I wrote this to hand off to somebody in my comics class to draw in 8 pages. Good luck to them! And like the title of this post says, there are 7 true stories from my life in this one short story.
The Breakfast Gang
“Well frankly I don’t know how much more bussing I can stand. You don’t get it, man, these people are the lowest form of humanity. Seriously. The other day I saw a guy folding an entire load of laundry. Not that it’s gross or anything but you know how many seats he was taking up with his clothes? Four. People had to stand so his jeans had somewhere to rest. And who folds jeans anyway?”
The five of them were sitting around a table in Fran’s diner, a wonderful oasis in the midst of a grey day. The coffee refills were free and they put avocado in your omelette if you were vegetarian. Board games, doll heads, cuckoo clocks and other miscellany was glued to every inch of every wall. The table cloths were laminated and mismatched, and the menus lived on the tables. The salt and pepper shakers on their table were roosters with holes pricked into their backs.
Hala was in the midst of another bus-rant. Minnie bent over her coffee mug, cupping it with both hands, listening intently. Dave played with his cell phone. Martin gazed out the window at a group of Japanese girls in matching outfits and Sarah gazed at Martin.
“No, like, how loud do you really have to shout to the kid sitting right beside you? When me and fifty other people know that your buddy lost a tooth in a fight last night, you are talking too loud. And you know what? This one guy the other day, he was doing lunges in the middle of the aisle while we were driving. Like, full out straight up lunges. He was wearing a sweat band too. And short shorts. Like...what?”
“Mhm” Minnie managed to exhale into her coffee in an un-condescending, semi-sympathetic tone.
“And this guy, he came and sat right in front of me yesterday even though there were like ninety seats available”
“You sure do love your hyperbole, Hala” Dave said, smiling at his cell-phone.
“Shut it, you know what I mean, like a lot of free seats.”
“And so he sits right in front of me and turns sideways, so like his back’s like...” She turned, positioning her back to the restaurant window, her arm over the back of her seat. “And so he’s like...right there.” She waved her hand inches away from her face, still sitting sideways on the bench-seat, effectively demonstrating the claustrophobia of a casual and unwanted personal-space-bubble invader. “And it’s not like he was turned to look at me, but he was all up in here.” She waved her non-chair-back-embracing hand more furiously around in front of her spastically, so her entire body jerked, and her knee hit the underside of the table causing the silverware to rattle and everybody’s coffee to sway dangerously close to the edges of their tidal containment vessels.
“Bus talk over. Now.” Commanded Dave, pushing his phone to the side, avoiding the possible aftermath of a full-out tidal wave of the steaming “Bean Juice” as it was written on the chalkboard at the doorway of the restaurant. “Bottomless Bean Juice, $1 with meal”. He caught her flailing hand mid-air, with the stealth, machismo and elegance of a professional fly-swatting cowboy in monk robes, and pulled her arm to turn her body back to a seated position, feet on the ground, bum on the chair.
Minnie looked especially relieved that she was free of the danger of a misplaced kick from her sideways companion. She daintily dusted off the seat where Hala’s orange high-tops had been moments before; an odd gesture for one with so many shiny rings. Her hand was steel-plated with dragons and skulls.
Hala breathed. Again. Said nothing. Closed her eyes, inhaled deeply. Everybody waited in suspense to see if the rant was really over.
“Sorry.” Hala exhaled. “I’m done.”
The entire table released their held breaths in one enormous sigh that the entire restaurant could feel.
“Okay then,” said Martin, finding the gang interesting again, “Let’s go around the table and tell one interesting thing that has happened this week.”
It was something they did every time they got together. One time Martin had brought a girlfriend along for breakfast and she didn’t get it. She thought it was some kind of therapy group who met weekly to discuss problems. It wasn’t like that. They put their game on hold that day, and always excluded Martin thereafter, until the day he promised never to bring her to their breakfast club again.
The ‘around the table game’ wasn’t a formal thing, nobody came prepared with notes, and if you had nothing to say then that was alright. The rules were that bus stories were not allowed from Hala, and work stories were not allowed from anybody unless they were either A) scandalous, B) hilarious or C) absolutely unbelievable.
