The Gang Goes On Twitter
"Right, yeah, that's exactly it, Charlie," Frank exclaimed in his heavy New Jersey accent, his hands waving and clenching. "I can't do much of the hands-on labor because of my bad back! Remember how it was around the time we almost got married? This is another situation that supports that partnership idea, by the way."
"No, man, it's a good idea that we didn't follow through on the same-sex marriage thing."
The apartment door creaked open, but Frank continued, oblivious. "I don't know about that, because you really made some good points at the time, and I still have the paperwork if – "
"Yeah, yeah, I hear ya!" Charlie cried, watching a very familiar dark-haired girl set her bag on one of the nearby chairs and close the door. "Change of subject!" He said. "Let's watch Lethal Weapon 5 or something; get a new mood going."
Frank raised an eyebrow.
"We can talk about who we think was the better Riggs between Mac and Dennis." Charlie added, moving across the room. "I, uh…I think we should start making dinner now. You're hungry, right?"
Harper smiled at him. "I'm very hungry, but um…how long ago was it that you and Frank thought of getting married?"
Charlie's arm curved around her shoulders and tightened.
"I'm not trying to make you feel trapped," she added. "But I do…deserve to know, since I've heard about it."
Frank waved his hands downward in a dismissive gesture. "Charlie and I didn't end up fillin' out that paperwork - "
Charlie leaned close to Harper's ear. "I wanted to do it to get my back fixed."
"Yeah, health insurance; Anyway," Frank strode across the small apartment floor. "I want all of you fellas to help me renovate part of the bar. I made the decision this morning when I was down there, and when Mac showed up to open the place, he blew me off like an asshole. Dennis - "
Charlie dropped his arm to his side. "You wanna change Paddy's? Why? And…and what're you tryin' to do to it?"
"They wouldn't be changes that made the bar look drastically different," Frank replied. "Charlie, I could show you my ideas. I wrote some of 'em down, and maybe we could talk everybody else into it. I couldn't get hold of Deandra and Dennis thinks it's a bad idea. He'll need some convincing."
"If this is another try at getting our pub to look like that Duncan guy's place- "
"Charlie, no, I've moved on. This would be stuff with the supply closet and the bathrooms, since…things haven't been the same since we made one of 'em unisex - "
Harper's mouth fell open. "What?"
"Dennis is actin' weird today," Frank continued, ignoring her. "He just started an account on, um, Twitter. I don't even know what that is. Should Paddy's get one?"
Charlie then shot a confused gaze back and forth between his roommate and girlfriend.
"He was really distracted and didn't think the bathrooms should be improved to get us more customers."
"Uh, relax, relax, Frank!" Charlie pulled out a chair from the small kitchen table. "I could make you a ham and jam!"
Harper watched his every move as he scurried from cabinet to cabinet, from the fridge to a drawer. She tried to touch his arm. "What's a ham and jam? If I…might ask..."
Frank eased into the chair. "Ham and grape jam sandwiches. One night, I got home and Charlie had huffed way too much - "
Charlie spun around, eyes wild, bursting with false laughter. "Okay! Dude, hey, that's enough. Don't bore Harper with the details, okay?"
"He was making a ham and jam, he let me try it, and now we eat 'em from time to time. They're good! Want one?"
The sound of a thunk, thunk made both Harper and Charlie pause to watch Frank get comfortable with his feet on the tabletop.
"At least you're wearing socks." Harper muttered.
"Yeah," Frank scratched at his armpit. "They're warm! I've worn this same pair for days!"
The next ten minutes were spent in quiet. Frank and Charlie munched on their individual sandwiches while Harper repeatedly checked her cell phone screen.
"Are you waiting for your other boyfriend to call?" Frank teased around a mouthful of food.
Harper glanced at her phone again, this time opening it and typing. "I, um…Yesterday, I posted something on Twitter about how I won't watch any of the 'Twilight' movies out of protest against the poorly written book, and ever since, I've been occasionally getting tweets from Taylor Lautner about it!"
Charlie wiped a drop of jam from the corner of his mouth. "Is that cool? I mean, having this person talk to you?"
