The MullenMode.com Presents...
Written, Directed, and Lived by:
Copyright © 2016 Danny Mullen. All rights reserved. Don’t reproduce this shit without permission. Violators will be molested and beaten after being fastened to a tree.
All events depicted actually occurred. Some names/incriminating details have been changed to protect careers, romantic relationships, and the general ability of those involved to hold their heads up high.
Location: Orangevale, California
Era: Post-college Home
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way
–Pink Floyd, “Time,” key: F-sharp minor
From The Dark Side of the Moon (1973; Rob Cristgau’s opinion: “Taken too seriously, but not without its charm.”)
* * *
Tor Tarantula, my long-time neighbor, fancies himself a kind of guardian of the plant and animal life on this planet.
He keeps gardens. He has little dreadlocks in his hair. He makes smoking devices from bamboo sticks he finds in open fields. When we were younger, he had this giant pig that he’d go out and personally wake up at 6 a.m. every morning. His reason for doing so? To quote “make sure she began the day peacefully.”
And about five minutes ago, when I pulled up next to an overflowing trashcan in some nearby upscale neighborhood, and implored him to roll down the window and grab it, the trashcan, so that I could then get the car up to maybe 50 or 60 mph, and then presumably he could keep the can balanced and rolling on its wheels until we found a worthy target (mailbox, parked car), at which point he would release said trashcan, and we could all watch and be real amused by the impact...not only did he not do it; he started just plain freaking out about it in the back seat.
– This-and-that threat the trash would pose to such-and-such wildlife.
– The absolute 100% chance of it seeping into and causing irrevocable damage to our creeks and streams.
That’s another thing: his obsession with water conservation.
Once, at my parents’ cabin in the mountains, I almost reduced him to tears by failing to operate the kitchen sink in a prudent fashion.
You know that thing where you’re real dehydrated the morning after a drinking binge, where you chug three or four cupfuls of water back to back, the whole time just letting the faucet run? Pretty standard hangover behavior, right?
Nuh-uh. No. Not on Tor’s watch.
Tor Tarantula, Knight of Poseidon – who hadn’t moved since 3 a.m. the night before, and whose BAC probably still warranted a hospital visit – was off the couch and across the room before I finished drinking the second cup. Once there he began pawing desperately at the faucet, yelling about “wastefulness” in the same confused, possessive, whiney tone that I’m sure you’d get from homeless people if you tried separating them from their shopping carts.
Which makes me wonder what Tor’d think about the Shower Trick.
See, ever since graduating college and moving back home with my parents this summer, jerking off with the shower running has – to be quite frank with you – become probably my #1 method of passing time.
The name “Shower Trick” is a little misleading, though. I don’t beat off in there. That would require leg muscle. And balance. And plus all the expensive lotion I use would just get washed away.
No. I leave the shower running, is all.
Why do I do this?
It’s so, when my parents go Xing back and forth with perked ears through the hallway, listening for any trace of grunting, or the telltale smack of skin on skin…they hear only the whine of pipes, the patter of water.
I’m sure they imagine me, their only son, who is now technically a grown adult, doing mature, innocent, hygienic things in there.
But the truth?
Truth is, 9 times out of 10 I’m splayed across the edge of the sink – tongue out, beating myself into submission. Not even anywhere near the fucking shower. While gallon upon gallon of perfectly good water flows unused down the drain.
What would Tor say about the fact that, this summer alone, the amount of liquid I’ve wasted in this fashion could likely fill an orca habitat at Sea World?
How would he take the news that the water is always somewhere just below “molten lava” on the temperature spectrum, just because I think the steam really sets the mood?
Would it be the end of our friendship? The cold truth about how many afternoons I’ve spent chipping away at local reservoirs with locked-out knees and a pulsating fist?
I don’t know. But the point is, all this – Tor’s haircut, his love of animal life, and the throbbing erection he has for environmental justice – all this is why I experience a bit of…I don’t know. I guess you could call it “cognitive dissonance” when, now, back in the car, while we pass by some high school kid with his high school girlfriend on the side of the road – both of them leaned up against a Honda Civic, making out and stuff – Tor takes the basketball he stole from Dave and Buster’s a little while ago, leans out the window, and just fucking creams this kid with it.
I experience some cognitive dissonance while watching this.
“Tor! HOLY FUCK.” I’m all over the gas pedal now in the name of escape.
“Ha, fuck yeah!” he says, throwing up an unseen and totally needless middle finger at the kid through the rear window. “Did you see me nail that piece of shit?”
More than “see,” I was moved by what I heard. There was this sickening UHMFF noise as the ball evacuated the kid’s lungs.
“But what the fuck, Tor!?! You wouldn’t do the trash thing – and, and, but this?!!”
