Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Addicted2aa, Apr 15, 2009.
Not trying to step on anyone's toes with this, just thought I could help speed the process along.
Dr. Doctor- Cheeseburger
I died eating a cheeseburger at Checkers. Not many people can truly say that, but yes, I died before I could even finish my cheeseburger. It was a big, deluxe whopper of a burger, with melted cheese and two slices of bacon and ketchup and mustard and onions and the whole deal, and I had spent a lot of carefully planned and valuable time deciding exactly what to put on it. I wasn’t often treated to cheeseburgers or really anything meaty or fattening, as my wife was a vegetarian, and refused to even allow such things into the house. Said it was bad for her cholesterol, said it was too tempting for her. She wouldn’t even kiss me if I came home with meat on my breath. So I was reduced to eating alone on my lunch breaks and hiding behind mirrored sunglasses and tacky, orange-flavored breath mints. It was worth it, though.
On the day I died, I had been starved from meat for a week, as I had been too busy at the law firm to even think about leaving on my lunch breaks. So I had a lot of catching up to do. The burger I got was the biggest on offer, and they gave me a tray of French fries, too. I thought that was nice of them. Looking down on the scene now from above, nobody even bothered to clean them up. I tried to go down there and pluck them up, but alas, my hands are transparent, and they go right through the fries.
Maybe I didn’t need to eat anymore, anyway. But what fun would that be? I didn’t eat at Checkers because I was hungry, but because I loved the taste of the greasy, fattening food there! I lamented my situation.
It didn’t even seem fair to me. Why did my time have to be up? What had I done to deserve this? I had only taken a few bites, had only just finished swishing around the muddled mixture of meat and cheese and toppings around in my mouth, savoring the delicious, greasy taste. I remembered the gun going off outside, sounding like what I imagined a cannon boom to sound like in real life. People screamed. I put down my cheeseburger, it having suffered only two meager bites, and looked over my shoulder. There was a man standing there in army-styled clothing, with his hair pulled back in a ponytail and his eyes covered by rectangular goggles. He was shouting, and as he opened the door, I knew I would have to stand up and confront him. As the man with the gun approached the cashier and stuck the gun in his face, I got up, too, and before I even knew what I was doing, I was diverting the gunman’s attention away from the quivering cashier.
He shouted at me, said some real bad words, the kind of stuff that I was only used to hearing from angry clients after they lost a case. My wife never cursed. She was a Christian. I put my hands up and tried to reason with him, hoping he would back down so I could finish my cheeseburger and the restaurant would once again be peaceful.
He said something else, and I was just trying to calm him down. He raised his gun, and the next thing I knew, I was floating in the air. Why was I doing that? I motioned for him to put the gun down again, but the words that came out of my mouth sounded hollow, like I was speaking through a funnel. Nobody seemed to take notice of me at all. I knew I was dead when people started screaming a few moments later, when they started crowding around my body and checking for a heartbeat. I waved to them in futility, hoping in vain that someone might see me, but it was no use.
They threw my cheeseburger into the waste bin hours later along with napkins, plastic wrappers, empty cups and everything else that nobody wanted anymore.
I’ve been floating around the restaurant for two days now, stricken with the surreal nature of my being dead. Oh, sure, I miss my family and my friends from work, and I can only imagine what they’re going through, but I find myself drawn here to Checkers the most. I find myself sitting atop its black-and-white checkered roof and woefully watching people enter and exit and go about their daily lives. I find myself enchanted by the faint aroma of fast food, that warmly rich and salty smell of everything that was called unhealthy, but was consumed readily anyway. I should have been swooping over the homes of my loved ones like pallor of gloom and doom, but I wasn’t.
I was sitting on top of a fast food restaurant. How do you explain that one to the big man above? That you just wanted one last bite of a cheeseburger, and that you wish you could have finished it before your life was blown away? I thought it silly.
The young boy was covered with blood, droplets bulging at the tip of his nose and falling away to splash on the ground. There were bodies everywhere; he left not one of them alive.
He admitted that only a handful of them deserved it, but he had no time to pick and choose. They were all guilty in his eyes, at least to some degree. He dropped the double barreled shotgun to the ground, a loud clacking sound as it settled to the hardwood.
There was so much blood, you could hardly tell he was standing in a gym, streamers and glitter all over the god damned place. All those beautiful prom dresses and tuxedos ruined, the pretty corsages soaked in blood.
“**** you all!” he yelled out loud, a slight giggle in his voice.
He was walking around now, making sure he didn’t leave any twitching survivors. He found Samantha Dunbar, a gaping hole surrounded by smaller holes in the middle of her chest. Blood was pumping from the wound at an impressive rate. He kicked her lifeless body, her sightless eyes staring up at him.
“That’s what you get you pompous bitch.”
He continued walking along and saw Mrs.Sanders, a terrified grimace etched onto her face, lying in a pool of blood. He didn’t have any beef with her, and a hint of regret stabbed his conscience. He remembered how she used to help him with his math homework, was always so nice to him. He also remembered being picked on by the god damned jocks, and she didn’t do anything to stop it.
“Sorry Mrs.Sanders, but you should have done something.”
He heard a whimpering noise coming from near the bleachers. He didn’t go back for his gun; he wanted a more personal touch this time. He pulled out his Bowie knife from its holster which was latched to his belt, and approached the noise.
“Who’s over there? Come out, come out wherever you are!” he yelled out, a hideous laugh escaping his throat.
“P-please,” pleaded the voice, “d-don’t h-h-hurt me.”
The boy jumped up onto the bleachers, and kneeled down, his knees popping. He was staring at Gus Banner, the quarterback of the football team.
“Well hello there Gus, how the hell are ya?”
Gus looked up at his murderer, his eyes wide with hatred. He had blood pumping from a wound on his neck, and his skin was extremely pale.
“Y-you s-son of a b-b” he struggled, speaking through the gurgling blood.
Talking was taking its toll on him as he struggled to breathe.
“Now, now buddy, you knew this was comin,” he said, admiring his handy work. Gus was breathing like a fish out of water, choking on his own blood. He lifted Gus’ head by his curly hair, and opened his neck from ear to ear. Gus held onto life for just a moment, his dress shoes kicking the bleachers as he slipped away.
With Gus finally shutting up, the blood soaked boy stood up, his ear to the air, listening for any evidence of other survivors. He heard nothing, and continued his round of the gym. He remembered Gus and his buddies, how they used to humiliate him in front of everybody at school.
He had a very vivid memory of them pushing him into the hallway after gym class, naked as the day he was born. They were holding the door so he couldn’t get back in. The bell rang and the hallways filled with students, all immediately gawking and laughing hysterically.
They all deserved it, every one of them.
But he did have a **** list, and as he walked amongst the slain student body, he was checking off names. Gus was at the top of his list, one big check there.
He still had more names to check off, the rest of the students meant nothing to him. But not one of them lifted a finger to help him, or even try to be his friend.
“The hell with all of you, I hope you ****ing rot!”
He stumbled onto the body of Luke Fisher, another pretty boy jock that hung from Gus’ nuts like a monkey from a tree. He had taken a blast to the head, his face almost unrecognizable. Another check.
He continued his inspection of the carnage, checking off names here and there.
Martin Hoffman, check.
Susie Reynolds, check.
Jeremy Goode, check.
Bobby Monte, check.
Mr.Patterson, the school principal was trampled to death, not a single bullet hole on him. He lay on the ground, his mouth wide with his final scream for help. Check.
He laughed to himself as he remembered how they scrambled, all heading for the nearest door to escape his wrath. Of course, he had prepared for that, and locked every one of them from the outside, the chains rattling as they hammered on the doors.
He could hear sirens approaching in the distance. He hurried his pace, making sure to check every last bastard on his list.
Daniel Guzman, check.
Lindsey Woods, check.
Shawn Cummings, check.
He was jogging now, kicking over bodies to make sure she wasn’t underneath. He checked behind the bleachers, nothing.
“Allison!” he yelled out, “Come out here and talk to me!”
He held his ear to the air again, but heard nothing.
“Come out right now, and I might take it easy on you!”
The restrooms, he never checked the restrooms. He cursed himself as he made haste towards them.
The sirens were getting louder, he could see red and blue flashing through the windows. He ran as fast as he could to the women’s restroom, his knife at the ready.
“Allison? You in here bitch?”
He checked every stall, not a single person.
Where the hell is she?
He knew there was a slight possibility that she didn’t come, but he doubted a yuppy bitch like that would miss her senior prom, not for the world.
He could hear police officers talking outside now, muffled voices coming from their radios.
He ran out of the restroom, and was staring at two barrels, leveled right at him. A blonde girl in a lavender dress was taking dead aim, her face splattered with blood. She had black streaks under her eyes, her mascara running from the tears. He put his hands in the air, his knife cluttering to the ground.
“You-mother-****er,” she said between sobs, her hands shaking.
“Allison, I was never gonna hurt you,” he said, “never you.”
The officers were banging on the doors, the padlocks he secured were holding them back.
“You killed em,” she said, “you killed everyone!”
He took a step towards her, very slowly reaching for the gun.
“I had to Allison, you all made me do it!” he screamed, lunging towards her.
A loud cracking bang filled the gym, the officers momentarily hushed outside.
Allison was holding the shotgun, smoke spiraling from the barrel. Her already stained dress was soaked in blood now, bits of bone and brain matter falling off in clumps.
His body went limp, falling to its knees before completely collapsing onto the ground. What was left of his head was oozing dark fluid onto the gym floor.
Allison dropped the gun and fell to her knees, sobbing uncontrollably. She glanced over to the murderer of her friends and classmates, his blood pooling around him.
She saw a piece of crumpled paper clutched in his lifeless hands. She reached over and plucked it from his dead grasp.
She saw her friend’s names, crude checkmarks next to each one. Seeing all of those names together that way brought back memories. Memories of them tormenting and ridiculing the boy, all for a cheap laugh. She wondered how things would have turned out if she just talked to him, just once. Her tears were falling onto the sheet causing the ink to run.
Only one name was left on that list, a bloody thumb print next to it.
She put her finger to the front of her blood soaked dress. She straightened the paper on the floor, and in his own blood wrote:
Brian Schwagel, check.
