Inspired by Jeff’s series of old-school stories and poems in his “Blast From The Past” series, here (unedited and unchanged) is a story I wrote in 2007 when Jeff and I were Creative Writing classmates in college. There’s a lot of cussing, but also earnest introspection. And strippers.
“Important Moments In History”
A: Wake up, jackass.
B: Ah! What the shit?
C: Wake up.
A: No? Fuck you, no. “No.”
B: I’m skipping the day.
A: Skipping the day?
C: He does that sometimes. He either stayed up all night on the internet, or out drinking with his friends.
B: The first one. I’m not even cool enough to go out drinking. I was up all night on the internet. It’s sad, really. Look at me. I didn’t even shave this crazy moustache. Look at this crazy moustache I got. This is ridiculous.
A: Kick him.
B: Ah! Cut that out. Don’t listen to him! Leave me alone.
A: Make him a sandwich. He likes BLTs.
B: What the hell kind of dynamic is this? Do you have like a “mentor” dynamic here with my girlfriend? What the hell are you doing?
A: Light on the mayo.
B: Get the hell out of my bedroom.
A: I never said to stop kicking.
B: Cut that out! Seriously, no.
C: It’s for your own good.
B: It’s not very funny. I’m sitting up. I surrender. I surrender. When I gave you a key, it wasn’t so you could bring an attack squad to fuck up my mornings.
A: Two in the afternoon is not the morning.
B: Yeah, it’s funny. What’s that?
B: What’s that? On your shirt? (Snort) It looks like dried come.
B: You did that wrong. You did that so wrong.
A: What’re you talking about?
B: You stayed quiet. You stayed entirely quiet. Goddamm did you stay quiet. You should have laughed. I would never have given it a second thought if either of you had laughed.
A: Hey, man, I don’t know what you’re thinking-
B: Have we fucking met? Don’t treat me like I’m not a genius. I figure stuff out, I figure stuff out.
A: Breathe, man.
C: Are you okay?
B: Just get out. Pick up everything that’s yours and get out. Just get out. Just get out.
D: Shut up. You don’t even care what postmodern means anymore. You’re just using it piss me off, now. Everything is postmodern to you. Admit it. You don’t even know what it means.
B: Hah! I am your mother, and I took you to school on the bus of pain! Say it. Say I am your mother, and I took you to school on the bus of pain.
D: Okay, no. You’re just arguing nonsense now.
E: Hi, there.
B: Hey. What’s up?
E: Mind if I sit next to you for a while, guys?
D: Of course not.
E: So have I seen you guys here before?
B: I don’t think so. Probably not. Last time I came here was months ago.
D: Yeah, this is actually the first time I’ve been here.
E: Oh. Cool, cool. It’s a pretty slow night. We’ve had like five guys in here all night. Not that many girls working on a weeknight, though.
B: Yeah. Does it get packed on the weekends?
E: There’s more people. It usually doesn’t get full.
B: Looks like a lot of other guys our age here, though. More than usual, I mean.
D: Yeah, I’m used to seeing mostly old guys.
E: Yeah, all those guys up at the front are here for a birthday party. Guy just turned eighteen.
D: Hah, four guys and four girls. You know, I wish I had a girlfriend who wanted to come to strip clubs with me.
B: Ha. That would really piss me off.
D: Oh yeah? Like, out of jealousy?
B: I don’t think that’s rather unreasonable.
E: So are either of you guys up for a dance?
B: Not right now.
D: No thank you.
E: Okay. Well, I’ll be around if either of you guys change your mind.
D: Is that the same girl you talked to earlier?
D: What’d she say?
B: She asked where I was from, and she said I was really hot. Apparently. I don’t know.
D: That’s cool. You know strippers will say anything to make money, though.
B: I am aware. You asked.
D: Check it out, those girls with the birthday thing are really getting into the show. They’ve been screaming and cheering more than any of the guys.
B: They look as close to eighteen years old as you can possibly get without just lying.
D: Yeah, one of the guys had “Class of” on the back of his shirt. They’re probably all in high school, and he was like the last one to have his birthday.
B: They look wasted.
D: The one with the light blonde hair over there already fell off her chair twice. She keeps holding on to her friend around her neck so she doesn’t tip over.
B: That’s so postmodern.
