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6 May, 2009 / Erik

The Fuller Equation, Chapter Two

2. The Haverbrook Origin

When all this began, I was about to be unemployed.

Being the utterly listless sort in college, I woke up one day to find I’d become a high school English teacher. It was eating my soul. Barely two years into it, I was tired of standardized tests, budgets being decided on those tests, and meetings where we talked about maximizing the most out of our test preparedness sessions. You might remember those sessions as class hours. It became impossible to teach anything worthwhile.

Life had slowed to this sort of tedium while many other of Haverbrook’s children were making names for themselves. Fred Simms had a book about to be released. Neil Ferris’s band was taking off. His girlfriend was becoming a style maker twenty miles up the road in the big city. It was all sunshine and shits for some people while Our Man Fuller was slow-roasting in suburbia.

Oh, don’t think I’m fishing for pity. I’m not. My escape from hometown life was a complete fluke. Also, I needed to be in that situation in order to find the way out.

So it was Friday at the Do Drop In, the Haverbrook eatery for the town’s young and anxious. Hugo Petersen, the owner, had let me back in because I pay good money. In the past, he banned me for some comment I made about the elderly. Eve entered from the restaurant side. She spotted me in the café and walked over, sitting down as I read the paper looking for some replacement job.

“Hey, Fuller, mind if I sit here for a bit? I’m supposed to meet Ian,” she said.

“I don’t think I could actually stop you, so sure.”

I took a gulp of coffee and noticed it was quite cold; Hugo’s quiet protest of my patronage.

Heh.

Eve’s a bottle red and shapely. For the first several years she lived in Haverbrook, she hid under large sweaters and mooned over our local foreigner, Ian Ferris. She’s kind of a dreamer. “How are the kids of tomorrow?”

“The future’s got some huge ass problems coming its way.”

She waved at Hugo for some service. “But you’re here to make the future better, right.”

I dropped the paper and looked up at her. “They fired me. The future can go to shit.”

Eve shook her head in response. She had a bob cut at the time and was still bundled up for the wintery weather outside. Well, as wintery as California can be. “Are you going to the Drive-In?” she asked. I can always count on Eve to sublimate bad news.

“I wasn’t planning on going. That place never treated me well.” I started to fold up the paper. Hugo brought Eve some tea and refilled my cup. “But seeing as the paper is thoroughly depressing, I guess I’ll join you.”

She beamed.

#

The Valley Drive-In has been in operation since the early fifties, when the Caruthers Brothers moved to town. It was the last of the great big ones. In the southeast corner, you can see the graveyard of small carnival rides that operated in the 60s. It used to be a three screen set-up, but the other two were torn down in the late 80s. When we arrived, Neil and Ian were already setting up for the show. The dusk feature: Phantasm.

I excused myself to have a clove. The projection room has a full-service restaurant attached to it. It’s this peculiarity that kept the Valley Drive-In running when the rest vanished into Mini-Malls. Behind the restaurant is the best place to be anti-social. Of course, that means being social with the smokers.

“No, seriously, how do you smoke those things?” said Fred Simms.

“Habit.”

“I remember a time when that joke was fresh.” He lit his Lucky Strike and shook some of his hair out of his face. Fred’s hipster clout was assured with the release of his book, Emmerdale of My Youth, but he already wore the standard uniform. Tall. White. Jeans. An ironic t-shirt. And oh, look at that, a blazer with elbow patches. No wonder he got all the chicks.

“Well, I’m not exactly the creative sort, Mr. Author, sir.”

“Jealous?”

“Of you? Please, Fred. I want to be able to keep down my slice of pie later.”

He looked at the screen. “Hard to believe old man Caruthers is giving up the ghost.”

I exhaled. “It was only a matter of time. He’s sick, y’know.”

“I didn’t know that.” He appeared genuinely shocked. “I worked here for a summer when his daughter first moved away. Good man.”

“Well, aren’t you the softy. What happened to Fred Simms who bet cartons of cigarettes on the length of people’s relationships?”

“I got representation?”

“Heh.”

I stubbed out my clove. As I walked away, Fred yelled, “You’re buying my book, right? It’s out on Tuesday!” I waved back at him. It might have been my middle finger. I can’t recall.

Inside the restaurant, I sat at the counter. The sound from the movie was being piped in, so all inside could hear horror film noises and score; a nice counterpoint for the couple in a booth eating pot-roast.

The girl behind the counter wiped the spot in front of me off and smiled. “Hi, Fuller,” she said. I tried to get a feel for who she was. Blonde, pretty, and not happy in that irritating way Eve is. So damned familiar, but I couldn’t place her.

“Halley Caruthers,” she said and the pieces all fit into place. She’s Old Man Caruthers’s daughter who absconded to New York with stars in her eyes and the stage in her heart. I guess she came crashing back to earth.

Heh.

“Wow, I thought you escaped.”

She paused to find her words. “It didn’t work out. What are you having?”

“Apple pie. Last chance for a slice, right?”

She rushed off to get my order and shouted back “No, actually. Daddy fixed it so the diner stays open. I’m gonna … take it over.”

Four muscles activated. “That’s great, Halley. Even if it means being in Haverbrook.”

