With the writing of this story, I wanted to try something different. I wanted to create something that was not only fun, but very unique to read. I used multiple narrators, (one being a man working for a magazine and the other being the story writer himself) a story happening within a story, and 4th wall breaking moments that skew the story in whichever way the narrator liked at the time. Throw in the nonsensical nature of the story itself and I think it comes off as a pretty fun read. I hope you enjoy it. —Caleb James
I’m telling you Doc, you’re gonna love it, just gonna love it. When I read this I was blown away. The writer really has something unique here. Excuse me? No, no, this won’t be long at all. Sure Doc, I’ll read it to you… oh yeah won’t take no time at all. I know you’re a real busy guy. What’s that? Oh yeah the guy is my cousin… but trust me that’s not why I brought this to your attention. No of course not… I understand, it’s just… Okay, okay, no problem Doc. I’ll just give you the condensed version. The narration is what’s unique here. It gets real personal like… even messes with the speed of the story during some parts. I really never read… Sure, sure, let me just get to it then. I’ll read it exactly how it’s written if that’s what you really want…
It’s late. More specifically, it’s a Saturday night in January, and it’s very late. Ethan, a senior in college is quite used to late nights. In fact, it’s much more unusual to see him around during the morning hours than it is in the dead of night. He has even gone so far as to schedule his classes in such a way as to better fit his vampire like sleep cycle.
If it were a normal Saturday night at this time, Ethan would just be leaving a local punk rock show in the city—or if he were feeling more ambitious, as he’s often known to be, he might already be drunk on a friend’s couch sharing his theory on why Kurt Cobain might still be alive if he had chosen to play guitar right-handed instead of the much harder to learn, left-handed style.
This is not a normal Saturday night though. As a matter of fact, it is the exact opposite of what Ethan would consider normal; at least for him anyway. As fate would have it, he unwittingly made a promise to a stranger just the night before in exchange for help. It is this unplanned promise that has him traveling in this familiar, yet also completely foreign part of town right now.
With his legs unsteady and his head feeling as if it were a small sailboat being tossed back and forth in rough waters, Ethan walks along the quiet streets of his college campus. Contrasting against the normal darkness of this late hour, a steady blanket of snow has begun to fall from an unusually bright sky. And despite the ominous appearance of a fierce winter squall preparing to mount a vicious assault, the current temperature is actually quite warm for January. Of course, this effect can be rather exaggerated by the rush of blood to the outermost layer of the epidermis; no doubt brought by hours of a skinny punk rock enthusiast consuming copious amounts of Irish whiskey—but that is neither here nor there.
Foreboding weather forecast aside, this strange evening has come together from the cobbled together bits of many improbable, yet not impossible, random occurrences snapping together like a large jigsaw puzzle. To properly bring one up to speed on Ethan’s current situation, we will first need to delve into the hectic events of the previous evening. Trimming the fat that is the minute details, the most pertinent events in which lead up to the current, snow filled night, occurred like so:
Ethan, in a rare moment of early evening slumber, was regretfully awakened by the ringing of his cell phone. Being a young man more adept at gracefully ignoring any such form of communication when in full control of his faculties, begrudgingly answered the phone while still locked in a partial dream-like stupor. The person on the other end of the line was none other than Ethan’s not so good friend, Justin.
This particular no good friend named Justin has a habit of only calling his “friends” when he is in need of a favor. Justin also happens to be Ethan’s local “wacky tobacky” dealer, which means he more often than not gets away with being a not so good friend as the purpose he serves offsets the trouble he also tends to bring about. Now, if Ethan didn’t give into this rare state of evening drowsiness, or if he were to read Justin’s name on the phone screen (which happens to simply be put in as “WEED”) before answering, this jigsaw puzzle box would have never been opened in the first place.
As he thoughtlessly answered the phone with a hoarse “Hello,” Ethan had no choice but to listen as Justin immediately proceeded to inform him, who was only then realizing that he was indeed awake, that there was an impromptu show going on at their favorite off campus café, “The Mean Bean,” as it is has been so cleverly titled. With the invitation not being at all unusual for a Friday night, Ethan dismissed Justin with an irritated, “So what?”
Justin informed Ethan that the singer of the band that was set to perform had downed a bottle of gut rot, bottom shelf tequila before their first set had even started, and he had been “Puking up the worm” for the last 25 minutes. In short, they needed a replacement singer and Ethan, who use to sing for a dreadful Ramones tribute band, was the only name to come up: the idea did not strike Ethan as being particularly enticing.
A small back and forth took place that was much less like a conversation and more like a couple of drunken frat boys trying to play ping-pong with only one paddle. Justin would swat wildly at the ping pong— disguised as a “personal favor”—with his hand filled only with the shallow promises of free leafy green substances coupled with the attention of pretty females that said illicit substances would attract. In turn, Ethan, always stubborn and not very easy to negotiate with, would respond with a casual backhand of his paddle made only of annoyed indifference. This would go on for some time before Ethan, having become fully exasperated with the pointless banter, finally agreed to sing a few songs in place of the drunken buffoon who had no doubt, “puked up the worm” by that point.
