A Scholarly Retreat Devolves

Portland hipsters H.D., Gordy and Mel plan a philosophy group retreat at H.D.’s family’s Troutwood shack, but snow happens and the city shuts down stranding the three at the ‘cabin’ to survive the storm and a ‘bigfoot’ that Gordy swears he sees wandering the wooded lot.

Author’s note: This was my first hell trio story. I chose Mel as a narrator because he was ‘reliable’ ie. not a complete sociopath (H.D.) and not on drugs (Gordy), however eating a thesaurus and trying to come up with peripheral infodumps was exhausting and made me hate myself.

Mel’s Empty Bed

It was one of our endeavors that I supposed would work; it seemed to me flawless in theory. Myself and my two of my dearest friends had opened a craft beverage and book shop that had become a successful hub of culture and critical thought in Portland.

We had further endeavored upon organizing an artist’s retreat for some of our more intellectually promising customers. The setting was to be H.D.’s semi-idyllic Troutdale cabin.

There was a marked chill in the air the morning that the retreat was to begin and I woke in dismal humor upon the cold slab of my cot — situated in a garret room above the rest of our enterprise in downtown Portland.

I had scarcely moved myself upright before door peeled open and Gordy flounced past me with a great vigor.

“Oh! Today is so bright, so beautiful!” His voice was clamorous. I heard bewildered birds taking wing from where they slept under the eave outside.

I’ve found with Gordy, that expressing one’s ill humor has an exacerbating effect — he is prone to take it and fold it back upon you — so I hid my distemper and forged a benign grin that brushed the bristles of my mustache against the dry surface of my lips, causing a jolt of discomfort that doubtlessly affected my countenance.

“Oh you, Mel!” He spoke in a wicked baritone, “You have not the appreciation for beauty that is required to live fully on days such as this!”

My mind conjured an unfair reproach on his philosophies but I simply replied, “We differ, Gordy. I see the world as it is and see wisdom even in the ugly and unpleasant.”

He let out a great hiss of air and rocked up on the heels of his boots, pulling his coat out on suspended wrists in a motion that he frequently used to put me at ill-ease. His mistake was that I was quite uneasy already.

“What are you two doing up here?” H.D. announced himself in a boom of affectation as he stomped into my room. He wore a pair of enormous combat boots that gave him the appearance of having monstrously large feet. My dear reader, I can confirm that the size of his boots were an exaggeration and the slightest of feet knocked about inside them — I imagine that his charade was quite painful, actually.

“I came to share my great news with Mel,” Gordy proclaimed, “I know he is a great admirer of my conquests and wished to tell him first, but I suppose since you are here…”

“You are a tiresome fool, Gordon,” H.D. said with a sigh as he lowered himself onto the bed next to me. The approximation of his body to mine caused my pulse to charge, but I feigned normalcy — it upset him so when I expressed any hint of my attraction to him. The slightest provocation would cause him to feel as if it was necessary to reassert his dominant unfaltering heterosexual ideals and we would have to suffer through it all again.

Yet he did make Gordy’s pulse rush as well — and the wiry creature flailed about in a feeble attempt to rouse some kind of physical reaction from him.

H.D. was not indulgent, he sat stone faced and muttered again that Gordy was a tiresome fool.

“It does not matter what men like you think,” Gordy said abruptly, falling back onto his heels again in that ridiculous posture that teetered somewhere between a thoughtful pose and painful contortion. “What matters is that I have secured the participation of my dearest love in today’s endeavor. Oh! Her eyes shall be mirrors of sky and her touch shall chase the winter from me! I am in rapture just imagining it!”

H.D. let out a snort, “I’m in a firm state of doubt that any woman who would love you would have the rational facilities needed to profit from a retreat of reason and art.”

“You’re jealous!” Gordy exclaimed drawing his hands up to the side of his face in a taunt.

H.D. took the bait this time, clattering to his feet in those ridiculous boots. “I will have you know that —”

“No, wait,” I’d found my voice just when I thought it had taken flight with those insufferable birds, “We’d had but one last bed to sell. We have made our goal — we shall have that new espresso machine for the coffee bar!”

H.D. paused and considered this point, “You are right, Mel. But that is hardly a thing to celebrate, the espresso machine will draw in nothing but pallid gents with poor constitutions — robust men opt for plain black drip coffee. The real victory of this situation is the unavoidable fact that this retreat, which was of my engineering, has solidly sold out and is destined to become a wellspring of creative thought that shall inspire the whole of the community.”