They saved all actual news for after the game. Your story could not be about getting a raise from a boss or asking somebody out on a date. It had to be something else. Something unexpected or fun.
“Okay, I’ll go first.” Dave was practically leaping out of his pants to talk first. “Okay so it’s not a happy story. ..and it involves a dog getting hurt. Fair warning.”
Dave cleared his throat theatrically, cracked his knuckles and began.
“So I was visiting my cousin Rob the other day, he’s like, all grown up now and rich. Damn his house is nice. And he has like a wife and kid. Um...Melissa, I think Melinda? Melissa? Her name sounds like that, you know, definitely a MEL at the beginning. And so anyway they have this dog too, right? And she’s a really good dog. She does all the tricks and obeys them all, even the kid. Uh, Jesse, I think his name is.
“So we’re all in the kitchen having a beer and catching up, cuz it’s been like years since I seen ‘em last. Like, yeah, geez, Jesse was a baby, I think. He broke a lamp last time I was there, because he was still holding onto tables to walk. A real small baby, you know?” He turned to Martin, his target audience apparently.
“Uh huh.” Martin was staring at his hands.
“So the kid was outside in the yard. Big back yard they have, man, it’s like huge. And there’s a field of hay behind their house too. And Jesse was out there with a baseball and a bat and was like, practicing hitting the ball, he was throwing it up in the air and batting it out toward the field, away from the house. Like I said, good kid.”
“Yeah.” Martin was looking at Dave now. They all were looking. The guy knows the right way to tell a tale, just enough suspense and then POW, insanity.
“So us grown ups are in the house chatting away and I go ‘hey, what’s the kid doing?’ or something, because we kind of hit a lull in the conversation and you know the old saying, you should never perform with kids and animals cuz they steal the show or whatever? Yeah, well they’re also great for a distraction in a boring conversation.
“So we all turn and look out the kitchen window and at that precise moment, I kid you not, it was like fucking slow motion dudes, the kid throws the ball up in the air, and you can see the dog running at him full fucking speed ahead from the corner of the yard. Cuz, like, she thinks he’s throwing the ball for her to catch, that’s one of her tricks, jumping up in the air and catching a tennis ball.”
“Oh no!” Cried Minnie, covering her eyes to block out the mental image. Hala cringed and Sarah leaned forward, arms crossed and eyes wide. Martin feigned casual disinterest but crossed his legs toward Dave in a subconscious bid for Dave to keep talking.
And so Dave continued, getting louder and talking faster. “Yeah, so the kid threw the ball in the air, the dog totally leaped for it from super far away, like the fucking dog was going for the long-jump in the Olympics,” He laughed, “And the poor kid swung his bat. Hard. And we were all in the house like ‘NO!’ and ran outside but you could hear the CRACK”
Sarah made a pathetic sounding moan at the implication of canine disaster. “Ohhh.” Hala inhaled sharply through her teeth as though she was the one hit by a bat.
“And we fucking saw the dog go flying in the air. Like, that kid, he hit the thing so hard she did an air-cartwheel. And landed it! With the fuckin’ ball in her mouth!” Dave had a wild look in his eye as his tale came to a close. He lost his grin as he glanced at his table companions. “Oh, I mean, the dog’s okay. Just lost some teeth. But she’s okay.”
As people shook off the required animal-got-hurt melancholy blankets, Dave jumped back on board the crazy train. “It was in-fucking-sane though, man. You shoulda seen her fuckin’ land that flip! With like blood all over the place, before she even realized what happened to her, she fucking wagged her tail, then started pulling her broken teeth out with her front paws. Fucking dogs, man. So awesome. Kid’s kinda messed up over it though.”
“No shit.” Said Sarah, straightening her back. “Well, I’ve got nothing. Sorry.”
“Alright,” Hala said. “This is easy. I went to a party last weekend at a farm, like I dunno, twenty minutes from where my parents live.”
