Giant Robot Store and GR2 News

(Art by spoon+fork.)

We had to use the bathroom in the lobby of the Seahorse Hotel because the burger shack didn’t have one.  In exchange for such a privilege, we had to pick up trash in the hotel parking lot, most of which was from our customers.

The hotel was run by the hindu couple, Mr. and Mrs. Angrywall.  I thought it was a weird name, but I asked Mrs. Angrywall and that’s what it sounded like. She looked like she was my age, but she spent the whole day slumped like a grandmother behind the counter dressed in her colored togas.   Mr. Angrywall was usually prowling the rooms on the top floor of the hotel.  The ceilings on the top floor had caved in a few winters ago, before they bought it, and he was fixing the rooms himself.

“The dots are taking over, man,” Howard told me.  “Have you been to our old elementary school and high school lately?  They have totally infiltrated.”

“Why the hell are you going to our old schools for?  Are you trying to abduct little boys?”

“No, I’m not a pedophile.  I’m just saying, you’ve got little curries running all over the place.  Our grandkids are going to have to wear turbans.”

“When are you going to have grandkids?” I asked him.

“When I give up on being a free man and decide to settle down.”

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(Art by spoon+fork.)

Once a week I flossed my teeth and went to downtown Highlands to meet my parole officer.  The Shore Points border was the mushy intersection of the Shark River delta with a sand bar that separated the river from the Atlantic Ocean.

I had to take a bus over three bridges to get out. My driver’s license was revoked when I was convicted, but one thing I will swear to is that I had always waited at least half an hour before getting behind the wheel when I was high.

Highlands was the old administrative center for the British when New Jersey was a colony.  It was as close to the beach the British were willing to come.  Over the years I’ve seen and heard tourists from all over the world, but not Britain, although we do have fish and chips on the boardwalk if they showed up.

Highlands looks like Legoland.  Everything’s square, blocky and plastic.  They did a good job of trying to make the district parole office look like a dentist office from the outside, with fake brick walls, trimmed hedges and white gravel.  It didn’t fool anybody.  Cars going both ways would slow down to look at the people getting off the bus at that stop and walking into the building.

My parole officer was a black man named James O’Keefe.  He was about 35 and had short hair that was curled tightly to his scalp, and he had a bald spot near the back.  If you stared at it, he’d glare at you like he was going to hit you with a left hook.  The other parole officers had family pictures or fun little things on their desks like snow globes.  O’Keefe had nothing.  You had no indication what his life outside the office was like.  But the nameplate on his desk was the biggest I’d ever seen, bigger than any of my principals’.

The first time I met him, he said, “Sean Kerry. . .are you Irish?”

“Mostly, yeah,” I said.  “James O’Keefe. . .are you Irish, too?”

“Well, not that I’m sure of, but obviously, somewhere along the line, there was a slave master who was.”  His face told me that he was thinking about how he could rip my head off and make it look like I’d committed suicide.  Luckily for me, he kept talking.

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(Art by spoon+fork.)

When my sentence was almost up, I chose the one-week job-placement course in food management.  Ben was right.  There weren’t any furniture-making jobs out there.

I was released in late June and got assigned to a restaurant run by these two brothers named Conti.  It was a small place, they told me, next to the boardwalk.  I was going to be paid through deposits into a monitored bank account, but the money was mine and it was even a little bit more than I was making at the Chatterbox.  I was excited, even though I had to sign an employment contract for the duration of my one-year probation.

I had figured out that after my probation was up I would go for the ultimate office job, which was the administrative office in the middle of the boardwalk.  There was always an “Office Job” sign in the door.

But I had to get through a year at the burger stand first. It was weird to leave prison on the same public bus the visitors took. I took two transfers and walked 15 blocks to the restaurant attached to the Seahorse Hotel. I was immediately disappointed because the owners, the Conti brothers, weren’t there to meet me and the restaurant was really a nameless burger stand.  Even worse, it was five blocks away from the boardwalk and the hotel was run by hindus.

As I approached the order window I could faintly hear the people on the log flume screaming on the final plunge.

The only guy who was at the burger stand was Howard Peppi.  He was in my class but I lost track of him when he got left back in fifth grade.  It kinda wasn’t his fault.  His mom had died and he needed counseling to deal with it.

I saw Howard a few times in the working world, but I never gave him much more than a nod.  Him, too.

Howard came out from around the side of the stand.  The skin on his face was peeling around his nose.  He shook my hand and I saw that his arms were hairy to the wrists.

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(Hello and welcome to my serial novel. Art by spoon+fork.)

Everything was going great until she wanted to talk about two things I hated:  California and family.

The latter because I didn’t really have one and the former because everyone from there was rich or at least well-off and looked down on New Jersey.  Ever since a surfing magazine listed Shore Points as one of the top places to catch a wave on the East Coast, communes of college kids from L.A. would rent out entire houses for the summer and hog up our beach.  The chamber of commerce even ran ads out there to get more California kids over.

You could tell they weren’t local because they wore expensive body suits. They weren’t used to a cold ocean.

The girl I was having dinner with was from California, but she had nice tits, which definitely made her likeable.  I had found her waiting for the shuttle bus to the mall that got axed in the last recession.   I had got the girl to talking and shared my joint with her.

Her name was Quincy, like the TV show.  She was 19 and was wearing a flower-patterned bikini, cutoffs and Reeboks with socks.  The hair was long, straight and brown.  The only problem was she had a snub nose, but it didn’t bother me enough.

We were having fried clams and beer in the Chatterbox on the pier.  The tartar sauce cup was holding up okay, but we were running low on the cocktail sauce.  I held up the empty bottle and shook it a few times at our waitress.

I turned and saw that the hostess up at the front was glaring at us.  She had had it in for me ever since I first started working at the Chatterbox.  Bon Jovi had stopped by for a drink and I had washed the glass before she could put it up on the wall.  Someone told me later she got her cherry popped to the “Slippery When Wet” album.

The hostess was looking at me so hard, I could hear her voice in my head, and it was loud.

I was the last-shift dishwasher — the hardest position to keep staffed, so the Chatterbox let me run a tab for meals.  Otherwise I’d never take a date there.

When the cocktail refill came, Quincy spun her fried clam on her plate and said, “Someday I wanna have a house full of kids in the Bay Area.  Everyone there is very open-minded.”

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