Redwood Summer Chapter 15

Jason looked over the newspaper classified want ads while sitting at the kitchen table. David was across the table doing his homework.

“Anything promising?” father asked from the living room.

“Not much,” Jason answered. “A lot of the same old stuff.”

Budget cuts because of the Cold War ending would be my guess.”

“Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking,” Jason agreed. “We need another war to get things going again,” he added half seriously.

Doesn’t the county building have a job center?” David asked.

I checked it out, most of it’s part time work,” Jason said, “and nothing that pays enough.”

What about a temp agency?” David suggested.

I need a permanent job,” Jason replied. “Those temp jobs don’t pay dick anyhow.”

I should look for a new job myself,” David said. “I’m getting tired of the fast food scene.”

Then get a job at Safeway,” father said impatiently.

The telephone rang. David reached over and picked up the receiver. “Hello? Oh hi, Todd…Yeah, he’s here.” He handed the receiver to Jason. “It’s Todd.”

Jason took the receiver. “Todd. What’s up?”

Jason, got some bad news,” Todd said.

He got a sinking feeling. “What is it?”

Randy got busted.”

Dammit!” Jason struck the table and David looked up. “What happened?”

He was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Todd said. “A SWAT team did a raid on this house where he just happened to be in the middle of a deal.”

Jason was dismayed and angry. He got up as he tried to grasp what he just heard and paced around as the coiled phone chord dangled from the receiver to the telephone. “I can’t believe this!” he said angrily. “Where is he now?”

They got him at the city lockup. I called and they told me he’s going to be arraigned tomorrow.”

Goddamn, this is a nightmare!” Jason became anxious as the news sank in. The dread he felt for Randy reached its conclusion, and the remaining hopes he had came crashing down. He then looked around and noticed his brother and father looking at him. He turned toward the telephone on the wall to conceal his anger. “You know, I told him a thousand goddamn times not to be careless, not to get mixed up with Darren and Tony, all those other sketchy motherfuckers, that whole scene, now look what happens!”

“I heard how he lost it at Tony’s party and got into a fight.”

“Yeah, we got him out of there just before the cops showed up.”

“I also heard from some of the guys that you and Randy almost got into it,” Todd said carefully.

Jason felt the regret of that night. “Yeah,” he admitted. “Never thought it’d come to that.”

“He’s changed.”

“Don’t blame you for avoiding the party.”

“I never knew Tony all that well anyway,” Todd said

“I only went because of Randy, guess I thought I could keep him out of trouble. A lot of good that did,” Jason added with bitter irony.

It’s all fucked up,” Todd lamented. “But I guess it isn’t a total surprise.”

No, guess not,” Jason agreed. “So now what? It’s not like Randy or his mom can afford a

decent lawyer, or any kind of lawyer.”

I know. He’ll probably end up with some half ass public defender.”

Which means he’ll probably end up doing some time.”

Most likely,” Todd said dejectedly. “It’ll all depend on the lawyer he gets stuck with, the judge, whether the DA wants to cut him a deal, and they won’t do that unless he’s willing to give up some names.”

Can’t see Randy doing that,” Jason predicted. “Probably doesn’t know anyone important anyway.”

I doubt he does,” Todd agreed. “He’s the low man on the totem pole.”

“So what next?”

“I’m going to call in sick tomorrow so I can go to the arraignment. I’ll be in touch with everyone as soon as I know what’s happening.”

So how much do you think his bail will be?” Jason asked.

No idea,” Todd answered. “I guess that’ll depend on the amount he was caught with.”

Jason leaned against the wall and rested his head on his hand. “He’s really up a creek.”

Could be,” Todd said. “Do you know if he has any priors?”

Nothing like this,” Jason said. He stood back up. “This sucks, this really, fucking sucks.”

I know. Randy always was the life of the party, since he was little. Guess it finally caught up with him.”

“It’s like he ignored all the warning signs.”

“Yeah,” Tom sighed. “Well, I’ll let you go, I’ve got some more people to call. I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know how it went.”

All right,” Jason said. “I was just about to head to Christine’s myself. Says she has important news, probably about a job somewhere.”

“That could be a good thing, I know you’re getting sick and tired of your current job.”

“We’ll see, not exactly on my mind right now.”

“No doubt.”

“Well, talk to you tomorrow,” Jason said.

All right, bye.”

Bye.” Jason hung up the receiver.

What happened?” David asked.

Randy was arrested.”

Oh, no!” he reacted. “What for?”

Possession,” Jason said. He grabbed his keys off the table and headed to the front door.

What a shame,” father remarked sadly.

Going over to Christine’s,” Jason said as he left. He got into his car and drove away quickly. The late summer twilight faded into darkness as he was driving and all his worries about Randy were recasting into new uncertainties. The story of Randy’s life played out in his mind once again, from when they first met in kindergarten, their shared times and adventures as they grew up together, and all through the years up to the present where it was culminating into a sense of finality. He then despaired that Randy was slipping out of his life.

He arrived at Christine’s and tried to straighten out his thoughts as he walked to her apartment. He knocked on the front door. It opened slowly and Christine quietly let him in. He entered and milled around in the front room. He was feeling the weight of what he was about what to tell her.

Bad news about Randy,” he finally said.

What happened?”

He got busted.”

Oh no,” Christine said sadly and she sat down. “That’s terrible.”

“Todd just called and told me, he was arrested earlier today.”

“What did he do?”

He was in the middle of a drug deal then the police raided the place.” Jason paced around some more. “I tried to talk some sense into him,” he said exasperatedly. “I told him not to get mixed up with the wrong people.”

You did the best you could,” Christine reassured.

Did I?” Jason countered as he kept pacing around the room. “Feels like I could have done more.” He came to a stop as he dwelt some more about what happened. “Shit, they’ll probably throw the book at him, because they can.”

I know,” Christine said somewhat absently, “it’s awful.”

Jason sensed that Christine was thinking of something else. “You work for lawyers, what do you think his chances are?”

Hmm? Oh, I don’t know, we don’t do criminal law. I guess it’s going to depend on how much he was caught with, and if he’s willing to plea bargain.”

Well then he’s in bad shape because Randy was never one to snitch.” Jason started to move around again to release mounting stress. “Why the fuck did he have to get caught? Now he’s stuck in the gears of the system!”

Maybe he’ll get help he needs on the inside,” Christine said hopefully.

And he has to go behind bars to get it? That ain’t fair,” Jason said angrily. “This is all fucked

up. I know he blew it, but it’s not like he robbed a bank or killed someone, all he did was fall in with

the wrong crowd and make some mistakes! Why all this other bullshit?”

I know, it’s terrible, I’m really sorry it all happened like this,” Christine said, “but it’s out of our hands now.”

Yeah, just like a lot of other things in life.”

Christine stood up and walked up to Jason as he was pacing around. “Look, Jason, I know this is important, but there is something I need to tell you.”

“If it’s about another job possibility can we talk about it later?” Jason demanded. “Got a lot on my mind right now.”

“No, it’s not about a job,” Christine reassured.

Then what?” Jason asked curtly as he stopped in front of Christine. “Is it a family emergency? Someone back in the hospital?”

“No, it’s nothing like that.”

“Then what?” Jason repeated louder.

Christine hesitated and struggled for words.

