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How to Get to the Future



Copyright

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, locations, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2017 Bethany Ebert

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author.

As this book is a fictional story set in contemporary times, the names of some musicians, celebrities, automobile companies, and other pop culture entities have been included. Use of these names does not imply any endorsement of the novel or viewpoints expressed therein.

The cover was assembled using images off Pexels.com. They are in the public domain and are listed as free for commercial use. These images were edited by the author using photo editing software. Use of these images does not imply the photographers’ endorsement of any viewpoints contained in this novel.

ISBN 978-1-370-64318-9

First edition



Chapter One

As soon as the sun hit his eyes, Keahi knew the previous night was a mistake. Beside him, his roommate Dave slept, curled-up and innocent like a fat blonde puppy.

His roommate.

God, what were they thinking?

He blinked in the sunlight, trying to remember. Some argument with Tommie. She dumped him, or he dumped her, one of the two. So Keahi dug out his fake ID, bought a beer can, walked home smashed, and happened upon Dave. And then.

And then.

The whole night was a tangled blur of limbs and mouths. He’d probably never piece together exactly what happened. Beer had that disadvantage. But the details weren’t the problem. It was more the potential consequences.

Well, there were worse decisions. Right? It didn’t have to be the end of the world.

Dave was a reasonable guy. They weren’t exactly best friends, but Keahi felt they had established a good roommate relationship. With good communication, they'd work out a plan. Only separate beds from now on. Or, if he had to, Keahi could switch with Andrew, move Andrew into the big room with Dave. Something.

Just not this.

The sun glinted off Dave's hair. He snored, only a little, a quiet buzz-saw noise.

Keahi wondered how a person could sleep. He was stressed out. College wasn’t working out at all. He wanted a good GPA. He wanted to do good on his internship. Everything felt so daunting, like he was at the bottom of a giant mountain looking up.

Not to mention he needed to find a job. Something real, though. None of that food service crap.

Kicking in his sleep, Dave burrowed into the blankets, snaked a pasty hand up Keahi's leg to grope his thigh. Keahi grimaced, feeling himself grow hard.

It was an automatic reaction, a reflex. He wasn’t gay. Dicks responded to physical stimulation. On summer days, the slightest breeze could force a boner. All his friends and family were understanding of gay people. If he was gay, they’d accept him. It was just… he wasn’t.

Dave definitely was a cuddler. This was going to be weird.

Keahi opened his mouth, about to say something, but thought better of it.

It was Saturday, after all.

Better let the guy sleep.



Chapter Two

Sleeping on the couch proved difficult. Wanting discretion, Keahi got into the habit of relocating his pillow and blanket to the living room once all the other roommates crawled off to bed. His 5:00 A.M. alarm woke him in time to drag himself to the shower, slog his way through classes, sometimes take a nap in the student lounge before his internship started at 4:30 P.M.

Back in Waina Nui, his old friend Chris suffered through a divorce. His wife screwed him out of the house. He had to sleep on a couch just like this. Chris used that night-time divorce depression to pen some rhymes. Now he was one of Hawaii's up-and-coming guitar players in a famous melodic hardcore band.

It was this thought that consoled Keahi as he lay on the couch at night. He plotted out his successful future. Some nights he was a marine biologist, others a disaster relief guy for the Peace Corps. But always in his beautiful homeland, surrounded by hibiscus flowers and not snow.

The lights flicked on in the living room. Keahi winced, bringing up a hand to shield his eyes from the brightness.

Clad in pajama pants and a Bemidji State hoodie, his roommate Nelson made his way from the living room to the kitchen.

Keahi heard the clattering of dishes, then the beep of the microwave. He sat up in bed (bed-couch), covering his legs with the blanket. He wasn't entirely sure Nelson even saw him. Usually Nelson didn't fully wake up for a while, even when he looked awake. He took morning classes, a wandering body without a brain. Truth told, Keahi didn't know how Nelson managed his good grades. He was a consistent name on B honor roll.