D: Shut up. Why don’t you go talk to them? You haven’t had a date in months.
B: There are so many things wrong with what you’re saying. It’s like you’re talking in Wingdings or something.
F: (over club DJ loudspeakers) You ladies up front can get on stage and take your clothes off too, while the song is playing, if you want to. Oh yeah!
D: Who the fuck is this, Duff-Man?
B: Holy shit.
D: Wow. Where the hell did that come from? They were just sitting there.
G: (now onstage, her bra being pulled off by one of the strippers) Whoooo!
H: (pulling her pants down to her ankles) Ahhhhhh!
B: They look surprised at the fact that they are taking off their own clothes.
D: The one on the left has better breasts than any of the strippers.
B: This is true.
F: (over club DJ loudspeakers) Alll-riiiight! The girl on the right, though. You on the right, you are still wearing way too many clothes. Come on, don’t be shy!
G: (entirely naked, dancing around the pole with one of the strippers) Come on!
H: (clad still in a thong, giggling uncontrollably against the other pole as another stripper pulls it down) Whoooo!
E: (walking up to stand nearby) Wow, that girl is so pretty.
B: What’s that?
E: That girl, who was in the little shorts. She’s so pretty.
F: (over club DJ loudspeakers) There you go! Don’t be shy!
G: (Hands up behind her head, singing along with the song, dancing with her ass bouncing up against her friend’s) If you wanna ride / Ride the white pony / Ride, ride the white pony / White pony, white pony
H: (Making the punk sign, grabbing her friend to make out with her) Whoooo!
I: (Walking up with a tray) You want another drink, hon?
B: (handing her some bills) Better make it two.
D: Thanks, man.
B: What are you talking about? Get your own.
D: (Watching, as the girls onstage fall down making out together, and start to laugh uncontrollably) I love my country.
B: See, it’s things like this that, even though I wish it wasn’t right, always hopelessly prove my point…
D: What’s your point?
B: (Swallowing the remaining half of his beer with a harsh expression) It doesn’t even matter.
D: You know we’re on an even wronger highway now.
B: I don’t see how that could be.
D: We’re now going in both opposite directions from home, like, at once.
B: So postmodern.
D: I think that first high school girl had the best breasts out of the whole crowd.
B: Yeah, I think so. That one tall, blonde stripper’s weren’t bad, though.
D: Dude, those were like pepperoni tits.
B: You do realize that at this moment our lives have absolutely no meaning.
B: Your life, man, right now. It has no meaning. Like, none.
D: My life has fucking meaning.
B: No. At other times, in general, it might have some meaning. But right now, right here, at this exact instant, your life has no meaning. Don’t even doubt it.
D: Take this exit.
B: Sure. Why not.
D: You can get back onto a state highway that’s actually in our state.
B: Don’t worry about it.
D: Dude, watch out!
B: (stepping on the brakes and turning the wheel sharper, as the car skirts over the shoulder of the off-ramp and grinds over the dirt of the ditch around it) Err.
D: Man, slow it down.
B: I was braking.
D: You’re supposed to brake before you get on the exit ramp, not as you fly into the grass around it.
B: A little dirt never hurt anybody… The giant drop might.
D: Yeah, the thirty-foot ditch might. There, follow that sign.
D: So how do you even do that? Just get up in front of all your friends and dance naked out of nowhere?
B: Ah, everybody’s like that.
D: Not everybody’s like that.
B: Can I tell you something?
B: Yes they are.
D: Not everybody’s like that. My sister isn’t like that; my daughter isn’t going to be like that.
B: Your sister and your daughter are totally going to be like that; you just won’t know it.
D: Okay, I can tell you for certain, my sister has never done anything like that.
B: Everybody’s somebody’s sister and daughter. Their mommies and daddies don’t know what they’re doing when they went to their buddy’s birthday party on a school-night.
D: I’m not buying it.
B: It doesn’t matter if you’re not buying it; the product is the product.
D: And they were drunk.
B: Everyone’s drunk sometimes.
D: A life doesn’t have meaning sometimes, and then not have meaning other times.
B: Of course it does.
B: (walking in the door) What’s up, man!
J: Welcome aboard.
B: Happy fucking birthday
J: Thanks, man. (Handing over a red plastic cup) Here, 5 bucks. Keg’s out on the deck and there’s some handles floating around somewhere-
J: Were some handles floating around somewhere.
