|09-20-2008, 07:56 PM||#1|
I Coulda Had a VH
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Steve Buscemi's Couch
Challenge #1 - Pee Couch
Lost to the external for nearly four hours at the time, Paul watched the road signs, gas stations, and cows – God, there were a lot of cows – pass near-imperceptibly through his periphery as he guided his car with an autopilot sense honed through years of completing the same mind-numbing task of getting his family to and from his in-laws three times a year. It was in this state that Paul found a mini-vacation for himself inside what was otherwise a vacation – for him at least -- in name only. Curtis , however, loved the trips. And Beth had an overdeveloped sense of familial commitment with which it was best not to tamper.
He finally felt it on a bend in the interstate, and coming back from his mini-vacation, Paul knew he had to check the front right tire. So he exited shortly after a sign indicated a town with a distinctive name, but which had done little to earn it.
‘This must be Peoria,’ he sighed as the car pulled into the town proper.
‘I thought the sign said...’
‘Nevermind. Keep your eye out for a...’
‘Ooh! Garage sale.’
‘Fuck!’ Paul almost...almost...stopped himself from saying it out loud. But he said it. He knew from the look of horror on Beth’s face and the wide-eyed statue the kid had become. Attempting to salvage the situation, he mitigated, ‘Daddy’s drunk,’ and pasted on a smile of rigor mortis. Counterintuitively, this did not help the situation.
While Curtis appeared to be placated, quite artificially, by Paul’s explanation, Beth had already wandered, salivating, towards the garage sale. Or as Paul called them...
‘It’s just people unloading junk they don’t even want and no one they know wants. So, why not try to sell it to some chumps who happen by?’
‘Oh, I’ve found good stuff before.’
‘Who the Hell wants a Monopoly game with no race car?’
‘It was three dollars.’
‘No race car!’
‘Calm down. You like the top hat.’
‘I like the race car.’
‘I used to pick up those Monte Cristos you like at the Wilson’s monthly garage sale.’
‘Race car...wait, what?’
‘Shirley used to make them and set them out with Bobby’s wooden toys.’
‘Bobby’s a genius.’
‘Don’t roll your eyes. He built a model airplane that flies out of a brick, a shoelace, and nine rolls of duct tape.’
‘Do they serve brownies at these garage sales?’
‘Why would they sell brownies?’
‘I gotta go to the bathroom, mom,’ Curtis called out, disengaging his parents from one another.
‘Oh look! They only want twenty dollars for the couch.’
‘We have a couch.’
‘We can have more than one couch, you know.’
‘Where are we going to put it anyway?’
‘Maybe they’ll hold it for us.’
‘It’s not a matter of it being inconvenient to drag to your folks’ place. There is no place to put it in or on the car.’
‘Well, there’s got to be a way.’
‘You didn’t think we would get that armoire into the kitchen.’
‘I have to use the bathroom!’
Turning again to realize that Curtis’s dilemma remained unresolved, Paul postponed the conversation he didn’t understand and walked with Curtis over to a man who appeared to be the home owner. Paul reached his hand out to introduce himself with a handshake before asking the favor of using his bathroom, but the man turned and walked quickly towards his backyard when their eyes met.
‘He has arthritis.’
‘Huh?’, Curtis turned to find the middle-aged man who had spoken. He sharpened a pencil in a manual hand-held sharpener while he spoke.
‘Cliff. He has arthritis.’
‘I’m sorry...to hear that,’ Paul spoke in confusion.
‘He was afraid you were going to shake his hand. That’s how he got arthritis.’ The pencil was beginning to get shorter. ‘He went to Washington, D.C. once to take a course.’
‘In handshaking. A handshaking course. You know, like all them politicians take so they can get elected.’
‘Oh, yeah, those. Sorry.’ Paul had begun to grow incrementally more comfortable at this point.
‘So, this big slap happy Texan is paired up with him. Big guy, big boots, big-ass Stetson. Guy squeezed his hand so hard, he caught arthritis. Spread to his knees and his johnson after that. That’s when his wife left him...’
‘I’m sorry to interrupt, but my son sort of needs to use the bathroom. I hate to ask, but there really isn’t anyplace else nearby and it’s kind of an emergency.’
‘You said you hate to ask. Ask what?’
‘Oh, if he can use your bathroom.’
‘Nothing for sale in there.’
‘No, I wouldn’t expect there would be. But can he use your bathroom?’
