Freezing, it’s fucking freezing,
We need to leave here, to find a new home--
There’s gonna be a better way to get out of here
Hank pulled Manny back and let go. Manny’s arms crashed through the logs, cutting them into pieces.
It was done. Their lean-to, the neighbors, the patio, all destroyed. Despite how awful it made both of them feel, Hank persisted in dismantling their home in the woods. He needed to leave as little evidence as possible that anything had been here other than garbage.
“Thanks, Manny.” Hank kissed him on the top of the head, then carefully dragged him to a large pile of water bottles that had once been their neighbors and a dog. “Okay, start pulling them apart, okay?”
Manny looked despondently at the water bottles. “Can’t we keep Fofo? He’s been a good dog.”
“Sorry, no. He can’t go with us.” Hank grunted as he picked up a log. “Yeah, it’s too bad, the Plunketts were good neighbors.”
“They were fun at our sing-alongs. I’m not gonna miss the Waltons, though.”
“Me neither. Assholes.”
Hank turned to the task of dragging the logs to a large pile. He would leave some scattered around, but these needed to be piled up and covered with branches. Nothing to see here, officer. The cold breeze wove through the trees, making him shiver. The pine trees were green, but the other leaves were turning. In a month it would start snowing.
Hank swore as a piece of wood cut his calf. He was dressed in layers of clothing, three pairs of socks, and the exertion helped him keep warm. Manny was wearing three sweatshirts over his suit jacket, and a cap Hank had made out of jockstraps.
The trashcans had gotten emptier as the summer people moved away. Hank had to search farther afield, unnervingly close to the actual town where the year-rounders lived. So he was bringing back less food. Manny ate little, but still, he had to eat something. Otherwise his farts weren’t good for much except noise.
Fortunately there were still rabbits and raccoons. They’d tried eating banana slugs, but the huge yellow things were simply too disgusting. Even after boiling them to get rid of the slime.
Finally, Hank was reduced to scavenging the dumpsters behind the small restaurants that were still open after the summer people left. There was a fair amount of food, but the worry he’d get caught made him often wonder if it was worth it. He couldn’t risk Manny and the camp being discovered.
“Where are we going now, Hank?”
“You tell me.” Hank grinned. He pushed a log next to another one and walked to where Manny sat. “Why don’t we ask your special compass?” he whispered into Manny’s ear.
“Okay.” Manny closed his eyes. Soon a truly impressive erection showed itself. It pointed at Hank. Hank moved three feet to the side. The compass followed him. He moved three feet to the other side. The compass swung around.
“Dammit, Manny, stop that!”
Manny’s eyes opened. He stared down at his erection, pointing at Hank. “I’m sorry, Hank, I can’t help it.”
“Okay, let’s try this.” Hank walked around behind Manny. The erection moved back and forth, looking for him, Hank guessed. But then it moved and pointed. Hank followed its direction, and made a calculation.
“I knew it!" he whooped. "Your penis is guiding us home!” He crouched in front of Manny, trying to ignore the special compass pointing at him again. It was arousing but they didn’t have time for that. “That’s where the beach houses are. They’ll be empty until spring. I picked one out for us.”
Manny’s blue eyes lit up. “That’s great, Hank! They’ll have food, and blankets, and maybe an entertainment system!”
Hank laughed. “Yeah, buddy. I can show you things you’ve never seen, like real chairs.”
“I’m gonna see chairs! Parlors! Curtains, like the ones Scarlett made her dress out of! Rugs! Chandeliers!”
“No, not chandeliers, Manny, but yeah, chairs. It’s a great house. It’s walled off from the road.” Hank crouched next to Manny, putting his hands on his friend’s shoulders. “It’s got fireplaces, windows that look out over the sea, books everywhere, and a special surprise.”
“Shit.” Hank lightly punched his own arm. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“Let’s make a deal, buddy. You don’t ask until we get there, okay? We can sing.”
“I like that. Singing!” Manny grinned. “Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer—“
“We are NOT singing that again!”
“I want to fuck you like an animal—“
Hank returned to the logs, trying to block out the sound of Manny singing Nine Inch Nails.
When night fell, Hank packed as much as he could carry, including the sign saying HANK AND MANNY’S HOUSE. Then he hoisted Manny up on his back, and Manny put his arms around Hank, interlacing his fingers. They stumbled through the woods.
“I’m going to miss our patio,” Manny said sadly.
“Me too,” Hank carried so much he felt like a pack mule. By now, he barely felt Manny’s weight when he carried him. But he had bags and bundles tied all over his body, as well as bags tied to Manny. Hank started singing a Beach Boys tune.
