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Drama Fiction Sad

“Okay, Tyler, I get it!” mumbled Jake under his breath, teeth clenched. His cousin had grown into his twinkle toes, big time, and no doubt had his own fairy wand at the ready. That’s the only way Jake could put an image into what was happening. Why he ever agreed to go along to see this personal fashion show, was beyond a sane thought. He should have stayed home, but Tyler pleaded with him to help decide on the outfit that would dazzle the crowd and one that would be talked about for months. I can dazzle with the best of them, Jake chuckled to himself. Right, like I know the style of the day with my wardrobe of plaid shirts, khaki’s and work boots. That’d be a scene stealer, if I made it to the stage, and laughed at that image.  

“But you need to see the whole outfit first, before you give me your opinion. That would mean SO MUCH to me!” Tyler took the moment and twirled with glee under the spot lights in the men’s dressing room at the Hildebrand Emporium.

Jake, fake smiled, and told him it would absolutely be his pleasure. Please parade in front of me in your latest one thousand dollar outfit that you’ll wear maybe twice. And that probably would be at the photo shoot for GQ magazine since he’s now made a new style statement that has all the fashion houses begging him to work for them.  

It never used to be this way or maybe he just didn’t see it. Back then, Tyler and I were in the same neighborhood with other kids our age and the nearby playground was the best ‘go to’ place. Our houses were right across the street from each other. The games were endless. Even our sisters were in on it all. They weren’t just any girls, they were ones not to mess with. Whether it was spinning the tilt-a-whirl at jet speed or on the swing set as one of the daredevil show offs who would pump up so high and jump off mid-air to see who could land the farthest. Ending the afternoon was always the best because that was going to the General Store. We’d show up with our nickels and dimes and buy the coolest candy. It usually was a small handful but we didn’t care, it was a moment of gold to us.

And soon it all changed. We were older now and another group of kids found their way to our side of town. From the beginning we could tell something wasn’t right. There seemed to be this kid who was taller than everyone and wore his baseball cap backwards. A deck of cards were always in his back pocket. He’d pick a few to play ‘his’ game which ended up with their money becoming his money. There seemed to be something that the others saw in him that said, Don’t’. Don’t mess with him because that would be your one way ticket out. He reminded one and all that he knew people who knew people. A cut up face and broken nose would only be the beginning.

We got through the remainder of our high school days always looking behind our backs. Some found a better path; got into sports, found new friends, and had pretty decent, yet simple jobs to get by. Our nickels and dimes became ones, fives and tens. It’s what you needed to fill up the old junk mobile. Boyfriends became more important to our sisters than us, their brothers and family. It happens.

My go to place after high school was my own style of college and that was learning and working at any shop in town where I could learn how to cut, saw, and hammer my way to the next job and the next one after that. Sometimes, a customer would make me a little tense when they would remember me from a neighborhood school or where my family lived in town. The questions were always the same, “Aren’t you going to college? and “Why not?” My reply was always cordial to this blatant slap in the face, eyes looking down their nose at me. These questions always followed with the latest news, as if I hadn’t heard, about how cousin Tyler made it to be a bigwig at the fancy law firm and making a nice chump of change. He went to college, I was reminded, and now look where he is. Just another put down and for who’s gain? I took my own path to get away from the ‘status quo’. “I’m doing just fine and learned a trade I’m happy with,” that no one seems to ask, thank you very much.

Handing this customer his bill doesn’t end well, when he adds a comment about the expense of the job that he called in as an emergency. Take it up with the CEOs, in that big fancy office down the street, where they could only push a pencil, I wanted to throw back at him.  They wouldn’t even know how to hold a ruler never mind accomplish what I just did, so you could leave your house in peace. I can work a saw, craft wood, and use a hammer that would make your head spin, but, never mind. There are other pencil pushers who need me. “I’ll see what I can do,” and fake smiled my way back to the truck.

It was moments like these, that come back, when our two families would get together. Everyone always wants to know about Tyler and the latest trends he’s working on and with so much success happening in his new city life. He’s transitioned into the fashion world since becoming enraptured with corporate needs for the right image that would set them apart in their world. He gained notice when his choice of suits and more importantly, the right tie, caught the attention of management.  

Can’t say that I didn’t see that coming. But when you’re a kid, who thinks about what your wearing? Tee shirts, jeans, sneakers were what we wore. No brand, style or fancy logo made a difference; except for Tyler. Wherever and whenever we played, he was the kid with the cool matching shirt and pants. If he got a smudge of dirt that ruined his image, there’d be such a whine fest. I ignored him when I could but  everyone else gave him grief. He was ‘bunny boy’, all fluff, no stuff. I wasn’t like him, but he was my cousin and they’d try to make me be like him by saying stuff like, “So Jake, are you bunny boy’s babysitter?” I’d play along and laugh, “of course!”

