Fake Fan: A Short Story

The Avett Brothers – True Sadness

Somewhere along the way, I stopped lying to myself about the beach.

How on Earth do you tell someone you don’t like the beach?

I never go in the water; it’s cold and unknown depths freak me out to no end. Because of this, I never fulfilled the whole experience, but still always claimed to love the beach.

I just like the feel of sand under my toes when I throw a frisbee around. Fuck the water.

Believe it or not, my mom is full-blooded Cherokee; just ask the Englishman that married her.

He was a Raiders fan and drove a Ford truck. Raiders fans drive Chevys.

I remember when we were leaving the beach, back when I was 6 or 7ish, the big one-ton truck had a tire removed and “Fake Fan” sprayed across the side, the Fathead sticker scraped off leaving behind a bit of facemask and the ironic letters “aid,” – by some twist of fate we would receive none – and in big block letters “FAG” across the windshield.

That was before I understood that word or grew to take offense to it. Though I had been made fun of for seeming different in elementary school, nobody really learned that word until middle school; I learned to protect myself against it.

I started taking Kickboxing classes at 8 and the first time somebody called me that name I beat her ass from one end of the playground to the other. Took about 4 “security guards” (they’re yard duties, don’t let them fool you) to pull me off of her.

My mom was pissed. My dad was proud of me for sticking up for myself, and when the time came, I told him how I felt long before my mother.

She probably could’ve guessed but her fathers would tell her to wait for me to come to her on my own terms. Denial is a slippery slope.

Much later in life, I visited Dad to see how he was holding up. Mom was gone now and the funeral wasn’t far off. I brought home my boyfriend and laughed hysterically when they got in a fight over the old Ford sitting in the driveway, a new Raiders sticker on the tailgate. He started placing a new one on top of the old one every couple of years so that now it’s raised enough that there’s a noticeable edge.

About five years later Dan and I went to cremate Dad. We had married a year prior to that, Dad was the best man and had seemed the same old geezer I had grown to love, no health issues at all it seemed.

He was lonely. Turns out a broken heart is a real thing.

Mom I could handle, but Dad…

Dan unhooked his boat and drove me all the way out to sea where no ports and no piers were visible. When I opened the Urn there was a note at the top. I tossed handfuls of the ash on each end of the boat and then slowly dumped the rest in a circle around the boat as best I could. Dad was only 57 when he passed, and mom even younger…

I opened the note after crying on Dan’s arm for a while, the sea air slapping at our faces.

“Thanks for facing your fears.”

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Bubble: A Short Story

Every Time I Die – It Remembers

 

We covered the trash cans in plastic wrap.

Necessary precautions for any party Bubble came to.

My brother and I had one night with an empty house, and neither of us wanted to lose that.

Meredith took the kids to the in-law’s and Keith and I baby-proofed what we could and taped all the knives to the roof of the coat closet. Last week we pulled three drowned squirrels out of the tub and Bubble was passed out with the kitchen cutlery duct taped to his hands, fucking alcoholic bastard, like prison wasn’t enough for him, now he has to come fuck up our lives. Keith was keeping those squirrels for an experiment at work, and his three sons were training them to chase cat toys like house pets; Bubble just thought they were pests. Keith and I put up traps outside and caught a couple wild ones so that Keith might be able to keep his job–Meredith already has divorce papers drawn up.

Bubble got out of prison about a month ago and spent two weeks hitchhiking across the country, I always told him he couldn’t outrun his problems but I moved from the east to the west coast so what’s my excuse?

“Does Bubble drive?” Keith had the curtain drawn back a bit.

“Not as long as I’ve known him. Why?”

“I dunno, somebody’s pullin’ up.”

“Shit, I guess we’ll find out, maybe he got a ride? How long does this pizza need to bake for?”

Bubble came busting through the front door, following him was a man we had never met. But he wore a cowboy hat and some worn out boots; not surprising for this hole in the wall Keith calls a town.

“Hey, Hey! What’s up, fuckers?”

Oh, Bubble.

“This big bitch here is Tex. Don’t stare at his ugly ass too long, he’ll make you blind.”

Tex tipped his hat to us and took a seat by himself in the living room.

“Who’s comin’? Anybody I know?”

“Bubble, who the fuck do you know round here?”

“Shit, they’re all in the house already. Last week was pretty crazy, though, no repeat customers?”

“You scared ’em all away.” Keith set the timer for the pizza and turned the game on for Tex.

“Bullshit, that was nothin’ last week.”

“Nobody wants to play Edward Scissor Hands with you anymore, Bubble. And you leave those squirrels alone tonight, alright? Tex, man, whatchu drinkin’?” I grabbed a few beers.

