MCMLXXX • by Stephen Kyo Kaczmarek

Terrified, Bodie summons me to his cavernous office.

“They want me out,” he says, scrutinizing all those dazzling backstabbers and hangers-on through thick glass panes.

“Calm down,” I say.

“Calm down? Are you shitting me? You hear what I’m saying?”

Of course I hear him. Like dozens of other times. He’s probably off his Lithium again or done too much blow.

“I’m sinking — drowning — not coming up for air—”

I sigh.

“Look, I love you, bro, but this paranoia shit’s getting old.”

His eyes widen.

“You, too, man?”

“No, not me, too, man.” I sit him down in his plush executive chair, put a Glenlivet on the rocks in his trembling grasp. “It’s your company, Bodie. Yours. No one’s out to get you, least of all me.”

He’s 50 going on 70, hair white, wild as his dilated blue eyes. Bodie’s hands are long and veiny, and steely chest curls jut through the neck of his lavender silk shirt — he’s a pimpy Wolfman stuck in transmutation.

“When’d you sleep last?”

“Sleep? What’s that?”

“Finish your drink,” I say, then lead him to a cow-print Corbusier loveseat. Soon, he’s snoring, but not before he mumbles, “Don’t let them fuck me, man.”

“I won’t.”

Truth be told, Bodie is fucked. And Lana, his wife, assures me everyone will take turns bending him over. Including me. His free-wheeling, rock-and-roll ways have led to this dead end. No one’s sorrier than I. Those were good times. Parties with Hef, Aerosmith, Supertramp. He took me, a geeky kid in a third-rate garage band, and distilled the upwardly-mobile producer before you. Gave me my break. But as they say in this fickle business of music, he’s all played out.

***

Lana’s certainly the more truly fuckable. I’ll give her that. A Burger Chef drive-thru girl when they met, she’s a louse. But the world forgives such if you’re gorgeous.

“Having second thoughts?” Lana says, massaging my shoulders and wearing her best outfit, which is nothing at all. In her golden glory, she could be a Grammy for sex.

“Aren’t you?”

She considers it, maybe only pretends.

“Think I want to hurt him?”

“Would that stop you?”

“Ah, our Jake’s growing a conscience.”

She fetches balance sheets from the nightstand, clearly having anticipated this conversation.

“I told you he’s running the company into the ground. I didn’t say how far or fast.”

The pages are soaked with numbers conspiring against him — yet also generous gifts to charities, has-been artists. Bodie, you out-of-control mensch.

I push them away.

“I’m no accountant.”

She pulls my head back, kisses me deep.

“What then?”

“A piece of shit,” I say and return the kiss.

***

“Pull,” Bodie yells, braced against the taffrail.

I wing LPs from before my time — “Doing inventory,” Bodie calls it — and he blasts them with an M-14.

“That one?”

“Anal Leakage.”

“Punks couldn’t even sell 500 units.”

I toss one by DJ Chicken ‘n Waffles.

“Asshole,” Bodie growls, sending it to vinyl heaven.

Back at the dock, he lights Quinteros for us with a diamond-studded Ronson.

“You look distracted.”

“Too much sun,” I lie.

My insides twist over these betrayals, even little ones.

“Move around. You’ll feel better.”

Bodie blows undulating smoke rings, studies them. Perhaps unfogged by sea air and small arms fire, he’s philosophical.

“We can’t really stop moving, can we? Earth will always move around the sun, taking us with it. Even dead.”

He’s wiping down the M-14.

The grand saloon suddenly becomes dangerously confined, so much so that when he says, “By the way, you screwing Lana?” I nearly shit myself.

“Relax,” he smiles. “If she’s happy, I’m okay with it. I love her.”

What to say to that? It’s classic Bodie — touching and fucked up at the same time.

“Catch,” he says, tossing me something shiny to change subjects. “Behold the future. They call it a CD. Soon, LPs will be passé, like 8-track, like me. Like you some day, last long enough.”

He’s riffing profundities. He could as easily be laying down tracks, genius bursting from his fingertips. I’m no longer in the presence of a raving paranoiac or drugged-out mid-lifer (or even the former Ira Nussbaum, chess prodigy from Cleveland Heights). His eyes are clear, voice resonant. He’s Bodie McClean, of BodieMac Records, again. Legend.

“It’s almost 1980. You believe that? Where’d the 70s go? Or the 60s, for that matter. Fucking time, man.”

He leans in.

“Promise me something.”

“Bodie, I—”

“Just promise me.”

“Okay.”

“Always live in the moment, kid. Always. No regrets.”

What I do next will mean the world to him, I see.

I nod.

“Because life’s a turntable, and it won’t stop moving either just because your song’s over,” he says, as much to himself as to me. “When that music ends, the past won’t know and the future won’t care.”

He palms my cheek, his hand warm, gentle.

“You’re the son I never had, Jacob. Understand?”

“Yeah, Bodie,” I whisper.

“Then everything’s all right, kid.”

He grins, so sure and radiant, even I believe it.

***

The inevitable final straw? Paradise White and demolition derby with Lamborghinis. From the wreckage, Bodie laughs, “Best two out of three!”

Lana signs papers on New Year’s Day, and they ship him off to some hospital in Connecticut.

***

Lana settles into Bodie’s chair like she’s returned from a long, satisfying vacation.

“Why not stay? You helped him build BodieMac up. Time to cash in.”

Time. The word hangs in the air.

She’s stacked CDs on the desk — hers now, I guess — and all I can think is what do you play those things on?

“Besides, I need you.”

“I understand,” I tell her, heading for the door.

If looks could kill.

“You’ll be back.”

“Doubtful. CDs are too small to hit.”

Her face goes blank.

I’m not entirely sure what it means, either, but Bodie would approve, wouldn’t he?

So I smile and just keep moving.


Stephen Kyo Kaczmarek is a writer and educator in Lewis Center, Ohio.


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