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Distilled Spirits: [Season 2] Ch. 24 — Geno

March 13, 2014

What is Distilled Spirits?

Episode 1:  “Icing Over a Secret Pain”

Geno

Note: Because of reasons, this chapter clocks in at 1,970 words, the second to exceed the limit this episode.

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          The day was supposed to be perfect.  Hours and hours of alcohol and Mario Kart and no people who tell embarrassing stories.  Maybe Sidney and Caitlyn would even fix whatever weird shit was between them.

By 4:00, Wednesday was ruined.

Geno paced in his apartment.  “Dad, you can’t be here.  Why are you here?  Was it Mom?”

Mr. Roark leaned his suitcase against the coach.  “I just wanted to see you.  Maybe I could meet your—”

“Did Mom send you?”

“No, actually.”  Mr. Roark bit his lip, maybe thinking up a lie.  He was a very good lawyer.  “Her sister is over and, well, you know your aunt.”

“I know that you can’t stand her,” Geno said.

“Can anybody?”   Mr. Roark looked at the assorted alcohol on the kitchen counter.  “Are you busy tonight or something?”

“We’re hosting a tournament upstairs.  It was supposed to be on Saturday but we couldn’t find all of the controllers,” Geno said.  “If I leave you some beer, will you promise not to leave the apartment?”

“How much beer?”  Mr. Roark asked.

“Enough,” Geno said, his phone vibrating with a text.

GLENN:  Do you have any papers?  Molly brought some.  And hurry up with the booze.

Geno walked over to the counter and pushed one six pack of his favorite IPA to the side.  “Look,” he said, “this will get you started.”  He pulled a bottle of vodka out of the freezer and picked up the case of cheap beer.

“And that?”  Mr. Roark pointed.

“Is for other people,” Geno said.  “Shower if you need to.  Make a sandwich.  Just—stay here, please.”

By the time Geno got upstairs, not many people had arrived.

The one bedroom flat was perfect.  The old tenant had even left behind a coach.  They had three total which was all of the furniture other than a few mattresses in case anyone needed to crash, and a table for alcohol and snacks beside the fridge.  Molly, Scarlett, and a few people that Geno sort of knew were chatting on one of the mattresses.

Geno had spent the past ten days getting everything ready.  Three TVs were set up with three Nintendo 64s—good controllers were harder to find and came from all over the place.  Glenn was setting up the last system and he looked up when Geno cracked a beer and sat down on the coach.

“What took you?” Glenn asked, turning back to his A/V wires.

“Guess who’s staying at our place tonight?” Geno said.

“Matt’s here?  Oh man, invite him up,” Glenn said.  “I haven’t seen your dad in a while.  Hit the power, will you?”

Geno didn’t move.  “He’s not coming up.”

Glenn crawled back to the console and flipped the power on.  He adjusted one of the cables in time to hear: “Welcome to Mario Kart!”

He picked up two controllers.  “Couple of practice rounds?”

By 6:30, most of the contestants had arrived.  Sidney came with David and someone else that Geno didn’t know, and a little later Caitlyn walked in, looking upset already.  Twelve of them would be entering the tournament and maybe six others hung around—boyfriends, girlfriends, and one person who Geno wasn’t sure if anyone knew.

The preliminary round was in four player format across the three TVs.  The person in last place in each group after four races would be dropped—this round was then repeated with three players per TV, until only six players remained.

The first two rounds went quickly and they took a break after the second, most people gathering near the fridge.  Two of the losers, disgusted with their performance, had already left and one dragged a bored girlfriend behind him.  The only surprise so far had been Caitlyn—reluctant to even play, she had finished second to Sidney in the first round, before narrowly being eliminated in the second.

Geno played safe and advanced while almost managing to get Glenn eliminated with a good banana in the last race.

“I never realized how big your units are if you take out most of the furniture,” Scarlett said, pouring a drink beside Geno.  She was wearing her short kilt today without any leggings—out of nowhere, the last few days had been sunny.

“Yeah,” Geno said, “and this is just a one bedroom.”

“I’ve been thinking about looking for a new place.”  Scarlett added more vodka.  “My lease is up in a few months, you know.”

“Where are you looking?”

“Everywhere,” Scarlett said.  “How many openings does this place have now?”

Geno spilled coke on his hand.  “This building?”

“What else would I mean?”

“I’d have to ask Glenn,” Geno said.

Scarlett eyed him over her drink.  “What if we took a unit? Together?”

“What?” Geno put his drink down and looked elsewhere—at the TV where Sidney and David were goofing off in Battle Mode.  “Do you mean live together?  Like, in the same apartment?”

A window opened.  Molly and a few others were going out on the fire escape.

Geno saw his chance.

“Hold on,” he said.  “I gotta—just, hold on.”

He left the kitchen and ducked through the window.

There was a couple outside with Molly—Geno thought they might’ve been friends from the soup kitchen, but he didn’t know their names.  They were sharing Molly’s skinny joint but had their own, semi-private conversation going.

“That was quick of you,” Molly said, passing it to him.  “Escaping something?”

Geno coughed into his sleeve, his thoughts still racing.  “Molly, how long before a couple should think about moving in together?”

“Do you mean, like, with lesbians?  Or everyone?”

“Everyone.  Anyone,” Geno said.

“I don’t know—I guess it depends,” Molly said.  “I think any time after a year is not too scandalous.  Wait, are you—?”

“No,” Geno said.  “But I think Scarlett wants to.  That is crazy, right?”