She returned with pie. “The old town’s not so bad. I’m getting to know people now.”

Oh, did I forget to mention Halley was a stuck-up bitch in High School? Yeah, she was. So eager to escape, that one.

I take a bit of pie. “Like Hugo Petersen? Good man to know if you’re becoming part of the local commerce.”

“Yeah, he’s cool. God, I even had to make nice with one of the Liedecker boys. They’re going to develop the land daddy sold.”

“Of course they are. Hope you’re not dating Jameson Liedecker.” I said. I used to hear rumors he liked to watch girls get shit on. She turns cartoon purple at this. Oops.

“We had dinner,” she responds.

“Hey, as long as you don’t go home with him, you’re safe.” She smiled again.

“Well, it was part business, too. I’m trying to get people to contribute to Senator Garland’s campaign.”

“Senator Garland?” I was halfway through my pie by this point.

“Joseph Garland of Vermont. He’s pretty cool,” she said. I still don’t know if “cool” is the right description for presidential-worthy politicians, but it was an honest feeling from someone who used to be a selfish twit.

“What does he claim to stand for?” I asked.

“Making everything better.”

I laugh. I laugh long and hard enough for Halley’s open face to close up a bit. She walked away and refilled a coffee cup a few seats down. When I recovered from the fit, her annoyance unsettles me. “Um, so is there some literature on your senator?”

Now, she’s not so friendly. “He wrote a book, The Soul of America, but the place to start is with the Honest Appeal,” she said flatly. She looked around the diner to see if anyone else needed service. Seeing no relief, she took what was left of my pie with her into the kitchen.

When she returned she had a meaty pamphlet in her hand. She plopped it on the counter and in simple text it read “The Honest Appeal – Joseph Garland’s message to the youth of the nation.”

“Take it,” she said. Her voice is tinged with ice. I guess she wasn’t so happy to meet me again. I’m not sure people ever are.

Heh.

I got up and grabbed the pamphlet. As I walked out, Fred entered. She called out to him and he took my place at the counter. I took a look back and saw stars in her eyes. That poor girl made a fatal mistake: she gave her heart to Fred fucking Simms. Oh, well, no accounting for taste.

#

Outside, I took a seat in the Harlequin Crusade’s van. Clear of gear, it’s pretty comfortable. Ian picked up some cable and spotted me.

“So, uh, Fuller … you know Eve and me?”

“’Eve and I.’ What about you?”

“Well, see, we’re together, right?”

“Are you? She’s never made that clear to me. I just thought she was smitten with your phony ass accent.”

“It’s not phony.”

“You’ve been in this country since you were eight, but go on about you and your girl.”

“Stay away from my girl, Fuller.”

“Or what, you’ll lecture me about Ridley Scott?”

“Cunt.”

And that’s how I get along with Ian Ferris: Neil’s cousin, Eve’s boyfriend, and the local film geek. From my vantage point inside the van, I saw Halley and Fred walking toward Fred’s jeep.

At this point, tired of all the Haverbrook shit, I opened up the Honest Appeal. It began:

Dear Friend,

I am going to be square with you: I want your vote. However, know your vote is a vote of confidence in the future of this country. The “Honest Appeal” is not just a campaign platform; in fact, it is not. It is the way in which my presidency will be run.

The “Honest Appeal” is also a plea to the nation’s young people to become active in their country. This activism will be rewarded with an understanding of their needs no previous generation of young people has ever been afforded.

We live in a time when the pressures of the last millennium threaten to cripple any progress in this one. We have not solved the problem of racism; yet, we face new scientific advancements and a wave of progress that is more often confusing and frightening than exciting. Is the answer to hide from these things and roll back into provincial thoughts?

As politicians, we continue to talk about our old rhetoric. We prop up old Straw Men conflicts because we are scared of the future. We are still squabbling about school prayer and the crimes of the White House.

We have bored our children to tears with these issues. They were once valid, but now, they have entered the realm of hate-filled campaign ads. The young people do not want to hear about how we have failed. The young people cry out for someone to say, “I can fix it.”

I am that man.

I need your help to fix it. No one man can fix the problems of our country alone. It takes a dedicated group to pull it off. It also takes a concern of people that understand and appreciate the responsibility to make the country better. We have forgotten the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Voting for me will be the reminder we need.

Please take a look at the forty-seven principles I have outlined for legislation and leadership under my administration, if elected.

And one of those principles appealed to self-minded old me. On education, Garland wrote, “It is time to reconsider the test-minded payout system. Do children learn if all we give them is an answer key? The Honest Appeal extends into the classroom, where critical thinking is valued as much as facts and figures … federal funding should reflect the success of a school in over-all performance, not just standardized test scores.”

So here it was, a candidate with a mind to roll back corporate incursion, set up an open and transparent executive, and respect those things local governance could do better. But more importantly for me, reform the education system into something worth being involved in.

What? You think I actually cared about my job?

Okay, maybe I did …

In any event, I went back to the Drive-In the next day and asked Halley how to get involved.

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One Comment

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  1. Erik / May 22 2009 2:02 pm

    Continue onto chapter three: http://tiny.cc/fuller03

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