The Redemption of Darryl Moon
Dr. Heinz Schwindel
Other than the streaking Cuban revolutionary, it had been a fairly typical evening. Sylvia was once again less than impressed with Darryl's somewhat uninspired sense of creativity. After dating for six months, one didn't expect a Cinderella-type evening for every date, but the fact that they were returning from seeing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at the Jordan Common's Classic Movies Series for the sixth time in two months wore on her psyche.
"That Paul Newman, what a nut!" laughed Darryl. "I totally think they should make a sequel. I wonder what they would call it?"
"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid II?" offered Sylvia as she stared absently out the passenger window of Darryl's 1994 Ford Escort Wagon.
"There's no way, Sylvo," said Reggie, Darryl's best friend, who along with his girlfriend/analyst Delores were the companion couple for the evening's festivities. "They would have to find something cool to call it, like-"
"Revenge of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?" suggested Darryl. It didnít seem important to either Darryl or Reggie that the first movie had killed off its lead characters thirty years previous.
"Or Return of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid!" blurted an excited Reggie, "Maybe Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Kicks Butt! How about-"
"Reggie! Reggie!" Sylvia could picture Reggie cowering in the back seat beneath the incisive whine of Delores. "Reggie, you need to relax and let the conversation come to you. This is what causes your inferiority complex. You get excited and say stupid things, then people don't want to be your friend. Do you want friends, Reggie?"
"I thought he had some good ideas," grumbled Darryl.
"Darryl," Sylvia scolded, "your encouragement is hurting your friend, not helping him."
Sylvia's pursed lips turned upwards into a reluctant smile. As boring and monotonous as her relationship with Darryl often was, an evening with Reggie and Delores at least provided some interesting distraction. They were an even stranger couple than she and Darryl were. Why either couple was still together was a mystery to her on the same lines as JFK's assassination or the career of Bob Saget.
She'd often considered leaving Darryl, but in the end she would always chicken out. There was always something that drew her to him; something magnetic suggested that beneath the exterior of a common window washer lay an exciting idealist ready to take the world by storm. Plus she just didn't think there were many guys that would want to date a woman with webbed toes.
Sylvia sat back in her seat and glanced over at Darryl. He was a fairly attractive young man. Though she tried to deny it, his green eyes did give her the occasional chill, and he did look stunning in a turtleneck. What she couldn't figure out-and neither could he, for that matter, was the reason people were always mistaking him for photos they'd seen that morning on their milk cartons.
Unfortunately his taste in dress was as dull as his creativity in dating. A recent sale at the Gap prompted him to buy seven shirts of the exact same color and style. Sylvia hadn't seen him in a turtleneck or anything else for the last month. She felt pretty sure that he was rotating through them and washing them in between, but given her underdeveloped sense of smell, she couldn't be quite sure.
There was no doubt as to Darryl's pants, however. In fact, one of the first things Darryl had told her on their first date was that they were his lucky pair of pants.
"These are my lucky pair of pants," he'd said after handing her half a dozen long-stemmed roses, only two of which hadn't lost their petals in the windstorm outside. "I've worn them for 358 consecutive days, and my mom says I can sew and hem with the greatest seamstresses of Europe." At least he was taller than she was. And he was a pretty good dancer if you didn't mind him counting his steps out loud.
Just the week before Darryl had tried to kiss Sylvia for the first time. For a week he had studied upwards of seven different Julia Roberts films to perfect his technique. After playing Barry Manilow on his car stereo the entire evening to set the mood, he tried to make his move on her front doorstep. Somewhere on the way, due either to nervousness or pure incompetence, he stumbled and knocked both of them off of her porch and into a nearby clump of bushes.
Darryl always meant well, even if he was a slave to his routines. He was crazy about Sylvia, and absolutely stymied that she was still dating him after six months. When he'd first approached her at the bowling alley, he never would have imagined that a daughter of a top-flight real estate developer would actually succumb to the inane wooing of a window washer who had been thrown out of Stevens Henegar College for gross incompetence and the inability to use e-mail. It was only recently that he'd realized his dream to be a diplomatic attache was unrealistic. This of course moved his aspirations towards professional wrestling.
