Everlasting Brad and Ginger the Bird
Everlasting Brad lives in a neighborhood called Murder Row. Most of the murders in the city happen there, and all the children in the city are told to never go there after dark, on rainy days, or when the sun is going down. Everlasting Brad is bleach-blonde. He retouches his hair every month and a half in his purple bathroom, and lets his umbrella cockatoo, Ginger, watch while perched on the shower curtain rod. Ginger is 9 years old, Everlasting Brad is 46. He is called Everlasting Brad because he looks no older than 27, still wears tight jeans, plays in a punk band, and lives off Ming’s Sweet Tea and Krystal Burger. He reads people’s zodiac signs and tarot cards for fun, free of charge, and smokes marijuana while he does it.
It was raining when I met Everlasting Brad. It was just past 1 PM and I hadn’t told my mother where I was going when my two friends, Jason and Marc, picked me up from my house in the middle of a thunderstorm. We drove to Murder Row with music blaring from the stereo system, and when we arrived at the house we had to sit under an umbrella in his backyard while we waited for Brad to come outside.
He knows we’re here, Jason said. He just likes to keep newcomers waiting.
Marc added, You’re a newcomer.
Everlasting Brad emerged from his back door in gold lamé pants and a black t-shirt about a size too small for him. I could see the trail of hair leading from his bellybutton to his pants and had to consciously remind myself to avert my eyes. We were led into Everlasting Brad’s kitchen, where Christmas lights hung from the ceiling and the floor tiles were stained with old bird feces. Jason pulled out a chair at the table for me, right across from where Everlasting Brad sat.
Brad spoke in giggles and rhymes, sometimes turning to his cockatoo, Ginger, to share a laugh with her and kiss her on the beak, then continue the conversation with Jason and Marc. A bong was sent around the three of them, and eventually the kitchen was murky with humidity, bird feces, and smoke. Brad then turned to me and looked me straight in the eye before confidently saying, “You’re a Taurus,” telling me all about my astrological sign and what it meant. He went on to talk about Taurus and how my last relationship ended so badly was because it was with an Aries. Then he turned to Jason, smiled, and started talking about how compatible our zodiac signs were, and why we should date.
When Brad and Ginger went out to get more Krystal Burger and Marc took a phone call outside, Jason asked me what Brad had said about our zodiac signs.
You were sitting right next to me when he said it.
Yeah, but I don’t remember.
I mean he basically said we were compatible, but that’s about it.
Jason paused. Look I don’t know how you feel about me, he said, but I’m pretty into you. And like, I don’t know if this is scummy, but I’m getting a little something on the side, too.
It’s only scummy if you try to juggle two girls, I said.
He got quiet, and Marc came back into the kitchen. Already it was 5 pm. I asked them to take me home. It had stopped raining, and the sun would be going down soon. We got back into Marc’s van and they drove me back home before the rain started again. My mother asked me where I’d been when I walked in. I told her I’d been with Jason and one of his friends, and that we hadn’t done much at all. I didn’t tell her about Brad and Ginger, who were probably just coming back to a quiet and empty house.