With the weather having turned cold and wet, Jonah had grown his beard out, so that whenever Monica kissed him she’d smile reflexively. His whiskers tickled. If he kissed her, she’d turn her head and scratch at her nose, but it seemed like she couldn’t get enough of kissing him on the cheek.
They were leaning against the sink in Kelly’s kitchen, each nursing a tallboy of Old Milwaukee. Monica had her arms around his waist, and was softly rubbing her nose against his thick flannel shirt. She breathed deeply. The fabric smelled of detergent and deodorant and pine needles. She realized the smell of pine needles would always make her cry now.
Kelly passed Jonah the joint. Monica looked up and opened her mouth. She and Jonah kissed, and he handed her the blunt as she exhaled his smoke. When she took her hit she tapped the ash into the sink and handed it off to Will.
“So I’d like to propose a toast,” Will said, feeling the weed and swishing his can overhead. “To my boy over here getting his research post with the Ag Department! Happy for ya, bookworm.”
They thunked cans and drained them. Monica tugged lightly on Jonah’s shirt. “Take it easy, babe,” she half-whispered.
“I’m fine,” he murmured to her, rubbing her arm and kissing her forehead. She scrunched her eyes closed and shrank from his beard with a grin.
“So,” Kelly started, clipping the last of the roach, “what the fuck does that mean, anyway? Are you gonna be farming or something?”
“I’m actually gonna be involved in researching efficiency in animal insemination.”
“I’m gonna be watching a bunch of pigs fuck.” He unhooked another can and cracked it open. “So, you know. Same old same old.”
Will’s cackle seemed to make the kitchen ring. “Shit, dude, you gonna be jackin’ ’em off too?”
“Noooo, not me. But I will be watching ’em get jacked off, for whatever that’s worth.”
“That’s some sexy shit, man,” Kelly interrupted. Jonah and Monica scooted over as she made for the sink and washed away the roach. She let the water run a bit to make sure it was good and flushed. She grabbed a couple more cans for her and Will. “You talk like that when you and Monica get it on?”
“Maybe not quite so technical.”
Will was kissing Kelly’s neck and pulling her close. Kelly swigged her beer nonchalantly, like she didn’t notice him. “Hey man, whatever gets y’all goin’. Hey, where the fuck is Devon? We’re almost out of beer over here.”
The painkillers were starting to hit. They mixed with the beer, making Jonah feel a little like he was floating. Or maybe that was the weed? Jonah’s bloodstream was quite the cocktail in that moment.
Monica had her fingers hooked around his belt. Her blouse was like thin tissue. He could feel goosebumps as he ran his hand along her arms.
“So, like,” Will took a deep, steadying breath, “like what are your plans after you get done jacking off pigs?”
“Dunno, man. Jack off cows? There’s gotta be plenty of horny-ass farm animals out there.”
“Is this where you saw yourself going?” Monica asked him, looking up and grinning. She kissed him. The taste of cannabis in her mouth made his heart rocket for a moment. “Seven years of school to be a pig fucker?”
“Well I’m not gonna be fucking the pigs. Just, you know…watching them get fucked. There’s a substantial degree of difference.”
Her grin widened and she chuckled lazily. She was really high and a little drunk. She kissed him again. Out of sight of the others, she slipped a hand into his back pocket and squeezed his ass. He did a lot of walking through the mountains for his thesis. He had a pretty nice ass now.
He could feel her fingernails digging into him through the denim, and a flutter worked its way through his cock. His jeans were pretty tight. Things could get embarrassing in a second if he wasn’t careful.
Kelly coughed and waved a hand through the air. “Jesus, we’ve hot boxed the whole house. If we’re done smoking let’s move out to the back porch.”
Will was staring at her tits, jiggling bra-less in her tee shirt. “Where you lead, I shall follow,” he told her, his voice muffled by the can against his lips.
“Y’all comin’?” Kelly called back, as Will wrapped his arms around her and kissed behind her ear.
“Yeah, we’ll be out there in a second!” Monica yelled as the screen door slammed shut. When they were out of sight she looked up with a closed-eye grin and kissed him again. Her tongue filled his mouth and she worked her hand down the front of his pants. He could feel her working her fingers around him. She got horny when she got high. She took the hand that was in his back pocket and ran it through his shaggy hair. She thought it made him look like James Brolin. She liked to tell him this when they had sex.
He was smiling as he kissed her. Master’s degree. New job. Horny girlfriend. ’78 wasn’t a bad year. It could’ve been a hell of a lot better, but right now…things weren’t so bad.
Okay, he was feeling the weed now. Smooth, cutting down the sharpness to his drunk. He tipped the can and took down a few more gulps.
“Heeeey.” He looked to her, and the mischievous grin was gone. She was pouting now, wrinkling her forehead in worry. “Hey, babe. Maybe you shouldn’t drink so much.”
He took an even moment before taking another sip. “The beer didn’t put the tumor there, babe. Either of ’em.”
Her hand had gone still. “They found another one?”
He nodded. “Two more, yeah, right next to each other. Brain stem now. Uh…” He didn’t know how to finish the thought other than simply saying: “Malignant, but I guess that’s obvious now.”
She pressed her face to his shirt, bobbing her head to wipe an eye against the flannel. She was going to hate the scent of pine needles for the rest of her life.
He rested his head on hers. The smell of her hair made him think of Jeep rides in the open air.
He had to fight to keep from telling her he loved her. He’d told her that when he’d found out about the first tumor. She’d cried all night and into the morning. If he said it now, she might break down. Besides, saying it out loud was just redundant.
He could ask her to marry him again, but he knew where she stood on that. So he stood there and let her hold him, while he was still there to hold.
At some point they’d have to tell the others, but right now all Jonah wanted to do was party.
“Hey,” he told her. When she looked up he kissed her. His breath was deep, husky. He kept kissing her. Eventually she was kissing him back.
They stumbled past the screen door and down the hall. They ignored the light switch as Jonah kicked the guest room door shut behind them. Neither of them thought to turn the lock. How could they think of it, with her nipples firm against his ribs, and his fingers running down her spine?
Luckily, they didn’t need it. Their friends heard them through the thin walls, but the door stayed closed. Devon made it back with the beer, and as Monica and Jonah rolled around in the dark, the others hollered and slapped at the closed door. They screamed and laughed, a chorus exalting in vicarious celebration.