Happy birthday, Helen!

by Lesa Soja

When Chris rolled out of his bunk, he found the morning sun shining hotly in through the left-hand windows, and all the guys on his bus. Lance was sitting on the couch, JC was hunched over his notebook on the floor in front of it, Joey was in the kitchen, and Justin was lifting weights and singing. "I wanna be a Panther," he crooned, "have a girlfriend named Samantha, and have a stable of foxy whores…"

"Keep quiet, everyone!" Joey yelled. "Don't wake Justin up!"

"Fuck off, Joey!" Justin called.

Chris settled himself on the free end of the couch and started kneading JC's shoulders. JC's head sank forward gratefully. "Justin, my boy," Chris said, "I have to tell you something. You can have seventy thousand hormonally-charged eleven-year-olds screaming your name any night you want. But you will never have a stable of foxy whores."

"I don't really want whores, anyway," Justin admitted, curling his fist back up towards his shoulder. "Who wants to just look like money to someone? But, like, a harem might be nice."

"If you had a harem, they'd be bustin' out of the seraglio within a week. You couldn't keep 'em in line if you tried with both hands. Now Lance," Chris went on, raising his voice above Justin's indignant yelp, "Lance could have a harem. He'd just, like, raise an eyebrow, and they'd slink in, and slink back out, and wait all breathless-like till the next time he called them."

Lance didn't look up from his Palm, but he was smiling. Justin eyed Lance curiously.

"Maybe he does have a harem," Chris mused. "Maybe Joey does the dance of the seven veils for him every night in his bunk. I bet he keeps the veils in that red duffel bag of his. Hey, Joey! You bring your veils this trip?"

"Fuck you, Chris," Joey said pleasantly, sitting down across from Lance with his bowl.

Lance gave the screen a final tap and lifted his head at last. "You sound kinda interested, Chris," he said. "Maybe you should get a harem."

"Me?" Chris said. "Nah." He lifted his hand, knuckles brushing the back of JC's neck, and swept it through the air in a half-circle from one end of the bus to the other. "I got everything I need right here."

[Lyrics from I Wanna Be Black belong to Lou Reed.]