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Story of the Day: 1-31-11


The Legend of Scary Gary: Part 1

This one might be a little twisty-turny, because the minute I started writing about it, another part of the story popped into my memory banks and I had to readjust the starting point. But it’ll be worth it, I promise. I hope. I hope to promise.

By the way, 1 month of stories, right? Not bad, right? Thanks. And we begin.

I moved to New York at the end of the summer after my senior year of college. That summer, I had been working in the children’s section at Borders in Ann Arbor with no idea of what I should do with the rest of my life. I wasn’t very worried about it, because I was young and that summer was filled with a steady diet of shenanigans. It’s hard to get too worried about anything when shenanigans are on the menu.

Borders was the best place to work, especially in the children’s section, where we got to do fun things like read books to kids at story hour and figure out how to shelf that annoying series of kids’ books with the googly-eyed animals in which the round, liquid-filled googly-eyes jut out 2 inches on either side of the cover.

That was also where I first discovered my fear of animal costumes. Not of encountering them, of being inside them. I was signed up to wear the Curious George costume for story time. The night before I got drunk. Yeah, college! I’m sure the alcohol was still leaking out of my pores when I got into work, but my coworkers were kind enough to not say anything, even though I was about to climb into a fuzzy suit and interact with a bunch of children.

I got the feet and the body on, no problem. It was when they put the head on me that I broke down. “I can’t do it!” I screamed. “Get this fucking thing off me!” I felt so gross and it was so hot and claustrophobic that I knew the minute I got in front of children, I would either pass out or accidentally murder one of them. I had to spend the rest of the morning watching my coworker Meredith valiantly performing the task that I was too chickenshit to do as I reorganized the googly-eye books for the gazillionth time.

When I wasn’t freaking out inside Curious George costumes, I was going through the post-grad motions in the house where I’d spent the previous 2 years of my life. I moved in the summer after my sophomore year with Chris O’ Connell and four strange upper-classmen, and I was currently on my fourth and final iteration of roommates. This iteration was anchored by Lisi’s younger brother Andre and his friends. I loved Andre like my own brother but his friends were punks. They spray-painted their tags all over the walls of the upstairs living room. Not in a drunken stupor, either. They had a house meeting about it. One dude was like, “do you guys think it would look fresh if we spray-painted our tags all over the upstairs living room, even though none of us know how to paint graffiti and our tags look like the scrawlings of preschoolers?” and the other dudes were all, “Totally.”

We had a lot of weird parties that summer with a lot of weird guests. One night we were hanging out on the porch and this older dude with a brushtache walked by and started talking to us. He introduced himself as Carl. He looked like Wooderson from Dazed and Confused with a dash of Hulk Hogan. He was drinking buttermilk out of the carton. He was one of those guys that you think it’s cool to talk to when you’re in college and drunk on a porch but if he came by one of your parties today you would probably call the police.

That night we ran out of beer after the stores had closed. Carl told us if we drove him to his ex-wife’s trailer, he had a case of beer that he could bring back to the house. I was the only one with a car, so I loaded up 2 guys with me … I wasn’t about to go by myself … and we headed out to Carl’s ex-wife’s trailer, which was like 15 miles outside of town at the end of a bunch of twisty-turny-methy-murdery dirt roads. Carl’s ex-wife was so country that her trailer wasn’t even in a trailer park. Just a trailer, all alone, in the woods.

Before Carl went up to the trailer, he gave us some helpful advice.

“I don’t think my ex-wife is home,” he said. “but if she is, she’ll probably try to shoot me. Keep the car running, and if you hear gunshots, get the fuck out of here.”

Sure, we said, nodding vigorously. Of course. Of course we would get the fuck out of there if we heard gunshots.

He nodded and got out. At the door to his wife’s trailer, he looked back at us and gave us a thumbs-up sign. He unlocked the trailer and walked inside while we watched in terrified silence, hyperventilatedly. After a few minutes that felt like more than a few minutes, like several minutes, like maybe even more, Carl came running out of the house carrying a case of beer. He leapt into the car and slammed the beer on the floor. “Go!” he screamed. “Go, go, go, go!”

We went. We went like we were getting chased by Mothman. We went screaming like children who had been terrorized by a berserker drunkard in a Curious George outfit.

“What the fuck, man?” I asked Carl, who was sitting in the passenger seat, chugging a Natural Light from the case. Natural Light! I swear, we went through all of that for a case of Natty Light.

“Oh, I was just fucking with you,” he said.

“Was that even your ex-wife’s trailer?” I asked.

“Yeah, but we’re cool. I’m still fucking her.”

“Cool,” I said. Inside, I was starting to wonder if maybe it wasn’t time to look into getting out of Ann Arbor.

Carl stopped by one more time that summer, but by then we had a bigger concern: Player Black.

— To be continued —

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Story of the Day: 1-19-11


The Ultimate Sweet Revenge: Part 2

It quickly became clear to everyone but me that this relationship was not going to last. Any relationship with that much of a power imbalance is not going to be healthy. I worshipped the ground Denise walked on; to her, I was good enough for the time being if a little out of shape and sort of annoyingly clingy. It was only a matter of time before things got weird. About three months, to be precise.

Denise’s best friend from high school went to college in Kalamazoo, and Denise would visit her there every few weeks. A few weeks into our senior year, I started hearing about these two guys in a rockabilly band. “You’d love them,” she’d say. “They’re so funny.” I was pretty sure I would not love them and they were not that funny. Still, I kept my opinions to myself, knowing that Denise was a delicate flower and all I had to do was act a little wacky for her to fly out of my hand and into the pompadoured hair of some rockabilly asshole.

One weekend, the guys were coming to Ann Arbor to visit. I wanted to be cool about the whole thing, so I called Denise early on Friday evening. “Hey,” I said. “I know Bill and Tom [maybe their real names; I don’t really remember] are coming into town tonight. I’d love to meet them! I think we’d really get along well. So, let me know what you’re doing and I can come meet up with you!” 

Denise did not call me all evening. This was before the age of cell phones. It was even before the age of pagers. My only option was to leave messages on her home phone, which I did repeatedly, in a manner that became increasingly more frantic and desperate as the night wore on. 

I barely slept that night, knowing these two other guys had come into town to poach my girlfriend and didn’t even have the decency to meet me and shake my hand before they did so. At about 8:00 in the morning, I couldn’t take it any longer. I drove my beat up Toyota Tercel over to Denise’s house and let myself in.

Everyone was still asleep when I arrived. It was 8:00 in the morning and we were in college. I crept up the stairs to her bedroom, my heart pounding in my chest. I don’t know where else my heart would pound. That is where it’s located. 

I swung open the door to her bedroom and my heart leapt out of my chest and dropped to the ground with a nasty, bloody splat. Denise was lying in her bed, and she was not alone. One of the two hilarious rockabilly bastards — I wasn’t sure which one — was curled up next to my girlfriend, looking awful cozy. 

Denise’s eyes fluttered open and caught mine. I closed the door and walked down to the kitchen. Keeping my nerves in check as best as I could, I stepped over to the refrigerator and calmly poured myself a glass of orange juice. 

A moment later, Denise ran down the stairs after me.

“It’s not what it looks like,” she said. “I wasn’t about to make him sleep on the couch.”

Of course! Why would she?

After a long night of desperation and heart-vomiting, I knew what I had to do. I would be calm, cool, and collected. I would be mature and nonchalant. I only had one chance to play the situation exactly right, to grab hold of the reins of power and show her that I could step up and be a man when the situation called for it. 

“Denise,” I said. “I think we should break up.”

And with that, I slammed the rest of my orange juice and walked out of the house.

— to be continued —

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