Nelson yawned, then sat down on the opposite side of the couch. Paper plate in lap, he stabbed at his over-done reheated garlic steak. The steak was too done for the plastic fork. Nelson sighed, then gnawed at it with his teeth.

"'Morning," Keahi said.

Nelson nodded, absorbed in his food. He chewed, swallowed. "Been out here long?"

Keahi shrugged, not wanting to talk about it. "I guess."

"What happened with Dave?"

Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. Keahi felt his heart flutter. Did he know? He couldn't know. There was no way.

Nelson took another bite of his food. "You guys fight or something?"

"Oh, uh, no. I mean. Yeah." God, there was no lie that even made sense.

"Well, you should go make up with him," Nelson said. "Sasha's been whining about Supernatural. She has to watch it at home now. That was like, her and Cameron's thing."

Keahi sighed.

"Yeah, I know. It's lame." Nelson crumpled up his paper plate, stood, threw it in the trash. He pointed at Keahi with his fork to emphasize his next sentence. "But you guys used to be friends. Think about it." He walked back to his room.

Turning off the light again, Keahi pondered this. Having his bed back would be nice. But after he rejected Dave, Dave made it clear they would no longer speak. To put the icing on top of the big crap-cake, Dave threw all his laundry on Keahi's bed, isolating him from the bedroom entirely.

Standing, Keahi walked to the bedroom, unsure of what he was about to say. Apologize? But there was nothing to apologize for. It was totally normal not to want a relationship with someone you fucked. If anything, Dave should apologize for acting all crazy.

It was dark in the bedroom. He felt like a criminal, leaning into the doorway, lingering.

Dave was on his laptop, clicking away, bright lights on his face, headphones blocking all sound from the outside world.

Heart in throat, Keahi flicked the lights on.

Dave glared at him for a moment before returning his gaze to the computer. He had heavy purple bags under his eyes. The room smelled funny, sour.

Wait a minute.

On a hunch, Keahi walked over to his bed, lifted the comforter, held it to his nose.

"You pissed on my bed," he said, quietly, more out of shock than anything.

Dave ignored him.

Keahi kicked at his chair.

Dave snapped off his headphones, still glaring.

"You pissed on my bed," Keahi repeated.

Giving a low laugh, more like a cackle really, Dave refused to answer.

"Are you unhinged? What the fuck is wrong with you? My bed? Seriously? You pissed on my bed?" His mother talked like this too when she was mad, long tirades. God, he was becoming a woman, wasn't he. He kicked Dave's chair again. "The toilet is right across the hall. What the fuck?"

Grinning, Dave cupped his head in his hands. "See, see what happens when you fuck with me."

A hot rage boiled up inside him. Keahi grabbed a handful of Dave's hair, smacked his head into the desk. "Fuck you. You demented fuck."

Dave tried to swat him away, but Keahi gripped his hand.

"I oughta kill you."

"Let me go, you bastard," Dave said, scrambling up off his chair, wrangling out of his grasp, trying to land a kick. Keahi blocked Dave's foot with his own. Dave fell to the floor. Keahi crawled on top of him, and they scrambled around the carpet, fighting.

Dave opened his mouth, about to yell.

Keahi covered his mouth, leaning into his face. "You seriously think—" he began, but Dave bit his hand before he could finish.

A pounding from the other side of the door. "Hey, open up." The door opened, and Nelson barged in, a panicked look on his face. "Hey. Hey-hey-hey." He grabbed Keahi, pulling him off Dave.

Dave rushed towards them, eyes glinting with anger, or maybe tears, it was hard to say.

"Calm the fuck down!" Nelson yelled, throwing himself between the two. "Jesus!"

Andrew came into the room then. "What the hell is going on?" He eyed the scene before him, then ran to Dave, held him back with his strong arms.

"We need to talk," Nelson said. "Where's Cameron?"

