Ike Duckworth–Chapter 12

Chapter 12

In which the girls mutter about the boys and a boy mutters about a girl

“For a moment comes when no illusion can measure up to our distress.” – Raoul Vaneigem

“I thought you liked him because he was just there?” Paulette stopped at the angry look that had arisen in her friend’s eyes. “Don’t get mad at me, Con. You said it.”

“I know I did, and I do. I mean, he’s—he’s not—playing mind-fuck games like all the other guys do—“

“You have a tendency to go for the same guys over and over again, Con…”

“It’s just, now all he is, is there. A mile off. I don’t know what’s wrong. Maybe he doesn’t really like me.”

“Maybe not. If so, it’s no biggie. Another bullshit artist; the world’s full of them.”

Constantia pouted at this speech. “I like him, you know, and I can’t even tell you why exactly. He’s gentle and he’s smart and he cares about organic vegetables and roses and pansies and his community and the revolution—I know it’s silly, but I think he means it in some daft kind of way. It’s just…”

“He’s distant.”

“Lost somehow.”

“Same dif where you’re concerned. You sure can pick ‘em: married men, long-distance romances, guys who string you along while they keep other girlfriends…and you, always so nicey-nice, saying what good souls they have…”

Constantia was on her feet. “They did have; every one of them. Laugh if you want to. I know you think I’m stupid. I know you think it’s all bullshit.”

Tears had sprung to her eyes and her fists were clenched, her nails digging into her palms.

“Maybe so,” Paulette said bearing down on her friend. Her voice was fierce. “But—they—treated—you—like—shit. Abusive, one way or other, every single one of them. End of story. Yes, yes, yes, maybe there was some tiny glimmer alive way down inside their chests, and you can see that—I really do believe it of you, Con—but there’s no excuse for it.”

Her voice was soft as she laid a hand on Constantia’s shoulder. “No one should treat you so badly.”

Constantia started to speak, but Paulette cut her off.

“I’m not saying Fred, not yet, but you’ve picked another guy with issues. Maybe he has a broken heart, or autism or god knows what. Whatever it is, he can’t reach out to you the way you want him to. Right?”

Constantia nodded, staring at the shag carpet, which needed to be swept.

“Just think about the good soul that’s down inside your chest for a change, and try being protective of that. Deal?”

Constantia nodded, plopping back down onto the couch. A moment later, Paulette dropped beside her, her back against Constantia’s shoulder. She tipped her head toward her friend as she stared at the ceiling.

“We’ve all got issues, Con, me especially.”

“You had the same idea we did, didn’t you?”

Paulette was quiet for a minute, her eyes stinging and tired. “It doesn’t matter. You spared me from another stupid prick. I had too much to drink.”

Constantia reach over and took her friend’s hand, and Paulette squeezed back really hard. They stayed that way for a good, long while.


Somewhere not far from where they had all parted company, Ike Duckworth was stretched across a spinning bed. He’d let one foot down on the floor to steady himself, but as that wasn’t doing the job as well as he’d hoped, he had one hand pushed against the wall. In this state, he was managing, with great concentration, not to puke. In the event, which was probably inevitable, he’d calculated whether he expected to make it to the toilet around the corner, and where, if he didn’t, he’d regret least unleashing his stomach. The table and all the sound equipment was still in the middle of the room, though when he’d staggered upstairs, he’d at least had the sense to shove it from its position across the door. Well, it wasn’t so much sense as a case of lost balance that made him fall into it, but it was lucky anyway. Made the prospective trip to the toilet that much more likely to be successful.

Fucking toilet. Because if she hadn’t been queued up in front of his door waiting for her turn, he’d never have seen her, and he would never have talked to her, which he found surprisingly interesting in a sort of antagonistic way, and he never would have drawn her into the shadows and kissed her.

His stomach lurched. What the hell had gotten into him? Why go after a chick that he positively couldn’t stand? She proved, when he’d pushed her, to be really strong; she’d resisted in a way that said she wanted more, and even now, it was getting a rise out of him. Then, pressing her back against the wall, he’d called her Xena, which made her laugh in that nasty sort of way she had. He really did hate her name. What a stupid name. She was probably named for her Dad or something when he wound up with a daughter rather than a son.

The room was now swinging as well as spinning and Ike knew there was no chance for him. Why did he care that some bastard had been really unfair to her from Day One, and probably hadn’t changed for the better, based on her general outlook? It had been better for him when she was just Butch. He felt an odd pang in some indefinable internal spot that was not connected to his current state of physical emergency. Ah, fuck, he was not going to be able to control his stomach, or worse yet, his head. And all because of his traitorous dick that went after, well, poison. A tidal wave, a hurricane and an earthquake hit Casa Hector simultaneously, sending Ike to his knees, and clutching the floor for dear life, began to unhinge his heaving gut into a nearby cardboard box.

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