There's Very Good
And There's Jaindl-Good
- Billboard for car dealership
Kutztown, Pennsylvania (circa 1978-80)
After most of the guests left, around five in the morning, the handful that remained helped Dan clean up. Trixie, John, Bill, KZ, Brian, Jeff, Adam, Donna, and Laura were the only ones still there. Ronnie had gone home to pack and was due back around nine so Trixie could drive her car back home for her. Bill and KZ weren’t doing much cleaning; they were back at in again in the spare bedroom. Of course, only Dan and John really knew what KZ was doing. The rest of the party thought she was just being lazy. John lied and told them it was the mushrooms that had made her sleepy and that it couldn’t be helped. “Everybody reacts differently to them” he had told the remaining guests.
Trixie hadn’t said much to Dan since the confrontation in the bedroom, but at least they weren’t at each other’s throats, he thought. She’d managed to be in whatever room Dan wasn’t and Dan didn’t force the issue. They could talk later. He knew now because of Ronnie that he would have to maintain some sort of relationship with Trixie.
Adam and his wife Donna were cleaning up the dining room with Trixie while John and Laura picked up the living room. Dan and Jeff and Brian were filling bags of trash in the kitchen and, as they filled up, depositing them outside in the plastic tubs for pick-up. The music was still going, though Dan had lowered the volume considerably so that it was now just background noise. When they had finished and the house looked presentable again, they all congregated in the living room again to say their goodbyes. All except Adam and Donna that is, who actually had to go to work in a couple of hours.
So the six of them sat around the dying fire, sipping coffee that Laura had made. Dan sat back, relaxed, and took in the events of the past week and especially the previous night. “You know what this is?” He announced, waving his arms around to indicate everything, but it wasn’t clear enough.
“What’s this?” Jeff asked. “What do you mean by that?”
“You know, all of it. As Douglas Adams would say, ‘Life, the Universe and Everything.’” Dan explained.
“Wait, I know this.” John shouted. “It’s 42!”
“Good guess.” Dan admitted. “But no, I was thinking of something more local. Something I remember seeing when I was a kid.”
“What’s that?” Laura asked.
“Remember those billboards for that Ford dealership in Kutztown?” Dan reminisced. “There’s good, there’s very good, and there’s Jaindl-Good.”
“Oh, yeah, I remember that.” Everyone but Laura exclaimed.
“No, I don’t remember that.” She said.
“And you said the absolute, tip-top, highest near perfect best must be Jaindl-Good.” Brian recalled. “You couldn’t get any better than that. You must have said that a thousand times for at least a year.”
“Exactly.” Dan said. “And that’s how I feel right now. Everything is Jaindl-Good.”
“It’s the mushrooms.” John said matter-of-factly.
“Maybe.” Dan allowed for the possibility. “But then again, maybe not.”
“Trust me, it is.” John insisted.
“Okay mister buzzkill. Them I love.” Dan said waving his hands around the room at everyone. “You? Not so much.”
“Hey, man. I’m just trying to help.” John defended himself. “By the way, I’ve been wanting to ask you. What are you planning on telling Abby?”
“The truth.” Dan replied flatly. “She’s always been very understanding. She married me, didn’t she? What more proof do you need? But seriously, I do think she’ll be okay with it once she’s had a chance to process it. It will be a shock, I know. I can tell you that one from experience.” He glared at Trixie.
“Are you going to punish me for this for the rest of my life?” Trixie asked sarcastically.
“That’s my current plan.” Dan replied in kind, turning back to the rest. “It was a good party, though. Lots of fireworks. Lots of old friends. Lots of drunken revelry. It was a blast seeing you guys, and everybody else. Come out to California. Seriously. It’s a great place for a vacation. You can stay with us. We’ve got room. I don’t want to wait another twenty years to see all of you.”
“I’m game.” Laura said.
“Cool.” Dan encouraged. “That’s one.”
The others gave mumbled ‘maybes’ and “we’ll sees’ so Dan knew he’d have to work on them. The morning light from the rising sun was beginning to peak in through the windows.
“What time is your flight?” Brian asked.
“Around 1:30. Something like that.” Dan answered.
“What time do you get in?” John asked. “Around five?”
“Nah, not until seven.” Dan told him. “We have a layover in Denver. But enough of this chitchat, I have to pack.”
