by Jan Galligan
Part I - Cabbage Patch Kids
"What's your blood type?" Yan asks me.
"I don't know." I tell her.
"You don't know?!" she says, "Why not?"
"It's never been an issue," I explain, "I mean, I know the information's there with my doctor, but I've never bothered to memorize it. Why do you ask?"
"In China," she says, "we believe a people are like their blood type. Type O persons are like a castle. Hard to get inside, but once there it is very nice, comforting, protective. Type A person is like a Japanese house. Open, accessible, easy to enter, but inside are secret and hidden. Type B person is also like Japanese house which is open and easy only this time inside is not so complicated, things are readily seen."
"And what about the type AB?" I ask her.
"They are the puzzle," she says, "doors are locked and there's nothing inside."
"That's pretty interesting. Your blood as it flows through your body, characterized by genetically specific distinctions, determines your personality. A kind of biological superstition. Makes some sense, but what is the biology of it?" I ask.
"It's simple," she says, "Type A has antibodies against type B and visa-versa, type O has antibodies against both, and type AB does not have antibodies against either. You see, it's important to know your blood type in case you need a transfusion, and so that you which persons you're compatible with. The Chinese are primarily type B, going back to the Mongols, and Europeans are mostly type A. What type do you think you are?"
"Well, at home, I'd say I'm a B person, but at work I must be AB."
Yan and I were at Lydia's high school when she explained all this. We had watched Lydia's swim meet, and we were waiting for her to come out of the locker room and give us her gym bag before she went with the other girls to assemble for the homecoming parade. The girls swim team was planning to ride on the back of two convertibles, tops down, wearing tie-dyed t-shirts and spangles in their hair. They plan to be the "Barbie girls, living in a Barbie world" swim troupe.
"What is homecoming?" asks Yan.
"In the fall it's one of the popular american rituals of high school and college," I tell her. "The school plays its first football game and many former students come home to watch. There's a king and a queen. The school band plays music at the game, and of course there's the parade, with the band and floats, cheerleaders and the football team."
"Sounds interesting," she says, "but why do you think you're type AB at work? I never noticed that."
"Well at work because I'm, uhm, boss, I have to present myself differently you know. I've learned over the years that I can't be too friendly, or too open the way I would in normal circumstances, or in the end people working begin to misunderstand what my intentions are. It makes things very confusing sometimes."
"I see," she says, "when's the parade?"
"Any minute now," I tell her.
Part II - Greasewood Flat: "Get outta here! Now!"
"I should be there in about fifteen minutes," I tell J. "I'm giving Lydia your cell number. I haven't heard from her yet and she's not picking up her cell. The kids are at the homecoming football game, then there's the dance, and food somewhere afterwards, so put your phone on vibrate and if she calls we'll be able to answer it."
"Hurry up," he says, "the movie started already. The director's here along with one of the actresses. E. and I have saved you a seat."
As I walk into the cavernous main theatre at the EGG where it's opening night for the Empire State Film Festival, it's dark but I can see that the 900 seats are almost empty, pretty much like the stadium where Lydia's homecoming game is being played.
"Oh dad, we don't care about that," Lydia told me, "we're not there for the game or the crowd. It's just chillin' with our friends, walking around; you know."
"Sure," I said.
In the dark, as I try not to fall down the stairs, I can just make out J. and E. in the fifth row, surrounded by empty seats. They've saved me a seat, right between them.
"Hey, what'd I miss?" I ask them. "You got your phone on?"
"Sure," says J.
"Jay, you explain," says E. "I'm watching the movie."
"O.K.," says J. "You see that tall, skinny, scruffy Jack Sprat guy with the bloody lip? He's just moved home after a failed attempt at making it as a louche-lounge singer in L.A."
"Not the L.A. I remember, Jay," says E.
"Anyhow," continues J. "he was working a lesbian club there with his chubby bongo-drumming partner. They had an act called "Jack, Alan and Bill" doing a kind of talking-blues with bongo backbeat, just the two of them, but the girls there didn't like them much, heckling, shouting and cussing them out. It's kinda like an all girl biker bar and he's doing sensitive beat-poetry stuff in a bluesy sort of way. Finally one of the biggest dykes pulls him off the stage, takes him outside and beats him up. Jack and Bill toss their stuff in the back of Jack's Volkswagen Beetle and head east, back to their hometown.
Jack needs to go home, his mother's terminally ill, his sister's running the family drive-in by herself while raising her teenage daughter, who needs a kidney transplant by the way, and they're trying to find enough money to keep the business going and pay for the daughter's operation."
"Why's he bleeding?" I ask.
"He just got beat up, again." says E.
"They don't seem to like his sensitive type back home, either," says J.
"He can't seem to stay out of trouble, and Bill's no help. The business is failing because of the McDonald's that moved in across the street. Seems a drive-in restaurant with roller-skating waitresses can't compete with Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets. Even though they combine the classic food tray on the car window with music on your car radio, like at the drive-in movies."
