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"Someone Who Knew Things," short story excerpt

Friday 6/23/23

One day he wears a shirt that says, by way of glib announcement, There Is Much That I Know. It’s meant to be incisive and edgy. To sardonically convey depth but also the no-fuss attitude of the thinker, he of the higher plane who need not lower himself to explain what he knows and why he knows it. You must come up to his level and not expect him to bring himself down to yours. Then you may stand next to him in silence and also know things without needing to say what they are, while also understanding that with the aid of stimulant they are more likely to be said and this is how it should be. Any mountain door necessarily requires a key to spring its lock. He is the existential embodiment of, “Case closed, uncool simpletons, do not embarrass yourselves by asking.”

Another day he stays home and drinks rotgut red wine which is all he has throughout the morning and afternoon and then chases the cat around at night because he wants to watch a marathon of Dragnet on the TV station that plays old programs and he’s convinced the cat is screwing with him and has hid the remote.

One night he drinks a lot of pilsner and calls an ex to apologize for how he was and after saying several heartfelt permutations of the apology he makes a crass joke of “We sure fucked in some strange places” and he wrecks it all. He also wishes she wasn’t married because she always got him and she’d probably still get him now.

One Memorial Day he decides to stay in bed all day and pretend he’s a survivor from a plane crash and his bed is a raft in the Pacific that he’s floating on that takes him over places he likes but he can’t get out. He reads books from his childhood that used to make him happy about groups of boys who solved mysteries and were better at it than adults. He plays with his Swiss Army knife that his dad got him for his eighth birthday and takes his shirt off and cuts a cross into his chest that’s not very deep but it stings and bleeds a lot more than he expected it would. “This is how Jesus Christ died” he thinks looking at the cross in his haze of gin-based Memorial Day turpitude, then realizes, “No, that’s not it.”

One day he gets married and he overhears his bride-to-be talking to her father when he passes by her room at the seaside inn where the families and guests are staying. The father says, “It’s your happiness. It doesn’t matter what people will think. You’re all I care about. We can call this off and everyone will go home. Don’t make a mistake just because you don’t want to be embarrassed. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

One day he gets divorced and his wife isn’t there at the courthouse to sign the paper because she’d already signed and she couldn’t be around him. That’s how it was generally put. Either “She can’t be around you” or “The two of you can’t get along,” though he didn’t recall fighting exactly. He signs the paper and the lawyer for his wife says, “A different time, a different place, and I could have been your lawyer.” He says it like a predatory uncle who wouldn’t pitch you about the possibility of jerking you off and using your drying ejaculate like rosin that would help him achieve a firm, friction-facilitating grip for the tugging of his own member, but if you asked him to help you explore certain things, he’d step into action without hesitation.

Another day he’s coaching the Little League team he coaches in town though he is the only coach who isn’t a dad. They’ve had a winless season and it’s the last game and the tying run for the team is on third base with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. The kid who is the worst player is up at bat. He gets a clean single by some miracle off of a star pitcher throwing 70mph and the tying run comes in. It had been a fast game, so after the inning ends with the same score, everyone decides to play on to try and settle the thing being the final game and all. The team he was coaching loses the next inning and he goes over to the kid on the bench who had gotten the hit that had tied it because the kid is laughing and he’s hardly said two words all season. But now he’s with some of the other kids and cracking jokes.

“Hey, what’s so funny?” the guy who knew things asks. The kid looks scared. He doesn’t answer. So the guy says, “This is why you lost.”

One month his mom dies. He’s hurting financially just then. She leaves him some money, which isn’t as much as he’d been expecting. He really could have used more. But he doesn’t think about that. He looks at old photo albums which he took from the condo in which his mom had been living. Disney World seems really small in the photos, whereas it had always looked over-large in his memories. He calls his mom’s oldest friend and asks how they met. The woman tells him. It’d just been at an off-campus college party, probably after a football game. The mom of the guy who knew things went to the college and the best friend didn’t. Life just puts some people together if they let it. She never thought much of the guy the few times she met him but she wished she could have told him more because he sounds sincere and lost.

One day when he was fifteen he boasts to the punk kids that he hangs around with that he could go into the church and commit a dastardly deed. That’s what he calls it because the phrase was in Treasure Island which some of them had to read recently for English class and they thought it was funny, but he actually likes Treasure Island and wanted to read it again before he had finished it once. He’d been an altar boy in the church. He didn’t have positive or negative feelings about the place. You could go there if you wanted or not if you didn’t. It was kind of like a road that way when you had a choice of going down either of two that went in the same direction though they might be very different from each other.

They bet him he couldn’t do it and he maintains that he can, all the way to completion. He goes into the confession booth and he starts telling the tales of his dastardly deeds, some of which were true and some which are wholly invented. Quite a few involve girls and picking up his sister’s friend’s panties from the floor when they went downstairs for breakfast after a sleepover and smelling them like they contained sweet drizzles of golden honey because that helps him in getting to where he is trying to get as he masturbates in the confessional.

Finally, the priest, sounding fatigued, asks, “Anything else, my son?” and he answers, “Forgive me Father, for I have erupted!” and finishes all over the fake walnut partition between them and runs out of the booth and the church trying to zip what he called the Friendliest Apostle back into his pants his pants while escaping without taking a header.

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