Day 1: Introductions
A college kid named Blake pulled into a $5.3 million dollar mansion in the mountains near a Utah ski town to watch over an autistic highschooler named Caesar for the New Year’s weekend and they had a lot of plans on their schedule, made by Blake’s mother, like the Farmer’s Market, the Indoor Waterpark, The Angry Birds Movie, and New Year’s Eve Time. Blake was getting paid $500 as long as he could make it through the weekend and not let Caesar get hurt. Blake needed the money to pay off the nice one room apartment that he had no business being in.
The mother was standing on the front porch with a Sex Pistols t-shirt and spandex pants that had been scissored into shorts even though it was colder than 90% of the world outside. She was talking into a Bluetooth about something as he parked the car so he took five Buddhist breaths to make sure the bad air was out of the body before making the first impression with someone that defines everything even though it shouldn’t.
As he got out of the car and walked towards the mother she ended the call without saying “goodbye” or “I love you” and gave her hand up to shake. He looked her in the eyes and hated how boring they were. They weren’t even a color. He shook her hand and it felt like having your hand in one of those grocery store machines that tell you that your blood pressure is too high already and that it will get worse if you don’t do something about it so he let go of her hand a few seconds earlier than he should have.
“Welcome Blake,” she said. “Welcome to the residence. Come in please.”
She pulled a piece of paper from her cleavage and handed Blake the schedule that they had talked about over the phone. The paper didn’t feel moist or soft like Blake thought it would coming from within cleavage.
“Remember to be timely with this schedule Blake,” she said. “Kids with autism are easily agitated when things don’t go as scheduled.”
He understood and put the paper in his pocket. Then she opened the medieval doors to a mudroom with an aristocratic cabin theme because of the pure wood beams and moose paintings and the mountains right outside the window that were taller than they needed to be and too easy to get lost in.
“Shoes off,” she said. “First rule of the house Blake.”
He took his shoes off but got to keep his socks on for floor separation even though the floors were heated somehow. Maybe there were miles deep hot springs under the house that hell kept at a steady boil and the parents had harnessed that radiation in their floors because the indoor air was more like coastal breeze temperatures or those Georgia summer nights that he used to walk around in with his ex-girlfriend Ayesha before he moved to Utah and he couldn’t go back and visit her anymore because things had gotten horrible and...
“Let me show you around the premises,” the mother said.
She led him through a hallway with retail African masks and voodoo things on the walls that weren’t hanging straight. He had always wanted to go to Africa to volunteer for malaria because he hated the idea of something landing on him and making him have chills and fevers forever so he didn’t want this to happen to other people either.
Then they entered the 30-foot tall foyer with spider web-like patterns of pillars crisscrossing under the ceiling to make sure it didn’t all fall down. There was a kitchen to the right too but then someone entered into the picture on the left to come over and shake Blake’s hand gently. This guy had a blank black shirt, black shorts, and black shoes. His eyes didn’t have a chosen color either. Then this guy stood next to the mother, slouching, and Blake saw that he looked like a highschooler.
“This is my husband Blake,” she said.
But, he looked like a highschooler. How is that marriage even allowed? Was he a step-dad and one of Caesar’s high school friends or did the mother find him left by his date at prom or was she one of those moms that just liked younger guys more, which is okay because Blake’s ex-girlfriend was older than he was and went to college first so things changed faster for her and she knew more people and there were more people for her to spend time with and...
Then someone else walked out of the mother’s office. He was wearing a red shirt, red shorts, red hair and was taller, skinnier, and more muscular than Blake. When he saw Blake he covered his face with two books: Atlas Shrugged and How To Win Friends and Influence People.
“Caesar,” the Mother said. “This is Blake.”
“No say hi no say hi,” Caesar said. “Nervous...But nice to meet you Mr. Blake. I promise I’ll read the books while you’re gone mom. Got to get started.”
Then he took the spiral staircase downstairs.
“Sorry about that Blake,” the mother said. “As you know, autistic children have a hard time with social interaction. Especially, when they’re first meeting a new friend. It just takes them some time to warm up to you.”
She smiled and started massaging Blake’s shoulder and the husband walked away. She moved in a little bit closer and Blake’s body shuddered a little. Blake hadn’t felt someone this close to his body like this in a long time.
“Thank you so much for doing this,” she said. “My husband and I just need some time away from here. Not away from him. We love him. Just the house and Utah and everything.”
“I look forward to spending time with your son,” Blake said. “It makes me feel better knowing that I can make someone else’s day a little bit brighter.”
She gave him a small kiss on the cheek but didn’t give a hug. Then she rushed into her bedroom, got her husband, and walked past Blake without even making eye contact or saying goodbye or acknowledging Blake being there at all. Then a Rolls Royce left the garage and sped off into the distance.
Blake just stood there in the big space by himself and the space didn’t start feeling any smaller, which made him feel smaller and weaker so he rushed downstairs and plopped down on the couch closest to the staircase. Then he forced some of the air out of his lungs that had been there since the Buddhist breaths in the car. He tried to waste time and brain attention into his phone but he couldn’t help but think about his ex-girlfriend. So he started playing some app game where you crush pieces of candy in lines and some candy blows up or becomes rockets and then you get a score and do it again until you start to fall asleep. As he was falling asleep he felt the couch slowly wrapping around him like a gentle snuggler until he had sunk as deep as he would into the cushions and he wasn’t exposed, except for his face. When it seemed safe he fell asleep.
Four Days Earlier
Four days before showing up to watch Caesar, Blake was on the carpet in the darkest room of his studio apartment in front of a T.V. playing Mario Party by himself making sure the mind was staying blank and focused on the game. Games, sports, blacksmithing. These things kept the brain and body busy without overheating. While he was playing, his ex-girlfriend Ayesha called. She was still living in Atlanta and was never going to leave because she could never handle a big change like that.