Darryl thought Sylvia was the most beautiful creature on the face of the earth other than Glenn Close. Sylvia's Cher-like mane seemed to shine at night. Her eyes were also green-Darryl took this to be a sign of divine import-and he loved the way they flashed at him whenever she would chide him for scratching his navel in public. He could never figure out why she didn't have other guys falling all over her at all times. He truly believed he was the luckiest man to ever walk the planet.
Nevertheless, Darryl knew Sylvia was getting bored with him. It was so hard for him to come up with new date ideas, and he felt like they were always re-hashing the same conversation topics. He suspected she didn't really have as much interest in offshore oil drilling as she let on.
"You're gonna lose that girl," his mom would tell him. "If you think you can take that nice girl to the same old movie every week and still hold her affections, then either she's the biggest buffoon I've ever met or you're in for some serious trouble. And stop scratching your navel!"
"But Mom, I love Butch and Sundance! And so does Sylvia!"
"Does she laugh at the movie anymore?"
"No. But neither do I. We've moved beyond surface humor. It's the subtle nuances and wordplay that we appreciate now."
"You idiot!" his mother bellowed, "She doesn't want to see it anymore! You're going to lose her! You'll be single inside of two weeks!"
That was two weeks ago. Darryl had racked his brain trying to come up with another idea for a date, but he didn't want to go see Serendipity because he had heard that Kate Beckinsale used a different accent than she had in Pearl Harbor, and he didn't want to have to concentrate for the whole movie. Without an ace in the hole, Darryl knew his days were numbered.
Fortunately he had his trusty friend Reggie. It was obvious to everyone, even Reggie, that Darryl's best friend was embroiled in a potentially disastrous relationship for all parties involved. But without a woman in tow, Reggie's relatives would call his sexuality into question at family gatherings. This was particularly difficult in a family of professional wrestlers. Reggie always managed to provide a little color to an otherwise dull evening, even if it routinely came at his own expense. Reggie loved all of the same movies Darryl did. They loved all of the same restaurants. They listened to the same music. When Darryl had been hit by a car on his paper route, Reggie was the one to dive in front of the vehicle and prevent the escape of the perpetrator. Reggie never even complained that the car's front wheels had rolled over him before it stopped. He was blessed with the kind of loyalty and enthusiasm previously found only in indentured slaves, but good old Reggie came cheap.
The summer evening had followed the typical routine. Promptly at 7pm, Darryl rang Sylvia's doorbell and delivered his traditional long-stemmed rose. Reggie and Delores were already waiting in the backseat of the Escort, deeply involved in a discussion of a recent Freudian reading Delores had made of Reggie's passion for Mr. Salty Pretzels. Within twenty minutes they were waiting for a table at the Olive Garden, and a half hour after that Darryl was making his way through his traditional soup, salad and breadsticks dinner. Sylvia had considered the idea of ordering for him as a subtle way of suggesting that their relationship was getting too repetitive, but she became confused at the Italian entree items and lost her train of thought. If their waiter-previously a closet Cuban revolutionary-hadn't decided to streak through the establishment with the phrase "Oust Castro" scrawled on his chest and back, it would have been a totally routine evening.
By 11:30, however, what little ruckus the evening had produced had long been forgotten, and Sylvia sat fighting off sleep while Darryl and Reggie debated the merits of a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid sequel as if it were an event on par with the invention of pan pizza. In what Darryl hoped would be interpreted as a dramatic surge of spontaneity, he elected to take the frontage road as a dimly lit alternative to the usual route home. The absence of regular lighting kept everyone but Sylvia from noticing the patrol car hiding in a nearby ditch.
"That was a cop," said Sylvia, actually a bit curious at the alternate route. "You may want to slow down a bit."
"Baloney," declared Darryl. "I'm only doing five over. If he wants to pull me over, he can kiss my fat white-"
Darryl noticed the lights before his bravado could reach full blossom. Cowering in his seat, he pulled off to the side of the road, rolled down his window, and killed the engine.
The patrolman took his time, and as he approached the car, Darryl suddenly reached forward and flipped the air conditioner off.
"Why did you do that?" asked Sylvia.