Jason wandered away. “Well I hope it’s important because I have a lot on my mind right now.”

Jason!”

Jason was startled. He looked back at Christine. Her expression was gravely serious. His agonizing over Randy ended abruptly and he looked searchingly into her eyes. He became apprehensive of what he was about to hear. She tried to speak. He moved closer to her. “What is it?”

I’m pregnant.”

Jason was suddenly numb all over. He tried to comprehend what he just heard and struggled to say something, but was too overwhelmed. He sensed his life changing beyond his control. “For real?” he asked astonishingly.

Christine nodded. “I just found out today.”

Jason remained confused. “I…I don’t know what to say.”

“I was late,” Christine revealed, “and I started to worry. So I took the test.”

Jason saw his old life disappearing for good, and a new reality of living for others began to emerge. He tried to grasp the situation but it was changing too fast. He searched for something to say in the sudden vacuum. “I guess I never figured on this happening so soon,” he finally said.

Me neither,” Christine admitted. “Oh my god, what are my parents going to say!” She buried her face into her hands.

Jason began to think of her ordeal. “You haven’t told them yet?”

“I haven’t told anyone.”

Jason slowly put his hand onto Christine’s shoulder. She held onto his hand, and they came together. She convulsed a little as they leaned onto each other for a long moment. He held her close as he realized everything about his life was changing permanently. She sobbed a little more then wiped the tears from her eyes as she continued to hold on to him.

“Now I’m really going to have to get a new job,” Jason said. “I need to get out of my rut anyway,” he said with unexpected relief.

“I’ll work for as long as I can,” Christine offered, “at least until I get too big.”

Jason imagined Christine in the last stages of pregnancy and how she would look. “Guess I’ll have to hug you from behind when that happens.”

“When I found out, I wasn’t sure how you’d react,” Christine said as she rested her head on Jason. “I guess it’s still sinking in for me.”

“I’m still in shock myself,” Jason admitted. “Hope I’m up for it.”

Christine looked up at Jason. “I think you’ll make a great father,” she said convincingly, her eyes still wet as she smiled a little. He worried if he could live up to her faith as he saw his youth coming to its final end. He considered all his new obligations for the future as he headed irreversibly into destiny. After a long while they slowly relaxed their hold on each other.

“Sorry it happened like this,” Christine apologized.

Nah, don’t be,” Jason consoled. “Time to move on from that soul sucking job anyhow.” He sensed himself readjusting to his new circumstances automatically without any effort. “They’re forcing everybody out so they can bring in all their own high end cronies. Whole place feels like it’s on lock down.”

I was afraid you were going to be upset.”

“No, just surprised.”

“Same here, this changes everything.” Christine appeared concerned. “What are you going to do about school?”

Some other time,” Jason said resignedly.

“Really sorry about that.”

“Don’t be, degrees aren’t worth what they used to be. Better to learn a skill anyhow.” Jason gave in to the transformation that he felt to be happening on its own. “Guess we’ll have to tell everyone pretty soon,”

My family will sure be in for a surprise,” Christine said as she laughed a little.

Same with mine,” Jason said laughing along with her. “My parents are going to be

grandparents for the first time, that’s gonna to make them feel old!” They laughed some more, then embraced each other again as their laughter subsided. The weight of their situation grounded them and Jason felt more tied to Christine than he ever had before. “So you’re ready for all this?” he finally asked.

This is sooner than I expected.” Christine held onto Jason contentedly. She then looked up to him. “Yes, I’m ready.”

Jason paused for a moment. “Is your uncle still hiring?”

 

©2018 Robert Kirkendall

Advertisements

99 Word Prompt: White Flowers

Dec. 21: Flash Fiction Contest

The man stopped when he came across a pleasant sight of white flowers arrayed in front of him.  He wistfully contemplated the field of new growth.  The beautiful daisy, he sighed to himself, Bellis perennis if memory serves me.  He looked across the many bright yellow dots surrounded by snow white petals atop thin green stems and silently thanked Mother Nature for providing him with such a lovely site.  It’s like a…carpet of prettiness, he beheld, a gift from the natural world for all the world to enjoy.

He then restarted his mower and chopped them all down.

 

Redwood Summer Chapter 14

Jason took a long drink from a bottle of tomato juice and waited for it to replenish him. His body was fatigued and his mind taxed from too much alcohol over the weekend. He leaned back against a three story rack of heavy steel shelves half filled with inventory and relaxed for a bit. He then screwed the cap back on the bottle and hid it behind a box of computer hardware parts. He tiredly walked back to an assortment of more boxes scattered around the concrete floor and next to a large wooden pallet.

He picked up a clipboard that held a stack of papers and looked at the top form. He tried to comprehend the maze of small writing and blank spaces with his slowed thinking. He then looked down at the pile of boxes and picked up the one closest to him. He read the writing on its label, looked back at the paper on the clipboard, and tried to figure out which information belonged on which line or square. He took the pen from the clipboard and tediously filled out the form. He wanted to go home and sleep off his hangover, but forced himself to go on. He finally completed the form and placed the box on the pallet.

He picked up another box, slowly copied the information from its label onto another complicated form, then stacked the box onto the pallet next to other one. He continued the task alone in the cavernous building. The flickering light of the florescent tubes from the high ceiling aggravated his headache as he struggled to work through the pain.

Isolated and hungover, Jason’s mind began to wander. He thought back to the night of Tony’s party. The argument he had with Randy continued to haunt him in his dulled state. Some harsh words were said, he thought regretfully, we never talked that way to each other before. I had no idea he was jealous like that, he thought, or did I just miss the signs? have I been ignoring him? maybe he’s right about me pushing him away, maybe it’s partly my fault. He recalled more about that night, a party at a strange house crowded with tense people he didn’t know, Randy’s somewhat secretive manner, and his more belligerent than usual behavior that blew up into conflict and almost got in trouble with the police. He’s mixing with the wrong people, Jason asserted. He then began to wonder about his own responsibility. Maybe I drove him to it, he conceded, I have been spending more time with Christine, his getting into wrong situations, doing things he shouldn’t be doing, is he just trying to get me to notice him again? Guilt began to weigh on Jason. I need to be there for him, he reminded himself, but he still felt unsettled. What if he doesn’t want to come back? he worried.

Jason’s actions became more automatic as the day wore on. He silently swore at the new owners for denying employees the playing of radios anywhere in the workplace. Time dragged on without the familiarity of music and he furthered his resolve to find a new career path. I just keep losing my freedoms, he bemoaned, then wondered if Randy was right about some of the things he had said. Life does feel more restricted, he admitted, don’t have as much fun as I used to, spending more time with Chris’s family and friends than with my own, if it keeps up I’m going to be driving around in some lame minivan before long. He looked around the remote area for other people, but saw only empty, lonely space.

His thoughts returned to the night of Tony’s party. The events of the night replayed in his mind as he looked for the moment when everything went wrong. He recalled showing up with Mike, Brian, and Terry when the party was already happening. The people at the front door were paranoid about letting them in, but Randy vouched for them. Once inside they tried to hang out with Randy in the house full of strangers, but he was busy talking to other people. They then tried to talk to some of the other party goers, but the noise and everyone’s erratic behavior made it difficult. A lot of those people were on something other than alcohol, he remembered. Probably just a matter of time until a fight broke out, he figured, if it wasn’t Randy and that other guy it would have been some other two guys. He searched some more but couldn’t pinpoint an exact moment when everything went wrong. Maybe there wasn’t one, he concluded, or it had already happened.

