The House and the One Before It
It was Halloween night. Or maybe the evening right before. My mind was as foggy as the day had been, but oncoming dusk made the lack of sight more acceptable. I was out trick or treating with my son. He was dressed as Indiana Jones, but looked nothing like Harrison Ford. In fatherhood, I’d learned to temper the onslaught of disappointment. He was six. The scene around me was picture perfect. It was nothing but a dreary October night, but the neighborhood was awake. More awake than it had ever been. Who’s neighborhood was this? My son and I weaved through the beaming children and reached the front of a house. It was an old man’s house, but a young man lived there. A young man had always lived there. To my son, it was just another slot machine with near-guaranteed odds.
My son raced to the door and rang the doorbell. With this action he chanted the famous associated words passed down through the haunted generations. A weathered young man answered the door. He smiled, but he didn’t want to. The moon showed me the outlines of angry clouds above his house. The moon wanted me to see. We had a relationship of taunts, myself and the moon, but only ever one-sided. The man, with an ever trembling hand, dropped a single fun sized snickers bar into my son’s raggedy burlap sack. He said to him, slowly, “you’re wearing a costume, but your father is the one truly wearing the mask.” My son blissfully ignored him, and I gently touched my face.
We walked on over to the next house and I found it eerily familiar. It was a splash of familiarity dropped onto a black canvas of the unknown. My son walked up to the front door, but before he got there he turned to me. “Is this what you wanted?” he asked.
“What?” I asked back. He simply smiled and turned back to the door. I got the feeling that he wasn’t referring to anything in the immediate moment. I did not smile. He had such a happy gait up to the doorbell of the familiar house. He had to avoid, well, no decorations at all. When he got to the doorbell, after ringing it, what he should have said was “trick or treat.” He should have said “trick or treat.” But instead he turned to me and asked, “why don’t I exist?”
Before I could answer, through the chills sent down my spine, the door opened. The man that opened the door was me. He was older and much more tired. His skin was grey and his eyes looked as though they’d conceded. They’d conceded everything. Despite these grisly differences, he was me. “No candy here,” the other me grunted out. He then slammed the door shut.
“What is and what could’ve been are so far away,” said my son. I was inclined to agree. To my left was an infinite row of houses decked out for Halloween, and I came to find that the same was situated to my right. I looked into my son’s emotionless eyes and then looked passed him. Passed him, in the familiar house, was a silhouette through the window of a man hanging from a noose. I screamed but it meant nothing.
Paul the Elf
Why are all elven and gnome stories, or just fantasy stories in general, always set in medieval times? I guess if they were set in pre-evil times, you’d have a tough time finding an antagonist. Like if you’re gonna write some nerd stuff, then you gotta make sure that Morwan the warlock is a contemporary of goddamn Johann Gutenburg or it won’t work. Anyway, here’s the story of Paul the elf, whose main character trait is that he got rich off of bitcoin in 2011.
Paul lived in suburban Topeka and was an elf, but not in like a Christmas way. He was short and gnarled and also super into cryptocurrency. Paul had a few friends who weren’t ripped guys with long hair and sword fighting prowess and an unexplained British accent. One of his friends was just Daniel, who worked in IT. He lived with his wife who is unnamed, has no speaking lines, and wears extremely revealing clothes. I can only give up on so many fantasy cliches. Also there will be absolutely no black characters for some reason. Like we’re fine acting as if the middle ages were filled with elves and warlocks, but we draw the line at having a black guy. Also this story is set in Kansas.
Paul had jury duty one day and ruled that this one dude who hit another dude with a crowbar in a road rage assault was guilty. This was an atypical day however, because Paul usually just screws about doing puzzles and swiping on Elf Tinder. He doesn’t need a job due to the bitcoin money. Oh wait, I forgot I gave him a wife, whatever though. Paul’s a scumbag or maybe they have an open relationship.
At the end of the jury duty day, Paul went to a bar with his buddies and they all drank some mead and ate a turkey leg. All in all, it was a mediocre day for Paul.
“Here you go, Garfield ass motherfucker,” said the guard as he tossed a still frozen family-sized Stouffer’s lasagna with extra meat into my cell. At least it was family-sized. He was all pissy because when he’d asked what I wanted for my last meal I said, “ayy lemme get a lasagna bippidy boppidy boo” with exaggerated hand movements. Turned out I was saying this to the one prison guard named Jimmy Strombili, and he didn’t take kindly to my cultural insensitivity.
So I took a fork to that frozen block of cheese and decided to make the most of my final joyful moments. The thought of death is so wild to me in that I would never taste lasagna again. Not a year long lasagna hiatus. Not five years. Not 100 years. Eternity. And to be fair, I was barely eating it then and there due to its frozen nature.