She shrugged. "Lautner is an actor in the 'Twilight' flicks and he seemed great, as if he was very normal, very 'of the people', but a couple of his posts have said things like," Harper pressed a few buttons to pull up a specific message. "'I get the impression that you're an un-American douche bucket.'" She leaned back and raised an eyebrow at Charlie. "It brought up Robocop."
Her boyfriend cleared his throat. "You're throwing a lot my way at once! I-I just want t' know if this actor dude is, like, trying to pick you up 'cause you can legally buy beer."
She tilted her head. "What? Everything's fine. No worries, man."
The sound of a badger's growl suddenly began to echo throughout the sparse apartment.
Frank tore another bite from his sandwich. "What the hell is that?"
"I…It's my ring tone," Charlie explained, scratching an itch on his bearded chin with one hand, using the other to take his cell from one of the pockets of his baggy flannel shirt, accepting a call, leaving a smudge of jam on the keyboard. "Hello? ...Yeah. Mom, look; if this is about taking a vacuum to your ceiling again, I told you…uh-huh… Are you sure? I mean, it has been a while, but…Forget I said that. It's goin' to be on Saturday…All right, four o'clock? Great, uh, love you too!"
Frank watched him close the phone. "What's up?"
"Dude, could you swallow after you chew? I like to eat expired bread, not look at it."
Harper sat up, surprised. "How expired is it?"
"You're free Saturday, right?" Charlie shifted to face her. "My mom would like to do somethin' for you for your birthday."
She blinked, wide-eyed. "Oh wow, really?"
"W-You didn't have any plans for that night, did you?"
"No," she shook her head and Charlie's shoulders relaxed. "My only plan was to hang out here. You invited me over, saying we'd drop pennies from the roof of your apartment building."
Two pairs of brown eyes studied each other. One head tilted. A clock ticked. Then a belch rang out, calling attention back to the balding man in the room.
"Thought I should break the tension," Frank explained.
Harper groaned and looked away. "Tomorrow is Saturday, Charlie. I'm meeting your mother tomorrow night and the very thought of it makes me nervous."
"I need a beer." He muttered.
"Yeah, I'm thinking the same thing! See, I've wondered about aspects of the rest of your life, like what your mom might be like, how you've gotten to be this way, and...I have questions that I may not mind leaving unanswered."
Charlie sighed. "I still don't know if I believe you about tomorrow being Saturday. I, uh, could've sworn that it wouldn't be here for another two days, and this won't be a big deal, okay? We'll have a few laughs, eat some cheesecake, and…" he cleared his throat, slowly working his hands into the pockets of his jacket. "You'll have to answer a ton o' weird personal questions. Then more cheesecake!"
"This…should not…surprise me. Um…Should I bring anything?"
"What? No. All I ask is that you don't mention that you love dogs, or that you have a Muslim friend."
"Charlie, you live with someone who is trying to turn his garden gnome figurine into a bong and I am a big concern?"
"Ah, my mother knows Frank..and they shouldn't see each other again. She's busy knitting and shit, spying on the neighbors. Maybe she's just feeling a little lonely since Mac's mom is still on her annual drinking binge with her old work friends."
Charlie rose from his chair and retrieved his and Frank's bare plates. Harper followed him to the sink.
"Please be honest," she whispered. "Is this your way of trying to avoid working on the Paddy's bathrooms?"
Realization seemed to dawn on Charlie's face before he looked her in the eye again. Leaning in close, he whispered, "That is the reason," and clumsily pressed his mouth against hers.
When they parted, Harper made a soft 'ih' sound and gestured as if about to touch her own lips. "Ham and jam."
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Dennis chuckled. "Mention her crooked boobs."
Mac typed furiously at his phone, his forehead creasing slightly at his friend's words. "What? What're you talkin' about, dude? We agreed that I'd call her lame and bring up Robocop."
"I think we should mix things up, that's all; insult her in as many ways as possible in a hundred and forty characters or less."
Mac sighed. "That's what Twitter is, dude." He relaxed further into their apartment's leather couch.
Beside him, Dennis rolled his eyes and got to his feet. "I give up. For the rest of the day, the tweets are all yours. I'm gonna go eat something."
Minutes after he crossed the room, the men heard a knocking on their door. Mac swung it open with a groan.
"Wha' d'you want, to burst my creative bubble?" he said. "Oh, hey Charlie; what brings you here, bro?"
