Space Girl Blues
by Bruce Pavalon
A young man with a troubled past falls in love with a young woman who believes she’s been abducted by aliens and that one of her alien abductors has fallen in love with her.
Chapter 2: Buddy
While Aaron was in high school, his mother became very ill with a degenerative nervous disorder and had to go repeatedly to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for treatment. Sometimes, she was gone for weeks. Other times, she was gone for months.
The doctors were unable to make a definitive diagnosis, but everyone close to Aaron believed it was from the meat-processing plant she worked at. Whatever it was from, she lost her ability to walk; she lost her coordination; her speech became shaky, and her breathing became sporadic and strained.
When Aaron’s mother was in Rochester, Aaron stayed with his good friend, Bud Johnson. Bud had four brothers and three sisters. They lived in a huge house, and it was so chaotic that barely anyone noticed when Aaron was there.
When Aaron opted out of college, mainly due to his low grades in high school, it only seemed natural to follow Bud to the Twin Cities, and get an apartment together. They lived in a basement apartment furnished with hand-me-down furniture. Concrete walls and protruding pipes were covered with tapestries; milk crates and boards served as shelves, and partially woven baskets handcrafted by Aaron were strewn about the apartment.
Covered in snow with his coffee cup clutched in his mitten and the old newspaper sticking out of his jacket pocket, Aaron entered the apartment and slammed the door shut.
Bessie, an old black and white herding dog, greeted him at the door. Aaron hugged Bessie. She had been the most consistent thing in his life since his mother had been taken ill, and now that his mother was gone, Bessie was his closest living relative.
“How’s my old lady doing?” Aaron asked his faithful canine companion. Bessie licked his face, and Aaron smiled. “That’s my girl.”
Bud slept on a worn couch beneath heavy wool blankets with an open business textbook on his chest. An old television in the corner lit the room. On TV, there was a fuzzy image of the Green Giant standing in the Green Valley. A chorus sang, “From the Valley of the Jolly...”
“Ho, ho, ho,” bellowed the Green Giant on cue.
“Green Giant,” sang the chorus.
Aaron stomped his feet and shook the snow off his back and hat, trying to wake up Bud. Bud’s eyes cracked open. “You won’t believe what happened to me this morning,” Aaron said while unbuttoning his jacket. He sat down at the end of the couch.
Bud sat up and put his textbook on the floor. “We’ve gotta talk.”
“You’re telling me. Wait till you hear about this whacked-out woman who attacked me.”
“I don’t want to talk about another one of your crazy girlfriends.”
“Then what do you want to talk about?”
“Money, that’s quite an abstract concept to talk about. What about it?”
“You’ve gotta get some.”
“I just need a little more time.”
“You’ve had plenty of time. You owe me almost five hundred dollars. I’ve used my student loans to pay your rent the past few months.”
“How long have you known me?”
“That’s beside the point.”
“How much have we been through together?”
It always came back to this. There was no reason for Bud to answer. Their friendship was a life sentence.
“Have I ever not paid you back?” asked Aaron.
“You’ve never owed me five hundred dollars. Come on, Aaron, you’ve got to start living for yourself. How about selling more baskets and hats?” Business was Bud’s major, and profit was his bottom line. But Aaron saw things differently.
“And sacrifice quality and inspiration. No, thank you,” replied Aaron. Aaron had learned to knit and basket-weave with his mother during her illness, and his hats, ski masks, mittens, and baskets were still very precious to him. Parting with them was not easy for Aaron. It was like letting go of a piece of his mother. Occasionally, he would sell some of his work at craft fairs, but he was very particular about who he sold them to.
No one knew or understood Aaron better than Bud, but Bud was losing his patience. It had been two years since they graduated high school, and Bud felt it was time Aaron started to move on. Aaron knew Bud felt this way, but he wasn’t ready. Bud would just have to wait.
“So what happened to you this morning?” asked Bud.
Aaron’s eyes lit up. “This woman, the craziest double-Xer I’ve ever crossed paths with, assaulted me with a stun gun.”
“What?!” Bud couldn’t believe it. “Who assaulted you?”
“The early morning baker at Schroeters’ Bagel Bakery.”
“And what did you do?”
“I fell backwards into the snow. It hurt.”
“I meant, what did you do to provoke her?”
