21-Year-Old Scotch: Chapter 3

By Cris Kane - citizencriskane@yahoo.com
published January 23, 2017
5230 words

On his way back from the gay bar, Scott takes a nostalgic trip down memory lane, and is surprised when he returns to his old apartment.

Inside the confines of the Rusty Nail, it had been easy for Scott to dismiss what was happening as a hallucination, despite how genuine it felt. After all, he was inside a club where he’d never been before, surrounded by complete strangers. He had no real memories to compare it to. Now that he was outside, he recognized everything – and it was exactly as it had been 29 years earlier.

Billboards advertising cigarettes loomed overhead, as did one of Max Headroom promoting new Coke. Boxy ’80s cars chugged past him on the roads, intermingled with the occasional station wagon, a couple original Beetles, and even some Pacers and Gremlins still limping along. One unfortunate driver of a Yugo had stalled in the middle of an intersection and beckoned to Scott, asking if he would push the car out of traffic. Scott happily obliged, loving the feel of strength coursing through his youthful muscles. He reckoned he possessed more horsepower in his body than the poor sap’s Yugoslavian-made pile of soon-to-be scrap metal.

Invigorated, Scott started to jog the route back to his apartment, delighting in the spring in his step that propelled a body eighty pounds lighter than the one in which he had begun the night. He gradually picked up the pace until he was sprinting, arms pumping furiously, legs flying so quickly that his feet made only incidental contact with the pavement. If he wasn’t on the school’s track team, he surely should be. He still had no memory of the years of training it must have taken to get into such prime shape, but the further he ran, the more natural it felt.

He zoomed past video-game arcades and working phone booths, defunct chain restaurants and record shops that had closed long ago, mom-and-pop rental stores that offered both VHS and Beta, and not a single Starbucks. Scott felt instantly at home, like he belonged here, a sensation that he rarely experienced in his modern life. His heart leapt when he spotted his favorite pizza joint looming ahead, lights blazing inside. He slowed his pace to a trot and lingered in front of the pizzeria, amazed that he barely felt winded.

Swinging open the front door, he was greeted by a blast of heat and the pungent scent of oregano that immediately took him back to…well, to NOW. “Oh my god,” Scott gasped softly to himself. “It’s all still here.” The jittery fluorescent lights. The jukebox that hadn’t added a new 45 since “Strangers In The Night”. The framed photos of celebrities the proprietor assumed were Italian, inexplicably including people like Desi Arnaz and Zero Mostel. The black and gray floor tiles which, if you spilled some 7-Up on them, were revealed to be red and white once you cut through the years of accumulated grime. The yellowing menu board over the ovens from which a third of the letters had fallen off, turning deciphering your dining options into something of a game of Hangman. Over the years, customers had grown used to discovering stray plastic letters embedded in their pizza and had kept them as cherished souvenirs. Scott still had a slightly melted Z tucked in a junk drawer somewhere at home.

He walked as if in a trance toward the “Eight Ball Deluxe” pinball machine in the far corner. He had probably fed enough quarters into this sucker to have purchased it outright, and its pictures of cowboys and cowgirls with literally painted-on jeans were more recognizable to him than most of his college classmates would be. He automatically reached for a quarter, again forgetting that his white shorts were pocketless. As he looked down, he discovered that the perspiration from his run had practically turned the fabric transparent…and made his lack of any underwear extremely apparent.

A couple of giggling teenage girls sharing a nearby table had noticed this phenomenon before Scott did and were covering their eyes with their hands, while sneaking furtive peeks in the gaps between their fingers. Scott decided to give the girls a treat, stretching his arms unnecessarily and clenching his ass cheeks tightly. Catching a glimpse of his own reflection in the front windows, Scott could feel his cock swell back to full size. He contemplated ducking into the men’s room to finally relieve the pressure that had been building all night, but he was interrupted by another sound he hadn’t heard in nearly three decades. “Hey, you! Mister No-Shirt! Get out!”