Mat Growcott - Malcolm
Malcolm picked his nose and wiped it in a determined sort of way down the front of his multicoloured shirt. It had been white when he had bought it but, other than the odd suspicious (possibly edible) looking lump, he thought he hid that well.
He started patting around his body for his cigarettes, a much needed source of comfort at this time of year. Ah yes, his granddaughter had decided he needed to quit and stole all the bloody things. Now he was stuck pretending to enjoy Saturday night TV, like all good old age pensioners should, without a cigarette.
There was nothing like it. Inhaling dangerous drugs made you feel alive. Just so long as he didn't need to move too quickly or be jolted about at all, it tended to make him decline into a coughing fit.
He reached for the remote and turned the TV off. If TV was all sex these days he managed to miss it on a daily basis. He got Countdown, Wheel of Fortune and Coronation Street. The closest he got to raunch was Jasper Carrot's Golden Balls, and that wasn't nearly as exciting as it sounded. He'd love the odd flash of flesh, it'd add something to his currently dull life. He'd just finished a ten thousand piece jigsaw puzzle, simply entitled 'The Baked Beans'.
No, the television was better turned off. It was filled with idiots anyway. In the old days you worked for your money, or stole it off the government. It wasn't particularly honest, but at least it wasn't inflicted on a international audience. This was a special night, he should spend it acting accordingly. He broke wind and the next door neighbour knocked loudly on the wall.
“Some of us are trying to sleep, you dirty old git!”
He'd let himself go since his wife had died, ten years ago today. He'd never have gotten away with that then. She would have gotten away with it, but marriage is rarely ever an equal partnership. He'd have received a slap around the back of his head and a firm warning, on more than one occasion in writing.
He missed the old girl though. Her laugh, the way she spoke, her terrible cooking. Even the arguments, the crying and holding one another afterwards. The stories they used to make up together when the electric would go. The singing at church when Christmas came along. He missed her most at Christmas, when she would spend more than was necessary on the most obscure relatives. He'd give anything to have her back, especially now he wasn't earning money for her to spend.
That reminded him, he hadn't been to church for a good while either. That had been another thing that stopped happening once she had died. If God was everywhere you could worship him everywhere and Malcolm was going to worship him from his tobacco stained vibrating sofa.
They'd had this chair a long time. Children had sat in it. Grandchildren had sat in it. Tragically, it wasn't until after his wife's death that great-grandchildren had sat in it. She'd always wanted great-grandchildren. She was one of those women that embraced the idea of getting old, enjoyed the prospect of gardening, endless hours watching TV and a steady decline into becoming...elderly.
Whether she would have enjoyed it when it actually came, nobody would ever know. Incontinence has it's upsides, you never have to sit near anyone in the cinema, but it's embarrassing in Tesco's.
She was taken so early, that was the worst thing. She hadn't quite turned 65 yet. She probably had another 20 or 30 years ahead of her and because of one bad decision, one moron, impatience it was stolen from her. Such an eclectic group of reasons but, to this day, Malcolm still wasn't quite sure what to blame.
He pulled a snot covered handkerchief from his sleeve and blew into it, only flinching for a second when the fabric, cold and wet, touched his nose. A cigarette would be nice now, it always was at this point. He sighed. Ah well, maybe he'd be able to take the edge off next year. This year it seemed like it would be raw emotion, unhindered by the soothing feel of tar covered lungs.
He stood up, slowly, and walked over to the bookcase. Only the top row had books on, neither he or his wife had been big readers. All the other shelves held pictures, cards, paintings and, in one, still rather unsure, instance, a miniature traffic cone with a picture of the entire cast of bay watch stuck lazily on the front.
When she had died he had been unable to deal with the feelings. A friend had suggested writing down everything he felt, every detail from the day in question. The notebook he had pulled down from the shelf had fingerprints, forever imprinted in ink, adorning the front cover. It was tobacco stained and their old dog, Mr Snuffles the collie (never let a five year old name your pets), had chewed on it. It showed the sign of wear, and this book had been read and reread a million times.
Why he performed this almost morbid ritual every year was beyond him. He never questioned it, in case it stopped him feeling better. For one night, every year, he could be heartbroken. For one night all the pain of being alone, of losing, not only your wife, your best friend, could be experienced in it's full horrible manner and then, for the next twelve months, you could be happy again.
“It was a beautiful day for a wedding...”
And it had been, the sun had been shining, the birds had been singing. It had been like a Disney movie, without the anthropomorphic animals. She'd made herself up four times and each time she had been unhappy. They were now in serious danger of missing the pre-wedding buffet being held by their would-be son-in-laws parents.
“I'm not waiting much longer. They're not bad for a few pound, this buffet will the highlight of the day.”
“Your youngest daughters wedding?”
“Mere distraction from the absolute quality of the sausage-on-a-stick and pineapple 'n' cheese available to sample beforehand.”
She had snorted and then walked out of the bathroom.
“Is this too much?”
“Ronald McDonald has worn less make-up” he'd wanted to say. Never mind, Mothers are supposed to look overly made-up at weddings. It stops the groom comparing how his new wife will look in later life. Its the same reason you'll never see a mother at a wedding without a push-up bra.
“You look like perfection itself. I'd marry you myself if your husband wasn't such a big guy...”
“...with a huge ego.”
“You shouldn't have been looking.”
They'd been making these same cracks for 20 years. Just one of the reasons they were so well rehearsed.
They had walked out of the house just on time, and had jumped into the car and rushed off towards the buffet. The in-laws had to leave for America shortly after the wedding, so this get together was in lieu of the awkward standing around, making small talk that would have came, otherwise, after the wedding.
They had past four postboxes, an unusual amount for such a short drive. Two people had been walking their dogs, one person had put her rabbit on a string and was walking that. Traffic lights had stopped their trip twice, both times had resulted in Malcolm shouting obscenities. That summery smell you get when there are tree's on both sides of the street had drifted into the car and she had begun to smile, probably thinking about one of the many times they'd walked down this street before, even when they were courting. On their own wedding day, they had walked back from the chapel hand-in-hand along this very road.
He was going to say that. The sentence had stuck in his throat. So which one are you thinking of now? What happy memory is it this time?
As the words began leaving his mouth they had come to a T-junction and been slammed into by a car going too fast and in the wrong direction. It had been a strange experience, before passing out, and all he could remember was thinking 'I guess this means I won't get any of that damn sausage.'
When he awoke, a little less than an hour later, he felt the strangest feeling of calm and level-headedness. Something had happened. Something bad had happened. Something bad had happened and his head had been bleeding. He got out of bed, to the objection of a nurse standing over the other side of the shared ward he had been placed on. He had walked out of the room, down a corridor, followed the maze of passages and reached the reception.
A very helpful lady in a pinstriped jumper had pointed him in the right direction, looking suitably alarmed that a man with severe concussion and head wounds would be at the hospital looking for someone else's room. He had walked back down the maze of passages. He had memorized every face, every picture and poster on each wall, every label on every bottle he came across. It had replayed in his mind a million times.
And then he'd reached the room he'd been looking for. Her room. She lay, motionless, staring at the ceiling. He walked in, leaned in close to her and threw his arms around her. She had been on the side that had taken the brute force of the blow. She had taken the worst of it.
“Did you get your sausage?”
“At the wedding. Was it as good as I remember it?”
Malcolm didn't answer.
“I called for you.”
“Did you?” It was a useless response, but the best he could do. The reality was sinking in and his head stung.
“I was scared that,” she stopped and took a second to breathe heavily. “I was scared that you wouldn't come before I died. That I'd never get another kiss.” She began to cry.
“Don't be stupid, girl. You're not going to die. We'll be out and about in no time.”
“You look bloody daft in that suit.”
Those had been her last words.
Malcolm closed the notebook and dried his eyes with his sleeve. They left a mark of his face as if it had been coal. He stood, placed the notebook back in it's place and went upstairs to their marital bed. At least he didn't have to share the covers any more.
He didn't know what he regretted most about that day. Rushing her out perhaps: if she had done her make-up one more time she'd have been fine. He regretted his thoughts during the crash. The idea that he could lose his wife didn't enter into his mind, they had always been together and always should have been. He had regretted not telling her that he loved her on what turned out to be her death bed. That was what he would have changed, if anything. To see her, frail, holding onto life only to spend one more second with him. It had knocked his train of thought.
He had said it every night since though, and every day. Whenever he had seen her picture on the bookcase.
Maybe he'd go to church tomorrow. He didn't know why he would, he hadn't been for years. It was the diary, it always made him feel like this. He'd feel better in the morning when all this raw emotion was behind him. A good fry-up was what he needed. Bacon, eggs, sausage, tomato. Oh yes, breakfast would be a treat tomorrow.
He'd skin that girl for stealing his cigarettes.
Syrec - On the Reconciliation Between Hare and Tortoise
Speedy O’Hara always hated recess time at Grassy Knoll Middle School, but today was particularly bad. Robert “Slugger” Tortino and his tortoise cronies had surrounded Speedy in the sandbox and were mercilessly taunting him.
“Hey Speedy,” Slugger called out. “Your great grandpa was so slow, he lost a race to my dad!” The tortoises all burst out laughing. “Hey Speedy,” he continued. “What’s more disgraceful than a hare losing a footrace to a tortoise? Nothing!” His cronies howled with laughter, their neck fat wobbling to and fro. “Hey Speedy…”
“Shut up!” Speedy cried. “Go away or I’ll tell my dad you’ve been bullying me again.”
Slugger snorted, “And what will he do Speedy? Your life span is so short, by the time he gets here, he’ll be dead.”At this, the tortoises, cackling like demons, retracted their heads and legs into their shells and rolled around on the ground in glee.
Speedy snapped. “That’s it,” he shouted. “Slugger, I challenge you to a footrace. This Sunday, in the grassy plains.” He puffed his chest up and exclaimed, “I’ll defeat you and restore my family’s dignity.”
“It’s a deal, Speedy,” Slugger retorted. “I will be happy to plunder more honor from your family’s ruined reputation.”
A large brown bear blew on her whistle and announced that recess was over. “Students, you are dismissed. Have a nice weekend.”
