Fred Durst: A Ghost Story
Dude at the bar looks just like Fred Durst. Backward baseball cap, Red Sox now instead of Yankees. Tattoo-covered forearms. Frat-boy face with a thin sliver of goatee. Sunday afternoon: he’s the only one in the Boise, Idaho, Spearmint Rhino. Right in the middle of the bar, across from the fake rhinoceros head mounted above the top-shelf liquor. I stare at him. Sure it can’t be. Is Limp Bizkit in town? The last time I heard Limp Bizkit on the radio was when they covered that Who song. Funny, I haven’t heard them recently. This is a strip club. Their shit was tailor-made for places like this. Eric brings Possible Durst a shot of Maker’s Mark, and I get to go make him a burger.
For the first time all day, music replaces ESPN. That Tool song “The Pot” Eric can’t get enough of. I wonder if he’ll make Helen dance. Helen of Troy, who’s spent all day sleeping after we smoked each other out in this very kitchen. It is so hot in the kitchen she started to talk about growing up in Nebraska winters. How the snow got so deep they would cancel school, and she felt like the only person left in a snow-filled world. I wanted to keep talking, but she went to take a nap on the couch in the dressing room.
I make the burger with too much cayenne pepper, the way I like it, and bring it out. “Here you go,” I say, and fake Durst gives me a knowing wink.
No way, I think, and retreat to the kitchen. I clean the fry bowl, admire pictures of last month’s featured dancer, Labia Lion. I’m cupping her enormous breasts. A knock on the door. When I open the food hole, a rocks glass is sitting there, a lime perched atop. I don’t want to know what liquors he’s poured in there. I take it in one large, nasty gulp.
Drinking time has begun.
Exit the kitchen to Eric’s and Jimmy’s laughter. Jimmy is wearing a light-pink shirt with a maroon tie. Management has to dress nice but doesn’t have to wear a uniform, like me in my cook coat or Eric in his black vest with the Rhino crest. Jimmy only works days and hates it. His mission in life is to get me shit-faced. “How was that, buddy?” Eric says.
More laughter. Even Durst cracks a smile before eating the last of his fries. I bus his basket. “Good?” I ask, not because I care, but because I’ve worked a lot of customer service jobs. This is actually my first cooking job. Eric got it for me when the previous day-cook went to jail. I took the job because my last job wasn’t paying for both rent and beer.
“Rock star,” he says.
Again I think: no way.
I sit next to Jimmy at the bar. Eric sets up Helen of Troy, and she dances to Tool songs from 10,000 Days. She’s new to Boise, new to the club— thus the day shift. She’s small with short, dark hair. Everything she takes off is red. I like her. I told Eric she was the skank who launched a thousand STDs to get a laugh, but I didn’t mean it. None of the other girls share their weed with me. None of the other girls play pool with me when it’s dead, because I scratch all the time. She gyrates her stomach in my direction. I wouldn’t mind sucking on her belly-button ring. A few recent arrivals, drunks who like to beat the crowd, start throwing bills. I think about going and throwing a five on the table, but Eric will laugh at me.
Jimmy gets up when the set ends. Goes behind the bar and starts making something foul. Takes it back into the room behind the bar where we keep extra bottles of liquor and motions toward me. Technically we aren’t supposed to drink on shift at all, especially out in the open. It happens.
A few weeks after I started, Jimmy, Eric, and I were sitting on the front steps on a Saturday afternoon, enjoying the sun, smoking cigarettes, and listening to Jimmy bitch about blacks and Indians ruining California, when he turned to Eric and said I was too uptight.
“Nah, he’s cool,” Eric said. “Just get a couple beers in him.”
“I’m going to get him drunk every day.” Jimmy turned to me, put one of his huge hands on my shoulder, and squeezed. “I’m going to get you drunk every day.”
“Okay,” I said, and so it was, be it a knock at the food hole or a shot of Pedro Morales during commercial breaks watching Jurassic Park on USA.
Today it has whiskey and tequila in it, whatever it is. “You need a lime?” Jimmy asks, and I take it all back in answer.
“That’s my boy,” he says and slams me on the back.
Gross. So gross. If I were to go outside and let the sun hit me I would die. I take a minute to compose myself.
