*Author’s note: For our final, we were supposed to write an extended scene into a full story. At first, I started writing Donovan’s Intro, but half way through I realized I’d been writing yet another character study without a plot. So I freaked. It took me some time to get my act back in order, but I finally wrote this, based partly off my excitment to be attending a Jim Gaffigan concert that weekend. Jim didn’t die in a plane crash, but I did succeed in writing an actual story, and I was rewarded with…80 out of 100 points. So in total, my progress since the beginning of the source was a whopping 5 points. Still, as with most of my writing, I’m proud of my work here, and I hope you enjoy reading it.
Charlie had been looking forward to this weekend for close to a year now. He’d done his best to organize everything so that nothing would stop him from this one perfect moment. Come hell or high water, blizzard, snowstorm or Rapture, he was going to meet Jake Bosco, and not even God would dare challenge him in these plans. All he needed was to make it home in time.
Portland was where Charlie called home most frequently, although in recent years he had to diversify his answer by changing “Portland” to “Eugene” and “home” to “I attend school in.” The two locations are by no means an extreme distance apart, hardly two hours away if the average freeway speed stays at 80, but two hours is still two hours or more any way you slice it. Add to this a car that’s less than reliable and two hours might as well be two days.
“Angela, I don’t care what you’ve got going for Friday, if you want a ride into town, your schedule better damn well be freed or else you’re walking.”
“Charlie, I have class at noon until 2. That should be plenty of time.”
“Unacceptable. Skip your class.”
“What time do you have to be into town anyway?”
“The concert is at 7, so I need to be there at 6:30. Angie, if you keep me from seeing Jake Bosco, our friendship is over, a’ight?”
“Pff, Jake Bosco isn’t even that great anyway…”
Actually, Jake Bosco was one of the greatest comics performing around the world, and by the way Charlie reacts to Angela’s assessment, you can tell he agrees with the general consensus on the matter. Recently, Jake Bosco has been making a very successful name for himself as a stand-up comic after making frequent appearances on the popular late night show, practically being a guest host due to how regularly he’s seen alongside the actual host. Critics have been saying that Jake’s on the verge of breaking out into other media and hitting the success of the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Martin, or Bill Cosby. But not yet, so it’s still possible to see a show of Jake’s without having to already be connected with the Mafia in some way or living in a city larger than Portland.
“Angie, I’ve had these tickets for ten months now. As soon as I got the e-mail alert that he’d be performing nearby I rushed to get tickets, and I managed to get awesome seats.”
“How far back are you?”
“I’m in the aisle seat of row K. I’m right there.”
“That’s eleven rows back. It’s hardly front row, Charlie.”
Charlie stares for a few seconds in disbelief. “When we’re talking about Jake Bosco, row K is front and center.”
Months and months ago, Charlie began doing the leg-work for getting Jake Bosco to perform in his state of Oregon. Granted, all he could do was continuously send Jake messages over Myspace suggesting he come perform for him, but it felt like every little bit made a difference.
“Dear Jake Bosco,
I think you should perform in Oregon sometime soon. It’s perfect for you! I’m almost hurt you haven’t come sooner! We love Bosco!
Signed, Charlie Montague.”
“Dear Charlie Montague,
I actually just performed in Oregon no more than a month ago. And you’re right, Oregon is great! You guys probably love me more than my own parents, and they’re Catholic, so you know that’s tough love. I hope to come again as soon as possible.
Oh man! I’m a terrible fan for not realizing when you were here! I’ll make it up to you, I swear! Next time you come, you can stay at my place. I’ll even make waffles for breakfast!
As far as Charlie was concerned, after the initial exchange he and Jake Bosco were destined to be best friends forever, and one thing best friends do is support each other, so for a solid week after their “conversation,” Charlie went about voting for Oregon as the next stop on Jake Bosco’s nationwide tour on his official website, clicking “Come to Oregon!” more times than he can remember. And sure enough, one day an e-mail is sent to his computer letting him know that Jake Bosco, the Jake Bosco, would be performing in Portland, Oregon in ten months.
“Angie, I’m the reason he’s coming in the first place. If I hadn’t done all that work, he’d still be traveling around Canada for all we know. I owe it to him to meet him face-to-face tomorrow night.”
“Whatever, Charlie. See you tomorrow at 2.”
“No later than that!”
As Angela walks away, Charlie can’t help but notice the way the fading light of dusk seems to hit Angela’s long golden hair in just such a way that he’s blinded momentarily, and not just from the glare. He slowly runs his hands through his common brown hair, feeling in some way that his life would have been far better had he been born with sexy blonde hair as well. He takes one last look at Angela before he walks away.
The day had arrived at long last. Charlie had done everything in his power to keep this day clear of any and all deterrents that could keep him from seeing Jake Bosco at the appropriate time. He made sure he had no classes for the afternoon, no extra functions he’d promised to attend. He checked his car close to a half dozen times just in case it was trying to trick him for one reason or another by breaking down whenever he wasn’t looking. Luckily, that wasn’t the case. There was only one thing keeping him.
“Angela…where the hell are you…?”
The time was now 2:56. Almost an hour later than she was supposed to meet him. Various thoughts began rushing through his head. He considered leaving her more than once, just hopping in the car and driving away. He also considered storming into her class and demanding she be excused. Even the thought of sitting in her room until she came home seemed like a perfectly logical idea, save for the inevitable restraining order that would follow.
“Tick, tock Angie…”
At 3 o’clock exactly, the school’s main bell began to ring. Once. Twice. A third time.
“Charlie! I’m here!” The bell has hardly finished ringing a third time as Angie makes a mad dash towards Charlie, backpack slung over one shoulder, pillow in the other arm. “Let’s go!”
Without even greeting her, Charlie’s in the car, key turned and engine snarling. Smoke sputters out of the exhaust pipe, creating a dense fog around the immediate area. Charlie about throws the car into drive as a furious tap on the window reminds him to unlock the side door and let Angela come, too.
“Stop your dilly-dallying Angie and get in!”
“Me stop my dilly-dallying? I should punch you right now.”
“Shut up! Jake Bosco! Get in!”
And they were off; the two hardly registering that the car was in motion before having to swerve to avoid killing a man on a bicycle.
“Damn idiot! Can’t he see that I’m in a hurry?”
“Charlie, the whole world can tell you’re in a damned hurry. God knows for dang sure you’re in a damned hurry, and I doubt He’s happy.”
“God had better not stand in my way either, or else I’ll run Him down, too.”
Not too terribly long into their drive, the first signal that something’s attempting to stand in their way forms in the sound of a painful rattling from the underside of the car.
“Charlie, do you hear that?”
“That rattling noise? Sounds like something may be wrong with your car.”
“No. Nothing can be wrong with my car. I checked it before we left. Everything’s fine.”
“We should pull over and take a look.”
“No, I can fix this problem.” Charlie reaches over and clicks the radio dial over.
“…and it was like someone just slammed me over the head with a cinderblock or something!”
“There, can you still hear any rattling from my car?”
“No, but I can hear a few terrible radio DJ’s wasting my time with mindless chatter. Pull over.”
“If we pull over I’m kicking you out, because right now the only thing annoying me is you talking.”
Silence. The two just stare at each other for a moment, only breaking eye contact for Charlie to keep from driving into a ditch. Angela opens her mouth about to speak, but quickly shuts it again and turns away, burying her head in her pillow as she smashes it against the window. For the next hour, there is only silence, save for the sounds of a pair of pathetic radio voices, the honking of car horns, and a faint rattling noise.
“Charlie, I have to pee. Pull over at the next rest stop.”
Charlie looks over with a face of utter astonishment and disbelief. “You’re kidding me. You can hold it.”
“No I can’t. Please, pull over. I really need to use the bathroom.”
“You should have thought of that before you brought a bottle of water.”
“No. We’ll be in town in under an hour anyway. Show some character and keep your legs shut for once.”
Punch. Swerve. Honk. Finger.
“What the hell?!”
“Charlie, you’re unbelievable!”
Silence once more. Charlie takes this time of peace to reflect on a few things, mostly how it’ll be seeing Jake Bosco in person for the first time. And he begins to worry, noticeably showing a pained look as he drives. Will it be everything he’d hoped for? What if the act isn’t funny? What if he meets Jake Bosco and he turns out to be a jerk? All of this thinking puts a sad look on Charlie’s face, almost making him cry.
