Flesh and Bone Chapter 1
It all started with Facebook. Guy Broussard, a Johnny-come-lately particularly when it came to technology, activated his first Facebook account around six months ago shortly after his daughter, Alyssa, decided she was going to move to Baton Rouge to begin her studies at Louisiana State University.
She convinced him to get the account so they could keep in touch with each other, in addition to their iPhones.
Guy wasn’t thrilled with the idea of her moving all the way own to Baton Rouge and he had voiced his protests enthusiastically.
“Why not hang out here an extra year or two just to get your general studies out of the way,” he said, trying reason first. “Hell Alyssa, I teach here at the university. Your tuition would be covered.”
Guy didn’t enjoy too many perks as a tenured professor at University of Georgia. But he did get season tickets to all home Bulldogs games and, of course, free tuition for all immediate family members. In his heart he knew LSU had a much stronger degree program for the field his daughter was pursuing, but at the same time, he couldn’t help but to at least try to talk her into staying.
“Dad. Come on. We both know what this is about,” she said.
“What?” he asked.
“Momma. Now look. It’s been five years since she passed on. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her or think about her in some way. But she wouldn’t want us to be stuck like we’ve been. She’d want us to both move on.”
Guy’s insides twisted.
The term “move on” struck an uncomfortable chord in his mind. Its many implications filled him with complete and utter dread.
Alyssa continued though.
“I’m serious Dad,” she said. “We’ve been together. We’ve mourned together. We’ve healed a lot. Look, this is going to be my first time ever living on my own. Believe me, just the idea of it freaks me out a little. Okay, it freaks me out a lot, but I’m not really be afraid and you shouldn’t be either.”
“Afraid of what?” he asked.
“Afraid to be alone, Dad. That’s what this is really about. You’re afraid to be alone. You know, for a college professor you sure can be dense sometimes,” she said, grinning a little.
He laughed and said, “Maybe that’s part of it, but another part of it s, I just don’t want to lose you. You’re all I have left. I just don’t want anything to happen to you.”
“Dad, that’s silly,” she said.
“Famous last words before you’re carted off by Russian thugs and sold into white slavery,” he said, chuckling slightly
“Could you be a little more mellow dramatic Dad?” she asked. “I doubt very seriously that Baton Rouge is crawling with Russian flesh merchants. Besides, I’ve got my Glock which you so expertly taught me how to fire. I’ve got my pepper spray and, in case you’ve forgotten, I am a second-degree black belt. That’s’ something you actually might want to get back into, to restore balance to the force.”
Despite himself, Guy now broke into full laughter.
“Yes Master Yoda,” he said and then stepped forward and drew her close with a massive hug. “How in the hell did you get so wise? And, so damned prepared? I knocked around trade schools, community colleges and a ton of crap jobs before I went to college. And I ended up becoming a professor almost by accident.”
“I had a good teacher Dad, you,” she said, smiling at him.
“God you remind me of her so much sometimes,” he said. “Not just in looks either, but her spirit, so damned strong and so damned independent. How she ended up with a scoundrel like me, when she could have had her pick of any guy, to this day remains totally beyond my comprehension.”
“She obviously saw something in you Dad,” Alyssa said. “Don’t sell yourself short.”
The second reason for acquiring the Facebook account, along with a Twitter link, a Linked In page and god knows what else, was also for practical reasons, at the prompting of the head of the English department, Norman Peterson. The rationale was that it would increase his accessibility to students.
“I thought that’s what posted office hours were for,” he argued with Norman.
“Don’t be so obtuse Guy,” Peterson told him. “Social media is the wave of the future. There are incredible things going on with it, with self publishing too. Besides, it’s not a request.”
That’s how it began.
It took Guy nearly three hours to set the damned Facebook account up, even with Alyssa talking him through it over the phone for the first hour and then sitting next to him for the next two hours.
“Really?” he asked. “Why the hell do they want to know what movies I like and what books I read? Don’t you think that’s a little bit on the invasive side?”
“Dad, it’s so people out there with similar likes can friend you,” she said.
“What if I don’t want to be friended?” he asked. “You know, back before I met Ann, your mother.”
“Dad, I know who my mother was,” she cut in.
“Don’t interrupt,” he said. “Now where was I?”
“Before you met my mother,” Alyssa said.
“Yes, before I met your mother, when I was a teen. Being a friend with a girl was worse than the death sentence. It was a death sentence. Do you know how many times I heard in high school ‘I like you but not like that, but as friends.’ It was completely maddening.”
“Well who knows, maybe you’ll find one of those high school sweeties that dissed you then and show them what they missed out on,” she said.
“Oh no, I don’t think so. I haven’t talked to any of those people in years. The only reason they want people to sign up on Facebook is so the CIA can spy on us.”
“Paranoid much, Dad,” Alyssa said.
“I’m a child of the 60’s darling. I remember when the American dream died,” he said.