As he poured over the events of that night they began to combine into a single totality, which he then saw as part of a long chain of events that built up unnoticeably over time. He tried to find its beginning but it stretched as far back as he could remember. A pattern of behavior appeared to him and he was surprised that he didn’t see it sooner. It seems so obvious, he thought to himself. He then tried to foresee what the future held for Randy, but it made him uneasy.

He then considered his own future, and the futures of all his other friends. He saw the ending of their happy-go-lucky lifestyles and a future of greater responsibilities and less fun. It used to be we were all living it up without a care in the world, he reminisced, and now it’s all about careers and families and car payments. I thought I had more living to do, he thought indignantly, but with everything getting more expensive all the time I guess there’s no more time to take it easy. He started to wonder if Randy was right in his accusations. He may have a point but you can’t stop yourself from growing older, Jason reminded himself. His actions settled into a manageable work tempo.

His thoughts were drawn back again to Randy’s uncertain future. Where is he headed? he worried, he’s gone way beyond just having a good time. He then looked into the past and tried to find the source of Randy’s behavior. There’s got be a reason, he told himself, people don’t get that way for no reason. He then felt he needed to remind himself that he shouldn’t make excuses for Randy. Why did I have to remind himself of that, he wondered, I’m not saying it’s okay for him to go through life recklessly, I’m just trying to understand.

Jason wondered if everyone else was worrying about Randy. He tried to contemplate if
anything could be done for him, and dreaded that there wasn’t. But I can’t just shun Randy, he told himself. He tried again to figure out a possible positive outcome for Randy but was still unsuccessful. The hopelessness of the situation wore him down. What do I know anyways, he reminded himself, I may know Randy better than anyone, but I didn’t go through what he went through, I didn’t live his life. The history buried in his subconscious became unearthed and dawned upon him.

Jason looked around the stark building as he worked. The bare concrete and steel gave an appearance of solid, immovable permanence. I guess I ought to be thankful for what I have, he thought ironically. Not that I exactly have anything here, he reminded himself, the breaks are shorter, the new bosses suck, all the cool people who used to work here were either laid off or quit, they put a freeze on raises, now they’re talking about drug testing, and I’m not making enough to live on my own.

He remembered some gossip he overheard that the new owners were intentionally making the workplace miserable so people would quit and the company would not have to lay them off and pay them a severance. That’s a fucked up thing to do, he thought angrily, shouldn’t be allowed to happen. He remembered how one of the new supervisors gave him a hard time for being two minutes late. He said it wasn’t fair to the other workers, he recalled bitterly, what an asshole, like anyone cares about two goddamn minutes, that bullshit never happened in the old days.

I better get a new thing going quick and get the hell out of here, he reminded himself. His bleak work situation weighed upon him further, his desperation amplified by his hangover. First thing I’ve got to do is to stay away from those kinds of parties, he told himself, and maybe I’ll have to take any job I can get even if it’s less pay just so I can leave this place. But if I take a job that pays less, he pondered, I’ll have to keep looking for a better paying job. Would Christine even put up with me working for less money? he worried as he struggled to find a solution. Dad had it way more together when he was my age and now it’s getting impossible, he agonized, maybe I really was born at the wrong time.

His thoughts traveled back to all the years of playing sports under a hot summer sun and hard manual jobs he used to work. He remembered one strenuous job where he had to dig trenches for water pipes and sprinkler systems, and another where he had to push around heavy wheelbarrows full of concrete and dump them into wooden frames laid upon the ground. Got to say I was more happy with life then than I am now, he admitted. Here I am filling out paperwork and stacking boxes like they’re blocks, he told himself, pretty easy, a job where I don’t have to kill myself, but I liked it a whole lot better when I was breaking a sweat.

The boxes gradually cleared the floor and covered the pallet as Jason labored repetitiously. He worked just hard enough not to worsen his hangover and timed his task so he wouldn’t finish too fast. They’ll just give me some other stupid thing to do, he told himself. His thoughts drifted further into the past. He remembered how Randy, ever since kindergarten, always seemed to get into trouble with teachers, principals and other authority figures. Mom always said he was looking for the attention that he needed, he recalled, but we all thought he was a lot of fun, made everybody laugh, a lot of good times, sure didn’t seem like a problem back then. He was struck by how life seemed so innocent back then. So many things I didn’t see, he realized, and all because I was too busy having fun.

He reflected on Randy’s home life and the stress and conflicts between he and his mother. Sure they clashed, he remembered, but that’s just how it was, Randy was a handful, especially after his dad took off, so she did what she had to, at the time it actually seemed normal. I know they love each other, he acknowledged, some people just have a harder time showing it. He saw Randy’s lifelong impulsiveness and risky behavior in a new light, and more flaws were revealed than he had remembered. He tried again to find a solution to the chaos. What if he got along better with his mom, he thought, what if his dad never left, what if he had some guidance, what if…what if what! The dam of sympathy burst inside of him. You can’t go back in time and change things! he insisted, you do the best we can with what you got and you get on with it, everyone’s got problems.

The boxes were almost cleared off the floor and stacked onto the pallet. Jason looked at his watch and saw that it was getting close to 5PM. He felt a bit of satisfaction over finishing at his own pace. I wonder if this going to be be my last task here, he thought offhandedly. He then heard a heated discussion in another section of the building.

“Look, this was never a problem before, I’ve already made arrangements for occasions like this,” a coworker was pleading.

“That was with the previous owners,” a new supervisor replied.

“But I have to pick up my son!”

“You can’t bring your personal problems to work,” the new supervisor responded firmly.

“When you’re here, you’re on our time.”

 

©2017 Robert Kirkendall

Redwood Summer Chapter 13

“So now Alex is trying to hook him up with a job so he can pay off his bills and his back rent!” Mike said loudly to Jason over blaring party music.

Hook who up?” Jason responded just as loud.

Curtis!” Mike repeated.

Oh, good for him!” Jason yelled back. “Hope it works out!”

“Maybe he can find something for you!”

“I’ll need to make more than what Curtis is willing to work for!”

“I heard that!” Mike agreed.

They looked around the unfamiliar house at the shifty, uneasy crowd.

“Know anybody here other than Darren?” Mike asked loudly.

Jason scanned the horde of party goers. “A couple of familiar faces, but no one I know personally!”

They milled around and tried to fit into the agitated atmosphere of the party. Some were drinking heavily and clustered around in separate, loud conversations. Others went in and out of a bedroom at the end of the hallway, closing the door every time they entered or exited.

The night wore on then loud, angry voices clashed over the blasting music. Jason and Mike looked toward the clamor and saw people hurrying toward the front room. They followed everyone and saw Randy and another party goer screaming and pushing at each other as others yelled at them to stop or egged them on. Jason and Mike moved toward the conflict but merged into a flood of people that quickly filled up the front room. The crowd surrounded the two fighters as the mêlée escalated and they tried to wrestle each other down. Jason and Mike struggled to push through the crowd but were stuck. Jason watched the fight from a distance as spectators from the crowd finally reached in and tried to pull Randy and his opponent away from each other while others continued to incite them. Jason tried to keep his footing in the lumbering crowd then someone hollered that a neighbor had called the police.