Scott turned slowly and stood mesmerized, as if he was seeing a ghost. A swarthy, stocky, bushy-mustached ghost in a sweat-drenched tank top and sauce-stained apron. “Mr. Galaga!”, Scott shouted with genuine glee. The proprietor’s actual last name was Gogola or Galatas or something similarly Greek, but he had been rechristened by his collegiate customers in honor of the Galaga arcade game which was currently bleeping and blooping and pa-kowing as always alongside Scott’s favorite pinball game. He remembered hearing that Mr. Galaga died of a massive heart attack shortly after Scott graduated, and the place had closed soon thereafter. For nostalgia’s sake, Scott had actually dropped into this same location earlier in the day and picked up a Jamba Juice, never imagining that several hours later, he’d be setting foot in his old haunt exactly as he remembered it.

“It’s so great to see you again,” Scott said, moving toward the counter with a fond croak in his voice.

“Yah, yah, yah, you read the sign? It says ‘No shirt, get de fock out!’” Mr. Galaga was beloved as much for his short temper as for his delicious pizza.

“Okay, okay, can I just get a slice of pepperoni to go? Oh, and lemme try some of the orange stuff,” Scott said excitedly, pointing to the orangeade dispenser on the counter which perpetually whooshed its contents inside a clear plastic vat. It was a constant presence, yet Scott had never known anyone, including himself, to order it. Now, he would finally get his chance.

“Okay, fine, then you scram!” Mr. Galaga slid a slice of pie into an oven to warm it up, while the weary, stoic, perpetually silent Mrs. Galaga filled a waxed-paper cup with the bright orange liquid. As Scott waited for his order, he noticed out of the corner of his eye that the young girls were again eyeing him, so he flexed the biceps of his left arm, cupped his visible erection with his right hand, and sent an air kiss in their direction. They turned away, burying their faces in their hands to muffle their squeals. Scott felt a little guilty for toying with them, but he couldn’t imagine that he’d be in possession of this body for long and was determined to enjoy it while he did. If he could attract this kind of attention, he could only imagine what it was like to walk around 24/7 looking like Art, able to turn people on instantly with your very presence. Probably no surprise that Art had turned out to be a bit of a prick.

As he was prone to do, Scott was already second-guessing his earlier actions, wondering if he’d forever regret missing his chance with Art. But as someone who’d never been into casual sex to begin with, a gay bar in the late ’80s was probably not the smartest place to start being promiscuous. Fear of disease had been as important a factor as the more general social stigma against homosexuality in pushing Scott toward marrying Amanda and staying closeted all these years.

Surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of Galaga’s pizza place, Scott had a sudden realization: he had eaten here the first time he turned 21! He and Amanda had met here for dinner, since it was his favorite spot and neither of them could afford anyplace fancy. Afterwards, they saw “Dirty Dancing”, during which Amanda fell asleep and Scott found himself lamenting that he would never look as good in a black tank top as Patrick Swayze. As it occurred to him that he probably could pull it off in this body, he wondered whether, a mile away, the “real” him was watching that movie with Amanda at this very moment. Or was the nearly-naked guy currently waiting for his slice the only version of Scott that existed now?

“Hey, Mr. G,” Scott asked, “do you remember if I was in here earlier tonight? A little skinnier? Shorter haircut? Wearing, ya know, clothes? Woulda been with a pretty brunette girl?” Scott smiled wistfully. Despite the dead end their marriage had been, Scott did always find his wife stunning. For the longest time, he’d considered it a personal failing, no matter whether deep down he was gay, bi or whatever, that he couldn’t become properly aroused by anyone so objectively attractive as her. Now he figured that it had required someone as beautiful as Amanda for him to be able to get it up for a woman at all.

Mr. Galaga was annoyed by the question, slapping Scott’s piping-hot slice onto a flimsy paper plate. “What you mean, was you here? You don’t remember? How I supposed to remember? Keeds come, go, all de time. I doan remember de fock. Here, take you slice, get out.” Scott grabbed his pizza, took the orange drink from the Mrs., slapped a ten on the counter and headed toward the door. Mr. G hollered, “Wait for you change!”

“Keep it,” Scott said. “Buy Mrs. G something nice.” He winked in Mrs. Galaga’s direction and could swear he detected the hint of a grin on her lips. Scott took a bite of pizza and was brought closer to the brink of orgasm than at any point all night. “Good as it always was,” he announced, bumping the front door open with his butt and stepping back onto the sidewalk. He washed down the pizza with a long sip of the orange drink and cringed. It tasted like diluted Tang in which someone had been soaking pennies. He flung the full cup into a bus-stop trash can. Maybe not everything was better in the past.

