is responsibility for one's actions and their consequences, because one has free will; Truth is in being consistently honest and direct; despite being judged amoral. Throughout the book, Meursault is impassive and accepts the destiny that comes to him. While Meursault takes "responsibility" for his actions by accepting the consequences, the motivating philosophy alters the actual intent. In the end, Meursault realizes that everyone's life ends with death. By accepting this, he also figures that the life one leads and the manner of one's death are completely irrelevant. Death is the permanent end. Illustrating this, Meursault never displays emotions he does not feel, nor participates in social conventions requiring emotional dishonesty. Although grief is the normal, socially acceptable response, he does not openly grieve at his mother's funeral, but his incorruptible honesty assumes a naive dimension in his murder trial when he questions the need for a defense lawyer, claiming that the truth should speak for itself.@ Way deep stuff for Lloyd, and he liked it. It was his Awakening.

AAm I an existentialist?@ Lloyd wondered. Typical idealistic college blather. But it seemed immensely important at the time. Mark was raised Catholic, and his mother was deeply religious. But he was like Lloyd, and they would have what they thought were deep conversations, but were in reality dime store college kid ephemeral claptrap. ASo, we are supposed to believe that if you pray hard enough, God will answer your prayers. Well he is an egotistical son of a bitch then, isn=t he,@ said Lloyd affecting a wishy washy yet condescending voice. AI will grant your prayer, but only if you ask nice. What a bunch of crap. In The Stranger, religion never played a role in Meursault=s life and supposedly he was too stubborn to try and be open-minded about the whole thing. Why should he be, I think he was right. You could even say Meursault was blind in a sense that he never opened up so that he could get along with others. He always saw life in a totally different perspective than everyone else and could never be rationed with...@, Lloyd patronizingly pontificated. Mark interrupted him, obviously bored with the topic. He had never read The Stranger and didn=t care, but told Lloyd he had heard of the technique. Lloyd looked at him quizzically, and asked him what technique he was talking about. Mark explained that if you sit on your hand until it becomes numb, you can masturbate yourself and it feels like someone else is doing it. Lloyd was deeply intrigued and set about trying the maneuver. He sat on his hand for about five minutes and it only got a little tingly. He got off the elevator and headed to his room, but just as he was about to go in he heard some noises coming from the room across the hall, Paige and Helena=s room, the two transfer students from Finland. It sounded like screaming, and Lloyd peered through the open door. They were on the bed together giggling and roaming each other=s bodies with their hands. Lloyd accidentally made the door creak, and they stopped suddenly, scared at being caught, but intrigued by who was at the door. Paige pulled up her white panties and yelled at Lloyd and called him a pervert and a creep. He turned back to his room, but Paige yanked him back in and threw him on the bed next to Helena who had removed her Cubs Jersey. He touched her inner thigh and she smiled, he then grabbed his throbbing member and started cranking away... It was hard to move and it flopped onto his lap and tried to flail away. He couldn=t grasp Lloyd Jr. very firmly and found the whole experience wanting, until he caught Elle=s eyes coyly cooing at him from the closet. And all was well in the world. A Stranger, indeed. Chapter 11

For his sophomore year, He decided to live in the same dorm. Many of the freshman from the previous year had moved off campus, but he enjoyed the dorm experience and Clay had flunked out, and Mark moved into an apartment with one of his high school friends. He liked being around so many girls in one place. Maybe this would be the year he would actually make contact. He was like JFK in 1963, shooting for the moon in the next 10 years. It was mostly wishful thinking. One day he was chatting with a freshman who asked him how many times he got laid his freshman year. And being the dipshit that he was, he told the truth and said 0. The guy stared at him and asked how was that even possible with all the women around. Lloyd replied that every dorm needs its Neil Armstrong. The guy didn=t get it and walked away shaking his head. Two days later the guy had a girlfriend. Once again, Lloyd lived on the nerd floor, which was nice and quiet, but spent most of his time on the fifth floor where he had made some new friends. The floors in the dorm were oddly cliquey, and he was considered an outsider whose presence was somewhat resented. Maybe because HE WAS ALWAYS THERE. He was incapable of being on his own for any period of time. It made him feel extremely lonely and an outcast. Once again the males seemed to enjoy his presence more than the women. One of the main activities they would partake in was poker. About five nights a week, a bunch of guys would get together and lose their parents money. The stakes were relatively high, sometimes they would play in-between and the pot would get up to a hundred bucks or so. The dealer would flip two cards and the player wagered if the next card would come in between them, hence the name. One caveat was, if the flipped card matched one of the others, the player would have to throw double his bet into the pot. So lets say the dealer flipped a 3 and a king, the odds were pretty good that the next card would fall in between. One time this rich dude got a 2 and an ace, and bet the whole pot on his card. It came up ace, and he owed two hundred fifty bucks. He wrote out the check and threw it in. This guy Mike ended up winning the whole pot. Mike was a handsome kid who always wore sunglasses inside and when he took them off, it was obvious why. His eyes were red and glazed, an obvious stoner. But he seemed like a good guy with a load of confidence and Lloyd found himself drawn to him. It was the same thing as with Clay and Mark. Lloyd was drawn to their self confidence and their good looks. He wished he could be like them and envied their carefree attitudes. One night after a late night card game, Lloyd and Mike were hanging out and Lloyd started pouring his pathetic heart out to him. Blah blah blah virgin blah blah blah never kissed a girl blah blah blah, and instead of running out the door like a

normal person Mike listened very intently. He was a good listener and gave Lloyd some advice about being himself and that it would happen eventually, that he should just be patient, and maybe he should ask a girl out what=s the worst that could happen blah fuckingly blah. A cake should have appeared because it was the 1000th time Lloyd had been told that and he didn=t do anyone told him to do anyway, so why the hell did he like hearing himself blather? To get sympathy? From dudes? At least when he did to girls, there was that faint hope that they would give him a sympathy blow. Hadn=t happened yet. They would stay up late in the night watching videos on MTV, (little known factoid: MTV stands for Music Television, and they once played AMusic Videos@ instead of vapid reality shows), and Mike took great pride in predicting the rise of Guns N Roses after the first viewing of Welcome to the Jungle. That and 2.00 gets him a ride on the subway. Mike was a font of music knowledge and introduced Lloyd to a bunch of new music. New Order, The Smiths, Rem, the Replacements and such. Lloyd was stuck in the mid 70's with his sweet Led Zeppelin and Doors Posters in his room, all leftovers from his pathetic attempts not to stray from the mainstream in high school lest he be mocked. Oh and of course there was the requisite Dark Side of the Moon poster on his door. He was pretty much a walking cliche. It also turned out that Mike was not in fact perpetually stoned, in fact he had never even drank or did any drugs. His eyes were glazed and watery because he had epilepsy and were from the pills he had to take to keep it at bay. He was on doctors orders not to drink or drug, but the facade was cool enough that others would approach him looking to score. He would always tell them his supplier was down in Columbia and would be back soon. They would grin and wink knowingly until a week later when Mike would tell them his dealer was killed in a raid by Columbian Drug lords. Lloyd had his second male crush. Mike had a penchant for attracting girls of a certain caliber. They were sweet and earnest like himself, sort of plain, but they appreciated Mike=s brooding and sensitive nature. His secret weapon was his Billy Idol imitation. He would snarl his mouth and his eyes would glare and he would swivel his hips and it was over. He was the Tom Jones of the dorm. Lloyd would be left dancing with himself. These girls would in confidence pour their hearts out to Mike and he would listen intently and console them, stare confidently and brush aside their hair. For the coup de grace, he would swoop in and give them a gentle kiss. Lloyd named it the Kiss of Death. Once it happened the girls were under his spell and became cult-like in their devotion. There were at least 4 of them. You

could tell who they were by the knowing smiles they shot Mike whenever he entered the room. They were all unaware of each other, but most likely would not have cared. And there on the outside stood Lloyd, once again living vicariously through someone else. It was easier than being himself. There was a very pretty girl on Lloyd=s floor named Leslie that he became very friendly with. They would hang out a lot and he would make her laugh. For some reason he didn=t bitch to her about his virginity. That was odd. He was very comfortable around her and started to get a big crush on her. But of course, he knew it was one sided. Sucks to be me, he thought. One day, Leslie=s friend, Michelle, asked Lloyd why he never asked out Leslie. I don=t know, Lloyd replied. He pondered it for a long time. Not why he didn=t ask her out, but why Michelle asked him why he didn=t ask Leslie out. If you can follow that genius line of thinking. Was that a hint, does she want me to ask her out? Or is Michelle taunting me? I bet she is taunting me and teasing me. But maybe not. Maybe she knows something, like Leslie really does like me? Can I allow myself to believe that? No way. Not possible. You really should quit reading this. Lloyd was a moron. NO, HER BEST FRIEND JUST PRETTY MUCH GAVE YOU THE GREEN LIGHT TO ASK HER OUT AND YOU WOULD FINALLY HAVE GOTTEN SOMEWHERE WITH A WOMAN, IDIOT BUT DON=T TAKE THE HINT WHICH WAS POUNDED UPON YOU LIKE A TEN TON MALLET. Of course he never asked her out, and a few months later she started dating a guy who looked suspiciously like himself. Loss of virginity dodged once again. Phew! Mark had a stupid friend named Greg Berbek, who was as dumb as a lamppost, and also looked just like one. He was a total frat boy and was totally flummoxed by Lloyd. He had a caveman like voice, gravelly and monotone. AYou a virgin, Kulligan?@ AUh, yeah.@ AYou some sort of faggot?= ANo.@ AWhy you a virgin?@ And Lloyd would shrug his shoulders. AYou=re a jew, too aren=t you. I call em kikes.@

AThat=s nice.@ Berbek was a lummox, but he had been laid before. If date rape was considered getting laid. Which in his world, it was. So he couldn=t understand how Lloyd hadn=t just taken what was rightfully his. AThey all want it, Kulligan. And you have to give it to them. Even if they don=t act like they want it. But they do. After awhile they stop saying no and they let you do what you want. Especially if they=re drunk. They all want it. And I give them all organisms@, the lummox spouted. AWhat?@, Lloyd replied in wonder. AOrganisms, they love it.@ Mitnek continued. Lloyd was bemused. AYou give them amoeba?= >You a fuckin retard, Kulligan? Organisms@ AI bet they are all fake organisms.@ Lloyd taunted. AWhat=s a fake organism@ AA robot@, Lloyd chuckled. AIm a going to kick your faggot ass, Kulligan.@ One time Berbek asked Mark who Frankie Sinatro was, and Mark couldn=t figure out what he meant. ADo you mean Frank Sinatra?@ Berbek continued. ASinatra, Sinatro, whatever the flamer dude that sings I do it that way.@ AMy way, you mean?@ said Mark. AYeah, the faggy singer@ ASinatra wasn=t gay,@ Mark replied. Berbek was unconvinced. AWell he acts a fag with all that hep cat swing stuff. That stuff is for faggots.@ AWell he married Eva Gardner..and@ Mark countered. AThe chick from the Brady bunch?@. Mark was getting tired of this conversation. AWhat? No, that=s Eve Plumb.

She plays Jan.@ Berbek was unconvinced. ASinatra married Jan. Marcia is way hotter.@ AI got to go, Berbek.@ Mark had recently auditioned for Hamlet and got the lead role. It was the beginning of his career as an actor. He got most parts he auditioned for because the gay directors fell immediately in love with his aw shucks demeanor, light humor and Harry Hamlin like good looks. He hated that comparison, and Lloyd took to calling him Hamlin, instead of Hamlet. After that Mark got a role in a play called, I=m Coming Home, and revolved around a gay son coming out to his family. Who had ever seen something like that before. It was unprecedented in theater circles. Anyhow, for his role as Blaine, the prodigal son who just wants to sing, he would need to get his ear pierced. Lloyd decided to get one too. Because he was so edgy. Lloyd=s earring wasn=t just a stud, it was a dangling numbchuck. Pretty badass on a nerdy Jewboy. It was all part of shedding that high school mentality of conformity. It also looked pretty stupid. He felt like a tough guy with it on, until he ran into Reba Greisman, the girl who was making out with Henry in the backseat of his car a few years prior. She was a real frumpy Jewish girl (sorry for another redundancy) and had gone to Kansas just like Lloyd. She was very disapproving of it and told him it wasn=t becoming. He told her that her fat ass wasn=t becoming either, but at least he could remove the earring. She told him to fuck off and he felt just like one of the Jets in West Side Story. But less gay. He also was better friends with Deena Saperstein, the girl he walked with in the hall that one time in High School. Lloyd and her had become friendly and he became slightly less conscious of how attractive she was. She told him that the earring was cool and not to get rid of it. That was all he needed to hear. Also, she was Jewish and hot, an oxymoron of epic proportions. He proceeded to give her a rundown of his current virginity status and once again the story did not persuade her to whip off her pants and start banging the shit out of him. She had also taken to telling everyone about the time Lloyd fell off the rings flat onto the ground. It caused her great amusement to embarrass him like that. He was just happy for any attention. Speaking of embarrassing, Lloyd=s roommate was a senior who had moved into the dorm for the peace and quiet of the nerdy 10th floor. He had a girlfriend with whom he stayed with much of the time. He was non-descript, in many, and the only flashy thing about him was the sheepskin rug he used as a comforter. I don=t need to go on do I? You can see what=s coming a

mile away. Pun intended. Lets just say that Lloyd ended up having his own room for the second semester. The sexual highlight of his year came in the immediate aftermath of The Kansas Jayhawks National Championship run in basketball. It was from out of nowhere and the campus was out of control After they won, everyone poured into the streets for the exultant mayhem. People were streaming along the streets high-fiving each other and hugging strangers. At one point a girl grabbed Lloyd and kissed him for the longest kiss he had ever received. He was on cloud nine. He didn=t even know what she looked like, she could have weighed 400 pounds and looked like Jerry Lewis. He didn=t care, it was one of the best nights of his life. How pathetic. At least in his mind, it was somewhat of an earned kiss. One night Mark, Mike, and Lloyd ventured out to a scummy strip club on the outskirts of Kansas City, KS. Kansas City, Kansas was a shithole, the Anice@ Kansas City was in Missouri. The strip club was full of the usual skanky strippers, though Lloyd had never actually been to one before, but he knew skank when he saw it. At one point, a stripper positioned herself between Mark and Lloyd and kept moving back and forth, letting them both rub their hands all over her. It was the first boob he ever touched and they did feel like silly putty. Sweaty silly putty. But it still didn=t count to Lloyd, he had to earn it. Another one shoved his hand down her pants, and this being the 80's, she still had some pubic hair. It was rather exhilarating. In the heat of the moment, when no one was looking, Lloyd put his hand to his face and smelled it, wholly expecting a fish smell. It smelled like a 9 volt battery. He knew something wasn=t right there. ] As one point a stripper grabbed a real sad sack looking guy, and kissed him for a long time. When done, the hick replied, AI done never been kissed like that before.@ The three of them broke up into hysterics and would repeat the line for years after. But the sad truth was that, neither had Lloyd, unless the unknown girl celebrating the national championship counted. Which sadly it did. Mark and Lloyd had decided to live together for Junior year. Unfortunately for them they had waited too long and ended up leasing a shitty apartment way off campus. And Mark was still dating Lana. Lloyd did not look forward to that. She was very clingy to Mark and considered his friendship with Lloyd a threat to her, in that he seemed to have more fun without her. Which he did. She was a needy pain in the ass. She also told Mark that Lloyd smelled like an eraser, which Mark kept to himself for almost a whole 3 hours before he told Lloyd. Should be a fun year, thought Lloyd.

His sophomore year over he headed home for the summer. He was anxious to see what everyone thought of his earring and newly grown long hair in the back. It was a classic mullet, but they didn=t have that term back then. He was slightly worried what his Bubbe would think about his new look, what with her being his grandmother and old fashioned and such. He was apprehensive as he saw her and nervously asked her what she thought about his earring. AAh, all the boys wear earrings now,@ she said, Abut oy, what is with your pants they are all ripped.@ Ha. His jeans had torn holes in the knees and that is what most fazed her. He loved his Bubbe very much. His aunt was in the living room and seemed to be acting sort of funny. She finally called Lloyd into the kitchen and said she wanted to have a heart to heart talk with him. He had no clue what it could be about. His Aunt could be a bit odd and had some weird theories about the world. Like it was going to end soon. And stuff like that. Even worse she was a Libertarian. She started talking about how much she loved him, and would love him no matter what. He was really getting perplexed. He had no idea where she was going with her conversation.. His dad and Bubbe were in the other room talking about the Cubs. Bubbe was a huge fan, she loved Jack Brickhouse and mostly tolerated Harry Caray. She thought his glasses made him look like a white owl. Anyhow his Aunt finally got to the point. ALloyd, if you are a homosexual I will still love you, I just want you to know that.@ Lloyd stared at her with anger and pain in his eyes. AIt=s ok,@ she said. AThis is the 80's.@ Gay? She thinks I am gay? How the hell can my own Aunt think I am gay? All I do is jack off to lesbians, I hate seeing cocks. Gay? She thinks I am fucking gay? AAuntie, I=m not gay,@ he said, and tears were forming in his eyes. It was possibly the most hurtful thing anyone had ever said to him. It was so callous. She didn=t know him at all. If he were gay he would be proud of it, he was raised by extremely liberal parents and he knew it wouldn=t be an issue, but he wasn=t, and here was his own Aunt insinuating that he was. AYou have never had a girlfriend, I never hear about you and girls, I just assumed you are. You can talk to me,@ she said in what she thought was a soothing voice.

I just lost a roommate because I was fucking his sheepskin rug while imagining it was Cindy Crawford. All I do is try to stare down the shirts of the girls as they pass me in the dorm. ELLE. My ELLE blanket. Jesus Christ. He really was devastated and he stormed out of the kitchen and told his dad that they had to leave now. And they did. He told his dad in the car, while crying. It was hurtful that his Aunt would just assume he was gay. She lived in California, she didn=t know him at all. All the porn mags his mom found under his mattress, his countless hours trying to watch scrambled porn. He didn=t even like seeing boners on screen. His dad told him how odd Auntie was and not to take it so personal. But the damage was done. His relationship with her was never the same. The next day he was in the mall and saw a homely girl he had gone to school with, Janet Helmond. She came rushing up to him and gave him a big hug. She looked him up and down and declared with a straight face, AOh my god Lloyd you look great, your face cleared up!@ He hadn=t realized he had such a bad acne problem that someone would remember it. AThanks, Janet, I see you are still homely, though, at least MY face changed.@ She called him an arrogant cockstain. He was proud. No one had ever called him arrogant before. Mark was coming to visit over the summer, presumptively to visit Lana, who lived about 10 miles from Lloyd, but also to hang out with Lloyd and Mike. Lloyd=s mom had heard him talk incessantly about Mark over the last two years and knew how much Lloyd like him. Maybe he was gay. Anyhow, she knew how they would joke about their respective religions and mocked god and stuff.. Mark was a fallen catholic, and Lloyd a never risen Jew. When Mark first entered the house Merrill Kulligan was exceedingly pleasant and said how nice it was to finally meet Mark. She was being unusually friendly in Lloyd=s estimation and he was perplexed by it. She escorted Mark downstairs and opened up the door to the attic. She shoved Mark into the crawlspace saying AJesus is in there, he wants to say hello@, and held the door shut as he tried to escape. For 10 minutes. That was his introduction to Lloyd=s mom. She also mentioned how much he resembled Harry Hamlin. Lloyd had warned him about her, so Mark was ready for her. He presented the family with a menorah that had Jesus=s 8 apostles as the candle holders. He was welcomed in to the family. Chapter 12 (junior year)

When Lloyd had begun college he had entertained hopes of entering the Journalism school in his Junior year. It would be his pathway to an illustrious career in sports broadcasting. Unfortunately his grades had conspired against him and forced him to enter the less dazzling Liberal Arts Program and it=s vaunted Radio/TV/Film major. Which ended up entailing one tv class, zero radio classes, and a bunch on the history of film. None of which came in handy. It also wasn=t until his Junior year that he figured out how to volunteer for the campus radio station, where he had his own Monday afternoon slot delivering sportscasts at the top of the hour. Lloyd had also begun doing play by play for the school=s athletic teams. The head of the sports broadcasting team was an old guy who made racist comments about the black players on the Royals and most likely eyed Kulligan like the Christ killer he no doubt was. Lloyd wasn=t counting on a reference. Mark and Lloyd both pictured themselves becoming famous someday, Mark for his Oscar and Tony winning acting career, and Lloyd for his Pulitzer tinged sports commentary. For fun, they would conduct mock interviews with each other. Lloyd: So Mark, how do you feel being the first openly gay performer in a mainstream movie. Do you think audiences will buy you as a love interest to Meg Ryan? Mark: Well, first off I am not gay, so I don=t really think that should prove any sort of impediment and... Lloyd: Really? You sure look and act that way. Color me shocked. Or are you acting right now, a true sign of a great actor. It=s ok if you are, you should just admit it to yourself. Mark: No, no, not a homo, how about yourself, Lloyd Kulligan, A jew in sports broadcasting. How novel. Not good enough to play, yet live vicariously through the athletes. Try not to steal any jock straps. Lloyd: Not at all, I enjoy sports and really don=t appreciate some acting fag who thinks hitting for the cycle has something to do with menstruation. They were both going to hit it big. In case you may have forgotten, Lloyd was almost 20, and still pure as the driven snow. More than halfway through college and nothing to show for it, except extreme callouses on both hands and a penis more whipped than Jesus on the cross. (It was the Jews!). One night, they were at a bar and Lloyd was drinking more than normal, and Mark was flirting with his usual share of women flocked around him. Well for

some reason Lloyd was deluded enough to think that one of the girls was attracted to him and he gave himself a peptalk in the bathroom. He was going to put the Amoves@ on her. What moves that meant, he had no clue. Maybe touch her back as she walked by? Smile at her? Whatever it was, it was happening that night. He came out of the bathroom ready to do whatever it was he was planning to do, and there was Mark and her making out on the dance floor. He got enraged and called Mark a dickhead and stormed out of the bar. Mark grabbed him and asked him what the hell his problem was. Lloyd started crying and saying that she was his girl, and that Mark was a profiteerer, that he knew Lloyd liked her, and why did he fuck him over like that. Mark laughed and said, Aprofiteerer?@. He told Lloyd that at one point the girl mentioned something about the Holocaust not existing, so Lloyd was probably shit out of luck anyway. AYou don=t get it Mark, you don=t even give a shit about making out with a girl, that would have made my life, MY Life!@, he shrieked. It was horribly pathetic and Mark had nothing but sympathy for him. He told him to hold on, that he would take him home, he just wanted to say bye to Eva Braun. He came back out an hour later to find Lloyd yelling at a lamppost and calling it a cocktease. Lloyd woke up the next day with cuts and bruises on his hand and was deathly afraid to look at his penis. He was relieved to find out that in his drunken fury he had pummeled two stationery garbage compactors and apparently called Mark a bigger whore than Madonna. Lloyd remembered none of it. Mark told him that at one point they went through a Burger King drive thru and Lloyd told the checkout girl that she was good looking and that she gave them free whoppers. The first time he ever had enough confidence to flatter a girl and he needed to be blitzed to do it. Figures. Lloyd pondered that for a moment. It was maybe the first time in his life he had the confidence to compliment a girl to her face, and he had to be rip roaring drunk to do it. And it appeared to have worked. It was an eye opening moment. He was always, always wondering what women thought of him, how he was ugly, and skinny, and nerdy, and dorky, and unsexual, and a chronic masturbator..et al. He had never thought about going about approaching it from a different angle. Kill them with kindness. What a novel concept. But it was a fleeting thought and soon he would be back to being the same wuss everyone knew and didn=t love. A few weeks later Lloyd found himself bored at a party and went and sat down by himself to wallow in his usual self pity. Mark and Mike were regaling the ladies with their tales of life as actors, and Lloyd was kind enough to sulk out of their eyesight. For some strange reason his mind must have wandered off on a tangent that didn=t involve the female flesh and for a fleeting instant he must not have been giving off his usual stank of bleak

desperation. A pretty girl came and sat next to him and asked him why he looked so bored. He blinked his eyes rapidly , as if to see if they were deceiving him. He detected a foreign accent and more importantly, nice tits. She introduced herself as Gigi and they proceeded to have a half hour conversation. Not that Lloyd knew what was coming out of his mouth. She was from Holland, where apparently self loathing and self pity are a virtue, as she said he looked like he was lonely and that she felt bad for him. She must have been a fucking psychic. At the end of their encounter, she said that they should hang out some time. He said he would like that and she gave him her number. She walked away and he looked around for a hidden camera. He knew he had to have been set up. Maybe Mark and Lloyd paid her to do it. He ran to Mark and Mike like a first grader bringing home a smiley face on his homework. ALook, look what I got, a phone number!@ and Mark said, Alook, look what I got!@ and held his finger under Lloyd=s nose and the unmistakable scent of vagina wafted off his fingers. Lloyd lurched away as Mark pointed to a bouncy sorority girl giggling in the corner. He showed Lloyd her phone number and ripped it up. Lloyd told them about Gigi warily. He didn=t trust what had just happened and didn=t want to let himself go overboard in fantasy land. Eleven days later Lloyd gathered up the nerve to call her on the phone, but not before dialing and hanging up three times in the previously four days. He figured once he did the first hangup, he couldn=t call back because she would know it was him, and he would have a hard time explaining that it was his nerves. This time he didn=t hang up and he had generated enough ass sweat to fill a small wading pool. She didn=t remember who he was at first, until he reminded her of the party. He wondered if she wanted to hang out and she said she would like that. They made a date to meet for lunch at the cafeteria on campus the next day. He was ecstatic and told Mark about his excitement. Mark told him he was a loser and that she wouldn=t show up. That was their humor, he wasn=t saying it meanly, more as a joke and Lloyd laughed heartily. She didn=t show up. Lloyd was near tears as he shuffled in the door and told Mark that he was right. He was a loser. Another one bites the dust. Mark felt bad and told him that maybe she forgot or that something came up. Lloyd was having none of it, and sulked into his bedroom. He was flummoxed, she really seemed to like him, and he was devastated at her not showing up. And she didn=t have his phone number, so either he could forget about it forever, or have some balls and call her

