Authors note: Felt Boston, The Greenhouse Cafe, and The Brattle Theater are all real places you can find if you ever feel like going to them. I highly suggest the last two.
T H E M O R P H I S T
by Silva Noir
Chapter 17: double date
Snoozing under a tent of a graphic novel of the latest collection of X-men comics was an idle David. A floral sofa in the Haritzeder's sitting room had become his latest temporary napping place. His temporary bed were a pile of beanbags in the finished basement. In return for room and board he took on the responsibility of the household and yard chores. This made it easier on Palmer who was waiting for the bones to fuse back in place and his parents who both worked long hours, as well as both grandparents who didn't have the best mobility. David didn’t mind being of use. Secretly he’d been envious of his friend’s family since his first visit. There's was a togetherness he'd never been privileged to experience. All he’d ever had was Ruth and she was perfectly content to live alone. She'd put all of his meager possessions into storage, given him the key to access it, and bid him farewell.
Palmer was happy to have David around for other reasons. He'd taken the opportunity to have the extraordinary creature model for him in private in all forms human and animal. He'd done so under the guise of a project for photography in class. . Purposely he neglected to mention that the class had concluded at the end of last summer. He knew what lines not to cross and what not to ask of David... or of anyone. Despite the rumors and popular belief, he was no pervert. He was only trying to capture the beauty and strength of various living things on film. When he tapped David to wake him, the sleeper assumed it would be for another pose in yet another setting and grumbled in complaint.
"No. Someone on a motorcycle is here... for you. They gave me this card addressed to you. Besides your name all it says is 'Some like to play. Some like to watch.' Is there something you want to tell me?"
"Nope. Gotta go!" David sprung up. He was ready in the most expensive black and white threads he owned dashed with the slight scent of peppermint. "See ya later, Sparky." He patted Palmer's floppily pointed dark brown hair and was off.
The non-descript figure in a helmet, jumpsuit, and killer boots awaited with a cherry red machine between its legs. It tossed him a helmet as well. "Picked it up on my trip to Japan." The engine revved. "Hop on"
"Shouldn't I be the one to drive... doesn’t the girl stay in the back and hold onto the guy?" He strapped on the protective headgear to join her, wrapping his arms around her waist.
"No," Rabbit said coolly, "I like to be the one in control."
Passing by Boston Common, the motorbike made a sharp turn off Tremont Street down the side roads. She took delight in faking out several pedestrians they nearly collided with shoppers and wanderers each time they pulled away, missing running over the pedestrians by a hair. David and Rabbit seemed to have the same thrill seeking mean streak in them. Screeching tires stopped short on the curb of the leather district. "Get off" she commanded, "I'll be with you in a moment." He moved to enter the swanky nightclub he assumed was to be their destination. She put her foot down, forcefully telling him, "Stay."
"Felt," he read the lettering of the establishments name outloud. He paced for a few minutes before the sound of clicking stiletto heels on fishnet wrapped legs matched his own gate. He met his date face to face. Except that it wasn't her face that he was staring at. "Whoa," his jaw dropped. Loose black fabric barely covered her figure. Cut with the lowest possible neckline and highest possible shirt hem, he had to ask of her outfit, "Is that legal in public?"
She slid her evening gloved arm to hook with his. "Shall we?" she asked. He nodded, little more than an accessory to match and balance out her handbag.
Reserved seats awaited them along a padded red wall. Ultramodern furniture filled the dark space. Swirling underfoot red flames of sin sucked at this feet, if only an illusion created by the carpet's patterning. Situated at their round white table he let his eyes travel to the cliental who looked as if they had stepped out of fashion magazines and movie sets. For such a pretty boy, he was feeling rather flustered and intimidated. They dined on a plate of a dozen oysters on a half shell and a mixed green salad garnished with honey tarragon dressing. Exorbitant prices forced them to split the portions. She gracefully sipped a martini, thanks to a convincing fake ID. He opted for iced mineral water. The more cool liquid slid down his throat, the less he was able to think. His senses faded whenever they were close.