“Charlie, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have punched you. I just got mad, that’s all.”
“It’s just…you know…”
Charlie has a blank stare for a while before thinking of anything to say. “Hey, you ever hear Jake Bosco’s bit about road signs?”
“You know, where he’s all like, ‘So what’s up with the signs you see along the road anyway that try and tell you information you already know? Like I’m driving and I see a sign that says “Caution, road slippery when wet.” Well duh! Next thing we’ll see a sign that says “Notice, traction good when dry,” or “It gets dark at night.” What’s the logic anymore?’”
Angela weakly smiles at Charlie’s pathetic rendition of one of Jake Bosco’s staple jokes. “No, I haven’t heard that one before. You know any others?”
“Do I know any others? Hah! I know every bit Angie. Like the one with…” He stops as the traffic comes to a complete halt. “Hey? What’s up?” Charlie leans his head out the window to see a sign a few yards down that says “Road work ahead. May cause delays.”
“Don’t worry Charlie, we’ll get there in time.” She gently starts rubbing his shoulder as his head drops, hitting the steering wheel with a soft thump.
“You’ve been listening to Mac and Scooter on the Mac Attack, Portland’s favorite afternoon station…”
“Turn this off already, these guys are worthless.” Angela moves to switch the radio off, having her hand gently batted away as Charlie continues looking straight ahead. “Charlie, what gives? You like these guys or something?”
“Not really. They do traffic reports every so often, so I’d like to find out if they have any tips.”
Things have become dull for the two, finding little to do other than sit and stare out the front of the car as the rest of the road putters along, hardly moving every minute or two. Angela turns her head to glance out the side window, seeing the guy in the car next to them rocking out to some high-bass music, flipping his long hair around and around, about to give himself whiplash from proving his band loyalty.
“Angie, it’s 5:15. I’m not gonna make it.”
“You’ve got plenty of time. Any second now we’ll be moving at full speed.”
As if someone ahead of them hears Angela’s optimistic suggestion, the rest of the cars shift back into gear and take off. The hand-banger in the nearby car stops his fanfare and shakes his head, attempting to orient himself in the proper location once more before speeding up and joining the rest of the freeway traffic. Charlie takes a quick scan of the area before stamping on the gas pedal, forcing the car to lurch ahead before rocketing into the carpoolers lane.
“Slow down! We’re not in that big of a hurry!” Charlie’s eyes dart over to Angela for a split second, looking back ahead before they register that they even acknowledged her. “Charlie! I said slow down! You’re gonna get pulled over, and then you’ll just be later than you already are.”
“I’m only going 90. I’m keeping up with traffic, so if a cop sees someone speeding he’d have to pull everyone over and not just me.”
“That logic is terrible. Slow down.”
“…And the Mac Attack is back Jack! We’ve got the hourly news updates for you all…”
“I’m not slowing down.”
“Then pull over and let me drive. You’re probably just tired anyway from worrying so much. You need a nap.”
“You’re not driving.”
“Pull over.” No response. “Pull over damnit!” Charlie lets out a huff, turns his head to Angela, and begins to slow down to a reasonable speed. He shrugs to her to gain approval. “Thank you.”
“…In the world of business, Elephant Inc. has reported a new product is soon to come out in their Toughskin line of snow boots…”
The traffic begins to slow once more, coming to a stop again. A vein in Charlie’s forehead nearly pops before his eyes do the same.
“What?!” Angela recoils from his sharp outburst. She thinks for a second before deciding whether to speak or not. “I’m sorry, what?”
“I still need to pee. Could we maybe pull over soon?” Charlie purses his lips as he glares dead ahead, slowly shaking his head. “I’m not surprised…” Angela once more turns away to stare out her window, resting her chin on her arm. Charlie turns the radio up without looking.
“…We’ve got some traffic updates for you all.” Charlie perks up at this. “Those of you driving northbound on I-5, expect some delays.”
Both Charlie and Angela chime in with a “No kidding.” After saying this they look to each other and begin laughing.
“Hey Angie, you hear Jake Bosco’s bit about the flying car?”
“Charlie, I’ve heard every single Jake Bosco bit both now and forever. Yes, I’ve heard his bit about the flying car.” They don’t say anything for a few seconds until Angela breaks in with ‘Hey what’s the deal with the flying car?’ Charlie smiles again. ‘I mean, the thing’s supposed to be here by now, we’re living in the 21st Century. I know our government lies to us and everything, but if a cartoon character can have one, why can’t we? I can exist in the 3rd dimension but the little animated guy thinks he’s better than me by zooming around in the coolest car ever.’
General laugher from both. Traffic picks up and a sense of calm hits everyone as a heavy sigh is heard.
“Angie, I’m really glad you came along.”
“Me too, Charlie. Me too.”
“…And finally, we have some sad news to report. Jake Bosco, beloved comedian and all around funny man, passed away today when his charter flight went down somewhere over I-5. Eye witnesses say…”
No one says anything. Charlie pulls the car over as soon as he can, turning the engine off and letting his head fall onto the horn, creating the agonizing noise that he himself cannot produce at the moment. Angela can do nothing but pull him close and hold him as his face remains devoid of any emotion whatsoever. When Angela looks up she can faintly make out the cause of the traffic slowdown in the form of a number of emergency vehicles and a wrecked object billowing smoke. She shakes her head and buries her face in Charlie’s hair.
*Author’s note: I was extremely proud of my work with this story. My Intermediate Fiction Writing professor was not. Once more, she tells me that I haven’t written a story, failing to give description of what the characters look like or any set pieces. What I’ve given is a character study. Good for me I suppose. 70 out of 100 points. I’ve taken a step back, scoring less than my previous assignment, of which I hardly put any effort into at all. Naturally, the very next week we were assigned a short story written without character or set descriptions. I was furious and shaken, but I’m still proud of my work here. So enjoy.
Three live there. One is in denial. One is at the bottom. And one is the darkness that looms above the other two. It is not a happy place. It never had a chance to be. The two roommates, Jack and Carlos, never allowed such a chance to flourish. Such a thought was never even an option. The only concepts that crossed their minds were ideas that had sifted through the darkness, and nothing that drained out the bottom was ever something a third party would consider happy.
Jack did not have a rough childhood. Nor was he ever given everything on a jewel-encrusted plate. Jack’s childhood was just there, and he resented that fact. His family was stable and supportive; his upbringing was strict yet fair. If he were to decide to go on a rampage with a shotgun through his philosophy class the courts would have a hard time pinpointing a source of blame. And this bothers him, because the thought has crossed his mind more than once. Anyone who knows Jack would label him as a “nice guy,” and no one understands the depths of hate like a nice guy.
“The rent’s due on the 3rd, Carlos.” Jack says this more as a harmful warning then a friendly reminder, knowing full well that Carlos’ only response will be something close to “Don’t worry, I’ve got it.” Instead Carlos just nods, quiet, slowly, and passes Jack on the way out the door.
Carlos did have a rough childhood. His family life was the sort that’d make the likes of Jerry Springer blush. Abandonment from father figures, mothers having mental breakdowns, and siblings facing more than their share of abuses. And to make matters worse, his childhood has worked its way into Carlos’ present, refusing to let him escape the constant stream of crazy pouring out from his family. Frequent phone calls demand him to act as the peacemaker to a family that lives hours away. At any given moment Carlos will be forced to deal with what anyone else and especially Jack refers to as “The stupidest situations imaginable.”
“Yes, this is Carlos. What has mom done now?” There is hardly a hello anymore during his conversations. It only really wastes time. “Please, I can’t call her right now; I have too much to do. Just tell her I love her and to go to bed.” It doesn’t matter much; no one listens to what he has to say. “Fine, I’ll call her.” As a new call is started, Spanish begins pouring out of Carlos’ mouth like a broken spigot, trying to help his mother see reason.
“We don’t speak crazy around here Carlos, we speak English.” Carlos only slightly looks up, shrugging as Jack passes him on the way out. The comment isn’t so much meant as a racist jab, but a frustrated sting, intended to convince Carlos to give up already. Repetition doesn’t seem to be getting the point across, but the difficulty of passive-aggressive behavior is that once it’s blatant, it isn’t passive-aggressive anymore.