“Hey babe,” she said. “I miss you so much.”
“Miss you too,” he said.
And he really did miss her. They had dated for two years, a year and a half of which was long distance. And she had broken up with him three times in a row during those two years. Twice on consecutive birthdays. But he always fought back into their relationship by giving her lots of apologies and telling her stories from past parts of their relationship like when they went to the Coke museum for their first date or when he fed her popcorn through the mouth that time when she let him kiss her in the movie theater. Or that one time when she ran down the stairs with a shirt on, but no bra to contain the bouncing underneath, and then she climbed on top of him but at the wrong angle so his dick bent and he thought it had snapped in half and that he was going to lose it but then she said, “Don’t worry. They’re like lizard tails. They grow back.” And a few minutes later, after he had recovered from the bending, she let them try new sexy stuff because she felt bad. These were the kinds of things he could say to get them back together again.
Plus, he couldn’t handle being out of the relationship. He needed the morning texts that reminded him that he was a priority to someone. He needed the late night Snapchats where she took off one piece of clothing at a time in sequenced pictures and she dimmed the lighting in her room so that the dark shade matched her bronzy black skin and hid the fat rolls on her naked body even though he was fine with the fat and knew that he was no better.
This would get him fried out and dulled for that time before sleep when the brain collapsed on itself with paranoid hypotheticals and conspiracy theory rabbit holes. Sometimes he imagined things like being drugged by his Hot Pocket breakfast before a road-trip with the whole family and having to navigate heavy traffic and being temporarily color blind at traffic lights and having to decide if he would rather crash or tell them what he thought was in the Hot Pockets. Other times, he thought about the aliens who built the pyramids and if they felt bad about making humans slaves or if having all that admiration from the awe-stricken Egyptians made them feel good. Thinking this stuff kept him up for hours though. But the sexy stuff made him too tired to think about this stuff much. And he knew she needed this stuff to sleep too.
He also needed Ayesha’s depression spells so he could feel good when he got her out of them. And he wanted that chance for her to bite his ear again and for her to try to lick his eyeballs because he knew no one would ever want to lick his plain jane eyeballs with cardboard brown irises again.
Anyway, they talked about things that didn’t matter to either of them like how the other person’s parents were doing or the new good friends in their lives. And then she asked him if he had been seeing anyone else and he was no good at lying.
“But you said you loved me last night,” she said.
“I do,” he said. “But we aren’t together anymore and I want us to explore other relationships so that when we get married in the future and have baby Kellen we appreciate each other even more.”
Her voice was usually sad and screechy during moments like this but this time it was automated and low. He tried to talk to her but she wouldn’t talk back. After a few minutes, she started narrating what she was doing and he couldn’t interrupt her.
“I’m getting out of bed,” she said. “I’m walking up the stairs. I’m going into my Mom’s bathroom.”
“What are you doing, babe?” he said.
“I’m opening a cabinet and taking something out.”
Then he heard a faucet turn on. The pitch of the water was changing as it filled up a glass until it was just white noise with the water overflowing the cup. But all he heard was static. He tried his hardest not to fill in the static he was hearing with his own thoughts. Maybe she was just gargling mouthwash, her breath always tasted so good.
But then she rattled a pill container near the mouthpiece of her phone and it sounded like she was playing Yahtzee with firecracker dice when she emptied the pills onto the counter. She put the mouthpiece up to her mouth and he could hear the pills bouncing off the back of her throat before she washed them down with water. She did this four times. He just wanted to know what was going to happen. Just some sort of answer so he would know what to do about all of it.
“What are you doing babe? Stop. I love you! Please,” he said on repeat.
But she didn’t respond. She just walked around the house for a few minutes until the phone hit the floor. She must have just wilted to the ground after that because he didn’t hear a thud. The phone was still on the line. He heard screams getting closer. Who is that? Why are they screaming? What’s going on? His questions were rhetorical and repetitive so rambling wasn’t going on in his head but the image of her foaming at the mouth started appearing. Then he imagined seeing through her eyes. He saw there being a constant red flashing light in her vision and a red alert sound effect like after the guards set off the alarm in a stealth mission and he imagined someone with a deep voice saying “warning, shutting down” over the intercom in her head and her being the building that Blake planted the explosives in for the mission he didn’t won’t to be on. But she set off the explosives, not him.
He hung up the phone.
He didn’t know if she was alive or not for three days after that because her mom and friends forgot about him. But then she sent him tons of texts about how she still loved him so he felt better. He didn’t respond to those texts but that didn’t matter as much.
Day 2: Farmer’s Market and Unstructured Time
“Top of the morning Mr. Blake,” Caesar said too loudly, waking Blake up.
Blake rolled over a bit and saw that the sun had just barely made it into the world again. It was that early time that only CEO’s and serial killers should be up.
“So early,” Blake said.
“It’s the first day of the rest of your life,” Caesar said. “Let’s start it off right.”
“The Farmer’s Market isn’t until later buddy.”
“Mom and I do the exercises every morning at six. And you should too.”
Was she in the military or had they been watching too many Vietnam movies together? It’s not typical for autistic kids to want to exercise but they get in their routines and maybe he is associating his activities with whoever he is with right then even if that person doesn’t in any way look like the kind of person that would want to do morning workouts. Blake needed to keep sleeping so that his mind wouldn’t be stale all-day and unable to adjust if Caesar had a meltdown and hit someone or ran away.
“In a little bit buddy,” Blake said. “I need to keep sleeping so that we can have more fun later.”
“Sleep is for the weak and you need to get stronger,” Caesar said. “And it’s on my schedule. Need to be on my schedule and I need a workout partner.”
