Shoulda coulda wouldas:
- Shoulda gone in with a strategy. I decided to just start writing and see where that led. I wanted to cover too much (because call me crazy, but I think something should happen in a short story...maybe I shoulda gone with an essay instead).
- Coulda done better, but I think I may have misjudged what the judges would really like (my story was probably a little too touchy-feely-friendshipy for them, and that's ok; it's not for everybody). I also think the finished product was my B game when I shoulda brought my A game.
- Woulda done better if sprinting was my distance, but I think I was born a middle distance to marathon runner. (Psst! That was a metaphor for the length of the story. I know, it was subtle.) The point is, I had a hard time writing less than 751 words. A really hard time. By the time I whittled down my story to exactly 750, I sacraficed a lot of the words and phrases that made it funny and interesting.
It was noon, and the bar had just opened. I ordered a pint of Harpoon IPA and waited for Bukowski.
“Hey didn’t you used to go to school here?” the bartender asked as he gave me my beer. “You and your buddy used to come here all the time…You’re Bukowski, right?!”
“Bukowski was my friend; I’m--”
“Nicky McDicky!” he interrupted, remembering. I cringed, but managed a good-natured smile.
“I go by Nicholas McRichardson now.” I was 25 years old, a Marketing Manager for a major art gallery, and pretty sure I had outgrown “Nicky McDicky.”
“Nicky!” he insisted. “It’s good to see you.” He looked at his watch. “Wait a minute, it’s noon. Are you and Bukowski in a fight?” I nodded. When Bukowski and I fought, we met at this bar at noon the next day for six and a half pints of beer. The rule was if we were still angry, our friendship was over. In all our fights over the years, including the one that started because he stole my girlfriend, we were never still angry. This time, though, I had my doubts.
Despite the economy, Bukowski had quit his job as a Zamboni Driver at the Y. I couldn’t let my old buddy down, and invited him to stay with me.
The first week or so wasn’t that bad. We celebrated our living situation by eating macaroni and cheese with ketchup and watching a marathon of bad horror movies on FX.
During week two, things got slightly worse. After washing his dishes and cleaning up his Twinkie wrappers one evening, I noticed some art hanging in his room. I was concerned for two reasons. First, the art was bad. I think he may have purchased it at the college store. Second, this was my guest room; how long was he planning on staying?
It was during his third week that things got a little hairy. I came home to a lizard having its way with my recently-laundered button-down shirts.
“You have a lizard!?” I yelled as I barged into his room, lizard in one hand, shirts and Tide pen in the other.
“Yeah, his name is Leo. Why?”
“Because he crapped all over my shirts!” I threw Leo onto his bed and frantically tried to de-stain.
“Dude, you have to lighten up. A Tide pen? Really?” he asked incredulously. I wanted to kick him in the teeth right then and there, but stormed out instead. When I gave up on removing the lizard’s shit stains later that day, I put my soiled shirts onto his bed while he was napping. I closed the door so the room could marinate in the stink.
But that wasn’t the reason why we were fighting. We were fighting because yesterday, during his fourth week of living with me, Bukowski stabbed me in the ass.
He was hammering in yet another piece of tasteless art, and I went to stop him. He questioned our friendship. I called him a dick. There was a struggle, and with my back facing him, I jumped backward with all my might to deliver a savage elbow. When I landed, it was onto the nail in his right hand. Hooray for my benefits package and tetanus shot.
It seemed like an accident, but that didn’t change the fact that I was 25 and walking with a limp that was neither charming nor stylishly intentional.
“It was an accident.” It was Bukowski. When did he get here? I looked down: I had finished six pints! Suddenly, I was concerned I had been talking out loud.
“Look, I’m sorry. I had no idea you were that mad.” I looked at him and pointed at my right butt cheek, hanging gingerly off the side of the barstool. He continued, “I mean, I knew you were mad about the ass-stabbing, but I didn’t know you thought my art was bad.”
Wait, that was his art?! I had no idea he had a softer, more artistic side. And there I was, stifling his creativity! Who was the dick now?
He continued, “I’ll take down my paintings and move out at the end of the week.” He took a long draught of beer. We had both been McDickys, and I couldn’t let him move out.
“Nah, it’s alright. The guest room is yours now anyway…but the lizard has to go!”
He brightened. “If Leo goes, so does your nerdy Tide pen. Deal?”
We ordered another pint and the bartender smiled.