His focus has now become over the top with me, myself and I. If it doesn’t fit with his theme, then you’re not listening or care about him. He used his agenda to make everyone see him for the fashionista he has become in putting a flair into the latest trends. Every moment he was in your space became his space. When our families would get together, it was if a Hollywood star just strode in. His other cousins, usually the girls, would rush over and surround him. “Tyler! Oh, my gosh! You have to work your strut with a more sexy, groove style!” They’d get him to walk this way or make that move. He’d add a flair waving the latest silk scarf and draping it just so, over his shoulder. I’d be the one cooking the burgers, since no one asked about me. At our last family cookout, each one was given an invitation to Tyler’s latest and upcoming signature fashion show, “LET’S TIE ONE ON”. This was to be a statement to the newest craze and one that was to become his claim to fame. Last count, I heard, that he had a thousand or so ties in his wardrobe.

I had four ties in my closet. One was kind of fancy in case I needed it for a funeral. There were a few suits that still pretty much fit, and that was that. My work buddies saw the magazine in a clients house where Tyler was featured. Of course they had to razz me about it. “Hey, Jake, so how many suits does this guy own? And those ties – what is going on?” I shook my head reading the story. It said that he was an exciting new member of this tie club. It featured posts by everyone wearing every type of cloth you could think of, in color, style, purpose, appeal. Anything that was worthy of draping around your neck, bow ties, neckties, skinnies, bandanas, scarfs were featured. There was a Tie Lounge and a featured ‘Necktie of the Month’.

The event was to happen in a few weeks which would coincide with the last day of summer. This was to be an over-the-top extravaganza closing out one season and introducing another. The top lineup for the event were many well-known fashionistas and those from Hollywood strutting their own style.

Jake was not going even though everyone in his family, neighbors and some friends would be attending. The talking about it was wearing him down. He was due to work on a few pretty extensive job sights out of town and needed to focus and up his game. There were some great skill building areas and he jumped at the chance to be part of this crew. His family thought he could just opt out whenever he felt like it.

“This is your cousin, Jake! What do you mean you can’t take time off?” I guess what I do doesn’t matter. They were having a fancy brunch before the event and it was expected that at least I should be there for Tyler. They gave him the silent treatment and it was all he could do to yell his head off. He’d think of a way to let them know how he really felt.

It was a new Jake that soon emerged and one that no one would ever know about, but secretly he would always remember the surprise stunt that only he could pull off.

It was the day of the show. All the bells and whistles were in place for his cousin to become the new fashionista for Oscar de la Renta. Everyone was fussing and getting ready for the evening’s event. Tyler had just left in a fancy limousine. I was watching from a nearby coffee shop, everyone thinking I was at a job site. One by one, the neighbor’s, his family and mine, and the lucky invited friends, left for the event.

I couldn’t help watch with a smug look on my face. To each his own. I calmly left and walked to the backdoor of Tyler’s house, found the ‘hidden’ key and went in. The entire second floor was his staging area, dressing room and living space. I grabbed a bunch of large bags and went into his wardrobe area and flicked on the lights. “Wow” and thought for a second. The neckwear inventory was over the top. His suits, well, that was a whole other wing. This was where I needed to be. Beginning at one end of the long chain of various pieces of fabric, I took out my all-purpose bushcraft knife and one by one severed each piece of his collection in half. I filled five bags full of neckwear and bundled them together. The lights were shut, the place was left as if no one had been there. The key was put back.

In the truck, bags in place, I made my way to the downtown area. I avoided the traffic already waiting to park and made my way around and behind a nearby building. It was one we had worked on and I had access to which had an attached walkway and my ticket in to the event building. There was no security this far up in the building. I carried the hefty bundles, found the open area overlooking the expanse of a courtyard. Seating and tables were already in place as the crowds gathered for the start of the event, “LET’S TIE ONE ON!”

The music began and the strobe lights began flashing. The crowd cheered loudly as Hollywood guests, strutted in along with Oscar de la Renta and his following. Tyler was presented as the highlight and was welcomed into the area by a standing ovation. My cue.

The bags were in place by the window I had opened. The darkness of where I was provided the perfect cover. Slowly, I emptied each bag into the air, and the cascade of colorful pieces of fabric floated over the crowd. It was if confetti was an added addition to the festivity. The crowd was caught by surprise and I noticed Tyler with his hands up in the air with a few pieces of his prize collection settled over his shoulders. Perfect.

I  turned and exited quickly retracing my steps. Back into the truck, windows rolled up, I waited a moment, took a deep breath and yelled into my sleeve. I teared up in reaction to a job and a statement that was long overdue.

This one I didn’t have a college degree for, and money did not mean a thing. It was my time to say what I needed to, in a clever way.

The surprise was priceless.  

February 04, 2021 13:14

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