“Yeah, think on that.” Gordy said with a coy smile, slapping a hand upon H.D.’s shoulder, “This is a victory for H.D., a victory for me — however, Mel man, we are still short on funds for the machine you seek.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, checking the math in my head as I spoke, “The machine we priced out was $900 and I count $925 in admissions alone.”

“I gave her a discount,” He explained with a shrug, rubbing H.D.’s shoulder provocatively. H.D. neither noticed nor objected, his eyes were out the window on the bare bones of a tree planted in a narrow gap in the sidewalk. I could tell by the distance in his gaze that in spirit, he was already at the cabin.

Gordy excused himself with a poet’s flourish and left me to the mannequin of H.D. who was quick to come to and clear out once I made a move to drop my pants.

Our Lady’s Fury

We’d been at the cabin, clearing out the debris of our last ‘party’ for some time before the snow began to fall, and then it just continued to keep falling and with it fell the mood of the others.

The situation called for me to thrive. H.D. and Gordy tended toward suffering in the face of adversity, but I’ve always been steady of mind and emotion regardless of any storm that is bearing down upon my sails.

I’ve a stalwart philosophy and when things become difficult I learn all it is that I can about the situation and lay the facts out end to end. It makes no difference what I am doing otherwise, timing is not important in matters like these. It’s simply imperative that I learn every angle of the thing and dump it all out where the world can see it.

I knew I would be the hero, it was written all over their faces as they watched the snow pile up outside.

“I’ve not the heart for this!” Gordy shrieked, pulling his delicate fingers up through the fine fibers of his hair — setting it all on end. “It is a very dismal day indeed! The shadows have grown and have swallowed up all the beauty of this place! It is the frozen burn of hell!”

“You are fucking insufferable,” H.D. said taking a puff off of a cigar he’d clenched awkwardly in his narrow hand. “I’ve half a mind to lock you out in that snow, then you should learn to respect the fury of mother nature.”

“I care not for her fury,” Gordy huffed, his voice crackling with disappointment, “I care not for her fury! It is she who should fear mine!” He threw his hands up in the air and spun on the heels of his boots, mumbling under his breath as he stormed off into the shadowy depths of the rudimentary cabin which was constructed of several partitioned spaces that could be considered rooms.

“Do not go for him, Mel. He shan’t like it, and I daresay neither shall you,” H.D. said, clapping his hand across my chest to stop me. My skin tingled where his digits pressed through my shirt and I broke into a profound sweat as he turned me on my heels to face him.

“All is not lost here,” He breathed at me through clenched teeth — the tendrils of his neckbeard flaring with each heaving breath. “I shall be the hero, you will see. I have the skills of self-sufficiency, I shall save us all.”

“We aren’t but a few blocks from a mini mart — it’s just that Portland is mucked up and nobody will get past the pile-up downtown,” I tried to put a damper on him — I knew how he could get when he sunk into these moods, these fits of passion. Although it excited me so, it was wholly detrimental to the psychology of our group and I’d already feared for Gordy’s well-being, now that his romantic interests had been crushed.

“Posh,” He held me at arm’s length from him, the whole of his palm pressed into my chest. I wondered for a moment if he could feel the rush of my heartbeat but the closest measure I got was a slight turn of his mouth and a vigorous shake of his wrist as he freed me — nothing definite. “I will show the both of you, we can live a hearty, self-sustainable life out here like real men. You’ll see. I will go fetch some wood and fire up the pot stove.”

I opened my mouth to object but held my tongue, my head and heart cursing at one another as he traipsed through the cabin and threw the door open to the chill outside. Perhaps I should allow him this one victory. But my heart screamed, “Why does he need the victory? It is not he that needs raising in your eyes.” Yet my head knew that directly taking on H.D. was a task I was ill equipped for. It was best that I plot a way to induce a frail thread of discord between him and Gordy — once the two weakened each other, I would rush in and settle the problem as I always did and should be elevated in H.D.’s opinion.

The room was not silent for but a moment before I heard a whimpering from behind me.

“Gordy?” I asked squinting into the darkness to find some hint of his willowy figure.

But he said nothing, nothing intelligible at least — I heard a series of unhappy sounds that I imagined coming either from between the delicate press of his lips or from some disfigured personification of nothingness with a mouth like midnight. It unsettled me so, those moments — searching the fuzzy recesses of the cabin for his crouching form.

