Well, this one is pretty messed up, but, ya know, it just came to me and I figured, why the heck not? Then, I cranked up the Mumford & Sons (thanks brother of mine).
This one was complete stream of consciousness with a once over speaking to work out a couple kinks. But, essentially, it is a first draft.
These stories, and this kind of motif, has been done before, I know, but I’m just starting out, so, baby steps people.
Again, please, let me know what you think, especially if it is critical. How else will I grow if you don’t eviscerate me on occasion?
Thank you for reading!
Sheridan A. Smith
Owner of no small metal rods, I swear.
“Have you tried the no pasta diet?” Said a slightly portly man in the front seat of a large car driving down an appropriately lit street.
“What’s those things? Carbs! Yeah. Have you tried the no carb diet?” His kindly squinting eyes were on the man in the back seat who seemed to be fiddling with a notebook. Carl, that was his name.
“Nah, I keep pretty fit, as you can see.” He playfully raps his stomach, which playfully repels his fist without absorbing nearly as much as the questioners would have. His name was Eugene.
Eugene turned his head, still cockeye in his seat, “What about you, Dan?” that was the driver. Dan, however, seemed in no mood to talk. He was concentrating and his jaw clenched a bit when Eugene posed the question.
A terse “no” was it.
“Nah, I didn’t think so. You know, I’m the only one with some paunch to me. Some fluff. My wife says she likes it. I dunno. Maybe it suits me.” Said Eugene with beaming smile. Carl couldn’t help but chuckle to himself in disbelief. Dan continued to look forward and drive without reaction. Eugene settled himself into the seat chuckling for quite a while at his perceived urbane wit.
Everyone was quiet for a little while. There wasn’t much to talk about, but Carl piped up with a question.
“How long is this gonna take? I mean, when will we get wherever we’re goin’?”
“Hard to tell, ya know. Not like we’re out this way all the time. Takes some navigatory hocus pocus. Whaddaya think, Dan? How long is it gonna take?” Eugene said disarmingly.
“Looks like rain. I hope it’s soon.” Added Carl.
Dan looked over at Eugene briefly. His face was lit partially by the dashboard and you could tell he hadn’t been sleeping well.
“C’mon Gene. We aren’t gonna keep this up, are we? I dunno where the hell we’re going?”
“Well that’s a relief.” Chortled Carl, and Eugene giggled near out of himself he was trying to keep his composure so helplessly.
Dan just sighed off the laughter and said, sullenly, “Alright, guys. I should be able to find it in the next hour. I’ll let you know, just stop pickin’ on me, okay? I need to concentrate.” He gave a quick glance over to Eugene, hoping his vulnerable expression wouldn’t be picked up. Eugene was already looking back at him. The look on his face was that of a Father telling his child, “Okay, we can be done for today, but tomorrow you’ll get right back up on that bike, right?”
This elicited another sigh from Dan.
Carl looked at Eugene mischievously, and gave a wink. Eugene smiled back at Carl.
“So, read any good books lately?”
Dan sighed again, in a heavier manor.
“What?!” exclaimed Eugene. “It’s a valid question. Don’t hold me accountable, Danny, just because it’s overused!”
Dan just gave a simple response, “Are we really going to do this again?”, and this seemed to turn the mischief into a sincere conversation, just to give the driver some time to drive.
“Yeah.” Said Carl.
“Whoa. Let’s not get to chatty, there, Carl!”
“Nah, I just didn’t wanna sound, you know, like a…you know.” Carl paused, “I’ve been reading a lot of poetry.”
Eugene put his left hand up to his chest, extended his right, as if holding a delicate flower and said, in as grand a voice as possible “What light, from yonder window breaks? It is the East and Juliette a fox!”
“Ya, see! That’s why I didn’t wanna say.” said Carl, barely hiding his hurt. Dan, in response, hit Eugene’s shoulder and gave a reproving look.
“What? I was just pickin’ on ya. Can’t take a joke? Alright, alright. I’ll give ya another chance. What is this poetry you’re reading?”