back. He summoned all of his courage to call her again. He went to dial, but then his nervous stomach started gurgling and he just missed literally shitting his pants by four seconds. After getting off the toilet he went back to the phone and called her. She apologized profusely and said that she forgot she had a class during that time and showed up an hour late and he was gone and she was so glad he called her back. She asked him to go with her and her friends to a party that night. Mark had I=m a Loser by the Beatles blasting on the stereo when Lloyd rushed in to tell him the news. Mark told him to buy a gun to use on himself when she doesn=t show up again. Lloyd was giddy with excitement at the evening=s prospects until he showed up at the party and saw that Gigi had brought a girlfriend along. Once again he had gotten the wrong signals. She had mentioned that she had a boyfriend in Holland but that they were on a break so he thought maybe he had a shot. No dice. He thought it was just going to be the two of them. Once again his brain had proven to be his worst enemy. Set himself for great heights and then take the big tumble. He was a real life Humpty Dumpty. The friend was named Molly and she was a feisty, uninhibited sort. At one point she announced that she had to piss and crouched down in bushes and took a leak. It was pretty funny. Lloyd debated trying to sneak a peek, but as disgusting as he was, he drew the line at a urination. Now if she were shitting... The three of them went into the party and Lloyd managed to spend some quality time with Gigi, it was dark so she couldn=t see the sweat stains. She seemed to be having a decent time as we he , now that he knew the pressure was off. She liked him like a friend, just like every other single woman on the face of the Earth. His brother vibe he emanated was obviously now spreading across the Atlantic. All of a sudden as they were talking about Amsterdam she grabbed his hand and held on to it. It was like his fingers were jammed into an electrical socket. He felt it up and down his body and straight to the main vein. She had no idea what she had done. It was like awakening Rip Van Winkle. It pretty much was, considering he was 20. He pretended it was no big deal and prayed to the god he didn=t believe in to keep his hand from sweating too profusely. She said she wanted to dance and walked him to the dance floor while holding his hand. He felt like the Queen of England. It was the high moment of his life. He couldn=t wait to tell Mark and Mike about it. They danced for awhile and he pretended that it wasn=t a big deal, just like walking down the hall with Deena in high school. Oh, but it was. He probably

had that smirky, cockylike smile he so despised on frat guys. Mr. Cool. Luckily she couldn=t see that his fly was undone. It was getting late and she said she wanted to go home, so Lloyd hailed a taxi for her and Molly. They told him to come with, which was fine with him. He would even be chivalrous and pay when it got to his house. Molly=s dorm was first, and she belched and said goodbye and shot Gigi a slight wink. He noticed it but didn=t know what to make of it. He was probably being setup for a letdown, so he just sat there. As they got closer to Gigi=s dorm he started panicking about if he should kiss her or not. She asked him if he was OK, as sweat was pouring down his face and his ass was as wet as Lake Michigan. He said he was fine, he may have drank too much. Should I ask her out? Kiss her? Hold her hand? Oh shit, there=s her dorm, what should I do? What do I do? Maybe she held my hand out of friendship. Oh you held hands, what is this 1952? Big deal you pussy, it means nothing, holding hands. You are such a pussy. He was so busy panicking that he didn=t notice that she had already exited the cab. So that was that, she didn=t want a kiss or anything. No goodbye. Nothing. He was crushed, but not surprised. She looked back, and said, AWell come on. Lloyd. Arent you coming up?@ Now Lloyd was a dolt. A clueless dolt. But even he realized that he had just crossed over to the other side. The real world. In that split second it was like the world stopped spinning and Lloyd was at the epicenter of life itself. He heard a metaphorical record rewinding in his mind as he replayed the words. AAren=t you coming up?@ He wasn=t hearing things. This can only mean one thing. I am not even going to allow myself to think it. Don=t say it Lloyd, don=t say it. Sex. You dumbass. Don=t think about it. Choker. They exited the elevator on her floor and she mentioned her room was way at the end. The hallway was long and as Lloyd walked it, it was like following a gold plated road straight up to heaven. He imagined there were townspeople throwing roses on the ground in front of him and he blew kisses and imaginary waves at the gathered masses. It was mind-blowing, he didn=t need LSD or shrooms to feel like he was tripping. It was all dreamlike.

She opened her door and Lloyd followed her in like a puppy. A horny puppy. She shut the door behind her and grabbed him and starting kissing him passionately. Instinctually he somehow seemed to kiss back, as he moved his mouth in what he thought they were supposed to do. She didn=t seem to be laughing as they kissed so he kept doing what he was doing. She was doing something with her tongue that almost made him jump. It was insane. He sucked on hers like a hoover and she sort of coughed. Whoops. Oh my god, Oh my god, I can=t wait to tell Mike and Mark, I am kissing a girl!!! Seriously, he wasn=t gay, his Aunt notwithstanding. Her breath tasted like roses, well roses with a touch of Heineken, and he inhaled her whole scent as they continued Amashing@. She pulled away, stepped back and took off her shirt and removed her bra, revealing her luscious round breas.... Thump. Lloyd passed out cold on the floor. She rushed over to him waving her shirt in his face, and he apologized and said he drank too much again. Her breasts were inches from his face. She escorted him over to the bed where feigned nausea. The truth was he was nauseous. Nauseous at his colossal choke job. He was like a personal incarnation of the 1969 Cubs, or the 1984 Cubs, or the 2003 Cubs. After a few minutes she got into bed with him under the covers. She let him feel her breasts and kiss her. It was like he was playing with playdoh. He was transfixed. She told him she didn=t want to have sex, she had promised her boyfriend that. You could fucking evaporate into thin air and I would be good with that. He courageously told her that he understood, and she drifted off to sleep in his arms. He had heard the term blue balls bandied about before and apparently he was experiencing it firsthand. He didn=t care. He was so hard that not only could he cut glass, but could probably build a greenhouse. It was three in the morning. He stared at the ceiling as she slept. There was no way in hell he was going to sleep. He had left Earth=s atmosphere. He was John Glenn. He was not yet Neil Armstrong, but he had just orbited the earth. And Earth being her breasts, of course. it was his first successful mission after years of solo rocket explosions. His victory parade awaited him. He triumphantly entered his apartment anxiously wanting to tell Mark about

his night=s travails. He heard a lot of grunting, groaning and sex noises emanating from Mark=s room and figured that he was banging Lana. About 10 minutes later the door opened and out walked Berbek. He saw Lloyd and smiled and starting waving a rubber at him. >Check it out, Virgin, I just used this pro-felatic, I just felated that chick in there.@ AShe=s a tranny?@ Lloyd asked? AWhat, fuck no, her name is Tiffany, I aint no faggot, why, the, what the fuck is wrong with you?@ AWhy the hell are you here anyway, Berbek?@, Lloyd was genuinely appalled. AWell Machine said I could use his room anytime I wanted@, Berbek grunted. He always called Mark, Machine for some reason, AI just double hogged the shit out of that girl in there.@ AI have no idea what that means and don=t want to know@, Lloyd protested. AIt means I fucked her twice like a piggy. SUEY.@ AI still don=t know what that means.@ A few seconds later, a young woman of considerable girth exited the room and smacked Berbek on the ass. Berbek winked at Lloyd and gave him a thumbs up. AYou still a virgin, Kulligan?@ AWell actually, Berbek, last night I....@ AYou get some, you faggot? Come over here, Let me smell your fingers!@ and Berbek grabbed his hand, but Lloyd yanked it away. AI, uh, are you leaving soon, Berbek, cause I need to study.@ ACome on man, let me sniff em,@ Berbek grunted. A That chick in there, I road her like a fucking bronco@ AYou mean a Bucking Bronco?@ ANo man, I was like John Elway, Don=t you think I look like him?@ AYou have more teeth,@ Lloyd countered.

AWhat?@ ANothing, Berbek, congrats on the whole hoggin fest..@ Soon it was April Fools Day and Mark and Lloyd decided to have some fun. Mark had had some issues with failing grades over the last few years and had come close to flunking out, so they both thought it would be hilarious to call his parents and tell him he finally had. His parents started crying and calling Mark a poor excuse for a son, until he said he was joking. In his infinite wisdom Lloyd then called his parents to tell them that he had been in a car accident. Lloyd had really been in 4 accidents since he was sixteen, none of which caused any serious damage, so it was a highly believable tale. One time he cut off a car while turning onto a busy intersection, causing minor damage to the family=s Honda Civic. Another time he was driving Steve by Henry=s girlfriends house. He wanted to show him where Henry spent all of his time, and as he turned his head to point out the house, he caught the open door of someone just exiting their car. The whole passenger rear door was smashed in. Then there was the time he went to visit Steve at U of I with a bunch of other kids from Kansas. They were traveling in a guy named Leo=s car, and during Lloyd=s turn at the wheel they came upon a car stalled in the middle lane of the highway. The car in front of Lloyd ducked out at the last second and Lloyd had no chance but to slam the brakes and pray no one got hurt. No one did. So that was the setup in calling his parents about ANOTHER accident. Nothing like scaring your parents that you were in another crash. The Kulligans cried just like Mark=s parents did and repeatedly asked him why he thought making them think he was injured in a car crash was funny. He shrugged and Mark and him laughed and laughed at their distaste. For their coup de grace, they began plotting their April Fools day joke on Mike. Mike was an unbelievably loyal friend who would do anything for either Lloyd or Mark. He was truly sincere and trustworthy, a purely earnest person who was there for Lloyd all the time. He wore his heart on his sleeve which made him an easy target. Lloyd called him up on the phone. AHello?@ AHey, Mike, it=s Lloyd.@

AHey, what=s up, Lloyd.@ AWell to tell you the truth, I have extremely disappointed in you, to be honest. I thought you were my good friend.@ AWhat? I am Lloyd, what are you talking about?@ AI know you have been saying stuff about me, Mark told me how you mocked my lack of girlfriends and stuff, that was supposed to be between you and me,@ Lloyd had to hold his hand over the phone as he was snickering. AI, I, thought you had told him that stuff, I, I, why are you accusing me of stuff?@ Mike said almost crestfallen. AI have been hearing a lot of stuff like that Mike, I thought we were friends, man, I can=t believe what a dick you have been lately, it really disappoints me.@ Lloyd was sweating in glee. ALloyd, I don=t know what...@ his voice started to crack and Lloyd went in for the kill. ADo you have a mirror Mike? Well look in it. Look in the mirror, I don=t think you=ll like what you see. Yeah, look in that mirror.@ Lloyd and Mark were dying. They couldn=t contain themselves any longer. AAPRIL FOOLS!!!!@ Mike was still flummoxed. AHuh, what? Wait, you are joking? That was a joke?@ AYeah, you really thought I was mad at you, didn=t you?@ Lloyd said while laughing. AUh, yeah, that wasn=t very funny, @ Mike replied in obvious anger. AOh come on,@ Lloyd reiterated, A it was hilarious. We just called our parents and I told mine I was in a car crash, and Mark said he had flunked out!@ AYour parents must have been pretty upset, that doesn=t sound funny at all.@ Stupid Mike and his earnestness and common sense. AUh....I guess they were,@ a suddenly jolted Lloyd realized. AYeah, none of those jokes are funny,@ and Mike slammed the phone.

Remorse immediately set in for both Mark and Lloyd and they called everyone back to apologize. Though forever after, on every April Fools day, Lloyd never forgets to call Mike and tells him to look in the mirror. But their was still one more to do, remorse be damned. Mark picked up the phone and dialed. AHey Berbek, it=s Machine. Yeah, uh, we had a strange message on our answering machine. Do you know a chick named Tiffany? AFuck yeah, Machine, that=s the chick I banged in your bed. She was smokin.@ AYeah, that=s what Lloyd said. Anyhow you gave her our number?@ Mark sounded totally believable, the mark of a good actor, though a 7 year old could fuck with Berbek. AFuck yeah, dude, I don=t give no chicks my real digits. That was a real good lay, Machine.@ AUh huh. Well she left a message looking for you, she said she=s, uh, you know,@ Mark said seriously. AWhat? That she wanted to thank me for the best fuck of her life?@ ANo, no, not that, Berbek. Apparently she is with child.@ AWhy should I give a shit if she is with some kid,@ The mollusk brained Berbek replied. ANo, no, Steve, she=s with child. Pregnant.@ AFuck you Machine, I used a pro-fermatic@. Well, it didn=t work, Berbek. She wants you to take her to Planned Parenthood.@ APlanned? This was unplanned, that=s bullshit. Planned parenthood? We didn=t plan shit. She trapped me, Machine. She trapped me. She must have taken the rubber off while we were doing it,@ Berbek said through what sounded like whimpering. ANo, no, uh, Planned Parenthood offers abortion advice, man. She said you need to bring 200 bucks for an abortion.@ AWhat? That=s more than she cost,@ Berbek yelled.

Mark finally let him off the hook. AApril Fools, dude.@ AYou calling me a fool, Machine? I didn=t do it on purpose, you know I always ask if they are on their minstrel cycle.@ A What? You ask if they wear blackface? Or to sing you Mammy?,@ Mark taunted. AShe=s the mammy,@ replied Berbek. ANo, April Fools. It=s a joke. I am joking. She isn=t pregnant@ AHow do you know she isn=t, she said so on the message.@ AYeah, goodbye Berbek,@ Mark said sullenly. Berbek was so stupid he didn=t even get the joke. It took Mark two days to convince him he was just kidding and that she had never called. Chapter 13 One of Lloyd=s favorite courses was his creative writing class, and he found that he could express his humor through his essays. For one of his assignments he wrote a Ahumor@ piece about a famous cartoon character.. Casper B A Ghost Before His Time. A Thesis Title: Dignity and Grace Personified in the Face of Anger Subtitle: Hidden Social Connotations Encompassing the Suppression and Hidden Undertones Involving the Negative Acceptance of Casper the Friendly Ghost in Common Society. A Dissertation. Page 788 - cont. Regarding the macabre premise that Casper is the spectral incarnation (reincarnation?) of what one can only assume to be a dead little boy, if you refer back to page 581 chapter XIII, you can see where I laid the groundwork for that fundamental error in assumption. I presuppose that in fact Mr. Casper is in fact, the offspring of two ghosts, not a spirit of a recently deceased child. Debating the merits of how Ghosts can procreate was extrapolated earlier. Please refer to Chapter IX, page 433. Nevertheless, under these circumstances it is easy to postulate that if in fact his parents were ghosts, it only follows that Casper himself would be. The

same holds true in nature with Star Trek nerds. The conception of Casper can be found in The Friendly Ghost, the first Noveltoon to feature him, released by Paramount in 1945. In this early stage of the young ghosts existence he found that his place in society was in the dregs, the ghost towns, if you will. This compartmentalization would manifest throughout his existence. In this first cartoon, Casper is a cute, pudgy ghost-child, who prefers making friends with people instead of scaring them, also a common theme pervasive throughout his life, as subsequent episodes would reflect. He has left his home at the local haunted house and is determined to go out and make friends. However, every person or animal he comes into contact with takes one horrified look at him and runs off in the other direction. A common and somewhat lazy assumption made by mid 20th Century sociologists was to speculate that this was an obvious racial allegory. The fatal flaw in that thinking is that Casper is white, something surely not lost on the animators. The argument that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan was also unfounded, as future shorts would show that even the other white ghosts were not particularly fond of him for reasons never fully established. Until now. What is painfully obvious, seen through the prism of enlightenment of the year 1989, is that Casper represented not the stigma of the black man, but in fact was an amalgam of what would be referred to in the 1940=s as a dandy or lightshoe. Ladies and Gentleman the crux of my thesis boils down to this. Casper the Friendly Ghost was a homosexual. And an out one at that. He was happy with what he was and comfortable in his own skin, or ectoplasm. This gaiety was not acceptable in the social order and mores of the time. No. Casper the Ghost, while seemingly unrepressed, was an outcast, an unrepentant flamer. This was not a racial prejudice, this was a sexual one! It did not matter that he was a friendly ghost. In fact he was too friendly. It didn=t matter that he was pure of heart. He was an effeminate little boy who threatened the peaceful and innocent nature of the times. A white little ghost boy, whose exploits are shunned and gawked at by millions. A latter day equivalent to Michael Jackson if you will. The lessons learned and hammered home repeatedly over the course of the many shorts was, you stay on your side of the line and we=ll stay on ours. And we will shun you, regardless. Kind of like Texans. While the major subtext of Casper was his unabashed homosexuality, he was also an early martyr and flag bearer in the fight against mental illness. Returning to his initial feature, The Friendly Ghost, when we last left off,

Casper has found himself disheartened and shunned by even the most gentle forest creatures and carefree children. At this point in his life, which mental health professionals refer to as the futile stage, Casper finds himself lost. Distressed and distraught, his mind is filled with wretched and raging thoughts of suicide. 1940=s society cast mental illness as a foible, a failure of an individual. It was the fault of a weak and diseased mind, the effects of which caused Casper to feel even more isolated and anguished. In what can only be referred to as a classic and desperate cry for help, he lay himself down on a railway track in an unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide (apparently forgetting that he's already dead). As one can imagine, the train passed right through him with no damage done to his body, but crushing his spirit even more, no pun intended. The cartoon ends with the archetypal tale of redemption as Casper meets two little children who look past his flamboyancy and see the person inside, a not so trifle task with a ghost, but I digress. Undaunted, they befriend him and redeem him as a ghoul if not as a person. A cynical viewer will note that the lesson learned is that only a child or an ignoramus can be friends with the ghost, i.e., the homosexual. A rational individual=s obvious natural reaction would be fear or disgust. The only conclusion that can be gleaned from Casper=s sad existence is that he must suffer the slings and arrows of those around him, but that future generations will look back upon him as a hero, A Jackie Robinson or Boy George of the Ghost movement. I posit that Casper would be an apt symbol for today=s homosexual movement, a throwback to the times of the garish Hollywood musicals popularized by Busby Berkeley and the incomparable Judy Garland. His campy antics and pallid color would now fit neatly into the fabric of the tightly wound homosexual lifestyle and his visage should be permanently sewn into the rainbow flags found commonplace throughout their stylish communities. Sadly, Casper is an anachronism, in a time when nostalgia is embraced unironically, which is doubly sad, considering the homosexual community=s embrace of the ironic. Right? That whole Liza Minneli, Female Comedian loving thing is ironic, right? Well maybe that is for another thesis. In closing, I would like you to gaze upon the poetry bestowed upon Casper in regards to his lifestyle. Poignancy personified. He was dignity unmatched. Float away, young Casper. Float away. Casper, the friendly ghostThe friendliest ghost you know.The grownups might look at him with fright,But the children all love him so.He always says helloAnd he's really glad to meet ya'Wherever he may go,He's kind to every

living creature.Grownups don't understand,Why children love him the most,But kids all know that he loves them so,Casper the friendly ghost! Lloyd was proud of it and excited to see what his teacher thought of it. He received an A and was thrilled until he read the teacher=s comments. Apparently the teacher had taken it at face value and thought that Lloyd=s premise was spot on. The teacher mentioned that he was a homosexual himself and that he was going to spread this theory throughout his gay circle of friends. The success he had in the class gave him confidence to try submitting short stories to the school anthology magazine. He had some rejected, but eventually he got one published. It was a twist on those people who use public places to ask their sweetheart to marry them. A Special Message Kevin: I can=t believe you are going to do that on national television, man. Cindy is going to be so shocked!@ Roger: I know, I am kind of nervous about it because that is a big thing to put out there in front of the world, but she deserves it. We have been together a long time, four years, and it=s time I let her know how I truly feel. It works out really well that I know the guy who works the scoreboard at the game. He said they are going to put the message up on the jumbotron and that the TV station will show it over the air live and then they will cut to us. It is going to be awesome. Kevin: Well, she is a great girl, you are lucky to have her. I really like her. In fact, I am stopping by her house on the way home tonight. I am glad you aren=t threatened that we are friends. Roger: Thanks, man, I appreciate it. You are one hell of a friend. Make sure you are watching, they are going to do it right before the seventh inning stretch, tomorrow. Perfect timing. At the ballgame: Kevin: How do you like the seats, pretty awesome, huh? Cindy: Yeah, they are great, how did you get them? Kevin: You remember, my pal, Ritchie? He works for the team, he set me up good. Cindy: What is the matter, you seem nervous?

Kevin: What, the sweating? Oh, it is just hot out, you know? Why do you ask? Cindy: Oh, nothing. Kevin: Did Roger tell you something last night that he shouldn=t have? Cause I will kill him. Cindy: Ummm, maybe. Kevin: Damn it. Cindy: Oh, don=t be mad, I think it is neat. I can=t wait. Kevin: Oh, but now the surprise is ruined. Cindy: I will make it look good for the camera. I promise. Kevin: Really! You promise! Cause it is about to happen. Stadium Announcer: Ladies and Gentlemen, please direct your attention to the scoreboard for a special announcement. Cindy: Oh my god, I am so excited! My stomach hurts! Kevin: Here it comes! Message on Scoreboard: DEAR CINDY SIMMONS, YOU STUPID C*NT I KNOW YOU ARE CHEATING ON ME WITH ROGER SANDERS. NOW THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS. GO F*CK YOURSELF. Fade out. It was his own take on O Henry. And it was intoxicating to see his name in print, and it felt good to get some positive feedback from his friends. But of course his brain had other ideas. Hey, what=s your name? Linda? How you doing Linda, my name is Lloyd. I write humor stories for the Jayhawker. What=s that? You saw my little thing about the fuck yourself being broadcast on the scoreboard, oh yeah, that was just a throwaway thing I came up with. What=s that, you told yourself you were going to meet that author and throw yourself at him? Well I am flattered, thanks, I think you are attractive and would love to touch your ample breasts. Sure, next week is fine.

See? What the fuck was wrong with him, even in his fantasies he was putting it off. Bang her tonight you homo. It=s a fantasy, Jesus. So year three of college had come and gone and Lloyd had finally made contact with the aliens. It wasn=t quite a full on anal probe, but he was now aware of what the texture of their skin felt like. He was resilient, like a Camel in desert, who just had its first taste of water after 20 years of wandering the Sahara. Chapter 13 For the summer, his dad had secured him an internship at one of the local tv stations in Chicago. He was going to be an intern working for the sports anchormen. It would not be the first time his father helped him secure a job. It was a prime gig and someone with more wherewithal would have parlayed it into something more. But Lloyd was the holder of the Championship belt in underachieving and he did no more than what was expected. It was also not the first time that he would not exactly put forth a full effort. I believe the proper term was being pro-active, something he was allergic too. A lack of pro-action appeared to be his modus operandi across all aspects of his life. He would come in each night and watch sporting events, and notate when exciting plays had occurred. The producers would then take those notes and edit the games and show the highlights on the sportscasts. He met some cool people, and it was a good resume filler, but he did not capitalize on what could have been a good stepping stone to his career. He was grateful for his dad=s help, but felt guilty that he never capitalized on it. His father was trying to give him a good start, and it never hurt getting breaks. But Lloyd was too lazy to bother trying harder. His dad=s was turning 50 and the party was going to be held at their house on July 4th. He had a lot of friends and they were all invited to the house for the party. When the guests started arriving they parked on the street and inevitably some had to unbelievable temerity to park in front of Mitnek=s house, which was a public street. Of course he was courteous as always as he came exploding out of the house like the Mike Ditka clone that he was, and started hurling antisemitic epithets at the top of his lungs. AYou fucking Jew and your fucking long nose Jew friends are impeding my LIFE!!!@ It made no sense, as usual, and his only recourse was to pull his van out of the own driveway and park it in the Kulligan=s. He then got out his leafblower, placed it on the ground and let it blare right into the backyard where the festivities were being held. Nathan Kulligan kindly excused himself from the party, strolled over to Mitnek and in a very quiet, but controlled voice, told him to move his fucking van, turn off his fucking leafblower and go into his fucking house like the fucking worthless cockroach that he was. He also

casually mentioned that if he did not, he was going to take his keys and scratch it from the hood of the van, over the roof and to the trunk. Nathan Kulligan was not a man to trifle with. Mitnek=s face turned bright purple and liked a trapped skunk he shot back with his vile stank. He told Nathan that he knew that Merrill Kulligan was fucking the mailman. Nathan calmly assured Mitnek once again to go back into his house and worry about beating his own wife and not spoil this party. None of the guests knew what was transpiring and Mitnek quietly moved the van and went back into the house. Nathan told Lloyd about the confrontation and Lloyd=s pride in his father, which was always immense, swelled. Lloyd related the story to Steve, who was there, and was already amused by the fact that the Kulligans had catered Chinese food for a Fourth of July Party. Lloyd was ranting about Mitnek this and Mitnek that, and Steve finally realized that the guy=s name was really Mitnek. Lloyd had been blathering about him for years, and Steve just assumed Mitnek was a Yiddish word for prick faced asshole. If it wasn=t, it should be, Lloyd replied. For senior year of college, Lloyd was going to live in a house with Mike, and one of Mike=s friends, Declan. Lloyd didn=t know him very well, but Mike promised that he was a cool dude and that he was lowkey. God Bless Mike and his earnestness, but he couldn=t have been more wrong. Declan turned out to be a pretentious arthouse , Kierkegaard quoting, philosophy majoring patronizing cockstain. If coffeehouses existed in the late 80's Declan would have been front and center reading his pedantic poetry and strumming Cat Stevens on his acoustic guitar. Suffice it to say, Lloyd and him were not a good match. As has been fully established so far, Lloyd thrived on peace and quiet, and in the first week of school, Declan had people over until 5 in the morning, eating shrooms and discussing Proust. It was really sickening. Lloyd would tell them to shut up, and Declan, in the midst of his shroom buzz would call Lloyd a dissenter and an abrogater. It made no sense. Declan also seems personally offended at Lloyd=s work ethic. Lloyd didn=t spend much time on schoolwork and that seemed to piss Declan off to no end. He would ask Lloyd if he had done his homework, and Lloyd would glare at him and answer, ANo, Mother, I promise I will get to it.@ And then Declan would lecture him about getting a proper education, and Lloyd would make up a Voltaire quote just to piss him off. Who the hell was he to give a shit if Lloyd had his work done. It was a tense existence for the two of them, and Mike just stayed out of the way. Neither of them ever talked to him again after the year.