It wasn’t until his window-sill chilled fingers touched my arm that I realized he was upon me.

“It’s terrible,” His breath rushed into my ear directly, sending chills down the back of my neck as I twisted away.

When I faced him, he was gaunt, his eyes haunted — it was as if he’d been changed in the short period of time we’d been parted. And the vigorous young man who’d left me had become a poor replica of himself, one I’d not yet met the acquaintance of.

“I’ve nothing delightful to say of the thing,” He continued, his eyes like embers under the brush of his lashes. “It was horrid, beastly, ghastly.”

“I’ve no idea what you are talking about, Gordy,” I said in a soothing voice, “Please, let us sit down round the pot stove, H.D. is fetching wood to feed the flames.”

I could feel his cold hands through my sleeves as he gripped my forearms,

“He’s out there? Please do not tell me he is out there!” His voice was airy, frantic.

“Yes, of course, he went outdoors no more than five minutes ago,” I told him.

This realization struck panic in the man and he screamed loudly and hurtled himself toward the door, leaving me again to myself in the chill of an empty room.

Breathing roses

The sound of it all was terrible, it was cruel punishment to be made to listen to such vigorous disagreement between my dear friends.

It had not taken Gordy but a few moments to find H.D. where he rummaged through the exhausted and damp woodpile that lay under a sagging, ill-constructed shack that abutted the treeline. After arguing for some time out of doors, the two burst into the cabin, intent upon making their disagreement my own torment.

“You’ve no idea what you are dealing with here,” Gordy insisted, pushing up on him with a finger unfurled into the collar of H.D.’s coat. The fellow was acting erratic even for him and I couldn’t help but notice the off-kilter way he moved as if his balance was not quite right.

H.D. laughed in his face and tugged at his suspenders with a sideways glanced toward me. I flushed with acknowledgment, paralyzed by the beacon of his attention.

“This is not some stupid joke, H.D.” Gordy pressed, “I’m telling you I saw it, I saw it out that rear window and it threatened me.”

“So let me get this straight, you fae-farting weakwater,” H.D.’s voice raised, the condescending edge of it slicing down into the atmosphere of my daydreams, this was no typical scuffle. “You, with those porcelain plate mirror-glass eyes, looked out into the woods, my woods, and saw some horrendous creature that what? Gave you the old finger across the throat gesture?” He taunted, giggling darkly as he pulled his own narrow finger across his collar.

“Get out of my face man!” Gordy burst forward reactively, knocking H.D. backward. H.D.’s trembling hands reached behind him, grasping wildly to catch something which could hold him upright. When he finally found a grip it was the exposed metal of the stove pipe and it sent him howling toward me, clutching his burned hand and biting back tears.

I thought that would be it, that even just a dainty brush of death would provoke his passions. He would seek out my arms and we should embrace – that would only be the beginning. We would take up the oars he and I and plot a course toward eternity.

I know a great deal about plotting courses, about the use of a sextant to measure the angles of the stars to the sea — it was a skill I had to learn upon being called upon to write a great deal about whaling. It is imperative for a good directions man to know the lay of the sky — I speak of the constellations and galaxies and such. The flickering figures against the indigo board of the sky.

I knew of many constellations: Andromeda, Aquarius, Reticulum, Boötes, Canis Major, Pisces, Vela, Crux, Canis Minor, Corona Austrina, Hydra, Cygnus, Draco, Orion, Gemini, Leo Minor, Mensa, Perseus, Phoenix, Serpens, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia, Virgo, Pyxis — doubtlessly a few slip my mind. I’ve long known the sprawl of them, the way they would tilt out of view depending on my season and coordinates. I thought of the sea and its currents, I dreamed of being taken to any lonely or savage place so long as I had his arms about me.

Yet, he did not embrace me, he simply stepped behind me and used the meat of me to shield himself from the ranting creature that Gordy had devolved into.

“Do you not agree with me, Mel?” Gordy demanded his eyes stretched and bulging from above his delicate cheekbones, “Do you not agree that this creature is a great threat to us? That we need to keep in and call out for help.” He spoke in a feverish pace and rushed to the tiny portal window that faced the desolate snow-lost road, loosing the jamb and throwing the pane upward, “Help! Help!” Then he slammed the window shut, muttered oddly about “that damned creature” and ran back outside, as if in pursuit of the very thing he’d been determined to hide himself from.

“We can agree that he is acting queer, no?” H.D.’s voice was in my ear, stimulating the hairs on the back of my neck to attention.