She led him to the other room by hand. This was dark blue with the same fiery carpet. Pool tables made of high polished wood were lined in rows upon rows. Felt ... play ... watch... I get it now... it dawned on him. "Do you like the game?" he blinked, still trying to shake the dreamstate he was floundering in. He'd realized many of those around them that had looked like local celebrities actually were. He could only imagine how big their bill was and glad he wasn't the one who was to pay it. She shrugged to his question, playfully asking him to teach her. He got behind her, leveling the cue in both their arms. "Well, you hold the stick like this, aim it whatever you want to get in the pockets, and slide it in your hands like this," he demonstrated, "and hit it in. Make sure you don't put the white ball in too because then you'll scratch and lose. See? Easy! Oh and just make sure you don't hit it too soft or too hard either."
"Ah." she tapped a knowing finger on her chin, looking up in thought. "That was always a bit of a problem for me. I tend to play a little too rough. But I'm sure you can handle me, can't you?"
She was far from bad at the game and beat him many rounds. Whether at billiards or the bigger game they were playing, she had the advantage every time. Then again, she did have the element of distraction on her side. Perhaps a bit too distracting. "Bunny? Dear? Your dress well..." he tugged the fabric of her skirt down from where she'd been nearly mooning the other nightclub goers when she bent to make a tough shot. "Its just that your hips are big and the dress doesn't want to stay down..." he winced with the evil look she gave him. "Ooh... I didn't mean to say that outloud." He'd blown it. "I'm in trouble now, aren't I?"
"Yes," she snapped, picked up her purse and left.
Like the dope he was, he ran out after her. "I'll make it up to you, I swear!" He didn't know why he constantly bent over backwards to try to gain her affection. Maybe he didn't know better. If he did, he ignored the little voice in his head that told him the girl was trouble. At any rate, he found himself at the end of her scowl in front of a jewelry store with her elegant finger pointed directly at a diamond necklace.
"You want to make it up to me? I want that. Now." she demanded the fine jewelry far out of the capacity of his pocket change.
He did the second best thing to purchasing it. He stole it. His own fingers shook as he formed needle sharp claws with super fine points. The screeched against the glass surface of the window display counterclockwise. Sticky strands of Xilvrin on his palm held the center of the hole being cut in place, keeping it from falling in or out. Carefully, he removed the portal and extended the claws into the display. He lifted the necklace gingerly off its velvet stand. There would be no fingerprints left on the scene. The glass disc was left to drop into the gutter grate. As soon as the gems were out, he handed them to her and ducked into the nearest alleyway. Conveniently, her bike waited for them there. If he didn't know better, he would think she had planned that all along. Which, of course, she had.
"David!" Now that the loverboy had returned from his outing with Rabbit, Palmer got his nerve up. "Saturday ... um... Saturday..." he bit his lip. Now that those steely eyes were staring him down this wasn't so easy. He'd rehearsed what to say a million times in his head. That didn't mean he'd get it right or remember any of it. "You're not busy Saturday, are you?" His heart wanted to leap out of his chest and take off on a marathon. He tried to keep himself from jumping up and down in place.
"No, why? What's up?" David stepped into Palmer's room, wondering why his friend was clutching the mop of a mutt in his hand so tightly it looked like it might pop.
"Would you go out somewhere with me?" He'd said it outloud, finally. He winced, trained in the past to anticipate being hit for saying something like that. His toes curled up in the ends of his sneakers in nervousness.
"Sure, where to?" David was clueless. They hung out all the time. He had no idea why his friend was making such a big deal out of it. Unless I forgot and its his birthday this weekend. I hope not. I'd better pick up a gift anyway just in case.
"Really?" Palmer squeaked. The high pitched sound made the dog whine. "You will? Really? Oh um... a nice place! A really nice unique place that I think you'll like. Not too big and no one will bug us, I think."
"OK. Cool." David shrugged and headed back towards the shower down the hall where he'd been going to all along. He shut the door behind him. Out of sight....
Palmer sported a smile so wide it threatened to overtake him. He spun in a circle in place and held his puppy up so that they faced nose to nose. For a brief instance, Grena looked as if he comprehended his master's joy. Then, the little dog burped.
