‘Jackson Sommer’: First Installation

Editor’s Note: Dave Goodman ’03 and Ethan Rutherford ’02 wrote “A Very Jackson Sommer” for weekly serialization in the Record. This is the first installment of seven to be published over the course of the spring semester.

Chapter 1: Warm up to the Confrontation.

Jackson Sommer trusted himself.

I trust myself, he thought. And trust, well, it’s an important thing in these times of depravity and hunger, in this cold collegiate north.

He sat – arms resting on the table, head up – and watched the clock from his snack-bar booth. A half-eaten tuna pocket lay, forgotten, on a plate in front of him. The pickle was gone. He was sipping a cup of cold water, waiting.

Jackson’s thoughts kept returning to Friday night, the night of his humiliation. In the smithy of his sophomore soul, he had already termed this The Incident. It played over and over in his head, on a cinematic loop. Fast zoom through a dense, wet crowd: a girl. Pan to love carefully disguised as casual flirtation, then to a Bigger Man who poured beer on his head, laughed as it stung his eyes, crept down his spine, pooled in the seat of his pants. As Jackson sat alone in his nightmare movie theater, his eyes narrowed angrily and he began to slowly crush his Dixie cup, spilling cold water over his right hand and onto the table.

“You’re spilling your water,” Fred, his suitemate, said.

Jackson looked at him. How long had he been talking? The water had spilled onto his plate, as well. Where’s my pickle?

“Dude,” Fred said, dropping a napkin on the plate to stop the spill. “Soggy pocket.”

“I should’ve punched that guy,” Jackson said.

Fred laughed. “Who, Marty?” he said. “You’re still thinking about that? That was last week. Get over it. It was funny. He didn’t do it to be mean.”

“He did it because he knew I wouldn’t do anything,” Jackson said.

“You started the whole thing,” Fred said. “Remember? You flipped Bebe’s beer.”

“Barely.”

“It spilled on her,” Fred said. “What’d you expect the guy to do? It’s his girlfriend.”

“Not really,” Jackson said. He looked over at the clock. The hour had come. “I’m leaving,” he said to Fred. He stood up, dropped the wet tuna in the garbage.

“Where’re you going?”

“To find Marty,” Jackson said quietly, and, he thought, with determination.

“Right,” Fred said. “Have fun. See you soon.”

“I’m serious,” Jackson said. “I might do something drastic.”

The wind blew furiously through the bare March branches. Jackson buttoned his coat and stepped out into the cold. He scanned the campus as he slowly stalked his destiny. Empty. That strange mid-evening empty of a time too late for dinner but too early for activity. Just the time to find an unsuspecting Bigger Man alone in his room, sleeping. Yes, Jackson imagined, Marty would be sleeping. He pictured him there, his meaty chest spasmodically rising and falling, his lips flapping like flags in the wind of his foul meaty breath. Jackson hoped Bebe would be there when it all happened, when he exacted the revenge he’d played out in his head for the whole week since The Incident.

“What was Fred talking about?” Jackson muttered to himself. “His girlfriend.”

He winced as he said it. Bebe wasn’t his girlfriend. Not in any higher sense, at least. And Jackson always thought in the higher sense.

The howling wind picked up as he reached Marty’s dorm. Stopping fifty paces from the door, he scanned the windows as he supposed vengeful heroes do. He investigated each orange window, and to his surprise, found Marty staring back at him from the first floor. Flustered, Jackson ducked behind a tree. The plan was ruined!, he thought. The branches above him creaked and whined.

Timidly, he peeked around the tree and saw, to his relief, that it had not been Marty in the window, but his roommate, Saucy Sam. Saucy stretched for a time, gazing out at the wind and the trees, oblivious to Jackson’s presence. Behind him, plastered above the unmade bunk beds, were old movie posters: “Scarface,” “Taxi Driver,” “La Belle Russe.” Beneath them, a shelf of empty liquor bottles. Jackson had never before seen how Marty lived, but it was as he’d imagined. As he watched, Saucy let out a burp that was audible above the wind and, turning suddenly, greeted Marty as he came through the door. There he was, standing tall and proud, Marty “The One Man Party” Blanowich. Jackson narrowed his eyes and clenched his fists.

A light rain began to fall.