Caesar was getting tense. His hands were shaking and he wouldn’t stop looking at Blake until confirmation. So Blake got up and told him he would do it.
“Here’s your water,” Caesar said. “Hydration is important.”
Blake took the water but didn’t drink any of it. He knew that there was no way that an autistic kid would put anything in his water but he just couldn’t trust it if he didn’t get to wash the cup and let the faucet run for a second to get the first level water out. Instead, he squirted the water out onto the floor whenever Caesar wasn’t looking to make it look like he was staying hydrated.
Caesar got out some yoga mats and put a headband on like the one Lebron James used to wear. Caesar acted halfway between a personal trainer and a drill sergeant as they did pushups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks. He yelled out things like ”1. 2. 3.” during the exercises, but after he said things like, “Great job! You’re getting better every rep!” in softened voice. This went on for a half hour and after it was over Blake just laid there exhausted and feeling even less in shape. Why did he just let Caesar do that to him? Blake knew he needed to do a better job standing up for himself.
At 11 they got in Blake’s car to go to the farmer’s market.
Driving down the road, Blake was getting tense about the ex-girlfriend situation again because driving only requires some attention and he didn’t know what to talk to Caesar about and Caesar wasn’t about to instigate any conversations. While Blake was processing this whole situation he tried to turn the radio on to distract himself but Caesar kept turning it back off. Blake couldn’t drive without music on. Without music, random thoughts rush around and when he tried to clear the thoughts it felt like he was rushing through lost time to catch up with the real world again and this made his body sink into the earth for some reason which reminded him that he was still alive in a bad way and that he still was wherever he was, which couldn’t have ever been the best place to be.
“No songs,” Caesar kept saying and saying.
While this was going on, Blake saw that there was a middle schooler in the bike lane on their side of the road. The middle schooler was peddling fiercely with his hands on the handlebars because he was smoking a bong between his legs and needed both hands to pull this off. The middle schooler was swerving right into the middle of the road but then he looked up after a rip of the bong and saw that Blake’s car was veering into the bike lane. The middle schooler decided to dive out onto the grass so that the car wouldn’t hit him. The bong broke as he hit the ground, which was sad, but better than being run over and dead and having all the broken bong glass piercing the car tires and making it so all of them would be stuck there crying and feeling horrible.
This situation really stressed Blake out. There were so many parents driving on this road. How could they just let this shit kid do that? Did they pay that little attention to their children or did they just not think it was a big deal even though it could have ruined everything if Blake had hit that shit kid?
Blake wanted to stop and check on him but he needed to stick to schedule so that Caesar wouldn’t lose it and try to move the steering wheel and make the airbags bang their whole bodies into a bruise like old blueberries with skeletons, organs, and other body things swimming around loose in them and have to stay in the hospital until getting driven home and not getting any money because he failed.
“Blake! Please drive straight please!”
“I’m so sorry buddy. I’ll keep it straight. We’re almost there.”
Caesar looked out the back window, laughed a little and yelled, “that’s what you get for drugs!”
But how did Caesar know what drugs were? It’s not like people do that stuff out in the open normally. Is this town just one of those places? Had Caesar done drugs before? No… that would scramble his brain even more and no one would allow that.
Caesar didn’t say much after that in the car even though Blake asked him questions. Caesar would just say “next question” or “lifeline” and Blake didn’t know what to do.
After making it through all the traffic lights and intersections and dodging people pulling out of driveways when they weren’t supposed to they made it to the farmer’s market safely. It was on Main Street and the little bourgie town seemed to be revolving around it. Blake was looking to park in a regular parking space when Caesar pulled a crumpled up handicap-parking permit from his pocket.
“For the best spaces,” Caesar said with a smirk on his face.
“Did you print that off of the internet?” Blake said.
“From Mom. Too many questions, you’ve asked enough.”
Did autistic kids usually have those? Did his mom get that from social services? It was crumpled up and looked like printer paper.
Even though Blake was confused he took the thing, put it on the rearview mirror, and parked in a handicap spot. When Blake turned off the car Caesar got out and took off. Blake pulled up the collar on his coat and pushed his long hair down over his neck so that someone couldn’t put something on his neck in a big crowd of people like this and just walk away without anyone else catching them. Then he trotted off to catch up with Caesar. He couldn’t lose him in there, that early on especially.
Caesar stopped by a cotton candy stand, took a bag of cotton candy, and kept power walking so Blake ran up to the counter and said, “I’m so sorry. He’s autistic and doesn’t understand…”
“It’s okay sweetie,” the cotton candy lady said. She had awesome eyes. One had a pink contact and the other one had a blue contact. It matched the cotton candy theme. “We understand. Caesar doesn’t have to pay anything this time. We’ve known him and his mom for years. But you better go catch up with him!”
Blake turned around and tried to run through the crowd but he couldn’t because his big body would plow everyone down if he just let himself go. He questioned how the cotton candy lady knew Caesar. Did he talk to her a lot or did she just know him because of how he acts? Did she always just let him take the cotton candy? Were they trying to lure him in for something?
Blake realized that he was just standing there while he was thinking so he stopped thinking and tried to run through the crowd again to find Caesar before something bad could happen and Blake would have to fix all of it while everyone was watching how terrible he was at handling everything and if maybe the cotton candy lady should have just taken Caesar for the weekend instead.
When Blake got to the bottom of the street he found a stage with a bunch of old black dudes and white dudes on it playing bluesy rock music. Then he saw that Caesar was on stage, with a bag of kettle corn too, eating and singing at the same time. He kept singing the same line “just singing the blues” with a lowered voice and everyone loved it.