"Don't try and hide your happiness for me, or anything," Palmer sighed. Tired of being held, the pup kicked out his little paws, snorting and wuffling. Palmer dropped him by the foot of the bed. The shaggy black mass of fur the size of a breadloaf went back to sniffing out that rawhide bone he'd misplaced.
They came to a crossroad in the orange tiled subway station. Which didn't make much sense, considering this was the red line, not the orange line. "Harvard Square or Harvard Yard?" David asked, reading the sign.
"No," Palmer corrected, "Hah-vid Squaeh or Hah-vid Yahd." He smiled. "You're in Bahstin, you have to speak with the right accent. You know... 'Pahk the cah in Hah-vid Yahd'. Oh wait, no, this is Cambridge. Well, same difference." He shrugged. "Squaeh," he pointed.
They poked about a dusty bookstore. Palmer selected a hardcover photography technique book he'd been saving for. David found a small pile of thick science fiction paperbacks that he'd like to read, or, as Palmer called them: Nerd Novels. From there they went to lunch at a quaint place that catered mostly to vegetarians called The Greenhouse Cafe.
They sat at the back towards the middle. What wasn't facing the street with windows was covered with mirrors and walls set with rounded stones in cement. These mirrors had bright colorful plants painted on their surface with gardening tools sitting on tromp l'ieol shelves. This gave the cafe the look of summer all year round. The diners here were a mix of older folks and students from the famed university down the street. A waitress in a green apron and short spiked purple hair with tattoos and piercings all over -including through her nose- brought them paper menus.
"You know her?" David stuck his thumb towards the girl, indicating both his friend's and the girl's body art. He had enough metal in him as is, and the correct number of holes through his head, he couldn't imagine why anyone would want to do that to themselves in the name of self expression. Palmer's wasn't as mean looking, although his ear had enough small hoop earrings in it to look like the rings of a notebook.
"No... I picked this place because, well it looks nice, and it has things you actually like on the menu ... salads and sandwiches." Palmer smiled holding up the yellow menu and pointing to the long list of lunch items. "I.. I want to make it a good day for you. Like I said, I'll pay for everything. I want you to have a good time. I... I really do."
"Uh... thanks..." David still hadn't figured out why he was making such a big deal out of the sort of things they did all the time. He was utterly oblivious to the feelings of the one sitting across from him. "Hey, why all the earrings? I never asked you before. Because you keep adding more ... you're going to run out of ears eventually."
"Oh, well, its like controlled pain and controlled image." Palmer noticed David nod to that, understanding at least that much. "Just, something I have control over. I don't have much control over my life or body otherwise ... getting beat up and not being very strong. And well, I like decoration. Not in the stereotyped way though, so don't ask me to go pick out curtains, I could care less about stupid curtains. But, designs and covering things. The more covered the better ... it feels safer that way. I like hiding behind them."
"Like the bangs on the side...how do you see, they're like horse blinders" David reached out to tuck the hair behind Palmer's metal studded ears. "That's better, hey ... you actually have a face!" He joked.
Palmer was still looking at him that same way as he had been all day. After they ordered the staring increased.
Palmer found something incredibly interesting in David's direction. It didn't once occur to David that it could be himself, so he glanced behind him. On the building across the street were black and white billboards for women's clothing ... or should he say lack of clothing. They larger than life poster ladies posed in their lacy underwear and pajamas. Oh, so that's it, heh. I wouldn't mind hanging one of those up in my room ... if I ever have a room of my own again. "You should teach me how to work that camera of yours, I could put it to good use" he envisioned himself a fashion photographer of the world's most lovely supermodels on an exotic beach. Swimsuit Edition. God bless the inventor of the bikini.
They ate in silence. Palmer still hadn't lost that look. Finally, after the waitress took the plates away leving the unfinished drinks and bill behind he flat out said it, hoping this time David was listening. "I think I'm in lo..."
"Huh?" David looked up, still lost in his fantasy harem of unattainable beauties. "Yeah, this is good lemonade. Best I ever tasted, it must be fresh made from real lemons." He slurped up the last of it through his straw.
"I give up..." Palmer put his head down on the table. "If you're just going to joke around... I just give up. You didn't even hear what I... forget it."