He could have gobbled down the rest of the slice and run the rest of the way home, but Scott decided to soak up this notalgic experience fully. Despite the chilly air, he took a leisurely stroll through the heart of the college nightlife district, his barely-clad presence attracting considerable attention from the passing students in their sweaters and windbreakers. He paused in front of a store that sold university-logo clothing and thought of popping in to buy a cheap t-shirt so he could hit one of the campus bars for a birthday drink, but he still had a considerable buzz going from the Rusty Nail and might need a clear head to deal with whatever he might encounter once he got home.

Scott wished his cell phone had made the journey to the past with him, so he could have snapped a few selfies to remember this night by. Then again, he had no idea how long this personal “Twilight Zone” episode would last or indeed if he would ever get back to the world he had left, except through the day-by-day process of living through the next 29 years. The thought of re-experiencing the anxieties and disappointments of his adult life was almost too scary to contemplate, but if he could learn from those mistakes and behave differently, maybe a do-over wouldn’t be a terrible idea. The mop-headed hunk staring back from the reflection in the store window certainly seemed to have made a head start on fixing some of what Scott had gotten wrong the first time.

Scott loped the rest of the way to his old apartment building, marveling in every detail of the lost world around him. He entered the lobby and bounded up the steps two at a time to the third floor. He took a deep breath before inserting the key, then swung open the door quietly, in hopes of sneaking in unnoticed. He sighed with relief when he discovered the place was dark, but as he carefully closed the door behind him, a light snapped on and a male voice said, flatly and unenthusiastically, “Surprise.”

Scott spun around to discover one of his college roommates, Kevin, stretched out on the living room’s second-hand sofa in gray sweats, half-empty beer bottle in one hand, a floor lamp’s light switch in the other. “Whoa! Hey, Kev! Didn’t think anyone was here.”

“Oh, we’re here all right. We’ve been here all night,” Kevin informed Scott, annoyed. He shouted, “It’s safe to come out now, guys!”

Scott noticed a store-bought “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” sign hanging limply on the wall behind Kevin, having lost one of the tacks that held it in place. At least a dozen empty beer bottles were scattered across the wobbly coffee table, its one slightly short leg shimmed up by a well-thumbed Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition with Elle Macpherson on the cover. Doors opened down the hallway, spilling light from inside the rooms of the apartment’s other two inhabitants who meandered in to offer their own half-hearted birthday greetings.

Scott hadn’t been in touch with any of them in at least twenty-five years, but the roommates were exactly as he remembered them. Criminal justice major Kevin was slovenly as ever, with greasy brown hair, a thatchy beard and the makings of a serious beer gut, none of which ever seemed to hamper his ability to lure willing if undiscerning gals into his bed. Lee, a stick-thin computer programming grad student with short black hair and rimless eyeglasses, shuffled out of his room, dressed even on a Saturday night in black slacks and a white shirt, complete with pocket protector. Straggling in behind Lee was Todd, a wholesomely handsome farm boy with pale blue eyes and dirty blond hair in the same feathered shag that must have driven the girls wild in high school. Looking half-awake or more likely two-thirds-stoned, Todd wore a faded AC/DC shirt, sagging tube socks, and the kind of snug, taint-length gym shorts that modern kids found laughably tiny when watching old NBA footage. Back in the day, Scott had harbored an unspoken crush on the quiet but slyly sarcastic sophomore, and seeing him again instantly reminded Scott why. But he had never felt that they had much in common besides both majoring in business administration – and after tonight, Scott was no longer certain they even shared that similarity.

Feeling more exposed than ever in his curve-hugging white shorts, Scott crossed one arm over his bare chest while draping his other hand downward in a vain attempt to hide his bulging cock. “Is this a surprise party for me? You shouldn’t have.”

“We didn’t,” Kevin said, punctuating his sentence with a belch. “It was Amanda’s idea.”

Lee said, “But she said you blew her off.”

“I did?”, Scott asked.

“Yeah,” Todd added, rubbing his red eyes with the heels of his palms, “you were supposed to meet her for dinner at Galaga’s but you never showed.”

Scott scratched his head. Everything was still a blank about the day prior to his crash landing at the Rusty Nail. He did still remember going to Galaga’s with Amanda on his 21st birthday, but the details now seemed to be growing fuzzy. Scott muttered, “I dunno what happened. If I was running late, she shoulda texted me.”