Mike, having never lived with Lloyd, got a first hand and front row seat to his neuroses. The house abutted the local high school and an adjoining park. Every morning at 7:45 the high school band would conduct band practice in the park. Lloyd would wake up in a huff, pull the pillow over his head, and then when he couldn=t take it anymore, he would open his window and scream at them to shut the fuck up. No one ever heard him. Mike thought it was the funniest thing he had ever seen or heard. Lloyd told him that he was going to write a letter to the high school principal to petition them to stop playing. Mike told him he should, just to egg him on. Lloyd knew he was taunting and teasing him, but he agreed and thought it would be funny. So he did. He created stationary from a law firm and pretended to be a lawyer. Dear Principal Pettigrew, I am writing in regards to the noises emanating from your playing fields on a daily basis. At approximately 7:42 am every morning, my client, Robert Mitnek, is awakened to what appears to be the sounds of farm animals being slaughtered on your school grounds. In reality, that noise is your school Aband@ butchering John Philip Sousa and Richard Marx. On behalf of my client, I am writing to let you know I have filed a cease and desist order with the county of Douglas and with the city of Lawrence, Kansas. The incessant noise is causing a serious sleeping disorder in my client, and I ask that the band practice be moved to a time when he is not home. If this is not accomplished I will be forced to proceed to small claims court. Sincerely, George Mitterwald, Attorney at Law. Mitterwald was a catcher for the Cubs in the mid 70's. The music did not stop. Another issue that reared its ugly head, during their residence together was the fact that several of the neighbors had the nerve to house canines in said properties. Lloyd would be watching TV at night and the dogs would start barking like dogs do for no reason, and he would get tense and his face would get red, and Mike would once again start taunting him about the noise. What=s the matter, Lloyd? You look angry? What is the problem? And Lloyd would storm outside and head down the alley where a rottweiler would be barking at imaginary invaders. With Mike close behind, and laughing heartily, Lloyd would start screaming at the top of his lungs for the dog to shut the fuck up. Then he would kick the fence, which would make the dog bark more. Mike would tell him to that if he kept yelling long enough

the dogs would start to understand him. Lloyd would go sulk back into the house fuming. Future counseling sessions with a trained psychiatrist would determine that all of Lloyd=s noise issues could be traced back to that Yiddish prickfaced asshole, Mitnek. Lloyd was still anchoring weekly sportscasts on the campus radio station and was really enjoying it. He had read that graduating seniors in liberal arts programs on average were making 27 grand a year, and he figured that would be pretty cool since he was graduating in 7 months. He would get a job in sports and be on his way. He was as naive as the day he left for college, and the reality was just as cold. He wouldn=t come close to making that salary until he was pushing 30. But that was another day. A pretty girl named Jessica reported the news during his broadcasts, and since she was of the female gender and spoke to him without repulsion, Lloyd became hopelessly infatuated with her. Lloyd would ramble about her to his circle of friends and Mark and Mike were pretty good at tuning him out after all these years. One of the disc jockeys also knew her and took great delight in telling Lloyd that she was married, 24, and already had a three year old daughter. He was apparently a jealous prick and didn=t like how friendly the two of them were. Though Lloyd was pretty taken aback by the news. Fuck, figures she is married, you know it would have been nice if SHE WOULD HAVE FUCKING TOLD ME. Yeah, big guy, because you were already to sweep in and make your big move. Yeah, thank god she=s married, or else you would have totally hit that shit. Quit lying to yourself, pussy. He was turning 21 in a few days and the Scarlet V was written all over his face. On his birthday he made plans to hang out with one his original unrequited crushes, Deena, who was still enjoying telling everyone about him falling off the gymnastic rings and missing the mat. They went out to a bar and she kept buying him tequila shots. Soon enough the inevitable happened and...(for most people, the term, Athe inevitable happening@ and the combination of alcohol, would mean that said person with said unrequited crush would make a clumsy attempt to kiss the girl or force themselves upon them in embarrassing fashion. But by now, we know Lloyd is even more pathetic)...Lloyd started bitching about his virginity and why hasn=t it happened and Deena put her hand to her head like an imaginary gun and pulled the trigger. Lloyd was so shitfaced, he didn=t even notice and started to blather about how she was the only attractive Jewish girl he had ever met and why didn=t she like him, and how

come this and how come that, and she started laughing really loud. He was slurring rather loudly at this point. "It was 8 yearsh ago when I fell off those ringsh and I liked you back then even and you laugh at me and still tell people about that, that means you must like me right, Deena, you like me, don=t you, tell me you do..." He proceeded to tell her that she was really pretty and that he had never told anyone that before and next thing you know hey were in her bed screwing and Lloyd lost his virginity on his 21st birthday. Ha ha, you didn=t believe that did you, reader? No, no, she drove Lloyd home and plopped him on his couch where he proceeded to pass out while simultaneously pissing himself. Well he was officially legal to drink. What kind of country did he live in that it was ok to vote and join the armed services at 18, drink at 21, and not be congressionally guaranteed to lose one=s virginity. Total bullshit, and our founding fathers would never have stood for it. He was starting to become friendlier with Jessica, from the radio station, in fact it he much more comfortable around her, knowing that she was unavailable. It was like women who hang out with gay dudes, they aren=t threatened by the men and are comfortable around them. Lloyd was Jessica=s fag hag. One day she asked him if he wanted to go with her to a bar that evening. He was nonplused, and agreed with no expectations. He still was highly attracted to her, but she had told him she had just recently separated from her husband, so Lloyd took that as a clue to not make any sort of move. Ha ha, like he would Amake a move.@ More likely he would accidentally graze her hand while reaching for the peanuts and summarily break out into a full body sweat. So off to the bar they went and Lloyd was relaxed with her, and had a good time, since there was no pressure of on him to impress her, just two friends out. They danced to some music and they drank a little and she laughed a lot, and he was having a nice time. She told him that her husband was verbally abusive and that is why she was in the midst of divorcing him. She also said he had a tendency to peer through her windows now on occasion, which sounded pretty creepy. She seems to tolerate me, this isn=t bad, not at all. As usual, the old unrequited routine, she has a pretty smile. I like when she grabs my hand to dance, its like a jolt going through me. I am so pathetic, getting cheap thrills from a periodic brush of skin against skin, but I will take it. God I wonder if she has any clue of how much I am lusting for her. I am going to crank one out so bad tonight.

At the end of the evening, Lloyd drove her home and as he got ready to say bye, of course with no impure intentions, she asked if he wanted to come in. Uh, what was going on here, was this like with Gigi, am I being an idiot? Am I going to get some? Get some? Some what? ABut aren=t you worried the kids might wake up and see me?@ He was an idiot. ANo, Lloyd they are pretty sound sleepers.@ So he went in with her, still with no expectations, just thinking that they were hanging out. He sat with her on her couch, and she grabbed his hand. Well, this is interesting. Maybe I should put my hand around her, she sure is being friendly. Man, too bad she has kids. Jesus Christ, what the fuck was his fascination with the damn kids. She was still a woman. Good god, he was annoying. Boy she smells nice, I wish I could kiss her. But she only likes me as a friend, obviously. God he was so fucking stupid, this book should stop right now. Why is she looking at me that way? Is she going to kiss me? OHMYGOD. She is kissing me. Roll your tongue! Roll your tongue! After their make out session he excused himself to go to the bathroom, because that is what dipshits do when they are about to get Asome@. As he came out of the bathroom he was confronted with the scariest thing he had ever been confronted with in his entire life. It literally shook him to his core. She was lying naked on the floor and told him to come over. She looked just like a bear rug, just a tad less hairy. He looked out the window to make sure her husband wasn=t watching. And then reality sunk in. That=s real live pubic hair. My brain does not compute, that is not in a magazine. Those are real breasts. This is not happening. I AM FREAKING OUT.

AUh, I, uh, don=t have a condom.@ What? That is what you first think when you are finally confronted with live bush? You are all allowed to chuck this book in the garbage. My apologies to everyone. Shut the door on the way out. AOh, you are silly,@ she said. AYou don=t need one. I have had that taken care of, no more kids for me. Now come here.@ The colossal thing he had waited 21 years, 1 month, 13 days and six hours for was immediately imminent. 3 and 2 years of college, and 11, 235 masturbatory sessions, and it was finally here. He removed his clothes and went to her. They embraced and started kissing and fondling. This was it. He allowed his hands to brush over her pubic hair. Whoa, it feels likes a hairbrush! But why was he sweating profusely from every pore on his body? Because that=s who he was! And why was he shaking more than Michael J. Fox on a tilt a whirl? And why wasn=t IT working. The sweat started pouring out his ass like Niagara Falls. All his life, he had built this moment up in his head, and the reality of it finally being there was too overwhelming and cataclysmic. Of course he had already told her he was a virgin, because that is what he did, and somehow he had finally found someone who was overlooking his obvious whiny faults and was going to have sex with him. She felt how clammy and nervous he was and told him it was ok, that it isn=t a big deal and that it happens to everyone. He left and whimpered all the way home. Choker. Choker. Choker. He heard the crowds taunting him. He had whiffed with the bases loaded and his team down a run. Game over, man. Game over. What a failure. Can=t get it up for the hottest moment of my life. If I wasn=t such a wuss I would have the guts to kill myself. 21 years old, and I couldn=t do it. All my life waiting for that, and nothing. God she was hot. I can=t wait to jack off. He laid in his bed all night staring at the ceiling lamenting his fate. This was as close as he was going to get and he blew it. But to his credit, instead of crawling under a rock and avoiding her forever, he called her the next day. She was nice and told him to come over again that night. ABut I didn=t come last night@, he joked AYou will tonight.@

Gulp. When he got there she introduced him to daughter, who was actually 5 years old. She didn=t seem put off that an odd man that wasn=t her daddy was in her house and she said good night to him as Jessica escorted her to bed. She came back and immediately shoved Lloyd onto the couch and began grinding on top of him. He liked it. A lot. A whole real lot. So much so that he went home sticky. The first orgasm caused by someone other than himself. It may have been through two layers of fabric, but it counted. That was more his pace, even though it meant he would need to do more laundry. Which meant twice a month instead of the usual once. The rubbing routine continued for about a week, until one night, when she just up and put it into her mouth. He didn=t have any problem with that. It was heavenly. It was the best feeling he had had since he at the dentist getting a cavity filled. The dentist used sweet air, or laughing gas and a person would hallucinate and your body would be happily numb and just feel awesome, it was the best feeling of his life. Until now. And then the bell rang. He zipped up fast, knowing full well it was her husband and that he was going to get his ass kicking of his life. He hid behind the door and wet his pants just a little. Jessica went to answer it, and there stood Mike and Mark. Lloyd never hated them more in his life. They came in and hung out for awhile. They knew where she lived, because Lloyd had been talking about her nonstop since the night he didn=t fuck her. And they had met her before when they came to visit him at the radio station. They finally left after about a half hour, and luckily she had not forgotten what she was doing before the bell had rang. Afterwards, he finally felt like he had entered the world of the living. He was on his way to the moon. It was in her mouth. Not my hand, or my bedroom rug, or Elle. In an actual female mouth. A women put my thing in her mouth. You are not dreaming, Lloyd. As the whole rubbing their privates through their jeans routine was juvenile and mundane, at least for her, one night she unceremoniously yanked off his pants and climbed on top of him and 20 seconds later that was that. All of sudden Neil Armstrong was on the moon. The world didn=t turn from black and white to color. The sky wasn=t any bluer. It wasn=t a letdown, per se, but was it worth the years and years and years of pursuit? But he knew one thing. His dick was inside a woman. Fuck

the Bar Mitzphah, now he was a man. A girly man, and a wussy man, but a man nonetheless. The Scarlet V was now gone. Sadly if anyone could make it re-appear, it would be Lloyd. But for now, he was entering the world of the people who have had sex with an animate object. It may have been fast and nondescript and the worst lay of her life, but for him it was a life changer. He knew it, and so did she. it was like she was Schindler and had saved him from the Nazis, he would be indebted to her forever. It was winter break, and he was going to go home a non-virgin and with a girlfriend. A few days later he announced a KU basketball game in which they creamed Kentucky in the most lopsided win in school history. Life was great. December 1989 would forever be remembered in the annals of Kulligandom as the BEST MONTH EVER. Before Christmas break Mark took Lloyd to a party at Berbek's frat house. Yes, shockingly Berbek was a frat guy. "Kulligan, I hear you got your dick wet!," yelled Berbek. "You are only part faggot now! I wondered about you, Kulligan, I seriously wondered about you." "Maybe I am gay, Steve, I didn=t like the sex, all I could think about was you the whole time. Your physique, your..." Lloyd told him. "Stop it, Kulligan, you faggot." Lloyd continued. "You are just so masculine, Berbek, I was balls deep in bush and all I could think about was you." "I will kick your ass, Kulligan, I aint no faggot." "I don=t know man, why was I thinking of you the whole time?" "Machine, your friend is asking to get his ass asked." Mark played along with Lloyd. "Why so defensive, Steve, maybe he's right. You do seem to overcompensate" "Overwhat? I aint over shit. I like poontang. clear and simple." "You sure, Berbek?" Mark asked. Berbek=s face was bright red and his hands were balled up in a fist, so Mark changed the topic of conversation.

"So, Steve, it was nice to hang out with our high school boys Saturday wasn=t it?" "Totally, Machine. we should get together every week. Make it an annual thing."

Finally things were panning out for Lloyd. Girlfriend, a burgeoning career in broadcasting, six months away from graduation. Onward and upward. During break while in Chicago, he didn=t want to seem desperate, so he only called Maggie twice a day. She seemed a little distant but seemed happy to hear from him though by the end of break, he was only calling her once every few days. He felt their relationship was at the stage where he didn=t need to check in all the time. Their "relationship" was 16 days old. He had a acquired a new sense of confidence that he had never possessed before. Lloyd and his cohorts had started frequenting the local bars of Chicago, now that he was 21, and he was in the early stages of forming his bar behavior modus operandi, which consisted of lingering on the fringes and leering at attractive women whilst making no effort to make contact. But at this particular juncture, his confidence was high, which was less frequent than the 17 year cicada cycle. On this occasion a pretty girl actually asked him to dance, he figured he must have been giving off confidence vibes since he had a lady back at college. He was flattered, but didn=t take it any further. Ha ha, take it further. You mean like how he passed out the first time he saw a boob, or the time he choked when he first saw bush? Sometimes cocky thoughts would permeate his brain, and he would delude himself into thinking he was something he wasn=t. If it walks like a pussy and sounds like a pussy, well.... Lloyd strutted back on campus in January, ready to resume his torrid love affair with Jessica. He called her when he got back on campus, and was looking forward to seeing her. He had even brought extra laundry detergent just for the occasion. She told him she was busy and that he could come by tomorrow. Well that's interesting. I figured she would want to see me right away. She must be tired. well, I guess I can wait another day. Shit, I made it 21 years. I can do one day with one hand tied around my penis.

He told Mike about it and Mike hemmed and hawed and seemed like he wanted to tell Lloyd something but didn=t do it. Mike was a really nice guy, and didn=t have the heart to tell him what he really thought. Lloyd was a dumbass. The next day, she didn=t want to see him either, and while he may have been a dumbass, he wasn=t an idiot. But he was a creep. So off he went to her house to peer into her window, just like her creepy husband did. It was a mistake. He saw her on the same couch that he had lost his virginity on making out with some dude. He started crying and ran off like a little girl. There was no vengeance like in a teen heartbreak movie, where the protagonist heaves a brick through the window and tells her to fuck off. No, siree, he whimpered like a little boy and cried himself to sleep. Why, why, why!!! things were going so well before I left. She really liked me. I am never washing my cumstained blue jeans EVER AGAIN.... In the end he found out that it was her formerly estranged husband, and that they had gotten back together at Christmas. Damn his rotten luck. And being the nice sincere idiot that he was, he was sort of happy for her. And slowly but surely the virginity started to grow back. In the meanwhile, one of his classes in his final semester was a theater history class in which he was massively overmatched. He didn=t care about greek theater and shockingly didn=t put much effort into the class. But a serendipitous occurrence happened midway through the course. Mark started dating the TA, a rather attractive girl named Marla. Lloyd was struggling along getting his normal C=s and D=s until she casually mentioned that she had a copy of the midterm. Well, he wasn=t going to pass that up. But, instead of being prudent and not getting every answer right, in a class that he had previously struggled, he got a 100 on the test which sent the histrionically, stereo typically gay teacher into a hissy fit for the ages. AThomehow,@ he theatrically lisped, Athome people in the class got their hanths on a copy of the midterm. I shall make their lives mitherable if I ever find out how that happened.@ Lloyd sat smugly sat in his seat, appreciating how he had gotten under the over dramatic teacher=s skin. At the end of the year, Lloyd casually asked the teacher if he minded if Lloyd took the final exam early as he needed to fly home to visit his sick grandmother.

The teacher said, AAbsolutely,not! I will make no exceptions!@ Lloyd was taken aback by his anger, and asked him if he would mind if he went to his superiors to get an ok. He was sincere, he wasn=t trying to annoy the man or anything. AIf you do that, I WILL SUE YOU FOR EVERYTHING YOU HAVE GOT. DO YOU HEAR ME, I WILL SUE YOU.@ AUh, ok? A Lloyd chuckled, causing the man to have a near conniption fit. AI KNOW IT WAS THOU WHO CHEATED, I DON=T KNOW HOW OR WHERE YOU GOT IT, I KNOW IT WAS THOU!! ACalm down, Shakespeare,@ Lloyd untheatrically stated, Awhat will you sue me for?@ AFor crimes against the state!@ AUh, yeah, um, so, uh, can you tell me when the next shuttle arrives to take me back to Earth?@ Lloyd smart mouthed back. AYoung man, you shall reap what you have sown, and pay the price of the pauper!@ AOk. Uh, sorry I asked.@ Somehow he got a D in the class and managed to graduate. Miraculously his grade point average was almost exactly the same as it was in high school. 2.34 on a four point scale. He was proud that he had weaseled his way through college in four years. . It took many years for Lloyd to realize that the saying is true. AYouth is wasted on the youth.@

Chapter 14 So College was ending and it was off to a successful career in sports broadcasting. He figured he would be if not famous, well known by oh, age 25. His father had advised him once that maybe he should shift his focus to news, that maybe his interest in sports would wain as he got older. That went through one ear and out the other. Who would get bored with sports? Now apparently there was some misguided notion that he was expected to get a job on his own. He sent out a few resumes to minor league baseball

teams and small town tv stations. And by sending out resumes, it was just that. No cover letters or anything. He just assumed a job would materialize out of thin air. He would try hard over the Summer, he said. And trying hard meant sending out seven resumes. By the end of the summer he decided to actually proofread the resume. Lloyd Kulligan Objective: To purse a career in sprots broadcasting. Hmm. Wonder if that had any effect on him not getting a job. Well never fear, Daddy is here! Nathan Kulligan was a very successful lawyer and had many contacts and friends, and got Lloyd an internship at a small radio station in Chicago. It didn=t pay anything but it would be a good experience. Daddy also got him a job as a security job at a high end mall in downtown Chicago. He got to wear a sweet green jacket and carry a billy club. Together the two jobs paid 7.50 an hour, a cool $14,000 grand a year. Luckily he still lived at home and was sponging full-time off his parents. He was palling around with Steve and Henry and now that they were all 21, they could legitimately go to any bar they wanted, which they did every weekend. It was the same thing every time. Go to bar. See hot women. Stare like a creep at hot women. Stare some more. Pretend to drink out of empty beer bottle, because it looks cool. Go home. Rinse. Repeat the following next week. This ritual went on and on until Steve finally got sick of it and stopped going. Lloyd=s virginity had regrown and had fully reattached itself. Karen, his best girl friend from grammar school and high school was going to law school and Lloyd would go hang out with her in the law library where she studied. She introduced him to a very pretty black girl who somehow took an interest in him. She called him one night and they talked on the phone for three hours. After which Lloyd somehow got the balls to ask her out. They went on a date to a dance club and had a real nice time where they and danced Adirty@. It was very provocative and Lloyd felt like Joe Cool. The date went very well, and of course at the end of the night Mr. Pussy didn=t even kiss her goodnight. They went out again and she got very drunk and invited Lloyd up to her room. She was woozy on the bed, and made googoo eyes at him. Being the gentleman he was, he didn=t make a move. The next day she thanked Lloyd for not taking advantage of her. God, no wonder his Aunt thought he was gay.

They went out FOUR MORE TIMES and he didn=t try to kiss her at all. Surprisingly, she didn=t want to go out for the 7th time. He couldn=t even remember her name years later. It was a shameful memory and even he couldn=t figure out why he was so docile and ineffectual. He would have night terrors and wake up in a sweat just like in high school when he didn=t kiss that Jewess at the jew function. It was like a Vietnam flashback. Post traumatic wuss syndrome. Two years out of school and he was still living with his parents, and Ellen had just graduated. They had a new turtle named Marlon, named after Marlon Brando. Their first turtle Cedric died tragically after being contaminated in a flood that overwhelmed his bowl while Lloyd was at college. It was extremely emotional for everyone and Marlon eased the wound.. Marlon was a sound replacement, his nickname was the Big Hurt, after Frank Thomas of the White Sox. He was a solid turtle, a lot of confidence and plodded around like a tough guy. He was beloved by the family, a worthy successor to Cedric. Merrill Kulligan had turtles when she was a child and passed her love on to her children. The turtle was cute and he would sun himself in the window and stretch his neck, making it warm and leathery. If you rubbed its head, it would open its mouth, and Lloyd and Steve used to laugh that he was saying, ASTEVE@ when he would do it. They kept him in a plastic bowl, and sometimes he would climb up the sides and yank himself out, it was very cute, seeing him strain his whole neck and body. And then he would fump down on the ground and toddle off. Well, one day Lloyd took Marlon outside in the backyard to get him some nice fresh air. Lloyd went into the house to do some chores, (most likely masturbate) and forgot about Marlon. Sure enough when he went outside, Marlon had escaped his horrific life at the hands of these lunatics, and had made a run for it. It was one of the most panic stricken moments of Lloyd=s life, even worse than being caught mauling the sheepskin rug. He searched all over the back yard and couldn=t find him anywhere. The search stretched from minutes to hours. Lloyd was crying. He called his uncle who lived 10 miles away and he raced over to help in the search. Henry came by after work and they searched a two block perimeter. The irony was horrible. His turtle had run away. For good. It was devastating, like a death in the family. There was a river nearby and they always hoped he made it there.

Chapter 15 The next few years were terribly nondescript as he bounced from one crappy job to another. His next job after the radio internship, was at a 911 call center for cell phones. Lloyd would connect a person on their car cell phone to the nearest 911 operator, as back then the calls could not be tracked. He took the job because it was headquartered in the same building as sportsphone. Way back in the aught-90's before the internet, people actually dialed their phones to get recorded updates on sporting events that were currently in progress. It=s like describing the telegraph after the telephone was invented. It was a horrible job and Lloyd hated it. The whole job was determined by the weather. Lloyd would wake up and see that it was going to snow and he knew his day would be miserable. Cars skidding out, crashes, the whole shebang. One of his coworkers, Chester, was a man-child, 400 pounds with curly hair and coke bottle glasses. His natural voice sounded like he was doing babytalk. AHewwo Wooyd, how are you, today, big fella.@ He always wore a Toys R US shirt that was way to small and his pits were always stained. Mike would stop by with the sole intention of talking to Chester about the TV show Perfect Strangers. Chet did a particularly bad Balki imitation and said he did his hair in the same style as Mark Lynn Baker, the nerdy dude on that show. One benefit of the job, was that the facility that housed both the 911 center and Sportsphone, had satellite cable. It was necessary in order to keep up with all the sporting events, and not only did it get every sporting event on the planet, most importantly it got satellite porn. The sports guys would put it on for a laugh during the day. Chester did not find it amusing. He was fired after he was caught fucking a Barney the Dinosaur doll hidden in his sweat pants. He had sat in the back of the room and turned on the Greek Erotic Male Wrestling channel at his cubicle, and when he thought no one was looking, he went to town. One of the sportsphone dudes turned around to grab a pencil and to his horror caught him. Before he could even yell at Chet, he began vomiting profusely. A 400 pound man in a jew perm grinding a toy dinosaur was too much to stomach. What an idiot, Lloyd thought, getting caught cranking one out. Lloyd was smart. He knew to surreptitiously go outside when no one was paying attention and peer through the window slats while the porn was on and spank it out there. That way only strangers could catch him, not coworkers.