“So yeah I just drove out there with a bunch of people, I was already drunk cuz my mom and I had a few cherry whiskeys before, horrible stuff, and then I got my friend Dray to come pick me up and take me out there. Mom went bowling.”
Nods all around again. Hala’s mom was known as the unofficial ‘president’ of the local bowling alley in their town and hardly a day went past where she wasn’t bowling or working there. It was her ‘thing’.
“So we get out to the party, there were like six of us in Dray’s car and then there were like three or four other cars following us. So we get to the party and it was so much fun, like we all go so wasted and were running around all over the farm. I don’t even know who lived there.
“Anyway so at one point a bunch of us went to where there were all these hay bales, like the big round ones, you know? And holy shit those things are tall, like, they take some climbing, but so we all got up on top of the hay bales, and the night was all starry and lovely, like farm nights are, away from the city, and we start jumping from one bale to another.
“It was really fun because we were all so drunk and the hay was so soft that falling didn’t hurt. None of us were afraid even though we were twelve feet off the ground. So we jumped and jumped. And then me and Alexander, do you remember him? I brought him to breakfast one time.”
More nods. Alexander was the one with the green goatee. You don’t forget something like that right away.
“Yeah, we sat down on a bale like kind of far away from everyone else, and they were all still being silly and jumping around, kissing each other and running away. It was like watching teenagers play tag, laced with sexual tension and accidental-on-purpose groping. We sat and watched them for a while and talked about what happened between us last time he came to visit.”
Martin rolled his eyes. What happened was at his birthday party. Alexander and Hala showed up together, high on mushrooms and completely antisocial. They ended up locking themselves in a bathroom and trying to both fit in the cupboard under the sink, shirtless. And then much later Martin’s girlfriend at the time ended up having to drive Alexander to the hospital, still shirtless, because he had jammed a very sharp knife into the doorjamb and forgotten it was there and somehow managed to slide his hand down the wall and cut himself open badly enough to need stitches.
Thus, Martin had been cockblocked by fungus and Alex on his birthday. Alexander was not one of his favourites. Apparently Hala and Alexander had done more than jam themselves into a cupboard, or at least convinced themselves that something else happened, because they had much to discuss on top of the hay bale in the midst of a frosty central prairie night.
“So we made up and hey, did you know his goatee isn’t green anymore? I know that bothered you Martin.”
Martin grunted an acknowledgement. That much was true.
“And while we were talking, Alex lit up a smoke. We were just minding our own business talking and we hear this shouting from way down the row of hay bales. It was Dray, and he was yelling at Alexander to put out his cigarette because hay bales are flammable.”
Minnie and Dave were smiling, and Sarah laughed. It was just so...Alexander to be smoking on a giant dry bed of twigs.
“He was all like ‘what?’,” Hala mimed cupping a hand to her ear in mock deafness, “and Dray got super mad and started running at us, but he was so far away and had to keep, like avoiding holes inbetween the hay and all the people everywhere who were all basically just making out. And then WHOOM, he disappeared.
“Alex put his smoke out by then anyway, so Dray was totally overreacting, but we were like ‘Where are you Dray?’ like it was the funniest thing ever, he just kind of slipped in between two hay bales.
“We walked around trying to find him for a bit and like, laughing a lot and I think we were holding hands.”
Martin rolled his eyes.
“And then we could hear his voice, he was like “I broke my leg guys.” All serious. And like, we didn’t believe him ‘cuz he sounded so...not worried about it. So we just were laughing and then someone came out of the house and was all “shotgun beers and tears for fears” which is Alex’s favourite band, so we went in the house or whatever.
“Then, like, a lot later I was all “Where’s Dray?” And someone said he drove home, and we all agreed he was a dickface for leaving us all there, because now some people were gonna have to take a taxi or ride in the back of a pickup truck and it was cold out, you guys.
“So bla bla bla I get up the next day at my mom’s house and there’s a message on my phone from Alex that says...oh actually wait, I’ll show you. I saved it, it’s so funny.”
DRAY BROKE HIS LEG FOR REALZ FELL IN HAY SAY WHAAAT?