Everyone quickly untangled themselves, broke away from each other, and dispersed out the front and back doors. Jason and Mike along with Darren got a hold of Randy while the other fighter was pulled away by other disappearing party goers.

Where is that motherfucker!” Randy yelled.

“Chill, dude!” Darren said.

Let’s get the fuck outta here!” Mike ordered as he and Jason pushed Randy out into the backyard and were trailed by Darren. They met up with Brian and Terry and joined a line of people running along the side of the house. They emerged into the front yard and everyone fled into the night under the hazy glow of street lamps.

Lit up police cars rolled up the street, and Jason, Mike, Brian, Terry, and Darren grabbed Randy and took off in the opposite direction. They raced down one street, then another. Jason was fueled by a rush of excitement as he deeply breathed in the cool night air. They kept running through the neighborhood then slowed to a jog, and then a walk as the houses gave way to the large expanse of a high school. They tried to catch their breath as they approached the front of the campus.

Got away,” Brian said between breaths.

So who was that guy you were brawling with?” Jason asked Randy.

“One of Tony’s asshole friends,” Randy said. “I think his name is Frank.”

“Well what were you two fighting about?” Jason asked.

Fuck if I know,” Randy said as he wandered onto the yellow lit school grounds.

Well that explains things,” Brian said sarcastically. “I thought it was something important.”

“You guys should’ve back me up!” Randy insisted.

“We tried but the place was packed,” Mike replied. “We could barely move.”

You’re lucky we got you out of there,” Jason said to Randy. “You’re in no shape to be talking to cops right now.”

They would’ve dragged you away on sight,” Terry added.

Yeah, yeah,” Randy said dismissively. He wandered further onto the school and looked around at the institutional, rectangular buildings. “Haven’t been here in a while.”

I had to get out of that party quick,” Darren said. “I think I still have a warrant out on me.”

That the only reason why you’re so jumpy?” Terry asked knowingly.

At least they didn’t send that helicopter with the spotlight,” Mike said.

Randy continued to survey the school grounds. He walked through the outdoor commons and everyone followed. “Can’t believe it’s been five years already.”

Time marched on,” Brian reminded.

Hope they don’t bust Tony,” Darren worried.

They shouldn’t,” Terry answered. “He just threw a noisy party, that’s all.”

Yeah, as long as nothing is in plain sight,” Mike reminded.

They’re just there to break up our fun,” Randy said as he pulled a can of beer from his jacket pocket. “Shit, like they got nothing better to do.” He opened his beer and foam hissed out of the can as he took a drink.

Hope you brought enough for everybody,” Brian chided.

I might have an extra,” Mike said as he felt inside his jacket, pulled out one can, then another,

and handed one to Brian. Jason then felt his front jacket pocket, found a beer he had forgotten, and

pulled it out. As they opened their beers they all shot out foam.

Randy held up his can. “To the old school,” he said solemnly, and they all took a drink. Jason took a foamy drink that tasted warm and acrid.

Not too often we get to see the old school,” Randy reminisced.

You didn’t see too much of it when you were going,” Mike kidded.

Yeah, but when you’re in high school you can’t let classes get in the way of having a good time,” Randy asserted.

Can’t argue with that,” Jason said half seriously.

That’s right,” Terry agreed. “So what if you weren’t the valedictorian.”

Yeah, I was a pain,” Randy acknowledged, “but I never thought I was going to miss it.” He looked around the campus longingly as he walked ahead. “Now it’s all a bunch of kids who were in fucking junior high when we were here. Can you believe that shit?” Randy quickened his pace as he went by a row of lockers. Everyone else jogged after him while trying not to spill their beers until they came upon the courtyard in the middle of the school buildings. They all stopped, and Randy looked around the open space nostalgically.

“Sure looks empty with nobody around,” Terry said after a while.

Yeah,” Jason agreed, “and smaller.”

Randy gazed around raptly then focused on one of the larger buildings. “The cafeteria,” he spotted. “Did a lot of Saturday school there.”

Couldn’t have been as much as me,” Mike said.

I remember this one time a food fight broke out in there,” Terry began. “When no one was looking, I walked out with a case of Fanta.”

Did you guys hear someone else?” Darren asked warily.

That’s nothing,” Mike said to Terry. “One night I carved donuts on the soccer field with my old Camaro.”

I think that’s just our voices echoing,” Brian said to Darren.

Yeah, I tore it up good,” Mike reminisced as he pantomimed making a sharp turn with a steering wheel.

“Oh, I remember now,” Terry said to Mike. “It was after that party when…”

A piercing scream suddenly erupted from Randy. The echo reverberated off the buildings and briefly filled the vacant courtyard. Everyone looked around startled. “You’re right,” Randy said to Brian.

“Goddammit, Randy! There are cops around!” Jason said angrily.

Hope nobody heard that,” Darren worried.

“Oh, that was heard,” Mike remarked.

You’re awfully jumpy tonight,” Terry said to Darren.

“He’s always jumpy,” Brian added.

“Cops won’t come,” Mike predicted, “they’re busy rousting Tony.”

Aw, man,” Darren lamented.

Randy walked further into the courtyard. “You know how people that say that high school is the quickest four years of your life,” he began, “well it’s been about five years since we all left, and those four years were a lot more fun than the years that came after. Ain’t that a bitch.”

Life was better then and we didn’t even know it,” Brian observed.

Couldn’t wait to get out of here,” Randy said as he looked around the open space longingly, and here I am.” The yellow lights on the buildings glowed beside him and his shadow stretched across the ground and moved with him. Jason watched Randy as he wandered to the center of the courtyard and appeared to be lost in memories. “Back then we were always hanging out with each other, like family. Now we don’t see each other the way we used to.” He stood by himself in the middle of the courtyard. “Especially since some of you are whipped by your girlfriends.”

Jason suspected the last comment was directed at him. Randy looked around some more, thenfocused on one spot in the far corner. “The center of it all,” he said happily. “The smoking section.”

That isn’t the smoking section anymore,” Terry informed.

What?” Randy looked stunned. “Where the fuck is it?”

They don’t have one anymore,” Jason said.

You’re shitting me!”

All the high schools got rid of them,” Mike said, “new state law. Didn’t you hear?”

Randy lowered his head in disappointment. “Everything good in life, they take it all away,” he brooded. “It’s bullshit!” He paced around angrily. “Where are you supposed to go now to hang out with your bros and smoke a bowl?”

Library?” Mike joked.

Goddammit I’m serious!” Randy yelled from the middle of the courtyard. “We have been betrayed by a bunch of fucking new rules! Freeways cover up our old stomping grounds! It’s getting too fucking crowded here! Shit is getting too expensive! We’re losing our freedom!” he declared with fists clenched. “Where’s the fun? Where are the crazy adventures? The memories!” A tense pause filled the air.

Life ain’t that bad,” Mike finally said. “Why stress?”

Because we had something!” Randy emphasized. “We were the big men on campus, and nobody could fuck with us! And now it’s all gone! Fuck!” He flung his can of beer and it skidded across the blacktop then struck one of the buildings as it left a wet trail of beer in its path.