‘I said there’s nothing for sale in there. Ain’t you listening?’
‘Sorry. My mistake. Uh, your pencil is wearing down.’
‘That’s cuz I’m sharpening it. I thought they had good schools where you’re from.’
‘I didn’t say where I was from...nevermind.’
Increasingly aware of Curtis’s impending doom, Paul went looking for his wife with haste, and intent on getting in the car and to adequate facilities for the boy. His purposeful stride was halted by the bubbling, quasi-insane semi-language of his approaching wife.
‘They’re gonna knock five bucks off for the pee stain!’
‘We’re not buying someone’s pee-stained cast-off couch!’
‘Relax, it’s dog pee.’
‘I have to go to the fuck bathroom.’
‘If you’re gonna swear, at least do it right.’
‘Mom! I have to go to the bathroom!’
‘So look, if we turn the cushion over...’
‘No! Curtis has to use the bathroom and these people won’t let him because there’s nothing for sale in the bathroom.’
‘Well that’s reasonable. You can’t expect them to let him in there if nothing’s for sale.’
‘I understand nothing!’
Frozen in a moment of elusive clarity, Paul reached out into the ether a heartbeat too late to grasp sense from the activity around him. Something about the town with the distinctive name and indistinctive atmosphere wasn’t set quite right with the world. But also, it was not so alien as he felt it should be.
The half second where lucidity slipped quietly by was broken, perhaps fortuitously, by the squawk of a seagull. Paul looked up at the swooping bird just in time for it to crash into his face. ‘Oh Hell.’
‘Mom. Let’s go. I have to use the bathroom.’
‘Five more minutes. I promise.’
‘I think dad’s unconscious.’
Paul didn’t know how long he had been out, but it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes in his estimation. Feeling a lack of weight in his pockets as he sat up, Paul pawed them almost automatically. His front pockets had been cut open and were empty. His back pockets had been turned out, but his wallet had not been fully removed. Paul found only the business card from his barber shop missing when he checked his wallet. Not a big deal, except that he was only two haircuts away from a freebie.
Paul stood and began to turn in a circle, looking for his family. He saw Beth trying futilely to drag the pee couch across the lawn. She soon saw Paul and snapped at him, ‘get up and help me, dammit.’
‘I. Don’t. Want. A. Pee-couch.’ Paul stood and started towards Beth.
‘You’re embarrassing me in front of these people.’
‘Around somewhere. Are you going to help me or not?’
Paul spent the next five minutes looking for Curtis, having decided to drive him to a bathroom and come back for Beth immediately afterwards. Circling the property twice and then expanding the search up and down the block, he finally found Curtis in the space between two closely-set shacks. He was throwing his pants and underwear into an old metal garbage pail sitting there. Pulling his oversized T-shirt down, his plan had been to sneak back to the car without being seen. Then he saw his father and looked horribly embarrassed and relieved at the same time.
Paul walked directly in front of Curtis as they headed back to the car. Except the car was not where he had parked it. So Paul gave his own pants to Curtis to wear while he strode nonchalantly back to the garage sale in his boxers and windbreaker. Coming around to the side of the house, he found the car.
Cliff, the man with arthritis, was backing the car slowly up the grass on the side of the house towards Beth and the couch, in some illogical attempt to have the car gobble up the couch. But the couch was simply too big. Beth took off the cushions. She turned the couch sideways. She turned it on its end. She had Cliff try to have the car ‘sneak up’ on it. Nothing seemed to come close to working. And nothing seemed to deter her.
‘We have to go,’ Paul shouted from behind her, startling her.
‘I’ve almost got it.’
‘We don’t have time for this.’
‘We don’t have to be at my parents’ until eight o’clock, Paul.’
‘Curtis shit himself.’
‘I’m not telling you because I think it’s a Kodak moment.’
‘Well, we have to wait anyway.’
‘I thought you knew.’
‘Oh Christ already.’
Paul walked quickly to the passenger seat of the car. As he approached, Cliff got out and ran into the back yard again. Beth looked at him angrily, ‘what did you do to him?’
Ignoring the question, Paul opened the glove compartment and removed a cigarette lighter and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and headed towards Beth and the couch. Dousing the couch in whiskey, Paul reiterated, ‘We are not buying a pee-couch.’
And the pee-couch burned in glorious warm and reassuring colors while Cliff and the Pencil Sharpener hid in the backyard.