The Brattle Theater, which they strolled to after lunch was not like the typical blockbuster megaplex. One could easily mistake the building for an average house with white paneling and a small business in front. They went to the side, where a basement would be. Instead, there was the box office and two posters for foreign films. Palmer bought tickets for the 2 o'clock show. When he'd mentioned that the movie house was quiet and out of the way, David didn't know how much. David used what little money he'd brought with him to get some buttered popcorn at the tiny snack stand inside.
"Oh!" he exclaimed mid-crunch. "I knew I was forgetting something. No wonder you're mad at me. Here..." he fished a small package out of his pocket wrapped in a gold bow. "Happy Birthday!"
"Uh... thanks," Palmer peeled open the ivory wrapping paper from where it was taped together instead of just ripping it apart. So David thought this was a birthday party. That explained it. Palmer didn't have the heart to tell his oblivious friend the truth ... it wasn't his birthday for another few months. He pulled the bracelets out of the box that David had bought for him, exactly the kind he collected and wore.
"See?" David popped more popcorn in his mouth, "I do pay attention and care about you."
"Yeah..." Palmer decided it would be better not to argue and led him to where the single screen was located up the stairs. They say in the middle row. The theater's dimensions were not much larger than the average living room. Only a few other people were there. "The movies going to be subtitled, almost all he movies are here," he explained, "but its Anime, which I figured you'd like to see because it ... or this one at least ... has giant robots."
"Giant Robots!" David's eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas.
"...Yeah." Well, at least one of us is having fun, Palmer thought. "I kinda don't feel well, I'll be back in a few minutes, OK?"
"OK," David waited for the lights to dim, happily munching popcorn. Once it did come on he had a hard time keeping up with both the action images blazing across the screen as well as the sentences scrolling by. He got used to it eventually, but knew he was either missing half the visuals or half the text most of the time. Too bad Rabbit isn't here, she went to school for a year in Japan, she might understand this more than I do. I would have invited her, but this is Palmer's day. Speaking of Palmer, where the heck did he go? Three quarters of the film has gone by and he hasn't come back. Huh ... better go check to see if he's all right
David first headed to the bathroom to splash some water on his face. The stuffy little theater had made him sleepy.
Here he found Palmer, cuddled to the pipe under the sink. His forehead was pressed against the cool condensation collecting there, at the same time holding himself up as if he was preparing for a tornado to touch down. "Nmmm... " he moaned sourly. "the only thing worse than throwing up is running out of things to throw up. It feels like my stomach is going to turn inside out. Unhhh..."
David knelt down with him. "Are you OK?"
"Yeah, I'm on the floor of a stinky bathroom. I'm great." Palmer answered sarcastically, coughing. "It happens sometimes ... it's nerves. I get to upset over anything or it just builds up over time and makes it easier to get sick. I mean, it isn't getting upset that makes me ill, but it doesn't help either. I never was really very healthy," he coughed some more "Shows doesn't it?"
"That's not fair," David pulled Palmer's hands away slowly from the pipe and drew him to him. "I can protect you from the people trying to beat you up, but how am I going to protect you from being destroyed from the inside? Its not fair..."
"Its not that big a deal. Maybe I made too big a deal of it ... don't worry about me, OK?" He would have enjoyed being held more if he didn't feel so nauseous. Knowing how dangerous David could be with those hands of his, Palmer did feel incredibly safe in them.
"Is there anything at all I can do for you?" David no longer cared that he was missing the end of the movie. Taking care of the only person he'd ever sworn to save at all costs was far more important.
"I just need to rest. Then I'll be OK." He breathed slowly to keep from coughing any more.
"I'll take you home." David pulled him up but let him lean heavily on him. He put his arm around his friend's shoulders to support him. "It'll be OK. The subway isn't far, and once we're on there, you can sleep for the long ride back to Braintree station. I can drive your car from there. I've played enough arcade games to know what I'm doing behind a wheel."
"Unnnhhhh!" Palmer groaned loudly.
"What is it? What hurts now?" David asked concerned and panicked.
"The thought of you driving my car. I've seen you play those games..."
"Nothing to worry about. Your car's big enough to handle a little crashing into guardrails here and there."
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