Hey, that’s alcohol abuse,” Terry joked.

“You think I’m kidding?” Randy shot back.

“You need to relax,” Jason advised.

“Fuck that!” Randy paced around some more. “You don’t get it! All you motherfuckers are relaxing too much!” he accused as everyone watched him. “Everything we had is disappearing! And you’re all settling into your nice, boring routines! Dull, predictable lives!” He moved in closer. “You’re all dying inside.”

“Whoa, Randy, that’s heavy,” Mike cautioned.

“And take it easy. There are cops around!” Jason warned.

“What the fuck is wrong with you guys? Are you even listening?” Randy yelled. He pulled out another can of beer from his jacket pocket, opened it, took a long drink and moved closer to everyone. “In the old days you would’ve backed me up.”

“We tried but everybody rushed in,” Mike said. “We could barely move!”

“And then someone said the cops were on the way,” Brian said.

“Yeah,” Jason agreed. “What the fuck were we supposed to do?”

“You’re not supposed to forget who your brothers are!” Randy shouted. Everything fell silent again.

“Okay, Randy, sorry for not jumping in on time,” Brian finally replied. “We didn’t know you were going to start a fight with some total stranger.”

“Fuck, man!” Randy continued angrily. “I didn’t start shit! That fucker bumped into me on purpose! Then he started shooting off his mouth! I couldn’t let him get away with that!” He appeared to wait for a response. “It wasn’t my fault!” he insisted.

“It never is,” Terry remarked.

“Fuck you!” Randy shot back. “You’re supposed to be on my side!”

Let it go,” Brian advised.

“No! Fuck that!” Randy yelled. “I don’t want to hear any more of that pussy bullshit! I’m not letting it go!” he emphasized. “I know what’s going on. No one wants to hang out with Randy anymore.” He paced around again. “Your girlfriends don’t like having me around. They think I’m an embarrassment. They think I’m trouble. But don’t you all forget that I’m the one who makes things happen!” He stared at them accusedly as the tension rose up again. “What would you have done without me, huh?” he asked pointedly. “Sit around and jack off all day? All your memories are because of me! I’ll be the one you tell stories about whenever you all get together! I made your pasts!” He moved in closer. “You can’t escape that.”

“No one has forgotten,” Jason finally said.

“That’s right,” Mike agreed. “Always the life of the party.”

“I was the party,” Randy declared proudly. His eyes appeared to light up from a recalled memory. “You guys remember that party we went to in the east side? At that ranch up in the foothills? Big place, kegs everywhere. And we met those farmer chicks, I think they were drunker than we were,” he said with a laugh. “And there was that one I hit it off with, Rhonda or something. Then we went behind a shed, and we had our party,” he added luridly.

“Yeah, I remember that party,” Terry reminisced, “or at least I remember going there. I think I blacked out at some point.

One of those girls had her hands all over you,” Randy said to Jason. He moved toward him. “You could’ve fucked her. How come you didn’t?”

Jason was caught off guard. “I was going out with Jenny at the time.”

“So?”

“So I didn’t want to cheat on her.”

Well good for you,” Randy said ominously. “That shows loyalty.”

Jason began to feel uneasy. “What are you getting at?”

“I remember a time when you were loyal to your friends,” Randy said as he moved closer to Jason.

Aw, c’mon!” Jason refuted. “Where do you come off saying shit like that?”

Tell me I’m wrong.”

Jason felt the heat of persecution. “I went with you to Tony’s sketchy party, didn’t I?!”

“After I begged you.”

“I can’t hang out like we’re cutting classes anymore!” Jason argued. “I’ve got responsibilities now, bills to pay!”

“And a new class of people to hang out with,” Randy accused.

“What the hell do you want from me, the old Jason? You don’t think I don’t want to do all the fun things we used to do? I miss those days too, but I can’t be a kid forever!”

No more room for Randy,” Randy said with angry self pity.

Hey! I’m here now!”

“Chris finally let you off her your leash.”

“Goddammit! If you can’t keep a woman that’s your problem!”

“I can get any broad I want! Even yours.”

“You better watch your mouth!”

Randy stepped closer. “I have known you a lot longer than she has! We grew up together! We played ball together! Partied together! Did everything together! We used to go after the same girls, and they never got in the way!”

Jason felt the heat Randy’s righteous, accusing glare. Shared memories and the lure of nostalgia tempted him and reminded him of the stresses of his present life. Buried fears of a lost, happier past, fading comradery, and an unknown future arose. The gulf between his past and present widened, and dread began to haunt him. “What is your fucking problem?! Christine is the woman I love! Not some party skank! And do really think my life is some kind of fucking fairy tale? I’ve got all kinds of new problems to deal with! A job I can’t stand! Credit card bills! Mooching off of my parents like I’m still a child!”

“Oh, so I’m holding you back,” Randy further accused. “Is that it?”

Anger and frustration boiled over. “You’re holding yourself back! You’re making the wrong choices! What the fuck am I supposed to do, lead you around by the hand?!”

“You’re supposed to remember who your brothers are!” Randy shot back. “Todd would have backed me up! And Alex, Dwayne, even Curtis!”

“They’re not here!”

“Well where the fuck are they?!”

“I think there at Stu’s,” Mike interjected.

Stu’s throwing a party and you didn’t tell me?” Randy fumed.

“You wanted to go to Tony’s!” Jason reminded angrily.

“I think it’s more of a get together,” Mike added.

“Well we’re not at Tony’s now!” Randy shouted back at Jason.

“Yeah, you had something to do with that,” Terry reminded.

“Fuck you!” Randy threw his almost empty beer can at Terry. Terry quickly moved out of the way and the can thudded against a wall.

“Whoa! What the fuck, man!” Terry said hotly.

“Get a hold of yourself!” Mike ordered.

“Fuck Stu! We’ll have our own party!” Randy declared. “We’ll get some more beers and drive down to the beach!” He began to leave then looked back at everyone. “C’mon!”

“We’ve been drinking all night! We can’t drive over the hill!” Jason asserted.

“You see, that’s the kind of pussy bullshit I’m talking about! Not willing to jump in and take a chance!”

“You’re out of control,” Mike cautioned.

“Who’s with me?!” Randy shouted. “Who’s got a car?!”

“Dude, we’re not driving over the 17 in the middle of the night after we’ve been drinking!” Terry argued.

Shit! I can drive that hill blindfolded!” Randy bragged. “Darren, we’ll take your car!”

“No way, the brakes are shot.”

“Mike!”

“Are you kidding? My alcohol level has to be twice the legal limit right now.”

“Don’t let me down, Terry!”

“Fuck it, I’m heading home,” Terry said, then started to move away.

“Guess I don’t need to ask you,” Randy said flippantly to Jason.

“I’m out.” Jason also began to leave, then Mike.

“Darren!” Randy said with exaggerated friendliness. “You won’t leave me.”

“Sorry, bro, I gotta keep out of sight.” Darren left and jogged up to everyone else leaving.

“So that’s it?” Randy called out as everyone exited the courtyard. “Just gonna leave ol’ Randy all by himself?”

Everyone continued down the corridor toward the school entrance.