“Tex don’t drink. I’ll drink his for him, though. And I’ll be happy, too.” Bubble chuckled, grabbing the drinks from me.

“Does Tex even talk?”

“Enough to get by. Shit, the guys right there, go ask him your-damn-self?”

The guy kind of freaked me out a bit. He didn’t stink but looked like he should and he had a twitch, hardly noticeable but when somebody jerks their face around a couple times every few minutes it starts to be.

“Tex, where ya from?” I brought him some water and sat down.

“Jersey.”

“Small world! I’m from good ol’ NJ, too! Keith, too.”

“Jersey Island.”

“Oh. Where’s…”

“Oakley, California.”

“Is that close to anything?”

“Depends on where you’re talkin’ about.”

“Okay… What do you do?”

“Ain’t much work for an ex-con. Work so hard to change, hardly the energy to actually work.”

“Ex-con? Is that how you know Bubble?” I sipped from my IPA.

“Told me his name was Bartholomew. Just met the guy last night at the bar. Kept talkin’ about pullin’ a job and Lord knows I need the money.” Tex still hadn’t touched the water.

“You’ve got some forehead sweat goin’ on, man. I’m gonna turn down the heat. I’ll be back in a bit.”

Truth was I had to talk to Keith. How the hell is Bubble going to bring this guy in here having barely known him. Kids live here goddamnit.

“Keith. PSSSSSST. Keith come here!”

“And that’s about the time I woke up with my pants on my head and shoes on my hands… Hold on to that for a minute, Bubs. I’ll be right back… what’s your issue now, Jason?”

“Well, isn’t it obvious? Tex, man. Dude freaks me the fuck out.”

“Why? He hasn’t done anything but hold a conversation with you this whole time. He seems alright from where I’m standing.”

“He thinks Bubble’s name is Bartholomew, they only met last night–at a bar nonetheless, he’s an ex-con, he knows where we live now, and he and Bubble have already talked about doing a ‘job’ whatever that means.”

“Woah, Woah, slow down, dude, just breathe. Let’s just talk to Bubs, I’m sure it’s all just a misunderstanding.”

And around the corner we had pistols shoved in our faces. Bubble didn’t say a word as he tied the two of us up, back to back like the movies. I realized now how well we’d been played. Bubble wasn’t here to rekindle a friendship.

Keith’s safe was upstairs in the crawl space, no way they’d find it.

“Found it! Hoist me up, Tex, I’m too short for this shit.”

Splintering sounds lofted down the stairs.

“Bubble must’ve dropped the safe. So much for your DIY bamboo strips.”

“Shut the fuck up for a second, Jason. You talk too much. Can you get loose?”

“Really? If I could get loose I’d’ve done it already.”

“I think I can undo your ties, push up against my back more, try to get a good grip on this shit.”

“OH, BOYS! I know you heard us comin’! We dropped the safe down the stairs for ya fucks!” Bubble bounded towards us, Tex in tow with the safe. “Now, Keith, Jason, tell us the code.”

“Fuck you, Bubs. We invited you to my family’s house. You’re a real piece of shit, ya know that? You drowned all my squirrels, terrorize people with knives, and steal from the only people that ever placed any value on your life. You deserve to be back in the Pen, man, this is bullshit.” Keith spit at his feet. “You remember when we were kids and you were trying to catch lizards and accidentally grabbed a piece of cactus? Jason and I spent hours getting all the little spines out of your hand before you went home because you weren’t supposed to chase lizards at our house and we didn’t want you in trouble so that we could still play together. And the time you had your birthday at our place. We played Red Rover and one of the neighbor kids yelled to pick your sister again because she tripped last time and we all laughed. Or the time we jumped in the frozen lake together and Jason almost drowned because of hypothermia, but we couldn’t pronounce the name back then so we said hippo-ferma instead.”

“That’s the past, Keith.” Bubble lowered his gun and pushed it against Keith’s head. “That was before I discovered how desperate this world makes people. Now, I could beat you, or put a bullet in your brain, but instead, Tex and I are going to skip the bullshit middleman and use some power tools. So, take care now.”

Keith and I watched the door shut and the car headlights moved out of sight.

Human Encounters

The Jungle Giants – No One Needs To Know

Short and sweet tonight, folks. Next week I plan on writing out a short story I’ve been working on. Who knows how long that’ll take, though. I wanted to talk tonight about how people, no matter where they are in life, are adamant and quick to share information about themselves.

