The Edumacation of Jay Baker

Jay Clark

Square Fish

The Edumacation of Jay Baker
DISC ONE
BUSTED RHYMES (FEATURING GAY BAKER)
TRACK 1
DON'T YOU REMEMBER YOU TOLD ME YOU'D FEED ME PIZZA?
 
 
Mom and Dad were in their room with the door shut. Again. Cautiously, I pressed my ear against the wooden frame. Hakuna Matata, no Discovery Channel-like sounds could be heard. Only two mammals speaking so quickly and intensely that their voices were nearly inaudible.
Mom: "You're never home enough to know how ... ta garba gunkin gooble gariation."
Dad: "Where were you when ... aveno espresso somato Arantxa Sánchez Vicario?"
Huh? Just when it seemed I'd get the gist of the conversation, they'd start mumbling in a language known only to the Sims.
An odd noise rang out, causing me to jump back from the door.
Turned out to be my stomach growling for the pizza Mom and Dad had promised earlier. I was hesitant to interrupt them for funding, though, and my recent birthday present tomyself--a MacBook Pro, fifteen years in the making--had left me cash poor. One last payment option: my body. I doubted Amore's Pizzeria would barter a slice of this for one of theirs.
I walked back downstairs, grabbed my cell from my room, and called my best friend, the satirically named Cameo Appearance Parnell (thanks to her cuckoo mother).
"Cameo Appearance Parnell speaking." She answered professionally, knowing it was me from the caller ID on her cell.
"Yes, is Cameo Parnell there, please?" I asked, equally professional.
"Yes, she's speaking and stuff."
"But is she there, ma'am?"
"Depends. Who's calling?"
"Me. What are you doing, fool?"
"I kissed a girl ... and ... I ... liiiiked iiiit," she sang slowly, painfully, like the Katy Perry Auto-Tune was a ballad. "Something something, can't remember the wooords, cheeerry ChapStick."
There was only one question to ask.
"Why?"
"Just testing out an emotional reinterpretation for my American Idol audition," she explained. "I'm making it my own."
"It sounds like you're making out with it."
"Even better."
Cameo was actually a great singer, and her ultimate goal was to execute a Kelly Clarkson breakaway from our hometown of Indian Lake, Ohio. Home of ... the great man-madeIndian Lake, three "dollar stores" (one Family Dollar, two Dollar Generals), McDonald's, and Low Bob's Tobacco, a drive-thru tobacco outlet located in an abandoned Kentucky Fried Chicken building. My parents, cigarette enthusiasts till their last drag of breath, were loyal customers.
"Hate to break it to you gently again, Cam, but you're fifteen and ineligible to try out until next year."
"All the more reason to get a jump-start on the compe-tish. Speaking of which, have you started practicing for next Monday's big debate yet?"
"I don't wanna talk about it."
Let the record show that I'd signed up to run for class president without knowing about the First Anal Freshman Class Presidential Debate--a last-minute addition by our overenthusiastic government teacher, Ms. Lambert.
"I can't believe you're running," Cameo said.
"Me either."
"Remind me of the reason again?"
Yep, Cameo was the (wrong) reason. A snizzly little cheerleading dynamo with long blond hair and a Kate-Hudson-cum-jailbait face--I'd loved her now for many moons. But she gravitated toward jocks like her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Wade Pierson, not nerds with straight-A report cards. I caught Luigi on my Mario Kart, not balls. But if I grew a pair and became class president, well, maybe I'd morph into a candidate worthy of Cam. The plan was total shit.
"Next topic."
"I broke up with Wade," she said.
Off-again.
"Nice," I said. "When did you realize he was a tool of Seacrestian proportions?"
"When his hands tried to measure my proportions."
"Unfortunate."
"Yeah, I thought he was the one," she said sarcastically.
"At least you maintained custody of your dignity," I said.
"Exactly. Now, where was I?"
She resumed singing "I Kissed a Girl" before I could protest.
 
After Cameo and I hung up, I plopped down at my desk, opened my MacBook, and began typing notes on our latest conversation into my journal. I'd named my sleek new toy Alba, in honor of renowned thespian Jessica, and she really understood where I was coming from on a variety of sexually frustrated levels.
Twenty minutes passed until my stomach growled again. Over it, I trotted back up the stairs and rapped on my parents' door, calling out, "Mom? Dad?"
"Come in, Buckwheat," Dad said.
I entered.
They were seated on the bed, Mom on her side and Dad on his, a whole lotta Weird Al in between them.
"Hey, Buckwheat," Mom said, choking on the words.
Buckwheat was their nickname nod to my uncontrollably messy hair (minus the politically incorrect undertones). For the longest time I'd thought Mom and Dad were saying "Buttwheat," which had baffled me. Wheat comes from the butt? Google.com.
"Can I order the pizza from Amore's yet?" I asked.
My parents' room was huge and dimly lit--"mood lighting" as Mom had put it one time after one too many brewskies--so at first I couldn't see their faces. However, as I stepped closer to their gargantuan four-poster bed, I realized that Mom's cheeks were flushed and splotchy from crying.
My eyes searched hers for an explanation, but the look she gave me in response said she wasn't ready to provide one.
I turned to Dad. He appeared to be shaken, too, but was covering better. Quickly, he unfurled some bills from his money clip and told me to get pepperoni on half for my seventeen-year-old sister, Abby, who was holed up in her room as usual, in between friends' houses and/or trips to her boyfriend Eric's nether regions.
"We have to make sure she eats so she can keep up her texting strength," he said in a halfhearted attempt at humor.
"Don't forget updating her Facebook page," I added. "Eight thirty-five p.m. Abby Baker ... is analyzing the sociocultural ramifications of the Jessica Simpson Mom Jeans Scandal. Maybe I should ghostwrite that one for her, Mom?"
A merchant at The Limited HQ in Columbus before schlepping to suburbia to raise a family, Mom was as close to a fashionista as one could come by in Ohio.
"Sure," Mom said. "That leopard-print belt ..." But she trailed off, unable to complete her critique.
"Okay," I said, stepping backward. "I'll get right on that."
What was going on up in here was definitely not amore.
Copyright © 2011 by Jay Clark