Molly shrugged.  “You know her better.  Christ, I bet she’s a handful in bed.”  Her face froze.  “Forget I said that.  Please.”

There was silence for a minute and Geno tried to not listen to the couple’s conversation.

“Actually,” Molly said, “I have something I do want to ask.  Um, has Caitlyn been, like, seeing anyone?”

“Caitlyn?”  Geno thought.  “No, I mean, I haven’t heard anything.”

“Do you think,” Molly started, biting her lip.  She flicked the near-finished joint down to the street.  “Do you think Caitlyn could be—could Caitlyn—could she be persuaded to . . . try new things?”

It took a moment for Geno to process what she meant.  “You don’t think you could—you don’t think she really would, do you?  Well, Sidney could tell you better,” he said, laughing, “but, he sometimes would have to leave the building.  We’re talking like full-on porno sounds here—not every time, but—I think it’s safe to say she likes the penis.”

Molly smiled.  “So did I.  For about a month.  I don’t know.  She’s so tragic.  There’s something so tragic about her.  She makes me want to hug her, and never let go.  I can’t believe Sidney and her never . . .  Have you ever read Tristessa?”

“Kerouac?”

“Yeah,” Molly said.

“No,” Geno answered.  “Maybe years ago.”

The window opened behind them and the couple climbed back inside, and no one spoke for some time.  Geno let his eyes lose focus and the city lights became a fuzzy blur.

Something poked him in the side.

“Hey,” Molly said, “they’re calling for you.  Think it’s your turn.”

There were only four players left when Geno got inside.  The format for the semifinals was time trials, taking the total elapsed time after three races.  Out of two, paired people, whoever had the fastest time advanced to the Battle Mode finals—a three player free-for-all, first to three wins set using the Block Fort map.

Glenn had lost to Sidney in the time trials due to a couple of mistimed mushrooms, Glenn had said, and Geno looked at the man on the couch, waiting to play.

“Coin flip!” David yelled when Geno sat down.  “Call it!”

“Tails,” Geno said.

It landed heads, and a few seconds later David realized what that meant.  He might not have been the drunkest person there, but he was in contention.

“Has Snowland been played yet?” David asked.  “Let’s do that.”

“I’m going with Yoshi,” Geno said, picking up his controller and inspecting it.

“Toad,” David chose.  They would alternate choices like this until they were finished, and no character could be picked twice.

When the first race ended, their times were less than three seconds apart—in David’s favor.

“Geno, what’re you doing?” Glenn said.  “What’s with your power slides today?”

“Shut up—I know,” Geno.  “This guy’s shit, too.”

“Fuck you too.”  David tried to hit Geno but he scooted further away.

Geno chose his best course, Toad’s Turnpike, for the second race, and managed to pull into the overall lead.  He was nearly four seconds ahead after they both completed the long course.

It came down to Kalimari Desert—a strong track for Geno, but David probably didn’t pick it randomly.

David put up a good, but beatable time, and Geno was on the third lap when it happened.  Later, he couldn’t decide whether he wanted to blame Scarlett or Molly.

“You’re not gonna make it,” Glenn said as Geno’s kart sped toward the train crossing.

Geno had it timed perfectly—he hit ‘Z’, and nothing happened.  A second later he crashed into the train, popping him in the air.  He stared at the TV and his unmoving kart.

“I had a mushroom.  I thought I had one more damn mushroom,” he said, putting the controller down.  There wasn’t any point in continuing.

“Man,” Glenn said as Geno shook David’s hand, “I was sure you had him.”

Geno glanced toward the booze and saw that Sidney had been watching from the table, probably sizing up the competition.  Geno forgot about Mario Kart and joined Sidney, not noticing Scarlett following until he started pouring a drink.

“You’ve been avoiding me for an hour,” Scarlett said.

Sidney glanced at Geno, and backed slowly away.

“No I wasn’t,” Geno said, “I had to find, uh—”

“Geno, it was a joke earlier.  Relax,” Scarlett said, “I was fucking kidding.”

“No you weren’t.  I don’t believe you.  Look, can we stop talking about it?”  Geno glanced at the door when he heard knocking.

“We don’t have to talk about it,” Scarlett said.  “It’s too soon, anyway.”

“Too soon?  What if I just don’t want—” Geno stopped talking when he saw his Dad standing in the doorway, still wearing his suit and loose tie.

“I ran out of beer,” Mr. Roark said to the room, sizing up the kitchen bar.  He spotted Geno and quickly walked over.  “Mind if I . . .?”  He saw the amused girl standing beside his son.  “Hey, and who is this?”

Geno sighed.  “Dad, this is Scarlett.”

Mr. Roark shook her hand.  “A new friend of yours?”

Scarlett crossed her arms and looked up at Geno, and he wondered if the two of them were conspiring somehow.

“No, Dad, she’s my girlfriend.”

“Oh, wow, I wish your mother was here.”  Mr. Roark smiled at Scarlett.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you.  I’m surprised he didn’t tell me all about you.”

“It’s not a big—she’s just my girlfriend, Dad.”

Scarlett stepped lightly on Geno’s foot.  Then harder.  “So, Mr. Roark, Geno hasn’t told me much about you, either.  What do you do for a living?”

Laughter came from outside the window and Geno looked.  Caitlyn and Molly were alone on the fire escape, leaning against each other.

Geno ran a hand through his hair.  “How long are you going to be in town, Dad?”

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