B: Cool, thanks.
J: Thank you for coming.
B: Are you kidding? You’ve got a keg on a patio on a goddamn lake.
J: That is true. And what’s more, there are actually girls here this time.
B: Wow. It’s like the gods themselves are jizzing mightily into your life’s fortune.
J: Yes. That is exactly what it’s like.
B: So what’s going on?
J: There’s Asshole over there.
L: (Raising his beer from the table in the corner, a case of Keystone Light upon his head in the shape of a massive pontiff’s hat) ‘Sup.
J: And I am getting ready to grab another drink and fuck some people up at a little bit of flippy-cup.
B: Cool. Well, let me get a buzz going, and maybe I’ll join you later.
J: Sounds like a plan.
L: (From the corner, throwing down his cards) Oh, fuck your mothers in the ass.
M: Hey there.
B: Hi. What’s up?
M: Not much. You mind if I sit down?
B: Go ahead.
M: Thank you. (Folding her skirt to sit alongside) Have we met before?
B: No, I don’t think so. You a friend of the birthday boy?
J: (In the background, throwing his cup into an opponent’s face in abusive victory) Whooo! One time!
M: Haha, yeah. We had a few classes together.
B: Oh yeah? We go way back.
J: (Throwing his open palms down into his thighs towards his opponents with insouciance) Pucker up and suck it! Pucker up and suck it!
M: Haha. So where are you from?
B: Oh. Town, a little way out.
M: Cool. Cool. (Pointing at the TV) So what’s on?
B: Oh, I don’t even know. I wasn’t really paying attention.
M: (Lifting up a DVD case on the table) “Cum-Drenched Tits.”
B: (With perfect deadpanned sarcasm, lighting a cigarette) Awesome.
M: (Pointing at the cigarette) Oh, can I have one of those? Please?
J: (From across the room) Smoke outside, dude. People are trying to watch “Cum-Drenched Tits.”
B: Not a problem.
M: (Stepping through the screen door to the patio held open for her, and filling up her cup again at the keg) Thanks. You know, can I just tell you something?
M: Like, without any bullshit or anything, I mean. You know what I think?
B: What’s that?
M: I think it’s stupid to watch all these girls, like, pretending to be all coy, and playing games and stuff, to talk to guys.
B: Oh yeah?
M: Yeah, totally. I mean, I think you’re pretty cute, so I figured I’d say what’s up.
B: Thank you?
M: I’m not a slut, I’m not going to try to lay a guy I see just ‘cause he’s cute or anything, but, seriously, if you just want to talk to somebody, you don’t have to be an idiot about it, right?
B: You would think.
M: Yeah. I mean, okay. I have this uncle and aunt, right. (Laughing) And everyone thinks, like, they hate each other. ‘Cause they’re always, like, calling each other “asshole” or whatever, and, like, they don’t do Valentine’s Day or shit like that. But it’s not because they don’t love each other. It’s like, they just don’t buy into the bullshit, you know? They’re real about it.
M: Like, would you rather be this lovey-dovey couple with like, matching t-shirts and always dry-humping in the mall food court and everything, or like, one that’s real, you know, like honest and dedicated and everything.
B: No, yeah, I know what you mean.
B: Yeah. Sure.
M: (Laughs, reaches to fill up her cup again)
B: Yeah, no, I do. I’m always pissed off at these people who act like they’re falling head-over-heels in love with absolutely everyone they ever hold hands with. It’s like, they’re in high school for their entire lives, all they talk about is all this unbelievable heartache or drama or whatever, even when there’s nothing there.
M: Yeah? You’re not like that?
B: Hah. Well, not really. I mean, I know some guys even, who whenever you talk to them it’s like reading those goddamn Kurt Cobain journals. They can’t get over how artistic and deep and special they are, how they’re so tortured and no one understands them and shit, just because they write songs or keep a diary at night or whatever, and half of the time their sentences don’t even make sense. I mean, come on, that’s just useless for everybody. I’m not into jacking off over how deep and special I am just for the sake of being deep and special, but you know, good luck to them with that.
M: (Finishing another drink) Yeah. No, totally, totally, definitely. Definitely.
