[A story, from the personal archives of gohlkus maximus, c. 2002.]
* * *
“When were you born?”
“Exactly 100 years ago today.”
A slight pause ensued. “Ah. Well. It says here on the, uh, sheet — it says you’re 26.”
“26, 100, what’s the difference?”
“Indeed,” the reply came, with a barely perceptible quizzical smile. “Well, all right.”
* * *
He, non-descript, pudgy, short, sat in a bland cafeteria in a brick office building. He stared pensively at, not through, the smoky plexiglas windows. Brushy shrubs failed to catch his attention as they swayed ever so slightly in the shifting wind.
After lunch and the sports section, both guilty pleasures, it was back upstairs.
“Are you still writing that story?”
“No, I gave it up.”
“It wasn’t going anywhere.”
A slight, uncomfortable pause. “Come on, you’re a talented guy. I’ve read the stuff on your website; I’m sure you can write a decent story.”
“I don’t know. I keep getting caught up in this dialogue between undefined characters. I think the idea is to make it ‘universal,’ but I’m not doing a very good job of it.”
“Huh. Yeah. That is a problem.”
“See? Why go on?”
“Why not? Maybe someone will enjoy it, or understand what you’re trying to get at, or feel something because of it….” The reply trailed off.
“‘Feel something,’ such as, ‘I just wasted my time,” or ‘This guy is a moron’?”
“Yes! That exactly. It’s better than nothing.”
* * *
He snored, which caused him grief. His live-in former girlfriend couldn’t fall asleep next to him; it took her longer than it did him — and, of course, he was snoring before she was anywhere near sleep.
His first attempt to solve the problem was to use Breathe-Right strips. The solution itself was problematic, since it was difficult to remember to apply them every night. Further, the routine that was necessary for the strip to function properly — wash nose, dry nose thoroughly, blow nose, brush teeth, peel backing from strip, apply strip just! so! — usually created such an unusual state of alertness at bedtime that it became difficult for him to get to sleep. The upshot of his snoring and otherwise (apparently) uninspiring lifestyle was that she left him.
* * *
Bar. Night. Wisconsin.
“I think it’s wishful thinking that it was just your snoring that, uh, prompted her to leave.”
“I did acknowledge the lifestyle somewhat.”
“But you minimized it significantly.”