I did not dare answer as I knew the affirmative would infer some sort of convoluted alliance that would doubtlessly invoke more distressing plotting and quarreling, while the negative would be a lie.

He sensed my hesitation, and moved away from me in a cold pace mumbling about my inconsistencies, my “untidy savage beard,” and all the other ways in which I displeased him. He then left in a huff, claiming he was going to find Gordy, and, “Sit upon the delicate little flower until he sobered up.”

I’m afraid it set my heart quite on edge and I collapsed into a fireside chair with a lonesome weight pressing down on my chest. Pining is a terrible state of being, I had always considered myself unromantic before I came to know of H.D., and in truth never thought I’d breathe a word to him at all.

It was through Gordon, who had been a great pal of mine in college, that we became acquainted. Little by little the fantasies that had kept me through the months and years in which we were strangers began to illuminate and appear tangible, like a field of fireflies flickering off and on in the soothing recesses of the fantastic night.

He moved my heart, you see, from something rather barren and abstract — inhuman even — to sinew and vessel and blood. Now that he is of my acquaintance but revolves between attitudes of endearment and unkindness it strikes me so. It’s like a slice over the Achilles heel of my mind, he has stolen the shape of my ideal, my muse, and worn it with an aching closeness only to abandon me. Oh my heart, I doubt it shall ever recover!

In the throes of distress it often occurs to me that I sound very much like Gordy. It was disquieting to me to believe that to be so then, but also generated an empathy that caused me to rise from my chair and slip into the thick comfort of my overcoat.

I resolved myself to mend the situation, to reach Gordy before H.D. and diffuse the situation however I must. I threw the door open but before I could step out, I collided with a creature that knocked me back into the room with an otherworldly force.

A mystical creature

“I’m terribly—awfully sorry, my dear fellow,” He reached down to me with a shaking hand, but when I grasped it and pulled myself upward, it seemed I would take him down with me; so I released his hand and got up on my own accord.

He left me to right myself and paced by the stove. He was all white and rosy from the chill of the air, inflamed in thought by his activity. As I approached him, I noticed that his coat smelled heavy of pine and ice as if he’d been among the trees.

“It was horrific, Mel,” Gordy’s chest heaved with the words as he slid out of his coat, “I nearly did not clear the field and make it into the shelter of the cabin.” He rolled up the sleeves of his starched white dress shirt as he spoke. It seemed to me, even in a woolen sweatshirt and heavy overcoat, that there was quite a chill in the room; and I could not imagine why he would be stripping down as if he was about to burst into flames.

I willed my lips to move, despite the reservations that seemed to render me incapable of rational thought, “What do you mean? Was H.D. chasing you?”

“Oh poor, poor H.D., without him we shall surely die out here!” He brought his forearm up to touch his forehead in a dramatic pose.

“What have you done? Have you harmed him in some way?” I demanded, my voice raising as I blew past him toward the door.

“Calm yourself, Mel,” He said dryly. “I have not myself harmed him.”

The heat of my face became unbearable and I turned from him.

“No, it was not I,” He said, “Nor was it any fault of mine, this is his land and the foul beast which inhabits it surely belongs to him as well!”

“Whatever can you be implying?” I demanded in an irritated voice, shifting back toward him in a sharp motion that I’d miscalculated and nearly set me upon my backside.

His constant vagueness and twitching was unnerving and I’d feared that he had been taken by some form of devil, spiritual or chemical, I cannot discern; it seems to me as if a man which sees the Lord in a pagan’s sense, somewhere between a barely translatable quickening of his heart upon inhaling fresh and natural air and in the motions of his own libido, would be uniquely susceptible to demonic possession. In fact, I believe he’d welcome it, that he’d write a sonnet about it and then lock himself in the bathroom for an hour; the man is a dear friend, but I also fear he sickens me.

“The Sasquatch, the bigfoot, the abominable snowman, the yeti!” He moaned in a rapturous voice as he held tight to his collar as if he’d rip the shirt from his back. “The creature which is the living essence of this land, this untamed wilderness which we have ventured foolishly into.”

“There’s a minimart just around—” I began again.

“I hear not your faux-rationalist invocations!” He released his collar and clamped his hands down over the hair that covered his ears, “I’d not for a moment sacrifice the goddess of nature, the very soul of philosophy, for your hard hearted assertions of minimarts and snow plows!”

“I said nothing of snow plows!” I objected.