This reminded Blake of that one night that he and his ex-girlfriend did karaoke in the cafeteria at their old high school in Atlanta. He remembered singing the Backstreet boys in falsetto just to make her smile and laugh and feel good about dating him. She went up on stage too but only with a group of ten other people and she was nervous just doing that. But afterwards, they got to make out in her car and build up the tension slowly, going one base at a time, just how they liked it, before she got all paranoid that someone could be watching them so she dropped him off at home and drove off. Kind of like after prom when she drove him home right after and they didn’t get to play around with each other and she went off to an after party he wasn’t invited and made out with another girl without him getting to watch and...
“Okay time to go,” Caesar said, tapping Blake on the shoulder.
Blake had to catch up in time again, remind himself that he was standing, and re-engage with the world.
“Are you in trouble or something?” Blake asked.
“No, but I’ve gotten done what I need to get done. Everything is crossed off the list. It’s time to go. It’s time to read.”
When they got home Caesar locked himself in his room and Blake was starving. He didn’t get to eat at the farmer’s market because he had to keep up with Caesar the whole time. Blake wouldn’t have eaten anything there anyway because he only ate something if he got to see it get made or if the food was mass produced in a factory where there was only a tiny chance that someone would drug the peanuts or beef jerky. Blake walked into a kitchen that had all marble countertop with hints of opal and gold in it and a multi-tiered refrigerator with its own soda fountain. He wouldn’t use the soda fountain though because he only trusted the restaurant soda fountains that had to follow FDA regulations and couldn’t just put whatever they wanted in the flavoring. So he got to save some calories for later. He checked the pantry, freezer, and refrigerator but it was all ingredients to make food so there was no food. He had to get food from his car.
So he went out the medieval door and opened the back door of his car. He lifted the blanket that was covering the food boxes on the back seats, took out a cylinder of Pringles and a bag of peanuts and went back inside.
He decided to take a look around the mansion as he enjoyed his first food of the day. He walked into a study upstairs near the parent’s bedroom. The study was in the shape of a cone with the door on the curved side, which must have been a custom design. There were punk band posters, like the Sex Pistols and Green Day, taped onto the walls and multiple “Keep Calm and Carry On” framed posters. No bookshelves or printers or anything. Just inspiration for the mother it looked like.
Then there was a bronze statue of Ronald Reagan in the far corner. It looked like it had been made by a Greek statue sculptures while Ronald posed with clothes on because it was an exact replica of him. Behind the statue to the left was a picture of Ronald Reagan, making a thumbs up, but Caesar was in the picture too. He was putting his arm around Reagan, stone faced and making the devil horns with his hand. It must have been photo shopped. But it looked so real. Did the mother make it to make sure her son was a republican through subconscious self-association? Or did Caesar make it for a school art project or a handout for a presentation in government class? No, autistic kids don’t take those kinds of classes. It had to be something else.
Blake needed to figure this out. He took a picture of the picture with his phone, walked down to Caesar’s room, and knocked on the door.
“Caesar can I come in?” Blake said.
“No!” Caesar yelled. “Need to read!”
Blake tested the doorknob and it was locked. He put his ear to the door and heard the sound of button mashing on a gaming controller with dirty south hip-hop music playing lightly in the background. He listens to rap? Had one of the shady kids at school show him that? Is he hanging out with that crowd? Plus, why would he lie to Blake about reading? Was he hiding something from Blake?
As Blake was walking away from the door he heard Caesar yell “headshot shithead!”
This made Blake’s eyebrows twitch and eyes getter bigger. Why was he talking like that? Autistic kids don’t just say that unless if their taught and they are in isolated classrooms. Where was he hearing stuff like that.
Blake was starting to get suspicious of everything going on. He started to do some research on his phone about autism symptoms but he wasn’t finding anything that he didn’t already know. Blake decided that he wasn’t going to find out anymore that night. But he was going to find out more the next day after some sleep but a few cheddar jalapeño Cheetos from his car first.
Day 3: Water Park, late morning-early afternoon. Movie Theater, late afternoon-early evening. New Year’s Eve, nighttime.
The next morning, Blake had to do another morning workout that he hated even more than the first one because the exercises were even harder and he wasn’t any stronger than the previous day. Some time later, Blake and Caesar put on their swimsuits so they wouldn’t have to change and then they got in the car and to drive to the indoor waterpark in the next town over.
It had snowed overnight and was still snowing so the roads were like ice rinks but cars don’t have skates, they have slippery wheels. But Blake got to drive straight the whole time to the waterpark because someone built a tunnel through the entire mountain separating the towns so they were able to make it over safely. The indoor waterpark was the only thing there besides corner stores, hardware stores, Mormon churches, gun ranges, and houses. Blake pulled into a handicap space in the almost full parking lot.
“Don’t run off this time,” Blake said.
Caesar nodded and got out of the car. He would start to run but then look back at Blake to make sure he hadn’t fallen too far behind. Maybe Caesar was noticing that Blake was keeping a closer eye on him today and was acting differently because of it.
Once they were inside Blake went up to the counter, bought the wristbands from a lifeguard bro, and put one on Caesar’s wrist. Then they walked into the water park.
It was huge inside. There were four waterslides, a vast and shallow kiddy pool with a castle tower that had water gun cannons and firefighter-like hoses on it, a bottomless pool with a high dive, and lifeguards everywhere. There were too many places for Caesar to get lost, hurt or drown in and the lifeguards were too attractive and their hair was too perfect to jump in after someone if someone needed help to live.
“Tell me where you are going before you do anything Caesar and make sure I’m following you. We need to make sure that you’re safe and following the rules and..”
“Mr. Blake. We are going to sit down, catch some rays, and relax first.”
Caesar found a poolside chair, sat down in it, took his shirt off, pulled out a pair of sunglasses from his pocket, crossed his leg, and put his hands behind his head.
“This is the life Mr. Blake,” Caesar said. “Sit down and enjoy the vacation.”