As he was hopping home, Speedy contemplated what he had just done. “Dad is going to be furious with me,” he thought. “He’s always tried to ignore the failure of his grandpa, to just live his life. But the past affects my future. I have to resolve this now, or it will ruin my life.” He reached the entrance of their rabbit hole and knocked on the door.
“Speedy? Is that you?” his father called out.
“Yeah Dad, I’m home from school,” Speedy replied.
His father opened the door, and Speedy hopped inside. He immediately noticed carrot tops littered all over the floor and pictures of PlayHare Bunnies scattered on the sofa.
“Dad…” he sighed.
“Speedy, I’m sorry. I looked for work today, I really did, but no one would hire me, not even as a mail-hare.” His ears drooped as he looked longingly at one of the Bunnies. Her stage name was Fluffy, and she was dressed like an angel. “Speedy, I’m fantasizing about barely-mature bunnies. What has my life become?”
“Dad, I think we need to move out of this rabbit hole. It’s not normal. Rabbits are cowards who fear predators, but we hares are brave. We fear nothing.” He paused. “That’s why I challenged Slugger Tortino to a race today.”
Speedy’s dad whirled around to face him. “You did what? Speedy, I told you never to…”
“Dad, I had to. Slugger and his friends were saying horrible things, and I had to defend us. Please don’t be angry with me.”
“I’m not angry, Speedy. I’m just disappointed that you inherited the family hubris. Arrogance caused our demise, and I don’t want you to follow that path.” He patted Speedy’s ears. “But now that you have challenged Slugger to this race, we have to win. We must salvage the pride of our family.”
They discussed various ways to defeat the tortoise. Speedy suggested that he simply whiz by Slugger and humiliate him. “I’ll beat him so badly he won’t dare show his face at school!” Speedy exclaimed. But his father saw a flaw in this plan.
“If you choose this course, it’s true that Slugger will be defeated. You will win the race, this is clear, but nothing will be accomplished. The tortoises will simply say, ‘Speedy is too quick. Of course Slugger lost.’ We need something else, something more cunning.”
They chewed on lettuce while mulling over the problem. After several minutes, Speedy shouted, “I’ve got it! The night before the race, we can dig a hole where Slugger will certainly walk. When he falls in, I’ll jump in and pull him out, instantly making me a hero and restoring the family’s honor.”
His father contemplated this. “It is clever, but not safe. What if the judges suspect us of digging the hole? What if something sees us and reports it? The shame from this scheme backfiring would be unbearable.” He licked a matted spot on his fur. “What we need is a way to humble the Tortinos, a way to prove that they can fall as low as your great grandpa fell twenty years ago. If we tempt the Tortinos, and they take the bait, we will be victorious.”
“Dad, that’s brilliant! Slugger’s head is way too big for his shell. It would definitely work. But what can we use?”
His father closed his eyes and reflected for a while. Opening them again, he grinned and said “You leave that to me, son. I’ve got the perfect solution. Now, hop along and do your homework.” Speedy nodded and bounded to his room, humming “London Bridge is Falling Down” under his breath. In the living room, his father took out a broom and swept the floor then threw the naughty pictures into the trash can. “It’s a new day for the O’Haras,” he marveled.
The weekend passed quickly. Speedy practiced hard how to walk slowly, and his father left their hole to prepare the bait. Meanwhile, Slugger and his father spread the word that there would be another footrace between the Tortinos and O’Haras. Everyone from the forest and lake was invited.
Sunday, the day of the race, arrived. At 7:00 am the local town crier, a hummingbird named Zazoo, sped around the forest and woke everyone up with his drone. Hearing the familiar hum, Speedy’s father rose from his grass mat and looked at his son. With ears perked and eyes gleaming, he said, “Today is the day the O’Hara family regains its dignity! After today, I will find stable work, and maybe another mate. After today, the bullies will turn on themselves, and you will make many friends. Son, are you ready?”
“I’m ready, Dad!” Speedy cried. “But what do you want me to do? I know you’ve prepared a trap for Slugger, but how should I run the race?”
“An excellent question, Speedy. Here’s what I want you to do. Find Slugger before the race, and offer to give him a head start of about half the course. He’ll probably reject your offer, but you should insist on it. After that, just walk the race like you’ve been practicing.”
“Got it!” Speedy opened his mouth wide as it could go and crinkled his beady eyes into an unmistakable smile. “Let’s go Dad, I’m so nervous.”
They left the rabbit hole and hopped to the race course. Along the way, Speedy asked his father to tell him about his great grandpa.
“Your great grandpa Skipheart O’Hara was a kind hare, but he was entirely too conceited. Even now, I can’t imagine how he let that vile tortoise Laggaro Tortino ever defeat him, but it has been the bane of our family ever since. Let’s not speak of him any more.” They hopped along in silence, father and son both thinking about the better days to come.
When they arrived at the race course, Speedy’s father wished his son good luck in the race then hopped into the bushes to prepare the trap. Speedy was busy stretching his hind legs when Slugger and his father approached.
“Hey Speedy,” Slugger yelled, “Are you ready to lose? I can’t wait to see tears flow from your dad’s squinty black eyes.”
Feeling brave, Speedy countered, “Slugger, maybe you should shut your mouth and focus on not being so slow all the time.”
Laggaro Tortino glared at the two youngsters and scolded,
“Speedy, you should know that quickness is worth very little. Even though I move slowly, I defeated your great grandpa all those years ago because I knew that victory comes from understanding your opponent - in this case, your great grandpa’s overbearing arrogance. And Slugger, that kind of talk is inappropriate. You must be respectful, even to your rivals.”
Slugger pulled his head in a little bit. “Yes, father. But I just wanted Speedy to know that he can drop out any time and preserve the little dignity his family has left."
“Slugger, that’s quite enough,” Laggaro growled.
“Mr. Tortino,” Speedy began, “I hope this race will help make our two families friends again. I don’t like having enemies.”
“I wouldn’t count on it, young hare,” Laggaro replied. “The chasm between tortoise and hare is deep and not easily mended. But maybe your generation can begin to heal the divide.”
Suddenly remembering his father’s request, Speedy said, “Oh Slugger, my dad said I should offer you a head start of half the course to make the race even.”
Slugger’s shell almost burst from his back. “Give me half the course? I don’t need charity, you little rat. I’ll win fair and square, just like my pop did.”
Speedy didn’t think Slugger would ever accept his offer, but he tried again. “Slugger, please take the head start, otherwise the race won’t even be close.”
“Why you little…” Slugger lifted a claw to threaten the hare but was interrupted by his father.
“Accept this generous offer, Slugger. If these foolish hares want to repeat the mistakes of the past, underestimating the Tortino family’s prowess in the footrace, then we must not stop them. Speedy, we will take the head start of five-hundred meters.”
Slugger cried out in indignation, “Father, don’t you see? They’re already trying to cheapen our victory. At the end of the race, when this filthy rodent is completely overwhelmed by my speed, he’ll blame it on the head start and belittle my accomplishment.”
“My decision is final,” Laggaro declared. “Slugger, go prepare for the race. Is your shell oiled?”
“Excellent. I will see you at the finish line. Good luck to both of you.” Laggaro nodded at them both then crawled back into the crowd, leaving the two adolescents alone.
They glowered at each other, neither speaking nor looking away for several minutes. The standstill was finally broken when Zazoo cried out to the crowd,
“Hear ye, hear ye, creatures of lake and land! Today we have gathered to witness Round Two in the ongoing conflict for footrace supremacy between the O’Haras and the Tortinos. Who will emerge victorious? Will the O’Haras regain their lost honor today, or will the Tortinos tarnish the O’Hara name for generations to come? Presiding over the race today is the honorable Lardov Porkovsky, a refugee who comes to our forest from far, far away.” Zazoo zipped over to Lardov and landed on his back. The pig snorted in approval and said,
“It is greatest of my pleasure to judge your contest. I would first like lay out several rule. Rule One: All violence form is prohibited. Speedy may not pounce Slugger. Slugger may not roll Speedy.” Slugger’s face darkened. “Rule Two: Performance-increasing material not allowed. Spring-loaded shoe, ingestible shells strengthener, everything between. Infraction will immediate disqualify. Is clear?” Both participants nodded. “Rule Three: The first participant crossed finishing line win contest. Wish you both good race, you will see at finishing line.” The audience clapped and stamped for Lardov, then swung their attention over to the two rivals.
Zazoo buzzed over to the start of the course and instructed the two participants to take their positions. Speedy danced towards the starting line, while Slugger waddled to the middle of the course. An hour later, he arrived. Zazoo breathed deeply and cried out, “Participants! On your mark…” Speedy crouched down, preparing to spring forward. “Get set…” Slugger extended his legs until they tingled. “Go!”
Speedy bounced high into the sky and started leaping wildly towards Slugger until he remembered that his father wanted him to walk the race. He skidded to a halt, almost tripping over his own speed and then continued to stroll towards the finish line.
Up ahead, Slugger marched forward at a glacial pace, one deliberate step after another. With each protracted movement, he felt more and more the sting of his glaring inadequacy. “At this rate,” he moaned, “there’s no way I can beat Speedy. What was I thinking? How did my father do it?” He thrashed his head around. “That stupid rat! He knew I would lose and humiliate myself. When this is over, I’m going to make recess a living cage for him!”
On the verge of tortoise tears, Slugger closed his eyes and tried to pretend he was dreaming, but hearing the bushes to his left rustle, he opened them again. “Who’s there?” he snarled. His eyes searched the bushes, but found nothing. He looked forward and continued to walk. Moments later, he heard the rustling again, and a tiny mouse skittered out of the bushes. The tiny creature sped towards Slugger and scrambled onto his shell, tiny claws digging into soft flesh. Before Slugger could react, the mouse reached Slugger’s ear and squeaked,
“Hi there! I’m Twiddles. Pleased to meet’cha.”
Slugger growled at the mouse, “Leave me alone, rodent.”
“Ooh, that’s not very nice,” Twiddles squealed. “Especially to someone who can help you.”
“Help me do what?” Slugger grumbled. “You’re just a squeaky little mouse. You can’t do anything.”
“I’m insulted sir, but I must carry on!” Twiddles lowered his voice to a whisper. “I heard that you’re running, well crawling, a race against Speedy the hare. And from my view, it looks like you’re losing. I’d like to help you win.”