"At Sasha's," Andrew said. "Couch?"

"Couch."

All four of them walked into the living room. There wasn't enough room on the couch for all four of them. Nelson led Keahi over to one of the armchairs, then stood next to him, watching, Keahi assumed, to make sure he wouldn't fight Dave again.

Keahi folded his arms, waiting.

On the couch, Andrew sat with Dave, wedging himself between Dave and the armchair. Dave held his hand in his hands. He looked genuinely hurt. Keahi was pleased with this. Hopefully he'd get a big lump on his head later. Maybe a concussion. Served him right, fucking piss-dog.

"What happened?" Andrew said.

"He hit me," Dave began.

"He pissed on my bed," Keahi interrupted.

"One at a time," Nelson said. He ran a hand through his hair, stressed. "Dave?"

Dave widened his eyes, raised his eyebrows, put his hands up to show his palms. "I was just in my room when Keahi started beating me up."

"You fucking liar." Keahi glared at him. "Snitch."

"Dude, seriously," Andrew said, scrunching his hair up with his hands. "That's not cool. We can't have you beating people up, man."

"I'm not—"

"I don't think this arrangement is working out," Dave said, shaking his head.

Wow. That was rich. Keahi couldn't help laughing. He crossed his arms behind his head. It was hard to give a fuck at this point. "Yeah, you think?"

"Maybe we could move someone else into Dave's room," Nelson suggested.

"No," Dave said, quiet. "No." He ducked his head. "I don't want him here at all."

"What?" Keahi said.

Dave fixed his eyes on Keahi. "You could have killed me. What was it you said, when you hit my head? 'I oughta kill you', wasn't it?"

Keahi looked down. He could deny it. He didn't.

"He's still on the lease," Nelson said, tapping his index finger to his chin.

"We'll fix it," Andrew said, always helpful.

And just like that, his tenancy in the little vinyl-siding house came to an end. No fanfare, no goodbye party. Andrew stood in the bedroom, arms crossed, watching Keahi pack his clothes and textbooks up. Duffel bag, garbage bag, and backpack.

He left the altar behind – he had to – but he packed up his religious texts out of necessity. It turned his stomach, imagining Dave getting his hands on all his Buddhist stuff, but there was no room for it. The rocks and statues were too heavy.

He left his bedding behind too. Obviously.

"I'll drive," Nelson said, leading him out the door.

Outside, it was quiet. The cold November air sucked the wind from his lungs. They pushed the luggage into the back of Nelson's behemoth of a truck, then climbed inside. Nelson turned the key in the engine, and they stood there waiting, breathing cold air.

"You okay?" Nelson said.

Keahi nodded. No point in discussing it. It wasn't Nelson's fault. He stayed quiet, looking out the window at the house. He wondered if he'd ever see the house again.

"Um." Nelson cleared his throat. "I was gonna drive you to the shelter, unless you have someplace to go. Is that cool?"

"Yeah," Keahi said. He had a strange feeling that his world was melting away. All these normal things he'd come to take for granted were vanishing, right before his eyes. Over what? A few blowjobs with some dumb blonde goof. He'd take the whole thing back if he could.

Nelson's eyes looked concerned, and Keahi forced a smile. "Let's go," he said.

Gradually, the truck warmed up, and they drove.

The shelter wasn't too far, just a small brick building in the heart of downtown. Nelson pulled the Mazda off to the side of the road. "Wait here," he said, then climbed out.

Keahi wondered if it was too late to steal the keys and just drive. The snow on the ground pissed him off. Maybe he could drive to the West Coast, where the weather was good, where the sun existed, where people swam and tanned and were happy.

Nelson returned before he got the chance. "Hey, they've got a free bed. Your lucky day."

Oh, funny. Ha-ha. Remembering his manners, Keahi didn't punch him. Instead, he carried his backpack and duffel bag into the building. Inside the building, the walls were painted white and decorated with a small assortment of posters. There were rows of tables for people to sit. Nelson trailed behind him with the garbage bag, which he deposited into the arms of a brown-haired woman with tired eyes.