It made sense why Caesar was wearing sunglasses. The lighting was awful in there. Something about fluorescent lights inside when it’s dark and cloudy outside makes you sink into the earth again and again. Blake wished that the indoors and outdoors could find a happy medium with their brightness so that they would share the same shades of light at all times of the day in any weather and not make you feel exposed being inside.
But then Blake looked at Caesar and saw that his head was on a swivel. Caesar kept turning his head and was moving too much to be relaxing. Blake examined the rest of him and noticed that Caesar had a boner that he hadn’t hidden away under the waistband (like Blake already had), which is hard to do when you’re shirtless because the tip peeks out and that’s not okay. But aren’t autistic kids supposed to be a-sexual? There was that one famous couple that we’re in love and married and never had sex and they had been together forever. And everyone has sex eventually unless if there is something going on with them. Maybe Caesar just had a random boner and was looking around because he was bored? Or maybe he does like girls …
“Why do you have sunglasses on Caesar?” Blake said.
Caesar thought for a second.
“Don’t want them to see the eyes,” Caesar said. “Hate eye contact.”
That is true, autistic kids hate eye contact, but Caesar was grinning and biting his lip whenever someone hot walked by. Was there something different about Caesar? Was he really hiding something? Blake knew he couldn’t just ask him that. But Blake was going to try to figure it before the mother got back. He was going to figure it out.
Blake decided to look around too but he didn’t have any sunglasses on so he had to be subtler, which was easy because everyone was white and blonde and that didn’t interest Blake as much. Plus, Blake knew that most of them were Mormon and he had already tried to get with a Mormon girl before but when they were finally in a room alone together she saw it as an opportunity to have an open-conversation about faith with him and Blake hated that shit because it made people all think the same and he didn’t want to start believing that God was inside of everything and able to alter the stuff in front of him at it’s own will. Ever since that night, Blake has become more interested in non-white women like his ex-girlfriend even if there were parts of her personality and behaviors that made him develop ideas about problems he would have never had otherwise, like caring about his body or thinking about dying or drugs or…
“Time for some swimming,” Caesar said.
Caesar, whose boner was gone too, was standing above Blake. Blake stood up and had to take his shirt off, which he didn’t love to do but he didn’t care as much what these people thought of him. He took a deep breath and disproved the theory that the water could have bad stuff floating around in it because there were so many gallons of water in the pool that you would need hundreds of dollars worth of drugs for them to work at all and the chlorine was there to protect you from that kind of stuff too.
Caesar went straight for the castle tower with water gun cannons and firefighter-like hoses on it and Blake followed him. Caesar climbed to the top of the tower and took over an unmanned water gun. Then he unloaded on all the kids in the pool. He was laughing and hollering like one of those guys that lose their minds in those war movies.
This looked so fun that Blake joined in on one of the hoses. He started laughing and hollering too as the water hit all of the Mormon kids in the face and they fell down defeated, but not hurt, and they eventually gave up trying to invade the castle. After the Mormon kids retreated Blake noticed a group of about ten Chinese kids running through the shallow water towards the castle with their arms locked together.
“Stop the Asian invasion!” Caesar yelled, loudly. “Take these fuckers out!”
Then came the lifeguard whistles and dead silence. Everyone stopped and looked up at the tower. Caesar dropped the gun and sat down. Blake stood still and felt all of the attention.
“Get down from the tower,” one of the lifeguards said.
“Time to go,” Caesar said. “Abort mission before the swearing police catch us!”
Caesar took the slide down. Blake couldn’t believe Caesar had just said that. Blake knew that autistic kids just said what was on there mind a lot but you can’t just say slurs like that. But where had he heard that before? Was it from those same kids that told him about drugs and rap music or from his parents or was that what everyone thought but were too scared to say it because of the whole world would stop and look at them?
Blake looked out over the park and saw Caesar running along the side of the pool with a group of lifeguards chasing after him. Everyone was huddling against the walls as the lifeguards chased after Caesar like drivers on a road when a police car in pursuit goes by. What was going on? All he does is swear and say something racist and they chase after him like he’s a fleeing criminal? Was swearing a felony there? Had the Mormon Church declared martial law or were the lifeguards going rogue and everyone else was terrified too? But how did Caesar know that they would react like that? It couldn’t have been the first time that had happened. And all the people knew what to do too.
Blake took the slide down, stumbled through the water, grabbed their stuff, and ran out the front door. Caesar was running through the parking lot and the lifeguards were on their walkie talkies. Blake unlocked the car and yelled, “get in the car” to Caesar.
When Blake made it to the car he saw that Caesar was in the driver’s seat.
“Shotgun Caesar!” Blake yelled.
“Yes sir Mr. Blake,” Caesar said, leaping over the gear shifter into the shotgun seat in one fluid motion.
Then Blake got in the car, tore out of the parking lot, and sped out onto the road.
“We did it Mr. Blake,” Caesar said. “Mission complete.”
“We need to get out of here,” Blake said.
Blake went over the speed limit. The police could have been after them and Caesar could have been about to have a fit and there really could have been something in that water that would make it so Blake shouldn’t be driving and made him all jittery and shaking.
Blake kept at a steady fast speed until they made it to the tunnel. When they were in the tunnel Caesar said, “It’s so cold Mister Blake.”
Blake turned on the heat and put his towel over Caesar.
“I’m so sorry buddy,” Blake said. “We’ll make hot chocolate at home.”
They were shirtless and wet and it was winter. Blake should have been keeping better care of him then that. But Blake was distracted. And the last thing they needed was the police catching them and being stuck in a jail cell for days just sitting there with their own thoughts and Caesar slowly chipping away at Blake’s brain until he was inside and able make Blake see, think, feel, and smell things that weren’t actually there.