Paul admired his handiwork for nearly five minutes as a sense of normalcy overcame him. The indisdinctive town with the distinctive name faded into the periphery of his awareness; the place where it belonged.
And then he noticed his wife was gone.
“God Damn it!”
Cliff and the Pencil Sharpener immediately began packing up their wares. A small group of seagulls mustered and flew off. And the whistle of a peaceful breeze rustled through the leaves and grass.
Beth emerged from behind the house, carrying a large, nondescript cardboard box. Cliff and the Pencil Sharpener seemed glad to have sold the item, but also glad to be rid of the strange family who had pierced the soothing structure of their daily business.
Thirty minutes later, having located a suitable clothing store and fully inflated the front right tire, Paul and company were on the road quickly with plenty of time to make it to the in-laws. Riding along, Paul was unable to go back to his mini-vacation and the family returned to normal conversation as if the entire day had been an aberration.
‘So anyway Beth, what did you buy?’
‘Those people aren’t the brightest. They were selling a brand new computer for fifty bucks because they couldn’t get it to work.’
‘What’s wrong with it.’
‘Nothing. They didn’t have the monitor hooked up properly. I tried to tell them, but they thought I was trying to swindle them.’
‘But they sold it to you. What happened?’
‘Some guy who kept sharpening a pencil told them I was only haggling, so they knocked the price down to twenty-five bucks. Those people were weird,’ Beth said.
‘That’s an understatement,’ Paul agreed. ‘But seriously, no more garage sales. Please.’
‘But we got a computer.’
For several months, Paul attended the new computer with a state of mind reminiscent of Beth’s day at the garage sale. And Beth had begun to grow concerned, until one evening Paul emerged from the family room with the most radiant smile she had seen on them since their youth.
Paul had invented eBay so that no one would ever have to go to another garage sale ever.
And they all lived happily ever after.
|09-20-2008, 08:17 PM||#2|
Are you terminal?
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Some where under a deep blue sky.
Satire/Humor ... we really are running the gamut.
You knocked this one out of the park. I really was pulled into this. The dialog was really good. It was funny and esoteric. Catching arthritis, sharpening a pencil and a pee couch.
I got a little lost between burning the couch and buying the computer, but I understand that was to lead to Paul's solution of inventing eBay, while humorous far from factual. You should have made it a one off, maybe call it FleaBay.
Overall a fun story. Beat the socks off mine.
|09-21-2008, 12:57 PM||#5|
I Coulda Had a VH
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Steve Buscemi's Couch
RE: eBay...it's a conundrum. I think it's funnier if I say eBay. Something's lost with a stand-in. But then we run into the suspension of disbelief problem that some people will have as you point out. I just went with my own personal preference. Norville Barnes didn't invent the hula hoop either
|09-21-2008, 01:38 PM||#6|
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: European Capital of Culture 2008
I could hear 'The Twilight Zone' music while I was reading this. Great build up to the end.
|09-21-2008, 07:18 PM||#7|
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: At the computer...duh!
Awesome, brilliant.... and a dang fun read!! "Ebay" it has to be Ebay, it is the whipped cream that makes the whole thing come into such realness... FleaBay would seem to be but an extension of the looniness (which is truly part of family life, and life in general). Ebay makes it come home, makes the reader part of the story, makes the reader take a look at how our real lives are often stranger than fiction.
Sir, I applaud you.
|09-22-2008, 10:56 AM||#10|
I Coulda Had a VH
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Steve Buscemi's Couch
|09-29-2008, 10:31 AM||#13|
Join Date: Feb 2003
Congratulations again, Buck. To be honest, this was my second choice. I just wish that my first choice got more votes in order to really make this a contest, instead of having you run away with it the way you did. Anyway, nice work.
Let's get into it, shall we?
While I wouldn't call this laugh-out-loud funny, it did make me chuckle a few times. However, it was tough for me to get over the inherent silliness of the situation. The great thing about it, though, was that I had no problems getting through the story, and really wanted to read more. Again, good job.
The dialogue was very good, and even though the situation was silly, you played it straight, so it didn't devolve into perfect ridiculousness. Kudos.
You also managed to paint the scene very well, because I could see the setting and the characters pretty well in my head. And you did it with an economy of words.
Honestly, about the only real complaint I had was the inherent silliness of the situation. The ending was delicious, though, and was a great payoff.
That's really about all I have. It's hard to crit when you don't do much wrong.
Nice work, and again, congrats.