In Jack’s mind, people give far too little power to the term “hate.” It’s used to describe too much. Everything is a hate crime, hate speech, hateful this and hateful that. To Jack, “hate” is meant only for select occasions. The word “hate” just feels so good rolling off the tongue. “Hate…” he’ll say to no one in particular, just savoring the taste as the word oozes across his lips. A connoisseur of sorts, dealing mostly in the business of hate, lapping up the richness in which it affects people; the pureness of such a concept when done right.
Jack didn’t always hate everyone though. No one is ever born with that knowledge, much like no one is ever born with the concept of “good” etched into their mind. Hate is learned just as love, and sometimes hate is learned because of love. This is how Jack was instructed in the finer arts of malicious, unadulterated hate and loathing for those who received what he always desired most: love.
“How’s the girl doing?” Jack asks Carlos as they pass once more on their respective way across the threshold of the apartment. Carlos smiles weekly, bobbing his head as if this will shake any answers loose.
“She’s doing fine. We’re doing fine.” Jack looks back and nods, hardly disguising his grimace anymore.
To Carlos, the only stable thing in his life is his girlfriend. On many occasions he’s even told her that she’s the only good thing in his life. Doesn’t matter that it’s the sort of thing a daytime soap would quote, it’s the truth and nothing is purer than the feeling of warmth he feels when he strokes her hair, holds her tight, presses his lips against hers. But it’s not meant to last, and knowing this may just be worse.
For more than one reason, Carlos’ happiness is only temporary. His one stable pillar is marked for demolition come summer. He knows that’s when she’ll leave. The main instigator comes from her decision to enlist in the Peace Corps once college ends. Although Carlos desperately wishes she’d stay, he can’t in good conscience tell her to abandon this choice. It means too much to her and it only makes sense for how the rest of her life needs to play out. And beyond just the standard two years of separation, there is something more that will keep them away, and Carlos knows this. Anyone who would share his life must be willing to share his financial state, and that’s something that his girlfriend, his first and only real love, has regretted that she can never do.
Jack is financially comfortable and spends money like it’s meaningless, and to him it really is. “What’s the point of putting a value on something that’s bountiful?” is his philosophy on the matter. He’s managed to achieve this goal of financial independence not from hard work or supportive parents, but rather from mounds of student loans. As of now, over twenty-five grand. Not a cent needs to be paid until school is finished, and he doesn’t anticipate it being a problem.
Jack once asked his mother, “Mom, what sort of life insurance plan do you have covering me?”
“What? Um, right now you have a plan that covers any serious injury or illness that you could encounter.”
“If I died tomorrow, how much would you stand to earn?” She can say nothing to this, only stare blankly as if she misheard Jack the first time. “Mom, how much?” After she blinks a few more times and goes into her own minds for a moment, she chokes out the response, “Thirty thousand.”
“Good, that’s all I needed to know…”
If Carlos didn’t have Jack around, he would drown in the ocean of debt he’s formed, not so much from his own foolish mistakes but rather from his family’s. It was only recently that Carlos learned that in addition to the standard credit card debt he owed, nothing too outrageous for a first credit card, that another, second credit card had been maxed out somewhere in the twenties of thousands range, courtesy of his mother. For a while the nightly phone calls increased due to the new problem that had been added; a problem that was never Carlos’ to begin with. But he accepted it as if it was, admitting that somewhere along the line he could have done more and regretting that the job of “peacemaker” didn’t pay better in the long run. As Carlos steps into the apartment, his frustration gets the better of him and he shuts the door harder than he intended to, instantly pausing in his phone conversation to worry that he’s bothered Jack. There is only quiet.
Jack can find little time to enjoy the endless expanse of his mind, but the only time he’s guaranteed to have this time is when he sleeps, making sleep the only activity that brings him any semblance of joy or regularity that he can find. “In my dreams anything is possible,” Jack once told Carlos. “When I’m asleep no one can tell me something I don’t want to hear. I’m in complete control. I can do anything; be anything.” Typically Jack experiences the same nightmare, and this afternoon sees the same situation over again.
As it always goes without fail, the dream plays itself out with Jack just watching as people rush by him, too busy to say anything to him or even take notice. Except for that one person. As Jack catches sight of her, she moves towards him with a definite intent to her walk. She gently grabs Jack’s hand and pulls him to his feet. Before he knows it’s coming out, Jack has blurted “I can’t promise I can make you happy, but I know I’d try harder than anyone ever would.” Instead of letting go and leaving him standing there, she pulls him closer, her hand on his face, and kisses him ever so sweetly on the lips, brushing over them as carefully as one would dust for fingerprints, only stopping for a moment to say “I know, and I love you, too.” And then the sun starts coming up as they sit together, their hands locked in a grasp that no one would dare attempt to break, a single tear having begun sliding down his cheek.
This is the point where Jack wakes up, always. The promise of the bright sunlight is all a lie as the only thing that greets him is utter darkness. The warmth of her lips has faded to bitter cold. His bed is empty, and his hand is clenching nothing, nearly bleeding from clenching so hard. He is alone, except for the one tear that does little more than mock him. He’d scream except no one would hear him or care, so he turns back over and attempts to find his true love once more, only to discover that she’s gone for another night, surely to return again in 24 hours to taunt him as cruelly as every night.
“Hey man,” Carlos says to Jack as Jack enters the living room. Jack closes his eyes and nods in recognition as he takes a seat across from Carlos. “Did I wake you just now?” Jack slowly shakes his head, unwilling to make any sudden movements as if it will tempt some unseen force to react. “You alright?”
“I’m just fine. You?”
The two just looks at each other, weak smiles on their faces, and nod in unison. Three live there: Jack, Carlos, and the darkness that hangs above them both.
*Author’s note: The first assignment for my Intermediate Fiction Writing course my junior year of college. We were asked to write a scene as long as it didn’t involve cheerleaders or vampires. Naturally, I wanted to include the reference because I was told not to. When given too much space for an assignment, this is literally what I devolve to. I felt proud of this assignment. Really proud actually. My professor hated it. Really, really hated it. I got a 55 out of 100 points, quickly changed to 75 because of a mistake. Still, 75 was harsh, and I wasn’t happy. My professor told me that this wasn’t a story, wasn’t relatable, and wasn’t good. I disagree with all three points, but then again, I told her my strong points are dialogue and humor, so it’s her fault. You, however, can just enjoy.
Curse This Mind
I’m out of time. I’ve had a month and still, I am out of time. You’d think that given an entire month I’d have been able to force myself to at least think about the assignment that’s been given to me; an assignment which requires me to do nothing more than decide on a story I’m supposed to write. A month and nothing. I blame society.
“Okay everyone, I’m going to go around the room. I want you to tell us what you’re planning on writing for class.”
Damn. I’ve got nothing. No, that’s not true, I have too much. Yes, that’s what I’m going with. We have simple enough rules, and with simple rules I’m given too much space to think, and thinking’s where it gets dangerous.
Clearly I’m unimaginative. I’m drawing a complete blank. “Just don’t write about vampires or cheerleaders.” That should be easy. It should be. It isn’t when you’re lazy. And yes, I am lazy. Highly lazy. So lazy that people fear for my safety at times. I’m like a duck in a rainstorm. If my head’s tilted up and the rain starts, I’ll drown before I get around to shifting my beak little more than inches to prevent death.
How can I use that? That’s tough, because a story about a lazy jerk isn’t interesting. Stories cannot have a main character who goes about doing nothing. What is that…passive, yeah, I can’t have that as a main character. No one likes passivity in people, so why would they want to read a story about someone who does nothing? Maybe everyone around him does something…yeah…could work. No wait, what’s the opposite of working? Oh yes, FAILIING. This story concept could fail, and I cannot risk that. Therefore, the only option is not to give an answer.
“And don’t forget everyone, this story assignment is worth 75% of you total grade.”
Damn. It seems I must do this afterall. Who makes something worth that much of a grade anyway? What’s the point of the other 25%? I could literally not show up and still pass the class as long as I turn in this paper and it’s decent enough to be read. No wait, they still fail you if you miss too many classes. That’s where they get you.
“Alright, James, what have you come up with?”