The roommates stared at him blankly. “She shoulda whatted you?”, Lee asked. Even a prototypical computer geek like Lee hadn’t heard of something which hadn’t been invented yet.

“I mean, she shoulda called me,” Scott hastily corrected himself.

Todd asked archly, “How could she call you? None of us knew where you were.”

“Oh, right,” Scott said with a nod, suddenly aware how much easier it was to be completely inaccessible in these pre-cell-phone days. Realizing he needed to offer some explanation, not only for his behavior but his wardrobe, Scott said, “I went for a run and I guess I must’ve lost track of time.”

“From five to eleven o’clock?”, Todd asked. “That’s a shitload of time to lose track of.”

“I can tell you where he was,” Kevin said, finally propping himself up to a seated position. “He was at a fag bar.”

“What?”, Scott exclaimed a smidgen too forcefully. “What are you talking about?” As comfortable as he had been in the Rusty Nail, he somehow knew that he had not been so open around his roommates.

Kevin fancied himself something of a modern, disheveled Sherlock Holmes, or Columbo without the trenchcoat. “Then what’s with that faggy tattoo on that hand you got hangin’ over your boner?”

Scott glanced down and noticed the blue symbol on the back of his hand, which had blurred slightly from his perspiration. “It’s not a tattoo, it’s a hand stamp.”

“Right. From that fag bar on the other side of town.” Kevin relished catching people in a lie. He couldn’t wait to become a detective. “What’s it called again? The Rusty Trombone?”

Scott almost corrected him, but realized that knowing the club’s correct name would only incriminate him further.

“You sure seem to know a lot about this place, Kev,” Todd said with an insinuating smirk. He was an equal-opportunity smartass and could never resist trying to deflate Kevin’s know-it-all pomposity, even when Kevin was right.

“If you must know,” Kevin said defensively, “I’ve seen that before. One of my criminal psych classes has this faggy T.A.”

“‘The Faggy T.A.’? Isn’t that one of those new Disney movies for grown-ups?” Todd grinned, and even Scott had to chuckle.

Kevin wasn’t shaken off the trail. “Every Friday morning, this guy shows up in class hung over with a stamp just like that on his hand. You can tell he tries to scrub it off, but there’s always a trace left.”

Lee looked particularly shocked by this allegation. “Scott, did you really go to one of…those places?”

“Of course he did,” Kevin asserted. “See how guilty he looks? Probably with some of the fags from his acting classes, am I right?”

Scott still had no memories of studying acting and he didn’t think he had been at the Rusty Nail with anyone, so he could still honestly say, “No,” but there was a quiver of equivocation in his voice.

“I saw this comin’,” Kevin said, crossing his arms behind his head with satisfaction. “The minute you switched your major to drama, I knew it was gonna turn you gay.”

Todd scoffed, “You dipshit, people don’t ‘turn gay’.”

“Oh, yeah?”, said Kevin, turning his body and his intensity in Todd’s direction. “My uncle Rob. Wife. Six kids. Fireman. Macho as fuck. Comes home one day, tells my aunt Theresa he’s a faggot.” Todd expected more to the story, but Kevin rested his case.

Eager to change the subject, Scott asked a question he desperately needed answered. “So where’s Amanda now? She in my room?”

“No, she went home,” Lee said.

“After you didn’t show at Galaga’s, she came by to see if you were here,” Kevin informed Scott. “Her idea had been that she’d make up some excuse to lure you back here, and we’d surprise you. She hung around for maybe an hour, hoping you’d show up, then she took off.”

“Apparently she grew weary of our sophisticated banter,” Todd said with mock bewilderment. “Or maybe she was just driven away by Kevin’s incessant farting.”

“Shit, I better call her,” Scott said. It was unlike him to be so rude, so thoughtless. Then again, he’d done a lot of things unlike himself tonight. Who knew what other uncharacteristic behavior might have preceded his arrival at the Rusty Nail?

“I think this requires a little more than a phone call, buddy,” Todd advised.

“Yah, Scott, she was really P-ed off,” Lee said, still maintaining his charmingly nerdy resistance to swearing.

“You’re right,” Scott said, “I gotta go talk to her.” He turned toward the door.

“Hey, Rock Hudson,” Kevin said, “if you’re gonna go tell your girlfriend you’re not a fruit, you might wanna put on some men’s clothes.”