“Well I don’t need any of you motherfuckers! Go back to your boring lives! I’m a one man party! I am a creature of the night!” Randy’s voluminous voice became distant as Jason and everyone else approached the school entrance. “That’s it! Keep going! Don’t worry about Randy! I’ll go invade Stu’s! Or find some other party!” Jason heard footsteps in the courtyard moving away quickly in the opposite direction.

Jason and everyone else made it to the street and walked along the sidewalk. A couple of them took a last drink of their beers and tossed them into a nearby trash can. 

“Well this has sure been a crazy night,” Mike observed, and everyone muttered in agreement. They then saw a police car driving down a cross street, and everyone froze for an instant.

 

©2017 Robert Kirkendall

99 Word Prompt: Busy

September 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

Silvio the waiter moved from table to table taking customer’s orders and answering their many questions about the menu. He then ran back to the kitchen, quickly arranged various plates of food onto a serving tray, and ran back out with the tray on his upturned palm. He adroitly sidestepped other servers and bussers on his way to table.

“Waiter!” an obnoxious customer screeched.

Silvio halted and looked down at the customer contemptuously.

“What’s this fly doing in my soup?” the customer demanded as he pointed down at his soup bowl.

Silvio glanced down at the bowl. “The backstroke!”

Ailurophobia – A 10 Minute Play

(This play was inspired by Mooch, the tuxedo cat in the above picture. He belongs to my girlfriend, and when I was rehearsing another play at her townhouse, Mooch would join us, bother the actors, and generally make himself the center of attention. Good kitty.)

CHARACTERS

DARCY – A tenant

ROSEANNE – A tenant

TABITHA – A tenant

GEORGE – A tenant

WHISKERS – A tuxedo cat

Scene: Darcy’s apartment

Time: Early evening, Present

(The living room of DARCY’S apartment. DARCY is seated on the stage right side of a couch that’s at upstage center and facing the audience. ROSEANNE is seated to her left on other side of couch. At stage left is TABITHA sitting on a chair or a love seat. At stage right is GEORGE sitting in a chair. At center stage is a coffee table with some glasses of water and a pile of papers. There is a back wall upstage with two large windows on either side. Everyone has a sheet of paper or two that were printed by DARCY.)

DARCY

Thank you all for volunteering for the steering committee. We’ll be considering and discussing the new proposed rules for the Glenwood Complex. Let me begin by saying that I take our responsibility to our fellow tenants very serious. These are problems that we all want to be addressed, and I will give this all my attention without distraction.

(Everyone else nods in approval.)

DARCY

Now some of these new rules attempt to deal with complaints about parking availability, the lack of night time lighting for certain parts of the complex, as well as the recent worries about transients intruding onto our property.

(WHISKERS, DARCY’S tuxedo cat, enters.)

DARCY

Now I share everyone’s concern when it come to unwanted intruders, and I believe something needs to be done about it, but I also believe we need to be cautious in how we approach this problem.

(Whiskers starts rubbing up against DARCY and meowing.)

DARCY (To WHISKERS)

Not now, Whiskers. Can’t you see I’m busy?

(To tenants)

You’ll have to excuse my cat. He does love being the center of attention.

ROSEANNE

Oh that’s all right. I just love cats!

(Pets WHISKERS)

And you’re just an adorable little kitty!

(WHISKERS starts rubbing up against ROSEANNE and purring.)

ROSEANNE

Aw, how cute!

TABITHA

He is one handsome looking cat. Where did you get him?

DARCY

He was a stray. He just showed up one day when I was down in the laundry room. Poor thing was starving, probably an orphan. I couldn’t resist, I had to have him.

TABITHA

Well cats are my favorite.

(WHISKERS goes over to TABITHA.)

TABITHA

(Pets WHISKERS)

Aw, you’re such a pretty little kitty!

GEORGE

I have to admit I’m not much of a cat person myself.

DARCY (Concerned)

If it’s a problem I can put him in my room.

GEORGE

Well, as long as he doesn’t disturb our meeting I don’t see a problem.

DARCY

You don’t have to worry about Whiskers. He’s actually very well behaved.

GEORGE

Oh, okay.

DARCY

So, back to the meeting. I’ve proposed that more security cameras be installed.

ROSEANNE

Good idea.

GEORGE

But before we do that we should fix the cameras we already have. A couple of them don’t work anymore, which I know is more of a maintenance issue, but…

(WHISKERS walks up to GEORGE and starts rubbing up against him. GEORGE is a bit uncomfortable.)

DARCY

Whiskers! Leaver George alone!

(To GEORGE)

I’m really sorry about this. He’s friendly to everybody.

TABITHA (Humorously)

Cats always find the non-cat person.

DARCY

(To GEORGE)

Want me to get him away from you?

GEORGE

Well, as long as he’s not biting or clawing or endangering me in any way it should be all right.

ROSEANNE (Affectionately)

He’s marking you!

DARCY

You can go ahead and pet him. He won’t bite.

GEORGE

(Pets WHISKERS carefully)

I’ve never lived with cats, half my family is allergic.

ROSEANNE

He’s helping you with your ailurophobia.

GEORGE

Ailuro what?

ROSEANNE

Ailurophobia, it’s an irrational fear of cats.

GEORGE

Well I don’t know if it’s an irrational fear, more like unfamiliarity.

TABITHA

You’ve made a new friend.

(To GEORGE, jokingly)

And so have you.

GEORGE

Um, yeah. Can continue with the meeting?

(Stops petting WHISKERS)

DARCY

Of course, let’s back to it.

TABITHA

George does make a good point about the cameras we have now that aren’t working. If we get those fixed, maybe we won’t need new ones.

DARCY

I agree, we should save expenses where we can.

(WHISKERS walks over to coffee table, peers at a pile of papers, starts batting at them.)

ROSEANNE

And while we’re at it, we should really do something about the lighting.

DARCY

Oh, definitely. Better lighting would keep away the trouble makers.

TABITHA

Yeah, like one of those spotlights that turns on automatically when you trigger a sensor.

(WHISKERS knocks pile of papers onto the floor.)

DARCY

Whiskers!

ROSEANNE (Laughs)

Cats sure do like knocking stuff over.

DARCY

(Picks up papers)

Especially this one. Bad kitty!

(WHISKERS meows back.)

DARCY

We’ll play with your cat toy later. Right now momma has company.

(WHISKERS mews some more, then sulks away. He slowly makes his way to window next to GEORGE.)

DARCY

For a male cat he can be a real diva.

ROSEANNE

My mom’s cat is the same way, a real attention magnet.

TABITHA

So was my old cat. Maybe I should get a new one.

DARCY

There’s plenty up for adoption.

TABITHA

Yeah, I just need to find the right cat. One who’s as adorable as this one!

GEORGE

I hate to interrupt but shouldn’t we be discussing the agenda of this meeting?

DARCY

(Sits back down and lays papers on table)

Yes, yes we should. I believe we were discussing security cameras?

ROSEANNE

Yeah, as well as lighting.

(To WHISKERS, unctuously)

We just got a little distracted by little kitty!

GEORGE

Okay. Like I was saying, if we fix the cameras we already have, or even replace them with advanced cameras, that could solve our problem.

TABITHA

You know, looking into new cameras would be a good idea. The new ones have such a better resolution.

GEORGE

Exactly. I’ve been looking around online and the prices of 2K cameras is starting to come down. They might actually now be in the range of our budget.

