Thursday, November 20, 2008

Published! ZING!

The following is a short story that was published in Living in Fiji. Yay for me!

Derek: The Wonder Years.

Derek was a nice guy. He always turned the other cheek when it came to confrontation, always let little old ladies have his seat on crowded buses and pretty much let women walk all over him. This isn’t so bad, mind you; there are worse things to be than a nice guy. However, Derek’s problem is that not only is he a nice guy, but he is also very unlucky. So, when it comes to excitement, you can usually find Derek at home, trying to beat the last level of Super Mario. He can never quite get that last jump right.

It was on of those nights that fate decided to throw a metaphorical bone at Derek, basically to see if he would bite. As Derek was sitting at home, playing his videogames, the door burst open and through it came a whirlwind. A whirlwind named Gary. Now, everyone has one of those friends, the guy who is a bit of an arse, who makes lewd comments and passes out on your front lawn. Derek’s was Gary.

            “Derek! This is an intervention!” he cried, as he marched across the room towards Derek’s desk.

            “What? What the hell are you talking about Gary?”

            “You haven’t been out of the house in three months! It’s time for someone to do something! It’s time for you to do something!”

            Grabbing the power cable for the computer, Gary wrenched it from its socket, and the computer gave a small fizzle as it winked out. Stunned, Derek stared at the dark screen for a full thirty seconds before blinking. Now normally, one would be angry if someone came into their house, uninvited, and turned off their computer. Derek, however, was a nice guy.

            “Dude! I was using that!” he said, standing up and turning to face Gary.

            Gary sighed, his world weary, heart heavy sigh, and punched Derek in the nose.

     Three months ago, Derek, Gary and Penelope were relaxing at the seawall, watching the sun go down. They were young, restless, and full of hope for the future. Basically, the world had yet to crush their souls.

            “What do you think we’ll be doing in ten years Derek?” Penelope asked, turning to look at him,

            Derek thought about it, he had just started work as a chemical engineer. Having high hopes for the job, he was understandably optimistic.

            “Well, hopefully the same thing we’re doing now, hanging out with our friends, although hopefully richer.”

            “And maybe by then you’d have gotten laid Derek.” Gary said, slapping him on the back and bursting into laughter. Penelope laughed politely, and Derek stared out to sea.

 

            Derek woke up in the passenger seat of Gary’s car, his nose throbbing and his head aching.

            Gary! What is up with you man?” he asked as he reached over to roll down the window.

            “Derek I’m sorry, but I couldn’t think of any other way to get you out of that house, man. I mean, I know you’re still hurting after the Penelope thing, but three months? I mean, I’d understand if you had actually…”

            “Just, shut up Gary, okay?”

            Gary raised an eyebrow; this was new, Derek protesting?

            “Where are we going?”

            “Why, to the clubs of course! Where else would we going on a Friday night?”

“Well…I was up to that last level in…”

“There’s a time and place for everything Derek my man, and Friday is let’s see how much I can drink before I pass out time.”

“I don’t know Gary; I just don’t feel up to it.”

“Listen to me, okay? How long have you known me?”

“Since primary school.”

“And how often have I been right about the need for drunken debauchery?”

Derek thought about this.

 

They were sixteen years old and at the back of the school.

“I don’t know about this Gary…I mean, what if we get caught?”

“Who goes around to the back of the school Derek? Honestly, sometimes you worry too much.”

Gary pulled the bottle out of his bag and waved it in front of them. The girls clapped their hands and Gary gave a little bow. The day before Gary had passed the word around that he and Derek would be throwing a little party behind the school. In retrospect, he could have been a little more discreet.

“Hey! What are you kids doing back there?” yelled a voice.

In a flash, the kids were up and scrambling into the bushes that marked the school boundary. Running for their academic lives, they managed to reach the short cut that led to the main street. Looking back Derek saw that one of the girls had tripped and fell, and that the teacher was running up the track after them. That was the day Derek met Penelope. It was also the day that Derek got suspended from school for a week.

 

“Do you want the number of times you’ve been wrong about drunken debauchery?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“That’s all in the past Derek! Let it go! Let it be free like a little bird of freedom!”

Gary…”

“Derek! Tonight is about letting the past go, so let’s go.”

Gary jumped out of the car, straightened his shirt and shut the door behind him. Taking in a deep breath of the humid Suva night air, Gary turned to lock the car behind him to see Derek still sitting in the passenger seat.

“I’ll buy you those girly drinks you like, come on Derek.”

“With the umbrellas in them?”