I mentioned in my last post, The Sacrificial Lamb, that I drive for FedEx when I’m not in school (which would be now…thank the universe for holiday breaks)–I also brought up the methadone clinic and that whole scenario I experienced. Another thing I’ve picked up on, in brief, fleeting moments–people will share just about anything with somebody they don’t see on a regular basis (or have any reason to trust).

I find this to be more humorous than anything. For instance, I delivered a box of wine that required a signature from the recipient. I rang the doorbell and they signed. However, the elderly woman insisted on explaining how I had perfect timing because she had just returned from a vacation to Hawaii. I didn’t need to know any of that, I just needed a damn signature…

I’m not talking about anything new here either; every single day somebody starts a conversation with a drawn-out monologue about how their right foot feels heavier than their left when they climb stairs–meanwhile, we all just want to live our own selfish lives and talk about how our feet feel fine when we climb stairs, but that we are worried about how our son is dealing with his first sexual experience or drug overdose. It’s all relative.

Honestly, it’s not something that bothers me–in fact, it’s more intriguing than anything that people would share their personal life so easily with strangers.

Oh! Another great example–I was standing in my truck prior to delivering my packages for the day, and the fella in the truck next to me starts blurting out how he used to live in Wisconsin and how people here in Southern Oregon don’t know how to drive when it’s cold outside.

Stay with me for a second… it was 7:30 in the morning and I hadn’t even officially met this guy… and he was yelling from inside his truck with the windows closed… I smiled, laughed when he laughed and nodded to him… then I began my strange spiral into the idea that people are incredibly open about themselves.

Pay attention to your next couple conversations and see how quick some people are to share about what’s going on in their lives at the moment. You’ll see that you do it, too. I know I certainly do, and it’s a funny little thing to be self-aware of.

Enjoy your next human encounters!

The Sacrificial Lamb

Desaparecidos – The Left Is Right

I wanted to bring this up because sometimes I believe we as humans take for granted the common struggle of being alive. We are our own sacrificial lambs. Our own judge, jury, and executioner. Our own UFOs. And our own Boogiemen. We are the reason we fail or succeed at anything we do, not just life.

When I’m not in school full-time I drive and deliver for FedEx. A couple days ago, Tuesday I think it was, I had a delivery to the methadone clinic in the city I live in. It was hands down the most intimidating delivery I’ve had up to this point. The place itself wasn’t overly seedy, but the people that were there stared me down the ENTIRE time I was inside. Like I did something wrong. If I was wrong for doing my job then so be it–it got me thinking, though.

I tried to put myself in their shoes. If I had been a struggling addict mother, one baby on my hip and another by my side, standing in line at the methadone clinic at 10 something in the morning on a Tuesday, how would I look at a clean, well shaven, FedEx delivery driver? Honestly, if I had the same personality I do now, I wouldn’t look at all. I’d more than likely be too ashamed of myself to look. Not because I’m a bad person or anything, but because I’d know I was in a much worse position. I could be the happiest mofo in town, but as soon as I’m reminded of how better off some others are (not that I’m all that well off necessarily) I would immediately shut down. The rest of my day would probably be ruined.

The only point I’m trying to make here is that none of us truly understand the sacrifices anybody has had to make in their lifetime.

You can sit me down, look me in the eyes, and tell me you understand it and always will. But say it to me next time you’re in line at the methadone clinic awaiting your legal dosage.

And then say it to me again when you’re spending time at your summer home in Cabo.

Yeah, you’ll be lying both times. I’d do the same thing. We like to think that because we’ve had experiences that we can automatically speak on the struggles of another, but the reality is that we only reflect on the struggles of others when those struggles are forced in front of our faces.

Exhibit A: Me at the methadone clinic… I didn’t even know that clinic existed until I delivered there.

I started thinking about how when I die nobody will know what I went through. My close friends and family will be aware of the things that I did but not necessarily of the life that I lived. Not as a whole at least. It stands to reason, the only person you’re out to please is yourself, and even those people that carry on and on about their life hold some things back. Extra special secrets only shared between lovers or perhaps a dark thought that need not be voiced–even now I’m withholding information from all of you (not about my thoughts on the clinic and the subject at hand, though).

If your life was played on a projection in the sky for the whole world to see, what parts would you be embarrassed about? What parts didn’t you share with people? How much of our life goes unseen? A handout to the homeless? A donation to Toys for Tots? Chances are you told somebody about those, though. The unfortunate part of life is that we are all destined to share only the things we deem worthy. We pick apart our life until it’s neat portions and then we divvy what we want and keep the leftovers in the freezer for some drunken occasion in the future… or it rots in our graves with us.

