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Deadally
March 4th, 2014, 07:55 PM
Hi all,

I've been around here off and on for a rather long time. I have always appreciated the time people spend reading and critiquing my stories. It is a great joy of mine to write, but as anyone is aware, finding motivation to write can be challenging.

Also, recently I finished my PhD work and am looking for a job. Now I fill the time with contracting work and thinking about several novels and novellas that I have very little confidence in writing. This is a terrible attitude! So I have decided to take this challenge for myself:

WRITE A SHORT STORY EVERY DAY FOR 30 DAYS. Today being March 4, 2014, I would be posting a story every day from now until April 3rd. This is a sort of declaration post, and it's also my first crack at the challenge, a story I wrote based on a prompt. It uses a character I've been building in my head for a while. Thank you for reading this mini-manifesto, and thank you for reading my story. I would love to hear anything you have to say about it!

The writing prompt was something like "You just received a breakup letter from a piece of furniture." That led me to this work, entitled "Dear Loser." (~2400 words)
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There’s a crushing despair I feel whenever I wake up from a night of partying. Usually, the first thought I have is “I think I’m going to die of thirst.” A quick chug of my filled water bottle takes care of that, more or less. Next, I feel that same visceral pain in my lower back. It’s symmetrical and makes me wonder if I finally did my kidneys in. After the previous night, I wouldn’t be too surprised if things started giving up on me, anyway.

But it’s never a sign of kidney failure. It means I need to pee, for some reason. Finally, I lie in bed and wonder what bad things I may have wrought. Did I lock the door before going to bed? Did I break something? Is the cat ever going to talk to me again after so much noise? I come to my senses quickly to address more pressing physical discomfort. I always lock the door; by now it’s a compulsion. I don’t have anything that is difficult to replace, so who cares if anything was broken? The cat is a jerk, and I don’t care if he likes me. With that settled, I ooze out of bed to relieve that pain in my back.

Normally, I finish my business and begin to forget the hazy night before. Today was different, though. Today I did as normal and walked into the living room and noticed it was…gone? No, that’s not it. It wasn’t gone. Just the couch, the couch was gone. Unfortunately, that was pretty much the only piece of furniture in the living room. All that remained was a pair of sheets, one ripped from a notebook, the other ripped from the bottom of the couch. “Do not remove under penalty of law,” said the smaller sheet. The notebook page was handwritten—and beautifully so, I might add:

Dear Larry,
I’m afraid I cannot go on living this charade. Last night was the last straw for our relationship. You’ve gotten out of control, and I won’t enable you any longer. We’ve tried to make this work, but all you do is walk all over me. I know it is difficult to understand and seems sudden, but please forgive me. I just don’t want to see you hurt, and it seems like you will never change.

So I’m leaving, Larry. I’m leaving forever. I hope you can see your way through the darkness. Goodbye

Signed,
Couch

Very peculiar, definitely not the kind of thing that typically happens after a night of partying. I looked at the door to my apartment. Unlocked. That started the alarm bells, or maybe it was the hangover beginning to kick in. I made a cup of coffee and sat on the floor to think about it.

Ok, so I love the couch. It’s been a very good and reliable couch, my most excellent piece of furniture. Why would she just up and walk out on me? Of course, that’s silly. She’d been taken, and somebody had written a breakup letter to me from it. This was a kind of disrespect that my new friends needed to avoid. I could feel my anger bubbling. You let them into your place, and they play pranks. This is like high school all over again.

But what if it is something more sinister? What if someone else had broken in to steal the couch and sell it at auction? My mind jumped to images of its beautiful, brown cushions painted in sad-face, SOLD to the highest bidder, some creep who will do whatever he wants to the couch. And who knows what that will be?

Or it could have been one of these new friends of mine. These college kids, you can’t trust them for a second. Especially Franco. He’s some special kind of rabble rouser. Why would they take a couch? How could they lift it in their drunken state? How did they get it anywhere? All those guys drive are old, banged-up subcompacts. And WHY?