(WHISKERS look downward out window at stage right, then raises his hackles and hisses.)

GEORGE (Nervously)

Uh, what’s going on here?

DARCY

Oh it’s just another cat that lives in the complex. They’re having one of their territorial wars again.

GEORGE

He won’t attack me on accident, will he?

DARCY

Of course not, you have nothing to worry about. You’re not a rival cat.

(WHISKERS continues to howl and hiss, then runs over everyone and knocks some of the papers off of table again on his way to other window. He continues to howl and hiss out other window.)

DARCY

Whiskers! That’s enough!

TABITHA (Affectionately)

He’s just a little bundle of energy!

DARCY

Well he is a stray so he still has a lot of wild still in him.

GEORGE

I’ll say.

ROSEANNE

I think it’s cute.

DARCY

He can be a handful, but I wouldn’t have him any other way.

(To WHISKERS)

Whiskers! Get away from that window and behave yourself!

(WHISKERS finally stops howling and hissing, then walks to front of coffee table down stage.)

TABITHA

That does it, I’m adopting a new cat! There must be cats waiting for homes who are just as special as this little guy.

ROSEANNE

And you’ll be saving a cat’s life.

DARCY

That’s right.

TABITHA

The thought of all those poor kittens waiting for loving homes just gets to me.

(TABITHA fights back tears, DARCY and ROSEANNE console her.)

GEORGE

Um, the meeting?

DARCY

Oh, of course. Once again distracted by the feline.

(WHISKERS meows back at DARCY.)

DARCY

(To WHISKERS)

Not now, the people are talking.

(To GEORGE)

You were saying?

GEORGE

Good. Now in addition to new cameras we should also consider other security measures.

DARCY

Oh, agreed.

ROSEANNE

Maybe we can hire a security guard.

TABITHA

Yeah, the police don’t patrol this area nearly enough.

ROSEANNE

I know, it’s like we’re on our own out here.

DARCY

But can we afford a security guard?

(A fly starts buzzing around and WHISKERS follows it intently with his eyes.)

GEORGE

We can shop around, but I think we really need to look at that option. It’ll help keep out the criminal element.

ROSEANNE

Okay, but I’d hate for this place to become a fortress. One of the things I like about living here is all the friendly neighbors. I wouldn’t want it to feel too authoritarian.

GEORGE

Of course not. We need just enough security to protect us from dangerous types and the trouble makers.

(WHISKERS starts to go after fly, knocks over a glass of water off of coffee table, water spills on GEORGE.)

GEORGE (Stands up angrily)

Hey!

DARCY

Whiskers! Get a hold of yourself!

(To GEORGE)

I’m really sorry, I’ll get a towel.

GEORGE

Your cat is a menace!

DARCY

I’m so sorry, George! He didn’t mean it, really he didn’t!

(WHISKERS continues to chase after fly, then bumps against GEORGE causing him to stumble toward window and teeter over the window sill.)

GEORGE

Oh no!

(Falls out of window)

Aaaaaaaahhh!

(WHISKERS looks out window, then stars preening himself. Sound of GEORGE crashing outside.)

DARCY (Hands on hips)

Whiskers! Bad kitty!

(WHISKERS meows back innocently, then goes back to preening himself.)

©2017 Robert Kirkendall

Current Affairs: A Fake Interview Show – Episode 2

(Originally written as a short play during the summer of this year, posting it here after failing to get it staged.)

CHARACTERS

CHARLENE BEAUMONT

AMELIA KIRBY

HARVEY CHESWICK

REX PAULSON

Scene: A local television station

(A local television studio where an afternoon talk show is about to air. The host and the three guests are seated around a coffee table. The host, Charlene Beaumont, is seated at stage right. She is intelligent and informed. To her left is Amelia Kirby, an officious but dense person. Next to Amelia is Harvey Cheswick, obsequious and two faced. Seated at stage left is Rex Paulson, a menacing heavy.)

CHARLENE (Addresses audience)

Good afternoon, and welcome to Current Affairs. I am your host, Charlene Beaumont. Since the election of Arnie Fowler to Congress, things have been very different for District 7. In addition to an increased emphasis on security measures and a decrease on social spending, there has been a very concerted effort to go after immigrants, both documented and undocumented, environmentalists, human rights observers, women’s groups, minority groups, LGBTQ groups, civil libertarians, unionized workers, teachers, intellectuals, journalists from all forms of media, the entire county board of supervisors, people who speak with accents, appear too swarthy, and have last names that are, quote, funny sounding. With me to discuss his new administration is Congressman Fowler’s chief of staff Amelia Kirby.

AMELIA

Thank you having us, Charlene.

CHARLENE

The Congressman’s governmental advisor, Harvey Cheswick.

HARVEY

A pleasure to be here, Ms. Beaumont!

CHARLENE

And also with us is…(Looks at her notes), Director of Special Operations Rex Paulson

REX

Hi.

CHARLENE

Well, it’s been a hectic time in District 7 since the election. How have you all adjusted to your new positions as well as your sudden presence in the public spotlight?

AMELIA

Well I’ve adjusted just fine, and I really don’t know what all the controversy is about. Congressman

Fowler was very expressive about his vision during his campaign so for me there were no surprises. Plus I’ve had plenty of experience when it comes to dealing with an upset public.

CHARLENE

And where was that?

AMELIA

Customer service for United Airlines.

CHARLENE

I see. And have the rest of you readjusted to your new positions?

HARVEY

Like a hand in glove! When Mr. Fowler tells me to jump, I don’t even bother to ask him how high, I just jump.

CHARLENE

But as his governmental advisor aren’t you supposed to inform him of the duties of his job? Especially if he’s about to do something illegal or make some other kind of mistake?

HARVEY

Ha! Oh my, you are so naive. Congressman Fowler never makes mistakes. He told me so himself.

CHARLENE

Okay. And you, Mr. Paulson? Have you acclimated yourself to your new position?

REX

Yeah.

CHARLENE

All right. Now Ms. Kirby, how has the Congressman reacted to the slew of protests that have plagued him since he took office?

AMELIA

Well I just remind Congressman Fowler, and the rest of us, that the protesters represent only a small minority of voters and doesn’t reflect the majority of opinions.

HARVEY

And I have it on good authority that all these so called protesters are bussed in from out of state and are funded by George Soros.

REX

A conspiracy.

CHARLENE

Now protesters claim assiduously that they are local, and they contend that Congressman Fowler only won through voter intimidation.

HARVEY

Sore losers, ha ha!

AMELIA

They’re making that all up. I have yet to hear any examples of this so called intimidation.

CHARLENE

Well, some of the voter disenfranchisement techniques cited by protesters include closed polling stations, voter intimidation by brown shirted protesters at other polling stations, and one instance of a man in a security guard uniform who claimed to be a ballot inspector, and went around looking at filled out ballots looking for irregularities. He ended up throwing away hundreds of ballots.

REX

Mr. Fowler denies knowledge or involvement in any of these alleged activities.

CHARLENE

They’re not alleged, there’s plenty of video footage. All the local TV stations and many online sources have already shown footage.

REX

They’ll be dealt with.

CHARLENE

I beg your pardon. What do you mean by that?

HARVEY

Uh, Mr. Paulson was merely being sarcastic.