I thought back to my crime with a mix of regret and apathy. There was no pathy left to give; why fight what you can’t control? I was arrested and charged when I touched MC Hammer. It turned out that his famous ‘You can’t touch this’ song wasn’t so much a boast of elusiveness but an explanation of a legally binding mandate. This, I was not aware of. Whether the punishment should be death is something to be debated by people with much more power and brains than me.
So, I just munch on frozen layers of cold and wait for it all to be over. It will be over, won’t it? Or maybe it just continues in a new way. Why hypothesize when the answer is moments away? Much of what we do is futile. Perhaps I’ll get excited about being in an exclusive group of people who know what death brings, but that is likely futile as well. Oh well, at least the lasagna was family-sized.
The liquor bottles start to pile up if you’re not careful. They really do. They pile up all over your goddamn room and make it not too messy or anything but stereotypical you know. I don’t mean metaphorically or anything. I’ve got demons and all, and maybe the liquor is the cause, but even the straight-edge mormon guys have demons, so I’m not going to generalize or anything and tell you that the liquor piling up means you’re doing life wrong. Who’s anyone to say someone else is doing life wrong? No one, that’s who. Anyway, I had literal liquor bottles all over my room. I didn’t have any other trash. I mean, I’m pretty clean, overall. I had liquor bottles maybe because I didn’t want to put so much glass down the trash chute or maybe because I was sentimental and all. I can be a real sentimental bastard and all. I still have a stuffed animal in my room, but I don’t tell most people I meet about all that. It’s my thing; Why would I? But there’s nothing sentimental really about that Jim Beam I housed the other day. It’s kind of sad, honestly. If I were an adult looking at my room, I’m sure I’d be sad, but what’s the point now to be sad about something like that, you know? I don’t throw them away because they’re so sturdy and all. The glass is thick and the label is always some design that they tricked everyone into thinking is a high class design. Maybe I don’t feel right throwing out someone else’s hard work. Maybe I just feel proud that I drink all that whiskey or tequila or whatever the hell. Obviously that’s not it, and if it was, I wouldn’t tell you. Imagine that; coming off like a douchebag in the first paragraph. That’d be a real hook, huh?
I guess all this is to say, I feel like a real asshole when I’m hungover in the morning. My mouth is all dry and my brain can’t stop going over what I did the night before that’s gonna have real repercussions. The brain can be a real piece of shit if you want to know the truth. Who doesn’t want to know the truth, anyway, what a dumb phrase? Guy walking around hoping to be lied to all day. Sounds like a real dumbass to me. I always felt I’d rather feel sad than feel like a real asshole. Being sad means the world did something to screw you. Being an asshole means you did something to screw the world. At least when you feel like an asshole you get to remedy your assholic behavior. I guess the real trouble with the world is assholes that don’t know they’re assholes. The problem with this morning is that I have to look over a whole slew of empty liquor bottles sitting by my pantry. Not in my pantry mind you, just near it. Like I always almost do the right thing, but I never can seem to do it. The problem is, you’d think when I’m hungover and angry with the whole situation, I’d put it all out of sight. But this grouping of empty bottles proves that I didn’t just act like an asshole last night. No, no. I mean if you’re an asshole only once, then you’re not really an asshole. Then you’re just a guy who had a good time. No, it takes a whole pattern of behavior to really be an asshole. Boy did I feel like an asshole looking over those bottles of liquor.
A girl came out of my room and into the living room. A goddamn girl. I’d love to assign her a name as much as you’d love to read one, but goddammit if I didn’t know. Let’s call her Sarah. Sarah came out of my room and looked at me and was all pissy like. It’s almost like she could tell I was telling you that I didn’t know her name. Goddamn girls. She didn’t look like she did last night. I am not saying she wasn’t pretty or nothing. What kinda guy would I be telling the world that this girl I picked up last night was ugly or whatever. I just didn’t remember her looking like that is all. She was tall, I guess. It works differently for girls. She was certainly one of the reasons all of the liquor was gone. What kinda girl does it take to spend the night with a fella and not be at least partially the reason all of the liquor is gone? I was wearing a hat. All day long; some baseball cap of a team I didn’t even support. Just whatever looked good. Hell, I probably slept with that girl with the hat still on. I don’t really remember. What kinda guy takes his hat off during a one night stand, anyway? She decided she wanted to sleep with hatted me; It’d be a crime to take it off while we’re getting all sexy and she doesn’t like my forehead or whatever. I would even feel like that was wrong. She wants to leave because of my forehead and all, but she doesn’t feel like vocalizing it or whatever. Then it’s a real bad situation for both of us. I just kept my hat right on. Maybe if she left, I’d take it off, but it’d just be a crime if I did it then. Honestly, it’d just be a crime.