B: (Watching her fill another cup with beer, almost dropping it) Heh.
M: (Looking seriously out over the street outside) Yeah. You know what I hate?
B: What’s that?
M: The Jews.
B: (Moving to the keg) Excuse me. Sorry about that.
N: (Pressing herself somewhat against the wall to get out of the way) Don’t worry about it. Where’s that girl you were talking to?
B: Oh, were you eavesdropping? Is that what you were doing?
N: Yeah, I couldn’t really help it. It was pretty funny.
B: It was pretty funny, yeah, me or her?
N: (Shrugs exaggeratedly in feigned ignorance, palms up)
B: Hah. Yeah, well, I don’t know where she went. Throwing up, probably.
N: What, you’re not going for the option there? You could probably get somewhere with that one.
B: (Taking a drink) The option? Psycho is never a good option.
N: Well, I don’t know about never.
N: So who do you know?
B: What’s up?
N: Here, I mean who do you know here?
B: (Pointing inside, to the birthday game) Oh, I’m a friend of his.
N: Oh. I don’t know him. My friends just brought me, I don’t know.
N: Yeah, I know. He did spill beer on my jeans, though. That was pretty great.
B: Oh, well, there’s a dryer in the laundry room, there. You can just take them off and get that taken care of.
N: You should probably try that one again.
B: I meant “Oh, I see.”
N: So do you really think so poorly of Kurt Cobain?
B: Woah, uh oh, listen, I’ve got “Nevermind” on constant repeat in my CD player, okay? In all my CD players. I’ve got twenty copies of “Nevermind” and they’re taking up all twenty spots on my twenty-CD changer, and even then, it’s always on repeat. Does that appease the rock gods enough yet?
N: We’ll think about it.
B: Hah. Well, I don’t know, what I said wasn’t exactly what I meant.
N: What is it that you meant?
B: You really want to hear this? ‘Cause I’m kind of drunk.
N: I’m listening.
B: I read this book. Biological psychology. Bear with me here.
B: It was about “the brain and the mind.” And the thing is, it turns out, scientifically, they’re the same thing. There is no difference. You know what I’m saying? Every thought we have, every emotion, every decision is the product of specific neurons firing, of specific chemical transmitters and receptors interacting, all this balance of substances in the brain. I mean, if you take a drug that hits the happiness receptors, you get happy, if a surgeon presses the part of brain that makes you cry, you cry, if you have sex, there are chemicals released in your brain that make you feel pleasure. You know?
N: Yeah, I can get that.
B: So all we are is this balance of chemicals and electric signals and stored memories and process. And all of them had a cause, some external or internal cause that made them happen. Your decision to eat dinner or to go for a walk were all the product of some chemical process, and they were caused by things like what you’ve done in the past or physical needs, or a previous decision that was also caused by factors that maybe we can’t recognize, but are there always, dictating us. So do we even have any decisions? I mean, even my thinking and saying that was a result of what is flowing through my veins, what memories I’ve already made about things, what my history has led me through.
N: Do you really believe that?
B: It doesn’t matter if I believe it; it is, it’s the way things are. Not believing it is also a result of memories, and chemicals, and processes, all of which you ultimately trace back, you had no decision over. What does it matter, then, in the end, if we write songs about love, or if we meet someone that we actually fall in love with? We can think it matters, but, you know. We always think that next big thing, that next big thing is going to make me happy, or would make things alright. If I get that raise, if I make that team, if I meet that one right person. But once you have it, if you get it – does anything change? We just get used to it, we have another next big thing. If you’re depressed, even the most wonderful thing isn’t going to make you happy, and if you’re just happy, even the hardest things won’t take your positivity away, inside. It’s all inside, and it’s all outside of our decisions. We’re just a machine, of process, a balance at any given time. Just.
N: What are you, like Hamlet or something? Can’t you not think for a second, just, like, live where you are?
B: Heh. (Reaches to fill his cup again, turns away)
N: Hold on a second.
B: What’s that?
N: I didn’t just say that because I’m stupid, you know.
B: No, I didn’t say you were stupid.
N: (Smiling) I was actually trying to tell you something.
B: What’s that?
N: (Blinks for a long moment, looking out at the sidewalk path, almost shakes her head) It was really stuffy earlier. Look at how nice it’s gotten.