Amateur. Soon, a new opportunity came along, and once again it was set up by his daddy. The main sports radio station in Chicago had an internship opportunity available, and Nathan had set up an interview for Lloyd. It was a pinnacle job for him to have. He was so excited and nervous after the interview that he got the shits and had to run into a nearby McDonalds. It was too late. He chucked his underwear in the trash and headed home. And he got the job. He was 24, and taking an internship that paid nothing. At his last day of work at the emergency phone line he spit on the floor as a parting shot to the hell he endured. Because poor baby had to answer phones. Life was so rough for him. At the radio station there were three separate talk shows that he would be working on. It was very exciting. Sports talk, Chicago sports teams, and phone calls from fanatical listeners. He was thrilled to have the job, as it was a steppingstone to what was going to be a successful career in sports broadcasting. His ascent had begun. He worked 8 hour days, 5 days a week at the start. His main job for the first month was ordering fried rice from Chin's House of Chin, for the on air talent, and refilling their empty coffee mugs. After awhile he even learned how to use the copy machine and send faxes. He also learned that the morning host was a gigantic douchebag who spent every commercial break berating his producers for all things large and small. It was tyrannical and epically prickish, and Lloyd found himself despising him. The dude enjoyed screaming at the interns for all things little and small while he was on the air, be it for disagreeing with him or bringing him a tepid cup of coffee. On air he came off as nice guy while the truth was that he was a miserable two faced son of a bitch. He once berated Lloyd for deigning to enter his space and hand him a cup of water while he was on air. "What the fuck is wrong with you Kulligan? don=t you see I am on the fucking air, you idiot? You ruined my rhythm, how the fuck am I supposed to talk about the Bears O-Line issues when some pimply faced 25 year old man intern is in my face? AUh.", stammered Lloyd. "Uh? uh is all you can say? Uh? Get the fuck out of my face....@ and three, two one, AWelcome back to the Ron Baer show here on 820 am, it sure is a great day to be a sports fan...." Lloyd had better luck with the hosts of the afternoon show and found himself getting more and more important assignments from them. He was allowed to edit tape and set up some phone interviews. Stuff that producers would

normally do. He still needed to get them their fried rice, but the other duties weren=t too bad. He had started to learn how to run the board, that is shop talk for the, uh, board, that had all the controls. It was sort of neat. What was not neat was the half breeds who called in to talk sports, or pretty much known as the lifeblood of talk radio. Lloyd was trusted to screen calls for the hosts. People would call in and he would decide whether they were worthy of air time. Worthy? A 7 year old had more cogent thoughts than the majority of callers to talk radio. It=s bad enough when you want to be referred to as BearsFan Barry, but to pontificate about the intricacies of the Bears defensive schemes in early July was borderline retarded. Dante had his levels of hell, and callers to sports talk shows was near the top. Or bottom. He didn=t realize it at the time, but he was beginning to hate sports radio and being in sports in general. It looked like his dad=s advice was right. He should have focused on news. Lloyd was becoming much more interested in politics and daily news events and being an intern at a sports station was starting to seem foolish. He sometimes was sent out with reporters to cover events which was neat, if you were 15, and he began to realize that most of the sports reporters were dorks. Watch a sports interview someday where reporters are gathered around an athlete and he makes a mildly amusing comment. Gushes of laughter from the ass-kisser sports geeks in the gallery. Nerdy guys who were never good enough to make their eighth grade basketball team and instead became the team manager to hang around the action. And then they grow up and kiss some more ass. That happened to Lloyd in eighth grade, actually. He wasn=t good enough to make his school basketball team, but he had a chance to be a team manager and he was considering it, until his dad put the quick kibosh on that. ANo way in hell are you going to be picking up the jockstraps and towels of your classmates. That job is for nebbishes. You aren=t a nebbish.@ Lloyd always was grateful to his dad for that. He was right. He wasn=t a nebbish. A wuss, yes. Pussy, check.. A weakling. Check. But he was no nebbish. Just as his hate for sports radio was kicking into high gear, he was offered an actual paying job at the station. And the term paying is used loosely. For six dollars an hour he was hired to be a producer on the morning weekend shows. What that entailed was being at work by 6 am and handling the phone calls. Wheee, his favorite task. Someone who was actually trying to get ahead in their career would have

embraced the task and taken it head on. Lloyd would stroll in about 7 minutes before the show started and wonder why the hosts didn=t care for him. Also, there was nothing like dealing with morons calling at 6:30 on a Saturday morning in December to talk about the Cubs off-season plans. "This is the Gene Thomas show, lets go out to Ernie Banks Jr in Maywood, Hey Ernie!!!" "Uh, yeah, Gene, thanks for taking my call, how ya doing, love your show." "Doing good. Thanks." Every caller in the history of radio starts with that. How you guys? Love your show.@ And then the inanity kicks up a notch. "Uh, yeah, I saw the Cubs 39th round draft pick is a 2nd Baseman from Georgia, do you think he can be better than Ryne Sandberg some day? I was looking at his numbers, he is a career 298 hitter during the day, but hits 19 points higher at night. I think this kid may have a future." So he was raking it in now. Working eight hours a weekend for six bucks an hour. 48 bucks a week at age 25. He was living the high life. To supplement his hedonistic lifestyle he needed to find a job that supplemented his huge weekend paydays. But he didn=t want anything too taxing, of course, god forbid a man of his age support himself. The nerve. He brain stormed to come up with the easiest possible job he could handle during the week. Nothing full-time, of course, come on, he was a big-time radio producer on the weekends, well on his way to greatness. No, no something that would pay the bills. Well, his Daddy was paying the bills, but you know, money he could spend on gambling or candy and stuff. One day he finally had his gigantic epiphany. He loved animals. Dogs and cats especially. Working with people=s pets. How can he do that? Walking peoples dogs, taking care of their cats. Somewhat gay, but also somewhat awesome. But he didn=t have the wherewithal to put out ads and solicit work. Too much effort for someone already working 8 hours a week. He mentioned the idea it to his mother, and she remembered seeing a help wanted ad for dog-walkers in her neighborhood grocery store. His parents had moved downtown and lived in the hoighty toighty Gold Coast, where the rich farm out their animal care to the unwashed masses. A few days later he found the ad himself. City Kitty, the premiere name in Chicago Gold Coast PetCare was hiring

catsitters and dogwalkers. What the hell was a cat sitter? Do cats need to be sat with, he wondered? They seemed pretty douchey and self sufficient to him. The next day he called and left a message for the proprietor of City Kitty. It was a woman with what seemed like a pleasant voice. He imagined the type of woman who would own a petcare business. I wonder how dykey she is? Butch haircut, glasses. owns 7 cats. unmarried. Reads lots of vampire fiction. Plays golf by herself. He was amusing himself. An owner of a petcare business. Yowza. He was actually excited to see how spot on he was with his guess. She called back and set up an interview at a restaurant near his parents apartment. How do you dress for an interview with a dog walking service? You can=t show up in a shirt and tie, can you? Was a t-shirt too informal? His resume was already diverse, but he wasn=t sure what would qualify him for petcare. He went with a polo shirt and jeans. The owner was named Rebecca and she said she would be wearing a yellow blouse and black pants. Size 20, I am sure. Ha. this is going to be funny. Rebecca, I bet she will say her name is Becky. Haha, Becky, what is this 1959? He went to the restaurant and looked around. No dykes anywhere, just a pretty woman in a yellow blouse and black pants. Whoa, she was hot! She was definitely older, probably 30, but blonde hair, a seriously nice chest, and a pretty face that more than one person said resembled Cameron Diaz. She asked him about why he wanted to be a dogwalker slash catsitter and he told her about his love of animals and that it seemed like an easy gig. She seemed to cringe at that answer and he realized that maybe he should take it more seriously, especially if he wanted to impress her. And make his move. Just kidding. Making sure the reader is paying attention. At one point he brought up the harrowing tale of how his turtle Marlon had run away. It may have been a tactical error, who the fuck would hire someone who lost a turtle? At one point he brought up the harrowing tale of how his turtle Marlon had run away. It may have been a tactical error, who the fuck would hire

someone who lost a turtle? She asked him for references. References? He couldn=t give people he really worked with at previous jobs, that would be too embarrassing. AUh, hey there, can you give a reference for me, I, uh, am trying to be a catsitter. It=s where you babysit cats. Hello? Are you there? Hello?@ She could tell that he was bemused by the question and said he could use family if he wanted. Steve would probably get a kick out of it. He gave her Steve's number. And then called him just to make sure he played nice. She called him the next day. AHi, Steve, this is Rebecca from City Kitty, Lloyd gave me your number, he said you could be a good reference for him regarding animals, as you know him pretty well." ADid he tell you his turtle ran away? A turtle? How the hell does a turtle run away? That is like the dictionary definition of irony. I mean, seriously.@ AHe did, he seemed very devastated at the loss,@ Becky told Steve. AWait. Wait. A guy trying to get hired for a petsitting service admits he lost a damn turtle.? Are you sure you want to hire someone like that? That would be like a eye doctor hiring a blind person.@ He was amusing himself, if not Becky. AHe did love that turtle, though, he was always kissing it. That is pretty gross. It swam in its own filth, and he treated it like a member of the family. Odd. But, honestly, he would be good with pets, he is trustworthy and honest and an animal lover,@ Steve said truthfully. AI see on his resume that he graduated with a degree in Radio-TV and Film, and....@ she continued. AWhat? That=s a total lie. His major was Theater and Film, he is just too embarrassed to say he was a Theater major.@ It was true, the University had changed the name of Lloyd=s major in Liberal Arts to Theater and Film and that amused the shit out of Steve. He would call Lloyd a Theater fag all the time. AUh, ok, I don=t think that has anything to do with pet sitting but I will take it under consideration, I was just leading into his career in radio and how

seriously he would take this job.@ she answered. AWell, him being a theater major, could help with your gay clients, I imagine. I assume you have a large proportion of gay clients, because seriously, who else but the gays would hire someone to pamper their kitties, am I right?@ Steve joked AWe do have a large homosexual clientele, yes, you make a valid point,@ she laughed. In the end Steve said he was messing around and that Lloyd would be fine. She took him at his word. She called his parents next, and spoke with his dad who told her how broken up he was when the damn turtle ran away, and the reason that they never had pets was because it would be too hard for everyone when it eventually died. She was touched by that. Somehow, he got the job. And it was the turtle running away that did it, she told him. She could see how heartbroken he was over the whole thing. So just like Jesus, Marlon the turtle became a martyr. The job consisted of taking care of cats of vacationing uppity, high class, hoity toities, who paid top dollar for someone to come in once a day and spend quality time with their felines. He quickly learned that there were two types of client. The fussy ones and the even fussier. These lunatics would have a pile of instructions with specifically ridiculous details on treating their beloved. And the cats always had pretentious names. ANow Mahler likes to be fed promptly at 6 pm and Prado eats at 6:10. So make sure their cans are separated in their compartments in the refrigerator. And don=t forget Mahler likes his water at room temperature and Prado needs his fucking pixie dust sprinkled liberally into his specialty Tuna.@ Inevitably these people didn=t have children and therefore treated their cats as such, when the truth was the cats didn=t give a shit and all they cared about was playing with a piece of discarded tinfoil and sleeping for 22 hours a day. One thing he did learn in his feline travails was that a lot of gay men had cats. And inevitably the cats were extremely feminine. What was the deal with that? You know, there are some playful cats of both genders, and those are fun. But the real prissy cats always tended to be with gay men. So Lloyd deduced that if you are a single dude with a fussy female cat, you are most likely gay. He told his single Uncle Dave never to buy a female cat, lest his

female companions think he was a homo. It was a ridiculous theory. It was inevitable that eventually Lloyd=s rational and earthbound demeanor would not be suited to such high maintenance bullshit, and the end came rather quickly. At one such sit, Lloyd had the temerity to not clean the empty can of cat food to the owners liking, and rudely left remnants only detected by microscope in the sink. FOR SHAME, Lloyd. FOR SHAME. Persnickety pains in the asses. The lot of them. Becky (he was right, she preferred Becky) was good spirited about it and told him that his Anature did not match up suitably with the clients.@ She was good like that, and he found himself liking her. A lot. What else is new? A female person who actually talked to him. Turns out she was 37 to his 25, so nothing was going to happen there. So he felt no pressure talking to her. He reverted to his college and high school days and regaled her with his woeful tales of his failures with women, his late loss of his virginity and its subsequent re-attachment. All the same annoying bullshit that he always yammered on and on about. But she listened and gave him tips on what he could do to improve his luck, just be himself, blah blah blah.. As she was talking he pretended to listen, but was in reality mentally undressing her. Plus his inner monologue was getting edgier as he got older. 37. Man. I would still do that. Ha, would you, you pussy? You wouldn=t do shit. I know. I know you are right. But she is pretty. And nice. She seems to like you enough. Big fucking deal you are like a baby to her. She was in high school when you were in diapers. Whoa, that just gave me a boner. In her infinite wisdom Becky decided to transfer Lloyd to the Dog Walking portion of her business. He was more suited to that. Dogs were more laid back, and so were their owners. There was a fundamental difference between the finicky cat owners and more grounded in reality dog owners. They may think of their dogs as family, but they don=t treat them like children. Most of his dogs needed to be walked while the owner was at work. It was an awesome job. He would walk four dogs a day, and he liked all of them. Fresh air, happy doggies, all was good. He was living the life. Now one aspect of pet sitting was that these people trusted the service in allowing their sitters into their homes. Ritzy homes, mostly. Lloyd was honest, trustworthy and reliable. The one problem he had was that he was nosy. Every new house he went into he snooped through the drawers. He was looking for one thing and one thing only. Porn.

Being a horny man-child himself, he figured that some of these people must have had porn stashed somewhere in their homes. He didn=t have much luck, thought there was one creep who had every Playboy ever, a sword collection, and leather chaps hanging on his wall. There was a new client, with a cute retriever named Harvey, and he hit the jackpot. There next to the television was a video titled All Day Orgy. Jackpot! He popped in the tape, (first looking at the time code, so he would know to rewind it to that exact spot), found some nivea in the bathroom, which he found sort of odd for a man to have, didn=t put much more thought into it, and hit play. On popped 30 men fucking and sucking each other. Bam, he almost broke the remote hitting stop. Well how about that. Apparently homosexuals owned dogs too. He couldn=t come up with a female dog to homosexual owner ratio like he did with cats, so he was more careful the next time he found a porno in someone=s else drawers. Lucky for him, Becky had no clue about his rummaging through the clients houses, or else she may have turned on him. As it was they were becoming close friends. A sharper fellow would have noticed the signals she was sending off, and that she appeared interested in more than friendship. But the age difference seemed like a huge barrier to him so he didn=t even really consider the notion. Even though he really liked her, too. He just figured, wrongly as usual, that she was not interested. One night she called him at home and asked him to come with her to a cat clients house. Becky showed up an found the 18 year old cat dead of natural causes. The callous owner wanted her to chuck it into the garbage, which made Lloyd laugh, but he stopped after he heard her crying. She loved animals and couldn=t believe the person wanted to dispose of the cat so heartlessly and she wanted Lloyd to help her do it. He met her there, Put Rigor Mortis in a trashbag and unceremoniously disposed of it in a dumpster in the alley. She gave him a long hug in thanks and peered at him through her tears. He didn=t notice how she looked like she wanted to kiss him. He didn=t pick up signals like normal humanoids. She asked him if he wanted to go out for drinks and he was happy to oblige. Being seen in public with an attractive woman couldn=t hurt his image he smugly felt. Who he thought would see him was up for debate. They hit the bar and pretty soon were engaged in a pretty intense conversation about Lloyd and his life. In a lighter moment, she demurely told

him about how you could tell a person=s happiness with their sex life by their handwriting. Apparently if you crossed your y=s near the top you were satisfied, and the lower it went, the more hard up you were. Lloyd asked what it meant if his y=s were invisible. That made her laugh, and of course the discussion veered into Lloyd=s lack of sexual experience and why women didn=t like him, blah blah blah. Surprisingly Becky didn=t pull out a gun and off herself, and instead found herself once again dispensing advice to him. ASometimes what you are looking for is right in front of you@, she said. ALike where,@ dumbass asked, Athe radio station? I don=t have any girls I really am attracted to there.@ Being hit over the head with a two ton mallet wouldn=t knock any sense into that head. AMaybe, you could keep your eyes open to a lot of different possibilities, you might be surprised what you find,@ she not so subtly hinted. ADuly noted, thanks for the advice!@ he replied, not noticing the perplexed look on her face. But Becky was not to be deterred. One day Lloyd got to his work at the radio station and checked his answering machine. She had left a long message telling him what a good guy he was and not to be deterred and that there was someone out there for him and that they should get together again. Lloyd consulted with Mike and played the message for him.AOh, Lloyd. My sweet, sweet Lloyd. She totally wants you.@ ANo one has ever WANTED me. You are wrong.@ the dunderhead replied. Mike felt bad for his naive friend=s cluelessness. ADude. Don=t be an idiot. Make a move. What have you got to lose?@ AMy job?@ Lloyd responded. AI think the risk of losing your pet sitting duties won=t unduly harm you in the future.@ Make a move. What the hell would constitute making a move for Lloyd? The answer was, as usual, nothing. Chapter

Another month went by, and then something happened that changed his life forever. His mother found a lump on her breast. They needed to do a biopsy. The stress of it caused him to shut down everything in his life. A week later they got the worst news possible. She had breast cancer and would need a mastectomy. Ellen told him the news and he proceeded to punch a hole in the apartment the two of them were now sharing. It was literally the worst news of his life. This was his mother. His beloved. His confidant. He was shaken to the core. She was only 52. The air deflated out of his life. He called Becky and told her he couldn=t work for her any more. The news was too devastating and he wanted to be able to be there at all times. It was way more dramatic than necessary, but Lloyd was paralyzed with fear that she was going to die. And soon. She underwent surgery as everyone prepared for the worst. How far had it had spread, what was her long-term prognosis, was she going to die? Lloyd was a mess. The family sat and waited to hear how awful the news would be and how long she had to live. It was the worst four hours of his life. After the surgery the doctors came out and they all had weird looks on their faces. They had performed the mastectomy, but found no other cancer in her body. And the other strange thing was they said that it appeared that she had bone cancer and had cured herself of that. In other words, besides the mastectomy, she was now perfectly healthy. It was an unbelievable change of events. It was nothing short of a miracle, only Lloyd didn=t believe in that stuff. But he did believe his mother possessed special powers and this only confirmed it. She would need no chemotherapy or anything. She was cured. It was inexplicable, but they didn=t ask a lot of questions. They were just overjoyed. His life, which was about to head in a perilous direction, had spun around 180 degrees. In retrospect, how his mother=s breast cancer treatment would affect his life seemed a bit dramatic, but in the heat of the moment he couldn=t think about anything else. Before he quit City Kitty, Becky was exceedingly nice and helpful in helping him deal with the trauma. He felt he owed it to her to give her the good news even though he hadn=t worked for her in a month. She was happy to hear from him, and offered him the job back if he wanted it. He hadn=t even thought about it but he took her up on the offer. That was really nice of her, she is really nice. I wonder if she is being nice or if she likes me. This book should be renamed The Dumbass. Let me speak to the publisher.

Anyhow, two days later he was back in the land of dog poop and roses and was happy about it. Becky invited him over to her house ostensibly to talk about the future with City Kitty. He was under the impression that the other employees would also be there. He was incorrect. She lived in a studio apartment in a high-rise in the Gold Coast. She needed to live there to be near her clients, and paid a ridiculous amount of rent to show for it. She did have four cats, so he wasn=t far off on that part. She laid her cards on the table. Lloyd, I like you. I like you a lot. I think you are a sweet, genuine, nice guy. I think if you apply yourself, you can go far. I see something in you. AAm I getting fired?@ he asked, and he felt his anger rising. Why did she ask him back to work for her if she was just going to get rid of him. What is this? A job evaluation? This sucks. I didn=t come here for this. She continued. AAnyhow, I just wanted to let you know that you could always talk to me about anything, I feel like I can tell you anything and I want you to feel the same.@ Blah blah blah. Let me guess, she thinks of me like a brother... AAnd I have to tell you how attracted I am to you.@ Blah blah bl....wait, what? AUh......@, he mumbled and stared at her dumbfounded. No one had ever said that to him before. Ever. Not even in his fantasies. AUh, I think you are pretty@, he stammered, which made her blush. AHow does that make you feel?@she asked. AWell, uh, I am not looking for anything more than sexual right now, not looking to be in a relationship or anything. Just sex, probably.@ What did he just say? That wasn=t even in italics if you noticed. That came right out of his mouth to a woman. He just wants sex? Did he just say that? Hold on, let me go back and read that. Yes, he did. Wow. AWell, I know you are a lot younger than me, and I am not looking to get

married or anything, but I wanted to let you know how I feel@, she said. Lloyd couldn=t see the smirk she had on her face, his pants were bulging too much. For the first time in his life, he felt cocky. It was obvious. He felt like he had a swagger, and started up again with the just wanting sex talk, and not wanting a relationship bullshit. It was like he was acting in a teen movie, it was not him. She came over and sat with him by the bed. And they started kissing. She put her hands on his crotch and he jumped. Then reality set in and he started sweating profusely. This was too much for him. He told her he had to work at the radio station early the next day, a lie, and kissed her goodbye. He may have been bullshitting out his ass with his rhetoric, but he was still a scared little boy when it came to sex. He was sweaty profusely and simultaneously berating himself as he drove home. She would have done it for you, you idiot. You are going crash the car driving with one hand on the gear shift like that. He drove an automatic. She was really attractive, and she liked him. It was too much for him to contemplate. She was so much older than him, and he was dumbstruck. And blew it just like he had done all through his life. What a choker. What more do you want you idiot. Is it her age? Big deal. You could have fucked just now, it=s been four years you idiot, you barely remember that one night stand you had two years ago, you were so drunk on your two beers. Shockingly he didn=t sleep at all that night, and was determined not to be such a pussy the next day. He called Becky back and agreed to meet her for dinner. He was prepared, he went to the store and bought condoms for the first time in his life, Magnums oh yeah. Wishful thinking there, big fella. Well, not big fella actually. Becky didn=t seem to think much of his early exit from two nights earlier and as he entered her place he saw one of her cats Stanley sitting in the crevice between her chin and neck. It looked like a cat scarf. She noticed the odd look on Lloyd=s face and was slightly embarrassed. She said he has done that for years and she doesn=t even notice anymore. She told him she rescued him from a shelter. He had a hole in his chin from a shotgun blast and his tongue hung out through it, making him look like a moron cat, which is of course a redundancy.

Ok, I may need to turn around and leave and never come back. But of course the possibility of sex won out. She could have been wearing cat face makeup, whiskers, and a tutu, and he wouldn=t have left. These opportunities come along, uh, lets see, 2 times in 25 years, uh, once every twelve years. So, he was going to wreck that shit or something. Instead he learned a lot about her. She was raised in a small conservative town in Pennsylvania, and she got the hell out of dodge at age 21. She moved to Chicago a few years earlier for a change of pace, and on a whim started up City Kitty. She did well, though she sometimes would do 18 pet sits a day, so she didn=t get much sleep. It didn=t seem like she had had a lot of boyfriends in her life, and she didn=t talk much about it, unlike Virgin McGee who couldn=t keep his trap shut. Soon enough they proceeded to kissing again, and the next thing he knew he had the best sex of his life. Becky, not so much. So, he was banging the boss. Not a bad gig. They settled into sort of a relationship, dictated mostly by his obsessive-compulsive nature. For some reason he would see her every other day, literally, like clockwork. He didn=t want to feel like he was expected to see her daily, so somehow this was what he came up with. Also, he never spent the night. He knew he was a meshugena with sleeping and knew he wouldn=t be able to sleep at all. He tried it once, and the three of the four cats stepped on his face, and he woke Becky up at three in the morning and said he needed to go home. So that turned into another ritual. They would have sex, he would fall asleep. He would wake up at 3 am, and then drive all the way home to Evanston. And yet she put up with it. He took her to the radio station Christmas party and she looked fantastic in a red dress that flattered her generous cleavage. He was proud as a peacock when he caught one of the stereo typically, misognystic hosts trying to sneak a peak down her dress. He also got word that a lot of his coworkers were wondering how he pulled someone that hot, which instead of making him insecure, made him feel even more like he was in the real world, instead of an observer. He was finally causing envy, instead of being the jealous one. It was a Brave New World. It also made a major impact on his social life. The amount of time he mentally devoted to the female persuasion from age 15 on was stupendous. 96% of his brain function was focused on all things female. Through high school, college, post grad, the pointless weekend bar excursions, it was exhausting. Sex. Women. Sex. Girlfriend. Masturbate. Lonely. More masturbation. Until he didn=t have to think about it anymore. It was like

being released from a dungeon of his own creation. He was having sex whenever he wanted. He was plowing along like the sex stud that he always knew could be, oblivious to the, uh, needs of his partner. Becky, frustrated after another drawn out session gently gave Lloyd=s a biology lesson. Things might go more smoothly, if you know, he got anywhere within the vicinity of the clitoris. You would think having an MBA in pornography would have prepped him, but apparently he didn=t pay attention during his 2300+ viewings of Where the Boys Aren=t, Volume 13. Then one day something happened that shocked him to the core. They were bowling and as he was watching her he felt an odd feeling come over him. Something he had never felt before. A weird warmth. Comfort. Happiness. She smiled at him and then he realized what it was. It was the L word. And this time it wasn=t lonely, lazy or loser. Love. He was in love It was quite the an epiphany. He had never told anyone he loved them, besides his immediate family and his turtle. She came to sit by him and he stared more longingly than usual. She asked him what his deal was. AUh, I, I, Love you.@ he said. He knew it was a seminal moment in his life, and recognized the gravity of it. She blushed a little, and said AI Love you, too. I was just waiting for you to say it so you wouldn=t freak out.@ She knew him well. So that was that. He was in love. And he was having sex. It was too much. He was among the living. Chapter 16 All of a sudden they had been dating her for a year. He was still seeing her every other day and not sleeping in her bed. He did decide to try it once, but the four cats walking over him, and Stanley shoving himself into his neck (he had warmed up to Lloyd), made it impossible. For their one year anniversary, Becky booked a weekend trip for them in the hopes he would actually try and sleep in the same bed with her. Lloyd asked if the hotel had two twin beds and was disappointed to hear that they would have to sleep together. Literally. Despite her best efforts, hint hint, he still stared at the ceiling most of the night, annoyed by her barely perceptible breathing. He had issues. His job at the radio station had lost what little was left of its luster, and he was totally sick of sports radio and its rabid semi-retarded fan base. A fulltime producer job had opened up on one of the shows and he was the favorite to get it. He was competing with an intern for it, so he had the upper hand. But, of course, not trying hard enough he lost out, and the intern got the plum gig. The hosts of the show started to rip and make fun of Lloyd on air for his lack of effort, and being the passive aggressive doormat that he

was, he laughed along with them while calling them cocksuckers behind their backs. He knew it was time to move on. He liked writing. That he knew, and he was still trying to submit some of his Ahumorous@ short stories to literary magazines and the journals. He submitted the following story to a contest and won an all expense trip to the Poconos, pretty much a cheesy sex resort in middle Pennsylvania.. It was the first thing his writing had ever gotten him. And without it, he never would have had the chance to screw Becky in a luxurious, rotating heart shaped bed and heated semen invested pool. Stereotype Olympics Flip Nayderman: Welcome to the closing ceremonies of the Stereotype Olympics. I=m Flip Nayderman. It was a fantastic week of perpetuating negative stereotypes, and succeeded beyond anyone=s expectations. It surely cemented people=s ignorant assumptions about others into stone. We want to thank our hosts here in Mexico City, the air was as stifling as promised and taxi cab robberies went up 6000% this week. More than $275,000 was stolen from tourists and 11 journalists were kidnaped, 4 of them murdered. So Muchas Gracias, Me-hee-co. Now on to the festivities. Let me bring in my co host Chuck McGillicuddy. Chuck McGillicuddy: Thanks, Flip, you forgot to mention the 39,000 new cases of Montezuma=s Revenge contracted by the visitors here, it was really quite the spectacle. And here come the delegations from all of the Creeds, Nationalities, Races and Religions, and Sexual Orientations that participated. WHAT A SPECTACLE! Leading off the festivities are the African American Contingent, They sure are a raucous bunch, Chuck! I can barely hear the crowd over their loud talking! And look at them shuffling through the intersection! What a proud display. Obviously, they swept the gold in all of the track and field events. Chuck McGillicuddy: But they are not buoyant, that=s for sure, Flip, finishing last in all of the swimming events. Are they waving? Whoops my bad, those are gang signs. That float sure has a lot of bling on it! It is blinding! Flip Nayderman: It sure is, it is reflecting off the windshield of the =78 Nova behind it, which can only mean that the Mexicans are here! I think they fit all 54 of them in the front seat.