Scott turned back in Kevin’s direction, prepared to lay into him for his homophobic attitude and non-stop stream of offensive language, but that would have to wait. First, he needed to change into something that didn’t scream so loudly, “Amanda, guess who ditched you and went to a gay bar tonight?” He crossed the living room toward the hallway, noting in passing that Lee had, perhaps without realizing it or even meaning to, pressed himself against the wall to avoid making physical contact with Scott. At least Todd seemed chill about the whole situation, although Scott could easily attribute that to the perpetual sweet-smelling cloud which lingered in Todd’s room.

Scott entered his own room, shutting the door so he could gather his thoughts. Like the rest of the apartment, everything here was largely as it existed in his memory, although the subtle differences were telling. Where he would have expected to see a pile of Business Week magazines beside his bed were now copies of Runner’s World, and in place of the business textbooks which were always lined up next to the IBM clone on his desk were unfamiliar volumes with titles like “An Actor Prepares” and “The Actor’s Book of Movie Monologues”. Tacked to a corkboard alongside his class schedule was a Xeroxed flyer promoting a production of “Equus”. His poster for “Top Gun” was still there, but it had now been moved from the back of his closet door to the ceiling directly over his bed. His laundry basket reeked, its contents primarily running clothes and jockstraps, even though Scott couldn’t recall wearing a jock since high-school phys-ed.

But the biggest changes were inside his closet. Scott had never been a particularly adventurous dresser, sticking to earth-toned or plaid-flannel shirts, and blue jeans or corduroys. Those options were still present, but tucked further back he could see a number of more fashionable and revealing outfits, any one of which would have instantly confirmed Kevin’s suspicions. It was hard to imagine the old Scott going into a store and buying any of them, and impossible to envision him wearing them, but this Scott found himself incredibly curious to see how his slim, toned body would look in, say, a midriff-baring bright-orange muscle shirt with black cut-offs, although he found it easier to pass on slipping into the parachute pants in the pastel shades of rainbow sherbet. However, none of those more exotic get-ups were appropriate for the immediate mission ahead of him. Right now, he needed to look like the boring, risk-averse Scott who Amanda would presumably recognize.

Scott grabbed the two hangers nearest to him, coming out with a red-and-white-checked button-down and off-white painter’s pants, neither of which he remembered from his college wardrobe. He kicked off his sneakers and sweat socks and wriggled out of his damp shorts, flinging them in with the rest of his dirty laundry. His rigid cock flopped before him, coming to rest paralleling the floor. Scott paused a moment to appreciate his naked self in the mirror, never having possessed a body in such prime condition. He made a silent vow to start working out his older flabby body, assuming he ever returned to it from the bizarro universe he was currently inhabiting. He pursed his lips, placed his hands on his hips, and thrust his crotch forward coquettishly. “God, you are so gay,” he thought to himself, slipping his right hand around his cock and gently stroking it, marveling in its sensitivity and responsiveness. Maybe he had time for a quick jerk-off before heading out to see Amanda.

“Yo, Scott, I was thinkin’…,” Todd said, swinging open the door. Scott frantically turned away, mooning Todd as he slapped his hands over his erection. More amused than embarrassed, Todd spun back toward the hall, shielding his eyes as he closed the door. “Sorry, dude!”

Scott was mortified. “Jeez, Todd, you ever heard of knocking?”

“I said ‘sorry,’ man. I swear, I didn’t see anything you were doing,” which likely meant he saw exactly what Scott was doing.

“What’d you want anyway?”, Scott asked, hurriedly sliding his legs into the painter’s pants, not bothering with underwear.

“Uhhhh,” Todd responded, struggling to reboard his train of thought. “Oh. Yeah. I was gonna say if you need me to, I could go with you to Amanda’s. Tell her I’d been out lookin’ for you and, when I found you, you had been searching desperately for her and shit. I figured having someone back up your story might help smooth things over.”

“Thanks, man,” Scott said through the door, touched by Todd’s concern, “but I think I gotta face this firing squad alone.”

“Okay, sure, makes sense,” said Todd, nodding in the hallway. “Just lettin’ you know I’m always here for ya if you need anything. You know where I live!”

Scott smiled. “Sure thing, Todd.” Scott had forgotten the midwestern small-town politeness that was sometimes obscured behind Todd’s marijuana haze. He wondered whatever happened to Todd and made a mental note to check whether Todd was on Facebook in the future. Maybe they could reconnect.

