Lit Up
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Lit Up

Weird Mood

I walked the streets of Ann Arbor alone.

I’d met up with Biden (no relation to our former VP) earlier but he got upset because he found out Edna Krapappel (Bart’s teacher on The Simpsons) was dead. He’d been pirating the golden years and figured everyone was still alive.

“Krabappel’s dead?” he said when I informed him. “When?”

“2013,” I said. “Long time ago now.”

“You mean, the character, right? They killed the character off like they did Flanders’ wife.”

“They killed the character off eventually, yeah, but no, I mean the actress, Marcia Wallace.”

“She died?”

“Yeah.”

“In 20-fucking-13?”

“Yeah, October 2013. Like, I want to say a couple days before or after Lou Reed.”

“How did I not know this? What was I even doing in 2013?”

“I was working at Kuka, I’d just started. Uh, you would’ve been in Toledo, I think.”

He got this weird look on his face and stopped being talkative. About two minutes later he was like, “Dude, I gotta take off.”

We were at The Fleetwood Diner, a little twenty-four hour joint on the city’s east side, looks like a 1950’s place with stickers all over the inside of the walls, tiny, made of airstream silver tin. They’re famous for their “hipster hash”, a breakfast item. I always get the tuna melt.

“Uh, all right,” I said.

Biden tossed a ten on the table for his omelette and was off down the street. I watched him go and finished my tuna melt.

Before our food came he’d shown me this video of a song he’d written on acoustic. It was really pretty, made me think of sandalwood panels and campfires and snow outside. I had it stuck in my head now.

I paid, put my earbuds in and listened to The National and The Black Keys’ new albums. It’s been hot out, and even though it was late and dark I didn’t need to wear my hoodie.

I strutted along, letting the music tow my thoughts in whatever directions.

Then, I saw her.

It was Bailey Zsarkel. We’d worked at the state parks together years ago, after I was in college. She was this little hippie girl then, with dreads. Her dreads were gone now but she was wearing this weird Indian get-up complete with a jewel stuck on the center of her forehead which is weird because I’m pretty sure she’s Czech, English and Norwegian.

She was always super friendly and happy and really pleasant to be around, an adorable young thing. She made it known that she dated older guys, too, so all the horny older maintenance dudes were always buying her Dairy Queen and shit. She was the positive energy of the carpenter shop.

We’d ride together all the time on the maintenance and safety checks. She was a great work friend. Many great conversations. I remember I recorded a video of her once with this tiny frog she’d found under a trash bin and she was singing to it. I wanted her to marry me right then but we were never more than work acquaintances. I kept that video for years until I got rid of the phone and I’d watch it when I was feeling down.

She was coming out of Nestor (a club) with a gaggle of friends, male and female.

“Hey Bailey,” I said as she came upon me. I don’t know why. Normally I would’ve just let her pass but right then I felt the insatiable urge to say something.

She turned and in the next second about four or five emotions went across her face. It started with curiosity, then lapsed into an irritation that the person getting her attention wasn’t attractive or valuable-looking (I’m not), a bit of concern and fear over whether this unattractive dude was about to hit on her, then a spark of recognition as she realized it was an old co-worker, and finally a bit of a disinterested side-eye — her last thought in that second must’ve been, “Oh great, it’s him…”

“Dominic,” she said, flashing a horsey smile. She always looked like she could’ve been Tom Petty’s cute twenty-something daughter. Her eyes were mostly looking at the Jimmy Johns’ across the street. “How have you been?”

Never was a question spoken with less interest in the answer.

One of her drunk friends stuck out her hand for me to shake. I took it and she pumped enthusiastically without introducing herself. Allie’s friends laughed.

“I’ve been great,” I said. “I’m a millionaire now.”

I’m not. I don’t know why I said that. My general mood and their initial reaction to me must’ve brought it out.

Bailey raised her eyebrows.

“Oh, you are?”

“Yeah. I invested in weed and then they legalized it. I’m fucking loaded.”

“Wow, good for you.”

“Can you buy me a new car?” slurred one of her drunk friends. I ignored her.

“How have you been?” I asked her. “I see you got rid of your dreads.”

“Yeah, a couple years ago. Uh, I’m good. I’m running for office, actually.”

“No, you’re not.”

“I am. I’m running for city council next year.”

“Dude, I received like thirty friend requests a day,” said one of her friends to the group and not to me. They were all done up in that weird Indian get-up stuff. Forehead jewels and belly-dancing shit. Nestor was probably having a theme night. “All from people I’m mutual friends with. It’s like, what’s going on?”

‘WILL you be MY FRIEND?!” slurred the really drunk one.

“I blame Russia,” said a male friend in the back, tall dude with his arms protectively locked around the neck of the friend request girl.

“You’re just that popular, “ said Bailey. She looked back at me.

I gotta go and I’m not sure why you stopped me to begin with, it’s not like I know you that well, says the look.

“K, well I’m off to buy something,” I said. “See you.”

“Bye...”

I could hear them laugh all the way down the street even with my headphones on.

I went home and slept for like twelve hours. It was early afternoon by the time I got up. I had a voicemail from Biden. I called him back rather than listen to it.

“Sorry, man,” he said, sounding hungover. “I’ve been having weird mood swings with my meds getting adjusted and for some reason that Krabappel news fucking ruined me. Piece of my childhood I didn’t even know I had and it’s gone forever. Or something. It’s just weird that it could’ve been gone and all this time went by and I didn’t realize it until now. Life, man.”

“Where did you go?”

“I was gonna just go home and fucking crash but instead I went to Babs Underground, and like I said for some reason that news made me really fucking sad so to distract myself I just started buying everyone shots and was like, toasting her, going, ‘To Mrs. Krabappel!’ And so everyone started calling me Krabappel. I got fucking decimated and I kept showing them my sandalwood song. Lyfted home. Which reminds me — if you take me to get my car I’ll buy us Fleetwood again.”

“K.”

While I drove to get him, I didn’t listen to any music, and I got that music from the end of the Halloween episode where Homer gets stuck in the third dimension and ends up in our world and sees an erotic cake shop. That really melancholy French horn version of the theme with the chimes playing in the background.

I had that stuck in my head the whole time I went to get him.

Sometimes life is just shit happening and none of it pays off.

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Welcome to Lit Up -The Land of Little Tales. Here you can read and submit short stories, flash fiction, poetry - in brief, your own legend. We're starting little. But that's how all big stories begin.

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