These Are The Stories
A Short Story by Doug Dean
Written using the suggestion "Destitute"
Originally featured on 06-08-2009
As part of our series "The Summer of Our Hopes and Fears"

The narrator began with an overly ambitious introduction:

“I’m going to warn you up front that this story that I’m about to tell you has everything—World War Two, a kid with a simple dream, time travel, an impoverished family that emigrates to the United States in the hopes overcoming stiff odds and living the American Dream, a bigoted old man with a checkered past still nurturing hate in light of an unforgettable tragedy, the unexpected arrival of aliens and the aftermath, JFK conspiracy theory, the fall of the Roman empire, an extramarital affair revealed, ancient treasure thought lost then found, gorgeous tanned Australian surfers finding their endless summer and the Fountain of Youth, the answer to why people inspect the toilet after defecating only to flush moments later regardless, four young men discovering the meaning of friendship through a unforgettable bonding experience during a seemingly innocent camping foray into the Oregon wilderness, intense bondage and S&M sequences, a variety of costumes, pirates dancing, behind-the-scenes raw footage during the first tour of a then-unknown seminal rock band, Furries, stylish hitmen, doctors and nurses dealing with life and death situations, the redemption of a lost soul, a new epidemic disease, the truth about Cloning, a much more realistic interpretation of the Bible that we can all buy into and live up to, a cab driver that knows all the routes except the one to Happiness, Vietnam veterans discussing how it was in the shit while on holiday at a Polish resort, a cyborg that understands love more in her own way than most fully-human people, a meteor the same size as Earth headed for Earth, an unlikely couple awkwardly going through the motions on their first date but each secretly hoping for a second date, tax season, two beautiful rival women—a blond and a brunette—fighting for the love of one spectacular man, Wall Street executives pushed to their moral limit in the face of fraud, high school teens experimenting with drinking, drugs and sex; a detective investigating the murder of his mistress, three young deer escaping a group of hunters, speaking office supplies, a killer soundtrack, a crack team of Socialist marketing reps, soap that washes off your soul’s sins and regrets, a group of hippies slowly realizing that Peace, Love and Happiness are just the beginning, a turkey’s plot to change Thanksgiving, strippers dictating entrance essays for their college applications while on a cigarette break, a barber shop quartet performing nightly in Baghdad, the real story behind the death of Tutankhamen, a monologue given by an inedible papaya, the editors of Us Weekly photographed by paparazzi while sharing a sauna, a master Zen Buddhist yet even more masterful serial killer, armed combat, a dog that has lost his sense of smell but gained (finally) a sense of self-entitlement, a death row inmate who chooses for his last meal a 24-hour-all-you-can-eat buffet and the legal battle that ensues, delicious saltwater taffy being shared by Vivid Video porn stars poolside, a man in a wheelchair saying ‘Fuck it’ and entering the Tour de France, a father and son ruthlessly competing with one another for the affections of the household matron, and a secret society of janitors.”

The narrator took a deep breath. He just needed to follow through. “Follow through,” he whispered to himself. “Follow through. Just deliver on your promises and you’ll be fine.” He cleared his throat, took another deep breath and began.

 

***

 

Albuquerque and Fodder were dug in deep. Empty shell casings blanketed the blood stained dirt around them and Lufthansa plane engines roared overhead. It was the Second Battle of the Sommes.

“Man Big Johnny!” Albuquerque ordered, pointing at the large automatic cannon they had mounted on a stolen Lufthansa issue laundry cart.

“But will it withstand the blowback?” yelled Fodder.

“That’s an order!!!”

Fodder crawled the four feet to Big Johnny on his stomach, soaking his uniform with the blood of his fallen comrades, some of them his best friends in the world. Fodder shivered. Then the young private rose with fervor, climbing the stolen laundry cart in two large bounds. Crouching behind Big Johnny, Fodder flinched and grinned as bullets ricocheted off of the front of the large automatic cannon.

Albuquerque and Fodder cried out in unison as a Lufthansa bomb exploded fifteen yards away.

“Fodder? You alive?” yelled Albuquerque.

“Yes sir!” yelled Fodder, almost saluting out of habit, and then feeling ridiculous for doing so. When will I start thinking for myself?, he berated himself.

“Open fire on those goddamn Krauts!” yelled Albuquerque. “Shoot for the snipers in the belltower of the church!”

Fodder did nothing. Why am I such a conformist?, he wondered. Who is this ‘Sgt. Albuquerque,’ anyway and why should he know any better than me?

