The truth is, I didn’t want to practice. I wanted to do whatever without learning the specifics.
When I was younger, I built an ultralight airplane, and my flight instructor told me to fly a few feet off the runway, then land. But I was having none of that and took to the skies. It was awesome and so easy; until I had to land. Turns out those specifics would have saved my landing gear.
But practice, I must according to Olivia. So there I sat, a few hours later, across from billy Jenkins playing brain games and thinking I would rather be flying.
Jenkins seemed amused with this and held out his arms like wings. Then abruptly crashed onto the floor, laughing.
“Oh,she’s a funny one, that girl of mine. The Jenkins’s boy just turned seven,” I said to myself on the way over to Olivia’s.
“Good morning, Christian. How are we feeling today?”
“I’m not in the mood. Can we just get started?”
“I suppose. Today’s lesson will be on thoughts and memories. So follow me into the kitchen.”
“You wouldn’t happen to have any orange juice, would you?”
“Have a seat, she said, brushing me on her way to the refrigerator. “You know, when we touch, our brains are bombarded with a wealth of information which can be overwhelming if not processed correctly.
“You’re experiencing this as we speak, but somehow, you already know I’m out of orange juice. Even though I walked toward the refrigerator as if I did. Why do you think that is?”
“I was focused on orange juice, I guess.”
“Why guess? You could have scanned me for the right answer. But you are correct. Sometimes, we overlook another person’s thoughts because we are so consumed with our own. In this case, you were focused on juice instead of today’s lesson. In Borya’s case, he was focused on a way out of the situation. And that, along with being startled, is why you’re alive today. If he had remained calm, you would be dead, not him.
“For some reason, he took you at your word. And this is why I can not stress enough how important it is to stay focused on your goal when reading someone. Understand?”
I nodded with a dry mouth.
“Alright, then let’s move on to memories. Carol will be here around noon, and I want you ready to go head to head with her son.”
“Oh, we got two comedians in the tribe.”
“Now, don’t be like that; little Billy needs some practice too.”
I must admit I felt a little nervous walking through the front door alone. Olivia left when Doc called, and Jeff refused to come in and run cover for me. So my plan was to play the drunk card hard in the hopes I could just go to bed. But It didn’t work. Karen grabbed my arm as soon as I walked across the threshold.
“So let me be clear, Olivia has known about Jeff’s little bar for quite some time. She pretends not to so he can have his space, and I will not tell him otherwise. The same for Doc, who’s a terrible liar.
“I’m a gullible female who’s easily fooled for all they know. But you know that’s not true. Don’t you?”
Before I could answer, she retreated to the bedroom, pointing to the couch along the way.
But you will, I thought. Jeff’s words were coming true, and my buzz was wearing off. Sleep was not going to come as quickly as I had hoped.
Hours later, I was shifting from body to body, dancing to the jukebox, and getting pretty good at it too. Having Olivia mentor me was paying off.
Without hesitation, I could do it in any position without collapsing to the floor. Although I’ll have to admit, I did miss the exhilaration of my first shift.
But whatever, I was scanning memories, learning new skills, gaining knowledge. And did I mention dancing? I was damn good at it.
“Got me a little blackmail photo now,” came a voice from behind as Jeff’s camera flashed, lighting up in the mirror between a row of unopened bottles.
Jumping down from the bar, I quickly shut off the music and returned to my original. “Funny,” I said.
“Not meant to be.”
“How did you know I was down here?”
“After fixing the mess, you made with Karen, Olivia got worried. She was expecting to find you outside when she arrived. And when you failed to show up hours later, they both got concerned and called me.
“So whatcha got to say for yourself, Travolta?”
“Sorry, Jeff, I’ll pay you for the liquor.”
“I’m not worried about the liquor. I’m worried your drunk ass is going to expose my hideaway.
“So tell me, where did you get the alcohol? And I do not want to hear Jeff’s secret bar.”
Karen was standing in front of the mirror when I returned home later that night. And before I could say anything, she asked, “Can you see it?” holding up her shirt. “I’m getting fat.”
I thought long and hard before answering.
“You’re still looking good, babe. And that stomach of yours is as flat as ever,” I said cleverly.
I should have thought longer.
“So you think I’ll be ugly when it’s not flat?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Then what did you say?”
I was like a deer in headlights from that point on, not knowing what to do as she cried, yelled, and screamed before slamming the bathroom door.
As the picture next to it precariously hung from the wall, I pulled out my phone. “Olivia, this is Christian. Could you come over? I’ve got a little situation here.”
“Don’t worry, I will be there shortly,” she replied.
“Should I go over to the door and comfort her?”
“Sweetie, it’s best you step outside for a while.”
And so I did. All the way to the abandoned farmhouse, where I stuck an old rusty screw between two blocks, opening the bar’s door. After pouring a shot, I held the glass high. The old man wasn’t so crazy after all.