Charlie's fingers were curled into a fist, smacking his opposite open palm. "Taylor Lautner."
A pause follows this statement, which Mac spends blinking at his friend. "You actually like the Harper chick, dude?" Mac looked up at his friend with a furrowed brow. "So you don't just see her as some faceless body with an obnoxious motor mouth?"
Charlie let his gaze fasten to Mac's hand. "Is it true? Are you on that Twit site? Have you found Harper on there? I guess some shirtless werewolf is bothering her, and if you're letting the guy get away with it, I'm not going to be happy."
Mac blinked. "Twit, uh…what's that? What do you know about it?"
"Harper's, like, suspicious, okay? She told me that Dennis might be in on it, but how could that be possible?" Charlie shook his head. "I don't understand what's goin' on here, but please don't be a dick just 'cause you don't like my girl."
"Who says I follow or harass some teenager online? I'm not causing trouble for anyone," Mac replied. "It is my business if I've sold out and gotten a Twitter account."
"Twit-ter? What is it for?"
"The world is still trying to figure that out!" Dennis shouted from the kitchen.
"Are you coming in, man?" Mac asked Charlie. "You've been standing in the hallway for, like, ten minutes."
Once the shorter man was inside the apartment with the door closed behind him, the conversation resumed, beginning with Charlie pointing accusingly at Mac.
"You just hit 'send' on your phone, man, what the hell?" He cried. "Don't make me paranoid. This is stressful. Harper says I shouldn't have to take sides!"
"She shouldn't be giving out advice; she doesn't know what it's like to be an adult. Have you seen what she posts online?"
"I don't care. What does that Taylor guy say to her?"
Mac bit back a smile. "They're feuding or something. I don't pay him much attention since he's about twenty and his muscles aren't too impressive."
"Well I - "
"He's in some movies based on books; the Twilight ones. She bashed the book that the first one's based on and he doesn't get why. He'll sometimes say these hilarious things, putting Harper back in her place. It seems that someday he might be as cool as I am. You know if he keeps this up."
"So he decided to just pick on someone he doesn't know? That sounds stupid."
"Well, Harper's opinionated and irritating." Mac typed on his cell a bit more and hit 'send'. "Bro, she sucks. "
Charlie sighed. "Well, on that note…I'm headin' out to meet her right now." He walked straight to the door and with one hand on the knob, paused to look back. "Just so you know…she's suspicious of you, dude. She showed me one tweet and said it looked like it had been written by either some James Howard Kun…Kut…Kuns-tuh-ler…or by you, because of the crappy job the guy did with periods, ignoring question marks."
Dennis breezed into the room then, wearing a smug expression. "Pray tell, does your Harpy think that in comparison, she's who? Jonathan Franzen?"
Charlie blinked. "Well, then she'd…be a man…right?"
Dennis smiled wider. "Maybe she has a mock penis for intimidation like a female coyote. Does she, Charles?"
Mac laughed heartily at that and within seconds, Charlie was gone.
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He heard the tapping before he opened the door. He took a deep breath. "Ma, we're here!"
His mother's evening routine of turning lights on and off three times each had only begun a few years ago and yet it was terribly important to her that it continue.
"Oh Charlie, hi, how are you? How was the traffic on your way here?" By the time she finished speaking, his mother was at his side, arms around his middle.
"It was okay. Everything's goin' well, Ma. I have Harper with me."
The two women locked eyes and Harper smiled tentatively. "How are you, Mrs. Kelly?"
After a moment of combing a critical gaze down the young woman's appearance, Charlie's mother turned and led the way to the kitchen. "Take a seat," she said, going to a cupboard for plates. "Let's have some dessert."
Charlie met Harper's eyes and pointed to one of the simple wooden kitchen chairs.
"I made it today," Mrs. Kelly added. "It's roasted sweet-potato."
Charlie found the appropriate knife and immediately set to work cutting slices from his mother's creation.
"Happy birthday, dear," she said, smiling wanly as Harper placed a small pile of napkins on the table. "Now you've been together a while, right? So what are some of the things you two have in common?"
"Um…" Harper sat down. "He's…I…"
"How long have you been seeing each other?"