I love the colorful clothes she wears
And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair
I hear the sound of a gentle word
On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air—
Manny chimed in:
I’m picking up good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations
I’m picking up good vibrations
Hank sang the "oom-bop" part, the bundles swaying and bumping against his sides and legs. He hoped Manny would like the house.
Close my eyes, Hank crooned,
She’s somehow closer now
Softly smile, I know she must be kind
When I look in her eyes
She goes with me to a blossom world—hey! Stop that!”
Manny was kissing his neck, soft little sweet kisses.
“That tickles!” Hank laughed. “Come on, Manny, it’s your turn.”
I’m picking up good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations
I’m picking up good vibrations
(oom bop bop good vibrations)
She’s giving me excitations
(oom bop bop excitations)
Good good good good vibrations
(oom bop bop good vibrations yeah)
It was still dark when they reached the beach. The air was unpleasantly cold and windy, with a salty tang. It whipped into Hank’s face, causing unpleasant cloying dampness. The black ocean roared. Manny had fallen asleep some time ago, his snores next to Hank’s ear.
“Manny, buddy, wake up!”
A loud snuffle and snort, Manny’s head shifted. “Wha—wha—where are we?”
Manny lifted his head with a slight cracking sound. He yawned. “Remember when you swam after me, Hank?”
“Yeah.” Hank chuckled. “I almost drowned.”
“But you didn’t.”
“Thanks to you, Manny. I wish I could have seen the expression on their faces.” Hank made his way along the beach, following the ocean. “I hate being at the beach in the winter. My dad liked to go fishing. I hate fishing. I wasn’t any good at it. It’s cold, and dark, and you freeze your ass off. It’s gonna be different, being with you.” He staggered along the dunes, staring up at the houses.
“I’m sorry I can’t walk, Hank.”
“It’s okay, buddy, I like carrying you. Sucks when you sneeze.”
“How did I know I’m allergic to ferns? I was dead!”
They reached the crest of the dune, facing empty beach houses. Huge, boxy, crammed into small lots. Their dark windows looked like empty eyes. Trash cans lay on their sides on the wide sandy road to the main drag.
And there it was. The house. Three stories high, painted light yellow, white trim, with an ornamental brick wall. None of the other houses had walls, just hedges or log fences.
“This is it!” Hank whooped.
Manny’s compass was starting to point into the small of Hank’s back.
“Stop feeling it, Manny, not now.”
“I’m sorry, Hank, I can’t always control it.”
“Shhhhh.” He surveyed the landscape. Nobody.
The wall blocked off the first floor from the road view. There was no wall facing the ocean. Hank looked in all directions for any signs of life. Save for the ocean and the seagulls, there were none.
Hank slid Manny onto the ground and divested himself of the bags, bundles and bottles. Manny sat against the bundles, staring up at the house in wonder. He folded his arms tightly against the cold.
“You stay there. Yell if you see anybody.” Please don’t let anybody show up. Maybe this is too great. Maybe somebody will be inside.
Hank skirted around the house. Empty. He had broken in several weeks ago, to make sure it was safe. The owners hadn’t thought to install an alarm system, thank goodness. The window to the laundry room was stuffed with a rag where he had punched through it. He left the door unlocked. Several nights a week he had brought their things, hiding them in the garage. Since the garage was filled with beach equipment, ladders, tools, construction materials, bicycles, a plastic wading pool, surfboards, their belongings would never be noticed.
Hank ran back to Manny and threw his arms out. “Welcome to our new home!”
“It’s beautiful! We should call it Tara!”
“Tara! Our home on the beach!” Hank carried in the remaining bags and bundles, stowing them in a far corner of the garage, behind the surfboards. Then he carried in Manny, setting him gently by a bicycle.
“Is this the surprise?”
“No, it’s a better surprise!”
“I wanna come, too!”
Despite Manny’s pleas, Hank went into the laundry room. The green fuse box was on the wall near the dryer. There were labels on all of the switches. Hank flipped two of the switches. There was a loud grinding, whirring noise.
“Here we go, buddy!” Hank scooped Manny up into his arms and carried him through the garage to the inside door to the house, and opened it. “TA-DAAA!”
Manny stared. “What’s supposed to happen?”
Hank shouted. “It's an elevator! A fucking ELEVATOR!”
“What’s an elevator?”
“Wait’ll you see it! We’ll put a chair in it, and you can go up and down!”
The number 1 was lit on the panel. Hank punched the button and the door slid open.
“Whoa—what is that?” Manny’s grip tightened on Hank’s arm.
“It’s okay, buddy, just hold on, okay?”
“No, no, I don’t wanna!”