"Hey, good to see you, ningozis," the brown-haired woman said to Nelson, hugging him. "How you been?"

"Oh, not bad, you know," Nelson said, shrugging, modest. He jerked a thumb towards Keahi. "My friend here, can he take his stuff upstairs tonight?"

She squinted at Keahi, as if trying to judge his character. Keahi held his tongue, waiting, watching her gaze flick from his messed-up hair to the purple bruise blooming on his cheek to the bite-mark on his hand. "Sure, but we'll have to take down his name first." She stepped towards Keahi, addressing him for the first time. "You don't mind filling out some forms, do you?"

"That's fine," Keahi said.

Nelson stood around, hands in his jacket pockets. "Well, I'll see you guys later," he said.

"You be good, now," the woman told him, and he left. She smiled at Keahi. "That's my son, you know."

"Yea-a-ah?" Unsure of what to say, Keahi stretched the word out. "We were roommates."

"Didn't work out? That's too bad. Oh, but they had so many boys living there. We'll help you find a nice place, somewhere you can be alone. Our staff can help you." She nodded to herself. "Well, let's fill out these forms. I'm sure you're tired. My name's Paula. Griffith will be here in the morning. Wake-up call is at 8:00 A.M."

It wasn't home, but it was better than nothing.



Chapter Three

It was movie day in Principles of Botany. The monotone British accent lulled Keahi into a careful slumber. He drifted in and out, watching the screen once in a while, nodding back into sleep, dreaming of British plants, tall, green.

He didn't snore, he was better than this, he didn't sleep in class, he didn't sleep. His eyes flicked open, the lights were dim, the screen was on, he nodded again after a few minutes and then he was out.

A loud metallic rapping, knuckles, and he snapped to. Lights were on. Professor Schubert stood in front of him, maroon blouse, tied-back hair, not that ugly but her face showed clear irritation. "Keahi," she said, the only professor who got his name right the first time she said it. "See me after class." She stepped back to the aisle, directed her gaze towards the entire class. "Everyone else, I'll have your scores by Monday. Thank you."

A cacophony of zipping and shuffling, backpacks closing, chairs being pushed into desks, and everyone exited, the end of class, leaving only Keahi, blinking. Scores?

"Walk with me," said Professor Schubert. Her tone was neutral, clipped, same as ever. They may have been discussing the weather. Keahi stood, trying to shake the sleepiness from his skin. They walked out the class door to her adjacent office in the Earth Science hallway.

Professor Schubert sat in her big puffy chair behind her desk. She folded her hands on the desk in front of her. "Sit, please."

He sat.

"Now. Have you been well at home?"

"What?"

"Your grades have dropped. You knew there was a pop quiz today. It was in the syllabus." She had every student sign every section of their individual syllabus at the beginning of the semester, and then she checked it, to make sure they understood the curriculum. "Do you find Botany boring? I was under the impression you were an Environmental Science major."

Keahi tore at his hair, frustrated. God, he was a wreck. "No, no. I love Botany." Please don't fail me, he thought, please. "I've just had some trouble."

"Do you need any sort of accommodation?"

"Ah, can you let me re-do the pop quiz from today?"

She pursed her lips. "I'm afraid I can't. Those are in-class only." She rifled through a stack of papers on her desk. "You've gotten D's on three pop quizzes, an F on another, and your last essay was only half-finished," she said. "I really hope you do well on your final. It's almost December."

Too late to drop, Keahi finished her thought for her.

Maybe even too late to pass.



Chapter Four

"You flunked?" On the phone, his mother's voice rose, a higher octave than normal. "You've never flunked anything. What happened?" A voice in the background. "Joe, hush." Mumble mumble. "Your father wants to talk to you."