“Fodder!”

I’m worried about the blowback.

“Fodder!”

This is no time to start questioning orders. Or is it? Perhaps this is the perfect time.

“Fodder! Open fire goddamnit!”

Still, what about the blowback? I’m not convinced.

“Fodder! You alive over there?”

“Yes sir!”

“Open fire!”

Bullets sparked off of the front of the cannon.

Maybe I should just open fire.

“Fodder!”

If I wasn’t under orders, but simply found myself in this situation, what would I do? I might choose to fire Big Johnny anyway. What are my other options?

“Fodder!”

Alright, so there is a reasonable doubt present that I would fire anyway under my own free will. I’ll choose to fire while ignoring ‘Sgt. Albujerkee’s’ order. My own little rebellion.

Fodder face suddenly bore the grin of a free man as he aimed the cannon at the belltower. Thunderous noise erupted as Fodder squeezed the trigger and the massive cannon violently vomited ammunition from its mouth. The bell tower exploded at the blasts, bricks falling to the ground in large chunks.

The blowback sent the stolen cart sailing back towards the other end of the foxhole until one of the wheels popped off. Big Johnny and the cart careened towards the ground. Fodder laughed heartily as he leapt from the falling cannon — a soldier, no more.

 

***

 

Little Jamie Wilkers awoke from a long night’s sleep in his racecar bed. He kicked off the Transformers covers and ran across the hallway into his parents’ room. Jumping on their queen sized bed, he explained his dream to his groggy, annoyed parents.

“I dreamt that I could transform into a racecar.”

Mr. Wilkers groaned and turned over, wrapping his pillow tightly over his head and ears.

 

***

 

Brick Jones, a carpenter by trade, always took his lunch a little early on Wednesdays. He did this so he could head over to Al’s mini-mart on 3rd St. and buy a lotto ticket. He always played the same numbers: his ex-wife’s birthday, the day of the JFK assassination, the day his mother died, and the last digit of his social security number.

When he arrived at Al’s, Al wasn’t behind the counter. Brick shrugged and walked over to the refrigerator and pulled himself out a grape soda. He figured that Al was in the bathroom, though Al had never left the counter unmanned in the ten years that Brick had been going there. He heard a toilet flush and shrugged again.

Brick would never forget what he saw next:

A much older and more wrinkled Brick Jones came out of the bathroom of Al’s mini-mart wearing a bright blue and silver space suit.

“Jesus Christ!”

“No. Brick Jones!”

They laughed. Then the older Brick’s face became serious.

“Brick, you have to listen to me. You can’t play the lotto today. If you do, you’ll win.”

Young Brick’s widened. Old Brick pointed his finger and began talking at Young Brick.

“I know. It sucks, but trust me. It would be cool for a little while, then catastrophic. You’ll invest the money and make tons more money. You’ll buy Mom a new house, you’ll live in a mansion, have lots of sex with gorgeous women, drive exotic cars, take trips, own purebred dogs, become best friends with celebrities like Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis — hang on, hang on, okay? Then all this fucked up shit happens and it’s catastrophic and heartbreaking. I built a time-machine with the last of the money so I could come back here to stop you from buying the ticket. Trust me, it’s not worth it, you can’t buy that ticket!”

Young Brick stood at the counter, mouth agape, shaking his head. Old Brick continued.

“Look why would I come back in time to sabotage myself unless it was absolutely necessary? We both know that I wouldn’t. You have to trust me. If you don’t buy the ticket, then the future I’m from won’t exist and I should fade away into nothing — cease to exist. So since I’m still here talking, you must still be undecided. Brick, you have to promise me.”

Young Brick finally nodded in agreement. Old Brick smiled as he placed his hand in front of his face and saw it gradually begin to disappear.

Young Brick spoke. “Thank you. I mean, I know that you’re giving up your very existence to do this, so I know that I should thank you.” Young Brick reached out to shake hands with Old Brick, then continued. “Although, I can’t help thinking that it’s kind of selfish that you got to live that luxurious life and sleep with all those women — Jessica Alba too right? — and then come back and doom me to a life of poverty and lonely carpentering.”

Old Brick began to reappear.

“Brick, you promised! You have to trust me, man! The entire world is resting on you not buying the ticket.”

Young Brick nodded and Old Brick smiled and once again began to disappear.

“It just seems selfish, man,” said Young Brick.

“No!” cried Old Brick. “It’s selfless,” he said. And then he was gone.

 

Read More By Doug Dean

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Portland Fiction Project

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