Slugger swiveled his head to look at the mouse. “How can you help me win? I’m too slow.”
“I have a leaf! A magic leaf that can make you run as fast as the hare. Do you want it?”
A magic leaf that would make him run fast - as fast as the hare! Slugger was intrigued. But hadn’t the fat pig said before the race that any outside enhancements would immediately disqualify him? This was a huge gamble, one that risked the honor of his family. If he were caught…
“What would my father do?” Slugger thought to himself. He immediately knew the answer. His father would reject the leaf and lose the race honorably. But he wasn’t his father. This wasn’t his father’s time. “How dare Speedy challenge me to a race? Who does he think he is?” Slugger looked back to find Speedy, but the head start was so long he couldn’t even see the hare. “I’ll show him. Next time, he’ll think twice before giving me a head start. I’ll show everyone just how bigheaded that stupid hare really is!”
“Give me the leaf,” Slugger barked. “Today, little mouse, I will prove to the world that tortoises and hares are equal.”
“A wise decision sir,” Twiddles squeaked. He hopped off the tortoise’s back and scampered back into the forest to fetch the leaf. Moments later, he emerged from the bushes, leaf gripped between tiny teeth. He dropped the leaf onto the path. “Here you are! Good luck in the race, sir.” Twiddles stood up on his hind legs and performed a bow then scurried back into the bushes.
Slugger looked at the leaf before him. It wasn’t like any leaf he had ever eaten before. The veins bulged outward, and the chloroform had a distinct crimson tint. “This is for you father,” he said. He opened his mouth wide and scooped up the leaf, crushing it between his gums. Spicy juices gushed through his mouth and burned in his stomach.
At first, Slugger didn’t feel anything, but moments later an electric energy surged from his heart down to his claws. A mighty gust swept through his legs, relaxing his muscles and invigorating his blood. Slugger’s nerves prickled, and his heart hammered. “I am alive!” he cried in ecstasy. He tried lifting his leg, and the blurry motion made him dizzy. He pulled and poked his head out, feeling air whip past his face. Reveling in his newfound power, Slugger whizzed back and forth on the course, hurtling through the air like a seed in the wind. “I will defeat you, Speedy.” he bellowed. “Your speed is no match for mine!”
Positioning his body to face the finish line, Slugger opened his mouth wide and grinned like only a tortoise can - by raising his neck, bulging out his eyes, and moistening his tongue. Completely lost in his euphoria, Slugger hollered “Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” and catapulted himself towards the finish line. He raced through the air, startling insects and swirling the dust below him. When he reached the finish line, he whizzed by a shocked Lardov Porkovsky, zoomed past his father and crashed decisively into an oak tree. Around Slugger, all the animals were too stunned by the phenomenon to say anything. The silence was unbroken until Lardov snorted, cleared his throat and announced, “Winner Slugger Tortino!” Hearing this, the audience erupted into cheer - clapping paws, flapping wings and stamping hooves. In the midst of the celebration, Laggaro ambled towards his son and looked for injuries before wrapping his neck around Slugger’s in a loving embrace.
The onlookers whispered amongst themselves. “How did he do it? Has he always been that fast? Where is Speedy?”
Laggaro looked at his son closely. “Tell us son. Where did your sudden burst of speed come from?”
Slugger paused. “I can’t tell them about the leaf,” he thought. “That would disqualify me. I’ll have to lie to my father, and everyone else.”
His father said again, “Slugger, tell me where that speed came from.”
Slugger hesitated, thinking furiously for a believable excuse. Finally, he said, “I’m not quite sure, father. In one moment, I was so sad because I knew Speedy would win. Then I thought about the family and about honoring you, and suddenly I felt this new power rise up inside me. It was like magic.”
“Extraordinary,” Laggaro marveled. “That is the power of pride, my son. That is what these hares will never know.”
Speedy’s father emerged from the forest. “I’m not so sure about that, Laggaro. I don’t quite believe your son’s story.”
Laggaro slowly turned around, then scoffed. “Well, if it isn’t Rush O’Hara. I was beginning to think you would miss the day your family fell apart.”
Rush smiled. “Oh, I wouldn’t miss this race, Laggaro. Today, the O’Haras have regained their dignity.”
“What are you talking about, you sniveling rat?” Laggaro spat. “My son obviously defeated your son.”
“Yes, but under what circumstances? Your son claims his speed came from the power of pride, but my eyes witnessed something quite different.”
Lardov Porkovsky, listening closely to the conversation, interrupted. “You see what, gentle hare?”
“I was watching the race from the bushes, and I saw a mouse offer Slugger a leaf from the forest. Slugger accepted this leaf, and when he ate it, he immediately gained this intortoise speed. Therefore, I conclude that Slugger consumed a magical leaf, a clear violation of the second rule.”
Laggaro’s head whipped around and he stared at his son. His shell was quivering. “Slugger, my son, did you consume a magical leaf?”
“Of course not father,” Slugger snapped. “That rodent is obviously lying to get me disqualified.”
“There is your answer,” Laggaro rejoined. “My son is not a liar.”
Rush O’Hara hopped over to Slugger and pointed to the top of his shell. “Then what is this?” he asked.
On top of Slugger’s shell was a pile of something everyone immediately recognized. On top of Slugger’s shell, like claw prints found in the lettuce farmer’s garden, was a pile of fresh mouse droppings.
Laggaro’s roar echoed through the forest, ripping bark from trees and startling young chicks from their nests. The shockwaves reached the lake and made it boil, causing entire schools of fish to asphyxiate and rise to the surface. Afterwards, the old turtle glared at his son and hissed, “You...you are not my son. You are the spawn of turtles, not fit to be called a tortoise! Take your lies and shame and leave this place.” Laggaro then turned to Rush, bracing himself to accept the humiliation. But when the old tortoise gazed into Rush’s eyes, he saw neither malice nor satisfaction staring back. Instead, Rush’s eyes were soft, filled with understanding.
“Laggaro,” Rush said, “I’m so sorry. I never thought it would end like this.”
“Neither did I, young hare,” Laggaro murmured. “Neither did I.”
Rush hopped up to Laggaro and patted him on the shell. Then, together in silence, tortoise and hare ambled back into the forest.
fwff - Cold One
(No Word Count Given)
No one pays for a shore bungalow in winter except locals like me and Mike. The low cost of a winter rental left us plenty of money for leisure activities. Thus, once again, I woke up hung over and shaking, looking first into the empty whiteness of our refrigerator, then out onto the drifts and planes of the first blizzard in years.
“There aren’t any left.” Mike’s voice always managed to affect me in two ways; it startled me and it made me think of Tom Waites.
A poor excuse for a look of recognition was all I could manage.
“Rigger’s will open. It’s cold and it’s far so get your boots.”
“No **** it’s cold and no **** its far. Asshole!” was what I thought.
Only cold and part of far made it through my stuck together lips. After a large glass of water and a quick purging of the contents of my stomach, my body told me that I’d wasted enough time. So I threw on my boots, not tying but tucking in the laces, buried my maddening hands within my pockets, and decided to begin another day.
The wind has never been my friend, and that day was no exception. When I could glance up, I’d notice Mike walking and it’d piss me off. Mike took the weather, as he did everything, in his own long, measured, upright stride. I started to think about admiration, envy, and hate. Then, I concentrated on my wet socks.
He cleared the bar door long before I dragged myself inside. I slid on the stool next to him and slipped my boots off. He must have ordered, since two beers and two bourbons set before us. That’s when he leveled his eyes upon me. They were too blue this morning, for a lack of pupils. I refused to acknowledge him. I knew what he was waiting for. Standing in my wet socks, I placed both hands on the bar, palms down. Steadied, I lowered my head until my lips could touch the shot glass. I could hear his chuckle.
“I hate to take pleasure in your misery. You’ve got it bad, Fred. It’s gonna kill ya but its fun to watch.”
“I know a worse habit, Mike.” I think that I put too much emphasis on the word habit.
A piece of me regretted it. Mike turned, stood and walked off. I sat, turned and drank, now with trustworthy hands. This is how we got along now. It wasn’t always like this. We used to enjoy each other’s company, actually there was a group of us, a circle of friends who stuck together. For our small group, for me, at this time, on this rinky breakwater strip, he was a Neal Cassidy. He was cool because he knew he was cool and he lived it. He galvanized us, and our idolization gave him power.
In the humidity of summer, we accepted his force unconditionally. We didn’t mind the police or jail for the night. It was a given with Mike. When he inevitably slept with the girl you were after, that was nature at work. We were mesmerized with the ritualistic way he prepared and pushed dope into his body. He was a guide upon this path too, but not for me. I was afraid and I was embarrassed by my fear.
By August, I felt like an outsider, stalled with a bottle. Then Gothic Dave turned up dead with a needle still in his arm. His dad found him alone but we knew. We all became quiet, mute for days, then one by one we drifted away. There was no more group. There was Mike and me. I was loyal.
When things change, they’re changed. I didn’t want to accept that.
“Here ya go, hon. From David” Kathy said as she poured more Jack Daniels.
I gave dead Dave’s father a salute with my glass and drank. Mike came up beside me and leaned in close.
“Come to the bathroom with me” he said.
I slid off the seat and followed in my socks. They were wet anyway. We went in and I feigned occupying the urinal. Mike went to the stall to boot. I knew he was done when his incessant talking abruptly stopped. I went back to my beer. I knew inside, deep inside that this phase of my life was over. But there was nothing that I could do today, so I might as well enjoy myself. I drank all day with Mike, dead Dave’s dad and all the other zombies.
May came around. It was warm and fresh and the summer people would be here soon. We had to leave the bungalow. I packed my one bag. I still believed in never owning more than you can carry. I left when Mike was out. I went to the bus station then headed north. I was living in Providence when my mother offhandedly mentioned that she had read the obituary of that guy Mike I used to know. I hung up the phone and went back to my life. I still don’t know the particulars of his death.
Mercurial - Alyssa
I’ve never smoked a cigarette or swallowed a shot before in my life, but I can distinguish between chronic weed and the homegrown crap, and I can tell the difference between all of the white pills just because of my friendship with this girl.