I come out to the shitty Limp Bizkit cover of “Faith”—the one that made them famous. “Thanks, man,” Durst calls to the DJ booth. I turn around because now I’m smiling like a retard, sure that it’s him. It has to be.
Helen is standing at the end of the bar. “You have something for me?” she says, and I go get her emergency kit out of the kitchen were I hid it behind the ketchup. Follow her to the ladies’ restroom. Normally this would freak me out. In the kitchen earlier it was nice, but my nerves made it hard to say anything to her but annoying clichés. I asked her if she was having fun yet. Twice. Right now I’m lubed up with drink and the words could come pouring out any minute. If not, I like listening to her.
Helen is leaning against the sink. It is clean in here, but then she’s the only female that’s graced the club this boring afternoon. I bet most nights these walls could tell stories people wouldn’t want to hear.
“Nookie” starts playing. I try not to blatantly stare at her tits while she loads the bowl.
“That guy sitting at the bar is Fred Durst,” I say. She has a neon green dragonfly tattoo right at the bottom of her stomach.
“The one with the backwards baseball hat.”
“Ha, ha.” She takes a hit and blows smoke in my face. I’m going to have to be careful tonight. She gets closer and starts shaking her ass—“Want a private dance, sailor?”—and blows more smoke into my ear. I dance my feet awkwardly, aware of the erection in my pants, thankfully concealed by my grease-stained cook’s coat. I run my hand over her stomach; heat radiates from her smooth skin.
“You staying tonight?” I ask when “Nookie” ends and Helen packs up her weed.
“Two-dollar Long Islands until nine, why leave?”
“Well, I have to work.”
“I’ll buy you one.”
She kisses me on the cheek. “You’re sweet.”
We leave the bathroom and I let her walk in front of me. Let the wetness from her kiss linger on my skin. The weed and liquor make it feel like I’m walking a centimeter off the floor. Are we going to fuck? After I got this job, people assumed I would be getting play all the time because in their minds it would be easy, all strippers being sluts. But I’m not the guy these girls like. Not some tatted-up bad boy. Not some take-no-shit drug dealer. I do take shit. Eric told me it’s a bad idea to fuck the dancers, but so what, who cares what Eric thinks. I might get obsessed, and that always ends badly, but right now I can see Jimmy has another shot waiting for me and it doesn’t feel like it’s going to be a problem.
This time, thank God, it’s only a shot of Pedro. “You’re trying to kill me,” I tell him, and he smiles like some devil harvesting a soul.
I take the shot. This time I suck the lime.
Seven comes. Change of shift. Seat myself at the far L of the bar by the Golden Tee machine and the framed posters of eighties porn stars. Josh, my replacement, comes out of the kitchen and congratulates me on not using too much cayenne pepper. “Thanks,” I say, even though I only made three burgers today and didn’t put any on Jimmy’s or Eric’s.
Eight bucks is my tip. Most of it courtesy of Durst, still sitting in the middle of the bar talking to Helen of Troy. She remains the only girl here. They’re supposed to show up by seven, but on a Sunday it can be eight or nine. Nine being when the Long Island special ends. I use my tip to order two. One for me, one for Helen. “Thanks, sweetie,” she calls across the bar when Kyle places it in front of her.
I’d hoped she’d be sitting next to me.
She laughs at something Durst says. He puts his hand on her upper thigh. I suck back my drink and order another. Kyle’s bald head shines in the bar lights. “Not very good today. Why do we even open on Sunday afternoons?”
“For Fred Durst,” I answer, and Kyle gives a sarcastic laugh. The few night shifts I’ve worked when Kyle wasn’t the bartender, he sat where I am sitting now and shouted things at me while he got shit-faced. At the end of the night, every time, he gives me a hug and tells me he sees potential in me. Either it’s the drink or he sees something I’ve managed to miss in my twenty-three years of life.
Eric sits down. His vest is off and I can see the Chinese symbol on his neck that he thinks means loyalty. He orders a Long Island. Durst is now pulling on Helen’s red panties. She laughs and swats at him. Guy couldn’t write a fucking lyric to save his life. “Where’s Jimmy?” I ask. I need very badly to buy him a drink. The dude may be a fucking racist but I should get him drunk for being that awesome guy who gets me shit-faced.