Chuck McGillicuddy: I can=t see past all the decals, but I bet you are right. They are great at packing them in. Lets hope they don=t have an accident. Unfortunately, they did not medal in any events, unless you consider barbequing in public parks an Olympic sport, and unfortunately that is not yet sanctioned. Maybe next time, pandejos! Flip Nayderman: I can=t tell who that is next, such a flimsy float, looks like it is all frills and no money was spent on it. Someone went to a lot of thrift shops to put that together. Ah haha, it=s the Jews, those clever bastards. And look, there is a penny rolling out in front of it, of course the punch line to the question, how do you start a Jew Parade. No wonder they secretly rule the world, Chuck. Chuck McGillicuddy: And with the amount of Jew Lawyers monitoring all the events, there was no way they were going to be jewed out of anything. They did not medal, but the people they paid to race for them did, so a very successful two weeks for the Semites. And in a poor case of scheduling, the Arabs are coming out right behind them, just like in Tel-Aviv, always the second-class citizens. Look at the decorative bombs they have strapped to their chests, very realistic. They won the gold in the 500 Meters scary protest narrowly defeating the antiabortionists. And the Palestinian sect won the gold for Alarmist Journalism with their tract on the Jews feasting on the blood of Palestinian newborns for sustenance. It should be appearing in Arabian textbooks across the Middle East next year. Oh, I see the giant Guiness bottle, Flip! it appears the Irish are stumbling their way into the fairgrounds. Flip Nayderman: Yes, it is them, and it looks like they are picking a fight with the Mormons. Ha ha, those micks are so drunk they think the Mormons are Protestants. Settle down boys, settle down. Those pugilists sure are a happy group. When Irish Eyes are Smiling, indeed, with a lot of red in them, if I may say so. Chuck McGillicuddy: Well, Flip they drink in such massive quantities to make up for their freakishly small genitalia. But there was no Irish curse this week! Speaking of small genitalia, hear come the Asians! They swept all the medals, gold, silver and bronze, in every mathematical category, though it was a shame that all the silver medal winners were berated so harshly by their parents. Flip Nayderman: True, very true. Hizoru Mizozake, the gold winner in the Speed Calculus high hurdles committed suicide after setting the Olympic

Record. He brought great shame upon his family for not setting the World Record. Our condolences go out to them. Chuck McGillicuddy: The Asian float is moving rather slowly so I can=t quite make out who is coming next. Flip Nayderman: Right, their turn signal must be jammed. Chuck McGillicuddy: Ok, they are finally moving out of the way, and not a second to soon! Flip Nayderman: HERE THEY COME! This is what everybody has been waiting for! The Homosexuals are making their customary flamboyant entrance, and they are as fabulous as ever. Shirtless in their Ralph Lauren short shorts, these fellas are impeccable in their body tone and fey arrogance. The float is to die for! A lot of peacocks had to die for this presentation, Chuck. Chuck McGillicuddy: They certainly did their share of crying and throwing hissy fits during the action, even on the medal stand. Those sure are some finicky bastards. And the Lesbian contingent being mistaken for the East German Mens Wrestling team offended more than a few. Flip Nayderman: Plus, the homosexuals won the gold in the Coming of Age Play writing category, and the gold in the over-theatrical, melodramatic Karaoke 500, a bit of an upset over the Japanese. They also won the bronze in the Olympic Stadium Interior Decorating Slaloms. Just a remarkable presence all week long. Flip Nayderman: Ugh, here come the Caucasians. Blech, look at them dancing. That is awful. Just awful Chuck McGillicuddy: I am more than slightly offended that they get to be the last ones in. Typical entitlement. I think the SUV convoy is overdoing it. They may have swept the Olympic Comedy standup medals but they most certainly haven=t made any new friends. Flip Nayderman: Though their familiarity with cherry bombs and bottle rockets are coming in handy for this final fireworks display. And the gun shooting too. What a glorious sight! They sure know their firearms. Chuck McGillicuddy: And that brings an end to another wildly successful Stereotype Olympics. Spanning the Globe, no matter who you are, or what you are, it is good to know that there is someone else out there mocking

you. See you in Birmingham, Alabama in four years, everybody! For Flip Nayderman, I am Chuck McGillicuddy, thanks for tuning in. He had begun sending resumes out looking for some sort of writing gig, though in the end, it was his daddy who hooked him up. Through his connections, Nathan Kulligan, who was now a respected and honored Judge, got him an interview for a government job. The fine state of Illinois was hiring producers and writers for a television show about the countless wonders of agriculture and its benefits on society. Since it was Chicago area, it wasn=t what you know, but who you know, so Lloyd got the job. He quit sports forever. Another sector of his brain wasted over the years. The job paid more than he had ever made and was relatively easy. He would interview people, write scripts and work with a partner in editing the stories. It seemed like it would be a decent career path. And he liked it. Chapter 17 It was an unconventional romance, what with the age difference, but that had ceased to matter anymore. They were in year two of dating, and things were nice and smooth. No expectations or anything. One day, his dad asked him if he had plans to marry Becky. That threw him for a loop, he had never considered it, and figured his parents would disapprove because of her gentility. Not like a southern belle, gentile, but GENTILE. A goy. Shikse. Marriage? Uh, no thanks, Lloyd thought. On the eve of their second anniversary Becky told Lloyd that she wasn=t getting any younger and he needed to shit or get off the pot. He responded that he was constipated. She didn=t laugh. She told him he had a year to think about it. Being the dullard that he was it took him a minute to understand she meant marriage. People at work were starting to ask if She was Athe one, and he just laughed it off. Once again thinking just of himself, and not about how maybe a 40 year old woman might not want to be tied down to some schmoe with no long term intentions. He had always pictured himself sowing his wild oats, and having lots of sex with lots of girls. How had that gone so far, slick? But then he wondered, who else would put up with his neurosis and bullshit like Becky. He would have to start over with someone new, who might not care for his odd sleeping arrangements, or his constant complaining about motorcycle noise, or his constant complaining about the rudeness of smokers, or his constant complaining about loud neighbors, or his constant

complaining about red lights, or his constant complaining about traffic, and so on and so on. More importantly he loved her. He knew that. They were very compatible and enjoyed a lot of the same things, art, nature, and traveling. They were both low key and suited for each other. But marriage? He was always worried about his parents approval of his choice. Was Becky good enough for them? He asked his dad how he would feel about that, and his Dad shrugged and said you love who you love. In truth one of the reasons he never considered marriage was the thought that his parents wouldn=t approve. And in truth, if they hadn=t, well, life wasn=t like the movies where the hero tells his parents to Fuck Off and marries the girl he loves. He was glad they didn=t put him in that predicament. Becky knew better to ask him what he would do in that situation. Henry had gotten married recently, and he seemed happy. But he was the only friend of Lloyd=s to have done so. Becky was his first girlfriend. Did he want it to be his last? Oh, Christ. Like beggars could be choosers. He was on the pot, and he was going to take the shit. As their third anniversary approached, Lloyd pretended to start losing interest in her. He started coming every three days instead of two and when she would mention marriage, he would change the subject. It was stupidly reminiscent of his dumb April Fools Day jokes and was mean. Why he found humor in making someone think something sad and then spring the opposite was not funny. She was mentioning that she was now over 40 and that she didn=t have time for games. He didn=t pay much attention, as he thought he was in control of everything. So naive. Unbeknownst to him, she had decided that she was going to dump him on their third anniversary if he didn=t ask to marry her. He was still downplaying the whole thing, pretending like he didn=t believe her deadline. He told her he made reservations at a crappy restaurant, and dropped hints asking what sort of $10 earrings he could buy her. He didn=t pick up at all on her newfound standoffishness that was slowly creeping in, as she was dead serious about ending it all. He was too busy playing his little game of feigning interest. In reality, he had made reservations at the Four Seasons Restaurant, one of the nicest restaurants in town, and his father had given him Lloyd=s grandmothers beautiful Opal wedding ring. Lloyd couldn=t afford anything nice, and as well as he knew Becky, he knew she would appreciate it. He wasn=t sure how he would ask her to marry him, and figured he would wing it. On their anniversary, Mr. Cool strolls into her apartment ready to pop the

question. Little does he know that she has written a 12 page goodbye letter that she has at the ready. He felt a weird tension in the room and it hit him like a sucker punch. He could tell she was all business and the reality of which direction his life would take was staring him right in the face. This was no joke. She was either getting married or he was getting dumped. He would be devastated. She was the best thing to ever happen to him, and at that moment he knew he had made the right decision. Next thing he knew, he was on his knees and starting to cry like a little baby. He could barely get the words out. ABecky, I...snifff snifff...Love you....will...., will you marry me?@ It was his true nature, he was a softy and sensitive and loving, and that is what drew Becky to him in the first place. It was also pretty pathetic. Becky was non-plussed, took the ring, smiled and said, Aof course@. No crying or anything. She was prepared for either outcome, and while she wanted to marry him, she was ready to walk. If Lloyd ever felt he had held any sort of power in the relationship it was dispelled in that instant. She ran things. He was more like the woman. When they went out for drinks inevitably she would order a beer and he would get an Appletini. The waiters would always give the drinks to the wrong one. So that was that. They were engaged. Lloyd Kulligan was getting married. At dinner, Becky told him she knew he was up to something, but just not sure which way he was going with it. She told him about the 12 page letter, and he asked to read it. She took it out and as she handed it to him, stuck it in the candle on the table and burned it. One thing he knew, and Becky agreed with, was that they didn=t want to wait a year to get married. Once he made a decision he wanted it done with. She agreed. What is the point of waiting a year or whatever? So they set a wedding date for February, five months ahead. Merrill Kulligan, took a rather hands on approach to the proceedings, much to Becky=s chagrin. But, what else is new, they were helping pay for everything, and Merrill, as she did with much of Lloyd=s life took charge. She chose the venue, with little input from Lloyd or Becky, as she felt she had the taste to make the proper decisions. Lloyd knew how hard it would be for Becky to kowtow to her, but he begged her to, and she obliged. Merrill was worried about what the extended family would think, as Lloyd was the first to marry outside of the Jewish race. Ooh, such a shonda, Lloyd would tell her, even though some of the jews who married into the family turned out to be drug abusers and wife beaters. Lloyd could have married a serial

killer and it would have been fine as long as she was Jewish. Becky wanted a low key affair, which was fine with Merrill, less embarrassing, and Lloyd only cared about the dessert table. That was big with Jews. The Goyim, you need to have an open bar, they NEED their alcohol! Could you imagine a gentile wedding without booze? Unfathomable, like a fraternity without date rape allegations. The attendees of the Kulligan wedding would be served wine at their table and they would like it. But with the Jews it was all about the dessert table. All the Jews would talk about at affairs was the sweet table. Especially the elderly. ADid you see the dessert table, Marvin? A chocolate fountain! So delicious!@ And stay out of their way once they head towards the sugar. It=s like the running of the bulls. Just stand to the side if you don=t want to get hurt. Lloyd=s dad, Nathan, now a Federal judge and as such was ordained to marry people. Lloyd was adamant about having no religion in the ceremony and his dad was glad to do it. Not many people get to say they were married by their father. Becky was fine with it, too, though she came from a stricter Lutheran upbringing. His performing the ceremony would be something they would cherish for the rest of their lives. Lloyd moved in with Becky two months before the wedding. That meant he was going to have to sleep with her. Sadly, that is not a double entendres. Literally sleep with her. Well, like Bobby Knight said about rape, Aif it was inevitable, you might as well lay back and enjoy it.@ They rented an apartment near her old place and settled in. And he immediately slept through the night. It wasn=t that big a deal. Also, they had a door to keep the cats out. Once he committed to something, he was fine. As flittery and nervous and annoyed as Lloyd could be with the little things, he had no qualms about the big thing he was doing. He had no cold feet, or anything about getting married. Once he made the decision to get married he was all in. They also decided to forgo contraception and try to have Becky get pregnant. She was going to be 42, they both loved kids and both wanted them. And Lloyd liked sex. They might have been together three years, but the fact that he was actually screwing someone besides himself was still shocking to him. All those thousands of hours meticulously studying the breeding habits of lesbians were hard to erase from the memory banks. Actually having a real live vagina to look at never failed to amaze him. Also, on a sadder note, his masturbatory numbers were way down, and his hands were scheming to confront him about it. After all those years, they were being severely neglected. Little did they know that soon enough they would be back at work.

For the wedding day, Becky had rented a van so all of her petsitters could attend. Her business was doing well, and she had about 20 employees, 8 of which whom could possibly function in the real world. It had became apparent that the job of caring for cats was appealing to those who, to be diplomatic, were social pariahs. Lloyd was extremely nervous that one particular sitter, Madge, would hover over the dessert table and take 18 pieces of cake, as she was prone to do at other City Kitty functions. It was quite the hodgepodge of shut-ins, virgins, and closet lesbians, and their table was hidden in the corner where they were to be shunned and meek, just like in real life. The ceremony and reception ended up going off without a hitch and was perfect. Becky was a beaming bride and looked beautiful. He was content. He had somehow made something out of nothing. All those lonely, dry years were a distant memory. All his friends had come. Henry, Mike, Steve, and Mark flew in from L.A. Before the ceremony they gathered with his Uncle Dave, who Lloyd had asked to be his best man, and they took a shot of tequila as they toasted Lloyd=s impending nuptials. Becky descended the ornate spiral staircase to the sounds of Canon and Lloyd blushed with pride at his good fortune. Soon enough, they were married by Judge Nathan Kulligan. He kissed his bride. The reception was held in a lovely banquet hall, and was undeniably classy. Merrill may have taken the reins, but she knew what she was doing, and even Becky was grateful. She was unprepared for the speeches, though. Jews liked to pontificate and this was no different. Nathan gave a speech, than Merrill, than his Uncle, then his Aunt, Then Ellen. It was a time honored tradition for the jews to bore people to tears before their food came. Becky and her family were quiet people who hated the limelight and tried to blend into the background at all opportunities. Lloyd gave a speech thanking everyone for coming and then mentioned that Becky was going to sing a song. She tried to hide under the table. Their honeymoon was in Puerto Vallarta and they stayed at a lovely hotel and had lots and lots of sex. One day, he was frolicking in the ocean and as he came out he noticed his wedding ring was gone. The goddamn Pacific had yanked it off. Luckily, he didn=t believe in Karma. He thought it was as stupid as believing in God.

Superstitious bullshit. But, nonetheless, he panicked and was afraid to tell Becky, so he did what any normal man on his honeymoon with a lost wedding ring would do. He called his mommy. She laughed at him and mocked him over the phone for calling her on his honeymoon. She told him it wasn=t a big deal, and that he could buy a new one. She always calmed him down with her advice. He went up to Becky and told her what happened. She wasn=t that upset, and they decided to go into town to buy a new ring. They saw one they liked and bought it. He was worried it would disintegrate within days or turn his fingers pink, but it was legitimate. He never told Becky he called his mother about it. When they got home there was a message on the machine. AHey, you little faggot, only homos drink the milk after buying it for free.@ Becky asked him who the hell that was, but Lloyd just laughed. Lloyd hadn=t talked to him in almost 10 years, but he would never forget the voice of Steve Berbek Chapter 18 Lloyd quickly settled into married life. It was fun playing grownup. Waking up next to his wife, kissing her goodbye as he left for work, returning home to a finely cooked dinner. It was fun to pretend. Until one day about six weeks after their honeymoon when Becky sat Lloyd down and broke the news. She was pregnant. He figured she was too old to actually get knocked up so he was screwing away with reckless and condomless abandon. Who knew she would actually get pregnant, and from what it looked like, on the honeymoon no less. How white-trashy cliche. He was just getting used to being married and now he had to contemplate fatherhood? AAre you sure it=s mine@, he asked her, and she flipped him off. But he was excited. More adult playtime. He felt like an actor. His life was a sitcom. Wacky, immature guy marries older, serious girl and mucho hilarity ensues. On the next episode of Lloyd=s Life, homemaker Becky makes a surprising and shocking announcement! Oh, but it was real all right. He had never really considered being a father. Just like he hadn=t really considered marriage until it was staring him in the face. He was an overgrown child. He couldn=t be in charge of a kid. He was a kid. But as long as it wasn=t there he could pretend it wasn=t real. That was his modus operandi. Deny, Deny, Deny. Let the reality hit him square in the face

once it occurs, like the that horrible day of infamy when he left for college. He wasn=t going to think about until the last minute. But he wanted a boy badly. He wasn=t even going to pretend he didn=t. He figured with her age, they had one shot at it, and he wanted a boy. A few months in they went to the doctor and he did the fateful ultrasound. Becky didn=t like surprises, so there was no way she would wait until birth for them to find out the sex of the baby, which was just fine with Lloyd. ASee that thing there?@, the doctor said. ADo you know what that is?@ ALooks like a microscopic penis@, said Lloyd, Anow I know that=s my boy!@ He was ecstatic and ready to embrace the future, though truth be told, he would have been happy if it was a girl, too. They had already decided on a name even though the birth was more than six months off. Merrill=s father was named Jack, and Becky=s grandfather was named Clayton. Jack Clayton Kulligan. That was a cool name. He was anxious to be a father and psyched himself up for it, but there were some ancillary issues creeping to the forefront, that only a neurotic like Lloyd would focus on. He was already ruminating about was how there was going to be lots of crying and sleep issues. And then he thought about the baby. He always heard how people don=t sleep for the first six months and that freaked him out. He needed exactly 6 hours of sleep or he was miserable. and that wasn=t going to happen. A boy, though. Becky was happy for him, she knew he wanted that, and she got more beautiful the more pregnant she got. He found himself trying to grasp the reality of the situation. One day you don=t have a baby, the next you do. Just like that. The combined enormity and banality blew his mind. They enrolled in pregnancy and child rearing classes, which they attended once a month.. They went shopping for baby things, like a crib and beddings, against the formidable Jewish wishes of his superstitious grandmother. Jews are ridiculously superstitious about that sort of thing, and you aren=t supposed to buy stuff beforehand, because it could Ajinx@ things. Once again, another thing that made no sense to Lloyd, like religion, karma, astrology, and the Republican Party.

It was fun to look forward to the future. They would sit on the lakefront at Diversey Harbor, gazing at the beautiful Chicago skyline, and daydream about parenthood. They would watch the happy parents come by with their babies and picture themselves a few months down the line doing the same thing. Someone would stop and congratulate Becky on the pregnancy and tell her AEnjoy it now, the early months are hell!@ She would laugh, while Lloyd would break out in his usual AS sweat. Yes, that=s a redundancy. Like ATM machine. He had sweat in his ass. You happy now? Unbeknownst to Becky, when she fell asleep at night, Lloyd would hold his hand over her belly, thinking he possessed special powers and would send signals to the baby to be healthy. Oh, religion and karma is stupid, but believing you are a deity isn=t? He never said he wasn=t a hypocrite. Early on, there was a scare when she started to bleed heavily, but the doctor said it was just the fetus settling onto the uterus. Scared both of them, but it was nothing. In July his sister Ellen got married, and Lloyd delivered a toast at her wedding. She was marrying a nice Russian named Ilya, and Lloyd made the audience laugh with his toast, (the first of 13), by wondering what his baby would call them. Auntie Ellen and Uncle Ilya being quite the mouthful. His 30th Birthday was rapidly approaching, which coincidentally was also the due date. They were both hoping for it to happen that way, as it would be quite the birthday present. Sure enough, Becky woke him up at 2 in the morning of his birthday with a big smile. She was in labor. They called their doctor who told them to wait until the contractions were every 15 minutes before coming in. His favorite movie, LA Confidential was on, which they watched until 4 am, and then Sixteen Candles, another favorite. They were clinging to each other with excitement, and glee, though in moment of panic Lloyd contemplated an escape route. But he stuck around. At 7 am the contractions were 15 minutes apart, so they headed off to the hospital, but not before calling their parents. And then when Becky wasn=t looking, he called his mommy again to say how nervous he was. She told him it would be fine and to be a man for once. The sternness calmed him down as always. His 30th Birthday. His wife was giving birth. It felt like his life was culminating with this moment. He was standing at the apex of his existence, with all roads beforehand leading to this moment.

It was mind-boggling. Chapter 19 They arrived at the hospital and were ushered into the lab. The lab technician laid Becky down on a bed and applied the ultrasound wax to her belly, just as a formality. He stopped for a second, and his face looked stricken. He rushed out of the room, and they didn=t know what to think. Panic set in. Was everything alright? What was going on? Were they overreacting? The tech came back in with a doctor they had never met, who stared at the ultrasound intensely. He took his glasses off and took Becky=s hand. He told them that there was no heartbeat. The crushing weight of the crashing apex of his existence toppled down upon him. Becky started hysterically sobbing, as did Lloyd. Their baby was dead. Through the hysteria, the doctor mentioned that Becky would still have to give birth. What a horrible, horrible fate. To deliver a full-term stillborn child. Lloyd was still sobbing and for some reason he hadn=t considered that option in the first two minutes of his new existence. Becky was inconsolable. It was a living nightmare. How could this have happened? The doctors had no explanation. Becky, who was always hard on herself, immediately took the blame and starting screaming, AIt=s MY fault! Its my Fault, I killed our baby, I killed him!@ Lloyd didn=t know what to say or do. His wife was having a mental breakdown. He was saddened that he knew she meant it. From the first second of the diagnosis, he never blamed her and never would. Not even a small iota. Bad stuff happened to good people. That was why karma was a bunch of bullshit. The doctor left them alone. Becky was beyond distraught, and Lloyd=s brain told him to console her. That is what a man does. But he was dead inside. His life wasn=t going to change at all, but it was going to totally change. He had known all along it was going to be different, but filling emptiness with more emptiness was not part of the bargain. What was once an exciting future was murky and full of despair. She looked at him and through her tears she apologized. AI am sorry I killed your son, Lloyd.@ How does a loving and rational husband react to that? With tears. They sat together in the room for what seemed like an eternity, but was only minutes. Lloyd got up to pace the halls and as he did he saw his parents.

Their faces were joyful and hopeful, and they had a stuffed bear, giddy first time grandparents. It was fleeting. Lloyd collapsed to the ground crying that the baby was dead. Their glee turned to shock and gave way to disbelief and tears. Their loss was just as profound. They hugged their son and consoled him and they went to Becky and hugged her as she cried. In a silent moment she apologized to them too. AI am sorry I let you down and let your grandchild die.@ They had no answer to that. This was not a moment that would heal with time. The effects would last a lifetime. As if the day was not horrible enough, the doctors said they needed to induce birth since it wouldn=t happen on its own. Did they want to do it now, or wait a few days? Wait a few days? Did Becky want to walk around with a dead child in her womb for a few days? Lloyd let her make the decision, though he wanted it over as quick as possible. So did she. The termination was scheduled for later in the afternoon. Lloyd was shaking and knew he couldn=t handle seeing a dead child be birthed by his wife. He consulted with his parents and they told him he shouldn=t. He was still a little child and instead of acting like a man, he took the easy way out, choosing his own comfort over the needs of his wife. Becky said that was fine. But how could it feel to know that your husband was leaving you alone to go through this. It was a decision that would haunt him for the rest of his life. In years to come, when people would ask what his biggest regret, was, Lloyd would shrug, but he knew the answer. He would look back in shame that he chose his own comfort instead of being there for his traumatized wife. Becky gave birth to a deceased baby boy all alone in a room. She cried as she held Jack Clayton Kulligan, and had no one to share it with. Lloyd would never see the face that resembled his own or his strawberry blonde hair and dimpled cheeks. Afterwards, they spent the night together in the hospital, Becky in her bed, and Lloyd in the couch next to her. Lloyd loved her more than ever, even if his decision making skills left something to be desired. They fell asleep holding hands. The next day the shock had worn off and sadness had swept in. They were to resume their life as before. All the preparations were for naught, they would still just be Lloyd and Becky. Neither found solace in their respective religions, and neither blamed God or the spirits for their fate. Becky just blamed herself. They asked the doctors how it happened, and they had no explanation. It just happens sometimes, they said. She had been to the doctor two days earlier and everything was fine. There was not, and never would be an answer for what transpired, therefore giving Becky ample reason to blame herself.

