from the archives
I was digging around my apartment the other day looking for an empty notebook to jot a few things down in and I found an old binder from ze high school days that I hadn't seen in ages. Among miscellaneous notes and poorly graded papers was a short story that I very much enjoyed writing and as it turns out became somewhat prophetic of my own life. So with all spelling and grammatical errors intact, and my inexplicably excessive use of the comma, here's a blast from my eleventh grade; the year of our Lord 1998.
"... one hundred ninety eight ... one hundred ninety nine ... two hundred. Damn. Two hundred gobs of stucco." Laying on the bed staring up at the ceiling he reaches out blindly and flicks on the lamp. Soft yellow light spills over a squalid bedroom. Red bedsheets lay rumpled, mostly covered by well thumbed magazines. Rolling over he glances at the angry eyes of his alarm clock. 2:19. Sitting up he releases a long hollow sigh. He walks over to the window and looks out at nothing in particular. "Who the hell works thirteen hour days and can't sleep?", he asks the world.
He turns and approaches a large gurgling fish tank. "Do you guys ever sleep?", he asks two bright yellow fish. They only stare out with large, unblinking eyes.
Deciding that a snack is all he needs to lure sleep to him, he makes his way to a small kitchenette, kicking various debris aside as he goes. He opens a yellowed fridge and light from inside pours across the counter illuminating an enormous heap of dirty dishes. "Ugh!", he exclaims closing the fridge hastily to block out the disturbing sight. Deciding he's not hungry after all, he meanders out onto the balcony and looks off into the night.
The lights of Toronto spread out before him in a seemingly endless display of urban life. He casually picks up a faded green tennis ball from the corner of the balcony and bounces it off the sliding glass door a few times. "Hmm", he wonders aloud, leaning over the railing, tennis ball in hand. "Pilot to bombardier. Pilot to bombardier, we have reached the target drop area". He extends his arm outward and slowly releases the small green payload. Spiralling downward it rushes toward the parking lot below. He briefly considers that this might not have been such a good idea.
The ball strikes heavily against the hood of a black BMW, activating a presumably very expensive car alarm and probably waking up half the building. "Well hell, if I can't sleep, why should they?", He says shrugging nonchalantly. Closing the sliding door he makes his way back inside.
Sinking heavily into a cluttered couch he flicks on a small beat up television. The colored bars and high pitch squeal of a public access channel test pattern great him loudly. Irritated, he flicks up the scale with the precision and speed of a skilled coach potato. All he can find are famous people on infomercials telling him why some amazing product will change his life forever. But wait, that's not all, if you call now we'll charge you triple and only send you half the parts!
He decides to become a born again Christian when he gets some free time because infomercials could only be sent straight from the fiery pits of hell. Therefore there must be a devil, and thusly, there must be a God. He then decides he had better stop watching late night TV because it will surely ruin his mind.
His thoughts are interrupted by the trill of a ringing telephone. The sound reaches him, but is not loud enough to cut through the exhausted stupor of a chronic insomniac. Why doesn't somebody answer that damn thing?
Something in the back of his mind flares up, "Oh! That's my phone!". He moves toward a lazy boy, stumbling over fallen cushions as he goes. After reaching into an empty nacho bag he pulls out the portable handset and stabs at the illuminated keypad.
"Sup?", he asks, flopping into the chair.
"Eric, is 'at you? Damn baby you sound like crap." The soft, younger sounding female voice pauses for an audible drag on some unseen cigarette.
"Umm, there's no Eric here, I think ... err", he pauses considering for a moment. "What I mean is Eric isn't here right now."
"Oh", surprised she pauses apprehensively, "well who is this then?"
"Who me? Well I'm ... Eric's room mate." He smiles to himself, satisfied with his response.
"What? Eric doesn't have a room mate!"
Is that an accent? He can't tell. Think fast, think fast. "Well he does now doesn't he?" That should hold her.
"Okay, so what does Eric look like?"
He notes a distinctly confident tone in her voice. Ha, easy. "Well, he's about my height, similar build. Hair is a bit darker though. Face is almost a carbon copy of mine, except his chin is slightly smaller. Fine looking man now that I think about it."
"Nice try bud. You don't even know who Eric is do you?". Once again, a puff on the cigarette. He tries to imagine her lips pressed against the paper. Then parted slightly while blue gray smoke oozes out and floats upward. In his mind he backs up on the scene to include her face. Eyes. Large. Dark and wide set on a small face. Small cutie-pie turned up nose. Petite mouth, dark red lipstick on her face and the cigarette. Short hair ...
"Hey, you still there?"
That was the second time in five minutes she had interrupted his somewhat laborious thought process. "Yeah, still here."
"Well this has all been very thrilling but I do have to get in touch with the elusive Eric."
"Send my regards."
"Absolutely, anything else?"
"Yeah, actually, do you know any quick remedies for insomnia?" Can't hurt to ask.
"Sure. Take a dozen Tylenol and don't call me in the morning."
Yet another successful encounter with a woman. He absentmindedly tosses the phone back into the nacho bag and hauls himself out of the chair. He glances into the green glow of his wristwatch. 3:58. I should be dead to the world by now. A sigh of frustration escapes him as he wanders down the hall.