"You know, when you go to the drive-in now, instead of hanging the speaker on your car window, you just tune into the bottom end of the FM dial and pick up the movie soundtrack on your car radio. If you've got a good radio then you get full stereo surround sound," says E.
"Oops," says J. handing me his cell phone. "It's vibrating."
"Lydia," I whisper, "is that you? Where are you?"
All four people down a few rows in front of us turn around, glaring. I hand the phone back to J.
Watch it, says J. thats the director, the starlet and the two festival organizers up there.
"Thanks," I tell him, "the game's over. They're at the dance now. What'd I miss?"
"They're going to have to sell the horse," says E.
"What horse?" I ask her.
"Not a horse," says J. "the house. They can't make the mortgage payments on the house and the drive-in, so the sister's going to sell the house and they'll all move into her girlfriend, the short-order cook's, trailer. You see, the girlfriend lost her husband, they'd only been married a week, in Desert Storm, and the sister's husband left after he caught his wife and the cook in bed wearing nothing but thongs. 'I'm outta here!' he shouted, and never came back."
"How they all gonna fit in one trailer?" I ask.
"The girls will manage," says E. "and the guys are going to sleep in the Volkswagen Beetle."
"That's cozy," I reply.
Meanwhile Jack's been dreaming up ideas about how to change the restaurant and get back the business they're losing to the McDonalds.
"Now," he asks Bill, "what they got that we don't?"
"Good food?" says Bill.
"But, what do we got that they don't?" asks Jack.
"Music?" says Bill.
"Right," replies Jack, "but we've got to change it. People don't seem to care too much about that county-western shit my sister's been programming. It's kinda like muzak for cowboys. Too much twang and no wang-doodle."
"Uh-huh," says Bill.
"So, I'm thinkin', we rename the place. "Jumpin-Jack's Flash" is so 80's, don't you think?" asks Jack.
"Yep." says Bill.
"So we do a makeover," says Jack. "I'm thinkin' "Coyote Ugly"."
"You know, like the movie. We pump up the volume. Move to 90's music. We get my sister and her kid to wear skimpy costumes, those shorts that show alot of ass, tight halter tops, fishnet stockings to go with the rollerblades, maybe we chrome the wheels?"
"Yeah, but isn't that like, all LeAnn Rimes shit?" says Bill.
"Sure, but there's also The Charlie Daniels Band, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and Rare Blend's "Boom Boom Boom"," says Jack.
"I'm cool." says Bill, "When do we start?"
"First we gotta raise some money," says Jack. "I think we're going to have to sell the horse."
"I thought they already sold the house," says Bill.
"No, you idiot," says Jack, "not the house, the horse."
"Oh," says Bill.
"Here," says J. handing me his cell phone, "It's buzzing again."
"Lydia?" I whisper, "where are you?"
The people up front turn around again. I decide to go upstairs to the lobby for this phone call.
"Lydia, hold on for a moment."
In the lobby I run into a voluptuous blonde standing by herself in the deserted space. Literally I run right up against her as I'm talking on the phone.
"Oh! Excuse me!" I tell her.
"Say, aren't you the actress in the movie?"
"Actually, I'm Susan, the director. Nice bumping into you though, or you me, actually. What's your name?"
"Uh, Galligan, Jan Galligan," I tell her.
"And what do you do around here, Galligan?"
"I run a website, 75Grand.com," I tell her, hanging up the phone.
"Though at the moment, I'm caught up in a dilemma with my daughter."
"She's in high school," I tell her, "today's homecoming, she's on the swim team and they went to the game and then the dance and now they're at a drive-in on Central Avenue, the "Kurver Kreme" and she's in a car with a bunch of her girlfriends and they're surrounded by a gang of boys from Troy high school who are taunting them, calling them names, threatening them... I've gotta go try to help her out."
"By all means," she replies.
"Say, before I go, can I get your autograph?"
"Here, on this movie rating form. If you autograph it for me, I'll give you all 10's," I tell her.
"By all means," she replies, taking out her pen. "Where should I sign?"
"Right here," I tell her, pointing to the "Comments" box. "By the way, how does your movie end?"
"The grandmother dies," she explains, signing her name on the form, "and the sister and brother inherit a stash of money she had saved for them as a secret legacy. They drop a bundle on the drive-in, a total make-over. They call the place "Unbelievable" with the EMF song as their theme song. They do the costumes, the whole nine yards. It's a smash. The sister marries her girlfriend, they buy back the house and all move in together, Jack and Bill get the upstairs and they resurrect their trio, "Jack, Alan and Bill" with Jack playing two parts at once. In other words, "They all lived happily ever after.""
"Thanks! Sorry, I gotta run. See if I can rescue my daughter. Hey... What about the horse?"
"You know, the horse. Did they sell it?"
"Yeah. But in the end, they buy it back," she explains.