I knew she was going downhill fast when she arrived on the doorstep of my house at 4AM, ringing the doorbell to a tune heard only in her mind, alcohol on her breath and clothes drenched in the smoky smell of weed. And judging by her clenched jaw and the way she was clinging to me, she was tripping on ecstasy too.
Thank God they’re out of town, I thought of my parents as I looked at the frail teenage girl strung out on my front porch. “Jesus Christ, Alyssa,” I sighed, raking one arm through my bed-head hair and using the other to yank her into the house and shove her up the stairs to my room.
Although I cant say that I didn’t anticipate this, I didn’t expect her to look as deranged as she obviously was nor did I expect her to arrive at this hour. Age fifteen now, Alyssa began to hang with a bad crowd after her dad passed two years ago. I’d been cleaning up the drunken mess she’d left in her wake ever since. How could I not? Someone as well meaning, sweet, and truly broken as Alyssa Lykke? It’d be cruel to not help her out. Where would she be without me?
Dead, that’s where she’d be, I thought sullenly, embittered by the real understanding of how true that statement was. I was the one who drove her home from some party after getting a text message that read “Soooodrfnks hlep presz.” I gave her a place to stay after her mother kicked her out of the home during one of her LSD trips, so she wouldn’t have to sleep on the slide in the park like she used to before she met me. I consoled her when one of her loser friends broke up with her –or whatever the drama of the moment happened to be. On more than one occasion, I was the one who didn’t sleep at night as I watched her carefully, just in case she forgot to breathe.
Alyssa was such a chore, but I loved her. I knew that she was someone special. She was intelligent; she was beautiful; she was someone who left others in awe whenever she passed. She was a goddess among peasants. She had a bright future ahead of her, I knew, if she would just quit following in her mother’s drunken and strung-out footsteps.
But that sort of thinking was naive.
When Alyssa and I turned seventeen, my patience began to dwindle. I couldn’t stand the way she used me as a backup friend, and I couldn’t handle reminding her that, yes, her drug test was indeed tomorrow, and she’d better start drinking water if she wanted any sliver of hope to have it return negative. I was tired of being a babysitter, a mother before my time.
Yet I still cringed when I saw her cry as I yelled at her for the final time. My words were biting, and I regretted them before they spilled out of my mouth. But they kept coming, as if I had Tourette’s. I still remember the hateful words I screamed in her face. For once, she wasn’t brushing me off. She looked me in the eye, puppy dog eyes, like she was ashamed of herself. She stood still and waited for me to finish, not flinching despite the fact that I was shaking her with every word and only inches from her face.
I exploded with the hate I had built up over our four year friendship, everything I’d silently cursed about her. I told her she was a loser; I told her she was a horrible sister to her brothers, a horrible daughter to her mother, a horrible friend to me, and a horrible, worthless person to the world. I told her that she wasn’t the girl I once knew, and that I hated this current person more than I hated anyone in my entire life. I told her that I couldn’t stand picking up her broken pieces and that unless she had any immediate plans to get herself some help and make a future for herself, I was out of her life.
“I love you, Alyssa,” I choked –after seeing the tears in her eyes, I began to well up too. “But there is no way I can help you anymore. So goodbye. Sorry you had a s****y life, but I’m not going to let you screw up mine anymore than you already have.”
“But I wa–”
“That’s enough, Alyssa,” I sighed, fingers pressed against my pounding forehead. “And don’t show up on my doorstep anymore. I’m tired of you waking me up to take care of you. And no more texts either. You can sleep on that stupid slide again. You never stop complaining about this f**king town,” I said quietly (my voice was exhausted from the screaming), “but look who’s leaving, Alyssa.”
Because I had studied during high school, I was heading to Duke University this fall. But Alyssa, who had flunked every class since her sophomore year (why she bothered to stay in school at all remains an unresolved mystery to this day) was going to remain in Cleveland, Ohio, for who knows how many years. Probably the rest of her life, working the same tired Wal-mart greeter job until she gave up and finally just died. Or maybe she’d die the day I left town. I seriously doubted she had the ability to function without me. I kept that last part to myself, but that didn’t change my premonition from becoming fact.
As my plane glided to a stop in the international airport of Raleigh-Durham, I switched on my cell phone again and saw a voicemail from Marion Lykke, Alyssa’s mother. Ms. Lykke never called me –she hardly cared to know my name as many times as I’d crashed with Alyssa. I wasn’t sure if cells were supposed to be on yet, but as inconspicuously as I could, I put the phone up to my ear and listened to Ms. Lykke’s panicked message. Before I even heard the words, I could sense the urgency and pain in her strained voice. I'd never heard Ms. Lykke so animated before.
“I—I know you’re probababably in, uhm, Duke now, but you need to come back on the next flight. I-I-I’ll figure out a way to finance it, but Lyssie hurt herself this evening. The doctors say they’re gonna m-m-make her comfortable b-b-because she’s’s’s not gonna make it because of the way the metal from the c-c-car smashed into her—”
I didn’t need to hear the rest; I didn’t know if I could.
My heartbeat was audible over the hum of the aircraft as I deduced exactly what had happened –it had happened before. She was with that stupid guy, Ian. He’d wrecked his car a few weeks ago and was using her’s all the time now. He was probably drinking. That was why I hated him so much; I considered drunk driving one of the most selfish crimes ever. I cant count the times I’d told her not to ride with him.
I’d kill him! I’d rip out his tongue and tie it around his neck so he could never charm another girl with it ever again. That is if he wasn’t already dead. I sincerely hoped his head went headfirst through the windshield.
About halfway through the return flight, I began to shudder. Of all the things I wish I could take back, this was it. I’d done some stupid and awful things in my life –cheating on my Chemistry final exam, for example, or stealing from the collection plate at Alyssa’s church that one time, but this one is the one I knew, even then, was the mistake I’d take to my grave.
I had four years to fix this. Four years. I knew Alyssa best; I kept her alive! I knew she had a drug problem when she turned thirteen, I knew she was around the bend when she was fifteen, and here, seventeen, she finally lost it. If only I had taken responsibility for her –for real this time and accepted that, yes, she’d hate me for it, but at least she’d have been safe; at least she’d have been okay. Maybe she’d have finally gone to college a few years later. Maybe she’d get out of that town like she’d been complaining about. Maybe we’d be okay again, and we’d be friends again. But I feared her opinion of me more than for her safety and sanity, and look at what I’d cost her.
I’m so sorry, Alyssa, I thought, wondering if she could hear me, if she was already gone. Even if she was still alive, maybe she could hear me anyway. I hoped so. And then, instead of continuing to shudder and keep my tears inward to keep up the image that I was fine, I began to weep noisy, snotty tears for the friend I’d always had and the friend I never was.
I landed in Ohio again two hours later with my nail folds bitten off and eyes wide.
Castleofsand - Sidekick
‘Did you know, if all the fish in the ocean farted at once there'd be a tidal wave?'
I look over at him with wonder. He never ceases to amaze me.
‘How many times did your parents drop you anyway?’
My snide remark went over his head in a crashing wave.
He continues to eye the ocean before us, I can see something playing in the back of his mind. Never a good thing to let this lad fall into boredom. Nope, not at all.
‘I’m going to do it,’ he says, squaring his shoulders against all signs of doubt. Beneath him or beside him is his motto now, but he does it so politely you never even notice. And then off he goes, feet kicking up tuffs of white foam.
I trudge along ‘cause that’s what side-kicks do. I am here solely to add little quips to our conversation, move it along. An idea is about to be realised and as always it will be well worth witnessing. Still questions need to be asked.
‘Are you going to get the whales to join in, because they aren’t really classified as fish,’ I ask when I catch up.
He stumbles, toes catch on his confusion.
‘Really? But don't they live under....'' A puzzled look crosses his perfect features, that small crinkle develops between the eyes, stays as he tries to sort things out.
I just want to reach into his mind and push that next thought out with all my heart or my damn foot up his arse if need be...flaws are so unbecoming on him.
But somehow we both manage to get by. He figures things out and I stop my foot in time.
He smiles broadly and announces his solution.
'Well, it doesn't matter. We must have whales, mustn’t we?’ He stomps his foot down, looks over, hopes I agree.
I save him again, nod my head vigorously, but not overly long and then give him the ole two thumbs up.
‘Good. I would dearly miss their deep baritone notes, and ohhh the bubbles they make. They tickle my nose so much.’ He giggles at the thought. I join in, holding each drawn breath perfectly matched to his. There can be no breaks in his happiness. He has suffered enough. It’s my job to ensure that.
‘Which ocean?’ I ask.
I think it is an important question. I don’t want those bleeding-heart nature lovers up in arms if said tidal wave drowns a few thousand nesting penguins before life catches their first breath. That will not do at all.
He fumbles for a bit. I can see him picturing the world as a map, gliding over the continents he likes, steering away from others that still make him still frown. He hovers over the Pacific, but has a problem saying its name, so with a bit of reluctance his too long of a finger nail veers towards the Atlantic.
‘The bargain ocean.’ I hear him mutter under his breath. 'It’s not even that deep.'
Sometimes he sulks. So I help him out. Move us along. ‘The Pacific Ocean would be fun.’ I offer.
He takes may offer of bait with a smile.
‘Oh goodie, goodie.’ He claps his hands together, like thunder the sound rolls across this heaven. ’Yes, let’s go there.’
A encompassing voice breaks our joyous moment.
‘Jesus…Jesus H. Christ…get in this house for dinner.’ The voice demands. ’Do you know what time it is? Don't make me get your Father!'
I watch Jesus weep. He always looks so filled with pain when he does that, brings a tear to my eye. So I helped him up. It’s what I do.
‘There’s always tomorrow, J.C. We have their whole lives ahead of us, buddy.’ I give his too thin of shoulders a soft jab, feign fear when he flails his spaghetti-sized arms in attack mode and then it disappears into his retreat of sadness. He's not much one for confrontations. I watch him run off.
Twice he falls, but he’s used to falling. I nick-name him ‘brush-me-off-Jesus’, he laughs so hard when I call him that. Slaps his knees and everything. I stay where I am, wait, cause I know what he is gonna do. He doesn’t disappoint me. Never has. He stops at the Gate, turns.
‘See ya later, Gabriel,' he yells and then walks away into the light. Gone from my eyes.
