The Beast, Pt. 93 (Chapter 23b)

I sigh. The Chad Studlu of the past is a problem, always making a fool of himself and leaving me to pick up the pieces. “That’s it, then? I didn’t pick any fights with any of you, or anything like that?”

“No,” Erb says, his face suddenly serious. “But where were you? We were trying to get a hold of you all day yesterday, and there was just nothing.”

“I busted my Conncomm.”

“What the Hell happened to your face?”

“I got into a fight with those little bastards from the lobby the other day. The Conncomm got busted in said fight. I think a lost a tooth, too.”

Googe winces. “Oh, that’s rough. Growing those back sucks.”

“What happened to the villa? Did you throw another party last night?”

I look around at the destruction: surprising amounts of vomitus, clothes strewn about, holes punched in walls, overturned chairs and tables. But no bottles. No powders. No ashes. Nothing to suggest a party, everything to suggest a maniac having some kind of a psychotic break.

“Yep. Threw one Hell of a party. Shit, I don’t even remember most of it, so don’t ask me for any details. Yep.”

Eyebrows arch. Shoulders shrug. Erb speaks, “You know, we were pretty worried about you. I mean, we all kind of figured you’d be fine. Because you always are. But usually you give some kind of sign that you’re alive, and you didn’t this time.”

His voice is calm, even. Googe and Monk have already left, gone to straighten things up. Papa Chub lingered, but his attention was waning as well. Doubtless there were things that needed attending to. I was vaguely aware that it was time to leave, that there was a shuttle waiting to take us to a shuttle waiting to take us to a shuttle waiting to take us to our respective homes. But even so, my words fail me. Everything fails me. I am a dog with drooping ears and downcast eyes. Something I’d said the other day comes back to me. “I do right by my boys.” What the fuck happened to that?

Erb’s already shrugged, walked away, but I’m not done. I stand up, clear my throat. “Hey, guys.”

Faces turn towards me, twist up in confusion in surprise, eyes roll, eyes shut, mouths open to speak but hold their peace.

“Guys. I’m grateful for you. Really. This trip has been something else, man. Highs and lows, but I wouldn’t trade the memories for anything else in the world. And I know I’ve been… Let’s call it a loose cannon the past couple days, but I think I’m better now. Just had some things I had to work through.

“I think I’ve got this. I think I’m ready to go home.”

Eyes drift towards each other. Nervous uncertain looks are shared. Finally, Googe breaks the silence. “Hey, man. That’s great. That’s beautiful. But put on some Goddamn pants.”

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