“It’s not like that stuff. I’ve been reading ‘Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’, and there is no light breaking, nor fair maidens. It’s a story about an old man, he stops a guy, just to chat you know…”
“He tells the young man of his story, when he was sailing in better fortune and shot an albatross forgetting that it had brought him luck in the past. After that, ‘wata wata everywhere, and not a drop to drink. Wata wata everywhere, and all the boards did shrink.’” interrupted Eugene.
“You’ve read it!”
“Yeah, a long time ago.” Said Eugene. Something in the way Eugene said that made Carl uneasy. Eugene sat back down in his seat and was looking forward. He had briefly lost some of the normal joviality in his voice. It was a distant voice that sounded strange, but sounded like it was the one that was supposed to be there.
“Heavy stuff. I was reading it because someone said it was kinda spooky, but it really liked it.”
“Not enough people read. It’s a shame. Somethin’ like that can tell ya a lot about yourself. It can tell ya a lot about life.”
Eugene, turned back towards Carl, smiled.
“Speakin’ of books, I’m trying to redo my library. Well, a small bedroom we put alotta books in. Right now, there’s this raddy carpet that has been in the house since long before we moved in. Wife wants to take it out, ya know, get some hardwood in there. But, I like ta walk in there in the mornings to read the paper with my coffee, and, I dunno about you, but I can’t read the paper with socks on. A floor that cold just ain’t right for mornings.”
“Yeah? I like hardwood. Not sure how it would be in the mornings, though. I got slippers.” Said Carl.
Eugene just chortled. “Yeah? Well la-di-da!”
“Hey, I’m not the one fighting for the life of a carpet just because he hates taking his news with socks on. Who’s the weird one here?”
Again, the conversation lapsed. Carl sat back in his seat, contentedly looking out the window. His notebook had all but been forgotten.
“It should only be a few more minutes fellas.”
“Thanks Dan.” Eugene said.
“Whatcha writing down?” he was looking at the notebook in Carl’s lap.
“Aw, nothin’ really.”
“Nah, if you’re writin’ it, it’s important. How many people take notebook with ‘em?”
“Reporters?” said Dan, hoping to avoid the question.
“Ya got me there. Seriously, what is it?”
“I’m trying to write a note to my girlfriend. I have to apologize.”
“I get it.” Said Eugene. “Regrets aren’t something easy. You’re compelled to make some sorta amends and God knows what that is. I won’t pry as to the note. You got alotta regrets?”
“Not too many.” Said Carl.
“You’re young, so I guess that makes sense. But I dunno. You haven’t made your share of enemies yet? You haven’t stabbed a few in the back?”
Carl looked up from the notebook as the car was coming to a stop. His eyes were wide and he seemed to shake from his toes in his nice shiny shoes up to his all to fashionable hat. He looked at Eugene, whose face had become, if not stern, then just stone. It was set, and you knew no matter what you did, it wasn’t gonna move.
Eugene turned in his seat and got out. Dan put the car into park and got out himself. For a brief moment, Carl thought about climbing into the front seat and turning the keys which were still in the ignition. He then, immediately, knew that he would have no place to go.
His hand grasped the door handle and slowly he rose from the car. Eugene just shook his head approvingly in an almost imperceptible motion. Dan was holding a gun. It wasn’t extended, as if he was going to shoot Carl, but it was out.
“I don’t wanna shoot you.” Said Eugene. “Or, more properly, I don’t want Daniel here to shoot you. He doesn’t like to, though, I assume, he might like it more than the alternative.”
From the pockets of his coat, Eugene pulled out a small rod. It was heavy, and you could see the weight of it pull his thick hand. With the rod up in front of his face, and his other hand searching in the other pocket, Eugene spoke to Carl calmly, without looking at him.
“You got regrets. I know you do. Like the albatross. It’s hangin’ around your neck, and you wanna get rid of it, yeah?”
Carl didn’t shake his head, but he wanted to.
“I got ‘em too.” Eugene continued. “We all do. Not one of us can say we ain’t screwed up a bit in life. Problem is of magnitude. Mostly we rectify the situation before it gets out of hand…like this.”