After a few hours of Blake trying to meditate and regroup with a warm shower it was time for the next item on the schedule: the movie theater. They dressed up in some nice clothes, got in Blake’s car, and drove slowly to the movie theater because they didn’t have to go fast anymore.
Once the car was parked in one of the handicap spaces of the almost empty parking lot Caesar said, “I want a large popcorn no butter a sour patch kids treat and a small Sprite please.” Then Caesar bailed on Blake, just like at the farmer’s market, and ran towards the theater. Blake just couldn’t predict what Caesar was going to do.
Blake ran after him but slipped on black ice and his jeans and nice button down got snowy because being coordinated is hard and being overweight and panicked doesn’t help anything. He recovered and made it to the theater a minute later and went inside. It was nice and empty and the theater looked like one of those opera houses from Europe somewhere and it felt like a safe space where Caesar would be fine. Or maybe he was meeting with some people in a secret meeting first before Blake got there.
Blake walked up to the ticket booth out of breath and with his head down. He was scrunched over and using his coat to try to hide all the snow.
“Have you seen someone?” He said. “He’s about 6’5’’, red jacket, red jeans, red hair, Caucasian...”
“Caesar’s in theater 3 sweetie,” the college-aged girl behind the counter said. “It’s just him in there so you’ll find him no problem. Take your time getting that popcorn and treats.”
She was smiling perfectly and was the most beautiful person in the world right then. She had irises like blue PowerAde-gold speck vodka mixed drink. She had big curly hair, dark chocolate skin, and the best mole on the left side of her cheek. And dimples! He was in the first encounter stage so he didn’t have enough time to process his emotions, which makes chills wash over his body when he sees someone amazing like this again on round two. Also, when he saw these people again his words ended up freezing still in the throat like little icicles that crash into the other words trying to make their way out.
“You forgot the small Sprite,” Blake said. “Besides... I’ll eat his treat before the food gets there because no one can resist the sour yet sweet combo of Sour Patch Kids... At least I can’t.”
She laughed a little and her eyes were shiny too but she didn’t say anything.
“Okay... have a great rest of your shift kid,” Blake said.
He scurried off. That response was so bad it sounded like a damn commercial but this time the camera kept rolling after the product punch line and the actor was self-loathing and fat but tried to come off as honest and self-aware. His ex was the only one who would ever like any of that shit. This new perfect person probably wouldn’t think of him at all. If she had to he would be that guy that she just nodded at walking down the street or she would be that person who swipes left when she sees his profile on Tinder
He went up to the concessions and paid a worker boy who had braces on and a goofy smile. After he paid and watched the worker boy prepare the food he took the stuff over to the side counter in secret, wiped his hands down with three napkins, and threw the top layer of popcorn away in case the worker boy sprinkled something bad on top that would make The Angry Birds movie better but the drive home impossible.
Blake wiped down his hands with one more napkin just in case, took a handful of popcorn, stuffed it in his mouth, and started chewing with a hip-hop drum beat pattern because he couldn’t beat-box but needed mental white noise and the popcorn just couldn’t wait as he walked over to the theater. He was starving too.
He walked into the theater and stood in the middle row place to find Caesar, who was lounging in a seat that had an electric switch on the side that pushed the seat all the way back. He was in the handicap section wearing the handicap sign like a necklace. Had Blake’s mom told him to do that or was he just making sure he wouldn’t get caught sitting in a seat that he knew he wasn’t supposed to be sitting in?
But the chairs in there must have come from those stores in the mall that let you test out foot massagers... hand-held massagers… but not masseuses. This reminded Blake of when he and his ex-girlfriend used to walk around the mall and go into every goddamn department store and Forever 21 sometimes, never Gamestop or Hot Topic, and she would try on prom dresses for hours even though it was six months before the dance and when she did buy anything she would return them because her mind changed like weather and he was a shitty mood meteorologist so it wasn’t handled well and sex never happened because they were basically starting over after every depression session because true opinions were never spoken until they shouldn’t have been then she ended up in the hospital...
Blake noticed Caesar waving at someone towards the front of the theater. Blake turned around and saw a highschooler in the front row. He was wearing a Bernie shirt and Titleist hat and was waving back at Caesar. Blake looked up at Caesar and saw him flash the high school kid a sideways peace sign, stone faced. Then the high school boy said, “Sup Caesar? You excited for robotics club at 3 on Monday?”
“Yes yes don’t say hi bro.”
The high school boy had brushed blonde hair, a smoothed face, and big blue eyes, like two reflective sapphires five feet under crystal clear Caribbean waters at midday. They were probably colored contacts but they were still great eye. Blake gave him a smile and a head nod. Then the highschooler turned back around and chatted with the posse he was hanging with.
Bur what kind of robots were they making? Were they the dinky kinds or the kinds that are indiscernible from people and might be even smarter than we are? Were there any robots at Caesar’s mansion or did the school keep them for their own use? Blake thought about the Ronald Reagan statue but quickly tried to push it out of his mind.
Not that many people were at the movie theater because everyone else was pre-gaming and thinking about whom they were getting to kiss when the clock struck midnight. His ex was probably drunk and kissing down a black guy’s neck... then chest... then stomach because that’s what she did after depression spells or hospital visits.
Blake brought the concessions to Caesar and sat down, putting the popcorn between his knees to keep it stable and in his sight. If he put the popcorn on the ground he would imagine a little evil gnome sprinkling magic powder on the popcorn disguised as cheddar flavoring but actually something that would make him see things move and shut down the practical functions of his brain forever. He thought this was ridiculous too but you can never be too careful.