AMELIA

Of course! Rex is very well known for his sarcasm.

CHARLENE

Is that true, Mr. Paulson?

REX

Yeah, sure.

CHARLENE

Moving on. Another complaint from citizens is that the Congressman is rarely at his office. They accuse him of spending too much time golfing, bowling, playing poker, and when he does meet with constituents, it’s usually at a strip bar.

REX (Agitated)

Are you accusing Mr. Fowler of meeting with Reds?

CHARLENE

No, (Enunciates) a constituent. It means someone who lives in the Congressman’s district.

REX (Beat)

I knew that.

CHARLENE

Back to voter concerns. Many are worried that the Congressman is not only shirking his duties, he doesn’t take seriously the very responsibilities of his job.

HARVEY

Now I think I can put those worries into perspective and ultimately to rest by pointing out that candidate Fowler ran a very unique campaign. So of course after winning he going to be a unique, outside the mainstream congressman.

AMELIA

And let me add that no one takes his job more seriously that Congressman Fowler. You should see the passion with which he yells at the TV when he sees a news item he disagrees with, especially when Sylvia Brown is on.

CHARLENE

Yes, the Congressman’s opponent during the election. Why would he still be angry with her?

AMELIA

Because she said some mean things about Arnie.

HARVEY

She sure did.

CHARLENE

But since Fowler won and became Congressman, it seems rather unnecessary to harbor bitter feelings toward Mrs. Brown.

AMELIA

But she never apologized for her mean comments.

CHARLENE

Actually Sylvia Brown said very little about Fowler, especially toward the end of the campaign. Most of her ads were just clips Fowler’s more outrageous accusations, especially the obviously false claim that Mrs. Brown killed Vince Foster for the Clinton’s, and that they paid her in heroin.

HARVEY

But can you prove that it didn’t happen?

CHARLENE

You can’t prove a negative.

HARVEY

Aha! More pseudo intellectual hooey!

CHARLENE

No, it’s just common logic. You do understand the basic tenets of logic, right?

(The guests stare back at Charlene blankly.)

CHARLENE

Okay, let’s move on. Another area of concern is the shroud of secrecy that surrounds the office of Congressman Fowler. Access to him has become more restricted, and most people have no idea what happens during a typical day at the Congressman’s office.

AMELIA

Well then let me explain it to all those anxious, worried people. In the morning we put together his briefing. We keep it simple. He likes it when they have pictures and lots of color graphs.

CHARLENE

Is anything substantive said at these briefings?

HARVEY

Of course! Mr. Fowler is a very complex man who takes his job very seriously. Just the other day I attempted to bring up an important issue that I referred to as an elephant in the room. But when I said it that way, Congressman Fowler jumped to his feet and said, where’s the elephant? where’s the elephant? Then he excitedly ran around the office looking for an elephant. When we finally explained to him that it was a figure of speech and not a real elephant, he was extremely upset. He even broke down in tears.

CHARLENE

It does seem alarming that the Congressman has a hard time controlling himself.

AMELIA

But would you rather have some cold blooded, unemotional leader who doesn’t have feelings and only does things calmly, and rationally?

CHARLENE

But how do you deal with Congressman Fowler when he acts in such an emotionally unhinged way?

HARVEY (Reassuringly)

Oh, we know how to handle him when he gets in one of his special moods. A box of crayons, some paper, and he relaxes like a tranquilized animal.

CHARLENE

I see.

REX

I’d like to state for the record that Mr. Fowler does not inject tranquilizers or any other drugs. He just says no.

CHARLENE

I believe that was a metaphor.

HARVEY

That’s my fault. I should have been more plain speaking, like our beloved Congressman, instead of relying on the crutch of metaphor.

CHARLENE

Okay. Well one thing Congressman Fowler has been open about is his desire to return to policies that are fading, like mandatory minimums, suspension of civil liberties, and general prison expansion.

AMELIA

He is merely reacting to the wishes of the people.

CHARLENE

Actually public opinion is going against those policies.

HARVEY

That’s absurd!

CHARLENE

Not really. And many speculate that these policy opinions are because the private prison industry was a major donor to Fowler’s campaign.

AMELIA

But they are merely supporters who are showing their appreciation by donating to Congressman Fowler’s campaign. It’s really all quite innocent.

CHARLENE

But donations give the appearance of influence.

HARVEY

Might I remind you that money is speech?

REX

Citizen’s United, sweetie.

CHARLENE

Okay, currently money is considered speech, but that decision has been steeped in controversy, so just saying money is speech doesn’t seem to satisfy the public.

AMELIA

Well maybe the public needs to pull itself up by its own bootstraps instead of asking for a handout.

CHARLENE

I’m not sure how taking issue with moneyed interests having a disproportionate influence on elected office holders makes one a seeker handouts.

AMELIA

You see? You just answered your own question.

CHARLENE

That doesn’t make sense.

HARVEY

You need to stop thinking and just go with how you feel.

CHARLENE

Okay, I think we’re going off course here. Now I want to bring up the nagging and persistent questions that continue to surround the last election. More specifically, Fowler’s connections to figures in the criminal world.

AMELIA

Oh please! Congress are the real criminals.

CHARLENE

But Mr. Fowler is now a Congressman.

HARVEY

A new kind of Congressman, without that Washington taint.

CHARLENE

But these connections between Fowler and the criminal underworld go back years, long before he got into politics. He plays golf with members of various South American drug cartels, is suspected of having ties with members of the Yakuza, and has been accused of brokering money laundering for Russian oligarchs.

AMELIA

But as you can see Congressman Fowler has very diverse friends.

HARVEY

You think the pointy headed elites would at least give him credit for that.

CHARLENE

Uh, I think you’re missing the big picture. Now that Mr. Fowler is a congressman he is under greater scrutiny, so all those connections to criminals that he was able to hide when he was a private citizen are now in the public arena.

AMELIA

Those charges are baseless!

CHARLENE

And there’s Congressman Fowler’s insistence that climate change is a hoax despite all scientific evidence to the contrary.

HARVEY

The Earth is still around last time I checked.

CHARLENE

But the Congressman is at odds with most of his constituency. Isn’t he afraid of a backlash?

AMELIA

If Arnie took his critics seriously he would have given up long ago.

HARVEY

And he knows how to deal with his critics.

CHARLENE

How does he?

HARVEY

Oh, he has a plan.

CHARLENE

What plan?

HARVEY

A little thing called martial law.

REX (Jumps up)

You’re not supposed to mention that!

CHARLENE

What??

HARVEY

No! I didn’t say anything!

REX

That does it!

HARVEY

Noooooo!

(Rex grabs Harvey and drags him off stage.)

CHARLENE

What’s going on here?!

AMELIA

You didn’t see a thing!

CHARLENE

We’re on live TV!

AMELIA (To audience)

You! At home! You didn’t see or hear a thing! Got it?

(Runs off stage after Rex and Harvey)

CHARLENE (Pause, to audience)

Well this is flabbergasting. When we come back from break we’ll try to straighten out this mess and then discuss the Congressman’s voting record.

(Harvey runs back on stage screaming for help and then runs down the center aisle while being chased by Rex, who holds a pair and manacles or a large net, and Amelia.)

CHARLENE (To offstage)

Security!

©2017 Robert Kirkendall