The girl, Sarah or whatever the hell, was all boozed up, too, and hungover now. I don’t even like the name Sarah. Let’s call her Valerie. I don’t love the name Valerie either, but it suits her better. She had a wide face like a Russian or whatever. I used to go to high school with this real cute Russian girl. but she was sweet. She looked kinda like Valerie or whatever. I kinda wished it was her in my room in just her underwear and my big T-shirt instead of this girl. But I guess it’d be a lot more awkward because we knew each other so well. Conversation is great with someone you know until you have sex with them. Then you just want it to be a stranger. It’s better right after and way in the future too, because if you really regret the sex, you never have to see the stranger again if you don’t want to. At least usually. This girl asked if I had any advil, and then made a big deal when I told her I didn’t. It’s almost like she felt bad that she didn’t go around the bar asking every guy if he had advil in his apartment before she chose who to sleep with. Hell, she only slept with me, because I was funny for like two minutes. It’s the first two minutes that matters anyway. I was a real drunken bore after that, but it didn’t even matter. It’s the sunk cost theory or whatever. She wasted an hour with me, and it was too late to play the field before she realized I was a real drunken bore, so now here she is.
I guess I should have introduced myself, but what the hell, here’s as good a time as any. My name is Sal. My friends call me Sal, because that is my name. I hate that shit. I hate when a guy is like ‘my name is Vincent, but my friends call me Jackson, because it’s my middle name.’ They say it like I gotta earn the right to call them Jackson. I don’t even give a shit about calling you Vincent. Like I don’t need to prove myself that I’m worthy of calling you Jackson. It just really gets me riled up. Anyone can call me Sal. Anyone can call me asshole too if they want; I don’t care. Hell, I’ll be in a crowded bar and someone way over will yell out ‘hey, asshole,’ and you know what I’ll do? I’ll look over, that’s what. Can’t say I’m not self aware at least. Valarie, or whatever the hell, probably thought I was an asshole, but she seemed like one of those girls that really liked that jazz. I wasn’t an asshole in a way that I acted as an adversary to her but rather I was an asshole in the way I was nice to her. You know exactly what I mean.
We talked a bit longer in the morning. You can’t not talk to a girl coming out of your room. You really shouldn’t at least. It wasn’t the same anymore. It wasn’t that it was all different, but it wasn’t the same neither. We weren’t all that interested in each other anymore. I wasn’t much interested in nothing at that point. This hangover is a real bitch. Every hangover is a bitch and we go and get one anyway. That’s how I am about everything I like. I like a ton of stuff that’s bad and I do it anyway. I really do. I do it because I can’t look at the future like that. You’re bullshitting if you say you can. I looked over at Valarie while I was complaining in my head. She was just fiddling with whatever the hell. You fiddle with whatever the hell when you don’t know what to do. Real sudden like, I felt like a bastard. A rat bastard even, hey. Because I was all upset about having to make small talk with this girl and deal with all these liquor bottles, but it was her in some stranger’s apartment.
I really just wanted her to leave, and she wanted to leave, Valerie, but nothing happened. Nothing ever happens in a social setting. It doesn’t matter how many people want it. We finally found a way. I don’t feel like writing all the dialogue down. You don’t want to read all that anyway. It was a lot of small talk. You didn’t sit down to read all this just to read small talk. We read to escape small talk. Goddamn small talk. I was good enough at it to get Valerie what she wanted which was the hell outta my apartment. Besides, what kinda guy transcribes his dialogue perfectly anyway? It’s always paraphrased or misses a word or two or whatever and then it’s meaningless. People don’t know how carefully they choose their words. There is a lot of personality in word choice. You shouldn’t write down someone else’s words unless you know you got them right. Boy let me tell you, I didn’t even know what Valarie was saying when she was saying it. Much less now. I’m no misogynist or nothing. I mean that’s your decision to make. What kinda bastard goes around bragging about his misogyny? Anyway, the lack of care was definitely mutual. We wanted it that way, anyway. So Valarie and I were real happy to get out of each other’s presence. Hangovers can make people real jerks I guess. They just don’t want to do anything. Small talk is a real something. It really is.
I sat down in my sad apartment and read a book. You don’t care what book it was. I barely did. No reader really cares if the writer leaves details out like that. I left a whole lot of details out of this. Readers that trust the writer, they just want to hear what the writer wants to write. Who wants to hear any of this stuff, though? You, that’s who. You do. I mean, I think you can relate to all this stuff, or some of it maybe. Maybe just some of it. It’d be a real coincidence if you related to everything I said. So this is what I read when I’m hungover so I remember that it’s a bitch every time. Your hangover isn’t special, it still sucks, though. Hey, I oughta read this before I drink, but there’s no fun in that. There’s never any fun in something responsible. This world really does it like that. Can’t have anything without repercussions. And if you think you can, you’re wrong. Just plain wrong. I’ll leave you here. This was my morning. Still is. In a way, it’s all my mornings. I figure we both oughta go deal with our own repercussions, now. We really oughta.