Shoot, no time for dilly-dallying, I have to think. Let’s see, if James is on the other side of the room, and the professor’s going clockwise, then that gives me…3 hours? No, wait, carry the one. That gives me six minutes. See, this is why I write, because I can make up numbers. In math you have to actually know what the hell you’re talking about. In here I’m allowed to do whatever I feel and it’s always right. Unless it’s about vampires or cheerleaders. Why can I think of nothing but vampires or cheerleaders? I blame the professor. And society.
Allow me to run through everything I can think of off the top of my head: breasts. There, done. Can I write an entire story about nothing but breasts? I can definitely try, can’t I? If Hefner can do it, why can’t I? Oh yeah…I’m not rich and surrounded by women. Maybe a story involving women? Women seem to be able to relate to other women. I should write a story about a woman. And this woman is a…cheerleader. Damn.
“That’s an excellent idea Daniel. I would never have thought to write a story from the perceptive of the bullet waiting in a loaded pistol chamber.”
Damn, that was a good idea. I should have thought of that. Maybe I did, and I didn’t realize it. I have been preoccupied with breasts a bit too much I suppose. For all I know I did in fact come up with that concept and Dan can just read minds. And he stole my idea. What a jerk.
Hey! An idea! I’ll write about how Dan’s a jerk. Yeah, brilliant. But how can I convince the reader to believe me? Well I’m the writer, so they have to believe me. They wouldn’t be reading my thoughts unless they believed me. Oh no…but what if they mistake my musings and come to the conclusion that I’m the jerk? That’s a decent plot twist, but not one I’m willing to deal with. You can keep your stolen ideas Dan, I’ll look elsewhere…you jerk.
“Oh, wonderful, Alexis. Did everyone hear that?” No. “Alexis says she’s going to try and write a story involving Jesus but never actually refer to him by his name. Wonderful idea.”
What? That’s a stupid idea. Stop trying to break conventions and just fall into them already. Stupid Alexis, always stealing my fire right when I get it started. Just like Prometheus. I hope you’re smote by the gods for your behavior. You and Dan.
“YAH!” Oh hell, my cell phone.
“Chris, is anything the matter?”
Yes you twit, I’m freaking stupid and I jump when my cell phone vibrates. “Nope, everything’s fine. Good ideas everyone, crazy stuff so far.”
Unbelievable. It’s like a damned rabid badger in my pants.
Who’s calling me anyway? Does no one understand the concept that maybe I’m in class attempting to have my thirst for knowledge quenched?
I must know who’s calling me. I must! For no reason more than to begin preparing adequate outbursts to yell once I can call them back. I’ll just sneak a peak at the phone, no one will know.
How many rings is that? Five? I’ve only got two left, I must go fast. Just slide it on out the pocket…smoothly, gently, and above all quietly…
Jeez, this is ridiculous. Why are my pants so tight? This is like trying to feel up a sorority girl and what’s worse is I’m doing this to myself. Fine, forget it, I give up. They can die for all I care. Shouldn’t have tried calling me in the first place. Now back to my thoughts…
“Chris, was that your cell phone?”
Damn. Why does my phone have to inform me when I’ve received a message? Doesn’t it know this is a bad time to make noise?
“Um…that would be my alarm for praise. Good job on that concept! Awesome!”
“Actually, Robert here isn’t going to be turning in a proposal and has decided to forgo the assignment.”
“Um…then it must be my alarm for failure. Boo Robert! You’re a disgrace!”
“Robert is forgoing the assignment so that he can help peer edit.”
Damn you Robert. You’re on my hate list. I know why Nixon made a list in the first place, and Robert, you are that reason.
“Sorry, I was confused by the question. That noise was actually my insulin regulator. Seems I’m getting my afternoon jolt. Diabetes is harsh sometimes.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry Chris. Who’s next?”
Clever save brain. I would never have thought of that in a million years even if I’d have wanted to. Hah, I don’t even have Diabetes. Dumb cooze. Ug, that sounded bad even for me. Besides, I don’t have time to be uncouth, I need to think and think clearly. I must be as the snow globe and clear the snow from my gaze. No wait…snow globes become more chaotic when shook. Okay then, I must be like a leaf blower and clear the streets of my mind. Does that one work? Perhaps, but it still doesn’t give me a story concept. Damnit. Damnit damnit damnit.
“Damnit.” Oh hell, I said that out loud.
“Damnit…that was a great story concept! I was thinking of using that one myself!”
“Chris, why would you write a story about Virginia’s grandfather battling cancer?”
“Because I’m just as distraught as her…of course. You can’t keep his memory all to yourself Virginia!”
“Chris, sit down and stop banging the table, please.”
Close call. Is it damnit, or dammit? I never could come to a decision for that. The extra “n” always pissed me off anyway. I should just spell it dammit and be done with it. But what if the professor’s already told us the proper spelling and I’ve missed it? Nope, can’t risk it, I won’t be swearing in my story no matter how angry the characters get. They’ll yell “golly” and “darn tooting” but none shall utter an obscenity. Mmm, and maybe “trouser stain.” That’s just good fun. And good for character development.
“Okay, Chris, what do you have for us?”
Oh no. Moment of truth. What have I thought of? Think think think!
No that won’t do. You have to make actual words mouth.
“Darn tooting ma’am.”
Try harder. Take a deep breath. Ah, nice. Now close your eyes, like you’re in deep thought. Also good. Yeah, they’re really anticipating something good. Clear your throat, too.
Good, that’s good. People usually do that before they speak. This is it Chris, you can do it, you’re the man, you’re in charge. Time to wow them with your story proposal. Make them cry out praises on high to you. Make them believe you’re Jesus H. Christ descending from Heaven in a glowing light with angels on trumpets and fairies creating a laser-light show right in front of their eyes, so much so that they have seizures from being unable to make in everything you have to offer them in one sitting. Now do it Chris, read them the Gospel like they’ve never heard it before.
“So I’ve got this story involving a vampire who kills cheerleaders…”
…Damn. I blame society.
*Author’s note: The final original assignment I did for Intro Fiction Writing. It was an exercise I put on myself to see if I was capable of doing a short story using only dialogue. I said I succeeeded, as did my teacher. I brought this up the very next year during my next fiction writiging class, and my professor basically told it my story probably sucked without reading it. It was going to be a long term with her.
Why Don’t You?
“’Just kiss her.’ That’s what you’ve got to keep telling yourself. ‘Just kiss her.’ I mean, what’s the worse that could happen?”
“She could freak out and never speak to me again.”
“True, she could freak out and never speak to you again; that’s pretty bad, but then again she hardly speaks to you now. All she does is disappoint you over and over again. Maybe you’ll be graced and she’ll ask to just be friends. If she does then at least that’d be implying that she’ll treat you better. I mean, friends would be a far step up from what you are now, which is basically just the guy that exists to remind her that at least someone, someone on Earth, thinks the world of her.”
“Why can’t I just tell her how I feel?”
“Why not just tell her that you love her? Really? No, if you do, even though you mean it and it’d be a massive risk all in its own, she could easily walk away. She could say nothing or patronize you by trying to explain your feelings away or simply walk away and then you’re standing there like the sad bastard that you are. At least if you just grab her and kiss her she can’t escape; she can’t run away. And even if she doesn’t say anything afterwards and just leaves, you took the risk and you’re a champion.”
“A warrior. You are a gladiator in the arena of love. You came, you saw, you conquered. Perhaps you also screwed up, but you did it with style. No one can look down upon you for that. You are a hero to all of us who cry out for action, who fight for love. All nice guys everywhere who have been trapped where you are will rejoice and you shall add their power to yours.”
“I haven’t even done it yet.”
“But you will. You must. If you don’t, well then there’s no hope for any of the world. We are all lost.”
“You’re all lost if I don’t get rejected?”
“No, we’re all lost if you don’t even try. We need a role model.”
“Who is this ‘we’?”
“Who is this-who is this ‘we’? What do you mean ‘who is this ‘we’?’ This ‘we’ is everyone who’s counting on you.”
“How do they know about me?”
“They don’t now, but once you go out there and do what you will do, then they’ll sing songs about you for ages to come.”
“Is it now? Or is it so reasonable that you’re afraid to accept your destiny? I’m not even sure what you’re more afraid of anymore: rejection from the woman you love, or leading your people into battle.”
“You know, the people who are depending on you.”
“And who are these people?”
