make me happy and indulge me. listen to this song before the story begins...
$4 in Harv Jensen’s wallet. Enough for pie and gas. He steered around the corner in accordance with the white arrow on the Hannity-Frakes Campus sign. He rotated the radio knob and the stereo cracked awake, projecting green behind the dial and spitting out a halfway-sung-up song. He tuned it to the hit parade, not for himself, but for Benny. On cue, right when he straddled the dial on the right place, a song began.
Students strolled the sidewalks and smoked and one hopped on a motorcycle and u-turned just in front of Harv. It was death defiant, not in that he should have died, but that he was kicking the idea of caution in the pants. And then Harv recognized the song. It was odd. He’d never heard it before, didn’t listen to the radio. Unless he heard it in Hatty’s or in line at the drug store.
The chant under the sticky pop song, it tickled under his brain’s skin, it knew some exiled part of him that had starved alone for decades. South Africa. He’d known that song there, a version of it. They’d stolen it and given it the American treatment. In a minute or two, Benny would stride out to the car, books in hand, knapsack over his shoulder, looking just like Harv did two decades ago but in a different costume. Harv had been sweaty, in tattered clothes, a sheathed machete dangling from his belt. He laughed at the idea of Benny outside his dorm, chatting with a tail-tied coed, and a six-gun holstered at his side the way Harv used to wear his. If Benny saw Harv the way he’d been… Harv looked through that image to the bright bare trees before him, the Ford Galaxy coming the other way, the professor lighting a cigarette on his way home.
He tasted a wine he’d drank on the other side of the world but imagined it flowing from a flask of blood. His arm cutting down a vine, the Tiger Moth’s chipped propellers hacking into their spin.
The rubber of his Buick rolled the asphalt, a student’s inhaled a wheezy laugh, a girl’s ass danced behind her skirt as she walked. He’d almost missed the dorm until he saw the sign, “Warden Hall.” He drove in the break and swung to the curb. Harv hadn’t seen Benny but he was right there next to the car as if he’d popped from a crack in the sidewalk. They did their “hello, good to see you, how’ve you been” thing but Harv’s head hopped from note to note in the song like the bouncing ball in a sing-along.
Benny told him about his classes’ ups and downs because he’d asked him, but he wanted the moment Benny was done to suggest they do something adventurous before they drove home. He wanted something from one of the juvenile delinquent movies he’d never seen. Drop a nickel in a jukebox, sip a soda, wherever that kid on the motorbike was going is where he wanted to go.
The song ended, a car dealership commercial took its place. Benny was on his Prussian history syllabus and Harv jumped in with a factoid from an old book he’d read on the Teutonic Nights. The conversation volleyed back to Benny. Harv fought through the sunshine and the streetlights, back to the jungle, but it wasn’t there, just more sunshine and road behind a windshield. He only had $4 with him anyway, enough for gas, enough for pie. They’d just go home, tell him more about his classes, get the pie, and go home.
... and listen to this one after. hugs and kisses.