"Son." Low gravel, cigarette voice.

His own voice was ready to give out. "Dad, hey. Kupuna, my favorite dad. Howzit?"

"I'm not your kupuna," his dad said. "Don't kiss my ass. How did you flunk an entire semester? You flunk every class or just the ones you didn't like?"

"It's not like that," Keahi said.

"Then what?"

Mumble, mumble, and his mother grabbed the phone. "He doesn't mean it like that," she said. "He just means – you know, you're smart. You can do better. Can you finish up your work on Christmas break or something?"

"All grades final," Keahi said. "They're strict up here."

"Yeah, you know, all the snow wen got to their head." His mother laughed, and Keahi laughed with her. "What, you think this is funny? This is your future! Quit fucking around!" She hung up the phone.

Keahi stared at his mobile. Call back? Don't call back? Wait for Mom to call back?

Next to him, Fred grunted. He shoveled a mouthful of soup kitchen salad into his mouth. "Hey, fuckin' don't talk to your phone all day. I'm trying to eat here."

"Psh, with this mess? Good luck." Keahi moved his limp macaroni noodles and beef bits around on his tray. He sighed, holding his head in his hands. "Like anything else could go wrong today."

"You shouldn't be in college when you're homeless anyway," Fred said. He took a swig of milk. "Good way to fuck things up. I mean, education is great, but you need an apartment."

"I can't just quit," Keahi said.

"Whatever, man, it's up to you." Fred bit into his biscuit. He watched Keahi with his beady blue eyes. "You gonna eat that or just play with it?"

"Nah, I'm done." He passed his tray over to Fred, who grabbed his leftovers. Walking out of the soup kitchen into the outside world, a cold blast of wind shocked his face. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath before walking the two blocks back to the shelter. Again he would wait on call-backs from prospective landlords.

Nothing was working out.



Chapter Five

In the days before Christmas, donations piled up. Propelled by television advertisements and the shame induced by Christian lectures on poverty, people threw everything they had at the shelter. Scarves, mittens, hats, coats, boots.

Jackie said that donations increased 200% during Christmastime. The rest of the year, they hardly got anything.

Christmas Day at the homeless shelter was cold and depressing. Keahi woke up long before wake-up call. The room was still dark, shadows bouncing off the dark walls. Through the curtains, he could see a heavy layer of snow. He dug his cell phone out of his jeans pocket, staring at the blank screen.

No calls from Mom.

It wasn't like her to hold a grudge for this long. Damn, but he'd fucked up. He wondered if he could go back next semester. His GPA was so low he didn't qualify for financial aid anymore. How much was it per semester? He didn't even know. When he accepted his loans back in September, it was like auto-pilot, blank clicking, no thought. Every loan, he took out the full amount. The dollar signs flashed in front of his eyes and filled up his bank account. He never had to worry about it.

Life changed so fast.

He vaguely remembered a speech from Uncle Frankie at his grad party. Mom and Dad bought a bunch of meat that day, and everyone showed up for a celebration barbeque. The weather was balmy, all the flowers in bloom. "The decisions you make in your twenties will follow you for a long time," Frankie said, poking the hot dogs with a metal stick. "So don't fuck it up!"

Keahi pulled the covers over his head.

Maybe if he pawned off his electronics, he could afford a gun.

He closed his eyes. Wake-up call was in a half-hour. Maybe he could get some sleep for a while. Jackie and Fred were going to church later, but he didn't feel like church. It took too much effort. Felt too much like kissing ass. He was never going to be a Christian. There was a lot of God talk at the soup kitchens, but he remained unaffected. If Jesus Christ ever showed up and bought Keahi a water and turned it into wine, then he'd convert, but only then.

Give me strength, he mumbled, to whoever might be listening.

The sun bled out past the curtains, filling the room with a melancholy glow. And then it was up and out, into the sunlight, kicking at celebration like a fat sad snowball, gradually rolling towards another day.


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