Blake looked over at Caesar and saw him playing a game on an iPhone where you are a stealth agent breaking into the NSA headquarters to unveil Hillary Clinton’s Wikileaked emails. Then you post the secrets onto your Facebook and everyone finds out everything and you get rewarded with a ride in a party bus with champagne and stripers.
“What are you playing Caesar?” Blake said.
“Don’t look,” Caesar said. “Don’t have to turn off till the previews.”
So Caesar was a conservative. Was the app just a silly game or was it a game made by the Russians to train people to hack into places to reveal information about people of interest to everybody? Was this real information or just a game? Did Caesar think that this was real information or just a game?
Blake pulled out his phone to make sure he didn’t have any messages and to check sports scores and Instagram and he opened Snapchat with cautious optimism but no new pictures and then he Googled things and...
Then Blake looked around the theater and the architecture started to get to him.
The lights in the theater went from bright sepia to a mild tint of red. The ceiling had a tilt downward toward the back that made the back row both claustrophobic and tucked away. There were chairs missing in tons of places and it was so dark where the chairs should have been. It was like nothing was there.
But in one of the empty areas was that middle school aged kid with that bong that broke from earlier sitting crisscross applesauce in one of those empty spaces. It looked like he was sitting on glass. But he wasn’t. Because when he took a hit from his new bong and exhaled the smoke gathered itself then rushed into the empty space like a ghost running away from an eyewitness. Where was the smoke going? Was there some vacuum sucking it all up and sending the smoke to some fun room with people snuggling and watching SpongeBob? The world could benefit from places like that since the election. But these rooms could also be for people who didn’t want to be in them and who had never been high before and scared of the effects of second hand smoke because it had been in other people’s bodies and you don’t know what kind of chemicals have been mixed around in other people’s bodies.
“Hey down in front drugs boy,” Caesar said.
The bong boy smiled smugly and nodded his head excessively at Caesar.
Then Caesar flipped him off.
Blake almost asked Caesar if he knew anything about how it could be legal to smoke weed in the movie theater in this damn town but Blake didn’t want him to suspect that he was suspicious of him. Caesar probably understood more than could possibly be understood by an autistic person. Caesar must have hiding something from everybody. He must have been.
After the movie that Blake paid almost no attention to Caesar ran out of the theater but Blake waited for a second and did some more Buddhist breaths so that he could be at his best in the lobby. Once he made it to the lobby area he saw Caesar talking to the most beautiful person in the world right then. He was leaning his arm against a movie poster and flexing and she was laughing and close to him with all parts of her pointing towards him. They looked intimate. Blake walked over as quickly as he could without raising suspicion of the other moviegoers or other the movie theater staff.
“So you two are already friends it seems?” Blake said.
“You could say that,” she said, giving Caesar a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Ladies man,” Caesar said.
All of them laughed.
“He’s so sweet, isn’t he?” Blake said. “I love spending time with him.”
“He brings a positivity to all of our lives here,” she said. “To the community.”
“If only we could all see the world with the untainted eyes that he does,” Blake said. “He teaches us so much about the world and the place it could be.”
She touched Blake's arm with feathery fingers that sent small pulses through all the vital organs and penis. There was a small quaking inside his stomach like a new bird about to hatch from an egg. He felt a good sinking; the kind that makes you feel happy to be in your body. He didn’t want to be just a transparent observer floating around to see things but not have any actions or body language or words to be judged by. He wanted to be there.
Then Caesar whispered something in her ear. He whispered forever but Blake couldn’t catch one word of it. Blake noticed Caesar’s hand on the lowest part of her back, teasing his fingers towards her butt. Blake felt a dull shock start in chest and spread through the rest of him.
“We should get going home,” Blake said.
“Next time sweetie,” she said, to Caesar… blowing him a kiss.
“I’ll text you later,” Caesar said. “Or maybe send you a Snapchat.”
No way… What kind of Snapchats? He wasn’t sending those kinds of Snapchats was he? There was no way. Or at least she wasn’t sending anything back. Ayesha didn’t send anything to Blake for months and they were dating and Blake wasn’t even autistic. And she’s way too hot for Caesar even if he is tall and strong and funny and all that.
Caesar ran (again) to the car but Blake walked slowly because competing his stupid stomach and thick bones were already weighting him down naturally and the thought of Caesar and this girl together couldn’t escape his head.
On the way home Blake stopped by one of the local Basketball Domes (a free-standing, ventilated, clear glass dome that costs 5 dollars per session) even though Caesar protested. Caesar banged the windows and tried to bite the seat cushions off and his face was getting as red as his hair and shirt were. For a second Blake wished he could just tie him down to the seat for a bit but he knew that wasn’t okay and that he would get arrested in a second.
Blake just had to shoot a couple hoops. He needed to do it for that time where the ball is in the air for a few seconds and the only thing you're allowed to pay attention to is the result of the shot. So, he opened the door to the dome and shot. He would be better at handling Caesar with this tiny window of time for himself to get reset and a little bit more in shape and zen-minded. He would be better. And Caesar could get over it.
When they got home Blake needed some time to himself. So he got in the shower in the parent’s bedroom . After he was done with that he got out of the shower, dried off, and felt a little better. But then he walked down stairs and heard loud talking from Caesar’s room. Blake walked over and put his ear to the door. Then he heard Caesar ranting at someone with what sounded like a drunken debate rebuttal.
“Y’all Hybrid lovin’ liberals don’t get it do you? All you college snowflakes studying identity sciences and intersectional feelings studies. No one cares that the coal factories piss off the polar bears. People hear build a wall and Keystone pipeline and that’s jobs. You guys think by having the liberal media that everyone’s social justice heroes? They waited till the voting booth and their voices were silent but deadly like a collective fart of tear gas wafting around the entire nation. Boom roasted!”
There was a pause in the talking and the sound of buttons being pressed on a gaming controller took over. Then Caesar said “Head shot shithead.”