“Oh,” He said tilting his head toward the front of the building. In the distance we could hear the rumble of a plow blade upon cold pavement. “Anyhow, the foul bigfoot has emerged from the wilds to vex me! It has conquered and taken hostage your beloved and we are stranded here in this primitive shelter until the weather breaks!” He exclaimed falling back into his chair in a near-faint.

I remained silent for a spell after his outburst had culminated; trying to take in the whole of what he told me and discern what of it resembled any sort of believable reality. It should do me little good to argue with him in such a state; he sat there glaring down the fire through the grate with pupils the size of teacups and no doubt possessed the unmatchable fury of Satan himself. I could do nothing more than tremble in the little alcove near the door, trying to determine the greater evil.

Anyway, I was quite sure there was no such beast as he implied, and so even if it existed, it hardly roamed an overgrown city block in suburbia. As I calmed myself down, I reasoned from the pitch of his violent humming and the pace at which he rocked himself in front of the stove that he had ingested something unsavory to cope with the disappointment of being denied the company of his lady friend. My concern was that he’d harmed H.D. himself and allowed his hallucination to take the blame for it; besides, it seems to me that H.D., although narrow and elongated, had the shaggy facial hair of a bigfoot. His skin was parchment-like from years out of doors, like the exposed skin I’d seen in illustrations of the mystical beast; I feared that there had been a mistake and in his altered state he had done something terrible.

“My dear, dear boy,” I said in a low and patient voice, kneeling only a few short feet from his chair, I’d need more information about where his encounter had taken place.

He looked at me through a web of fingers and hair, the whites of his eyes barely visible. “You don’t believe me, do you?”

“Oh no, no,” I said reassuringly, “I believe you entirely, I’m just unsure as to how we may combat the beast.”

“It is quite simple actually,” He began excitedly, dropping his hands so they could grip at me, his body moving with a fluidity that was foreign even to him.

But his fevered planning was cut off by a great thud that impacted the door. In response to the noise, all the color drained from Gordy’s face and he skittered away from me, his terrified footfalls seemed to fill the room with shadow as clouds moved over the sun and dampened the impact of the daylight that shone in through the windows.

It was quite off-putting, for celestial bodies to be conspiring against us; but any seafaring man knows that the climate of the sky can change at any moment and any number of clouds could be brought in by the gales. I knew of the dense banks of cumulus clouds; cirrus clouds and their detached filaments; the honeycomb of stratocumulus clouds; icy stratus formations; the gray haunt of the altostratus; the hair-threaded cirrostratus formations; the layered roll of the altocumulus; the sheeted cirrocumulus clouds; the dire shadows of neverending rain brought by a nimbostratus; and the jarring thunder peels that danced with the cumulonimbus. Yet this seemed denser than anything I’d ever experienced before, as if the sun had suddenly turned tail and ran to hide behind the mountains.

I felt a swell of horror as the shadows bloomed intensely from my trembling limbs and the wall shook mercilessly around the door.

Trauma

“I shall not, I shall not!” He moaned, his dead eyes searching the darkness.

“We are trapped if we do not,” I argued, “The only window facing away from the woods that is not static is too small for me to fit through, you will have to go out and run for help.”

“I thought H.D. was a survival expert,” Gordon said with a brash rationality that was not only abnormal but frankly unbecoming to the poetic features of his face. “What sort of survival expert builds a fire-heated cabin with only one real point of entry.”

“I’m not trying to argue the validity of H.D.’s expertise right now,” I pressed, irritated with his state, with the way he slapped his hands at the air as if there was a cloud of bugs flying around him; it simply stood that neither of us could open that door and step out to face whatever pounded upon it. “You could run quickly, flag down that plow.”

“Curse you and your plows! These cursed man-made devices with no regard to the beauty of the snow-crowded pavement!” He ranted, his dilated eyes flickering over my face rapidly as if he was trying to read text printed there.

“Really? You’re really going there, when you were just complaining—” I began, a fire lighting below my skin.

He pressed his hands to his ears against my objections and pulled his eyes closed, “Stop harshing my buzz, Mel!”

I stomped down hard, my anger getting the best of me; I was immediately repentant but did not wish to tell him, to lower myself further in his eyes. So we stood at stalemate until H.D. burst into the room, his neckbeard trembling wildly below the stark white of his face.

“John Keats here wasn’t wrong,” H.D. burst out as soon as he was upon us, his hand resting reassuringly upon my shoulder; setting my heart aflutter like birds to the wing.

