A.J.’s friends were close good friends, they had happy fun times together when they were released from their various jobs each Friday evening — events of some sort were always happening, street fairs, mass sales, dog shows, cat shows, art exhibits in parks, all the places where scopophobes and scopophiles co-mingle. More and more often, the better they came to know A.J., friends began to wend their conversational way toward this question: “Could you see your way clear, y’think, to sell me your pee?”
For — as they all could surmise — his urine was pristine, unpolluted, and valuable.
They begged. They colluded amongst themselves. Once he caught a school-mate bent over the Kohler bowl with a plastic beer cup, trying to scoop out some of A.J.’s unflushed urine at a party — A.J. realizing with an acute sudden shock why the guy had been eyeballing him all evening without ever actually speaking or being friendly. He didn’t tell him that it wasn’t his pee, just closed the bathroom door.
What he really should have said was: You can’t afford it.
Yes, for A.J. was very surreptitiously selling his perfectly pure urine–both liquid and freeze-dried–all around the world. The process was easily reducible to a “same-ev’ry-time assembly line.” It took only a few weeks to set up a website and pay for a few ads in such magazines as High Times or Reefer Weekly — soon enough had a large backlog of packets stored in his freezer and some in the refrigerator, packaged for immediate shipment. Almost every day, there was a new order or an inquiry.
The amount of money he had amassed over the course of several months would not, however, have shocked his friends because they knew him: steady worker, apt friend, deft musician — anyone without a drug-of-choice automatically had more money to spend, right?
How did be become such a pharmaceutical rara avis? The story that came down about him was this: he saw his mother naked at the age of ten — granted, this woman was participating in a rally against the confirmation of the National Sexual Retirement Act — but (so it was said) the effect upon the boy’s gentle spirit became a quaint moving abreaction against the free-love countercultural tie-dyed tide. A.J. decided quite early on to do drugs of no sort, not even the ones prescribed for him (we know only of a few), nor did he drink alcohol. Your dad drinks too much, you may not drink at all. Water, always. Good water. The best water. Aqua vita.
His abstinence had no religious tie-in. He didn’t care if people got crunk. He had no ties to any sort of belief system. A.J.’s secret love was the status quo, which for him at this point in his life was working easy jobs (small soul-crushing jobs) while slowly, gradually and legally amassing a tiny fortune, which on occasion he converted into fifties and piled into Nike shoeboxes. And of course he spent many hours every day playing video games. Who did he know who didn’t?
His parents, not quite still alive at present, had been alcoholics of the most complicated variety — spouses trying to cure spouses, one dry and then the other dry and then one relapsing and then both relapsing — on and on it went. How did his tiny, bright-eyed bird-like mother manage to get so much training in substance abuse? They were no more radical than any other set of alcoholic parents: change was certainly not what his father wanted, except when he found out his son was not, after the terrible attainment of functioning gonads, quite sure he wanted to get married. He told his father he might try to take a major in music — aside from the ones he had already gotten in French and Spanish — and off came his father’s chained glasses and the argument that he had to have something to make money with . . . at which point the magic Hammer — Maxwell’s? — dinged A.J. a soft, sweet blow atop his head, on that topmost spot. Though long ago, he still remembered his father asking about the smile. “What’s funny, Bill? This is not funny.”
And now, today, with this new thing happening, no, it was not funny. Texted Sara to come on by whenever. Got off work, came in from work as usual, fell asleep in his chair after eating about ten chocolate chip cookies and drinking a big glass of milk — to awake a prisoner. Sara’s new boyfriend, a handsome hirsute dude, has quite securely tied him with two thick elastic rope-like bands–pulled over his easy chair. He and Sara sit on the carpet next to his head — the chair is laid back almost flat — and speak in the most craycray normal tones, as though discussing cutting the lawn or cooking pasta.
“I’ll lose this job, A.J.!”
“I’m sorry….” The ceiling was not interesting. He felt his heart do a little base wiggle.
“Honey,” (when did she start calling him that?) “he will lose this, this, the best job he has ever had!”
Sara’s face-shape didn’t match her body. He tried to give her his most intense What The Fuck? eye-gape, but she seemed to see through it (or not to see it). He thought they were good friends — they had been good friends before tonight.
“Don’t you care? You don’t care about us. About me.” She named the amount of money the boyfriend made each week and the number hung in the air like some kind of algebraic melody before it dissipated into nothingness. “We can go on tour with the Constipated Primates in September! But he has to keep this job….”
“Ohh, it’s not that.” Why didn’t they think about this before now? Who made them pollute their bodies? “Who made me responsible for providing fluids for you, Frank?”
“Friends help friends.”
“Simple,” nodding her head, Sara pulled a lighter out of her boot and lit up a stick of sandalwood incense.
“Don’t light that,” said A.J.
“You know I hate that shit, Sara. What is wrong with you?”
After conferring quietly near the bathroom, his two friends began to fill up glasses of water and bring them to the chair-side table. A.J. had a wacked out vision of — no, no they wouldn’t — but, yes, maybe they would. Feed him water until he had to pee, and steal his pee. Sara kept giving him warm glances, smiling her cutest smile. The cookies rumbled now in his stomach. He wanted to get out of these straps and change his clothes.
“Hey. Wait. Got an idea.”
They looked at him. A train whistle outside made a loud F-sharp blast. How dramatic! “Look up there on that shelf,” A.J. instructed. “The red shoebox. Yeah.”
They pulled it down, opened it as though it contained a rattlesnake, and pulled out a few dozen pieces of green paper with U.S. Grant on each one, looking catatonically drunk. Smiles all around.
“Untie me. You got money enough to buy pee now. What is wrong with you people?”
The last we see of A.J. is him pulling two suitcases down the airport corridor toward the gate where, in only a few minutes, Southwestern Airlines flies direct to Denver.