This is part two of Patrick Benjamin’s serial story about a gang in suburban Los Angeles. You can read part one here.
A month later and the tables have turned. The Tarzana Scarfaces (rechristened as the Atwater Village Leitmotifs) just might, if all goes smashingly, make a splash.
I’m in. Tyler’s out.
He moaned some, though he was grounded for mouthing off, and his “smart” phone had been confiscated, so even in a Goodfellas sort of “stuck-in-the-brig” way, he couldn’t give orders.
Tyler had figured a new profession anyway.
He was scripting an as of yet unrealized crossover production focused on the characters of Ron Swanson, Barney Stinson, and Jimmy Kimmel. My argument that Jimmy Kimmel, while hosting his talk show, was not strictly a character, but maybe an ersatz version of himself, fell on deaf ears. Tyler’s unwritten miracle of imagination was cherry-topped by its setting and plot: The trio was to escape the future-gulag found in the Vin Diesel vehicle Pitch Black.
So he’d told me, “Dude, you take ‘em.” The Scarfaces, he meant. “I’m gettin’ into different shit. Real swag shit. And like, Shark Stim is way being a fag. You take ‘em.”
Check I had and checkmate I found after arriving to a gang meeting one afternoon with a sixer of Genny Cream Ale in lieu of the usual guarana-infused whatever. The cold shoe of revenge was then firmly placed on the other foot:
A “straight edge” and defeated Tyler refused. The rest succumbed. What young man doesn’t prefer the warmth of ale to the jitters of jumpy-juice? This was a coup d’état expertly devised and realized by yours truly.
The ducklings waddled their way into my PT Cruiser and we were off, heralding the sunset, inviting the evil, criminal night, licking lady adventure at the backs of her knees.
Those horrid old energy drink monikers did, in a word, perish. I gave them new names: Sven Libaek, Ennio Morricone, Fumio Hayasaka, Andrzej Korzynski.
They called me Goblin. They called me Goblin because I told them to. And because Goblin’s Profondo Rosso score is boss.
“Like Goblin from Odd Future?” Fumio inquired, lazily flipping through my premium movie package, the group fixtured as Tetris pieces into the L-shaped couch of my bachelor pad.
“Well, in a way,” I responded, trying to decipher his question. “I suppose it’s entirely possible filmic history would have differed greatly had Argento chosen, say, John Williams.”
I laughed earnestly at what I thought was a very funny scenario and removed from the microwave the Hot Pockets I’d prepared for the Atwater Village Leitmotifs, née Tarzana Scarfaces.
“Right, though? John Williams?” I persisted, sitting down, trying to trade the plate of cheap ham and cheese paninis for the clicker. Fumio grabbed the plate and asked if he could have a different name.
“I mean, I’m sure this Hakasaya guy is swag, and I didn’t like bein’ called Gay Da Raid anyways, but I don’t even know this dude.”
“No, any way. Think nothing of it. Though, his name, your name, is Hayasaka and I’ll take the matter of a new appellation under consideration. Let’s table it for now.”
Fumio put the plate on my coffee table.
“Gentlemen,” I intoned. “Just eat the Hot Pockets and we’ll learn something from a little nobody—” and this was my big reveal—“Akira Kurosawa!”
Sven piped up excited like, “Oh fuck, Akira? My fuckin’ brother showed me that fuckin’ movie like, I dunno, fuckin’ forevs ago.”
I like a floral couch. I have a floral couch. Sven was resting his gifted Genny Cream on my floral couch. Buckets, I thought to myself. Even worse. Biscuits, buckets, golly-gosh, this is too much.
“Sven, no,” I said, shook my head. But the easily frustrated teacher lures not a student but rather a reprobate. Riff raff. Scoundrels in infant clothing. “Sven, we’ll be watching Stray Dog,” I explained while setting a coaster under his beer. “Or Nora Inu if you’re fluent, which I’m not, so I won’t hold it against you kids.”
“Kids? Goblin, you’re, like, confused. We’re not kids.”
Sven was becoming a problem.
“Let’s just be quiet and watch the movie.” I spun the dimmers down to a light low enough to enjoy the film as well as handle a panini delight.
Somehow Kurosawa’s delicately maneuvered take on the crime fiction genre didn’t bowl the boys over. Each excused themselves for various lie-filled reasons long before Detective Murakami was sorting through mug shots in the best mug-shot-sorting-through scene of all cinematic history.
The day extended into night and I relieved the shutters of their taut spots touching the parquet flooring.
They didn’t want to read Chandler. Not Hammett. I boxed up the four copies of Solomon’s Vineyard and stored them in my broom closet next to the sumi ink and the fedoras, neither of which they’d earned.
The following day I inveigled the gang over for promised Genny Creams, pizza rolls, and a screening of L.A. Confidential. At least they sat through that.
How far I’d fallen in a week. I was losing my touch. I needed to be a leader of men. But these weren’t yet men. These boys were soft-boiled. Confused as a grape jelly omelet. Up high, down low, too slow. Even that didn’t catch on. Nobody likes cool high-fives anymore.
Now, I’m no doctor, but I think each and every one of these kids has that ADHD thing. Every time I try and teach anything that might help the gang they just wander off to drink my Genny Creams.
Sure, I’ve got examples.
How to take a punch. How to open a jar of pickles. How to fill out a 1099. These are things boys should know how to do. Everyone should.
My saving grace arrived onscreen. Thank you, Kim Basinger. Who they all said they’d hit, which I thought was an awful thing to say, but was at least tough. I was back on top.
To read the third installment of Patrick’s story, click here.
Patrick Benjamin is a writer living near Los Angeles. He lives with his sister and grandmother.