Tor’s still chuckling and looking out the back window. “What, the overflowed can? Yeah, fuck that shit.” A few beats pass. “Why? What does that have to do with anything?”
I glare at him through the rearview mirror. “Never mind. Let’s just get the fuck away from here.” Then I make a hard right onto the multi-laned Sierra College Boulevard. Heading, just as a precaution, for the border (and accompanying safety) of our home city of Orangevale.
* * *
How the night degenerated into this adolescent-style mischief fest is still semi mysterious to me.
Things at least began respectably, I’d say, when I volunteered to serve as Designated Driver for what appeared to be, by most calculations, a low profile trip to Dave and Buster’s.
I drove around town in my mom’s sedan picking up the following crew: Tor Tarantula, Bladewing the Risen, and a guy so unimportant to this story that we’ll just call him #4; each of them already in various stages of intoxication.
And even after these guys spent maybe a solid hour boozing at the D&B’s bar…things still progressed for a while in a manner I’d call “socially acceptable.” They may have been a little overzealous in pursuing the like two female patrons in the arcade (it’s Tuesday night), and something of a racket was raised during our four-way air hockey game, but you know – these are standard scenes at D&B’s, I’m sure.
If I had to pinpoint the first real signs of erosion in our group’s composure, I’d point to when Tor, shitfaced, began slithering around beneath the scrolling-backboard-free-throw-shooting-game thing, looking for lost basketballs. Or when I, bored, began offering our pregnant bartender 100 USD to take a shot.
I thought this – the shot thing – was real funny, and not actually a bad offer (what’s one drink going to do?) and, like, give me a break – as if babies born out of wedlock to Dave and Buster’s employees have much of a chance anyway. However, the bar manager and the security guy were not stoked. Especially when Bladewing the Risen and #4 caught wind of the challenge, and set to work egging the woman on in increasingly loud and hostile voices.
Speaking of pregnant people: it was around this same time that an oblivious Tor Tarantula rounded a row of arcade games with two giant, perfectly spherical bulges beneath his shirt. And as the unofficial guardian here, taking inventory, I just kinda had to be like check please and usher everyone toward the door.
“Where is that second ball, by the way?” this is me now, a few lights down on Sierra College Boulevard.
“Yeah, Tor,” says Bladewing the Risen. “I saw you walk out with two. Let’s bust the other one out and, uh, you know” he moves his hands around, searching for words, “reload the cannon.”
“But will Danny be Ok with that?” says #4, in a tone that suggests I’m a pussy. He’s riding shotgun. “I mean, you were fucking tripping out when he hit that kid.”
“It’s not that I’m, whatever, philosophically opposed to pelting people with things out of moving cars,” explaining myself, “it’s just that Tor here is host to a few… gaping character inconsistencies, is all.”
Tor says, “I don’t know what you guys are talking about. I only stole one basketball.”
“Well, either way, I’m pretty down to go around throwing more shit at people,” says Bladewing the Risen. “What about that box of oranges your mom has in the trunk? I saw oranges. Maybe we should like – ”
But in a flash, I’m tuned out of all the in-car jabbering.
See, near where Sierra College Boulevard approaches our neighborhood, there’s this big, rolling hill that’s about a quarter mile from bottom to top on either side. And in the rearview mirror now, I spy a pair of headlights cresting it, and then descending in a way I deem to be suspiciously fast.
“Danny, did you hear that?” Bladewing again. “Let’s pull over.”
“Isn’t that maybe overkill though?” says Tor. “To throw, like, a full box of oranges at someone?”
Bladewing turns his head, narrows his eyes. “No, you fucking moron – single oranges. One at a time.”
There’s a decent sized pause before Tor says, “Oh.”
He and Bladewing begin busting up, high-fiving each other.
“Ok, sorry to interrupt, guys,” me, “but, uh, maybe take a look out the back?”
By the time everyone’s heads have spun 180, the car I’ve been eyeing is about a football field’s length away, and closing in quick. It’s pretty clear that whoever’s piloting the thing views the posted 45 mph speed limit as a suggestion rather than hard and fast law.
“Oh yeah,” I say. “What’s that line they always use for situations like this in action movies and Star Wars? (1977; Rotten Tomatoes: 93%.) ‘We’ve got company’? That's it, right?”
Within seconds, the Honda Civic is on us – parallel in the second lane, honking and swerving and flashing its high beams.
Then its passenger window comes down and there he is: the world’s most pissed off high schooler. Most recent victim of inflatable sporting good drive-by assault.
Just on impulse, chuckling to myself, I give him the finger.
He returns the gesture, plus starts blasting his horn, pointing at the road up ahead. His girlfriend, shotgun, doesn’t look overjoyed about being tangled up in this mess.
Other people who don’t seem overjoyed: my passengers.