B: (Taking another drink) Yeah, it has.
N: Come on, walk with me.
B: You want to go on the circle path?
N: Yeah. Come on. (They walk out) You didn’t grow up around here, did you?
B: Sort of. Town, a little way out.
N: Yeah. Me too.
B: Oh, so you could tell?
N: I don’t know.
B: Can I ask you something?
B: Don’t you?
N: Maybe there’s something a little different. Maybe you ate at the same restaurants I did when you were little, maybe you drove past the same signs staring out from the backseat, saw the same birds.
B: Maybe… Factor, you know. Factors.
They walk on.
N: Haha. Oh wow. Your hair’s cute.
B: What now?
N: Across your eyes, here. (She runs her fingers over the front of his overhead, through the locks of his hair) Whenever the wind comes through it, it flaps across in a wave, like a perfect little windmill. Whoosh.
B: (Raises an eyebrow)
B: Thanks. I’ll remember that, I’ll use it somewhere.
N: (Softly) You’re welcome.
B: It really is nice out.
N: Do you not believe in love, then? Keep away from that?
B: I don’t know why it would have to be my life focus or anything. If it’s your focus to find love, you don’t work on what could actually make you happy, or at least, make you alright.
N: Every life is a love story. There’s just a lot of different kinds.
B: I don’t know. I mean, it’s like one of those things. Would you rather be lonely or heartbroken? As long as I have the choice, I’m going to hold onto it. Once you give up the choice, you’re carried away, like so much shipwreck in a wave. It’s only if you ever make your way back, you know you can hold on to the choice.
N: That’s silly.
N: That’s like saying, would you rather be in love or would you rather be happy? That’s stupid. It’s not so simple. You can’t put things in simple terms like that. You just can’t.
B: (Laughing) Watch me.
N: Maybe you should watch something besides yourself sometime.
B: (After a quick laugh) Maybe.
They walk along.
N: You think of us as placeholders, waiting for life to come through us at some point, and go on?
B: I don’t know.
N: Like we’re all the pages of a flip-book, and we just live waiting for the story to circle through us again and again, all these different poses in pages? No. No, we’re not placeholders.
B: We’re not?
N: Not if you don’t think of us like that.
B: So how do you think of us then?
N: You said we’re all like nerve endings and these cells, who just make these electrical signals inside and these reactions, and make us think we’re really alive? What if we’re really alive?
B: (Looks at her. She is looking, somewhere.)
N: We’re not, ourselves, a system of chemicals, of these tubes like wires transmitting electricity and chemical reactions, like feelings, and thoughts, and anything else that’s inside of us. That’s not what we are. What if we’re the explosive reaction, that burst of life, that volatile, vivid, igniting instant. Each one that occurs. What if we are the spark of electric life, each moment the spark that burns, the reaction that fires, the thought, the feeling, everything else, the instant, every instant, us. Flares and fires, we live in; we combust, bursts and flashes, us. Maybe that’s what we are.
B: (He keeps looking)
N: Maybe it’s not that nothing makes a difference. Maybe it’s just that everything makes everything so different.
Silence. The air winds over, silence.
N: Look at that.
B: (Follows her gaze out to the lake. The moon is alone, over purple sky that hazes out like long, thick, wisps of smoke and films the horizon like the fog of a hot windshield in a storm. The moonlight is actually spreading across the middle of the lake, waving across in jagged pieces of a thin yellow-white stream, rising and falling with the waves of the water.) Yeah.
N: Look at that.
B: It’s beautiful.
They walk along.
B: I’ve only ever seen that in the movies. I mean, you see it all the time in the movies.
B: Have you been out here before?
N: No. (She only stands there, calmly, looking out. He moves closer, looking both at her and at the water, held almost as one in the lines of the light shadows on dark, silhouettes inverted against a colored background of the richest deep).
They walk along.
B: You really do only see those in the movies.
N: I know. I feel like I should’ve brought a camera or something.
B: The flippy-cup team would have probably stolen it to use for themselves once they started playing naked-flippy-cup. Except only the guys got naked. I was on the home team during that early undefeated run.
N: You’re a superstar.
B: Hey, look.
N: It’s the end of the circle.
B: (Coming back up onto the patio of the party, muffled music coming back up from inside, random sounds in the wind of the dark) Yeah, we’re back.