Scott pulled on the checked shirt which was tighter than he expected, its lines accentuating the undulations of his torso. He rolled up the cuffs of the short sleeves to better display his biceps and debated how many buttons to leave undone. He settled on the top two, deciding that only one was too dorky and three verged on sluttiness. He slipped his bare feet into a pair of navy-blue Topsiders, with the dim realization that he’d never owned any such things when he’d first turned twenty-one. Taking in the whole package from head to toe, Scott was amazed. He looked like a total preppie…and totally fuckable. If he did end up stuck here, maybe he could get work as a model for Abercrombie and Fitch, although he was pretty sure that career option didn’t even exist yet.

He scanned the room for his real wallet and found it on the bedside table where he routinely placed it. He riffled through its contents, finding thirteen dollars and two condom packets which were only slightly dog-eared. This clashed with his memory of the single condom which had remained in his wallet unused throughout his entire collegiate career. Although he and Amanda had dated through most of college, she didn’t believe in premarital sex. By the time he had finally tossed out the crushed and creased condom packet on graduation day, he assumed the contents had been reduced to a rubbery powder. He transferred his driver’s license and student I.D. into the proper wallet, tucked it in the pocket of his slacks and stepped into the hall.

On the way toward the front door, Scott heard a god-awful wailing. Pausing at Todd’s doorway, he saw his apartment-mate lying prone on his bed, wearing bulky headphones and singing along, softly and screechily, to something by Cinderella or Poison or one of those interchangeable hair bands that Scott could never stand. Scott allowed himself a second to eye Todd’s now shirtless back and his perky little ass which was stretching his green shorts to their limit. Scott’s erection instantly sprung back to its full extension, squirming its way down his left pant leg. He wondered how his 21-year-old self had the discipline or attention span to do anything BESIDES masturbate.

Scott tapped lightly on Todd’s door, but couldn’t be heard over the music pumping into Todd’s ears. He knocked harder and said Todd’s name, but still got no response. Finally, he crossed over to the bed and lifted the headphones away from one ear. “Hey, Todd.”

Now it was Todd’s turn to be startled by Scott. He flipped over and slid the phones down around his neck, their tinny blast nearly drowning out his voice. “Whattaya need?”, he asked blearily, propping himself up on his elbows.

Scott locked eyes with Todd, fighting the urge to gawk at his roomie’s body but seeing enough with his peripheral vision to fuel a future wank session. “Just wondered, do you know if Amanda still lives at that sorority house?”

Todd found the question surprising. He replied slowly, as if talking to a child. “You mean the place where we went on that double date last Saturday? Yeah, pretty sure she’s still there.”

“We went on a double date?” Scott couldn’t recall doing much of anything socially with Todd. In the past that he remembered, Scott’s off hours were mostly spent either doing something with Amanda or studying alone in his room, while Todd typically got stoned all day and went out to undisclosed locations all night. It had always pissed off Scott that party-hearty Todd somehow always maintained a 4.0 GPA, while dull and dutiful Scott struggled to squeak past 3.0.

“Yeah, Amanda set me up with that sorority sister of hers. What was her name? Betty? Polly?”

He could only recall the name one of Amanda’s friends from the sorority, one whom she had stayed in touch with since college. “Patty?”

Todd smacked his forehead and grinned. “Patty! Right! Like the lesbian from ‘Peanuts’.”

It had never occurred to Scott, but Amanda’s friend was a lot like Peppermint Patty. Freckled. Tomboyish. Always seemed to wear bib overalls. Not that he really knew Todd’s type, but Patty didn’t seem to be it. “How did it go?”

Todd was puzzled that Scott had to ask. As the resident pothead, Todd was used to being the one with the shaky memory. “She said I smelled like a Grateful Dead concert and left the restaurant before they even brought the appetizers, remember?”

Scott said, “Oh, right.” Even though he had no memory of it, it sounded exactly like what Patty would have said and done.

“She wasn’t really my type,” Todd said, confirming what Scott had thought. “You headin’ over there now?”

“Yeah. Wish me luck.” Scott crossed fingers on both hands.

“Luck!”, Todd responded, adjusting his headphones back over his ears. As Scott left the room, Todd raised his voice, shouting over the music only he could hear, “You’re gonna need it!”

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