“He left. He went camping by himself. He has tomorrow off.”
“Oh.” My disappointment ends the conversation. We drink in silence until Kyle comes over and he and Eric talk about how awesome it is to be a bartender.
Helen leaves Durst to go dance. Mark is in the DJ booth getting the night started with his cartoon voice. “Gentleman give it up for Helen—Helen of Troy.”
She dances to “Rollin’.” Durst stands up and gives her an ovation.
Like many unfortunate kids in the horrible summer of 1999, I owned the Significant Other album. The “Nookie” video was on MTV all the fucking time. The one where Durst gets arrested at the end for being such a badass. That hot fucking summer of boy bands, Christina Aguilera, Star Wars Episode 1: the Phantom Menace and a field full of angry, thirsty molesters at Woodstock ’99. Sophomore year had ended and along with it my friendship with my junior-high group, with their Mormonism and love of Pearl Jam. I started hanging with kids who smoked cigarettes and liked Korn. They knew girls who would talk to me outside of school. I got drunk and high for the first time that summer. My life was finally starting. It was all out in front of me. I might start being like the teenagers on TV.
Then one day some of these friends were in my basement playing GoldenEye on Nintendo 64, listening to Godsmack’s first album and to Significant Other, pretending the shitty lyrics and tough-guy posturing embodied our frustrations, all while blowing Russians to hell. 1999 was terrible for music. This one guy named Joey, a burnout since birth, started talking about this chick he never boned named Andrea; he went on about the pinkness of her pussy in graphic detail. I could hear my Dad coming down the stairs and I knew he was pissed before he turned the corner and told us, “Turn off that fucking music and get the fuck out of my house.” They went, more because of surprise at my Dad’s worthless self-righteousness than fear of his anger. I went to my room, turned on “Break Stuff,” and put a hole in my closet door with my fist. Dad burst in and said those kids were no good and maybe he didn’t raise me right if that’s who I wanted to hang out with until I told him I was sorry. He pointed to the closet door. “You’re paying for that,” he said and left. I sat on my bed and stared at the hole I’d made and listened to the rest of Significant Other until my own anger made it seem weak. Fake.
I never listened to that stupid fucking album again.
Durst is sitting at the stage now, leaning back in his chair while Helen shakes her ass in his face. He throws his hot-dog flavored money at her. Eric is behind me playing Golden Tee. I order another Long Island and Kyle gives it to me.
The next time I order a Long Island it is past nine and they’re five bucks. I thought it was still seven-thirty. I switch to Mind Erasers. The Rhino makes ’em great, not lame like the other big-name clubs in Boise. Big fucking glass full of syrup and vodka, two straws—one for both sides of your mouth—and then you pound that shit. Which I do.
Girls have shown up. Ivy is on stage, swinging from the pole to Tech-9, doing that thing were she turns her legs into a pair of sexy scissors. They come together and her heels clap. Durst is alone. I go sit next to him.
“Dude,” I say. “Are you Fred Durst?”
He looks at me and pulls his Red Sox cap down over his face. “You got me, bro.”
“You guys touring or something?”
“Yeah. You see I got this thing were I’m traveling city to city, club to club, on a Greyhound. Reconnecting with the people, the real fans. Letting them know to start getting excited for our next album, Chinese Democracy. It’ll be tight.”
“You’re not playing music?”
“There’ll be a tour when the album drops. I play music if there’s an acoustic lying around. That song “Outside” I did with Aaron from Staind—I play that song.”
“Cool man. Awesome. Need a drink?”
“What ya drinking partner?”
“Mind Erasers. You ever had a Mind Eraser?”
“I’ve been all over the world. You shitting me, dog? I’ve had the best fucking Mind Erasers.”
“They make them better here.”
“Well then let’s try them shits out.”
I order and we suck them down. “Hot damn,” he says, “that would be damn close, damn close. A mighty fine Mind Eraser. Thank you, partner, for that idea.”
Helen of Troy is standing behind us. She puts one arm on his shoulder and the other on mine. I smile up at her. She smells like sweat and strawberries. A bead of moisture runs down her side. I want to bury myself in her stomach and trace the outline of her tattoo with my tongue.