N: Oh, hey.
O: (Walking up beside her) Hey, babe. (Putting his arm around her, holding her close to him) I was looking for you. I got caught up in the game back there for a little while.
N: (Kissing him, and smiling contentedly, elbowing him playfully) This is my boyfriend, the big loser.
B: Oh yeah?
O: (Pressing her head to his shoulder) Haha, yeah. What’s up, man? How you doing?
B: (Lights a cigarette to himself and breathes in deeply) Awesome.
Ten Years Earlier
P: Is this what you were looking for, young sir?
B: Yeah, that’s it. I looked all over the store and I couldn’t find it.
P: (Smiling) We only have one copy.
B: (Picking up the book from the counter) Yeah… This is awesome.
Q: You want me to ring that up for you, hon?
B: Not yet; can I read it here for a little while?
P: Sure he can.
Q: Go ahead. Just let me know when you’re ready.
B: (Paging through the book, he reads silently to himself)
R: (Running up) Hey.
B: Huh? Hey. What are you doing here?
S: We’re playing a game in the parking lot. We need you to round out our team.
B: Right now?
R: Yeah. Right now. I’ve got a spare glove you can use. Let’s go.
B: I’ve got to wait for my parents to get back, so they can pay for this.
R: No, man, get it some other time. It’s gonna get dark soon.
S: Yeah, it is. Come on, let’s go.
R: We’re just in the parking lot. You’ll see your mom and dad get here when they come back.
B: (Putting the book down on the counter) Alright. But put the glove away; I get to pitch.
R: You serious?
S: (Following them out) Whatever, he does fine. Let’s go.
P: Hey, keep an eye out the window on the lot, okay?
Q: On the lot?
P: Yeah, there’s some kids playing outside. Just make sure everything’s okay. Make sure they stay on the empty side, and don’t get hurt, you know.
Q: You’re the boss (Glances behind the sales counter to the large display panes, behind which about a dozen boys are warming up, throwing the ball back and forth. She glances out every few minutes for the hour, as they start playing.)
T: (Walking by, he stops at the counter, picks up the book lying on it. Bored after wandering, his parents somewhere in fiction, he riffles through it)
N: (Walking in) Hey, can I go look at the paperbacks?
U: Just stay by the counter where the manager can see you.
P: How you guys doing this week?
U: Good, thank you. Can you watch her while I go look at the magazines really quickly?
P: Of course I can.
U: I’ll be right back. Just stay here, sweetheart.
N: (Running over) Hey!
N: You found it! I’ve been looking for that one.
T: For this?
N: Yeah, are you reading it?
N: Well, can I read it?
T: I don’t know. I found it first.
N: Don’t be a jerk.
T: I’m not a jerk. You’re a jerk. You’re probably older than I am.
N: Probably not.
T: Whatever, I found it first.
N: But I’ve been looking for it everywhere.
T: Well, do you want to share it for now?
T: We can sit down and share it. Then you can have it when I leave.
N: ‘kay. Fine.
Q: (She smiles as Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” comes onto the speakers, filling the air. She watches the boy and girl sit down next to each other at the nearby table and open the book they have in front of them, moving closer to each other and reading intently together. She glances behind her once in a while to watch the boys yelling and playing baseball outside through the wide window.)
V: (pounding his hand into his catcher’s mitt) Come on, man! Come on! This guy sucks, you know this guy sucks, he can’t hit for shit, throw him a strike!
W: Throw him a strike! Come on, asshole, throw him a strike!
B: (Standing ready, the baseball behind his back) Shut up, asshole!
V: Throw him a strike already! Quit being a shithead! Throw him a strike!
B: (He winds up, brings his arm back, and hurls the ball at the batter)
X: (He swings, and connects with a crack, sending the ball rocketing way out over the heads of all of the fielders. Arms up, he takes off to sprint the makeshift bases. The boys in the infield all collapse in exaggerated despair and poses of death)
W: Son of a bitch!
Y: Oh man! That’s not gonna be good for your E.R.A., you son of a bitch!
W: (Laughing uncontrollably) Motherfucker!
Y: (Rolling and rolling, laughing hysterically on the ground with all of the rest) Hahahahahahahaha! “Ass-lemur”! “Ass-lemur”! Butt-panda!