Welcome to Great Falls – A Serial Novel – Part 14

October 29, 2014, Wednesday

“I’m always going to be your friend, but you’re not making it very easy on me,” Vanessa said when Dennis woke up.

“What the fuck happened last night?” Dennis asked as he sat up on the sofa.

“Brandon had to carry you in here.”

“Why didn’t he just take me home?”

“I didn’t want you to be alone,” she said. “Coffee?”

“Sure. Shit, I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t say sorry. Just take care of yourself. That’s all I ask.”

It was already dawn, and Vanessa hadn’t slept much. She nodded off around midnight but was stirred from her sleep by Dennis’s violent noises and spasms. Once she moved the coffee table away from the sofa, she watched TV with the living room light dimmed and moved Dennis to sleep on his side each time he turned onto his back. He finally settled into a normal breathing pattern a few hours before he woke.

“I hope I didn’t make a mess,” Dennis said.

“Nah, but that’s the scary part. You shouldn’t be able to drink that much without puking.”

***

The depth of Brandon’s story surprised Kao, who did a fair share of reading himself. He had to in order to keep his sanity on all those red-eye flights and lonely hotel evenings. Even he couldn’t play cards every single night with his teammates. Besides, the cards stopped being fun when the competition was lacking and the money became irrelevant.

Kao waved Brandon over when he showed up for his noon shift.

“I have a project if you’re interested,” Kao said.

“Hmm, what are you thinking?”

“My agent wants me to write an autobiography and I need some help with it.”

“Okay, how can I help?”

“I need a writer and editor who can also be a project manager.”

Brandon had a blank look on his face.

“I also don’t know if I want it to be an autobiography or a memoir,” Kao said. “Let’s go have a cigarette.”

Kao looked with exasperation at the overcoat on his chair. He had a habit of misjudging the weather and was wearing a three-piece wool suit. He took off his jacket and retrieved a cigarette from one of the inside pockets before going outside.

“What do you know about me?”

Brandon’s face flushed. “All I know if you grew up in this town and you played professional basketball for a while and you have these restaurants and bars.”

“That’s good.”

“There have already been books written about you.”

“Yeah, but none of those were actually mine,” Kao said. “Do some research and figure out what might be interesting that hasn’t been written. I’d like something that starts from the beginning.”

“How famous are you?” Brandon asked.

Kao chuckled. “Not very. If you’re not Asian, don’t follow basketball or grew up in this town, you wouldn’t be able to pick me out of a line-up of accountants and lawyers.”

Brandon thought about it and couldn’t recall Kao being in the news, except during sports highlights in his youth when he and his father pretended to bond. When the high school had assemblies or rainy days in gym class, he remembered seeing Kao’s last name on two of the three retired basketballs jerseys on hanging on the wall of the gym.

***

Mrs. Fair took a peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwich out of her lunch bag and waved it in front of Saan. She had noticed he was chewing his tuna sandwiches with quite a bit of effort while reading his government textbook. It wasn’t mixing well with the whiskey in his stomach.

“Have you narrowed your schools down any further?” she asked when he got to her desk.

He shrugged and shook his head. It was actually down to Georgetown (his father and brother’s alma mater), UCLA (his uncle’s alma mater), Duke, North Carolina, Michigan and Florida. No one knew, but he was leaning toward Michigan and Florida, two schools with top-tier football and basketball programs without creating any family controversy. Florida had better weather, but Michigan provided a better education. “Maybe I’ll just draw a name out of a hat.”

“Go where you think you’ll be happiest. You’ll find your way with time. My son went to Santa Cruz, and he had a great time there.”

“I’m going to visit Michigan in a few weeks, so I’ll get a chance to see how the weather is this time of year.”

“Well, that should be fun. Have you thought about any of the Ivy League schools?”

“I haven’t rule out Harvard or Yale, but I can’t say I’ve thought much about them.”

***

The patrons who weren’t already standing in The Revisionist jumped out of their seats when Salvador Perez popped the ball up into foul territory near third base. Madison Bumgarner had pitched since the bottom of the fifth inning and didn’t give up a single run as the Giants won game seven of the World Series by a score of 3-2.

“Two dollar shots!” Kristen yelled.

“I’ll take a shot of orange Stoli and a shot of Jäeger,” Lizzie said.

“Nice call,” Kristen said while cringing.

“Fandom comes with its price.”

“Have you seen your brother lately?”

“He worked earlier but I don’t know what he’s doing tonight. Why do you ask?”

“I borrowed a book from him.”

“Please don’t fall for him.”

“Hah. If he was older… He’s a nice kid but not my type. I just want to talk to him about writing.”

***

Kao sat at the patio table and looked into his backyard. The thought of the autobiography unsettled him. He would have to address the lack of a relationship he had with his parents and put some of the rumors to rest. It had been months since he last saw his mother or father even though they lived not more than ten minutes away from driveway to driveway.

The best part of the previous biographies was not having to address any of the innuendoes or stories because they were unauthorized, and he could always say he couldn’t respond because he didn’t know what was written and he didn’t want to provide extra press on books with which he had no involvement. But, this definitive work would bear his name, and on top of that he didn’t want to put out a book that just regurgitated what had already been written. It wouldn’t be fair to his fans.

He thought of Christmas and the upcoming visit by Mr. and Mrs. Parker, who were his housekeeper and chef when he was younger. Their daughter Norah, who was now married to Kao’s younger brother, would be coming as well with her children. It had been a few years since the Parkers retired and they had yet to spend the holidays together.

His smile quickly faded when he remembered how long it had been since he looked forward to spending the holidays with his own parents.

Kao topped off his glass of red wine and lit another cigarette and waved to trigger the patio light’s motion sensor.

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