It’s strange. Despite all Bladewing’s big talk about oranges and pedestrians, and despite Tor’s fairly ruthless strike with the D&B’s basketball, both of them, Tor and Bladewing, have seemingly metamorphosed into a pair of 5th grade girls in the back seat.
“DANNY, DANNY – SPEED UP, DUDE! DRIVE! DRIVE!”
“YEAH! C’MON MAN – DO IT! JUST PASS HIM A-AND FUCKING DUCK OUT ON YOUR PARENTS’ STREET AFTERWARDS.”
It’s embarrassing, really. From all their high-pitch screaming and flailing, you’d think the kid had an assault rifle pointed at us through his window.
Not to mention their advice is dog shit.
Speed up? Outrun him? Apply pedal to metal and go swerving around the street?
No. Terrible ideas.
“Ok, Ok, everybody just calm down now,” I tell my passengers.
See, as far as car chases go, I think it’s safe to say that this isn’t my first frolic in the Forbidden Forest. To say I’ve pissed off a few motorists in my time is like saying Picasso, during his life, produced one or two or maybe three paintings.
I sharpened my fangs in this sport at a young age, people. To give you an idea, back in my early high school career, weekend nights began more often than not in the parking lot of some Wal-Mart: pooling bills and change, deciding who would be schmuck to go in and make the eyebrow-raising purchase of four cartons of eggs at 10 p.m. (usually me). Then speeding off into the night in someone’s mom’s minivan, looking for moving targets. The highest ranking in the crew claiming shotgun; the lowest relegated to the position of tail gunner (again, usually me).
(Speaking of high school and tail gunning…I was expelled from Casa Roble Fundamental about a week into my sophomore year for an incident that involved (1) an airsoft gun, (2) the back seat of my buddy’s mom’s white minivan, and (3) an unsuspecting cheerleader waiting curbside for a ride home. Though I concede this was a poor exercise in judgment, I’m still bitter, and relations between the school and me have been strained ever since.)
But anyway. The point is, during this period, I couldn’t help but learn a thing or two about shaking off pursuing cars – if only from constant observation and practice.
So I can now confidently tell you this: flooring it and trying to duck out on a side road is a total sucker play; both ineffective and dangerous. A real veteran of drive-by mischief knows that the correct move is almost just the opposite…
Back on Sierra College, with High School Kid still revving up and swerving around in the lane next to us, I, without saying a word to anybody, give him a dainty little wave before firmly applying the brakes.
Bringing us to a complete stop. Right there in the middle of our lane.
Predictably, everybody in my car goes fucking ape shit over this.
“DANNY! FUCK! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING!?! NO!
“DANNY NO, NO, FUCKING DRIVE, DRIVE, YOU ASSHOLE! NOW! C’MON! GET US THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!
Bladewing the Risen even has nerve enough to make a grab for the steering wheel, which I view as an act of mutiny, and punish accordingly with a firm swat to the wrist.
I do get their discomfort, though. What amounts to finding a parking spot in the middle of the street isn’t strictly speaking “safe,” and won’t likely be described as such in any Driver’s Ed handbooks.
But here’s the deal: as far as safety goes, what you’re doing – stopping – is like swimming with floaties on compared what your pursuer is now going to have to do if he really wants to continue the beef:
– Come after you in reverse, against the flow of traffic.
Ignoring all the shouting, I flip on my emergency lights, stay put.
And the Civic, because it was doing the whole macho thing in the lane next to us (count on this: pursuing drivers will almost always pull up broadside to give you the finger and yell and just generally let you know how TO'd they are)… since it was doing all that, it goes flying past us, and doesn’t realize what I’m up to until it’s some six or seven basketball hoops in distance up the road. Then it begins to slow before, very hesitantly, it also comes to a stop.
I can just about see the confusion radiating off the vehicle. Pure WTF? vibes from the brake lights.
“C’mon c’mon c’mon,” I’m muttering to myself, scanning the rearview mirror for approaching cars.
None yet. A little worrying. Even one or two at this point would force the Civic up the road.
“DANNY! FUCKING DRIVE!” yells somebody. “I’M BEGGING YOU. PULL PAST AND – !”
“Shut, up.” Me, raising a hand for silence. “You guys are such fucking amateurs. You really think a high-speed chase is the right idea here? With some rich Roseville kid who’s probably got, what, two birthdays and some Christmas money under the hood?”
The Civic seems to be at a complete loss as far as what comes next. It honks its horn a couple times, but in a pathetic way. Just an attempt to maintain some type of aggression.
“Danny, just listen, dude. I really think we should – ”
Bladewing falls silent.
We all watch as the Civic begins rolling toward us in reverse – slowly at first, then picking up speed.
“Huh," I say. "Well this hasn’t happened before.”
End teaser. Sorry if that was annoying
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