I tell people I deleted my Facebook account because of privacy concerns, because I wanted control of my data, but really I got a message from a friend asking if I wanted to help organize our high school class’s twentieth reunion. She even added me to a group. I didn’t want to go to Arkadelphia, certainly not as the biggest fuckup of the class of ’99, a thirty-eight-year-old obscure writer with two self-published books that no one read, a frazzled stay-at-home father (of two amazing, intelligent, beautiful, kind-hearted, perceptive, funny children) and impecunious professional coffee-slinger/ass-wiper. I was in a mood already when I got the message because Mrs. Ortiz had died. “The first rule of senior care is don’t get attached,” my manager, Stu, said on my first day. “And the second rule,” I said, “is there is no senior care.” “What? No. Look, let me show you in the handbook . . .” I imbibed the rules, but every death devastated me, even when I didn’t really like the person. I liked Mrs. Ortiz. Fuck a class reunion. How was I supposed to see Nuts, whose real name was Jason Fender, whom I had given rides to all through high school because he didn’t want to get a driver’s license, that is, repeatedly failed the driving test, who had grown up, if that is the phrase, to be a hardcore Trump fanboy whose profile photo on Facebook was a picture of Trump, who signed off all of his posts with hashtag MAGA, without punching him in the larynx?
I was as self-conscious about my social status as an over-educated peon as I was about my body. I was an athlete in high school. My body had betrayed me; I had betrayed my body, morphing from point guard to out-of-shape running back.
My old friend Chris, who was not involved in the planning but who still lived in Arkadelphia and was irrationally excited to be reunited with the other members of the last group of humans to graduate from Our Lady of the Loophole Catholic High School in the twentieth century, called a couple weeks later to try to sway me. I told him the reason I didn’t want to go, which was only half the reason; I also just didn’t care about seeing the people he was dying to see. “Trust me,” he said, “you’re not the biggest fuckup.” And he told me the story of Felicity, whose name I’ve changed so as not to seem like I’m exploiting her or something, who had grown up to be a dog-fucker. She had been dating a guy named Rob, whose name I’m not changing because he’s evil, for about twelve years. Four years ago, she found out he liked to fuck dogs, and she broke up with him—or tried to. He converted her to bestiality with the old don’t-knock-it-till-you-try-it rhetorical technique. You’re being narrow-minded, he told her, wittle Jack here wuvs it, it’s something special. He showed her magazines. He showed her videos. He showed her websites. You need to open your mind, he told her, you need to open yourself up to new experiences. He enlisted her help converting the shed to a bestiality parlor. Because Rob’s knees were bad and it hurt him to bend over or kneel, he and Felicity built a custom bench. For Jack the Dog’s comfort they lined it with red velvet.
The story didn’t persuade me; I would still be the third-biggest fuckup, behind only MAGA Nuts and Felicity the Dog-fucker. “You’re not a fuckup, A.G.,” Chris tried to tell me, but I wasn’t listening any longer. I told him to come see me in New York.
When I was a drifter, a temporary college dropout roaming the country with no purpose, I met a woman in Lafayette, Colorado, who jerked off her dog. I didn’t see her do it. I was staying with some friends of acquaintances and had gone to take out the trash, an excuse to get away from them, if only for a few minutes, and some dudes hollered at me, asking if I wanted a beer. I was only twenty. I said sure, and they said come on inside. They were drinking Two Dogs. I forget this woman’s name. I had been sitting there for a while, next to this woman but not saying much, listening to these strangers’ boring stories, when the dog came over. It jumped up in my lap. Dogs and children like me, no one else. “When I get bored,” the woman said, “sometimes I just jerk him off.” “The dog?” I said. “Uh-huh.” How have I never met a woman who wanted to be in a threesome, but I have met two women who do bestiality? I said that to my wife, about threesomes, and she punched me. “Men are trash,” she said. She was joking but also not. I am not the guy who’s always pestering his wife about a threesome. It sounds fun, but also stressful. I have never had a threesome, but I have had nachos a bunch of times, which is close enough.
Oliver asked me one morning, “Dad, how old will you be when I’m ten?” I wanted to go back to bed. “I’ll be forty-one,” I said. “Don’t ask me that again.” I was joking but also not. My beard had gone gray and patchy because of my children. We had given up drinking because we didn’t want to die of cancer. I am almost forty, but I still feel like I’m in high school, still walk around in a hoodie, still hide underneath headphones. My wife said, “What is your thing with getting older?” “Uh, I don’t want to die.” My wife grew up Catholic, too, but somehow she’s not obsessed with death.
I was changing Francis’s diaper one morning, Francis who was close to being done with diapers and couldn’t wait to take the potty train to school, and he sang a song that’s stuck in my head right now. “I got my penis, I got my—penis!” I wanted to tell him that it’s fun to have a dick but you have to be responsible with it, but I just sang harmony instead: “Yeah yeah yeah.”
Chris was wrong. I am, perhaps because I’m the only one who admits to being a fuckup, still the biggest fuckup. Nuts, under-employed and under-educated, thinks he’s a genius, and no amount of reality could convince him that he’s invested his sense of self and well-being into a personality cult revolving around the worship of an obvious grifter. And Felicity, who turned state’s evidence on her dog-jiggering boyfriend, is writing a book, Dog Person, about her experience, and her book is set to be published by Simon & Schuster just in time for our reunion.
Alan Good is the author of two books. His writing has been published in Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Atticus Review, The East Bay Review, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and a few other places. He is on the internet at malarkeyweb.com and on Twitter at @TheAlanGood.