“And so yeah, he actually did break his leg, like when he fell? You know? And we all just laughed at him? Yeah, he ended up dragging his poor leg to the car and driving himself to the hospital. And I know it’s terrible, but...” And with that, she burst into a fit of giggles.
Her friends exchanged glances, unsure of their friend’s sanity.
“Come on, it’s kind of funny, right?” She crossed and uncrossed her legs at the knee, again banging the underside of the table.
Minnie reached out and grabbed her hand, stilling its restless roaming across the table and signalling the end of the story and the awkward moment. “Martin,” she asserted, “It’s your turn.”
“Oh yeah, all right, okay, here I go. Uh...” He drummed his fingers on the table, muted staccato lacking the usual fingernail accoutrements. His nails were chewed down past the finger-line. “You know what, you go first. I can’t think of one.”
Minnie cleared her throat and sat up straight, back like an arrow, suit jacket smoothed.
“Well, you all know how I feel about public nudity.”
They did. Minnie had recently been surprised by two hundred nude protesters riding bicycles, shouting “Less gas, more ass!” at passing vehicles, and she was not impressed by any means. Hala nodded emphatically. “Yeah, we know,” She said, “you told us if you never saw nipples again it would be too soon.”
“Right. Well uh, did I tell you guys about the time I accidentally flashed the entire neghborhood?”
Martin guffawed. “Ah, no! You have not!”
Sarah blushed a bit at the thought, and Dave and Martin’s eyes lit up. Hala seemed unaffected, like she had heard the story before.
“Well then, you’re in for a treat. It was a while ago now, like back when Jaz and I lived together. We were both so busy, I was working two jobs and she was going to school and working. Anyway our house kind of became a nuclear disaster holocaust camp awful toxic dump waste zone. It was so messy in there, clothes and dishes covering every surface, like, nasty, and I killed a spider on the kitchen table and for a second thought I’d just leave its corpse on the table.”
“Ugh” Sarah made a face, “gross! I thought you didn’t kill spiders anymore because of the whole ‘they have a soul’ thing.”
“Yeah it was an accident, like, it did that thing where they lower themselves down from the ceiling all creepy, and I just kind of swung at it without even thinking. I even said ‘Did I really just kill you?’ out loud to it...yeah. But I killed it. And then it came back to life, like while I was standing there thinking about it. And it started running straight at me, like it was gonna fuck me up! But this was after it had looked dead for like five minutes.”
“Woah woah woah,” Martin interrupted, hands up in the air, “You sat there and thought about the spider for five minutes?”
“Uh, whatever, it seemed like a long time...”
“Lady, get your story straight.” Martin flipped the collar of his shirt up, slid on his aviators and stared at her darkly.
She forced a smile at him. “May I talk now, your highness?”
He gestured regally in return. “Please, continue.”
“Okay so, yeah, anyway the stupid spider had a broken leg and was still coming to get me so I kind of scooped it up into a spoon, you know, because there were dirty dishes everywhere, and was all like ‘ew ew ew’ and...”
Minnie started laughing, miming holding a spoon daintily out in front of her, “I ran to the front door, holding the stupid spoon with the spider on it because I didn’t want to kill it. And I opened the door and threw the spoon outside, kind of screaming a bit ‘cuz it was running up the handle at me, and I threw it out the door, the entire spoon.
“All the kids were outside riding their bikes and writing with chalk on the street, and then there’s me, running outside in a towel, screaming,” Minnie was gasping for breath, she was laughing so hard at the mental image of herself throwing a spoon at the neighbourhood kids.
“And I throw a spoon at them...and then my towel fell off. And let me tell you they all got a good look at what I had to offer.”
By this time all the friends were laughing, shocked at the thought of Minnie being undressed at all. She just seemed more the type to wear a bathing suit in the shower and a camisole under her bra to avoid unwanted breast-sightings, just in case she decided to do a cartwheel.
“Have you all decided what you’re having?” A dishevelled disgruntled-looking middle aged woman was standing beside their table, pen and notepad poised, ready to hear about toast preferences and egg variations.
Story time ended abruptly, as it always did, with the promise of warm food and shared laughter.