While still recovering in her hospital bed, she turned on the TV to watch the soap opera, Young and the Restless, her one vice. In what only could be called irony, the current program had a storyline of a woman who lost her baby in childbirth. Lloyd laughed incredulously and told her to turn it off. Becky said she wanted to watch it. The woman cried on screen about her loss as the doctors consoled her. What the fuck. ATURN IT OFF, BECKY!@, he bellowed. AIt=s just a soap opera,@ she said, Anot real life.@ There was some weird logic to that so he just let it be. Becky was discharged from the hospital and they headed to their empty home and their worthless crib and other baby stuff haunting it. I guess his Bubbe was right, they must have jinxed it. They got off the elevator and Lloyd started crying profusely. The walk to the end of the hall to their apartment was the walk of shame. It was the funhouse mirror vision of about ten years prior, when the girl from Holland escorted him down the hallway for his eventual first glimpse of boob. The hallway was long and as Lloyd walked it, it was like a gold plated road leading straight to heaven. This was the exact opposite. The road now was full of fire and led straight to hell. Chapter 20 The emptiness of the apartment overwhelmed them and the silence was deafening. This was not a road they had contemplated. On the surface Becky was recovering, but the underlying loss would last a lifetime and she would never fully heal. She felt like she had killed their baby, and there could be no forgiveness. Many years later she would still be incredulous that Lloyd didn=t hate her for her murderous ways. Lloyd, in turn, loved her even more. How could he blame the blameless? He had teased her all along during the pregnancy about how vigilant she was about following every single dictate to keep an unborn baby safe. She stopped drinking coffee, didn=t go near the cat litter, changed her diet, exercised. Everything she could do under her control, she did. Some things are out of our control. She could never accept that. While such an event could tear a marriage apart, Lloyd was determined not to let that happen. Each night, he would lie in bed with her and cradle her in his arms and talk about their feelings. They were not going to drift apart. He was plagued by his guilt for not being in the room with her when she gave birth, and he apologized profusely. All she was focused on was how she had failed. She

kept calling herself a failure. Talk about an unpenetrable wall. Unbeknownst to him, Becky had a picture taken of the baby after birth, and hoped to show it to Lloyd someday. He would never look at it. Not out of apathy, but out of fear of what he would see. You can=t unsee something. She wanted to share some part of Jack with him, and he couldn=t bring himself to do it. As the days and months dragged on, it became apparent that Lloyd was coming to terms with the whole ordeal and tried to put it in the past. He would refer to the baby as it and not Jack, and that caused a tremendous consternation in Becky. What she mistook for callousness was in fact, the truth. He did not know the baby, he did not feel like someone he knew had died, and therefore he had less trouble coming to terms with it. When someone would ask her if she had children her initial response was Yes, while Lloyd=s was no. He never felt like he had a child. That infuriated Becky who felt it was her Achild@, and Lloyd not feeling the same offended her greatly. Her sense of loss was deep, and sustained and she was angry that he was getting over it. A month after the stillbirth, they visited her parents in Pennsylvania and as Lloyd strolled innocently into their living room, he stopped dead in his tracks. There on the picture table was the photograph of Jack. On display. For everyone to see. A picture of a dead baby. His body quivered and he averted his eyes as quick as he could. What in the holy fuck is that doing out? Are they nuts? Gentiles do this? Lloyd totally freaked out and stormed around until he found Becky. He was irate. He was stunned that they would display that. It was just so weird. She knew her parents had put it out and wanted to see what his reaction was. She wanted him to confront the truth. She felt that he was in denial and that he needed to see his son. Just because he didn=t want to see the picture didn=t mean he didn=t care. She had trouble comprehending that. He would never be able to explain it to her. The truth hurt is the closest he could get, and he didn=t want to hurt. They attended a church service with her parents, and once again he was startled by what he saw. A pamphlet was distributed featuring all the members of the church and their families. It listed Becky=s parents and their 4 grandchildren, Joan, Charlie, Christopher Maxwell and Jack Clayton Kulligan. WHAT THE FUCK? Lloyds parents didn=t consider themselves having a grandchild. This Christian shit was so weird to Lloyd. There would be a lot of rough patches.

It was a rough start to a marriage and they Acelebrated@ their 1st anniversary just three months after the stillbirth. Lloyd had read that the Chicago Park District allowed people to buy a tree and have it planted in their park of choice. For an anniversary gift, Lloyd chose to have a tree planted at their favorite spot near Diversey Harbor. He felt that the tree represented life and had it dedicated in Jack Clayton Kulligan=s name. The tree would grow, where their son would not. They witnessed the planting and they cried. They would go sit by the tree every week. It was always melancholy, watching families at play. That was supposed to be them. They had sat in the same spot many times before contemplating their exciting future as a family. Now every happy families that passed was another punch in the gut. That was supposed to be them. Witnessing happy mothers and fathers with their newborns was exceptionally difficult and Becky would instinctively turn away when a baby carriage would pass. They yearned for what they didn=t have. One thing about Becky, was that while knocked down, she would not be beaten. She was way more mentally tough than Lloyd and she wanted to get right back on the horse. She wanted to get pregnant again as soon as possible. They started to try again, and who was Lloyd to argue. All the sex he wanted all the time. But of course, it was too much pressure for him, he felt the burden of impregnation and would wilt under the expectation. Pun intended. Becky would be patient, just like in the early days. The choker was back. Too much pressure. The days turned into months and nothing was happening. The irony was thick. They weren=t even thinking about pregnancy when she first got pregnant and now it was all consuming. But finally. Pay dirt. Sixteen months of work paid off. She was pregnant again. At least that=s what the home pregnancy test said. She triumphantly made a doctor=s appointment at what was most likely six weeks into the pregnancy. They were both way more subdued and only told close family members. But they couldn=t totally hide their excitement. Lloyd allowed himself to dream a little about it, but this time he didn=t care what sex it was. The cliche Ajust a healthy baby@ was never more true. They went to her gynecologist, who got out the ultrasound wax and prepared to rub it on her belly. Lloyd had a horrid flashback to the scene when they found out the baby was dead. This time the doctor started moving the mouse over her belly, abruptly stopped and looked gravely concerned. SON OF A FUCKING BITCH, Lloyd yelled. The doctor spoke. AI=m sorry, but there is no pregnancy, this is what is

called an molar pregnancy, the early placenta develops into an abnormal mass of cysts that resembles a bunch of white grapes. The embryo either does not form at all or is malformed and cannot survive. Blah blah blah@ Lloyd starting laughing really loud and screamed about how he never wanted to see another fucking ultrasound machine in his life. Even Becky was resigned to it and didn=t cry. But her face was ashen. The doctor continued. AMolar pregnancy poses a threat to the pregnant woman because it can occasionally result in a rare pregnancy-related form of cancer called choriocarcinoma. What this means is, Becky, you are at a minor risk of developing cancer in the next 9 months and we will have to monitor you....@ AWHAT THE FUCK!@ Lloyd was screaming now and started to kick at the walls. Becky was now crying and wondering who in the cosmos hated her so much. She couldn=t have a baby, and now she might get cancer. Life was kicking her straight in the ovaries. Well that was that. They were done trying to get pregnant. They both agreed on that. But with one major difference. Becky wanted to be a mother, and Lloyd was ready to accept that parenthood was not in their future. And he was fine with that. The fates had determined that they should not be parents and Lloyd wasn=t going to fight it. There were other options that they could pursue. They couldn=t do a surrogate birth, because her eggs were too old, but they could take Lloyd=s sperm and match it with a donor egg and Becky could carry it. Or a surrogate could. But Lloyd didn=t like that, he wanted it to be either both of theirs or nothing. It would be weird knowing he was the father and she wasn=t the biological mother, and he didn=t want to have that over her. It just wasn=t right. It also caused a ridiculous amount of money and the risks seemed to outweigh the rewards. Adoption was not an option. Lloyd refused to consider it. Not his genes. And who knows what sort of genes a baby they did adopt would have. He had a bias against adoption. He always knew adopted kids and as part of his annoying trait of adding labels to everyone, adoption was one of them. That kid is adopted, he would think, every time he saw them. That isn=t their real parent he would think. It just wasn=t for him. But Becky would not be deterred. She booked an adoption class and told Lloyd he was going. He loved her. But he wasn=t going to adopt.

AYou would be a wonderful father@, she would say. AYou love the cats don=t you? What makes you think you wouldn=t love an adopted child?@ Because it isn=t mine. Cats are animals. This is a child. No thanks. Next. She went to the adoption class by herself. And came back with tons of information. She talked and talked about it and Lloyd didn=t pay attention. She called him a dick and ran into the room crying. He was fucked. He was in an untenable place. This issue was causing a huge rift in the marriage. But he was adamant. He did not want to adopt. As biased as he was, he was always annoyed when he saw newspaper stories on people and it would say, Aadopted son of blah blah blah...@ That always pissed him off. He imagined that the parents would always be upset to read that, because they thought of the person as their son, not their adopted son. Why did they need to add that label in stories? Like it was less than? It didn=t seem fair. In the meantime, Becky needed to be tested every month for 9 months after the molar pregnancy incident for cancer. It was incredibly stressful and took its toll on her. The results took two weeks to come back, and the day the results were due, Lloyd took to curling up on the floor of his work from the stress. Alas, all was well, and the test results always came back negative. His marriage was heading down two separate paths, one that Becky wanted and one that he did. It took its toll, and they both worried that it would eventually end in divorce. That was his quandary. Either stay with the woman you love and against all your wishes, adopt a child, or ditch it all and move on. He had time to decide he thought. Maybe if he fought her hard enough she would give it up. It was a game of chicken and one of them was going to lose. Now that was Lloyd=s thinking, but Becky didn=t look at it that way. She knew he would be a great father even if he didn=t know it. She knew he was miserable now, but in the end he would be grateful. She hoped. She was pretty sure. She thought. She sure hoped so. So she pushed on. She signed them up for more classes, in which he had to go. He did, but he wasn=t happy about it. He looked around the room and saw a bunch of losers who couldn=t have their own babies. He also knew he would see the same thing if he looked in the mirror. Their third anniversary was now upon them. The sadness had not abated much. They spent many weekends picnicking at their tree, which was growing quite nicely. It was a crabapple, how apt for Lloyd. It=s roots were settling and it was getting a strong foundation. Jack would have been 2 2 and they were fixated on families with children that age. When the kids

would pass, Lloyd could see how Becky would slowly duck her head, and sometimes tears would well up in her eyes. He tried not to attach any meaningful significance to seeing kids that age, but it was hard not to. The tree was their solace, and also their consolation prize. It was a place to remember and a place to fantasize. Lloyd was resigned to his fate, Becky was not. On long car rides she would pontificate and plead with him to accept adoption. He felt like she was trying to convert him to Christianity or something. It was relentless. He was still adamantly opposed. She would not break him down. He was acting stubborn and close minded. He had his usual reasons, which he knew were flawed, and he clung to them for dear life. It mostly swirled around the consequences of having a non biological child. He was worried he might not love it as much as a biological one. And he wanted the child to have his genes, adopting was a crap shoot, who know what sort of defects or other traits the baby could have. Like the Kulligan genes were extraordinary. The truth was the kid would probably be better off. And the whole process fazed him, you get a picture in the mail and that is your kid? And then one day this random baby is just handed you? A total stranger? It was like ordering a child from a mail order catalog. But on the surface he was still going along with it hoping that eventually that an exit strategy would reveal itself. The process was relatively clear cut. There were two choices to make in adopting a child. If you wanted to adopt domestically, a birth mother was presented with a dossier of adopted parents and their respective biographies. She would then choose which couple she would want to rear her baby. It sounded like an agonizing process, and The odds of someone choosing a 45 year old mother to be the mother of their child were slim. The whole thought of being chosen out of a book nauseated the both of them. It was a total crapshoot and they wanted no part of it. The other choice was international adoption, which involved adopting a baby from another country. The most popular countries for adoption were China, Russia and Guatemala. Babies in China and Russia were kept in orphanages and were at high risk for problems, especially fetal alcoholism. In Guatemala, the babies were cared for by a foster mother, who supposedly had one baby at a time and took loving care of them. The downside of international adoption was that because of paperwork and other governmental nonsense you most likely wouldn=t be able to get your baby until it was at least six months old. With domestic adoption you would get the baby at birth. And it cost less than international.

And it took longer than a pregnancy. The time frame from the start of going to adoption classes till the day you held your baby was approximately 16 months. Which was fine with him. The longer to convince her it was a bad idea. Lloyd wasn=t in the mood to get divorced so he tried to have a rational discussion with Becky about it and they both mutually agreed to go international, and Guatemala. The idea of one mother taking care of the baby was comforting to them. Once again, just like when Becky was pregnant, the whole thing was way too weird for his brain to comprehend. One day you don=t have a baby, and the next you have a Hispanic one. So odd. As part of the adoption dossier, one had to undergo psychological evaluation and a home study. The adoption specialist had to decide that the adopting couple was of sound mind and wanted to adopt for the right reasons. It just pissed them off more, Lloyd too this time. Any yahoo could get pregnant and have a baby, but people with fertility issues and other reasons had to jump through hoops and had to be judged by others to determine if they were fit to be a parent. It was a humiliating process, but a necessary evil nonetheless. To make matters worse, the adoption specialist determined that Becky and Lloyd needed to see a marriage counselor regarding who would determine if they had really dealt properly with the aftereffects of the stillbirth. It was three years later, they were relatively happy, and had come to terms with it, and were STILL MARRIED. They were horrifically insulted that some counselor who they had met twice had the power and nerve to suggest such a thing. Lloyd told her to go fuck herself, and that she wasn=t even a licensed psychological professional. Becky calmed him down and told the specialist that they would. And they did. It delayed the whole adoption process by two months, which in the end ended up buying Lloyd more time, so he was privately happy about it. They were obligated to see the marriage counselor for four sessions, and at the end of that period, the psychologist would make their determination. The psychologist ended up telling them that they were fine and that it was insulting and condescending of the adoption counselor to have made them endure the sessions. She felt that their marriage was in fact made stronger by the bonding that ensued as result of the stillbirth. Or some such psychobabble. But they were good to go again, much to Lloyd=s chagrin. Becky had begged him not to tell the shrink of his opposition to the adoption

and he never did. But he was not letting her off the hook. He harangued her incessantly about it and she took to not bringing the subject up anymore. Lloyd felt like he was staring down the barrel of the gun and didn=t know any way out. He was going to have to take it. As Bobby Knight so eloquently orated about rape, Asometimes it=s best to just sit back and let it happen, and it will be over soon enough,.@ or something similarly misogynistically progressive. His complained regularly to his coworkers and friends about his impending doom and they were generally unsympathetic. They wondered why he was so adamantly opposed. Everybody told him it would be fine and that he would love the child. But they weren=t inside his head, only he know what lunacy rested in there. What if the kid is dumb? What if he turns into an alcoholic? What if he=s ugly? What if, what if, what if. What if had your genes, you ever think of that, Lloyd? But deep down he worried if he could love a non biological child. Becky assured him that it wouldn=t be a problem. He loved their cats didn=t he? He did. It wasn=t the pure love and undying affection he had for his turtles, but it was love nonetheless. And she would argue that adopting a baby is like adopting a cat, AYou love them unequivocally right?@ she would ask. AYes, but they sit around and avoid people unless they are hungry, and our son wouldn=t be like that until his teen years,@ he replied. God, he hoped she was right. Since they had decided on a Guatemala, the next step was to be placed with a child once it was born. Lloyd wanted a boy again, but it was left up to the Guatemalan government. One day Becky got an envelope from the American Embassy in Guatemala.. She knew what it was. It was one of the happiest moments of HER life. Inside was a picture of a three week old baby boy. She ecstatically told Lloyd, who on the surface was playing it cool and detached, but was slightly beginning to accept his fate. Then he saw the picture. And like the Grinch, his heart slowly began to melt. The next week, as they were heading towards their adoption class, Lloyd casually mentioned to her that had a name he liked. Jake. Becky looked at him, and said, Aso do I.@ and that was that. They both acknowledged the resemblance of the name to their deceased son Jack and decided it wasn=t a big deal. Jake Kulligan. That sounded like a ballplayer to Lloyd. Maybe he would be the first Guatemalan in the Major Leagues.

So the clock was now running, six months to go, most likely. There is and was always a fear that babies adopted from foreign countries were stolen or that the mother was coerced to give up her child. The Kulligans were promised that everything was aboveboard and that the woman who gave birth to Jake was legitimate in wanting to put her child up for adoption. She had to appear in court four times, and proclaim that she was giving up her baby without intimation or monetary reasons, plus the Guatemalan and American governments both had safeguards in place. It was quite the ordeal, and they had the paperwork to prove it. The only barrier left was getting the ok from the Guatemalan embassy to adopt the child, and once you got that ok, you would fly out at a moment=s notice. You couldn=t book the trip to Guatemala City in advance, since one never knew when the paperwork would be finished. While Lloyd whiled away the ensuing months with a mixture of nervousness, anticipation and dread, Becky was full of life and excited about finally becoming a mother. That is what she felt she was and what she wanted to be. And she knew that was what Lloyd was. A father, he just didn=t know it yet. One day in mid March, the call finally came. They had one week to prepare. To get there they would need to fly from Chicago to New Orleans to Miami to Guatemala City. And then the same route home. Quite an ordeal. Becky=s big worry was that the baby would cry on the plane, and that mortified her, big deal a baby crying on the plane, while Lloyd was much more rational, wondering if they would be arrested for kidnaping a Hispanic baby. They would fly in on a Tuesday, pick up Jake on Wednesday, and leave for home on Thursday. It would be a total whirlwind. They had been prepped on what to expect. The foster mother would hand the baby over in their hotel room. It could be emotional for everyone. Especially Jake. His birth mother had named him Daniel, and that is what the foster mother was calling him. They would incorporate it into his full name, Jake Daniel Kulligan. So it was just a handoff in a hotel room. It felt shady. The day of travel was upon them, and without further ado they soon found themselves in Guatemala City. Their hotel was fascinating, as every guest was there to adopt a baby, and the hotel itself specialized in caring for adoptive parents. Some people already had their babies, while others, like the Kulligans, were waiting. They witnessed one family get their baby and it was one of the most emotional moments they had ever seen. Such hope and happiness and

wistfulness combined. Who knows the reasons people adopt, but the pure joy of it coming to fruition was overwhelming, and Lloyd could not deny it anymore. He wanted to be a father. He was ready. He was wrong. Everyone else was right. Especially his beautiful and long suffering wife Becky. He felt a warmth come over him. It was the most spiritual moment of his life. It was not religious, but it was something special. It was like the proverbial light from above shining through the church glass. He had accepted his God. And it was Jake. The delivery, (delivery, how cold, like he was something they bought in a grocery store, though they did buy him pretty much, with much help from Daddy. Again.) was scheduled for 5 pm on Wednesday, and they barely slept. How do you sleep knowing that your life is changing the next day? They tried to occupy themselves to pass the time, but it was hard. They took a sightseeing tour up in the mountains and passed many poor people living in shacks and working in fields, and they hoped they were doing the right thing. Was it right for rich Americans to come into a poor country and take and raise a child who otherwise would live in poverty? Was the mother coerced? Did she really want to give up her baby? There were many questions that would forever go unanswered. When people would hear they were adopting, they would congratulate them on what they were doing for an indigent child. But the truth was more self serving. They were selfish, they wanted to be parents, they weren=t doing it for any sort of humanitarian reasons. They went back to their room and waited. Time moved glacierly. They both reflected on the day nearly four years earlier when they had lost their only child. Four long, lonely sad years had passed for Becky. Lloyd only in retrospect would feel the same. Their time had come. This WAS going to be the happiest day of their life. When Lloyd got nervous, he paced. The baby was to be handed over within the half hour. He sauntered out into the hotel grounds to go look and see if they were near. In the parking lot he saw an older woman holding a fat faced, smiling, happy baby boy. My god that baby is cute, I hope that is Jake. He went racing back to the room and told Becky about the baby he saw out front, and he told her it was the cutest baby he had ever seen. That would be unbelievable if that was Jake, he told her.

He was going to videotape the exchange and he went to get the camera ready. A minute later there was a knock on the door. There stood the woman from the parking lot with the cutest baby in the world. The woman was gentle with Jake and shyly handed it over to Becky. She burst into tears, a mother holding her baby for the first time. She bounced him in her arms and it looked like an extension of her. She was a mother. It was 46 years in the making. She was more beautiful than on their wedding day. She handed the boy to Lloyd who was whimpering and smiling. He inadvertently left the camera on, which was now focused on the floor, only recording the audio. When they watched the video it was mesmerizing in its power. Just noises of crying and joy. When Jake was a young boy he would watch it and skip over that part, because he couldn=t comprehend how sobbing could be construed as tears of joy. Becky picked the camera up and filmed Jake in Lloyd=s arms. He was bouncing him, and this six month old baby who had never met these people before in his short life was laughing and giggling. An interpreter was on scene to help the Kulligans and the foster mother communicate. Becky was prepared with a list of questions, such as what does he eat, what is his bedtime, and others of such import. Lloyd just had one question, which was also captured on videotape. Come on, we all know what it was, lets say it in unison; ADoes the baby cry a lot?@ They said he was a happy and content baby, didn=t fuss much or anything. Well now it was officially not Lloyd=s genes. Jake was a tad on the hefty side, explained by the excessive feedings of rice milk. The foster mother wanted to hand over a healthy baby and may have gone overboard. It was rather touching. It was an emotional scene, as the foster mother was leaving. She had raised Jake from his infancy and most likely would never see him again. Yes, she was compensated, but the Kulligans could tell she cared, and they cried with her as she left. They would forever be grateful to her, as Jake was a wonderful, well adjusted baby and seemingly had no health or behavioral issues. When they first received the picture of Jake at three weeks old, they were advised to take the it to a child specialist, who supposedly could diagnose a child simply by looking at it. At that point, the Kulligans still had the option at that point of turning down the baby and waiting for another one. Adoption was a dirty game and not for the faint of heart. The doctor took one look at the picture and declared that he was a

startlingly alert baby and seemed to possess nothing to raise any red flags. That was the first thing they thought when they had him that first night, that the specialist was dead on. Jake was extremely alert and seemed to have quite the docile personality. They were advised to look for signs of him having anxiety over being separated from his foster mom, but he exhibited none, and would not ever. They were shocked at how easy the transition was. They laid him down to sleep, and he smiled and cooed and promptly went to bed. It was amazing. They looked at each other and shrugged. They were each sleeping in a twin bed, with the crib in between. They held hands across the chasm, smiled, and went to sleep. It was vaguely reminiscent of the night they spent in the hospital after her stillbirth, but with much different emotions. They were parents. Jake woke them up early the next morning with his cooing and a slight giggle. He smiled at them and they were astounded at how well adjusted he already seemed. It was love at first sight. Everyone is something at heart, deep down in their gut. Lloyd had always known what he was. He was a centerfielder. That was at his core. A baseball player. It was an odd thing. He literally felt that at his core, he was a baseball player, even though he never played beyond 8th grade. It was where he felt most at home, on a baseball field, catching fly balls. That was, until he became Jake=s father. From then on, deep down, he was Jake=s daddy. Becky was a mother. She felt it on her insides. The stillbirth cemented that fact. She may have been in her mid 40's but that maternal instinct did not die with their baby, and she needed to fill that void. If Lloyd hadn=t been so self absorbed and selfish he would have nurtured that, instead of fighting it. But he was bathing in the light of Jake and was reborn. It was an atheistic baptism. They triumphantly went for breakfast in the hotel and secretly they felt that everyone had to be jealous that they had the most beautiful baby in the world. A waiter picked him up and marched him around the room and Jake smiled the whole time. Lloyd gave him some suds from the pineapple drink and he sucked it up. Becky and Lloyd smiled at each other, and didn=t say anything. They had been through the ringer and come out the other side. Lloyd never knew he could experience such sheer, overwhelming, unbridled happiness. Jake was the light of their life, filling the hole of darkness that Lloyd only recently would admit had always existed.

It was a triumphant return to Chicago, as Jake immediately adapted. He didn=t even cry on the plane rides, easing Becky=s one worry. When they landed in Chicago, and spotted his family who was there to greet them and drive them home, Lloyd hoisted Jake high over his head like a victory trophy. They strapped Jake into his carseat and he promptly and calmly fell asleep on the ride home to his new life. The transition was remarkably seamless, almost freakishly so. Lloyd did not believe in Karma, but maybe their was a yin yang parallel in the universe and things were swinging back in their favor. And like every baby in the history of mankind, Jake did in fact cry. When he went to bed. Becky was adamant in doing the Aferber@ method, which evidently consisted of letting your baby shriek like a murder victim until it fell asleep. Some nights he would cry for a few minutes and others for close to an hour. The purpose was to let them go to sleep on their own terms, so they don=t have problems sleeping later in life. Like Lloyd. On those occasions when the noise level was too much for Lloyd, he would retire to their car in the parking lot for the duration. He would call Becky from his cellphone asking if Jake was asleep and she would scream at him that the phone ringing woke Jake up again. But otherwise Jake was a dream. He was calm, and cute, and of course, incredibly smart. Lloyd could tell. Lloyd spent every waking minute he could with him and was over the moon. He became obsessed. His friend Mike was getting married, and the bachelor party was in Vegas. Lloyd couldn=t enjoy himself because he missed Jake too much. It wasn=t very healthy. Lloyd did have an epiphany early on, after realizing how perfect Jake was for them. He had harbored a tremendous amount of anger and resentment at the adoption agency for making them go to marriage counseling and thus delaying the adoption. But in retrospect he realized that delay made it possible to get Jake, otherwise it would have been another baby. It was meant to be. When Jake turned two, they left downtown Chicago and moved to a coach house in the suburbs. They wanted to live in a community with other families and other children, which just wasn=t feasible in the city. Ellen had recently given birth to what would be her only child, Sophie. Jake and Sophie would become close cousins, more like siblings, with Becky helping take care of Sophie when Ellen returned to teaching.

