Malcolm came home early with a feast of takeout Mexican food and a case of Coors Light. Jeff knew that, in part, they were celebrating the fact that he was leaving and that the constant strain of mooching off Mal was over. But he also knew that Mal cared enough about him to be happy for him.
“A fucking grand?” Mal said again, fishing the rest of the guacamole from it's plastic container with his pinky. He had said the same thing when Jeff had first told him, and had repeated it approximately every fifteen minutes ever since. The check, which Jeff had not yet deposited (he felt that doing so might break the spell, somehow) was still in his wallet. It was almost three times the size of the kind of checks that Jeff owned and it had a gold embossed seal on it.
“I mean, don't get me wrong, it's not that much money, but you'll get to keep all of it right? Like being in the fucking army or something. He's buying your food, you got no rent, so at the end of the summer you'll be one fat bastard!”
“Son of a bitch. Why can't they have shit like this for business students?”
“You didn't get an internship?”
“Sure I did. With Wendell Prine, an accountant. Who gives a shit? This is like...this is like spending the summer with Warren Buffet!”
Jeff laughed. He heaved himself up off the couch, tottered briefly, with a full stomach and a swimming head, and moved toward the kitchen. “Beer?” he called back to Malcolm.
“Beer!” Malcolm confirmed.
Two cold Coors cans were soon sweating on the coffee table between them.
“It's weird that your suitcase isn't in the corner anymore,” Mal said.
They both looked into the corner, past the treadmill, where Jeff's travel bag had sat for the past several weeks. He'd been living out of it, carefully repacking it every evening for the first week, then slowly letting his stuff spread over the living room after that. It now sat by the front door, ready to go in the trunk of the limo the next morning.
“Pssh. Like you'll miss me.”
“I tell you what, man, I'll miss having you around in the evenings, doing shit like this. I will, you know it.”
“But waking up to your snoring ass on my couch every morning when I have to go into the office? Won't miss that at all.”
“Maybe we can do it again some Friday. I'll cruise up here in the fucking Land Rover and hang out with you.”
“Or you could come out there. I bet the house is amazing. I mean, I don't you don't give a shit about Victor Stuart—“
“Are you kidding me? I may not read his books, but I'm a total celebrity whore. He'll be the second most famous person I've ever met.”
Malcolm looked past Jeff at the wall and Jeff knew immediately what he was looking at. Above the pass-through to the kitchen hung a framed photo of Sir Patrick Stewart, in uniform as Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise 1701-D. It was signed, “Best Wishes, Malcolm,” above an incomprehensible signature scrawl.
“Really? You fucking think Picard is more famous that Victor Stuart?”
“Uh...yeah. He's been on television. Stuart writes books. Way more people know who Picard is.”
“I'm sure way more people recognize him, but that doesn't mean that he's more famous.”
“I think it does.”
“I'll bet you Stuart has way more money.”
“That's not an indicator of fame.”
Malcolm's attention was distracted now, looking at his precious framed photo, perhaps living a foolish celebrity fantasy of his own.
Jeff fumbled with his cell phone. It was coming up on 10 p.m. They had been drinking since a little after 4.
“You working tomorrow?” Jeff asked.
“Damn right. And now, so are you!”
“Guess I am.”
“You ready to turn in?”
“I'm getting there. I'm not used to waking up at 8 in the morning.”
“You probably better get used to it.”
“You do not write books like Victor Stuart does during the day, dude. They told me he writes at night. Betcha I don't have to wake up before noon for the next three months.”
“Suck my balls,” Malcolm said, and killed his beer. He offered a clenched fist for Jeff to pound.
“I'm proud of you, bro. You thought you got a lousy second place, but you were Johnny on the spot when this opportunity came through. Remember who let you crash on his couch when you're a bestselling writer, okay?”
Jeff tapped his fist in return. “Totally.”
Malcolm wobbled to his feet, nodded at Jeff, and went off to bed. He knew that the place would be a mess in the morning, again, but he also knew that tomorrow it wouldn't bother him nearly as much as it had this morning.