As morbid as that sounds, all I’m hoping anybody takes from this post is that our lives are continually taken for granted. We go around flaunting all of our nice things and forget about our neighbors on the other side of the fence that are starving (or standing in line at the methadone clinic). We sacrifice and give up things right and left until we have a “successful” life and then we forget about that struggle, we forget about when WE were standing in line at the methadone clinic (or whatever hypothetical situation), we forget when WE were homeless or when we received a donation FROM Toys for Tots so that we could have a Christmas like our neighbors had and refused to share with us.

We forget sometimes what it’s like to be human.

Dealing With Family and Christmas Greed

Maybe “Dealing” isn’t the right word for it. But Greed certainly is.

If you hop over to psychologytoday.com you can read about how to help your child avoid Christmas Greed Syndrome. I’m certainly not qualified to help anybody with it (and that won’t be the last time I’m not qualified to help).

Christmas Greed Syndrome is characterized by material gluttony and lack of appreciation.

Now, I understand this seems a rather obscure topic to start a blog with. But we’re here to navigate the human condition and what better way than to look at greed and family (everybody can relate in some way).

And away we go.

So, when I was younger, we’re talking like, real young–only stories to go off of, it was a running joke with my 4 older siblings that I would love absolutely anything I got for Xmas.

“This is exactly what I wanted!” is what I’m told was my line for every gift I unwrapped.

I had an inflatable ball pit (like those found at McDonald’s back in the day (minus the inflatable aspect)). I called it my arm-pit, it was shaped like a bear and it was the best thing in my life, I never wanted anything more. I loved Xmas with my whole heart.

Idk what happened between then and now, maybe just growing up and seeing how adults/peers acted around Xmas, but it’s one of my least favorite holidays. Honestly, I’ve grown to dislike almost all of the “Hallmark” holidays. I’ve found that it boils down to a plain dislike for greed.

Right? Who doesn’t hate greedy bastards?

Yeah, but if you’re the one saying that then you’re part of the problem.

I’m part of the problem.

I’m not going to chastise anybody here (on my blog I mean) more than myself. It’s just an observation I’ve made, primarily during my time in the military. Not that those in the military are greedy, don’t put words in my mouth (or on my page), but that I’ve had the “privilege” to encounter SO MANY different types of people.

Anywhere from dirt poor to obscenely wealthy (including a guy that CLAIMED to be the son (or grandson?) of the inventors of “Life Alert”).

And it was in the military that I began to realize that sometimes the most greedy people are those that grew up poor–their paychecks disappeared the fastest.

Sometimes this was because they were sending money home to help out their family and I’m all for that, but I’m referencing those that went out and bought things they didn’t need, and oh baby you’d better believe I’m part of that group.

I’m still part of that group.

I live beyond my means and I stress about money, but I pay my bills, too, so I like to think I’ve found a happy medium.

I’ll get on with it.

Greed has become the single most aggravating abstraction to witness. I’d just like to see less of it, really–I know, how could I have been so long winded to end that subject with such a blatant and boring statement. Well, I guess we’ll just have to deal with it, kinda like greed in a way.

Alright, family, here we go, strap in.

This time I visited WebMD–and I actually didn’t read symptoms for anything, so I don’t have a sneaking suspicion that I’m dying any quicker than I already am. HOWEVER!, I did check out this intriguing article by R. Morgan Griffin aptly titled “Home for the Holidays.”

I absolutely adore my siblings now that we all can function on similar brain waves (I’m the youngest by a minimum of 6 years, so all I’m implying is that I had a lot of living to do before that could happen). This isn’t about my relationship with my siblings, though.

If you’re struggling with the “Take. Take. Take.” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) of this time of year, and that includes toxic holiday gatherings, then do yourself a favor and head over to read that article. Like I said, I’m no professional on any of these subjects, but I can speak to you as one human to another (don’t be afraid to leave a comment for me).

I’m no “newb” when it comes to feeling upset during the holidays. I haven’t spent a single Xmas with my family since leaving for the military–going on 5 years now. I also think that my Scrooge mentality has developed from not being with my family when I’ve always felt that it mattered most. It’s all just theory, really. I might seek out some therapy at some point because I’m such a curious son-of-a-saint.

Anyway, thanks for going on this strange journey with me. I love to write (Creative Writing major) and being able to do it and share it with everybody, even if it isn’t something I’d attempt to publish in a book, really means a lot to me, folks. Take care this coming Christmas, be safe, and may the universe deliver the necessities unto you.

And don’t forget to remember, we are all just as confused about humanity as the generation before us. Let’s navigate the human condition together.