At a very young age Jake had come up with clever monikers for his close family members. Ellen had become WaWa, and Uncle Ilya was Uncle Wawa. Bubbe Merrill was BayBay, and Zayde Nathan was Ha, so named for his proclivity to exclaim, AHA!@ at all the cute things Jake did. The names would stick forever. Lloyd had long ago apologized to Becky for doubting her about adopting. He couldn=t have been more wrong, and only she could see what he couldn=t. So, as time went on, he had to live with the fact that a) he didn=t go in the delivery room with her, and B) he spent an inordinate amount of time denying her the pleasure of the adoption process. Those were two pretty big matzoballs hanging out there, and the only way he could make up for it was by being a good father and a good husband. When Jake was about 3, he had another major epiphany. He realized that he didn=t want a biological child, because he was afraid he wouldn=t love it as much as he did Jake. It was quite a lightning bolt moment for him and quite the reversal on his original stance. And he meant it. Someday, when Jake was old enough he would tell him that. Not long afterward, he had what he thought was a nightmare. He was with Jake in a playground, and they were having a great time. Suddenly, Lloyd grabbed Jake and inserted himself into him. It was not sexual, not even in the dream. It was more like clicking a piece into place. Lloyd then began walking proudly with Jake attached to his midsection. At that point, Lloyd woke up, in a panic and sweat. What the fuck kind of dream was that? Being Lloyd, he didn=t tell Becky, but he did tell his mommy. She laughed and told him that he was attached to Jake, and that he felt it was his seed that made him, that he felt Jake was his biological son. It made perfect sense. Jake was a part of him, it wasn=t sexual and that Lloyd felt he wasn=t adopted anymore. He was purely his son. It was a very powerful realization and many years later Lloyd would be able to conjure the dream as if it were yesterday. He would tell Jake the story on his 8th birthday, conveniently removing that whole nasty, insertion part. Jake knew from an early age he was adopted and it was never an issue. A Jewish man with his Lutheran wife and their Guatemalan son. It was all perfectly natural. They were a family. Chapter

The day Jake was starting kindergarten Merrill Kulligan looked in the mirror and sighed. Her stomach was unusually bloated and she was having trouble walking. She didn=t tell anybody, but made herself a doctor=s appointment. She was in tune with her body and didn=t need a doctor to tell her what she already knew. The doctors ran some tests and the inevitable came back. Her breast cancer had returned with a vengeance, literally 10 years to the day of her mastectomy. More yin yang for Lloyd. It was stage 4, most likely terminal. Lloyd punched the wall and made a hole when he heard the news. It was his worst nightmare growing up. One of his parents dying. He thought about it a lot, and it frightened him. And here it was staring him in the face. One slight good thing in his mental favor was that he had since transferred those fears to Jake. That would be the ultimate nightmare. His mom was 65, and lived a great life, he could try and reconcile that. There was no time frame on when the inevitable would occur with her, but the clock was ticking. The diagnosis took a toll on Merrill mentally. Her mother and sister had died in the previous two years and she was still reeling from those deaths. She would never be the same. She took to her bed and deteriorated rapidly over the next 16 months. She stopped going out, she stopped seeing her friends, and she would only see her immediate family. It was devastating for everybody. Nathan waited on her hand and foot without complaint. They had been married 45 years, and one day he took Lloyd aside and told him why he was so devoted. ALloyd, many years ago when I was being sworn in to become a judge, the man swearing me in looked at your mother and asked if she loved me and if was proud of me. She looked at him and said she would love me until her dying breath. I am making sure that happens.@ Lloyd began to cry, and he hoped Becky loved him like that. They had been married 9 years and he felt the way his father did. His parents were great role models, and presented what a great marriage should be. And in the face of it ending, Nathan Kulligan was rising to the occasion. In the midst of this, Lloyd reevaluated where his life was heading. They didn=t have much money and his job was fine, but mundane. He always expected greater things out of himself, though his actual effort showed otherwise. He was still writing his short stories but had no luck getting them published. He was fascinated with the culture=s love of auto racing. He could not understand how it was so popular, the cars just go in circles. So he put his

doubts into writing. The Search for Intelligence Life In 2005, the United States government commissioned a top-secret report to investigate one of the great social mysteries of our times. A blue ribbon panel of top sociologists and anthropologists were appointed to investigate and delve into the dark recesses of the American psyche. This sub-primal cultural affliction is commonly referred to as The National Association for Stock Car
Auto Racing, or in layman=s terms, NASCAR.

The report aimed to search for explanations for the dumbfounding and mystifying popularity that this Asport@ holds on pockets of the American general populace, specifically those residing due south of the Mason Dixon line. The panel strived to reach a conclusion regarding the strange hold the Asport@ seems to cast over their fans, but the results were inconclusive and there appears to be no antidote to this baffling epidemic. The panel strongly feels that the diminished mental capacity of the subjects at hand contributed mightily to the findings. What follows are some of the results and suppositions drawn by the Commission from the report. A survey was created and handed out to fans at 13 racing facilities, also known as Aracetracks@ where inexplicably a normal race attracts on average 78,000 individuals. Many of the questions in the survey required numerical answers, such as how many races have you attended and what is your favorite number. 86% of the respondents proceeded to remove their socks so they could use their toes to do the counting. Suffice it to say the average number exceeded 10 and the census takers could not get an accurate count. When asked what their education level was, the most common response was, Alevel, like how tall is I?@ The survey was quickly abandoned. At this juncture the Commission decided to conduct a spot-check of the pickups splayed throughout the parking lots (*). It was determined that 89% displayed patriotic bumper stickers, all adamantly signifying their rootintootin beliefs. A sample includes, ATed Kennedy has killed more people with his car than my gun@ (found on 2,546 pickups on average), AKerry-Fonda 2004@, PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals), plus many variations of Calvin pissing on the words liberal, democrat, or Al Gore. American flags decals were found on 100% of the vehicles, clearly violating the dictums of desecrating the American Flag. Gunracks were found on 88%.

* - no other vehicle was found on the premises. It was all pickup trucks. 99% of which were American made, you got that gottdam right. In an effort to blend in with the crowds, members of the panel donned tattered overalls and sported John Deere baseball hats. Some of the braver members wore embroidered leather jackets and shitkickers (Uggs). It was further learned that entry to each facility was denied unless each male member over the age of 17 was in possession of their own flask of Amoonshine@ which inevitably turned out to be a combination of cough syrup and hydrogen peroxide Blood samples of many of the racegoers were obtained surreptitiously. Commission members would goad the spectator into spewing invectives about Northerners and their Godless ways, and then poke them with a needle and draw the blood. The subjects were so drunk that they attributed the pokes to Abig ole skeeters@. The Mean Blood alcohol levels of those tested ranged from .08 (illegal limit) to .33 (Alabaman). A shared ritual amongst the attendees was to hurl vulgarities and slurs at the passing cars. These derogatory comments were prevalent across all age levels and ethnic groups.* * Just kidding about the ethnic level as the Nascar audience is 100% Caucasian. The most common slurs heard by the grandstand members were ranked in order of appearance. The act of hurling epithets upon cars speeding by at upwards of 200 mph was apparently lost upon the attendees. What follows are the most prevalent insults and their corresponding explanations: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. YOU SUCK GORDON Show us Yer Tits!! I AM FUCKING WASTED. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO SHUT UP BEFORE I HIT YOU AGAIN That is a sweet Manifold.

Research shows that Gordon is in fact Jeff Gordon, one of the most successful and one of the most hated men in motor sports. He is disliked because he wins a lot and seems mildly educated. Rumors persist that he once may have possibly met former President Bill Clinton and did not refuse to shake his hand. This taunt was greeted with success 100% of the time.

Self explanatory Usually made by the male member to his female acquaintance after said tits were bared. We have not been able to verify what a manifold is. While compiling this report, the researchers also were forced to endure the full race at each venue. 33 of the members quit after one hour. These were at separate speedways, and all left under their own cognizance. This was not merely a coincidence. The ones who subjected themselves to the whole race, determined that the mix of alcohol and stunted mental growth of the paying, PAYING mind you, customers combined to dull the senses of the spectators so much that the thought that they were watching cars go in a circle for 200+ laps was somehow enjoyable. The same process is found in Republican Voters. This is not a coincidence. Researchers took into account the possibility that many were there to see the crashes, and that the anticipation of such made the waiting somehow worthwhile. Many of the commission members needed counseling to rectify their utter and complete boredom. Another undeniable truth is that the races garner tremendous television ratings. The report does not go in depth into the reasoning for this, as the US Government feared a mass suicide on par with Jim Jones if we subjected the researchers to study this anymore in depth. Research does suggest that viewing NASCAR races on television as a sleep aid for those whose regular medications don=t work as well. Suffice it to say, the broadcast involved a series of left turns over the course of 200 laps, with each car averaging 207.13 miles per hour, with twelve pit stops, 6 lead changes, andY..zzzzzzzzzzzzz. He submitted a bunch of his stories to literary agents and had no luck, but one told him he should concentrate on writing a novel instead. But what could he write about? His life, he realized certainly had enough material. My Life, by Lloyd Kulligan. It could be for insomniacs. Maybe, he thought, if he called it fiction and added some extra hyperbole to spice it up that might work. He began writing at work, why waste precious free time, and found that he enjoyed documenting his life=s travails. It was cathartic in a way, and forced him to contemplate his life choices, and the repercussions of many of his decisions. But he had few regrets, check that, his life was full of regrets. He was the Anti-Sinatra. Regrets, he had a few, but then again, way too many to

mention. Lloyd was now 40. Jake was now entering second grade, and was a wonderful, sensitive, creative, athletic, and funny boy, a dream come true, pretty much everything Lloyd could have wished for in a son. Becky was as beautiful as the day he married her, if not more. Lloyd, was now a fat ass, an irony considering he was mocked for his boniness when younger. He had a gut and figured Becky must cringe every time he climbed on top of her and lunged like a stricken manatee. Merrill Kulligan now had trouble walking, and spent most of her time in bed. The family had always felt that she was special and would beat the cancer in the end, in fact they attributed her retiring to her bed as mental and not physical, and they begged her to see a doctor. Lloyd was starting to be openly disdainful of her behavior and as she barely shuffled into the waiting room of the oncology unit, he scoffed at all the people looking at her like she was near death. The doctor asked Lloyd and his father if they had an end of life plan, and it hit them like a ton of bricks. Her doctors had previously said she could live possibly five years after the diagnosis, and it had only been two. They were massively flustered. They ran some tests on her, and Lloyd was sure they would be fine. The Kübler-Ross model, commonly known as the five stages of grief, was first introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. It describes, in five discrete stages, a process by which people deal with grief and tragedy, especially when diagnosed with a terminal illness or catastrophic loss. In addition to this, her book brought mainstream awareness to the sensitivity required for better treatment of individuals who are dealing with a fatal disease. The first stage was Denial. Denial worked for him. The tests came back a few days later and the worst was upon them. She had maybe three or four months. Merrill took the news blankly and had no reaction. She looked over to Lloyd and shrugged. AIt will be ok, Eddie.@ The rest of the family collapsed into a sobbing heap. At this point, Merrill took to her bed and it was a matter of when, not if. She was on her deathbed, and Lloyd needed to accept it. Merrill did. She never complained or seem scared about her coming fate. Becky had gown tremendously fond of her over the years, and felt she owed it to her to help her in any way she could. She asked Merrill if there was anything she could do, and mentioned that sometimes people in the last stages of life like to hear what they meant to those closest to them. Would she like her husband

and kids to write a letter to her? Having her kids author something about her made a sort of sense. Being the voracious reader that she was, having something in writing about her was apropos. He had already been enlisted to deliver her eulogy, and so he set about writing the two hardest things he had ever written. In the meanwhile he was still penning his great opus about his life and he was living in one of the final chapters. His mother=s march to death. He was going to finish the book, he was almost halfway done, and he had hoped his mother would live to see it. He was under no illusions it would ever be published, but he wanted something tangible of his talents, that his mother could possibly appreciate and be proud of. He had never reached his full potential and his mother wouldn=t live to see if he ever would. He had come to terms with her death and could talk about it freely, and writing the letter to her wasn=t that difficult until he got to the part about himself. He hoped she was proud of him. Writing that made him choke up and start crying. He knew he was a good son, but an underachiever. That was what he was, and he knew it. His mom would never see him reach his full potential. Ellen had written her letter, but there was no way she could read it to her mom, so dad read it. Merrill was the most mentally strong woman in the history of the world, and she didn=t break up at all. As Nathan read her words, Ellen=s anguish was too much and she got up and left the room. As she did, Merrill in her understated, dryly comic way said, AThere she goes.@ and Lloyd laughed. His mother had impeccable timing, even in her last days. It was Lloyd=s turn and he took a deep breath and began reading... AMother, I don=t want to write this. You know how I feel about you, I don=t need to tell you anything you don=t know. And I know how you feel. We are not ones to talk about our feelings, but nevertheless I shall try. I am devastated and heartbroken. I thought you would get better and I have been waiting for it to happen. I have come to terms with losing you and I will be ok. Dad will be ok, and we will take care of Ellen. I have been trying to think about why Ellen and I were always so devoted to you and followed your word as the gospel. You were unequivocal. You were the boss. In your life, in your beliefs and in your actions, and that was comforting. There was no Amaybe@ or Awe=ll see@, it was MY WAY or no way. You and Dad were the rocks in our life, always there. You were always dumbfounded at my insecurities, as you had none, and you would tell me that I was foolish for thinking any less of myself, and you were certain I was wrong, and I believed you. I always believed you. You were always right.

About everything. Your friends always wondered what the deal was with our devotion, and you would shrug. But we all knew. I think part of it was that we were always clamoring for your affections, you were like a cat, always glad to be pet, but didn=t exactly seek it out, and we were all fine with that. And we liked it that way. We missed you when you went on vacations, kids can=t wait for their independence. Not us. We liked our mommy and daddy. And then what I must have put you through with my homesickness at college. It wasn=t until recently that I realized how hard that must have been on you. I feel bad about that. But we also didn=t rebel, and I have thinking about that, too. You and Dad always treated us fairly and we never felt the need to test any boundaries, because we liked our Mom and Dad. You never patronized or condescended to us. We had a healthy fear of you. That mouth. You weren=t our Afriend@ and weren=t lax in punishment, but you made us secure. It was the comfort level you created. There was never tension. You were fiercely independent, you dictated life, you didn=t let life dictate you, and your certainness about everything was your finest quality. I never heard you doubt yourself, or anything, it was amazing. You were not programmed that way. I always wished I could be like that. I think I am in many ways, my humor is directly from you. The sarcasm and the putdowns and the dead panning. I was not independent for many years, and I could not make a decision without your input and that may have been detrimental to my growth. If you wouldn=t have given your approval for me to marry Becky, I don=t know what would have happened. This is horrible momma. I will miss you so bad. But I think there is a part of you I think that did this on purpose, the last two years, to make it a little bit easier on us. Your mind is no match for anyone. I love you, mom. Becky loves you and Jake loves you. It is not fair you won=t get to see Jake grow up. I will make sure he knows all about you. He will remember his baybay, too. I will make sure Dad and Ellen are Ok, I will be ok, and I am ready for this, and I want you to have peace. I hope I have led a life you are proud of...@ At this point Lloyd began to sob heavily. It was weird that this was what choked him up. A child must always need his parents approval. His mother leaned over and made a tsk tsk sound, and shook her head. AEddie, Eddie, Eddie@ she whispered. He smiled back.

His dad was crying, something Lloyd had only seen once before in his life, when his own father died. He composed himself and continued on... AI know I underachieved in my career, slow to grow, slow to grow, but I think I over-achieved family wise and that is what is most important to me. Never fear, I plan on sponging off of dad for many more years. My favorite memories in life, are our family gatherings, the holidays and being together. More than any other memories I have with my friends or anything. I am a family person, and that defines me. I will miss that the most. I hope you have no doubts because you shouldn=t. There is nothing you need to say to me. There is nothing to forgive. You told me the other day I was a good son and that you love me. I knew that. You know I love you and were a good mother. You were the best. You know that. You can go in peace. I don=t want to see that either. I hope this helped you and I hope this is what you needed to hear.@ She showed no emotion, but thanked him for it. His mother was a rock, as always. He was happy in a way. Jake came into the room. He was now 8 years old, and understood what was happening. Baybay leaned over and sniffed his head, and he laughed. It would be the last time he saw her. The mood lightened slightly and they went back to reminiscing. At one point Lloyd mentioned that he was as horny at 40 as he was at 19 and that he would have sex with Becky on her coffin. That made her laugh, and Lloyd was grateful Becky had left the room. But Lloyd had one last thing he wanted to tell her. He had made a decision that if he ever got his book published he was going to have a pseudonym. Instead of Lloyd Kulligan he was going to be Lloyd Merrill. It would be a perfect way to honor his mother. Two weeks later, they were visiting her again, and she was deteriorating rapidly. She was barely cognizant of people in the room and was starting to hallucinate. After they left, she jumped up and in a panicky voice yelled ALloyd, something is wrong with Lloyd! Where=s Lloyd!@ her caretaker assured her all was well and laid her back down. The end was near. The next day Lloyd was at work, and started sweating profusely and he

started to pace. It felt like a panic attack. It made sense, what with his mother on her deathbed. He called Becky in a panic and told her something was wrong. She told him to calm down. Within seconds of talking to her, he puked on his office floor. He rushed home. His temperature was 102 degrees. It wasn=t psychological. . The next morning he woke up and still felt shitty. His temperature was up again, and now he noticed a big red splotch on his leg. He wasn=t one to panic, but this was so odd that he called his doctor and they told him to come in immediately. The doctor took a look at it, and quickly diagnosed it as a skin infection and that he should probably go to the emergency room. Lloyd asked if that was really necessary as his mother was near death and that he couldn=t be in the hospital. The doctor told him that if the rash stays the size, and his temperature stays the same he should be ok. He also prescribed some antibiotics for the rash, which at this point was the size of a silver dollar. His temperature was down to 100 and it appeared he was out of the woods. He had driven himself to the hospital and as he was driving home he got woozy and almost slammed into a car in front of him. Once he got inside, he took his temperature and it had shot back up to 103.5. An hour later he looked down at his leg and the rash was now spreading up the calf. His temperature didn=t subside and he paged his doctor for more advice, who told him he needed to go to the hospital immediately. He called Becky at her work, and she rushed home and took him to the emergency room. He had never been to an ER in his life, and had never been close to being hospitalized. He had never broken a bone, never had his tonsils out. Nothing. As they sat in the ER, he felt sort of foolish, as it appeared it wasn=t really necessary. The rash had spread, but his temperature had fallen, and the doctors treating him weren=t acting like they do on TV, all rushed and panicky. The doctor told him that once his blood level tests came back he could probably go home. He felt kind of sheepish, but was relieved that he would be released soon. Five minutes later the doctor came rushing back in and said they needed to run some tests immediately as his heart rate was up to 140 and his white blood cell count was through the roof. What that meant was that his body was fighting a massive infection Hearing that he had such a high heart rate scared the shit out of him and Becky. They asked what was going on, and the doctor just shrugged. They needed to run more tests and whisked him out of the room while he lay in

his hospital bed. It was a surreal experience. The sterile lights and ceiling tiles passing overhead was exactly like it was depicted on television. They pushed him back to the ER and told them that he would need to be admitted. They didn=t know what was going on and Lloyd needed to be evaluated. He was freaked out and pissed and scared. Becky had taken Jake to a neighbor=s house for the night so she stayed with Lloyd. He was checked into a room, and they still had no clue what was going on. At one in the morning a new doctor came in and explained that he had a serious skin infection, that had entered his body through a small cut on the front of his leg. What was weird was that the rash was on the back of his leg and was spreading. The doctor explained that it was cellulitis, which could manifest in two ways, as a staff infection or a strep infection. Staff infections are much more dangerous, and could be possibly deadly, and also harm the heart. They needed to schedule an MRI to determine the severity, and his situation was dire enough that they were doing it as soon as possible, which turned out to be 3 in the morning. He had never been hospitalized a day in his life and now here he was scared for his own life as his mother lay dying. They didn=t call his sister and father because they had enough to worry about at the moment with Merrill. So, it was just Lloyd and Becky. It was very lonely and scary. He missed Jake, he wanted to be home. They both remembered how Merrill had cried out Lloyd just two days earlier when he was seemingly healthy and that freaked them out some more. He always felt she had some psychic powers as did many of her friends, so he got scared and wondered how much danger he was in. Finally, he was wheeled off for the MRI. He had seen the machines before but never knew what they did. He lay down on the machine and was slowly moved into position for the procedure which was scheduled to take 45 minutes. And it began. The noises that emanated from the machine were otherworldly. Clanging and banging like jack hammers, then it would sound like police sirens blaring, and then back to the jack hammers and for good measure, the sound of what seemed like a metal pot over his head being smacked with a anvil. It was bizarre, but yet strangely hypnotic. His 103 degree fever certainly contributed to one of the strangest experiences of his life. This must be what a bad acid trip must feel like. BANG BANG CLANG WHIRRRRRRRRR. What the fuck is going on. What the hell is happening to me? My mom is going to die and I am in this fucking contraption. KACHING

KACHING WEEE OOOOO WEEE OOO WEEOOOOO. Am I dying? This is a nightmare. My own family doesn=t even know what I am going through. I can=t be there for Mommy! AWhat the fuckkkkkkkkkkkk!@ he screamed to no one in particular. He also had a moment of clarity where he realized that deep down at his core, that not only was he a baseball player, and Jake=s father, but he was pretty much an atheist. He had no urge to pray, or ask someone to save his mother or himself. He was alone. In that moment of clarity, he actually admired those with faith, as he could see how it brought them comfort in times of great need. He was wheeled back to his room and they waited for the results. He had never really thought about his mortality and it was daunting. He was 40, he was supposed to have a mid-life crisis, not die. Though to have a mid-life crisis he needed money, and they had none, so that left finding a young woman to bang. But he was a fat-ass now and that would be too much of a hassle, to find someone who would put up with his shit like Becky did. Oh, and he also loved her and wouldn=t cheat on her even if he still masturbated like a monkey in heat. At this point, he was hooked up to four IV=s each loaded with a different medication to attack the infection. They drifted off to sleep and were awakened by another new doctor. The MRI was inconclusive, so they needed to do an ultrasound to determine how deep the rash was. If it was deep in the skin they would have to do surgery to make it stop, possibly removing his calf muscle or at worst his lower leg. It was exceedingly frightening. They were also still worried about his heart, as the infection could infect the blood and travel to the aorta. They still hadn=t told the rest of his family and at this point, figured they better. They called his parents house and his sister answered. Ellen said she had been trying to reach them all night and started yelling when she heard Lloyd=s voice, angry that he was unreachable especially with Mom=s situation. Ellen started crying and said that the hospice workers said Mom only had a day or so left. He started bawling and couldn=t even get out the fact that he was stuck in the hospital. He apologized before breaking the news to her, as the weight of the world was already on everyone=s shoulders. She started crying again when she heard of his predicament. It was a convergence from hell. He couldn=t be there with his family as his mother slipped away.. There was no way for him to be discharged. It was a nightmare. For him and his family. He still wasn=t out of the woods and his mother was going to die. His family felt helpless. They couldn=t come visit him, and he knew it. He was distraught. He knew she was terminal, but didn=t think the end was coming so soon. And this, while he was in the

hospital for the first time in his life. Merrill had been delusional, but yet she knew something when she screamed Lloyd=s name two days earlier. It freaked him out. And he didn=t know what his future held. Was he going to lose a leg? Was his heart at risk? And his mom was going to die while he sat there in his hospital bed. He wasn=t ever going to see her again. It was brutal. Three separate teams of doctors were checking on him and as they tried to get a handle on the situation. One group would say one thing such as he couldn=t eat for another 24 hours, while and then be totally contradicted by another who would say he could eat now if he wanted. Lloyd=s head was spinning. By midday, the doctors seemed to have things under a modicum of control. The rash was apparently relatively superficial, it was called erysipelas, a mild form of cellulitis, and it was a strep infection, the least dangerous. He was now out of the woods, his heart and leg were fine, but he still would need to be monitored for at least three or four days. The word spread about his condition and all of his friends checked in. He didn=t have many but they were incredibly special to him. Mike, now married with a child, was the first to stop by. Lloyd had a hard time not breaking down in tears when he saw him. Mike was always so sincere and had always been a remarkable friend. Each year on April Fools Day, Lloyd would tell him to look in the mirror. They were about to celebrate the 20th anniversary of that inglorious event from their past. Steve came and sat with him for four hours on consecutive days. He was also married and had 5 year old twins and was incredibly successful. Mark called in from California where he had some success in acting and other ventures. His mother was a nurse who dealt with geriatrics and death, and even though Lloyd hadn=t seen her in over 20 years, she called and consoled him. Henry was living in Colorado with his wife and two kids, and he was distraught to hear about Merrill. He knew her better than anyone, and he enjoyed her greatly. His father had died suddenly in recent years, so he knew what Lloyd was about to go through. Many of his coworkers also made a great effort to check up on him, as he had worked there for over 15 years and had made many close friends. Lloyd felt incredibly sad and proud at the same time. It was sort of like the ending of It=s A Wonderful Life, with all his friends there for him. It was

tremendously comforting. Jake was too scared to visit and Lloyd hadn=t seen him in 48 hours. Lloyd knew it was a hard time for him, what with baybay near death and now his daddy being in the hospital. Lloyd desperately wanted to see him but they spoke on the phone and Lloyd consoled him as much as he could. The hardest part was ahead of him. Ellen called and said Mom was going fast and she was asking for him. He was going to have to say goodbye to her over the phone. It was time. Becky handed him the phone and he heard slight groaning. It was his mother=s last gasps. But he could tell she was saying ALloyd@. Once again he burst into tears, and as Becky held on to him he poured out his heart to his dying mother. AI love you, Mom. I love you. You can go peacefully. I am ready. It is ok. We will be ok.@ He was shrieking it while bawling. AYou were the best mother, and made me the man that I am.@ he heard Ellen crying in the background, and then his mother handed the phone to her and groaned. It was hell on earth. It was the second worst moment of his life. Nothing would ever top the doctor telling him and Becky about their dead child. But it was close. He sagged onto the bed and sobbed uncontrollably. Becky couldn=t console him. She would later say it was the worst thing she ever witnessed in person. He gathered himself and incrementally started to feel better. He had come to terms with it and was prepared for her imminent demise. He fell asleep and woke up the next morning, which was a Wednesday. He had entered the hospital on Sunday night. No phone call came during the night so she must have made it. A few minutes later the phone rang. She had not. She passed away at five in the morning. He didn=t cry. He knew it was coming. He realized he had prepared his whole life for this moment. It wasn=t as bad as he had feared. The death of one of his parents had come. And he survived. In truth, he realized he had transferred most of those same fears over to his son. Now that would devastate him. He literally felt that he would kill himself if Jake died. He would not be able to go on from that. Later that day, his family finally was able to come visit him. It was not a scene of total devastation. Nathan Kulligan had waited on Merrill, hand and foot and was prepared for it. It may also have been a relief. No one wanted to see her suffer anymore. It was totally opposite of how Lloyd had ever pictured it. Everyone was calm and rational. The events of the last 24 hours were almost too overwhelming to comprehend, what with Lloyd in the hospital and Merrill=s fast decline.