I sit down, wait for his return. Just living in his shadow, I guess.
Addicted2aa - DMT
“So what is it?”
Robbie had just burst into Dan’s dorm yelling about having finished something. His eyes were wild with excitement a giant smile plastered on his pasty white face. He was carrying a bowl full of some foul smelling brown liquid. His blond dreads were falling from his head; threatening to go swimming in his bowl.
“It’s the ****ing red pill man, the key to closest of the universe. You take this **** and you pull back the curtain. No more talking to a giant head, you get to meet the wizard himself. ”
Robbie was babbling as usual. Dan couldn’t remember the last time his friend had spoken in plain English. Instead he always had to reference concepts larger and more complex than whatever idea he was trying to communicate. From the words Dan guessed he cooked up some new hallucinogen. He was sure what the drug did, but he decided he wanted no part of it.
“Sweet man, but you know I don’t play with that hard ****. I’m all natural. Remember what happened when I tried acid that one time? I had to close my eyes any time I saw pink for the next two months. I’m sticking to the natural ****. Pot and Shrooms are good enough for me.”
“ Dude you don’t understand, this IS the natural stuff. We’re talking ancient shaman brew here. It’s from Brazil man, how can you not trust Brazil?”
“Brazil? The country that has ghettos with no running water or electricity less than ten miles from tourist paradises? Yeah, that doesn’t work for me. Besides I don’t care where it’s from dude. If it’s chemicals, I don’t want it.”
“You’re not hearing me. It’s all plants brother, DMT, Ayuhasca. Here check it out on Erowid. You trust them drug geeks don’t ya?”
Dan’s laptop sat on his desk, its fluorescent blue light the only illumination in the room. Dan could just barely see his bong sitting next to it, the swirling colors looking quite eerie in the half light. Dan stepped over to it. It was still half packed, but Dan pretended it wasn’t. Robbie thought just because he was Dan’s dealer he never had to supply his own weed. Dan placed the bong on his shelf and sat down at the desk to visit the one reliable site for illegal chemicals, Erowid.org.
It didn’t take long to find the compound. It turned out DMT was the active ingredient in an ancient mixture Amazon tribes would use to gain insight. It was now a popular drug for businessmen who had gotten fed up with the rat race. They would fly to the jungle, study with the shamans, trip balls, and then fly back to America, changed forever. It was the South American peyote.
“See man, totally natural. So, you gonna try it?” Robbie was standing over Dan’s shoulder, his unwashed hair far too close to Dan’s nose for comfort.
“I don’t know man; it says you’re supposed to have a sitter.”
Robbie wasn’t to be swayed “That’s for when you’re smoking. The sitter is supposed to catch the pipe as the pscyonuaght falls unconscious into the world beyond. Besides I’ll be here.”
“Nothing you just said makes me feel more comfortable.”
“Come on man, you’re passing up an opportunity to go one on one with the creator.”
Dan had two options. He could kick the crazy drug dealer out of his room, get back to work on the midterm he had due tomorrow or he could ingest a powerful hallucinogenic cooked up by a kid who failed chem 101 and spend twenty minutes to an hour at the mercy of the most lunatic person he knew. It was a foregone conclusion.
“All right, give it me.” Robbie’s face broke into a giant grin as he handed over the foul smelling substance.
“How much am I supposed to drink man?”
“I don’t man, all of it I guess.”
“You don’t know!!?? What’s wrong with you kid? I’m not drinking something if you don’t know how much a dose is.”
“Don’t worry about it man. You can’t OD on it. Didn’t you read the article?”
“What if I get stuck? I don’t want to be tripping the rest of my life, never knowing if the pink elephant I’m talking to is really my professor or just a figment of my imagination.”
“That can’t happen man. All those stories are myths, like the guy who thought he was an orange and decided he need to peel his face off. I’ve met fifteen people who all claim they knew him before he died. Don’t worry about it, just drink.”
Dan eyed the bowl suspiciously. It looked like diarrhea and smelled almost as bad. For one second he thought it might just be some sick prank, but then he remembered Robbie didn’t understand that type of humor. Robbie was as honest as he was insane. He was too whacked out to understand duplicity. Dan still had doubts, but Robbie’s eager smile was enough to push him over the edge. He put the bowl to his lips and swallowed.
He had thought the smell was the worst part, but man the taste made beereal (beer and cereal) seem like a Big Mac. He choked it down as quickly as he could, thanking god he’d learned how to chug.
“UHHG. That was terrible; I don’t know how you made it through it.”
Robbie looked surprised. “I didn’t. You’re the first person to try it.”
“You’re telling me, you gave me a substance that you’ve never tried yourrsellllfff.”
Dan’s words became slurred and his vision got hazy. He tried to step towards Robbie so he could throttle him, but only ended up falling over onto his blue bean bag chair. Why had he wanted to attack Robbie? Wasn’t Robbie his friend? He tried to look up but only managed to roll the room in his vision. Robbie’s face appeared upside down in front of him. His hair was standing so straight; clearly Robbie was balancing on it. The last thing Dan remembered before oblivion took him was Robbie whispering “Say hi to god for me.”
Dan woke up, not quite, in, a not quite, white, space that vaguely resembled a room. The space had no walls, floors or ceilings but it did hint at having dimensions. Its color was a soft luminousness. It was as if that off white paint that covers every middle class house wall had somehow eaten a Las Vegas strip club sign and was only partial obscuring the light from getting out. The only thing that appeared to be truly odd about this place was that Dan didn’t really exist in it.
Dan was aware of the, for lack of a better word he decided to call it a, room. He didn’t see it because he couldn’t find his eyes, but he was sure it was there and he was also sure of its characteristics. He was also aware that his body wasn’t inside of the room. He wasn’t sure where his body was because whenever he tried sending signals to find it, they somehow got lost on the way. He suspected they had found a party in his spine and were too busy getting high on his acid filled spinal fluid. He then remembered that his face was above the spine and tried to get in touch with it. Again no response.
“Hmm, this is strange” Dan tried to say. No sound entered the room and since that was all he seemed to be aware of besides his own Descartian existence he assumed no sound was produced. Before he had a chance to come to grips with his new non-existence a table happened in the room.
Dan had never seen an object happen before and he was quite intrigued as to how it worked. On moment there was no table and the next moment a table began to fade into existence. It didn’t just appear though. Dan could feel its mass trying to come to pass but it was taking some time. This must be what happens to cat’s in boxes full of poison before we observe them, the quantum aware part of Dan reasoned. The part that was aware of Meta philosophy thought this was a well constructed thought. The part that ran Dan’s day to day life decided this was a good time to give up entirely and become a monk.
As soon as the table had began to exist fully Dan became aware of his left leg. He tried to look down, forgetting he didn’t know where his head was. The desired effect was achieved though, and Dan’s awareness perceived his leg and the whiteness that was beyond his leg. While still puzzling over this, he began to feel his right arm. It had decided to sneak exist while Dan was distracted and it had fully entered the room. Dan began to play with the movement capabilities of this disembodied arm. While he was marveling at how nimble fingers were the rest of his body softly slipped itself in between the arm and the leg. Dan was now looking at his arm very clearly with his eyes. It felt good to for his vision to be limited to only what light his eyes were able to absorb.
Being reunited with his body triggered Dan’s sense of normalcy. He finally became aware of how ...wrong...his situation was. The table, the only object that seemed to exist besides Dan was as odd as the space it existed in. It had five legs, none of which seemed to be doing anything as all of them had different lengths and failed to touch the lack of ground. Noticing the table’s suspension in, what he assumed was air; Dan looked at his own feet. While there didn’t seem to be a floor beneath him, he could clearly see his feet resting on, pure white color.
He shook his head, this was unlike any trip he had ever had before. For one thing his thoughts had become completely lucid. Aside from the fact he couldn’t possibly be where he was, his mind was functioning normally again. He performed some simple arithmetic to check and he didn’t become lost in an internal debate over what numbers actually were. The other thing that was really bothering him was that he couldn’t recognize anything about his surroundings as having come from his room. He’d never even heard of someone losing all sense of their environment while on drugs. They often perceived it skewed or couldn’t remember where they were, but it always resembled something they knew about. This was completely beyond the realm of his experience. Hell, it was beyond the scope of his imagination.
“That’s because you can only think of things as how they are supposed to be. That’s one of the advantages of being the creator, you aren’t limited to ideas contained within creation.”
The voice spoke directly into Dan’s head. He couldn’t hear the words and for a second he mistook them for his own thoughts. “What?”
“Well you can only think of things that exist within your universe or variations of them. I can think beyond it, because I made everything and had to decide what to put in and what not to.”
Dan now knew he was going crazy. A deep male voice was talking to him. His only chance was to ignore it and maybe he wouldn’t be locked up.
“That won’t work. If I want you to do something, you have to do it. Here watch, you’re about to move your left arm. And besides I’m not a voice in your head.”
The last sentence rang out throughout the not quite emptiness and echoed off the lack of walls. Shortly after it had faded Dan’s left arm began to rise. Stop, that Dan told his arm. His arm told him to be quiet, it had its orders. “Ok, so you have some control. I still have the rest of the body. This isn’t going down like Evil Dead 2. I can regain my sanity.”
“Will you quit that, you’re not crazy. Whenever people hear voices nowadays the first thing they think is that they’re going crazy. I preferred the old days when I could flaming plants talking to people was treated with respect instead of pity.”
“Wait, are you trying to tell me you’re god?”
“Well that’s the name one rather arrogant tribe from the middle of the world decided to call me.”The voice had taken on the quality of a teacher who had been teaching the same course for 15 years and no longer found any art of it interesting.
Dan didn’t know what to make of this new statement. He had never really put much thought into god. His parents had been atheists but not militant ones and so he had just never really thought about it before. If there was a God, did that change his whole interpretation of life? Should he believe anything he saw in this whacked out trip? If there was a god, what was it? Was it a six limbed goddess of destruction? Was it an Old kindly man with a grey beard? Was it the son of carpenter that sacrificed himself for the world? Was it a giant spider that spun a web of stars and we were just dust caught on the strands?
“I rather like that last one.” The voice had returned to his head. Something in the chamber felt different though. It was colder; suddenly he had the distinct impression of being watched. He looked to his left and right but the only thing he could see was the table. He scratched his beard, figuring the body high had finally kicked in. Something wet landed on his head.