To augment reality for a moment now, I’m going to drastically speed up the following unimportant events:
A naked Ethan rolled out of bed like it suddenly caught fire, rushed around the room in rapid succession, and proceeded to frantically flail his limbs about as if he were swarmed by bees. A tornado of clothing whipped around the room, ultimately leading to him being fully dressed as if he were some sort of parlor shop magician. His legs moved like that of an elite sprinter as he rushed through the halls like he was escaping the momentarily unattended prison that is his on campus apartment building. Once out of the building, he hopped into a dull grey, 2001 Pontiac Sunfire and immediately sped off down the narrow road. With a speed so blazing he could go back in time if he had something to convert the rapidly amassed gigawatts, he zigzagged all through the maze like roads of the campus until he came to a main intersection. He stopped for a solid millisecond at a red light then was off again like a bat out of hell. A mere two minutes later he was dodging potholes as deep as moon craters in the parking lot of a hip café. He suddenly shot out of the car like a bullet and entered through the side door of the hipster haven.
With a heavy stomping upon the metaphorical brakes, the story now screeches and skids partially out of control as we return to traversing this tale at normal speed:
Ethan found Justin sitting at the bar and they exchanged slight head nods accompanied by Nomad like grunts. This lead to a few actual human words being thrown about which described in no real detail, what was to be sung and when.
Ethan walked up to the band and had a quick word with them about the set list, then waited patiently as they finished whatever final instrument preparations that needed finishing. While Ethan waited, he happened to catch a glimpse of something out of the corner of his eye. It was not so much an object that caught his attention, but rather a feeling; the feeling of someone or something staring at him. He whipped his head around like a boxer who just received a vicious punch to the giblets, but he only managed to see the outline of a face in the corner before a band member walked in front of his line of sight and pointed him towards the microphone. For some reason the image of a beautiful green forest entered Ethan’s mind for the briefest second. Then the image was almost instantly replaced with the task at hand.
Moments later, Ethan was up on stage and nervously belting out the lyrics to the first song; which he only knew because it was the cover of a song his old band use to open their shows with. An unenthusiastic smattering of applause did little to ease his nervousness, but he managed to sing the next handful of songs well enough.
The band took a quick break from playing and Ethan, feeling a bit queasy from the butterflies that were no doubt drunk off energy drinks, chicken wings, and had been having an orgy in his stomach for that last 45 minutes, cornered Justin to ask for the bag of “special medicine” that was promised to him.
“Oh yeah, I got it all bagged up for you,” Justin said as he fiddled around in his coat pocket for a moment before checking the other various compartments of his garments. “Damn. You know what, I must have left it back at my place. Don’t worry though, it’s only five minutes down the road.” A very stupid grin came across his face at that remark. “You have time before you go back up. Let’s go get it real quick.” And just like that, the first puzzle piece came out of the box.
For the sake of saving time, yours and mine, this part shall be simplistically condensed:
Ethan and Justin exited through the side of the club. They hopped in a lime green jalopy that may or may not have been Justin’s vehicle. The not so dynamic duo drove exactly five minutes and twenty-seven seconds down the road. The car stopped and parked in front of an old dilapidated dump of a house in a crummy part of town. Justin quickly got out of the car and jogged into the rundown house while Ethan stayed in the car; most likely to keep it from being stolen. Justin, now carrying a small black book bag, ran out of the building and got behind the wheel of the car once more. The two returned back to the café parking lot in exactly five minutes and forty-two seconds—rolled a very fancy cigarette with very special cigarette rolling paper using a very unusual smelling tobacco like product. The two wonderfully undistinguished gentlemen then had a relaxing yet all too brief smoke. Then they re-entered the café just in time for the band to resume play.
Now wasn’t that fantastically simple? If only real life could play out in such a quick, unrestrained sequence of moments.
Once back in the surprisingly packed café, Justin cozied up to a few very young ladies and Ethan sang like an anxious man who knew that any moment he was on the verge of spontaneous combustion.
As Ethan sang the last verse of “Lovesong” by the Cure, which just so happened to be one of his favorite non-punk rock tunes, he chanced to catch a pair of piercing emerald eyes gazing at him from the dimly lit corner of the café: unbeknownst to Ethan, this would be the biggest of the puzzle pieces to fall in place.
One hour went by and Ethan kept singing song after song. Through that hour he tried his hardest to ignore those eyes so firmly fixated upon him. He could deal with a crowd of eyes, but just one pair staring so intently at him was really unnerving—confidence wrecking even. Nobody else in the place had even really been paying attention to the band all night; treating them as if they were just a living jukebox there to create background noise. But that one set of eyes—they never wavered. Those haunting green eyes never once looked away in the last hour. They just quietly peered through the darkened corner, as if their only purpose were to watch Ethan’s every movement.
Periodically Ethan would look over while he was singing and sure enough, those eyes were still on him. At some point he actually found himself lost, not even singing, but rather just looking into those eyes. There was something about them—something very feminine yet strong. He couldn’t make out the face or body through the shadows; only the eyes. One thing Ethan knew right away though, and he had no idea how he knew other than perhaps his intuition, was that those amazing eyes unquestionably belonged to that of a young woman. Even without being able to see the face or body, he just knew.
At the conclusion of their final song, “You Really Got Me Now” by the Kinks, Ethan jumped down from the tiny, barely raised platform that management called a stage, and looked around for those haunting green eyes. But for as attentive as the person they had belonged to was, the owner of those lustrous eyes were nowhere to be found.