“Did you get her name? Did you ask why she zapped you?”
“I got a cup of coffee.” Aaron raised his cup of coffee for Bud to see and sipped from it.
Bud got up. “Let’s go.”
Bud stepped into his boots and grabbed his jacket. “To Schroeters’.”
“I was just at Schroeters’.”
“You’re going back.” Bud had watched Aaron get screwed over time and time again. He couldn’t sit around and watch Aaron get screwed over again without trying to do something to stop it, not to mention the fact that Bud wanted his five hundred dollars back.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” replied Aaron, fearfully.
“You’ve been assaulted by one of their employees.”
“And I don’t want to get assaulted again.”
“But we might have a case.”
“A case? A case of what?”
“I already got a free cup of coffee.”
“You’re going to get a lot more than free coffee.”
“I don’t want a lawsuit. Lawsuits don’t work for people like me.” His mother had tried to sue, but the doctors were unable to link her condition definitively to the meat-processing plant, and the lawyers were unable to link the meat-processing plant definitively to the Fortune 500 food conglomerate that took the pig meat she processed and turned it into that canned precooked processed meat product called SHAM.
Aaron’s mother was determined to continue fighting, but that all came to an end when Aaron and his mother’s house caught fire. Aaron and Bessie survived, but Aaron’s mother was not as fortunate. The official cause of her death was carbon monoxide poisoning, which effectively relieved the meat-processing plant of any liability and killed the lawsuit.
Aaron was left with only $10,000 from a life insurance policy and Bessie. Everything else had been lost in the fire, and now that he had spent all the money, all he had left was memories and Bessie.
“You need to learn to stand up for yourself,” said Bud.
Being passed from lawyer to lawyer without finding an Erin Brokovich had taken an emotional and psychological toll on his mother, and Aaron found himself thinking of his sick and broken mother. “But there’s more going on with this woman than meets the eye. I don’t want to make her problems any worse than they already are.”
“Sure you do,” said Bud. Bud grabbed Aaron by the arm and pulled him out the door.
Aaron reluctantly went with Bud, thinking about how his mother used to curse SHAM. “SHAM is people,” she used to say, quoting from the movie Soylent Green. She was half-joking, half-serious, but she was dead serious about making sure Aaron stayed away from meat-processing plants, processed food, chemicals, and all other commonly accepted dietary toxins. Aaron took his mother’s wishes seriously and strived to live clean and honestly.
* * *
Bud and Aaron walked up to Schroeters’ Bagel Bakery. Aaron looked through the front window. Customers ate bagels and drank coffee in the dining area. A Chef Boyardee commercial played on the TV, and Anini worked with Laura, a teenaged girl, behind the counter.
Bud walked up to the front door. A help wanted sign hanging in the door caught Bud’s eye. “Hey, Aaron. Look at this. You should fill out an application.”
Anini looked up from the counter, saw Aaron looking at her through the front window and went to the back room.
“What about our lawsuit?” asked Aaron.
“A lawsuit could take years, but if you had a job, you could start paying rent immediately. We’ll blackmail them into hiring you with the threat of a lawsuit.”
“How do you expect me to work with someone who attacked me with a stun gun?”
“It’ll be good for you. There won’t be much room for slack.” Bud grabbed Aaron’s arm and escorted him into the bagel bakery. They walked up to Laura.
Aaron yanked his arm out of Bud’s grip and said, “Maybe we should think this through over coffee and bagels.”
“That can wait for your employee discount.”
“Can I help you?” asked Laura.
“Can we have an application?” asked Bud.
Laura reached beneath the counter and handed Bud an application.
“Come on, Bud, you aren’t serious,” pleaded Aaron.
“Oh yes, I am.”
Aaron looked at Laura. “Where’s the baker? You know, the psychotic woman with the mirrored umbrella.”
“Anini left for the day. You can leave the application on the counter after you complete it,” responded Laura.
Aaron looked through the baker’s window and caught a flash of the mirrored umbrella as Anini left the bakery through the back door.
Aaron looked at Bud. “You really think this is a good idea?”
“You betcha I do.”
In a way, Aaron agreed. Not only was he interested in finding out more about Anini, but he also liked the idea of learning the art of bagel baking. He knew his mother would have approved.
Copyright © 2015 by Bruce Pavalon