He reached his hand into his hair and came away with a slimy thick liquid on his hands. His first thought was EWW. His second thought was “I don’t really want to look up do I?” The voice didn’t respond. He closed his eyes and steeled himself. Then slowly and deliberately rotated his head backward. Less than a foot away from his head he saw his face reflected in four jet black bowling balls that had been partially implanted in a hairy surface. Slightly below the eyes and significantly closer to his head, mandibles the size of his four arm were dripping saliva. The monstrous spider, hanging from a thread that was suspended on nothing (Dan couldn’t help but think this spider must have been the one that bit peter parker) lifted a leg and waved it back and forth.
“Hi” The voice said in his head. The leg straightened down until it touched Dan’s hand. It lifted the numb appendage up and down. “Nice to meet you. I’m the Creator, but you can call me Susan if you want. It helps some people relate if I use a human name.”
“ahhhh......III...ummmmm.... Yeah.” Dan that he had expressed his thoughts beautifully.
“Sit down” The spider called Susan voiced in Dan’s head. Something had appeared next to the table. It looked just like a human hand, only 100 times larger. It ended at the wrist and its palm was cupped fingers straight. Somehow it managed to resemble a chair. As Dan sat down in the handchair, the fingers moved to provide perfect lower back support. The spider floated mysteriously over to the other side of the table and hung upside down.
“Well, now that you’re here what is it you want? Fame, money, universal understanding, peace of mind? Or are you one of those banker types that ended up here accidentally just looking for another way to get a bigger penis?”
Dan stared at the spider. Old primal fears about being tied up in a sack and drained slowly of liquid resurfaced, from back when his DNA belonged to insects, rose to the surface and he quickly decided that Susan was not the thing he should be looking at. Instead he stared at his chair. It resembled a human hand in every way, except many times larger. It wiggled its index finger at him. He decided staring at the chair was a bad idea too.
“UMM, loud I don’t know why I’m here. My friend just cooked up some new drug and told me to try it. Really the only thing I want from you is that you go away. I don’t do well with normal sized spiders. Ones that can eat me are just... a little too much for me when I’m ****ed up.”
“Is this better?”
Dan opened his eyes. The spider was gone. In its place stood a teenager. He was dressed like any kid from Dan’s high school. He wore a plain white T and jeans. His hair was medium length dirty blonde and his face was round and portioned. He exuded normalness to such an extent it was creepy.
“Uh, yeah thanks a lot.”
“No problem. And don’t worry about the drugs. They wore off the moment you passed out. All it does is prepare you mind to handle being outside of existence. Perceiving infinity can be a bit tricky and the fifth dimension has a tendency to drive people crazy. Of course if you’re brain was making any sense before you got here, and then it’s all good.”
“Right...So you’re telling me I’m not tripping, this is all real? Sorry Susan, but I don’t believe you. This is just some ****ed up **** my mind spit out to amuse itself while it waited for sanity to return.”
“No, here look I’ll prove it too you. When you wake up, you’ll still have this.” The boy reached out and put something in Dan’s hand. “Speaking of waking up, you’re about to. You wasted too much time trying to make sense of this world. I really wish there could be a next time because then you would be a lot better prepared. You really only have time for one question now. So shoot. what is it? What do you most want to know about the world?”
Dan thought for a second, and then smiled. “Am I on candid camera?”
The boy looked thoughtful, and then smiled back “Yes.”
When Dan opened his eyes he received the nasty shock of looking directly into Robbie’s acne scared face peering at him upside down. “Ughh, that was a weird trip dude.”
Robbie tilted his dace to the side. “Trip? You mean you’re done already?”
“Already? How long have I been out?”
Robbie stood up straight to look at his watch and I picked myself up off the bean bag. “About five seconds. You aren’t feeling anything right now?”
“No man, I feel perfect.”
“Huh, guess I didn’t make it strong enough. I’ll double it next time”
Before Dan could reply, he grabbed the bowl and left Dan’s room. Dan shook his head. Guess it must have been some weird combination of drug and dreams. He had been working on making his dreams more lucid and they had been getting very vivid lately. He sat down in his chair and opened up his English midterm. He tried to begin typing but the first letter left his hand burning in pain. He squeezed it a couple of times to refocus his mind and a dark spot caught his eye. He opened his palm. In the center of it a lifelike spider was standing on 7 legs. The 8th was lifted in the air, and almost seemed to be waving.
For the rest of his life two thoughts haunted Dan. One the question that he had wasted when he met god. The other, and far more terrifying, was God’s answer.
BabelFish42 - A Note to No One
I know you’re not reading this. Or then again, maybe you are. Who am I to say?
Maybe it’s stupid of me to write a letter you might never even see, but I just have to talk to you… have to feel like I’m talking to you, even if I know you can’t listen. I just… I’m so scared. See the way my handwriting is even crappier than usual? Yeah, that’s ‘cause my hand won’t quit shaking.
Is it cowardly for a grown man to be scared s***less? I feel nauseous just thinking about it, Trish, and not nauseous because I’m sick either. It’s different. There’s one kind of nauseous that’s just your body wanting to get rid of those poison pills they call medicine, wanting to clear out all the crap so you can get on with life. That kind of nausea’s just taking out the trash. It sucks, sure, but you get it over with and you feel better. No, this kind of gut-twisting pain is something different. It’s not your stomach that’s freaking out, it’s your head. In your head, you’ve got this horrible knowledge that you can’t get rid of no matter what, and it just hurts… it makes you want to punch something, or scream, or just fold up into to yourself and squeeze your eyes shut and cry, because you know there’s not a damn thing else you can do about it.
I’ve felt both those kinds of nausea plenty of times, so I can tell the difference.
Up till now, I don’t really think I understood I was mortal. I mean, I knew it in my head, in some abstract theoretical way, like somebody who’s never been to New York might know that the Empire State Building is however many feet tall it is. But I didn’t really get it, if you know what I mean. I never understood just how huge and scary and unrelenting your own death is when you’re actually looking at it face-to-face. Until now.
I peek through the blinds on my window, and look up at the winter sun (you can just barely see it, what with all the high rises and clouds, but it’s there) and I wonder how many times I get to see it again. It’s crazy, to think that number’s so low I could probably… could probably count it on both hands. Damn, there goes my stomach again, twisting itself up into big tight knot.
Sometimes I hear people on the street six stories below, yelling and honking horns. I feel so different from them, like I’m in another world already. Same goes for the doctors and nurses. They just don’t seem that real anymore. The weird thing is, though, it’s like all the other people are the see-through ghosts, and I’m the only one who’s real and solid. But you’re real to me. I have to keep believing that you’re reading this somehow. Even if it’s not true.
Is it normal to start looking back on your life, thinking through all the pointless what-if questions? I guess so, probably. I know I sure am. Sometimes, when I’m in here alone, and I can’t quit coughing long enough to sleep, my mind just becomes this great big swarm of what-if questions.
What if I’d gotten that diploma, like my parents always wanted? What if I hadn’t dropped out of the university when dad got sick and money got tight? I mean, I know I had potential and all. Do you think I could have been a famous architect or something, Trish?
Or what if I’d spent more of my last few years doing stuff I always wanted to do, instead of doing counseling, volunteering for that research trial, helping raise awareness? All that altruistic stuff didn’t do us any good in the end, did it?
Then, of course, there’ s the biggest what-if of all…
What if I’d never met you? A hemophiliac with a bad blood transfusion? Sorry, I know that’s harsh, but, well, truth be told, it’s been going through my head. I can’t help it, and I’m not going to lie to you. If I’d never met you… I wouldn’t be dying right now. Of course I’m not blaming you, okay? If you’re reading this, don’t get upset. You didn’t know you had the virus. It wasn’t your fault. I just… wonder, that’s all.
What if I could go back and do it all over again? You remember it, right? That stupid class with McCafferty? I almost didn’t take it, you know. I was this close to signing up for Broverman’s section instead; she was supposed to be great professor. But her class was Friday afternoon, and you know me. Of course I picked McCafferty’s class. Your class. What if I hadn’t? Or what if I sat in the back as usual, instead of taking the seat next to that pretty, lonely girl who turned out to be you?
I wonder where I’d be right now…
Maybe I’d be shooting hoops with Dave, probably getting my a** kicked. Maybe I’d be designing a skyscraper. I always wanted to do that. Or maybe I’d be buying baby food, or even teaching some little rugrat how to kick a soccer ball… I know you thought I’d make a great dad. Maybe I’d be travelling around Europe, seeing the Eifel Tower, the Louvre, the cathedrals, the Parthenon. Or maybe I’d be the next John Lennon. Yes, I know I can’t sing, Tricia, you told me so at least five thousand times. A man can dream though. Maybe I’d just be taking a nap at home, not of coughing my lungs up in this lumpy bed.
But you know what? I’ve realized something, Tricia. Even if I could turn back the clock… I wouldn’t change a thing. Not a single thing. I would rather have it end now than live to be a hundred without ever knowing you. I mean that. If I could do it all over again, I would still sit next to you in McCafferty’s English class, make stupid jokes, ask you out to that horrible movie, surprise you in the park with the ring, marry you during that freak April snowstorm, all of it.
I would take it all, the good and the bad. I wouldn’t trade the life I had with anybody.
Even this death that’s coming up right around the corner… It scares the hell out of me, yeah. I don’t know what happens next. Maybe there’s nothing. Maybe I’m just gone and buried and forgotten. The End. But… maybe there’s not nothing. I don’t know, but I like to hope it’s not oblivion. Maybe when I cross over to the other side, I’ll get to see you again. It’s been so long, way too long, since I got to hold you in my arms, hear your beautiful snorting laugh, make you smile. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you. I still miss you, Tricia. So much.
So if by some miracle you’re reading this, I guess I’ll be seeing you soon. Either way, you still have all my love.
jules5987 - Stopping Daddy's Tears
Contradicting what rules of reason existed for her at that moment, she dug in. The dull blade left only the red line of a scratch as it dragged horizontally over her wrist. The plastic finger holds splayed, unhinging the scissor blades from a perfect point. She aimed one of the points, angling it over the fresh path. Again, daring to sink in past any point of control, the blade retraced its steps, allowing a more powerful pressure to take hold. But the gesture only aggravated the scratch, reddening from the continued assault. The braised skin raised in sharp protest, inflamed amid the smoothness that framed it.