Now they had to prepare for the funeral, and when it would be. Lloyd=s health was on the mend, but their was still no timetable on his discharge. To be safe they scheduled the funeral for the following Monday. It was going to be an unorthodox affair, no pun intended for these agnostic Jews. Lloyd was adamant that he didn=t want some schnor Rabbi who didn=t even know his mother up on the dais pontificating about her life. Lloyd may have been the most radical agnostic, but they were all in agreement on that. They decided his Uncle Steve could do be the Ahost@. He was a defacto family member as it was, and it made everyone happy that he would emcee. Lloyd would give the eulogy, and some of Merrill=s friends would also speak. That is they way they wanted it, and that was the way it would be. Meanwhile, Lloyd was pining for his son, and he needed to see him. The family left for lunch and Becky promised to try and get Jake to come back with them. A few hours later they returned without Jake in tow. Lloyd started yelling and getting pissed. Literally. He had to urinate in a bottle, so his doctors could monitor it, and in his anger he jumped out of his bed and tripped over one of the bottles which spilled all over the floor. His niece Sophie was there, and she found it the funniest thing she had ever seen. Lloyd kept ranting about not seeing Jake, and then, surprise! Jake popped into the room. It was a exceedingly happy moment in the midst of sullen gloom. Lloyd new how tough it was for him and was tremendously proud of him. Jake anxiety lessened when he saw his daddy making jokes and acting normal, and could barely stifle his laughter at the knocked over piss bottle. The doctors were incredibly sympathetic to his plight, as it was almost an unprecedented situation for them to be dealing with a patient who couldn=t be home with his dying mother. One doctor got tears in her eyes when Lloyd relayed his predicament to her. They promised to try and get him out as soon as they could. In the interim, Lloyd needed to fill his down time, which he did with his writings. He finished his mother=s eulogy and afterwards he needed to cheer himself up, so he wrote some short stories. Religion was foremost on his mind at the moment. Persecution Complex Dr. Wiseman: Thank you for coming in today Jesus, your friends and family have been worried sick about you, seeing as that you disappeared for three days. Jesus: I didn=t disappear. I was sacrificed and reborn.

Dr. Wiseman: Riiigghht. Right. I see. What do you mean by that? Jesus: Well, you know I am the Son of God and have thousands upon thousands of disciples. They hang on my every word. I can turn water into wine, walk upon waterY Dr. Wiseman: Pardon me, but that seems rather delusional wouldn=t you say? Have you been diagnosed with bi-polarism or schizophrenia before? Jesus: Most certainly not, anyhow, I was having dinner with some of my chums and casually announced that I know one of them is going to turn on me andY Dr. Wiseman: Ah, a megalomaniac and paranoid. Have you been partaking in the fresh mushrooms and merry grasses of Jerusalem? Jesus: I may have imbibed in the riches of the earth but I don=t see what that has to do with anything. Dr. Wiseman: Fine, fine. Proceed. Jesus: So, anyhoo, I know these guys are out to get me, so I serve them some wine and bread, and I am like, eat this, drink this, it is my body and this is my blood, I mean it really wasn=t, I was just making a point. So anyway, douchebag Judas gets this look on his face and says he needs to go to the crapper, can he be excused? Next thing you know I am on trial for blasphemy, which is ironic, because I am the Son of God, you know? So I know that son of a bitch, Iscariot turned my ass in. He was always giving me shit about how he didn=t believe the story about my mom=s immaculate conception. He was like, right, God just happened to pick YOUR mother, Jesus, SHE is the chosen one, sure. And he kept going on about how she probably slept with some vagabond and just didn=t want to get in trouble with her parents and get kicked out of the pogrom. He said his mom said she was going to be sent to Tel Aviv to live with my Aunt Mabel, so she panicked and made up some story about God miraculously impregnating her. I mean, she is pure as myrrh, man, she wouldn=t lie. I AM the frickin son of God, OK? Jesus Christ. Dr. Wiseman: Do you always refer to yourself in third person? You obviously have some classic Oedipal issues that we will have to deal with down the road, how did you feel growing up without a father figure? Jesus: Without one? He was with me everywhere I went, he is here now! Dr. Wiseman: I see. I see. Hmm. I notice you also have some holes in your hands and feet, are you a self-mutilator? Do you hate yourself?

Jesus: Dad dammit, man, come on! They crucified me! Dr. Wiseman: They did? Can you tell me who THEY are? What kind of things did they say that made you so upset? Jesus: The Jews. It was the JEWS. Wait, words, what? No, man, they literally crucified me, put me up on the cross, and nailed me there and left me to die. Pffft, I showed them. Dr. Wiseman: Literally crucified? Are you familiar with the term persecution complex? Because you are the poster boy, if I have ever seen one. Here, let me fill out some prescriptions for you. There is Lithium for the bi-polar, Clozapine, it=s an anti-psychotic for the paranoia, some Effexor for your delusions, and some Xanax, cause you need to chill the fuck out. I would like to see you every week if possible. Jesus: Uh, yeah, I am going to be ascending into heaven soon so I don=t think that is going to happen. Dr. Wiseman: Now you are suicidal? I hesitate to do this, but I am going to have to hospitalize you, let me just turn around here and get some paperwork. Okay, now letsY Hey, Jesus where did you go?Y He wrote one more while hospitalized. There were a lot of news stories about Jesus showing up in pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches, so he felt like exploiting that. The Holy Spirit! Scene: Television news station. Roger Winters: And that squirrel died a hero. Candy. Candy Riggins-Stallworth: Thanks, Roger, Now we want to send you back out to Ashley Madison-Jones who is standing by with a live report from what many are saying is a bona fide miracle. Ashley Madison-Jones: Thank you, Candy, we are live here in Crestwood, where some say the iconic visage of Oprah Winfrey has miraculously appeared in local resident Missy Comstock=s half eaten and nearly discarded authentic Chicago style deep dish pizza. As you can see here, the image is plainly clear and is almost eerie in its resemblance to the talk show maven. What does it all mean? For many years she has been portrayed as a deity and her millions of disciples may in fact turn this into their holy grail. Thousands of Winfrey devotees have traveled from far and wide, no pun

intended, to make the pilgrimage to see the saucy image for themselves. I have Missy with me right here and I must say there is almost a Lourdes type atmosphere here. The healing powers of Oprah know no bounds. The hordes of people with injured psyches, negligible energies and the power of positive thinking is stretching for blocks. Miss Comstock, what led to this discovery and how does it feel to have possible found the lost ark of the Winfrey movement? Missy Comstock: Well, Candy, Oh my god, you are so great, I love you, I can=t believe I am on Television! Anyhow, my husband Roger, he loves Pizza, and anyhow, he had just finished his 7th piece and I looked at the remnants and I was like, Roger, does that look like anything to you? And he says, naw, and I scream, ARoger, that is Oprah! Look at how the sauce is her hair and the sausage is her nose and the cheese is her mouth!@ and he just got stone cold and he said, Missy Rae, I will be goddamned, if that is not her. And so I called my neighbor Della over and I show her the pizza, right? And I says, who does that look like? And she starts screaming, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, IT=S OPRAH, all up and down in my face, and I was like, right? And she called her book club group over, on account of they just happened to be reading THE SECRET and every single one of them saw it, except that trampy one Rhonda Sue, who said it looked like Whoopi Goldberg, and I got all pissed and I done kicked her out of my kitchen. No one will disrespect Oprah at least not in my house. She had the nerve once to question the validity of Oprah=s relationship with Steadman. Nuh uh, not in my house. Ashley Madison-Jones: So what happened next? Missy Comstock: Well naturally I got on the phone and told all my friends and they told all their friends and soon enough the neighborhood was overwhelmed with fine ladies hootin and hollerin it up. I think so far there have been 2200 women and 7 men. And I aint askin for nuthin, just a donation for her kids in South America. It is really the work of the Oprah and I know something greater than ourselves is at work. They are leaving all types of honorifics! Look at all the O magazines set up as a shrine! I just laid that pizza out here in that glass box, so none of them damn raccoons could get at it, I mean the animals, not black people, no disrespectin goin on here, though now that I think about it I actually haven=t seen any black people. Whatever, it is just splendifally glorious. People are bringing books from her book club, look see there=s Angela=s Ashes, and Deep End of the Ocean, and, HEY WHO LEFT THE CORRECTIONS HERE! UNCOOL. They are burning into a million little pieces. Ashley Madison-Jones: oh, a literary joke, good for you. Missy Comstock: It ain=t litter Ashley, we is going to clean it up.

Anyhow, look at all Pontiacs lined up as far the eye could see. Remember she gave them away? We bought two. Anyhow, her spirit is really bringing everyone together. Ashley Madison-Jones: You say spirit, but does the fact that Oprah is still alive have any bearing on any of this? Missy Comstock: She has spirit in here (points to chest while tearing up), right? I mean she has changed so many lives. So many. I am just a conduit to her fierce spirit and independence. I am blessed that she chose to speak through me. It comes from within, and without there is none. It is an honor. I feel like I have become her energy. Ashley Madison-Jones: Here is one of the disciples, what is your name? Linda. Ashley Madison-Jones: Linda, why are you here? What draws you to this? Linda: Oh my god. I am devoted to Oprah, I have seen every single episode of hers in the last 17 years. I remember her when she was on AM CHICAGO! I even sat through the interview with Yanni. I have been divorced three times and she knows what it is like. I can just relate, you know? I have gone on every diet she has. I have bought every book she recommends. Even my soap. It=s French Triple Milled! Oh my goodness I am so overwhelmed. OPRAH, I LOVE YOU!!!!! THIS IS A MIRACLE!!!!!! Ashley Madison-Jones: What do you think it means that she would appear in an almost discarded pizza? Linda: It means just be yourself. That is what she preaches. Don=t worry what others think of you. If you wish it to happen it will. It just will! Ashley Madison-Jones: What will? Linda: IT! Anything you want. I am not surprised she would appear in a pizza. She is every woman, and what is more every woman than Pizza. PRAISE OPRAH! Ashley Madison-Jones: Candy, Linda has just hit the ground and appears to be speaking in tongues. It sounds like she is chanting the list of Oprah=s favorite things! Linda: Havienas Flip flops murr murr murr, the Baekhaard passport holder, durrrrrr, his and her Chianci bath towels, aiaiaiaiaiaiaiaia!!!

Ashley Madison-Jones: Candy, the aroma of the thousands of Votivo candles lit here are really soothing and calming. As Oprah has said hundreds of times, ANothing's better for some instant ambience than scented candles. They're all gorgeous, but Rain is my favorite scent." As far as the eye can see women of all shapes and sizes are jumping and squealing and having conniptions. Candy Riggins-Stallworth: Ashley, if you can hear me above the din, has Oprah herself, had any comment on this? Ashley Madison-Jones: We haven=t heard directly from her, but her publicist released a statement. It reads in total, "The truth feels right and good and loving. Love doesn't hurt. Truth allows you to live every day with integrity. Everything you do and say shows the world who you really areClet it be the truth." Which we have since learned and as many out here knew verbatim was from the January, 2002 edition of O. Candy Riggins-Stallworth: I wish I could be out there with you, Ashley. In studio here, we have Dr. Richard Baggins, a noted clinical psychologist and internet certified minister. Welcome, Dr. Why are so many people drawn to this makeshift shrine to Oprah? Dr. Richard Baggins: Well Candy, as you well know, this is not the first time Oprah or one of her disciples has miraculously appeared. You may remember the incident in Laredo, Texas where an autographed picture of Dr. Phil McGraw began shedding genuine crocodile tears after Oprah and Steadman called off their impending nuptials. So these things are not that uncommon. The people drawn to these type of spectacles need to feel close to their idol, and these type of incidents are sort of a pilgrimage to Mecca if you will, if you want to equate the holy pilgrimage to Mecca with this. There most likely will not be the same sort of death toll, but you never know. Have you ever tried getting tickets to her show? So this may be as close as they will ever get. It is quite a religious experience. The same sort of thing occurs whenever a visage of Princess Diana appears in a crumpet or scone south of London. Candy Riggins-Stallworth: The obvious difference being that Princess Di is actually dead. Dr. Richard Baggins: True. Candy: Thank you, doctor, lets go back out to Ashley for one final report. Ashley, anything new to add? Ashley: I must tell you, Candy, a sort of panic has broken out as word has spread that Rachael Ray has been spotted, or I should say, heard, coming

down the road. The hysteria here has reached proportions levels not seen since Brad Pitt appeared on the Oprah show in 1999 to promote Oceans Eleven. I shudder to think what the future may hold. Back to you, Candy. Candy Riggins-Stallworth: Thanks Ashley, keep us updated. Flip is up next with the Weather, and a special report, Can drinking water kill you? Tune in after the break. Chapter He was finally released on Friday, four days after being entered into the hospital. It was the longest he had been ever been confined inside and he cherished his first gasps of non sterile air. By now word of his incarceration had spread and he started getting multiple sympathy calls, with people fumbling over which to mention first, his mom=s death or his hospitalization. He found his predicament so ridiculous that all he could do was laugh. The word surreal kept coming up over and over. That night they met Mike and Steve for dinner, and as Becky pulled up to the restaurant Lloyd saw the two of them approaching. He made her pull over and come over and escort him out of the car like he was infirm. She rushed over to his side and as she helped him out of the car he collapsed to the ground. Becky then lifted him an put an arm around him and dragged him up to them. They were in hysterics. It was his way of lightening the mood and it worked. The funeral was in two days, and he had yet to finish the eulogy. It was a daunting task. Merrill Kulligan wasn=t easily summed up in a neat package. He wasn=t sure how to go about it, until his father told him to Acapture@ her. That made it click in his head and he set about to do so. It was not an easy task, and Becky told him not to be nervous. He didn=t understand what she meant, in that writing didn=t make him nervous. She was transferring her fears onto him. It was the public speaking part that freaked her out. Lloyd looked forward to it. He had given speeches before as part of his job and he actually looked forward to it. He wanted to honor his mother and he embraced the challenge. He wanted his father and family also to be proud. He wanted to be clutch, like a ballplayer with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. He wasn=t going to be a choker. Since the night he last talked to his mother on the phone, Lloyd had not cried. Not once. Didn=t even feel like it. He was flummoxed at that. Neither had his dad. He had never thought he would be able to deal with the death of his mother so nonchalantly. His only theory was that they had watched her deteriorate over the course of two years and that they were grieving as

the time went along. Nathan Kulligan had presided over her through the worst, and he felt a sense of relief. She was not suffering anymore. Lloyd felt that way too. It was harder for Ellen, but even she was hanging tough. They wanted to do one last thing to honor her memory. They came up with putting a gardenia in her coffin. It was her favorite flower and they thought that would be a perfect thing they could do for her. Easier said than done. No flower shops had any, and the only way they could get one was to order one over the internet. That wasn=t going to happen. They were about to give up until they had a brainstorm. Ellen and Lloyd remembered how she would snip (steal, whatever) gardenias from plants in botanic gardens and pocket them. It was not the most noble of deeds, but thought of no better to honor her and they decided they would purloin one in her memory. There was one botanic garden in the area and off they went. The lady at the information desk couldn=t have been nicer as she directed them to the gardenia plants. Lloyd and his sister entered the greenhouse and after some searching they found the most beautiful gardenia they had ever seen. Singular. One gardenia was perched about 9 feet up on its tree. The room was full and Lloyd and Ellen pretended to admire the many other flowers. But they needed a plan and they needed it now. And Merrill provided them one. They were sure of it. The room that was full of people not two minutes earlier was now totally empty. Without thinking Ellen jumped up on the railing, thrust herself up and in one motion yanked the gardenia off its branch and hoisted it at Lloyd. They both waited for the sirens and alarms that they knew didn=t exist to start blaring. They looked at each other, smiled, and sauntered off smoothly. They had pulled it off. Literally and figuratively. They did it for their Mom. So what if it was a bit nefarious. She would have loved it. It was a perfect way to honor and remember her. The day of the funeral was finally upon them. They arrived to the funeral home and Lloyd saw her casket on display right in the front of the room. That freaked him out. Becky told him he would get used to it. What=s that? Get used to the box with my dead mom in it? Ok, if you say so. Nathan gathered the family around and told them that they were going to

put on a strong front and not show sadness, that Mom would not want it that way. He was right, and incredibly inspiring. Lloyd was determined to honor his mother and wanted the bat in his hands. They formed a receiving line, starting with Dad, then Ellen, Lloyd, Uncle David, Becky, Ilya, and Merrill=s caretaker Susan. The line stretched out into the street. It took almost an hour for everyone to file in. In all there were almost 300 people in attendance. His uncle gave a wonderful introductory speech and introduced some of her friends, who regaled the crowd with tales of how Merrill was such a huge influence on their lives and was the star of their group. It was touching and evocative. As his uncle was listening, he went into a gigantic coughing fit that would have driven Merrill mad. She had little patience for that sort of thing and neither did Lloyd, he was his mother=s son after all, and he shot his uncle an angry look. As Uncle Dave went up to introduce the next speaker, he interjected, AIf you didn=t hear, I just had a massive coughing fit, and if Merrill would have heard that, she would have killed me and this would have been my funeral too.@ It was awesome and made Lloyd laugh because it was true. It was now time for Lloyd to deliver the eulogy. He was ready. He looked out over the overflow crowd and stared down the pitcher. AI asked my dad what a eulogy is supposed to convey, and he told me, Acapture your mother.@ How do you capture, Merrill Kulligan? I could stand up here for an hour and still not finish up characterizing her. The first thing I thought of, was she was a force of nature, charging through life and taking no prisoners. She lived life on her own terms, nobody else=s. She was unequivocal in her life, her decisions and in her mind. She did not seek advice out from anyone, she made up her own mind on everything and invariably she was always right. And in those rare occasions when she wasn=t, she did not second guess herself, but I don=t ever remember her being wrong, so that last sentence was probably a misnomer. She was memorable, you didn=t forget who she was after you met her. She left an indelible impression on anyone who ever met her. She was fiercely intelligent, a voracious reader and as we all know, extremely opinionated.

She had a sharp mind, and a razor sharp wit. She was a world traveler and a connoisseur of the arts. She was comfortable in her own skin, and had no time for deep introspection and made no apologies about it. She had zero self doubt and had total self esteem, just so sure of herself, that it went without mention. I have no question that everyone who knew her would say, that she was the most Afill in the blank@ person they have ever met. And everyone would use a different to fill in the blank. She was also unbelievably funny. She was the funniest person I have ever been around and made me laugh harder than anyone. The humor came in quick bursts, sometimes subtle and sometimes shocking. Again, I am sure every person in here has a Merrill story and I have a typical story of her.@ He told the story of how the hotel wouldn=t give her scissors and how she told them that she had just given birth and needed them to cut the umbilical cord. It was just one of a million stories about her, but the crowd exploded in laughter. Somehow passing by would be shocked that all the laughter was coming from a funeral service. That was what the whole family wanted. Lloyd continued on. AShe was also a perfect wife to my dad. My father and her were married for 45 years, and from them, I learned what a good marriage was. They supported each other through good times and bad, and loved each other the whole time. Recently, Dad mentioned a memory he had of my mother. He was being sworn in as a federal judge and she told him that she would love him till his last breath, and he told me he vowed he would take care of her until that happened. And he did, without complaint, he was there, doing everything he could right until the end. The last few years have been rough, he was knocked to the canvas a lot, but he got up, fought back and has the heart of a Champion.@ He had to pause for a second and catch his breath and tried not to cry while thinking about his father=s toughness. He gathered himself and continued on. AShe was also a perfect mother. She was always there for Ellen and I, always. Now, many of you may have called her quirky, maybe eccentric. Not to us. It was normal to us that she stayed up until 4 am reading her countless books. So while people in the neighborhood may have issued their judgments about her rolling out of bed at noon and neglecting her children, they were 100 percent wrong. She may have gone to bed at 4, but she got

up at 7 to feed us and hang out with us, and send us off to school, and then she would go back to bed. She would be there when we got home from school and then we would eat together as a family every night. We were always taken care of, and never felt neglected. She felt that a mother should be at home with her children, and not working. She could have been anything she wanted and she chose to be a mother, and Ellen and I are forever indebted. Both of our bonds with her were intense and devotional. She had a nickname for me, Eddie. What is it, Eddie, she would say, when I would stare lovingly at her for whatever reasons I dit it for. And why Eddie? Well, Eddie was short for Oedipus.@ The crowd broke up in laughter again. Because everyone knew how he was with her. Lloyd was clearing the bases. AShe was also The Boss. We called her the general. She planned everything and took charge of all situations. After I was married, and she was living downtown, she decided it was time for her to get a job to occupy her time. I was very opposed to it, the thought of my mom being bossed around by someone else made me queasy. No one bosses Mom around. I didn=t like it. She got a job at the hardware store, and a few weeks in I went to visit her, and saw the owners, two very nice men, and they saw me and said, Aare you looking for the boss? She=s back there, we are worried she is going to fire us soon.@ More laughter. It was like he was doing a comedy routine. AI would be remiss in not mentioning how rough the last few years have been on her and everyone who knows her. The recurrence of her breast cancer knocked her pretty good and she never fully recovered. I want to address all of her friends and family who did not get the chance to see her again. We wanted her to see people and she refused. She didn=t want people to see her in her condition. Once again, that was her being true to her convictions, and in some way I hope you all can twist that into a fond memory of Merrill being Merrill. I do want to let everyone know that she still had her wicked sense of humor all the way until the end. About a week ago my uncle told her that she could rest and could go peacefully. She turned her head to look at him and whispered, NO.@ The crowd reacted again, and Lloyd felt confident he was conveying his mother as best he could. This wasn=t about him. He was glad there were laughs, but not for his sake, he hoped he was evoking memories of Merrill for everyone in the audience. He had thought about the ending for awhile and he got ready to deliver it.

AAs I deliver this eulogy I can hear her voice in my head right now. She is making a snoring noise, telling me to Wrap it up, and that the ultercochers are all starting to drift off. I love you momma. You have left a hole in our hearts.@ The crowd murmured when he was done and he got the feeling they wanted to clap. He rounded the bases and touched home plate. He had hit a grand slam. It was all for his mommy. As he walked down from the dais he made eye contact with his dad who gave him a subtle thumbs up. His uncle=s mouth was agape in awe, and Becky had a look of pride in him that he saw about once every ten years. The easy part was done. Lloyd did not want to go to the cemetery. No way. No way was he going to watch the casket being lowered into the ground. How could people do that? He didn=t give a shit what people would think. Neither did Ellen. They weren=t going to deal with that. Their Dad said they should do whatever they want. And they would. They arrived at the cemetery, and Lloyd saw the hole in the ground. Soon enough the pallbearers removed her casket from the hearse and put it in place. Lloyd assumed that=s how it happened because he and Ellen crouched down in the limo when they did it and didn=t watch. That was his mom in that casket. Her final resting place. Fuck that. Way too emotional. No thanks. He was sitting in the limousine and realized he hadn=t cried at all. It was his beloved mother. Just like Mersault, The Stranger. What was wrong with him? After that, Lloyd escorted Ellen out of the limo and they walked to the service. They stood in front of the casket and held each other. Uncle Dave said some words and said some Jewish prayers. It was time to lower the casket, and Lloyd and Ellen went right back to the Limo. They both pictured Mom laughing at them for their behavior and it made them laugh. The service filed back into their cars and drove off. It was done. Last chapter Lloyd and his family sat by the lake at peered at the wondrous Chicago Skyline. It was a glorious summer day, and the mood was hopeful. Their tree had grown to over twenty feet tall, as it was now 10 years old. Families

came by, children laughing and playing, parents proud and relaxed. Others passed, young and old, happy and sad. Jake and his dad played catch while Becky read a book, and she would casually glance up, a smile on her face. A fresh tree had been planted a few feet away. It was Merrill=s. A grandmother and son honored in perpetuity. The trees would live on and mature gradually. Slow to grow. Slow to grow. In Memory of Jack Clayton Levin and Cyrelle Levin

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