“You guys didn’t order me one,” she says.
“Three more,” Durst calls to Kyle, holding up three fingers.
We are looking at each other and I ask the drunkenness to bring words but it doesn’t so I say, “Having fun yet?”
She answers with, “Are you?”
I tell her I’m drunk and to put this round on my tab.
Kyle brings the drinks.
I’m in the DJ booth sitting on the back table watching the green and red lights from the equipment blink on and off. I can taste ketchup from when Kyle and Josh forced me to eat a plate of fries. I’ve bought Mark at least two Mind Erasers and some for the girls. Amber, with her red hair and her own personal website, comes in to give Mark her playlist. I ask her if she wants one. She looks at me, and even though I can’t see her roll her eyes in the darkness I know she does. I sip on my own and nearly throw up.
“Hey Mark,” I say when Amber leaves.
“Yeah.” He sounds like a cartoon. He’s not a small guy, kinda fat really, but he sounds like a Disney character. Not the bad guy in a Disney movie but the pathetic guy who always follows the bad guy and then maybe turns good in the end. He could do this at Disneyland. “Ladies and gentleman, its Minnie, give it up for Minnie; she is dancing for your tips.”
“Where is Helen of Troy? You should make her dance. Make her dance to some REO Speedwagon. I want to buy her a drink.”
“Helen? Helen took off with some dude. She’s done here.”
“Yeah, some ass at the bar flashed some money and she took the lure. She’s gone.”
“Fred Durst. Fred Durst took her.”
“Keep your voice down, man.”
“Goddamnit, Goddamnit. Goddamn Fred Durst. That whiny little bitch.” I leave him with my half-empty Mind Eraser.
At the bar I close out with Kyle. “Don’t do this again,” he says. “If Andy saw,” and makes a bunch of dumb fuck hand gestures symbolizing what the manager would do to me.
“Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it,” I keep saying.
A hundred-and-fifty dollar tab. I pay with a dim awareness I’m now broke and head to the restroom. Stand at the sink and berate the tomato-red me face in the mirror. “She would never like you, idiot, you fuckin idiot, having fun yet idiot,” and vomit into the sink. A black soup of Mind Eraser and fries clogs up the drain.
Dan the security guard won’t tell me where Fred Durst went.
“That dude was not Fred Durst,” he says, and maybe smells the vomit on my breath or gets an inkling of the mess I left in the sink and makes a beeline for the bathroom.
The Greyhound station is devoid of people. I’m across the street on my bike. I can see arcade games and snack machines and smell cigarette smoke and chemical toilets from here. I remember from a trip to visit my brother at the University of Idaho that the Greyhound leaves around midnight, and I look at my phone and it’s almost two. But that can’t be right. I must have fucked up my phone.
They left already, Fred Durst and Helen of Troy, for Portland or Seattle or some hidden city where people still listen to Limp Bizkit. Helen of Troy. I never learned your real name. Who will smoke weed with me now? That tattoo, the dragonfly, I wanted to ask her if it meant anything special, wanted to ask why did she come to Boise, what path had led her here, right now? If only the fuckin’ words would come.
How long will it be until someone likes me as much as she might have?
I scream at the Greyhound station, like that might bring her back. A bus rounds the corner in answer. I watch it for a second, a minute. I want to pull her off. Bring her back to the Rhino kitchen where we will smoke weed and maybe fall in love. Other people get to fall in love. Why can’t I?
“Helen,” I whisper. “Helen of Troy. Don’t leave me in this empty hell.”
I ride after the bus until my body burns. I puke out of my mouth and nostrils, over the side of my bike and all over my shoe. It comes from deep inside. Not something you can ride with and move on—the kind of vomit that makes you stop and wait until it is done pulling out all your hopes and desires and leaving behind a cracked shell.
The Greyhound stops at a red light. I wipe throw-up from my face and start waving my arms to get it to stay stopped. The brake lights blink at me and the bus continues on.
Ross Hargreaves work has appeared in Crack the Spine, Nailed Magazine and Dogzplot Flash Fiction. He is an MFA student at the University of Idaho. Selected by Aaron Counts.