“Me. If you go out there and you do this, then I have hope for myself. I’ll be able to see that it can be done and that no matter what happens afterwards, the world will still keep spinning no matter how hard you or I would think otherwise.”
“Then why don’t you just do it?”
“Because I am a coward.”
“You’re a coward?”
“Yes, I’m a coward. I don’t believe in myself or anything that I do. I have to live vicariously through you in order to feel anything.”
“But I haven’t done anything.”
“But you will.”
“No, I won’t.”
“Then all is lost.”
“Nothing is lost. Things will just go back to the way they’ve always been. I’ll be in the middle ground between ‘friend’ and ‘something more’ and nothing will change.”
“Is that what you want?”
“What I want I can’t have. At least with this I know what to expect.”
“And that’s better than the possibility of something greater?”
“Yes. At least this way I don’t have to deal with the pain.”
“You’re already dealing with the pain. You’ve been dealing with the pain for years. I’m trying to convince you to take yourself off life support. You have to trust me; something better awaits you in the next life.”
“The next life?”
“The life without her.”
“But…it’s not really a life without her…”
“Then show her that. Make her know that she means everything to you, and that without her you’d die. You’d give up your life for one chance to be with her.”
“I’m not doing it.”
“Then all is lost.”
Destined to Lose
“Oh my God.” My mind is about to roll in upon itself just trying to fathom the situation I’m in. I haven’t done anything wrong, yet I know that I’m about to be punished for something that I did at some point, although I don’t remember what it is or why it matters. So all I can muster as an answer to my wife is “Oh my God.”
For some reason, she doesn’t quite grasp that I want to be left entirely alone at the moment. She thundered into the room no more than three seconds ago and already I feel as if I’ve been interrogated by a number of judges, including God himself, about a crime that is currently slipping my memory of ever taking place. The only information I was given was a single announcement upon her entrance: “What are you doing?!”
To you this may not seem like so much of an announcement as a general question, but you’d be wrong, just like I’ve been wrong so many, many times before. The reasoning behind this is that her wording was not a kind inquisitive remark about what I was presently doing, but a forceful demand that implied not too kindly that although I can answer her question, it will inevitably be wrong. So we get back to the “question” at hand.
“What are you doing?!” my wife asks me.
“Oh my God,” I respond, knowing quite well a whole lot of nothing.
“What do you mean by that?!” she answers back. At this point I’ve already lost. I’ve given her the edge that she needs in which she knows that victory is securely within her grasp, and all she has to do is reach out and take it. She’s about to win a battle that I haven’t been told about. I’m about to lose a war that my government neglected to tell me we had entered. The very least I can do is take each bullet like a man.
“What d’you mean ‘what do I mean’?” Yes, surely I have taken the high road that is exclusive to only the truly noble of men.
“Oh that is so like you. I try and have a real discussion with you and you act like a child.” And now I’m in a new situation, a situation that I greatly prefer. Because previously the problem related to something that was a mystery to me. Now, however, the problem is something that I can understand, relate to, and respond to. She believes me to be a child, haha, I can argue that I am not a child. Afterall, I have chosen to take the exclusive high road for only the truly noble men.
“Nuh-uh.” Terrible dismount, just try and stick the landing. “I simply choose not to engage in discussions with oppressors and militants.” Good recovery. She looks baffled. I must be winning.
“What does that even mean?” Crap. I hadn’t thought that far ahead. Now I’m backed against a wall again. I’m cornered. I’m screwed. And on the high road no less. Where are my war advisors and why didn’t that warn me about this oncoming strike?
“Hey mom, hey dad, what’s going on?” My war advisor! There he is! He finally entered the fray!
“Hey son, come ‘ere for a second.” I pull my son aside as quickly as I can manage. In this battle, every second could mean another thousand dead. Brain cells that is. So I must work fast, because I have so few left to attack with as it is. “Son, why didn’t you tell me she was mad at me?”
“I didn’t know.” A likely excuse.
“Do you know why she’s mad at me?”
“Nuh-uh.” Darn, he’s gonna grow up to be just like his old man. Shame, too. He had such potential.
“Don’t you try and get him to side with you. This is between you and me.” Oh no, the ceasefire had fallen through and my wife is back on the attack. How dare she assume that my son would even think about siding with her. He’s my trusted war advisor. He’s gotten me through worse than this, and he’s always stuck by my side. She can’t split up a bond as close as a father and son’s. It’s more powerful than she can even imagine. We shall win this war yet!
“I’m gonna go play Game Boy upstairs in my room.” Traitor. I am now completely on my own in this endeavor. I didn’t want to think it’d come to this, but it has. My trusted advisor is dead to me and I’m all alone. I have no choice but to run the white flag of defeat.
“I give up! What did I do?!” I bet you’re probably curious what I did as well. In a second we could all find out, and everything will make sense at last. The war will be over, many will have been lost as a result, but at least the long and terrible war will be over and we can get on with our lives.
“If you don’t know what you did then I’m not gonna just tell you!” Of course not, that would be too simple. This war will likely go on for ages. Our children’s children will speak of this war and will fight it in themselves. They will see it with their own eyes and be forced to give their own children to the cause. There shall be no peace. And since there shall be no peace, I have no use for the noble high road exclusive to us great men.
“I am tired of this Mickey Mouse bullshit! All I was doing was sitting here in my nice comfy chair watching my nice comfy TV on a nice comfy Saturday and I wasn’t doing ANYTHING!” Perhaps I was a bit too shrill with the last word. At the very least I withheld nothing and thus can regret nothing. Except saying anything at all, I suppose I can regret that.
“That’s just it!” Now she’s really got me. Somehow she’s managed to coerce me into saying what I did, and yet I myself do not even know what it is. That is what power is born from.
“What’s just it?!”
“You were doing nothing!” And thus my mind popped clean out of my skull and just fobbled around on the ground a bit before my wife picked it up and not-so-gently handed it back to me. If I was to understand correctly, I was in trouble for the simple act of doing nothing at all. She had caught me in mid inaction. I was done for. She had won. After another few minutes of me trying to grasp this realization, I left the room with my head hung low and a list of chores to be done on the only free day I had in my own kingdom. It’s rough taking that noble high road so often.
*Author’s note: Another Intro Fiction Writing assignment, this one asking us to write a letter to someone, either real or imaginary. I picked the latter, and had my teacher say she was impressed when she found out who was writing the letter, not expecting it and being forced to reread the letter to get everything fully. Perhaps you’ll have to do the same, but I don’t think I wrote it THAT well. Hopefully enough to be enjoyed though, so, enjoy!
To My Love, Whom I Can Never Have
As I’ve always said, nothing is ever as poignant as the truth. Although, as I sit here, scrolling this letter to you I find it harder and harder to follow my own advice. Most of what I say is for everyone else anyway. It’s great for comforting others, but it hardly comforts myself. I already know the inner meanings of everything I tell people, I already know why it’s important to know. Where is my inner awakening?
I apologize, I’m getting off track. This letter isn’t about me. I mean, everything is essentially about me in some way, especially this, but I mean that I’m not writing this letter with myself in mind. I’m writing it to you, about you, and why I’ve been destroying myself at night. So I’m going to get right to the point, and the point is, I deeply love you.
Yes, I love everyone, and yes, it should be equal, but I can’t help the fact that I’m still human and still wish more than anything that I could give it all up and just be with you until the end of days. I can’t even describe to you how important you are to me. Every time I think about what’s going to happen in the future, I always remember that you’re here and it eases me ever so slightly. If only I wasn’t so important. If only they could find someone else to be so great. I don’t want all of this power. I want you.
You’ve meant more to me than anyone I’ve met. Of my dozen friends, none of them compare to you in any way. You’re so perfect and I’m so perfect and it would only make sense that we could be perfectly happy together but we can’t be and it’s what’s destroying me inside. I’m a kingdom divided amongst myself now. Half of me feels obligated to do my duty, to uphold my purpose. The other half of me is screaming, pleading with me to run away with you and never look back, never care about the consequences.
If you asked me, I’d give it all up for you. If I knew you weren’t so committed to everything that I am, you’d ask me to just spend my life with you and leave it all behind. But I know that you’re too committed, you’d never ask that of me. This makes me love you all the more, because without you to keep me on course then all would be lost. I would have given up long ago. You remind me on a daily basis that there is a reason for all of this. That there is at least one soul worth everything on this sad Earth.