Gordy made a sour face, “Come on man, you’ve called me some nasty things, but—”

“Shut up, lady breeches,” H.D. held a palm out to him.

“How does that even make sense? Sensual ladies, real ladies, wear skirts,” Gordy declared with a demure tilt of his chin.

“It makes sense because breeches on women are misleading and pretentious, just like your verse.” H.D. tilted his scraggly eyebrow expressively at him, an expression so delicious that I nearly swooned.

Gordy scoffed at the assertion and looked up at him darkly from under his own brows, but said nothing else. I daresay he’d been moved to speechlessness by the insult.

I turned to H.D., “What do you mean he wasn’t wrong?”

“I mean, my good man,” He patted my shoulder before departing to walk to another corner of the chamber, where he’d stashed a flask of some unpotable poison. “I saw the creature he speaks of.” He continued as he twisted off the cap and tilted his head back to drink.

“See!” Gordy moved up from his morose statue crouch and began flitting about again with a dizzying energy, “See, I told you I wasn’t lying. There is a bigfoot out there.”

“Oh yea, it’s a bigfoot alright,” H.D. said, “It’s a bigfoot and I must have its head for my trophy wall.” He said, turning to his gun cabinet.

“Whoa whoa,” I stepped between him and the latch, “You cannot mean you want to spoil this creature of the wilds? Were you not just saying that Gordy should have some respect for the fury of mother nature?”

“Step aside, you cot-shitting ninny, you are truly insufferable with your savage beard that grows unnaturally upon your chin and your cheeks. Thinking you’re so smart with the clever way you try to sink morals and lessons into everything.” H.D. lobbed insults at me with a deftness that was nearly as painful as the words themselves.

I looked to Gordy, surely he’d come to my aid; oft abused by H.D., he also knew the colors of my heart and knew how deeply these words cut. But he turned up the pin-straight tip of his nose and snorted agreement, “Remember that time H.D., when he got that egg yolk stuck in the fibers of his beard?”

H.D. laughed deeply, “It looked as if a jaundiced fellow had relieved his anxieties upon him.”

The two roared to life, their sudden mutual goal solidified by their cruelty toward me. I hung back, but remained near them, sure that confronting the creature with a gun was a terrible idea. It seemed to me that a creature that existed in the places where civilization skirted upon the wilds would be accustomed to hunters, to their games and their guns — the same way that sea creatures avoided areas that were lousy with ships and nets.

H.D. pulled a shotgun from his gun cabinet and took care to make sure it was loaded; Gordy’s dark and cruel eyes flickered over occasionally, singing undeserved curses my way. I was truly miserable but determined to keep them from any real trouble or harm.

I followed the two out the door, and into the warming drip of the afternoon. H.D. tensed as he rounded the corner and raised the barrel of the shotgun toward a creature unseen by me. The barrel barked fire and I heard a thwack as the bullet burrowed itself into a tree; the sound that came next, above the discharged shell against the thawing ground was a storm of curses.

“You fucking moron, this is a goddamn costume!” It was a woman’s voice, and I could hear her running toward us as I moved to wrestle the gun away from H.D.; I knew it was a terrible idea to go shooting at someone.

She’d removed the head of the get-up by the time I saw her. She was a slight creature; delicate in contrast to the overwhelming bulk of the suit, with symmetric cheekbones that held up dainty wire-rimmed glasses. Her long hair poured out of the suit in two thick braids that wound about her. She said nothing to me, and nothing more to H.D., but was clearly satisfied that I had disarmed him.

She simply stomped up to Gordy, who stood, rocking on the toes of his boots with a stupid expectant grin across his face; she reeled back and clenched her costumed fingers into a fist and buried it into the side of his face, knocking him sideways against the house with such force that his head cracked the window.

“Stop calling me and leaving me creepy voicemails! Stop hanging out on my block! And for fuck’s sake, stop sending me your hair! How do you even have any left? What the fuck are you anyway? What century did you step out of?” She hurled the insults at him and then raised her foot and kicked him solidly in the ribs before stomping off, rounding the house to disappear down the block.

I looked down to him as he lie there, curled in the snow.

“My dear friend, I’m so—” I began, taking his hand to raise him up.

He jumped up with vigor and bounced from foot to foot before asserting, “Jokes on her, I was sending her Mel’s hair anyhow.”

My two companions erupted into a state of uproarious laughter but I thought he was incorrect, the joke was clearly on me.