I hear the buzz, buzz of my cell phone alarm coming from the other room, a reminder of something I setup up but forgot. I go to the room and read the screen. It’s not an alarm of mine, but a text message from Bill the Combine: “TAILGAT 2DAY WOOOOOO MEET AT FRANKOS!!!! Get rdy to get ur drank on”

I almost vomit from the thought of another party so soon. Last night was probably the last one for me for a while, at least until next weekend. But for the much younger crowd, Friday night is just the prelude for the home game. The way I saw it, tailgates were just a place to get sunburnt and assaulted in some way, though it was always fun to spot and yell at people desperate for a bathroom squatting behind a nearby bush. I’ll pass on the tailgate…

Before the big game.

Against State.

Oh no.

This town’s school had one notorious and charming after-the-game tradition: burning couches. Cops routinely drove around the night before the game to ticket people who left couches sitting on porches or near dumpsters so that they would not be taken. The town discouraged it. The school discouraged it. The arsonists couldn’t care less. Nothing was getting in the was of a good past-game couch burning, assuming the team won.

“Guess I’m going to a tailgate after all,” I say to my empty room.

-------------------------


I used to never party when I was younger. I was a model student, the kind of guy who just sort of drags the life out of any engagement. That’s just how I was brought up, somehow. I was picked on by anyone and everyone, most of it not malicious. I just asked for it, really. But as I got older I began to realize that, yes, I could be an interesting and sociable guy. I grew quickly out of my shell and shacked up in a part of college town where I could finally express those urges. I got some chicks. I got a lot of drinks. Most likely, I got a fair amount of irreversible liver damage. But I evolved, and that’s what is important.

Still, though I was pretty used to the party by now, there was still always this strange feeling I’d get before going to one. Tailgates, especially, gave me this weird sense of foreboding. They could be very exciting or lame. More importantly, I could be very exciting or lame, and I could never predict what people would see before a given party. At tailgates, they wanted to toss footballs around and play a bunch of drinking games. These kinds of physical tests were not in my skillset, and you can’t just say no to a game of Flip Cup. You can’t say no to a drunk college student without looking lame. So what would the tailgate have in store for me today? Hell if I knew. Thus, a sense of foreboding, not the best way to start the day.

Still, sometimes you get lucky. Maybe if I found my couch, it would be a good excuse to celebrate with a girl. “Couch Returned Safely,” the headlines would say, and it would be party time, because I would be so proud, and girls seem to be into pride, especially if you’re older.

So I put on my jeans and a tight shirt. I’m not a half bad-looking thirty-six year old guy. I’ve got some stubble. I’ve got some money. I’ve got these kids by the balls. That’s the Larry they have to see.

It’s a noon game, so the party starts early. I’m not sure exactly when they might burn the couch, though. Is it right after the win? Franco’s apartment building is walking distance, so I walk. I would take my truck, but the traffic is terrible. It would be rude of me to show up late for the party.

--------------------------------

I’m at Franco’s now, so where’s the gang? It’s a bunch of students, so they form pretty tight cliques and party together for four (or more) years. The sun is out and warm, so why has the party not started? Time to knock on Franco’s door. Bill the Combine answers, “Lawney! Hey man, grab a beer! Franco! Lawney’s here!”

“What’s up, Larry?” says Franco to me.

Bill throws me a beer, and I have to open it. Why be rude? Click and fizz, a bright, blue can reminding me of why I hurt and why I’m about to hurt again. It lasts about three seconds and tastes like garbage, but I’m already feeling a little less like garbage. I move to Franco and give him the old hand slap greeting that just seems to make sense with this crowd. “Hey man, help me with that table?” he asks.

We move the long, plastic table outside into the sun, and like magic everyone is there. Stan is pouring shots of some mint liqueur and prodding me to indulge. I am all to happy to indulge…three of four. For some reason, taking down these shots will help the team take down state. I don’t ask why.

My tolerance for alcohol in recent years has improved from my younger days. Unfortunately, my understanding of when to stop has not. I have one too many, and then two too many, and then maybe several more too many. Counting after “too many” seems like a pointless exercise. Now I just want to chat.

So I chat with Betty. She’s very pretty, and life the rest of this crew, Betty is quite smart. She is a research assistant in some lab doing science I don’t understand, and we’re talking about that because I ask how work is coming. She might publish something soon, which is good. And now we’re into the topic of men, somehow. They’re pigs, which is true. And dogs. That’s true, too. She invited this linebacker over just to play video games one night, because he had asked her out, but she didn’t want to be mean about it. So they would hang out, when this big ape of a man tried to get interesting with her. Of course, she wasn’t having it, which is something I’ve always felt pretty strongly in Betty; she’s just not that kind of girl to be taken advantage of by any man.