Charlie put a plate down in front of his girlfriend. "I smell maple." He muttered.
She shot a look up at him as he walked back to the counter and retrieved two more plates.
"What?" She asked.
"The cheesecake," he replied. "Is there some kind of maple stuff in here, Ma?"
Mrs. Kelly nodded. "That's the maple cream, sweetie! You have a good nose!" Then, after taking a second to watch her son stuff his mouth with dessert, "What do your parents do, Harper? And what religion are you?"
"You know, that…that second question isn't…" Harper ate some of the frosting. "Appropriate. My dad's a social worker, though, and my mom's a retired art teacher."
"Which one of them did you get the pale skin from?"
Charlie stood with his nearly empty plate, eyes locked on the rest of the cheesecake.
"You seem independent," his mother remarked. "If you and my Charlie had a baby, you wouldn't try to make him a stay-at-home father, would you?"
Harper's mouth fell open.
Charlie cleared his throat. "Mom, please, seriously!" He was frozen halfway to his second helping. "You shouldn't just spring somethin' like that on a person!"
"You…" Harper put down her fork. "You want Charlie to be a dad?"
"Not necessarily. He's so busy with his treasure-hunting and with his creative ideas," Mrs. Kelly's eyes lit up with pride. "He has a very important job at the bar. Did you know that?"
Charlie sat down with a full plate. "Mom, look…I don't ever want to be a dad, okay? I thought about it, after that dumpster surprise madness."
"Dennis might be the worst around kids. Mac, though…he should never even babysit." Harper said, clearly half-amused. "He's out of his mind."
Mrs. Kelly raised her eyebrows, though her expression was one of slight confusion. "Mac is adorable. He's very respectful." Harper raised her brows as well, but Charlie's mother continued. "There isn't anything wrong with not being a part of Charlie's little group of friends, but it does say some things about you. What kind of birth control are you using?"
Charlie's fork dropped onto the plate. "Mom, come on. My sperm probably doesn't even work anymore. I've been in the sewers so much in the last few years – "
"We're not…" Harper cut in. "I'm never getting pregnant, especially not with Charlie's baby." She shot a look in his direction. "No offense."
He shrugged and returned to eating.
"Does this mean that you don't just have sex with each other?" His mother inquired. "Though if that's true and you don't mind, Charlie, then I don't either." She blinked at Harper. "Are you sleeping around?"
Harper briefly pressed her fingers to her brow, eyes closed. "I am now officially uncomfortable."
Charlie licked frosting from his lips. "Just wait 'til the neighbors get home. This is nothing."
She sighed and met his mother's gaze. "I am not – "
"If so," The older woman asked. "Are you charging for it? I've always believed that a life as a slut should be lucrative."
"Oh my god."
"You could do something with that kind of life. Look at the stripper in that terrible...What's it called? Independence Day."
Harper picked at the dessert remnants on her plate. "She got to marry Will Smith and get her dog away from Roland Emmerich's annoying wall of CGI flames. By the way, Mrs. Kelly, in my opinion, that reference could easily be mistaken for an attempt to turn this conversation into a discussion of pop culture, though it would lack all the ambiance of a diner and would have two Michael Swaim-like characters, which...is a scary thought."
Charlie's mother blinked. "How many people are going to understand that joke?"
"Well, this is nice," the older woman said sarcastically. "My son is spending time with a woman who looks and sounds like the lovechild of Michele Bachmann and Randy Quaid."
Inhaling deeply, Harper stood up. "Charlie, I'm leaving. Mrs. Kelly, this cheesecake is delicious. Goodbye."
As she strode quickly and deliberately out of the house, Charlie looked up from his plate.
"Ma…" he shook his head. "I can't leave this house without the leftover cake."
The corner of his mother's mouth curled upward. "You have some crumbs in your beard, honey."
05.08.11 A lot of credit belongs to Rachelle Neveu for this chapter...the idea that Mac and Dennis be posing as a currently well-known actor on Twitter, the title, editing, telling me that I properly represented Mrs. Kelly's voice...Thank you, Rachelle, for each of those things.
I had so much fun writing this! I'll be back later to see if it needs a little more, since I'm so uncertain about that...
I still love the "ham and jam" thing. Admittedly, I'm proud of it.
last visited on 07.30.12