“I don’t see what the problem is; just write the stupid story.”
So much for moral support from Chris. I turned my head to Steve.
“What do you think?”
Steve stared at his monitor and tapped his arrow keys back and forth.
“Do you know where I get that key thingy to open the portal?”
“Try the dead guy’s pockets.”
Steve typed a few quick commands.
No help there either.
“Look, it’s just not that simple. I can’t just write something and make it good and how he wants it. I just don’t know what to write. And I came up with an idea where like the guy drinks potions, but they have side effects, and he has blackouts; but Andrew didn’t like it.”
“What, like he blacks out and does bad stuff, and then he investigates his own crimes?”
“Yes! See, it’s the one good idea I had, and he just shot it down!”
“I dunno, dude, it sounds kinda lame, like you’re making your good guy a bad guy.”
Chris shrugged and spun slowly around in Steve’s desk chair, giving me a smart-ass smile. On the third revolution, when his back was to me, I jumped up and put him in a sleeper hold.
“Oh, you’re dead. Ass, leggo.”
“Go to sleep.”
“Christ, get off me.”
“Shh. . .go to sleep.”
Chris managed to pull himself up to his feet. He bent forward and lifted me off my feet and flung us both onto Steve’s bed.
“Quit it guys, you’re gonna collapse my mattress.”
Chris and I were both laughing too hard at this point to answer him back. I still had my sleeper locked in, but Chris was giving me some good elbows in the ribs. Just as our laughter was subsiding and I was loosening my grip, we heard Steve say, “TOP ROPE,” and he flung himself on top of us.
“Now quit it; you’re gonna break my bed!”
“You’re the one who ‘top roped’ us!”
Steve rolled off onto the floor, and we followed.
“You guys better not’ve popped any of those springs; me and Kadence need that mattress intact, oooo-ooo!”
“Bullshit, dude, you know she’s not giving it up. That’s what you get for going out with miss prissy princess.”
I shrugged and nodded. Steve and Kadence hadn’t even done anything below the belt yet, and they were practically married. What probably should have followed was a comeback from Steve about how, at least, Kadence was cool and how he would never want to do anything with Chris’s new girlfriend, Abbey, because she was an awful person, because the truth hurts. But, when having fun ribbing with your friends, you generally stay away from those hurtful truths, so Steve just shot back a, “Whatever, ‘sgonna happen.”
“Did I tell you guys Lizzie has some sort of boyfriend or something?”
“Yeah, I didn’t even get that far into my story yet. So after Andrew leaves my house all in a huff, I go over to Todd’s to hang Christmas decorations. Oh, and by the way, on the way over there, I see Andrew hanging out with some other kid. Anyway, so I get to Todd’s, and I’m just fuming. And I walk in to my uncle’s house to help him decorate our family Christmas tree, and right there in the living room is this frickin’ Jordan kid, all tall, looking all tall and blonde and handsome.”
“So you boned him?”
“Yes, I boned him, right there in the living room, next to the Christmas tree, with the baby Jesus watching.”
“Yeah, it was magical; I’m taking him to the debutante ball. Anyway, no, it was not magical. And so I’m up on this ladder hanging this wreath, and he’s all like cuddling up to her and shit. And I’m trying to not whack holes into Uncle Todd’s house because I’m just ready to beat somebody.”
Steve and Chris shrugged at each other and looked at me with big smirks on their faces. Steve got up and went back to his computer.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I mimicked their shrugs.
“You know what it means; we told you a thousand frickin’ times to make a move on her. Steve asked you on double dates every weekend. You pulled this same shit with Jenny. If she ends up going out with somebody else, it’s your fault, bro.”
I knew Chris was right. That didn’t change the fact I wanted to deck him. Luckily Steve spoke up.
“Who’s this kid?”
Not sure why he was bothering to interject if he was going to play video games and not pay attention.
“His name is Jordan, he goes to her school, he’s a senior.”
“No, not that kid, the Andrew kid.”
“Oh, oh the kid with Andrew. Yeah, he’s this short kid from Hopeville, smokes pot. I don’t even know how they met or anything, but they’re all buddy-buddy. I pass them on my way to Todd’s, and Andrew’s like hanging all over him in the street.”
I saw a wide smile cross Chris’s face, and I knew what was coming.
“Again, Nancy, if you wanted to date the spazzer, you should have made your move by now. Looks like he found another fella. Same old story as all the other loves in your life. Besides, isn’t he not your type; he was boning that SuzieQ chick?”
“Right, right, all my gay love for Andrew is misplaced, leaving me heartbroken and alone. Anyway, yeah, Steven, to answer your question, that’s who that kid was. And this was all right after the whole weird thing with the scientist, and he was like, ‘I have to go home because my father wants me home.’ He’s just all pissed off that I don’t like his scientist drawings.”
“I thought you said you just couldn’t write a story for them. Do you now not like them?”
Chris was getting closer and closer to getting slugged.
“Fine, I don’t like them! They’re stupid! The whole idea is stupid! And he stands all stupid with his legs like two feet apart all the time, every picture! It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen! Who stands like that? Who exists in time and space and is constantly striking this action pose like *this*?”
I got up and demonstrated.
“And what is his story? I don’t know, and I don’t know why it’s my job to make up a story for him and his weird-ass scientist with the weird legs. It’s not my job.”
“Geez, who’s the spazzer now?”
Steve turned his head to Chris.
It was just goofy enough that it made me laugh and stopped me from planting one right on Chris’s mouth.
Dan Pullen lives in Connecticut with his wife and three children. He writes stories about simple people and their complex lives.