“That’s cool, Brian and I should get going, too.” Jeff said.
Dan hugged them both and said his goodbyes by the door. Not counting KZ and Bill in the back bedroom, that left only John and Trixie. They both joined him in the master bedroom while he filled his suitcase.
“I have a conference in March in San Jose.” Weaver told Dan. “I’m going to try to take a couple of days off at the end to come up and see you. I don’t know the exact days yet, but I’ll send you an e-mail and let you know.”
“Excellent.” Dan said.
“Now I’m going to get out of your hair, as well.” John said, as he put on his coat.
“I’ll walk you out.” Dan said, heading for the hallway. When the reached the back door, they hugged. “Thanks for coming down, John. I appreciate you being here.”
“My pleasure.” John responded. “I was glad I could work it out. By the way, say goodbye to Bill for me.”
“Oh, yeah.” Dan remembered. “He’s still back there with KZ. Is that the weirdest thing, or what?”
“Fuckin’ a, man.” John agreed. “If the last couple of days have taught me anything, it’s that we shouldn’t get too locked into our belief systems. If you had tried to just tell me about Bill I would have seriously worried that my friend was going crazy, not that I would have blamed you. But having actually seen, felt and talked with Bill, well that changes everything. It’s such a mindfuck that it shatters the way I’ve viewed the world my whole life. And I can’t really share that with too many people. You and KZ, I guess that’s it. The world is never going to look the same again. Thanks, buddy.” He said sarcastically.
“My pleasure.” Dan replied. “Welcome to my hell.” He laughed manically.
They hugged again, and just as quickly John was gone. Dan looked around the now-clean kitchen and smiled. He had a couple of hours before they had to leave. He ducked back into his bedroom. Trixie was sitting, staring out the window.
“You okay?” Dan asked.
She looked away from the window quickly, as if caught doing something. “Oh, sorry. I was just daydreaming. I think I zoned out there.”
“You’re probably just tired.” Dan offered.
“No, it’s more than that.” She admitted. “You know, I often wonder how different my life would have been if I had gone with you to California. I wonder what I’d be like now if I had gone. I can hardly imagine it, you know? We can only do the best we can. Every hard choice I’ve ever made, I always thought at the time that I was making the best decision. But how can you know for sure? How can you know if you made the right choice? I know I defended my choices pretty strongly, but to be honest I had doubts all along, too. And you brought all of that doubt up again.”
“I do that all the time.” Dan confessed. “I’m filled with so many regrets that I’m always second-guessing my past decisions, even though there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it now. It’s unhealthy. You have no idea how I tortured myself the first few years I was in San Francisco. I drove what few friends I made crazy.”
“So when did you stop ‘torturing yourself?’” Trixie wondered.
“I suppose after about five years or so.” Dan reflected. “Something like that. After what seemed like a very long time, I eventually started making some good friends and I felt like I was starting to belong to a tight knit group of people. Once I felt like I was no longer a complete stranger, then I started to relax more. The more I relaxed, the better time I had, the more I started doing, and it sort of snowballed from there. You’re not going to like this, but my friends and I entered into a pact not to speak of you. In fact, when I told a few of them I was coming here for the funeral, it was hard for them to even ask me about whether or not I might see you. It was kind of funny in retrospect. They were so conditioned not to even use your name that they all hemmed and hawed.”
“What’s funny about that?” Trixie sounded a little hurt.
“I guess you had to be there to understand the humor.” Dan suggested. “I talked about you all the time until most of my new friends felt as if they knew you. My friend Kevin, who I talked to right before I left to come here, even said to say ‘hi from him’ if I saw you. That’s how well my friends felt they knew you. That went on literally for years. It became too much after a while. Actually, in retrospect, it was much too long before I was able to admit it. I needed to do something drastic and so my friends staged what was essentially an intervention. And it worked, I guess. I was able to put my past in the background, if not completely behind me.”
“Well I guess you better tell your friend Kevin ‘hi back from me.’” Trixie offered.
“Heh.” Dan laughed. “He’ll appreciate that. Thanks. I have to admit I was pretty worried and conflicted about this trip. I knew that eventually Chulkie would die. I mean it was inevitable. I actually thought it would be long before this. How many people make it to 103, for fucksakes? But every year she had a birthday was like a reprieve for me. It was putting off the inevitable.