“Trust me. Just trust me.”
Hank stepped into the elevator and pulled the inner door shut. He pushed the 2 button. With a slight shudder, the elevator lifted slowly. “See, nothing to be afraid of!”
The door opened into a kitchen, living area and dining room, all in one room lined with windows. The blinds were all drawn, dawn light streaming through onto the floor. Hank gently laid Manny on an old overstuffed couch.
“This is soft!” Manny exclaimed. “Hank, look! A home entertainment system!” He pointed to the other side of the room. A huge flat-screen TV dominated the wall.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Hank went to turn on the TV. “We’ll watch Netflix all winter!” It didn’t turn on. Of course, the electricity. Hank pounded down the stairs to the laundry room. He flipped the switches LIVING ROOM, DINING ROOM, KITCHEN. He made sure not to touch the outside light switches. He ran back up and landed in front of the TV.
“Okay, buddy, strap in!” Hank said, and turned on the TV. And got a flickering, buzzing screen. He tried changing the channels manually on it, but couldn’t find the buttons.
“TV is beautiful,” Manny said, mesmerized by the TV screen.
“No, it’s not beautiful, that’s not what we’re supposed to see. I gotta find the cable box.” Hank swung open the cabinet underneath the TV. There was no box, just cables. No DVD player. No remote. “SHIT! SHIT!”
“They turned off the goddamn cable! Goddamn it to fuck! Assholes!”
“This isn’t Netflix?”
“No, goddamnit!!” Hank controlled himself. “No, Manny, it’s not Netflix. This is everything being turned off. We can’t turn it on because it’s been disconnected.” He sat on the floor in front of the TV and flipped it off. Then he shrugged. “So, no Netflix. It’s okay, buddy, we don’t need Netflix.”
“Can I watch the TV some more, please, Hank? TV is beautiful.”
“Sure, whatever.” Hank flipped the TV on to the flickering screen and turned down the sound. If it kept Manny happy while Hank nosed around, it was fine. No Netflix. Shit. “I found the fuse box and switched on the elevator. We gotta be careful about how much electricity and water we use. Too much and we’ll get caught.”
“I have a lot of questions about what you just said.”
“I have to turn on the water,” Hank observed.
“Houses have to have the water turned on. You have to pay for it. If we use too much, the owners will notice the difference on their bill. It’s not like streams or rivers—or you—where you can just get water whenever you want. "
“Don’t use that word.”
The water heater and valve were in the garage. Hank turned them on and went back upstairs. Manny was still watching the flickering TV screen. The kitchen was huge and modern, with granite counters. He went to the sink and cautiously turned on the cold water. After some loud banging, water flowed out. “MANNY! I GOT WATER! I GOT WATER!” Hank did a happy little hoppy dance. “WATER!”
“So do I,” said Manny, obviously offended.
“Buddy, you can take showers too, we can wash our clothes, we can do all sorts of stuff!” He flipped the lights on and off, excitement nearly exploding out of him. The kitchen cabinets had salt, pepper, spices, canned goods and boxes of rice and pasta. “There’s two cases of dog food! Lamb and bacon! Look around, Manny! Chairs! Tables! A sink!"
Manny turned from the TV and looked slowly around. “Oh my God. This is amazing. We can eat at the table, you can cook in the kitchen...” he pointed up. “Hank, up there!”
A chandelier. A grubby little chandelier with half the crystals missing, but a chandelier.
Humming “Good Vibrations” Hank plopped onto the couch next to Manny and gave him a smacking kiss. “Manny, we’re set for the winter.”
“Hank, can I sit on the ground? This is too soft.”
“Okay.” Hank slid Manny to the floor, leaning him back against the couch. The events of the day and night hit him suddenly, leaving him so tired he could have fallen over and been out before his face hit the rug. “Why don’t we take a nap? I’m fucking tired.”
“Yeah, me too.” Hank took Manny’s legs and gently pulled him into a lying position, then lay on the floor next to him. Manny was right, the furniture was too soft. Hank hitched himself up on one elbow and gazed into his beloved’s eyes. With his other hand, he traced Manny’s sharp cheekbones and chin. “I love you.”
“I love you, Hank. I’m not going to die, cause I need to be with you.” Manny lifted his arm, his hand going around Hank’s head, pulling him down for a long, slow kiss. Hank closed his eyes and returned it. If only he could stay awake...but he just couldn’t. He lowered his head to the floor, eyes fluttering shut.
The sound of the ocean lulled them to sleep. Maybe Hank wouldn’t hate the beach so much in the winter after all.
A/N: Here's the Beach Boys Good Vibrations!