Darryl had no answer. The synapses between his brain and extremities were suddenly under new management.
Behind the bright glare of a flashlight, a menacing voice growled. "Let's see the license and registration."
"He was only doing five over, man!" blurted out Reggie. The flashlight swung towards the backseat and Reggie let out a grunt as Delores jabbed him in the stomach with her car keys.
The officer turned back to Darryl. "All right, get out of the car. Now."
Nervously, Darryl opened the door and moved to get out. He was promptly strangled by the seatbelt he'd forgotten to unfasten and he sprang back against his seat. The officer leaned in the car, detached the belt, and Darryl staggered out of the car.
"Have you been drinking?" asked the officer.
"Yes," murmured Darryl.
"How much, boy?"
Darryl wouldn't look up at the officer. "Just a glass, sir."
"You sure?" the officer demanded.
"Yeah, I only had fifty cents."
"You bought a beer for fifty cents?"
"It was a lemonade."
"I meant alcohol, kid. You had any alcohol?"
"No sir, no alcohol."
"I don't believe you. Count backwards from 20."
Darryl still stood with his eyes fixed to the ground. "Twenty-" he stammered.
"Hey! It was only five over, you creep! Let him be!" called Reggie from the car, followed by a muffled cry as he felt the keys in his gut again.
"T-t-twenty-" muttered Darryl. He began shaking.
The officer got impatient. He grabbed Darryl's shirt collar and dragged him away from the car. "Forget the numbers. Walk in a straight line."
Darryl still stood staring at the ground. His right leg shuddered slightly.
"Come on, kid! Do it now!" demanded the officer.
"Leave him alone!" barked Reggie.
"Do it, stupid!" yelled the officer. Darryl stood motionless.
"Come on, Darryl. Just walk!" whispered Sylvia to herself.
Darryl's knees began to shake. He finally lifted his head. "I'm sorry-" he pleaded quietly.
The officer flew forward and grabbed Darryl again by the collar. "You're gonna be sorry, kid. Now you-"
He couldn't finish his sentence before Reggie was on him like soggy thermal underwear. The two collapsed to the ground in a heap and began to wrestle like dogs. Darryl staggered back and fell on his behind in utter shock. Sylvia and Delores watched from the car in pure frozen horror.
Reggie and the officer tussled for several moments, and fists and dust flew on the side of the road. Darryl stumbled to his feet and blinked wildly at the melee.
"Break them up, Darryl!" cried Delores. She and Sylvia remained petrified in their seats, fearful that the second they stepped outside the car the officer would break free and pull his weapon.
Darryl didn't hear Delores. He stood there staring at the two grappling on the ground, shifting heavily from one foot to another on knees that felt like they were made of bad yeast.
Darryl finally heard a voice in his mind. "Darryl! Darryl! Do something!"
Darryl did. He broke for the patrol car, hopped in, and took off. Sylvia and Delores watched the flashing lights drive away in no more stunned silence than they would have had Darryl turned into a winged William Shatner and flown away.
The officer finally got in enough licks to subdue the enraged Reggie, and he managed to get him handcuffed. Then, leaving him on the ground, he jumped in the Escort with Sylvia and Delores. Sylvia just stared at the officer and failed to buckle her seatbelt as the Ford wagon took off in pursuit of her departed boyfriend.
For the first mile or so, the only sound Sylvia or Delores heard was the strained whine of the Escorts highly-refined, 120 horsepower four-cylinder engine. The officer, named Otto according to his uniform, didn't say a word as he pushed the vehicle to the limit of its capacity, which may have been slightly higher had they not been hauling seven hundred pounds of dog chow in the back of the wagon.
Finally Delores' nerve returned. "What are you going to do to him? Aren't you going to call ahead? You're not going to put us in jail, are you? Why don't you-"
The rant was cut off as the officer pulled a left turn at nearly sixty miles an hour and threw Delores to the right side of the car. The Escort whined and barreled off into the night, due west towards the swampland of a local bird refuge.
The officer was silent. After a few more turns, Sylvia noticed that Darryl's (or rather, the patrol car's) lights were still nowhere in sight. The officer seemed to be navigating by some sort of determined sixth sense as he blazed ahead.