“Yes…with the umbrellas in them”

And so, with the prospect of drinks with umbrellas in them, Derek and Gary went out to face the night.

 

Now, a nightclub isn’t the best place to have a conversation, the music is loud, people are either drunk or pissed because they are designated drivers and can’t get drunk, and the floors are best not talked about. In other words, Gary was in his element.

Soon Derek and Gary were in a decent corner, sipping beverages and watching people gyrate. Eventually, the beat and the strawberry daiquiri began to get to Derek, and he found himself tapping his feet unconsciously.

“Now, go ask one of those girls to dance.”

“What?”

“Go ask one of those girls to dance, Derek!”

“Oh…I dunno Gary.”

Gary threw his hands up in the air in frustration.

“Are we going to have to discuss every little thing D? Just listen to me man; I know what I’m doing!”

Derek took another sip of liquid courage, before placing his drink carefully on the table.

Houston, we have lift off!” Gary cheered.

“Cut the chatter Red 2, accelerate to attack speed.”

“I swear Derek; if you quote star wars one more time I’m going to punch you in the nose again.”

“Hey, at least I didn’t say, I have a very bad feeling about this!”

“Great…now I have bad feeling about this.”

 

It was soon after the day at the seawall that Penelope called Derek up at work. Derek was working on a particularly difficult chemical equation when he got the call, and was surprised to hear Penelope on the end of the line.
            “Hey, Derek? Can we meet for lunch today?”

“Sure thing Penelope, I’ll pick you up from your office then.”

Derek went back to his equation, pondering slightly about Penelope, she sounded a bit flustered on the phone, as if she had something on her mind. In his pondering, Derek forgot to add the seven and minus the two.

A few hours later, Derek and Penelope were having lunch at the Last Chance CafĂ©. Derek was eating the smoked chicken sandwich, and Penelope the salad. They made small talk, about Penelope’s new job at the law firm, and Derek’s chemical equations, and then there was that lull that happens in most conversations.

“Derek, you know Pete right?”

“Tiny Pete? The guy from the commercials with the ladies pouring juice down his abs?”

“Uh…yeah, he kind of asked me out.”

“Oh…okay. That’s nice I guess. He works out right?”

“Yeah, what do you think of him?”

Derek couldn’t think of one thing to say. His mind was still struggling to process the fact that Penelope was going out with someone. Penelope! The queen of singledom! If he had known that she had wanted to start dating he would have…what would he have done? It was then that Derek realized that he had feelings for his best friend, and his nice guy-ness wouldn’t let him do a thing about it.

“He’s a good guy, I mean, professional you know? Not many people could carry off juice being poured on them with dignity, but he does it. God, how he does it.”

And so, his heart feeling strange, Derek went back to work in time to catch the explosion as a chemical equation went horribly wrong. Because someone forgot to add the seven and minus the two.

 

And so, we find Derek, unlucky in love, and an all around nice guy, walking toward a girl in a nightclub. He had seen her as soon as he entered, granted it was dark, and the strobe lights were flashing directly in his eyes but she was attractive and Derek was feeling courageous.

Her back was to him as he approached, and he attempted to tap her on the shoulder, when an arm reached up and grabbed his.

“Look out mate.”

Derek looked around for a couple of seconds, in his slightly inebriated state it took a while for him to register that the voice was coming from below his waist.

“Tiny Pete?” he said in disbelief. Of all the people to run into, he had to run into her boyfriend.

“Derek?” Penelope turned around, looking surprised, “where the hell have you been? I haven’t heard from you in months!”

“Umm…hi!”

Pete wasn’t going to take this lying down though. He had honed his three foot frame to perfection, and no one was getting away with calling him tiny.

“What did you call me?”

“Tiny Pete…um...Pete.” Derek said, in confusion. Unfortunately in his confusion Derek had the tendency to be honest.

“That’s it, I’m going to make a lesson out of you!” and for the second time that evening Derek was punched. This time however, it was not in the nose.

 

They sat there in silence, the sound of the sea crashing into the breakers and the cars rushing by punctuated the night air.

“You could have stopped him from biting me.”

“I’m sorry Derek, I really am alright?”

Derek shrugged.

“It wasn’t that bad an evening you know? I mean, the daiquiri was nice.”

“And you’ve still got me!” Gary said.

There was more silence.

“Don’t ever say that again.”

“Alright.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            

2 comments:

Jachin Sheehy said...

Poignant! ... and I dare say with a healthy dose of personal experience to colour in some of those emotions.

This nerd looks forward to the next instalment.

sharky said...

omedetou gozaimasu. glad it went for print..finally.