Another Writing Party has come and gone, and once more, I present to you all my submission to the Game. Enjoy, and feel free to check out the rest of the gang playing along at fionnegan.com. And VOTE too if you feel so inclined.
(Oh, and apologies to my mother for the foul language in this one. It was the character, not me. Don't be too ashamed of me.)
a bouquet of dead roses
theme of accomplishing goals
“Thursday in the Spring”
“Just give them to her.”
“I can’t give them to her. They’ve been in that box for like, a week. I don’t even know what they’ll look like.”
“Then open the damn box!”
“Don’t tell me to shut up. Open the damn box and look at the fucking things.”
“Chad! I heard that!” From the back of the store, Deanna shouted. She was restocking the shelves of the returned movies since there was little else to do.
Chad and Ethan were sitting on the carpet next to the drop box. Ethan had the scanner in his hand and whenever the occasional DVD fell in with a snap of the metal return guard, he ran the red laser over the barcode. Chad had his shoe and tanned white sock off and was picking his toenails with a staple.
Chad inspected a rather large brown piece of whatever closely and then flicked it away. He blew through his lips. “Deanna, this store is a ghost town. Saying fuck at the top of my lungs doesn’t matter. I could be murdering a vagrant next to the kids movies and no one have a clue.”
“No cursing, or I’ll write you up,” Deanna’s voice came from the new releases along the back wall.
Chad gave her the finger.
“That counts,” she said from the back.
Ethan set the scanner down and leaned over to his backpack, the long box from Aiello’s that he’d been carrying around for a week was sticking out of the top. The corner was bent and there was a black scuff along the exposed side from when he had been waiting at the bus stop on Thursday and the Navy Guy had bothered him for change. Ethan had politely stepped away but bumped the side of the shelter thus the black mark.
The flowers inside were roses, and there was a very good chance that the smell he had kept experiencing these past few days – the rotting smell like that of the lower bin in his fridge with the old fruit his roommate always bought but never ate – there was a very good chance that the smell was the roses, dead.
He sighed and leaned against the cupboard.
A metallic groan.
Chad lunged and grabbed the returned DVD of Inside Man. “Mine!”
Ethan snatched the scanner. “Nope.”
“Fuck you! I grabbed it! Gimme the gun.”
“Chad!” Deanna scolding.
Ethan rolled away and hopped up to his feet. He aimed the red laser at Chad’s hand and attempted to scan the barcode.
“Hell no!” Chad moved fast for a fat guy and the barcode escaped. Ethan bent and moved to aim again, but just as he did, Chad grabbed the spiral black cord of the scanner and yanked it hard. Ethan fell forward and the gun flew from his fingers.
There were a couple of crashes: Ethan falling into Chad and the two of them falling out of the checkout island into the display for the more than likely stale foot-long gummi snakes no one ever buys. As they crushed that display, the scanning gun whipped back at the register and sent the keyboard toppling off the counter. Crash. Crashier.
“What the fuck, guys!?” Deanna came running over with a stack of ten DVD cases still in her hands.
Chad looked up at her with mock shock. “Deanna! No cursing!”
Ethan was sitting on the counter top by the video game discs. His feet dangled letting his heels bang against the cabinet underneath him. To his right was a garbage bin, the stems of dead roses poking out and a crumpled box on top. In Ethan’s hands was a notebook. He was scribbling something. He would look at the few words, his face twisted in thought, and then he’d flip his pencil over and scribble out the words. Then he’d tap his eraser against his lips feeling the warmth from friction and look up at the ceiling.
Deanna came over to him. She was actually a year younger than Ethan, but she appeared older. She was overweight but did not care. She dressed in tight clothes showing off her large breasts and even larger ass. Ethan had no physical attraction to her whatsoever, but she was kind, and he like her because of her kindness. She pushed her freshly highlighted blonde hair away from her eyes and leaned on the counter next to Ethan, her arm just touching his knee, an intentional gesture. “Whatchu writing there, hun?”
Ethan adjusted himself so he could look at her, but really he moved so that his leg was no longer in contact with her arm. “Nothing.”
“Aw, come on. What is it?” She playfully tried to peer down at the notepad. “Looks like a song or something.
Ethan hopped off the counter folding the notebook closed. “It’s just homework.”
“Come on!” Deanna laughed and reached for him.”
Forget it.” He stepped off the island and moved around the checkout. “I’m going to go see what Chad’s doing.
Deanna pouted and stuck out her tongue attempting to appear cute. “You’re no fun anymore.”
Ethan shrugged with an innocent smile to hide his annoyance. “Sorry, dude. I’ll work on it.”
Outside, he found Chad along the side of the video store by the dumpster. He had arranged the gummi snakes along the lip of the large metal container evenly spaced. He was using a piece of string to link them all together.
“You were supposed to just toss those things,” Ethan walked closer. “What the hell are you doing?”
Chad grinned proudly lifting his furry chin and displaying his teeth. He looked like a mental case. “I am laying a trap.”