“Dad you were born in 1968, Kennedy was assassinated in 63.”
“I wasn’t talking about Kennedy, I was talking about that evil bastard Nixon.”
“You don’t stop do you?”
No,” he admitted.
“Anyway, as I was saying, you’re probably going to find a lot of old high school pals on Facebook.”
“The thought almost makes me cringe. Seriously Alyssa, with the exception of a few people, I didn’t really like anyone in high school. Can you put this thing on private honey, so I only have exchanges with you?”
“What about Stormin Norman?” which was Guy’s nickname for Paterson. “Doesn’t he want students to have total access?”
“Crap, you’re right. So you mean I’m not going to be able to curse? I’m very expressive and quite verbose. I’m an English professor for God sakes.”
“Do they let you curse in class?”
“Only shit, hell and damn,” he said.
“You’ll live,” she said and then moved from his desktop to her laptop opened on the coffee table. “Now I’m sending you a friend request now?”
“What the hell is this thing beeping at me and flashing?”
“Dad, it’s my friend request. Click on accept.”
“Where?” he asked.
“Sweet baby Jesus,” Alyssa said, exasperated. She got up, leaned over his shoulder, took the mouse and accepted her own friend request. “There, it’s not hard Dad. Practice.”
“How?” he asked.
“Just try,” she said.
So he did. Within a week or two he had a handful of Facebook friends. There was Alyssa, of course, then followed by Norman, the Dean of Studies, all of the other professors in the English department and a smattering of students, mostly ass-kissers and brown-nosers but good kids nonetheless.
He got his first real friend request on a stormy Saturday night in early August. A loud clap of thunder woke him from a nightmare he was having about Ann, specifically Ann trapped in a car that was slowly sinking into a stagnant bayou while he stood on shore unable to do anything to stop it.
In reality, Ann died of a sudden cerebral aneurysm. It was still surreal to think of it. One moment they were drinking coffee in his office laughing about the previous night’s Seinfeld repeat, the next she was writhing on his floor in horrific convulsions. Although the nightmare was different from the reality, the feeling of hopelessness was still the same.
He acted and acted quickly that day. Paramedics were there within ten minutes after he called 911. But by the time they loaded her onto a stretcher she was essentially gone. She was pronounced dead by the time the ambulance reached the hospital.
The thunder rattled him to wakefulness and he sat up on the sofa with a start. He’d fallen asleep there watching Saturday Night Live. Lightning flashed and lit up his entire living room and he stiffly rose and trudged upstairs.
He paused at Alyssa’s door and opened it a crack, pained by the fact that in a few short weeks he wouldn’t be able to that, and then shut it back gently after he heard her gentle snores.
Thunder shook the house again and he heard a loud bleeping noise downstairs. He’d forgotten that he’d left the computer on and then made the long trek back downstairs to turn it off, lest it be rendered useless by a power surge.
The light from the monitor cast an eerie white glow that lit up his whole office and just as he was about to close out Facebook he saw the notification. He almost ignored it but instead clicked on it and was astounded by what he saw.
It was a friend request from, as Alyssa had predicted, an old high school buddy of his, Roger Thorpe. Guy clicked the accept tab and then scanned Roger’s profile page. The background image was a sunset beach scene. In the upper left hand corner was Roger’s profile picture. He’d lost a lot of hair, but he was grinning in the picture and holding a Corona.
Time had been kind to his old buddy. He scrolled down to see what music and movies his old pal was into. The man maybe had grown but his musical tastes hadn’t changed much since 1987. Under his music likes was Black Sabbath, Dio, Iron Maiden and Deep Purple to name a few. Bob Marley and Jimmy Buffet were also included in the lineup but Guy figured that was par per the course since Roger now lived in Destin, Florida.
Suddenly the computer bleated at him, making him nearly jump, and a small box popped up. Alyssa had told him about this. It was the instant message function. He had never used it, not even with Alyssa.
Typed in all caps was the word, “WHASSUP MAN????”
Not knowing what to really say, Guy typed back, “Not much. How the hell are you?”
“Good man, pretty good,” he typed back. “What the hell are you doing up at this ungodly hour?”
“Storm woke me up,” Guy typed back. “What about you?”
“Damned insomnia,” Roger typed back. “Drinking a whiskey drink, hoping it’ll kick in. I saw that system up your way on the Weather Channel earlier. You still up in Georgia?”
“Yes,” Guy typed back.
“Well, you’d better batten down the hatches bud. You’re in for a really bad pounding tonight. Look, here’s my number, give me a holler in the morning.”
Roger typed his number out and Guy reciprocated adding “Adios my friend. I better get off here before the lightning blows the whole thing up.”
Guy logged off, shut down the computer and then unplugged the power cord and Internet wires. He journeyed back upstairs to his room, got into bed and was back asleep within fifteen minutes.