It stings, she mentioned to herself in passing.
Etching a forearm, she teased forth scarlet beads, distinguishing her wounds with physical identity. She put aside the scissors.
The bathroom wasn’t far and she made it there as routinely as if she were going to brush her teeth. A cool charge of relief fanned throughout her as her feet touched the cold tile. At the sink, she let warm water remove the red seeping from the wound. Shifting her eyes to the mirror, she was shocked to observe the tears they were shedding. Streaks down her cheeks. Pathways to what was broken. The lead grip of numbness resolved to consume her. She shook her head violently, an attempt to rid herself of this parasite.
It was 2 am and thick with the density of sleep. It was 2 am and the scissors weren’t sharp enough.
She had promised her pain the depth of carved trenches, the raised hills of mutilated flesh. Yet the red roads sliced against her pulsing skin could barely cover a city block.
She went for the pills. There was the bottle of Prozac, the bottle of Adderall in her room. The daily drudgeries. The medicine cabinet recalled unhinging pain in producing several rounds of painkillers. She remedied her turmoil with a moist palm full of anecdotal Tylenol. There was no decision. She neglected to count the capsules cascading from her prescription bottles into the cupped tremble of her hand. There was no decision. And there could be no waiting.
There was the kitchen with its array of cutlery. But that required courage. Into the bathroom again, she found her chisel. Nail scissors, gentled by the arched blades, swerved to their precision. Tiny points pried apart promised productivity. A blade punctured the sheer canvas. Wistfully, a blot pooled. The curved edge smeared the dark ink, trailing the smudge through its chiseled moat. The trudge through raw flesh gorged canyon after canyon.
She stopped for a revelatory moment. The air swooned over the flexing gashes, igniting the stale sting of wounded compromises. Her forearms became the burning ground of her sorrow, a respite into material pain. Gazing over her inflamed skin, she dared her innermost depths at revival.
Death is not invited to this party, she reaffirmed to herself, in passing.
The pills began to take effect. Her heart elevated its rhythm to the strobe light in her head. As if she had done wrong, as if she were muffling her tracks, she replaced the consorts of crime. Pills to their stations, sharp blades tucked away.
Her self-inflicted rest ended where it always would have. “Mom… Dad…”
Momentarily, light’s blinding muteness granted her the relief she sought. Then, hollowed by a surge of tears, she stretched out her arms in exhibition. The upended silence was colored, quivering in diluted red. And through the swirls of fog, overdosed, I remember knowing I made my dad cry.
Manutebecker - A Coked-up Cowboy
A stream of rain fell from the brim of his cowboy hat and onto the sidewalk. The pavement below glistened, reflecting the orange and white light of the above streetlights.
“Mom, I didn't wanna do it,” he told no one, thumbing beads of precipitation from a laminated picture.
“But I did it, and I can't go back”
The smiling blue eyes of a widow looked up at him. Her hair was brown and her face round, marred with a few wrinkles that accompanied aging. He withdrew the photo and inhaled deeply through his nose.
“You can do it, you can do it.” he muttered in a false tone. He could feel his brain throb with every heartbeat and his nose leaked down to his lips. He wiped the snot away with the back of his trembling hand. With every snap of lightning he fell out of reality, the following thunder roll reeled him back. He stepped up to the foot of the concrete steps with a stomach full of needles. Paranoia brought forth fear and the stoop rose to incredible heights, each step five feet tall. But they weren't, or so he saw with the brief flash of reality. They were normal old steps. He planted a foot and pulled himself up, wincing with pain.
****in' hip, he thought, desperation began to smother him. I can't climb a few stairs, he rose his leg and ascended another step, splinters dug into his side. How can I bring myself to speak with her?
Three infernal steps later, moving with the grace of a drunk, he became the sultan of the stoop.
A crimson door stood before him, a bronze knocker in an ornate font proclaimed that the door was owned by a person named Fischer. He gaited to the door and rose a fist. Not to fast, he thought, but not slow, either. He breathed deep and knocked three times. Too fast! He pulled off his hat and slicked his hair back. His watch glimmered in the overhead light. Oh God, too late! He heard footfalls echo down a stairwell. Why didn't I think about that? What if she was sleeping? What if she calls the cops? He slipped a glance at his watch: 8:42 P.M.
Relief drummed up his spine and resonated in the back of his skull, the sensuality was amplified by the speed ball he'd snorted an hour prior. Thank God.
The footfalls reached the other side of the front door and paused. He heard the floor creak and pictured her standing on her tiptoes with a closed eye, face pressed to the door.
“Checking the peephole,” he mumbled. “Always did.”
An angle of light spilled onto the stoop. He looked up and saw a silhouetted head peering out, a chain lock, pulled taut, was hovering above.
“Hi, Mom.” he said, his voice shook, as did his legs.
“Oh. Brian.” the lady in the door uttered, her voice was annoyed and she spoke with a morose tone. “Is there anyone with you?”
He swiveled his head to either side, empty space peered back.
“Um, no Ma,” he smiled and planted his thumbs in his chest.
“I was gonna say,” she started. “I thought I heard you talking to someone.”
“Oh no, that was just...” his cheeks burned with embarrassment and his hip seared in agony.
“I'm just really tired.” he finally spewed out, “Really, really, tired.”
She closed the door, slid the chain lock off and opened the door all the way. The light flooded out of the door, Brian put his palms to his eyes and doubled over
He couldn't feel, the cocaine stung him and nails hammered themselves into his hip.
“Brian, look up for God's sake.”
He rubbed his eyes and obeyed the command. His lens' eventually conformed to the bright and he gaped in surprise. The woman in the door was an impostor, surely a fraud. The bright, pink nightgown, which once boasted the rolls of belly fat, now drooped from her shoulders like a rag.
She lowered her eyebrows and shifted her glance between his eyes.
“Are you okay, Brian?” the skeleton with the meat dangling from it's bones asked.
He rubbed his neck and adjusted his hat, blood rushed to his face.
“Yeah, Mom, I just wanted to say–“
“–Brian.” she lifted a flat hand. “We've talked about all this, okay?”
“Yeah, but Mom, I just–“
“No, Brian, no.” she thrust a bony index finger level with his face, like a master to his or her dog.
“Listen, Brian. You gotta stop coming back here every week like this.” she said, “You're forty, for God's sake. Act it.”
“I just– ” she seized his hand and drew it close. He knew she was right.
“Listen, Brian. I've tried to help you– ” her chin began to tremble. God, no.
“–but you keep going back to your old self.” She squeezed her hand tight, he recoiled and pulled his hand away. The cocaine intensified the pain to an unbearable stage. She looked down in disbelief, a brief flush anger burned her cheeks red.
“You have to learn for yourself.” she said in a serious tone. The anguish had brought forth tears, they caught the mascara in her eyelashes and slid down her cheeks in black rivulets.
“Brian, I love you.” she snickered, “I'm your mother, for Christ's sakes.” She streaked a hand across her cheek, the black tears smeared like dirt.
“But you have to understand something.” she lay a hand on his shoulder. “You need to understand something, alright. I can't hold your hand through life” her chin began to tremble, “Tomorrow is Easter, Brian. I don't know if you know that, but it is.”
“Grandma!” a girls voice boomed from somewhere in the house. “Who's at the door?”
She turned and cupped a hand to her mouth, “No one, dear!”
She turned back, “I'm watching your sister's children.” she shrugged her shoulders and shook her head in confusion. “You still walk these streets living day to day off of coke and marijuana and booze and who knows what else.” He looked down in shame.
“You gotta grow up, Brian. I'm sixty now and have breast cancer, you know that.” her hands rose in front of her like she was presenting him to someone. “And you, I just...” she shook her head. “I just have to stop feeling bad, Brian. You have an addiction, I understand. But I'm an old widow. One who's been trying to help you with this for years, but you just wouldn't drop it.” Her hand grasped the side of the door.
“You just won't drop it.” she began to pull the door shut. “Goodbye, Brian.”
“But Ma!” he shot his hand up to the door and held it open.
“Goodbye.” she reiterated. He looked down and loosened his arm, it fell back into place with the door. He stood there for a minute then descended the stoop with the same agility (or lack therefore of) as before. This time he shouldering the weight of shame.
As he started down the ribbon of sidewalk, his thoughts floated from his mother to cocaine to his father to a maroon Buick Le Sabre. The entire car bent like a pop can. The passenger side caved in, metal bent and twisted like taffy.
He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a leather tri-fold. It was loose with age and flopped open. Thirteenth birthday present, Brian thought, he swallowed, his Adam's apple briefly shared the pain of his hip. He plucked a small piece of paper out and unfurled it. It was an old, musty newspaper obituary, it read:
A portrait smiled above the name. A spectacled, balding man, who had been a grandfather for mere months, sat on a lawn chair. Behind him the waves of a lake rippled.
His muscles begin to thirst as his high fades away. A hole in his arm begs for a needle and his nostrils plea for some powder.
“I'm sorry, Dad.” he tells no one.
“I didn't mean to.”
Brian Fischer's hip sears in agony and he replays a snowy December night in his inebriated mind. The roads were icy and a car's beams loomed in the distance. His breath had burned with alcohol.
No, Dad. It's alright. Don't worry, I can drive.
He lowers his head and walks onward. The cocaine later fogs his mind and he forgets it all.
Thanks Addicted2aa - RL got the better of me. Haven't had the time to launch voting. Please kind member base, vote away
You're welcome man. That pesky RL never goes away does it?
Voting will end Wednesday 22nd April 2009 16.00 (UK local)
man, i had to vote for the cheeseburger, i thought it was great...couldnt make myself vote for my own...
I don't care if it's over the word limit, Syrec's Tortoise and Hare story wins this one easy. There were a lot of good ones though.
Way to take the initiative, addicted2aa And Gannon, glad you're okay... I was starting to get a little worried, lol.
And I just want to say everyone who entered this week wrote excellent stories. Best field I've seen so far. That may only be three, but whatever.
Separate names with a comma.