Just as Sylvia was about to ask how the officer knew where Darryl had gone his lights suddenly appeared in the distance. The officer's hands gripped the steering wheel tightly and the little wagon's second wind yielded an additional three miles per hour.
Up ahead, Darryl's car turned into the entrance of the bird refuge and disappeared from sight again. The officer tried to slow down enough to make the turn, but careened off course and crashed into a log fence on the side of the road.
The officer jumped out of the car and tried to run down the road, but, still dazed from the wreck, he sliced to the right and ran into a fence post. Staggering back, he drew his weapon, fired it into the post three times, and raced down the dirt road into the refuge. As the road curved, the officer maintained his chase in a straight line, charging off into the underbrush in an effort to make up time. Sylvia and Delores, mortified, alarmed, and almost certainly suffering the after-effects of a faulty order of linguini, followed in frantic pursuit.
"Don't shoot him! Don't shoot him!" cried Sylvia, "he's just scared!"
They ran for several yards, trampling through mud and marshland. Try as they might, Sylvia and Delores were unable to keep up with the pace of the officer, who, gun held aloft, drew far enough ahead that he disappeared from sight.
Delores finally collapsed, and Sylvia knelt beside her.
"Go, Sylvia!" gasped Delores. " Leave me! You've got to save him! He has his faults-multiple neurosis, in fact-but he's worth it! Go do your part to fight against police brutality in all of its heinous ugliness!" She collapsed face first in the mud, and Sylvia got to her feet to resume the chase.
The light of a crescent moon was all there was to guide Sylvia's chase. The darkness seemed to move in around her, and was augmented by the sticky grip of the mud that clutched at her boots. Fortunately her boots had been specially lined with an advanced layer of Gore-Tex that prevented infiltration of even the harshest of elements, and kept her well-manicured toes toasty warm.
She strained to hear even the most distant peep to confirm that she was still heading in the right direction. Her run had slowed to an awkward stagger, not unlike the gait one would have if trying to carry Marlon Brando swiftly. Sylvia waited in horror to hear gunfire, but five full minutes after losing the officer, no crack had stirred the air.
Then she saw the light. Not more than a hundred or so yards ahead, some unearthly beacon awaited her approach. Then she recognized the lights of the patrol car, and her pace quickened with renewed energy. By now doused in mud from repeated stumbles, winded and nauseous, Sylvia forged the last few yards until she saw both Darryl and the officer next to the car. Darryl was on his knees, cowering before the enraged patrolman. With a guttural "NOOOOO!" she dived forward to tackle the officer, but without any kind of footing to provide leverage, her legs swept behind her and she completed a dramatic face plant at the feet of her target.
Still there was no gunfire. She felt two powerful hands grasp her upper arms and haul her up to her feet. The layer of mud gave her at least an extra thirty pounds, but the officer still brought her to feet like she was a rag doll.
Sylvia blinked several times as the stars cleared out of her head. As her senses gradually returned, she momentarily thought she could make out the figure of William Shatner in front of her, dressed in a tuxedo. Then Bill's face faded away, and there in front of her, on his knees, illuminated by the rotating police lights, was none other than Darryl Moon. At the end of his outstretched right arm, the moonlight glinted delicately off a humble diamond ring.
The entire world stopped. The rotating lights slowed to a crawl. The officer's formerly stern countenance was now split by a wide smile. The grumble in Sylvia's stomach was muffled. Her entire body stiffened. The entire universe was no more than her and a 117-pound window washer.
The moonlight glinted off of Darryl's gold tooth as he beamed with a fantastically asinine grin. His left arm stretched out to his side to signal the end of a dramatic performance. "Whadda you say, babe?" he crooned.
Sylvia's eyes began to well up. Her knees started to quiver as if supporting a monstrous weight. Her heart nearly burst out of her chest, and she hit Darryl so hard he swallowed three teeth.
As he pitched backwards, Darryl could hear the faint whine of distant sirens before his skull made contact with the patrol car's front fender. In that split second, the possibility that someone had seen and reported his little frontage road altercation crossed his mind for the very first time.