Still, a jock gets what he wants a little too often for my taste, so my hackles are up. I’m saying something about the next time he calls, let me know about it so I can come and kick the crap out of him. Fight in the dog, not the dog in the fight, I say. Betty laughs and offers me another beer. I don’t remember what she is saying after that, because my head starts to do that thing where I can’t quite hold it up or my eyes open all the way. I also get to raising my voice. The conversation comes in and out in my mind.

Me: I don’t like going to the games because I sun burn so easily…

Betty: And then I said to him that we need to quit partying so much; all you find there is boys trying to hook up, you know? …

Me: If the team loses that running back, it’s over. Repeat, OVER for the season …

Betty: Personally, I find the thinning hair kind of distinguished.

Now we’re somewhere else, inside. Franco has a big, private bathroom, so that’s where we are. She’s kissing. I’m kissing. I’ll spare you the details.

----------------------
We have been laying on Franco’s bathroom rug now for some time, and my perception is coming back to me, a little bit. Huh. Betty. Interesting. Someone pounds on the door, “Hey! Let me in there! You’ve been hogging it long enough!”

Betty works quickly to get her clothes together. I open the door. It’s Bill the Combine. “Sup, brother? How’s it going?”

I answer that everything is fine and leave. Bill goes in, and I hear a scream, “LAWNEY, MY MAN!”

Out comes Betty, red as a cherry. I take a bow; what’s embarrassment to the mint liqueur shot champion?

I sit on Franco’s couch in his living room. The game has started, so most of the crowd has dispersed. A small contingent of beer pong devotees has stuck around, though, and they’re whispering about being hungry. We decide to go to the sports bar for hamburgers.

The hamburgers are good, and I don’t really pay attention to the conversation. These are people I don’t know so well, and my head is still kind of doing the droopy thing where I can’t focus on people talking. It’s just so many words, really.

--------------------------------

Now the tailgate is completely over. State has been killing us all game, apparently, and people are now leaving the stadium in droves. I help Franco put his table away. “See you, man. Thanks a lot for coming. Have a good one.”

It was a pretty fun party, overall. You can’t complain about a good party. Stumbling home isn’t too difficult. Good thing I didn’t get sick; it’s always nice finding just the right balance between getting too drunk and getting sick. My apartment welcomes me home, but it’s a bit too warm. I should have run the air conditioner.

There’s a note on the floor of my barren apartment.

Dear Larry,
I’m afraid I cannot go on living this charade. Last night was the last straw for our relationship. You’ve gotten out of control, and I won’t enable you any longer. We’ve tried to make this work, but all you do is walk all over me. I know it is difficult to understand and seems sudden, but please forgive me. I just don’t want to see you hurt, and it seems like you will never change.

So I’m leaving, Larry. I’m leaving forever. I hope you can see your way through the darkness. Goodbye

Signed,
Courtney

Sure. Yes. There it is. That’s what it is. There’s nothing in this room. There’s nothing in here but a note. I wish I were sick. That lump starts in my throat again. A cramping, awful pain in my throat, and I sit on the floor.


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END
Everyone have a great day!

Apple Ice
March 4th, 2014, 08:27 PM
Been here 10 years with 35 posts? What a mysterious member you are.

I loved the story. Larry's narration was great and I found myself laughing often and I hardly ever find something that makes me laugh properly. Great stuff Deadfall. I am genuinely looking forward to your next 30 stories haha

Deadally
March 4th, 2014, 08:30 PM
Thank you, Ice. I was active in bursts in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010 (or something like that). It appears as though a number of my posts were deleted. They would be old stories from 10 years ago or so. They're best left deleted :)

Apple Ice
March 4th, 2014, 08:40 PM
No problem. Just realised I called you Deadfall, haha. Sorry about that *Deadally. I seem to come to this forum in bursts too, maybe not as infrequent as you, though. Yeah I tried to click on your link but I was greeted with Mr. 404. Shame.

Deadally
March 4th, 2014, 10:27 PM
Aha, I finally figured out how to update my sig. The link is now fixed.