The last day of creative writing class was coming up, and the idea of individual readings both tantalized me and frightened me alike. My classmate’s supreme command of their 3 minutes of fame was overpowering at the same time it was inspiring. There couldn’t possibly be anything I could say that would make me feel as if I had given every classmate their bang for their buck. A couple days before my reading, I chanced upon a lengthy document that immediately had me braying like a donkey on a bed of nails. It was a monstrous story, circa 2012, one that was filled with cringeworthy dialogue, plot, and characterization. To celebrate the unearthing of this gem, I cut and pasted a short coherent snippet of it for creative writing class and read it as my parting shot as a testament to the epicness of the class.
Do you have an old story you’ve written that would embarrass you now? Whether it’s the embarrassing characters or lack of plot, what’s one story that you wish you had never written? What’s one that you don’t even remember writing?
The year Joey’s mom got mysteriously assaulted was the start of something bigger than all of us. It was also the same year in which we were slated to leave the hell hole called high school forever. Our town was having a pet kidnapping problem, which, we admitted, wasn’t funny in the first place but was even worse now that people were blaming it on us as a grad prank. So admitting it was now our job to fix it, we recruited some guys, including some stealthy guys like Cam and Ryan, and kept as quiet as we could.
A little about Joey: back in first grade when he showed up with a model airplane everyone wanted to be his friend. I, on the other hand, was too preoccupied with my plan to capture a squirrel. Weirdly enough though, Joey noticed that I was the only one who didn’t care, and ignored everybody to play with me. Then him choosing me over everybody got him everybody’s beef and the name calling began. It continued throughout our school career, and only ended when Joey got a growth spurt and was never teased again. It never got to him though. Me, I’m still on the lookout for more trouble. The town is never the same again.
Okay, maybe not that dramatic. But you get the point.
A day with Joey is never boring. For example, Joey had risked a note to me right under Ms. Butcher’s eye once to let me know he meant business. “If it’s bad news,” I said, “Fetch me sandwich first I so can stomach it. And if it’s good news, well, I probably already know.”
After school that day, Joey pulled open the door that I’d been through so many times you can see the indents where my huge feet had worn out the wood. Just inside is this amazing kitchen–well, amazing food. Somebody could tell you that your dog had just died but if you were sampling some of Joey’s cooking you wouldn’t even hear it over your moans of pleasure. And I had just signed up for the worst summer job ever, so I was more than ready for some of Joey’s magic.
“Somebody’s been stealing everyone’s bikes,” Joey remarked as he passed me the sandwich he’d just made me behind his back.
I couldn’t see how this could go in any direction that’d make a difference in my life. “Who cares?”
Joey put down the butter knife. “Only we can stop him.”
“So what do you suggest we do?”
“Spy. And lots of it. In illegal places.”
Joey smiled his signature generous smile. “You’re the stealthiest, Coulton. That’s why we’ve got to do this.”
We could have employed the others guys in the neighbourhood but I didn’t see the fun in that.
The point is, doing this stuff this stuff wasn’t new to us. It took our minds off school, and also gave us an excuse to do semi-illegal things. We spent most of our afternoons destroying other people on video games or destroying other people out on the field but it was Joey that first came up with the idea to do stealth missions in the neighbourhood. It all started pretty early, back when we still had to worry about coming home for dinner at six. It excited us, the prospect of our summer taking on a heroic turn. “Joey, you check out the east side I’ll scope out the west.”
Now I was spending the tail end of my senior year at my first job. My laisse faire attitude working at local fast food joint surfaced pretty quickly. I left some things out on the counter that I was supposed to shelve and got stolen. I dropped some boxes around a corner that caused my high heeled female colleagues to trip.
Joey was helping his dad out at the farm. It was his family’s business. I was glad it wasn’t my family’s business. I dreamed of becoming a world travelling skateboarder or DJ, anything that didn’t require school. My attendance at school was patchy at best but I passed everything thanks to Joey’s bugging. Only a few things genuinely interested me.
But that summer Joey gave me a reason to envy him. He got a tan and muscles from carrying heavy equipment to and from their multiple fields. I worked out too but I had to pay for it instead of being paid to do it. I was jealous.
I always knew that Joey’s family had some problems. He always complained about his dad. He never got enough allowance to buy snacks so I always bought an extra pack of Dunkaroos. Our family of eight children always bought bulk super sized of everything and I was always surprised to find cupboards well stocked the day after. So I never thought too much of it. It wasn’t like Joey’s Charity or anything. Thoughts like that would’ve made me cringe then but now I appreciate what life has done for my point of view.
But until that day we gathered to discuss what our pet saving mission, I had no idea who exactly Joey was. Cam went red as he mumbled that his mom caught him setting his up; Ryan paced around, and Joey was sat stock still without an expression on his face. I whispered to Joey that the cameras were a bad idea because they set us back each a bill. Joey whispered back that it was a small price to pay. The group gathered around as Joey’s shirt sleeve shifted to show a camera and when he raised his hand to talk we all saw the bruises that went down them. Joey looked so uncomfortable I held his hand like he was a champion boxer. “Joey’s taken his beating, so that means we gotta speed up our investigation!” I was so sure that he’d just fallen out a tree setting up a camera. Little did I know…
-I ended here, as 4 minutes of fame must.