Darryl was only out for a few moments. During that time he was transported to a magical fantasy that saw him crowned the supreme ruler and despot of Freeport, Illinois. Just as an oversized four-foot-high crown was being lowered onto his head via cherry picker, Officer Ronald Yates of the Farmington Police Department shook Darryl back into relative reality.
A sticky warm feeling filled Darryl's mouth. He put his hand to his lips and realized that the lower half of his face was a mess. He spat and coughed while the officer coolly but firmly put him into handcuffs. Ten feet away, his dear Sylvia sat on the ground, covered in mud, sobbing.
His old High School friend Larry, up until recently employed by the Utah Highway Patrol, was nowhere in sight. Darryl craned his neck back and forth in search of his friend and accomplice, but his better judgement told him that he was gone before the other officers even arrived. Officer Yates eased him into the back of a squad car, and the energy of the evening finally caught up with Darryl as he slumped over in the back seat, sound asleep.
* * *
The Lieutenant rubbed his eyes wearily. "Look, kid. I don't need to know what you had for lunch today. Just tell me the important details. What happened tonight?"
Darryl wrinkled his brow. His chair was cold and hard, and the air conditioner was broken, doing little more than making grumbling noises as it sat in a nearby window. Darryl rested an elbow on the Lieutenant's desk and thought for a moment. His upper left jaw was throbbing terribly. As he lifted his hand to touch it, the Lieutenant shook his head in frustration.
"Kid, I haven't been home in seventeen hours. You want to just tell me why you stole that squad car?"
Darryl looked up. "I didn't steal the car, sir."
"Then who drove it out to the bird refuge?"
"Was Officer Freiberg with you?"
"Are you a police officer?"
"No, of course not."
"Then you stole the car," the Lieutenant insisted.
"Your buddy with the freckles. Did he beat up Officer Freiberg so you could take the car?" asked the Lieutenant.
"No, not exactly. I mean, sort of."
"Why did you take the patrol car?"
"I had to get away."
"What was wrong with the car your girlfriends were in?"
Darryl shook his head. "Just one of them was my girlfriend."
"Who was the other one?"
"Is she your doctor?"
"No. She's Reggie's analyst."
The Lieutenant frowned. "Who's Reggie?"
"The one that got in the fight with Officer Freiberg?"
"Well, yes, but-"
"What's your friend doing driving around with his analyst?"
"They were on a date."
Officer Perry leaned over from an adjacent desk. He'd just returned from investigating an apartment fire on the other side of town. "You can't date your analyst. They have to take an oath."
"That's only in Medical School," answered Darryl.
"Didn't she have to go to medical school?" asked the Lieutenant.
"No. She's not a psychiatrist."
"How is she a doctor then?" asked Officer Perry.
"She got a PhD in psychology. She's a Clinical Psychologist."
"What's the difference?" asked the Lieutenant.
"She can't write prescriptions," fumed Darryl. "Look, I don't know. All I can say is she thinks she has to analyze everyone around her all of the time and she makes Reggie feel like crap all of the time."
Officer Perry cocked his head to one side. "Is that why he got in the fight with Officer Freiberg?"
"They weren't really fighting."
"Your friend had bruises all over him and Officer Freiberg had handcuffed him!" exclaimed the Lieutenant.
"That was all a part of the plan!"
"There was a plan?" asked Officer Perry as he rose to pour himself a cup of coffee.
"Darryl, when we found you, you were clutching a doll and a diamond ring," started the Lieutenant. "You want to tell us about those?"
"It wasn't a doll. It was an action figure."
"Yeah," said Officer Perry, "it was Boba Fett."
The Lieutenant shot him an exasperated look. "Darryl, what's with the doll?"
"It's a good luck charm. I was-"
Officer Perry began to laugh, spilling coffee on his trousers and giving him several minor burns. The Lieutenant focused on Darryl.
"Darryl, ignore him," he said. "Tell me about the diamond ring. Did you steal that, too?"
"No!" Darryl tried to run his hands through his hair, but caught the chain that linked his cuffs on his toothless upper gums. With an anguished cry, he lunged forward and cracked his head on the edge of the Lieutenant's desk.