Ethan rolled his eyes. “Oh yeah? And what exactly are you laying a trap for, you freak show?”
“That homeless guys who’re always coming around here. I see them picking through the trash all the time. Next time one of ‘em comes here, he’s gonna have a little surprise waiting. Heh-heh.”
Ethan raised an eyebrow.
Chad went on. “He’ll come over here,” he acted it out in exaggerated movements like Daffy Duck explaining something. “He’ll be all >sniff sniff “Dost?”
“Why…” Chad leaned close to a gummi snake, a red and white one, “Why ‘tis food! A meal ripe for the plucking!” He lifted his fingers close and moved them greedily like a puppeteer with a marionette. “Why a meal I shall have this night, verily!” Chad laughed and looked at his friend. “And then he’ll grab one and SNAP! Like a mouse trap.”
Ethan shrugged. “I don’t get it.”
“What’s not to get?” Chad sneered at the stupidity. “It snaps down on him.
Ethan shook his head. “But how?”
Chad grunted and grasped one of the snakes. “Like this, retard.” And the top of the dumpster came smashing down on Chad’s head nearly knocking him off his feet.
“Oh,” Ethan attempted to hide his amusement.
“Godammit! You did that on purpose!” Chad complained and rubbed his head gingerly. “Now I gotta set it all up again.”
“Come on,” Ethan said. “Let’s see if Deanna will let up go get lunch early. There hasn’t been a customer in an hour.” And he turned to walk off.
“What do we have here?” Chad suddenly snatched the notebook from the back of Ethan’s pants.
“Ah-ah! No touchy, E! Sexual harassment!”
“Give it back, Chad!”
“What is this? What is this? Poems? HA HA! You are so gay!”
The two of them were running around the parking lot, Chad moving swiftly for a larger guy, Ethan too scrawny to get his book back. Chad had a page open and read aloud, “Oh Victoria how I dream of your touch. When our eyes are locked, I feel you so much. Dude! This is shit!”
Ethan picked up an empty McDonald’s cup and whipped it at the other. “Stop it, dude!”
Chad read on, “Your skin so soft and I long for your embrace. I want to put my lips on your face. Oh my Christ it’s a good thing you’re a math major. This is garbage.”
Ethan’s face was red with anger and embarrassment. “Give it back, fat ass.”
Chad jumped up on the bed of his pick-up truck and read proclaiming loudly, “Sweet Victoria, I know we do not know one another very well, but I think you are the most incredible soul. I cherish our time, albeit short, with one another, and I often wonder if we could ever spend time away from the walls of this accursed video store.”
Ethan stood defeated on the ground and looked up at Chad. “Whatever,” was all he could mumble.
Chad looked down on him and started to say with honesty, “Dude, this last one is really sweet,” but he stopped short on the last word. His face drained. Ethan turned around expecting to see Deanna ready to scream at them for screwing around.
At the edge of the sidewalk only a few feet away was a slender girl with pitch black hair that hung to her shoulders. She had a thin stripe pf bright blue in her bangs. Her freckled skin made her appear both pale and tan at the same time, and her features were odd in a wonderful way. She was not white, that was obvious. She was most likely Asian. She was very pretty, and she did not know it. She was holding a pair of DVDs ready for return, but she was staring at Ethan. They stood without speaking for - what it felt like to him – forever.
“Dude,” Chad muttered apologetically.
Victoria held out the movies and said, “I just wanted to return these.”
Ethan somehow managed to step forward and take the two cases.
“They were very good. Thanks for recommending them.”
Ethan may have said something in return, but he didn’t remember. Victoria gave a polite smile and blushed slightly. She walked away without another word.
Ethan stood there.
“—and a number seven,” Chad said reluctantly. “Can’t believe we gotta buy Deanna’s lunch too. Like she could use another hamburger.”
Ethan was staring at the menu. He wasn’t really hungry.
“See me?” Chad patted his belly. “I know how to wear my weight. I’m like a big sexy bear – like a Kodiak bear with sexiness.”
Ethan looked at the kid behind the register and then decided he wasn’t hungry. He shook his head.
Chad paid for the meal and took the receipt.
“Sorry about that, man.” Chad said seriously. He hung his head. He really did feel bad. “I was just fucking around.”
“Yeah,” Ethan said. “I know.”
“Hey, buck up lil’ buddy,” Chad attempted and punched Ethan’s shoulder. “I was thinking before, you know Inside Man could really be the alternate porn title for a porn version of Inside Man? You wouldn’t have to change the title. Just: Inside MAN. Get it?”
Ethan nodded. He said with a little spirit, “It’s all in the delivery. Like, INSIDE Man doesn’t sound dirty--”
Chad finished, “But Inside MAN totally does.”
There was a woman with a small boy in a booth nearby. She was scowling at the pair. Ethan looked away with wide eyes and a silent “oops”, but Chad simply looked back, “Pfft! You like it.”