I wish I could tell you what is in store for me. I wish I could but then you wouldn’t let me go through with it. It’d challenge you too much to know of the inevitable and what I’m going to have to go through because of my love for you, my love for everything. Please, no matter what happens, no matter whether I see you again or not, I want you to know that I loved you. You need to know this. I love you and I’m sorry.
My deepest love,
*Author’s note: Another class writing assignment from Intro to fiction Writing, this one being ane xercise in listening to real conversations and using that as dialogue. Dialogue was always my strength anyway, so the assignment was more to just have fun for me, which I did. Everything is basically true to life by the way, so enjoy!
The following dialogue was taken from my roommate as he was talking on the phone with his long-distance girlfriend. This is a nightly conversation that I hear rather frequently, so not much changes from time to time, except for perhaps my roommate’s level of annoyance. Naturally, names have been changed out of respect for my roommate. And now the actual conversation:
Roommate: (On the phone, pacing back and forth, at times flopping down on his bed). No Sheryl, I’m feeling fine. (Pause, sadly I can’t hear what the girlfriend is saying). No, I’m fine. (Shorter pause). I said that I’m fine; there’s nothing wrong. (Pause). Gah, I understand that you care about me but you’ve got to understand that I just get tired of it from time to time. (Very bad pause). What? No, I care about you, too. (Frustrating pause). I said that I care about you, too. (Begins emphasizing his words). I care about you, too. (It takes a turn for the worst). What? (Another pause). Sheryl, I can’t tell you that I’m in love with you. (And worse). No, I do care about you, but I can’t tell you that I love you. (I don’t even want to know what the girlfriend is actually saying). No, Sheryl, Sheryl, She- (he keeps getting cut off). Sigh, Sheryl, I’m just not gonna tell you that. (Why?). Because I don’t even know what love is! I’m only 20 years old for God sake. (She makes it worse). No, I’m 20 years old, and you’re not even as old as me, you don’t know what love is either! (They keep going on like this for a “good” five minutes). Okay, Sheryl, we’ll talk about this tomorrow. No, we’ll talk about this tomorrow. No, we both need to get some rest and we’ll talk about it tomorrow. Alright? Alright? No, tomorrow. Alright? Okay, I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Good night. (Hangs up).
“No Sheryl, I’m feeling fine.” A shaggy-haired individual flops down onto his bed as he’s talking on the phone. “No, I’m fine.” He seems to be on the phone with his girlfriend. “I said that I’m fine; there’s nothing wrong.” This is a normal trend for this particular couple. “Gah, I understand that you care about me but you’ve got to understand that I just get tired of it from time to time.” The girlfriend lives too far away to have this conversation with face-to-face, which on some level is a good thing. “What? No, I care about you, too.”
At about this time the roommate walks by his room. The roommate has heard this conversation about as many times as the shaggy-haired individual. “Uh-oh, I know that noise,” the roommate states to the room.
The shaggy-haired individual waves him off, going back into his conversation with his girlfriend. “I said I care about you, too.” A short pause goes by, as the girlfriend is either not hearing correctly or she just isn’t understanding his meaning, so he tries emphasizing his words and speaking clearer. “I care about you, too.”
“He cares about you, too!” the roommate shouts, offering his help. The shaggy-haired individual turns his back to the roommate and waves him off again.
“What?” he questions the phone.
“Yeah, what?” the roommate chimes in, getting waved off once more.
“Sheryl, I can’t tell you that I’m in love with you.” Clearly things have gone from bad to worse in a very short amount of time.
“Oh crap,” the roommate blurts out. “Just hang up the phone right now! Don’t fall into this trap; you’ll never make it out again!”
Another wave and the shaggy-haired individual responds back to this loaded question. “No, I do care about you, but I can’t tell you that I love you.”
“No you darn well can’t,” the roommate points out. “That would be a fatal error.”
“No, Sheryl, Sheryl, She-,” the shaggy-haired individual keeps getting cut off before even getting a chance to get his argument out of his mouth until a sigh finally slips out. “Sheryl, I’m just not gonna tell you that.”
“And why not?” asks the roommate, keeping him on track for what’s about to be said again for the ninth night in a row.
“Because I don’t even know what love is! I’m only 20 years old for God sake.”
“That’s right; you’re only 20 years old.”
“No, I’m 20 years old, and you’re not even as old as me, you don’t know what love is either!” The shaggy-haired individual finally decides that this conversation has gone to a place that is not meant for others to witness, and so he stands up, gives his roommate the “one minute please” sign, and closes his door. Seeing this as a good chance to stock up on vitals, the roommate takes his all-important break from this conversation to create a sandwich and think up the very best advice to offer.
After a few minutes go by, the roommate has decided that he’s ready to re-enter the conversation, so he sits down at the door and presses his ear to it to get a better sense of what’s happening on the other side. He is able to catch the tail-end of this brutal conversation. “Okay, Sheryl, we’ll talk about this tomorrow. No, we’ll talk about this tomorrow. No, we both need to get some rest and we’ll talk about it tomorrow. Alright? Alright? No, tomorrow. Alright? Okay, I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Good night.” Footsteps. The roommate’s cue to jump to his feet and prepare himself for the shaggy-haired individual to seek his wisdom on the matter. As the shaggy-haired individual opens the door, the roommate’s face is pressed against the doorframe. “Gah!”
“Haha, I bet you just had a fun conversation there, eh?”
“Yeah right. Why are women so damn stupid?” The shaggy-haired individual paces back into his room and over to a lawn chair set up. He crumples into this chair, his whole body frustratingly tired from having to deal with his girlfriend yet again.
“My friend, we have all asked this question, but none of us have been able to answer this properly. Except me of course.” The roommate walks himself over to an armchair in the corner and takes his place as the exalted advice-giver. “Naturally, the reason is because women see the need to destroy our minds to the point that we become stupider than them, thus creating some sort of equality between the sexes.”
“How does that create equality of the sexes?”
“Oh no, she’s already destroyed your mind too far. I may not be able to properly salvage it anymore.”
“I would not doubt it.” The shaggy-haired individual places his hands on the top of his head and slumps further into his seat. “I’m getting tired of the same conversation every night.”
“I think we all are.”
The shaggy-haired individual sits up in his frustration. “It’s just so damn…how to describe it?”
“Yes.” He shaggy-haired individual points his affirmation to the roommate and stands up to get some water. “It’s frustrating to have to deal with her every night when she keeps acting like a child. I’m getting sick of it.”
“You know what you have to do, don’t chu?” Here it comes…
“So what’s the advice for tonight?” The shaggy-haired individual has entirely predicted that it would come to this, so he’s almost eager to hear the next scheme to come from the roommate.
“What you’ve got to do is out crazy this woman.” The shaggy-haired roommate laughs. “No I’m serious, you’ve got to start stepping it up another level. Next time she calls, ask her to marry you. In fact, don’t even give her a chance to call her. You need to start calling her.”
“As often as possible. Call her ever hour of every day, and then don’t have anything important to say. Just keep calling and calling and calling until she picks up, and then ask her what she’s thinking about.”
“Hah, just call her all the time?”
“Even when she’s in class?”
“Especially when she’s in class. Just keep calling her and if she doesn’t pick up, call her friend in that class and when the friend answers tell the friend to give the phone to your girlfriend. Tell her that you were worried that she was in an accident or something since she wasn’t picking up her phone. She’ll love it.”
“Hahaha, I may have to try that.” The shaggy-haired individual walks over to the TV in the room and casually points at it. “So since this night has sucked so badly, I think we should play some Smash Brothers. How ‘bout it?”
“Same as every night.” The shaggy-haired individual tosses the roommate a video game controller. “She sure sounds like a winner.”
“Oh boy is she ever,” admits the shaggy-haired roommate as he knows that the same conversation will occur again and again, each and every night. But for now, the fight is over and the night is finally his.
*Athor’s note: This is a short story I wrote back during my Sophomore year of college during an intro fiction writing class. I didn’t mind the class so much, but I also didn’t get a chance to just write what I wanted either. however, a few fun things popped up nonetheless, this included. I argue that it was the best thing I wrote that term, but I’ll let you decide. Enjoy.