Slumping to the ground, he managed to utter, "I bought the ring from my cousin. I was trying to propose to Sylvia." He began to sob.
The Lieutenant looked confused. "Why didn't you propose before you stole the car?"
* * *
Twenty minutes later, Darryl staggered out of the police station, holding a blood-soaked rag to his mouth. Outside, Silvia waited on the steps. It was nearly three in the morning.
Darryl stopped in his tracks and was utterly silent. He now saw his hallowed plan for what it truly was: an ill-advised, moronic tragedy. He would rather spend three more days with the Lieutenant than face Sylvia.
She sensed his humiliation. "Sit down, Darryl. Let's talk."
Darryl looked at the road in the silent hope that perhaps a car would pull up to deliver him to safety, or better yet, run him down where he stood.
Sylvia didn't avert her gaze. "Please."
Slowly Darryl lowered himself on the steps. Shifting nervously, he gazed at the ground silently.
"So," started Sylvia, "at least they didn't put you in jail."
Darryl mumbled from under his rag. "I have a hearing in two weeks."
"What happened to your friend?"
"No, the other one," said Sylvia. "The policeman."
"They found him about a half-mile away." Darryl stared off in the distance. "They said he was hiding in the marsh, impersonating a duck."
"Well, he couldn't have been too bright," Sylvia smiled slightly, "If he agreed to help out with your little plan."
Darryl stared at the ground. "I'm sorry."
Sylvia looked over at Darryl in sympathy. "It's OK. I think you've paid a lot more than you deserved."
Darryl looked up and stared at a streetlight a little ways away. "I just wanted to do something original."
Sylvia smiled. "It was certainly that. You know, that's the most original thing anyone has ever done for me."
Darryl looked over at Sylvia finally. A faint glimmer of hope was in his eye. "You never did answer my question," he offered softly.
Her eyes solemnly delivered her answer. Darryl turned back to the road.
"I think you're a great guy, Darryl. One day you're going to make someone very happy."
Sylvia may as well have dug out Darryl's insides with an ice cream scoop. A thousands words and pleadings assaulted his mind at once and instantly cancelled themselves out. He could only nod slowly.
Sylvia looked away. "I'm sorry, Darryl."
Just then a green Pontiac Bonneville pulled up to the curb. Sylvia's mother stepped out. She wanted to run up the steps and grab her precious daughter, but seeing her there with Darryl, something told her to hold her peace.
Sylvia looked over at Darryl. "Do you need a ride?"
Darryl shook his head. "No thanks. I think I'm going to stay here for a bit."
Sylvia nodded in acknowledgment. She stood up and took a couple steps down to her mother before turning back. Darryl looked up at her. She'd never looked more beautiful.
Sylvia looked thoughtful for a second, then spoke. "If you ever want to see Butch and Sundance," she hesitated, "call me."
Awkwardly, she turned away from Darryl. As Sylvia reached the car and crawled into the backseat, her mother could resist no longer.
"You see, Sylvia," she commented, "I told you that's what you would get if you dated a moderate."
Darryl watched the Bonneville speed away, and would have wondered if he'd ever drive again himself had it not been for the tremendous weight that rested on his heart. As the car disappeared in the distance, he just sat there on the steps, turning over a thousand thoughts in his mind. A dozen excuses crossed his mind that would surely have convinced her to reconsider, but somehow Darryl knew it didn't matter.
An hour passed, and the night was entirely silent. No sound stirred the air, and Darryl couldn't remember the last time he'd seen a car drive by. Somehow the stillness held a certain warmth that defied the cold encircling his soul.
As he looked down at the cement steps, Darryl noticed a few spots of discoloration at his feet. He felt the tears slowly building, and silently falling to the ground. Then they fell faster and faster, joined by a silent summer rain that began to bathe the world.
Darryl thought briefly of Reggie, handcuffed and abandoned on the side of the road. He thought of Larry, wandering out in the marshes, trying to develop a convincing quack. He thought of the Hungry Man chicken fried steak he'd left in his oven over ten hours ago, and finally he smiled. A feeling of peace settled over him, and he stood as the rain settled into his shirt. He put his hands in his pockets, started down the steps, and turned up the sidewalk towards home.