Walking back across the plaza, Chad was eating Deanna’s burger with Ethan was silently weighing his options. On the one hand, Victoria could’ve missed the fact that all of that was about her. She probably only heard the last little bit… Of course, her name was in it… but that could be anyone – another Victoria! And Chad was reading it, so maybe it was about…
But he couldn’t kid himself. He knew it had been written all over his face. He had no choice. She knew he liked her, so he was just going to have to quit Family Video and go to college out of state next year in Zimbabwe or Madagascar or the moon. Yeah, the moon.
There was a commotion at the front of the store. They couldn’t see what was going on at first, but they could hear it, a loud gravely shouting. “I didn’t fucking loose my eye in the godamn Pacific to let you fuckers just take over! I didn’t!”
“The hell?” Chad frowned.
“I killed more of you fuckers than you got us, and my arm says – my arm says we fucking won! You hear me?”
“P-please, I – I don’t know what you want,” came a quiet plea.
Leaving Chad behind, Ethan sprinted away and up to the store and skidded to a halt.
It was the Navy Guy. He was a war veteran who wandered the plaza constantly. He had a blue jacket on with patches all over it. It was faded and ripped and had many, many stains. His pants were Green Bay Packer sweatpants with holes in both knees and a gross browned stain on the ass. They hung off his hips sickly showing more ass crack than not. He wore Velcro tennis shoes that had holes as well. His left eye was pointed severely out of place and he smelled of piss and shit. On his head was a hat too small that was covered in pins from every branch of the US military, POW, MIA, and foreign war badges. It was well known that the Navy Guy had been in Vietnam. It was something that he spoke about while walking the sidewalks. He muttered to himself in a thick drunkard lisp and people tended to avoid him. He came around the parking lot in front of the video store once in awhile, but he hadn’t been around lately.
Now, there he was, shouting in broken sentences and waving his one hand about while pulling the door to the store tightly closed. Deanna was inside pounding on the glass furiously. He had her trapped in. Pinned to the wall opposite of him, just out of reach was Victoria. She had tears streaming down her face. The Navy Guy spewed hateful words at her. “You slanty eyes don’t belong here! You don’t – you got no place in my America the Beautiful!” In his waving fist was a small guitar which narrowly avoided being smashed on the wall or door with each erratic swing of his arm. “Bitches took my friends! Took eyes! Get out! Get out! One race here! One race and it’s ain’t you!”
Victoria whimpered painfully, “I just want my – my ukulele back.”
Ethan rushed forward and smashed shoulder first into the insane old man. The Navy guy stumbled, but he did not let go of the door. Deanna screamed from within, “Ethan! Stop!” but he did not. He stepped swiftly between the Navy Guy and Victoria. He shouted over the madman’s ranting, “That is enough!”
The old guy spat hard, but the gob missed Ethan. “You protect this? She’s not the race!”
Ethan shouted on. He stood firmly. “You have ten seconds! I won’t ask again. Let go of the door, hand that back and get the fuck outta here!”
The Navy Guy didn’t hear him. He reeked of cheap booze and stale gummi snake. He lashed out. Ethan dodged the lumbering blow and kicked out his foot as hard as he could into the Green Bay Packers sweat pants. He connected with a meaty knee, and the old man howled in pain.
Navy Guy fell forward fast and toward Ethan. With a quick snatch, the ukulele was safely in Ethan’s hands. The old man went face first into the sidewalk and blood popped from underneath his mouth.
It had all happened so fast. Chad was then on top of the old man yanking him into the parking lot and away from the door. Deanna rushed out and was slapping the downed drunk, the phone in her hand connected to 9-1-1.
Ethan looked at Victoria and said gently, “Are you okay?”
She was crying softly. She nodded.
Ethan touched her cheek and smoothly wiped a tear away. “Hey,” he lifted her chin. “You okay?”
She hugged him and cried some more, but she was not scared anymore. Ethan hesitated a moment. His heart was still thumping with a rush of adrenaline. He looked at the small guitar in his hand. Hugging Victoria back with his free hand he asked, “What’s this?” She looked up. He smiled tenderly. “This is a really tiny guitar. Did you mug a midget?” She laughed a little.
Inside, they sat on the bench near the 2-for-1 section. There was an open pack of peanut M&M’s between them. Ethan picked out all of the blues and Victoria ate the rest. She was looking at his notebook and smirking.
“What?” Ethan blushed.
Victoria looked at him with an apologetic smile. “These are terrible.”
Ethan groaned and covered his face with his hands.
She laughed at him sweetly. “But,” she said. Lifting her ukulele, she strummed it up and down. Ethan peeked through his fingers as she sang to the guitar:
“I am a boy,
and you are a girl.
What more do we need to know?
I like movies
And you do too.
So let’s see where this can go.”
And Victoria leaned over and gently pecked Ethan on the cheek.
From outside, Chad shouted through the glass with his fists pumping over his head, “Fuck yeah, dude!” and Deanna smacked him across the back of the head, “Chad!”
In December 2008, I self published my first piece of fiction. Since then, I have published several other works including a collection of my cartoons. You can find these for purchase or to read selections from each at lulu.com and the Amazon marketplace.