“Hey,” he said, startling me. We had been sitting in my room silently for so long that I had forgotten that Mikey was there. I’m pretty sure he had been there, sitting in my room, reading comics and listening to music, while I had gone to the kitchen and made a sandwich (ham and cheese, my favorite).
“Hey,” Mikey said again.
“Hey,” I said.
We were up to three heys there, and I’m not sure even one was needed.
“Who’s Phil?” he said.
“Phil who?” I said.
“That’s my question. If I knew who Phil was, I wouldn’t have to ask you.”
“Mikey, where’d you get this now? Which Phil are we talking about? Phil Neal was the defender in Liverpool, he who never missed a penalty kick. Phil Collins is the drummer. Phil Esposito was a great hockey player. Big man, too.”
“Did Journey sing about any of those?”
Mikey was special but not in the special special kind of way. He wasn’t stupid or anything, but sometimes he managed to get his brain in a knot which he couldn’t open on his own. I’m sure you know someone like that, a person who starts to think about something, anything, and always hits his head against the wall at the dead end – which he inevitably also always ends up in.
I didn’t mind untangling Mikey’s brain every once in a while. It made me feel smart.
Another thing that Mikey always did was misuse words. He wasn’t dyslexic, either, he just didn’t pay attention. That’s what his mother told me once when she came home from work and saw that Mikey had written “Egg’s been a dick” on the little blackboard they had in the kitchen. I wonder what she thought of me, she probably thought I thought it was a funny prank and that I was a punk.
That’s what I felt like when she gave me the evil eye when I left their house, about a minute after she had come home. The last thing I heard her say was, “who’s Egg?”
Of course, she couldn’t have known that Mikey and I had gone back and forth on that, for about an hour, and that I had wiped the board clean three times, to get rid of “Eggs’s been a dick” on it.
I hadn’t picked up on it until he wrote it on the board. I mean, they do sound alike.
They sure don’t look alike, though.
“Mikey, it’s Eggs Benedict,” I had told him.
“Sure it is,”
Fine, in Mikey’s defense, are 15-year-olds even supposed to know the name of every fancy dish? I don’t think so. But on the other hand, maybe a 15-year-old kid, or anyone else, should make sure he knows what he’s saying.
Mikey, for example, didn’t seem to know that “incest” and “in jest” are two different things, that the word game is called “Scrabble”, not “Scramble”, or that “stupendous” wasn’t exactly a synonym of “stupid”.
Fortunately, I spoke Mikey, so when he said that “it was just incest”, I mumbled “in jest” back. He didn’t always acknowledge me, or change the way he used words, but that was just Mikey being Mikey. He wanted to be different.
Some things simply got mikeyfied. For example, we never played Scrabble anymore, Mikey and I. We always played Scramble. Even my parents picked it up so they, too, called it Scramble. It was funnier that way.
All this is just a long way for me to say that I usually could fairly easily follow Mikey’s train of thought but when he asked me about Phil, I was left at the station, waving a white handkerchief.
“I don’t think Journey sings about Phil Neal, no,” I said.
Mikey didn’t say anything. He just nodded, and turned a page. That piqued my curiosity – yes, Mikey’s curiosity always peaked – but I waited for Mikey to finish reading. Like I said, we often sat in my room not speaking at all, simply sharing the same space, but not interacting, until we did again. Until one of us said something, or cracked a joke, or slapped the other one on the shoulder, or threw a pillow in his face.
Mike threw the Mad magazine on the floor.
“Yes, Journey. Let me rewind the tape. Listen now. Listen carefully,” he said, got up, and walked to my stereo.
A few seconds later, “Don’t Stop Believin’” was playing in my room, and Mikey and I were playing our air guitars, jumping up and down. Suddenly Mike stopped jumping and playing, put his finger on his lips, and shushed me.
Steve Perry was singing: “Living just to find emotion. Hiding somewhere in the night.”
I picked up my air guitar again, for the mini solo, until Mikey started to wave his arms wildly.
“Listen now!” he yelled over Neil Schon’s solo.
Then he and Steve Perry sang: “Working hard to get my fill, everybody wants a thrill. Payin’ anything to roll the dice just one more time”. Right there was where Mikey pressed “stop” on my stereo. He put his hands on his hips and looked at me.
“OK, man. Who. Is. Phil?”
Don’t think me unkind
Words are hard to find
The only cheques I’ve left unsigned
From the banks of chaos in my mind
And when their eloquence escapes me
Their logic ties me up and rapes me
De do do do, de da da da
Is all I want to say to you
The Police – De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da (1980)
This is a part of an ongoing series of stories, mostly flash fiction, inspired by 80s pop songs. You can find them all here.