Eugene pulled a smallish garbage bag from his coat pocket and put it over the rod and his entire arm.
“You see, my wife hates gettin’ stains out, so I adapt.”
Dan piped up after this, “I’ll do it, Gene. Just stop talkin’. You’re not helpin’ anyone.”
Eugene sighed and looked back at Dan. Dan was holding the gun, trained on the downward gazing head of Carl.
Turning back to Carl, Eugene said, “Did you have a good night tonight? Did we have some laughs?”
Carl raised his head and looked completely puzzled.
“I mean to say, before all this, did we have some good conversation? We were bonding, right? And there’s nothing worse than a horrible car ride. No way to end a life, is it?”
Carl started to sob at this, but he tried to grimace and stop himself.
“How can you ask him that?! He doesn’t have enough on his mind? You gotta send him to his maker by mockin’ him? I never understood you.” Protested Dan.
“Yer right. Sorry.” He turned to Carl and said, again, “sorry.”
Carl looked up at Eugene who had a piteous smile on his face. Carl straightened himself up.
“You had yer times to come clean, and we thought you were a good kid. Really, we did. Just got too greedy is all, and that’s yer Albatross. You thought it was just fun, but this is what comes of it.”
He stepped closer to Carl. There was no menace in his eyes, but it was just as if Eugene were hauling firewood. Not easy, but not hard either. When he got to Carl, he smiled again patted him on the shoulder. Carl’s shoulder collapsed under the weight of this gesture.
“Look at it this way, this is the end of yer Albatross. Ya don’t have to carry it anymore.”
Looking out, past Eugene and past Dan, Carl saw a few stars peeking through the clouds. They were out by some railroad tracks. There were no other lights around, and he saw mountains in the distance. It was a pretty place.
Turning his eyes back to a sympathetic Eugene, he saw a slight reassuring nod. Just after that, that face, so round and unassuming, turned into a twisted picture filled with hate and malice. His arm raised. Dan closed his eyes but didn’t move but to lower his gun. The rod came down with such force that Carl’s body dropped limp.
Raising his arm again, blood flew from the plastic as it came back down. He hit, with uncommon ferocity, this limp shadow until, instead of a dull thud, you could hear gravel and dirt hit the metal in Eugene’s weighty hand.
He stood upright and removed the plastic bag. Shoving the rod back down his deep coat pocket, Eugene turned around. He was breathing heavily and his face looked tired and drained. Dan was standing near the car, as he hadn’t moved since leaving the car. His gun was raised. His left hand trembled with the weight of it, so his right came to its assistance.
He cocked the gun as Eugene rotated his shoulder, massaging it as he did.
“I gave him a good night. We had some laughs. Isn’t that a better way to go?”
“It’s monstrous! You trick them, make them think you’re their friend and then…do that!!” Dan looked at the body that once was Carl. Carl with the trouble with his girlfriend, the Carl who wore slippers so his feet didn’t get cold in the morning. The Carl that was fit and didn’t mess around with diets.
“Nothing against them. He was a good kid, really, but I gotta do for mine.”
Dan adjusted his stance. He was now standing square with his feet a little ways apart.
“You won’t do it. You’re not that good a guy.” Said Eugene as he turned back to look at Carl.
“I’ll get mine kid, don’t worry.”
Dan put his gun down. Eugene walked back to the car and got in. Dan stood outside in the slight sprinkle. He put his hand on the hood of the car and felt the warmth. That was contrasted with the cold of the water hitting his head. The combination of the two seemed to, for the time being, sooth him into motion again.
Dan got into the car and turned the keys. Turning the steering wheel to turn around the headlights showed him some small trees that were growing near where the body that was Carl lay. His blood had reached them and stopped to saturate the soil around them. Dan’s chest sunk. He pressed his foot down on the gas, trying to leave as quickly as possible.
Eugene sat in the seat next to him, seeming to be a shorter man that he had been just moments before. He was dozing against the window already.