I hadn’t nearly prepared myself for this. I mean, we all know that death is inevitable, no matter who you think you are, but when it hits so suddenly, well I don’t know, I suppose I still didn’t expect it. No more than two days ago we were sitting in our usual seats, playing our usual game of chess. Truly a gentlemen’s game. I’d be sitting across the table, shifting my pieces expertly across the board. And he’d be shifting his pieces just a little better. Now look at where we are. I’m standing in the middle of a quiet, darkened room, and he’s sittin’ in a casket. My best friend Kyle is sitting in a damned casket.
“Grampa? You okay?” I can feel a little kid tugging at my jacket. They say he’s my seven-year-old grandson, and I suppose I don’t have reason to doubt that, although he never did act anything like his mother, my daughter. “Are you gonna be alright?”
“Me?” I can hardly think of anything worth saying here. “Oh my, I’m fine. You just run along there.” Anyone else would have gathered that I was merely humoring him. God bless my grandson, he was never bright enough to catch on.
“You sure?” For all his kindness, I was in no mood to receive it. “I can go get you some lemonade from the table if you’d like?” A small nod and that’s all it takes to send this child away. He scurries off towards the refreshment table, my chance to get some privacy.
“Oh, thank you for coming.” The widow; the wife of my late best friend. I never had any reason to dislike her, but then again I never did have a reason to enjoy her company either. She was the one who was always trying to take my best friend from me. She was the one forcing him to divide his time. I could have had more time with him if it wasn’t for her. But then again I’m just being unfair. It’s not her fault that he passed away. It’s not even her fault that he passed away quicker than he would have otherwise. Hell, she probably added a few years onto his life.
“He’s my best friend,” I snap at her, unintentional but rude nonetheless. “Why wouldn’t I show up?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it.” Great. Now I’m a jackass.
“No, I’m sorry. It hasn’t exactly hit me yet, so I’m not dealing with this well.”
I can feel my jacket being tugged again. “Grampa, your lemonade.” Great, now in the midst of coping with my best friend’s death I’ve got to think up some random task to keep my grandson out of my hair.
“Thanks,” I somehow choke out and grab the glass from him.
“Are you hungry?” he asks.
I smile big for him. “Absolutely.” I’m not. He smiles back and runs off again. Good, I didn’t feel like smiling so much at the moment. And now I get a chance to deal with the widow again. Wonderful. “So,” I just throw out, unable to think of anything relevant to say. “How you holding up?” Good, that’s good. That sounds about like what I’m expected to say to the widow.
“It’s hard,” she responds. “I’m used to waking up with him in the bed every morning. Now that he’s not there, well it’s just hard.” She has no idea. She didn’t know him like I did. No wife can ever understand her husband like his best friend can. I knew every detail about him. I knew what he wanted to be when he grew up even before he had a chance to grow up. I was there after his first date. I was there after his first failed relationship. I was his best man. Not just anyone, I was the best man. She didn’t know how hard this was. I knew how hard this was.
“I’ll bet,” I droll out. Someone comes up beside the widow and begins talking to her, taking her aside to talk between just the two of them. Good. I wasn’t in the mood for idle chat. Why would I be though? It’s insulting to think I’d want to talk about anything today.
My jacket’s being tugged again. That must mean he’s back. I look down and there’s my grandson once more, this time carrying a small plate with a sandwich on it. “What cha got there?” I ask him.
“I made you a sandwich,” he tells me. Turkey, mayo, swiss, a little pepper, on a hoagie roll. My best friend’s favorite sandwich. Simple, yet elegant. Kid’s got good taste at least, even if it was a lucky guess on his part.
“Thank you.” This time, I find myself genuinely thankful. “Thank you very much.” I take the sandwich, smile at him again, and ruffle his hair a little. He smiles back. “Give me a second, okay? Grandpa’s gonna go talk with his friend for a minute.” I wouldn’t expect this child to understand what I’m talking about, but somehow he does and gives me some space, so I take this opportunity to address my friend, just the two of us.
“How you holdin’ up?” He would have laughed at that if he wasn’t dead. I fidget with the sandwich in my hand. “Sandwich?” I ask him, to no response of course. I set the sandwich down on a table nearby along with the lemonade I’ve neglected to drink. “I don’t know what to say here old friend.” I fiddle with my tie. I hated wearing suits. He would have laughed at me having to wear a suit if he wasn’t dead. “You remember a few years back?” I’m talking to the corpse of my dead friend. I’ve become senile. “You remember when we agreed to live another ten years? I said it was impossible, and you said that if I died before then, you’d owe me a Coke. Well it seems that you won’t be owing me a Coke.” Yeah, he definitely would have laughed at that. I’ll miss that laugh. I’ll miss him. “Thanks a lot for everything you’ve done for me over the years. You were always my best mate. I wouldn’t have made it this long if you hadn’t made it easier to age gracefully.” I’m beginning to tear up now. I feel somewhat ridiculous, an old man starting to cry. I haven’t cried since third grade, and I’m beginning to cry now. At least I saved it until a time when it really counted. “Goodbye…Kyle.”
A hand comes up besides mine and grabs my pinky. “Grampa? You ready to go?” He really isn’t such a bad kid I suppose. I look down at him and smile weakly.
“Yeah. Yeah I think I’m ready.” I give one last look around the room, checking to see if there is anything left worth hanging back for. Seeing nothing, we walk out of the room.
“Grampa, what was your friend Kyle like?”
“He was the greatest friend I ever had, and nothing will ever change that.” I look down at the kid again and smile. “C’mon, enough sad talk for now. How ‘bout I take you out for some ice cream and tell you about the time me and Kyle got thrown out of our senior prom.” My friend would have laughed at that story again. I’m gonna miss him.
*Author’s note: This was the end of Game Studs for the time being. More recently, we’ve been looking at ways to bring it back, but we just can’t figure it out with time management. So we ended it in the most drastic way I know how: Ridiculously.
Game Studs Episode 8
“The Minus World”
Setting: Fade in from white. The four are all sitting in the J school lounge, looking confused.
Ben: (Looks around). Huh? The door of light just lead us here?
Alexa: It sure seems that way. Oh well, at least we’re not dead.
Topher: Something’s still not right…
Danny: (He starts deeply laughing from behind everyone. They move out of the way for the camera to see Danny laughing. His voice is now much deeper and more confident). Hahaha…you are correct.
Danny: In one sense of the word, yes. I am who you’ve always known as Danny. (Begins pacing). However, I am so much more than that. If only you knew who I am.
Ben: Then who am you?
Danny: I am the Game Master!
Topher: (The three are all stone faced and unimpressed). What?
Danny: Yes, I’ve been following you all around these past months, carefully setting things in motion.
Ben: So it was you who burnt the game store down!
Danny: Precisely. It began with the simple hiring of this pawn, and every step of the way I’ve pushed us one step closer to our destiny.
Topher: That sounds needlessly complicated.
Danny: Incredibly! But enough, there are more important things to be dealt with. There is a great evil in this world.
Topher: What world?
Danny: This world!
Topher: The real world?
Danny: No, the Minus World!
Topher: It looks just like the boring version of our world.
Danny: It’s not! Shut up!
Alexa: So can we cut to the important things? I’ve never been a fan of opening cinematics.
Danny: Ah, yes, the reason I’ve brought you all here is because it is your destiny to collect 7…items of somewhat importance.
Topher: Always seven…
Alexa: What sort of items?
Danny: Of somewhat importance.
Ben: Yeah, but what do they look like?
Danny: They look like something important. (Pulls out a map). Here is a map that shows the item’s locations. You three heroes of destiny must collect them within the time limit or else it’s game over…for some reason!
Alexa: Alright, let’s split up and get them. Come on guys. (The three walk out of the room).
Time for a montage of the three gathering the items. First we see Topher grabbing an item from off of a tree. Then, Alexa picks one up from the center of the EMU amphitheatre. Then, Ben picks the lock of a car, opens the door, and takes another one. Then Topher is seen chasing after a squirrel. Then Alexa randomly finds one in her pocket. Finally, Ben is seen buying a hot dog. As he opens the wrapper, he finds another item. The three meet up again outside the J School.
Topher: (The three are counting up their totals). We’re still one short.
Ben: It’s not on the map anywhere.