And all this almost broke Blake’s brain. Blake fell on the closest couch to Caesar’s door. How did he just say that? Is he just a political savant or echoing his parents or channeling the words of the ghosts of the founding fathers or what? Who’s he talking to? Where am I?
Then it came to Blake. He isn’t really autistic is he? He’s faking it! The whole time with the free cotton candy, with the morning workouts, that bong boy, the lifeguards, how he flirted at the movie theater. He’s just taking advantage of everyone and they’re just letting him do it. How can’t they see what’s really going on? Are they in on it too? Is he doing secret favors for them? Are they all part of some sort of conservative uprising to create their own nation where they succeed from the union and have their own laws and sovereignty?
Blake needed the answers so he knocked on Caesar’s door.
“I’m reading,” Caesar said.
“No you’re not,” Blake said. “Open the door.”
“Need to read.”
“I’ll call your mom Caesar.”
Caesar opened the door a few seconds later. The room was almost empty; blank walls and nothing else in there, except for a giant bed, a closet, and a T.V. with a Playstation and a virtual reality headset. No posters. No dresser. No bookshelf.
Caesar was playing Call of Duty on his Playstation, not even acknowledging Blake’s presence. Blake just had to keep calm enough to get the truth.
“Caesar. Are you a Trump supporter?”
Caesar didn’t say anything.
“What happened today at the waterpark? Why were they chasing you? And why do you just take the kettle corn and cotton candy from those nice people at the farmer’s market? And how at the movie theater did …”
“Too many questions.”
Caesar was still playing Call of Duty and his face wasn’t changing at all with the questions. Caesar must have known that autistic kids don’t show their emotions and he was still trying to pull off the whole trick. But Blake wasn’t falling for it.
“How do you know all those things about the election? Is that what your mom is telling you? To spread the conservative doctrine to convert the whole nation for your convent, that’s what’s going on. You guys were working before the election too I bet.”
Blake was on a role. He was figuring it out. He was going to make this imposter crack any second. Blake was going to feel so much better after he figured it out.
“I saw how you flirted with that girl at the movie theater and how you said you Snapchat her and the way you hid behind those sunglasses at the pool and how you know about drugs and how you tried to give me that water bottle for the workout and use that handicap parking pass just so you don’t have to walk as far and sit where you want. Y ou’ve been faking it this whole time thinking that no one would notice but I have…”
Caesar was still playing Call of Duty and not reacting. Was he not hearing what Blake was saying? He didn’t even look like he cared about what Blake was saying.
“Autistic people don’t do early morning workouts and read Ayn Rand and economic philosophy books and-”
Then Caesar started playing classical music super loudly from his T.V. and it drowned out Blake’s words.
“Too much talking,” Caesar said. “Need music, like the Academy Awards.”
The classical music flooded into Blake’s body and broke through the levees in his mind. He couldn’t think straight. It was all jumbling up and he needed to get out of there.
Blake opened and closed Caesar’s door and crashed onto one of the couches. His brain was overheating. The theories kept coming up in his head but without Caesar’s confirmation he couldn’t know if anything was true or not. And images of his ex-girlfriend’s face smiling and crying at him about being insensitive to her depression felt like they were being perma-fried onto his mind’s eye and he couldn’t blink to get rid of them.
Some minutes later he heard Blake counting down from 60 and then yelling “Happy New Year!”
Caesar opened his door and asked, “What are your New Year’s resolutions?”
“I don’t know man,” Blake said “I just need some time alone right now.”
“Dude, fuck off. You’ve changed.”
Caesar went back into his room and Blake just laid there trying to figure everything out. He tried to think through everything that had happened over the weekend but it wasn’t coming together. Before he could figure it out his mind slipped away, he sunk as deep as he would into the couch cushions until he was hidden, then he fell asleep.
Day 4, Epilogue: That thing after movie credits and you’re still here for some reason
Blake woke up New Year’s Day with conspiracies already running in his mind like the thoughts had already started for the day while he was sleeping. He checked the time on his phone and it was noon. Caesar must have slept through the morning workout or was at least courteous enough to give Blake some much-needed rest. Besides, Caesar might not have understood the concept of courtesy after all.
Blake heard the door open upstairs and the sound of two people walking around. Caesar bolted out of his room and ran upstairs. The parents were home. What was Blake going to do? He couldn’t ask them about the conservative uprising or his reasonable doubt that Caesar was faking it all. Blake walked up stairs and saw Caesar doing a secret handshake with his Dad.
The mother looked over at Blake and asked, “How was Caesar?”
Before Blake could answer Caesar said, “I was great” without even looking at Blake for confirmation.
“Is that true Blake?” The mother asked.
Blake had to answer swiftly.
“Yes,” Blake said. “We had a lot of fun.”
Blake didn’t have time to hesitate. And he didn’t want the mother to be suspicious that he was suspicious and then have to explain all of his theories and tribulations to her. And if he came forward with all that and he was wrong? That could have been the end of him. They could have called the psyche ward or hired someone to watch over him or told him “you can stay as long as you need until you feel ready to live alone again.” Blake didn’t want to deal with that. But he knew he would have to deal with himself forever now. How could he forget all these conspiracies buried in the back of his brain now?
“Oh, Before I forget,” the mother said, pulling a wallet out of her pocket and walking over to stand close to Blake. “Here’s the money for all your hard work.”
It was a thousand dollars.
“A thousand?” Blake asked. “Thank you so much but you said-”
“Honey,” the mother said, putting her hand on Blake’s shoulder and massaging him. “We know that Caesar isn’t easy.”
Then, she leaned in and whispered, “he’s not your typical boy. He has some things that make him work differently. And, you know? We really need this time away from him just so we don’t lose it.”