He stands staring at the peep hole in his door. Maybe a little walk? He glances down at his apparel. Whoa. Maybe a little more clothing? His flying pig boxers with more hole than actual material cling to him like some sort of fungus.
"Allright!", he announces to the room. "No more screwing around! I am going to bed, and I am going to get some sleep!" With this affirmation he marches into his bedroom, throws himself on the mercy of his comforter and clicks off the lamp.
Very much to his surprise, he finds it quite easy to let his eyes close. He lets his mind blur, thoughts of the day mingling like hungry politicians at a White House dinner. He can feel sleep washing over him as if it were the ocean washing over a sandcastle. Pulling him out into oblivion where the troubles of the world can't find him.
Then, with all the subtlety of a strike anywhere match truck driving into a fireworks factory, he is accosted by a repetitive electronic BEEP. He sits bolt upright in his bed listening. BEEP. What the hell is that? BEEP. Fire alarm? BEEP. He runs into the hall to check the small, round dish on the roof. No. BEEP. The bedroom. Carbon monoxide detector? BEEP. He rushes back into his room, checking the blinking box on the wall. The green OK light greets him happily. BEEP. Over there, by the chair. He rushes to a heap of clothes piled on what is possibly a chair but could be just about anything judging from the size of the heap. BEEP. Here, in these pants. He hastily pulls out a small black box with a blinking red light. BEEP. He silences the box.
"WHAT? Who the hell is paging me at this hour? Heads will roll!" Holding the LCD display up to the light spilling in from the hall he reads, 'BATT LOW'. "SONOFABITCH!", he cries at the top of his lungs.
In a fit of rage he storms to his balcony, mashing on the beeper as he goes. He throws open the sliding door, leans back heavily and hurls the tiny black box out into the night.
Sailing silently through the air, it floats across the street only just beginning its downward arch as it approaches the building on the opposite side. As it careens into the picture window of one of the condos adjacent to his balcony, just for an instant, he can see the glass bend. A second later it gives, spraying glass down the front of the building and into the street. The shards tinkling like fairies from some children's storybook.
For a moment he stands dumbfounded. Only when a short Oriental man in a bathrobe comes to the window and begins screaming at him in a language he can't pretend to understand does he realize what has happened. He searches his mind for something in his past that might have prepared him for such a situation and finds nothing. For lack of something better to do, he bursts into maniacal laughter and tears stream down his face.
The short Oriental man leaves the window for a moment. When he reappears he is holding a phone and amongst the gibberish the word police can be heard rather clearly. After a moment, he gives a satisfied grin and disappears for good.
"Open it", says the taller of the two officers to the building manager. He sifts through a large key ring, trying several before the door yields to him. As it swings open, all three lean in for a closer view of the apartment. Light from the hall fills the kitchenette revealing the biological hazard countertops. "Ugh", they all breathe in unison.
"Sir could you come to the door please", says the shorter and slightly leaner of the two officers in his well practiced authoritative voice.
The officers give each other a knowing look and enter the apartment cautiously, turning on lights as they go. They marvel at the debris as they make their way into the living room. Despite their calls to the occupant, no one comes to greet him. As if to fill in the lack of any noise whatsoever, the telephone rings.
They all scramble frantically to find the source of the ring, and after a moment, the building manager looks into the nacho bag. Taking the phone, the taller office answers. "Hello? Umm, I don't know. I'll check, hang on." He puts his hand over the receiver and calls out loudly, "Hey! Are there any messages for Eric?".
A sudden rustling comes from the balcony. "Give me that!", says the pig boxer clad man climbing through the sliding glass door. He stumbles toward the officer, arms outstretched. "Give it here!", he grunts snatching up the phone.
He pauses for a moment to compose himself, then gently brings the phone to his ear. "Hello?", he says, all smiles.
"Hi, this is Eric. Has anybody called for me?"
"Hi Eric, in fact, somebody did call. But she didn't leave her name."
"Oh, that's too bad. Well if she calls again, be sure to get her number."
"Is that it? I don't even know you and you're just gonna let me be your personal answering service is that it?" The rage he's been hiding is now quite audible.
"Well, yeah that's about it", he says, smugness oozing through the phone.
Slowly, a strange expression begins to creep over his face. His features contorting, redness welling up in his eyes. His fists balled until his fingertips turn white. Then, with surprising calm, he addresses Eric. "I am afraid I won't be able to do that Eric. You see, I have just made a pact with Satan himself."
"Excuse me?", Eric says, sounding confused.
"Satan, big guy with hooves. Smells slightly of brimstone. You'd know him if you met him. I've just made him a deal. My soul in exchange for your address. And I'm telling you right now, when I get over there I'm gonna tear out your lower intestine, and floss your teeth with it you little ..."
The stream of threats and insults that follow has even the police wide eyed. By this point, the man has dropped the phone, but the ranting still continues. Each of the officers takes an arm and begins hauling him out of the apartment. He screams and thrashes, legs flailing left and right. The shorter officer reaches into a pouch on his belt and pulls out what looks like a mechanical insect with two shiny metal teeth protruding from it.
The police wrestle him to the ground and the shorter officer presses the insect against his throat. Eyes wide and limbs stiff the man emits a strange groan for a long moment, then goes limp. As the officers struggle to drag him into the hall, his mind spirals down into a deep, dreamless sleep.