Alexa: Ten to one the map’s the last item.
Topher: (He and Ben look at each other and then Alexa). Yeah I’ll take that bet.
Danny: Aha! You have found all the items!
Topher: The map was an item?
Danny: Yes yes, the map was an item.
Alexa: You owe me a Coke.
Ben: Now what?
Danny: (Evil laugher). You fools walked right into my trap. It was all too easy!
Topher: (Realizes what’s happened). Uh…ahhhhh…
Topher: We fell for the most basic cliché in games and collected the items for the villain thinking he was someone else.
Alexa: Man we’re stupid.
Topher: Sometimes I hate us.
Danny: And now, my items please. (Snaps his fingers. Freeze on the three holding the items, instantly the items are gone. Cut to Danny who is now holding all the items). Hahaha, and now the end has come! (He hugs the items close, the camera begins to shake like an earthquake. “Crack!” sound effect goes off, screen starts flashing white. It fades back in and the items that Danny were holding are gone, although he is dressed in a badass outfit and looks ready to kill). Prepare for the Eleventh Hour!
Ben: What’s the Eleventh Hour?
Topher: The time right before the villain wins where you either have to step up or get killed.
Alexa: Well then, let’s step up! (The three nod and pull weapons out from behind their backs).
Danny: Hahaha, futile. (The three rush Danny, with Topher swinging his sword down first. It stops above Danny’s head via telekinesis. Danny throws him back. Alexa runs up next, slashing at Danny with her sword, although Danny dodges easily out of the way, finally pushing her aside via telekinesis again).
Ben: (Looks down at his sword and then over at Danny. He just drops his sword). Nah.
Danny: (Begins laughing again). Well then, it looks as if I have won!
Ben: (The three join up again, with Alexa in between the two guys). If we have to die, then I get to make out with Alexa.
Topher: What?! No way, I call dibs.
Alexa: (Ear thwips both guys at once). Excuse me, but I’m taken.
JT: (Cut to JT randomly sitting at a chair. He swivels around and nods). M’why yes indeed!
Danny: And now the end comes! (He hold his hands above his head, charging an energy ball of some sort).
Topher: Well we’re certainly screwed.
Danny: Hahaha, let’s see you catch this one! (Shotgun sound effect is heard. Danny instantly stops laughing, his ball disappears, and he falls over. Frank is behind him holding a shotgun).
Frank: Yippie ka-yai motha fucka.
Topher: Who the hell are you?
Frank: (Sets down his shotgun and picks up his guitar). Me? I’m just a humble ol’ camera man. (Begins playing the same song from the end of Channel 70 and walks away).
Topher: Meh, works for me.
Alexa: Well now what?
Topher: I don’t know. The end credits should roll and then maybe some bonus features are unlocked.
Ben: Well yeah but can’t we go home?
Topher: I don’t really know… (Scene starts to fade out, instantly the screen goes all fuzzy ala NES games).
JT: (Pull back and we see JT at a TV holding an NES cartridge). This game sucks. Where’d I put Sponge Bob? (Game Studs logo flashes on the screen).
*Author’s note: The owner of Big City Gaming had officially pushed us too far, so we dropped the store’s use from the segment. It wouldn’t have been possible to do another episode outside the store anyway, so we were forced to do the only classy thing: Burn the store down. Not literally, but in the script. Needless to say, I was angry.
Game Studs: Episode 7
Setting: Danny and Topher are walking down the street, talking. I don’t know which street, but trust me, it’ll definitely be a street of some sort. Unless it’s a sidewalk.
Topher: So you’ve got a date huh?
Danny: Yes, I have finally succeeded in wooing one of these “women” I’ve heard so much about.
Topher: What’s her name?
Topher: Aaron with an E or Aaron with two A’s?
Danny: Um…with an E. (Shoots Topher a look). Wait a minute…why?
Topher: No reason. You can’t be too careful though. (Pats Danny on the back). Well good work on the girl. Just don’t screw it up.
Danny: Haha, unlikely. She really seems to love my personality and admires that I have a job. (Realizes something). In fact she’s said that I’d be a loser if I didn’t have money…but no matter!
Topher: (Ring ring ring). Hold up. (Answer). Hello? Yeah Ben, what’s up? What?! We’ll be right there!
Danny: What’s going on?
Topher: Shut up and let’s go! (They run off).
Setting: Outside on a busy street. Ben is standing in shock at something off camera.
Topher: (He runs into the frame up to Ben). Ben, is it true? (He looks off at the thing off camera).
Ben: Yep, I really wasn’t kidding. The game store burnt down.
Topher: Faulty 360?
Ben: Yes. (Chokes back tears).
Topher: I didn’t know this place meant so much to you.
Ben: (Cracks). I wanted to be the one who burned it down! Damn you Microsoft! Damn you to Hades!
Danny: (Runs into the shot). So what’s- (Sees the store off camera). NO! My job! I’m unemployed! Without a good source of money my love life shall crumble! (Recovers quickly). No matter, at least I’ve invested well in high-return stock. (Ben grabs a newspaper and quickly gives it to Danny. Danny opens it to the business page quickly and breaks again). NO! My stocks! I’m ruined and alone again! (Cries).
Alexa: (Walks up, seeing the group all mourning the loss of the store). Hey everyone, is there a parade today or something.
Topher: Nope, the store burned down.
Alexa: Oh bummer. (Just fine). Oh well, I had better things to do with my time than working. Who wants to go buy jet skis?
Ben: (All better). I’m down.
Topher: (Still shocked). This has all got to be a bad dream. Wait! I know! (Turns to Alexa and tries to use his mind powers to get her naked again).
Alexa: No, I’m not getting naked.
Topher: Dammit. Okay, so we’re not in another one of my dreams then.
Danny: I suppose the only thing left to do is find new jobs my good chaps.
Ben: I ain’t your chap. And I don’t want a new job, I want my old job back.
Topher: I thought you hated it there.
Ben: I did, but I had a 401K through a computer error that Steve never found out about, and now it’s gone.
Danny: (Breaks and cries again). Gone!
Alexa: So, we might as well rummage through the ashes and see if anything good turns up.
Topher: I wonder if Steve was in the building when it went down?
Ben: We can only hope.
Danny: (Turns to Alexa). I can’t take it anymore! Alexa, I’ve always loved you!
Alexa: (Not looking at him). Cool cool.
Danny: That’s it?
Topher: Dude, she’s on her iPod. She can’t hear you in funkytown. (Camera shifts to Alexa breaking into a funky dance).
Alexa: (Looks up and sees everyone looking at her. She stops dancing and takes her headphones off). Huh? Was someone talking to me?
Danny: Yes, Alexa I- (Both Ben and Topher ear whip him). Bwa good God!
Topher: (Looks down). Hey…what’s that?
Ben: (Lazily looks down to where Topher points). I can’t tell from this distance.
Topher: It’s at your feet dude.
Ben: Who knows how far that could be.
Topher: (Bends down and picks up the item, an NES controller). What do you make of it?
Alexa: (Danny is about to speak but Alexa starts talking first). It looks like a controller from the Nintendo Entertainment System made between 1985 and 1991. (The others look at her confusedly). Yeah, that’s right, I actually know things about video games.
Danny: (Grows excited). Which is your favorite game?
Alexa: I don’t know, maybe Halo or something, I don’t care. (Starts filing her nails).
Danny: (Crushed). But…but…you were supposed to understand!
Topher: So how’d this NES controller survive the fire if nothing else did?
Ben: (Grabs it and begins pacing, talking in a high-brow voice). Hmm, perhaps the ancients have placed a spell upon it.
Alexa: A spell?
Ben: Or…a curse! (Tosses it to Danny).
Danny: This is most peculiar. (Walks over to Topher).
Topher: Well, gimmie the controller back. (Danny hands him the controller). There’s only one way to find out. (Everyone scrunches together as Topher presses the “Start” button on the controller. Instantly everything goes black and a siren starts going off).
Ben: Oh God! I know that siren! We’re all gonna die!
Danny: I’ve never known the touch of a woman!
Topher: Everyone calm down! Hurry, run towards the light! (They all run off towards a doorway with light emanating from it).
Alexa: Are you sure about this?
Topher: There’s only one way to find out. (They all walk through the door. “To Be Continued” pops up as they fade out).
End of Episode