I feel that I am in a good place to rewrite this and make it more faithful to the original concept. But first I am going to inflict the old version on the blog. Try to enjoy it. It won't be easy.
For even if one is naturally well favored, but engages in philosophy far beyond that appropriate time of life, he can’t help but turn out to be inexperienced in everything a man’s who’s to be admirable and good and well thought of is supposed to be experienced in. Such people turn out to be inexperienced in the laws of their city or in the kind of speech one must use to deal with people on matters of business, whether in public or private, inexperienced also in human pleasures and appetites and, in short, inexperienced in the ways of human beings altogether.
– Callicles, Plato’s Gorgias
[For some reason, this is the quote that I was going to use for the short story. This would have been selected after the writing began, because it started in July of 1997 and was ended – prematurely – in December of 1997. The quote would have been covered in a class during the fall of '97 at NIU. At no point does it have anything to do with the story as originally conceived or how it ended up.]
Do you know that I have never read a book in two days? I read Dragon Tome in three, reading the last 210 pages on the third night. I read The Mote in God’s Eye over two months at about 10 minutes a day. And yet, here I am reading Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (a mere 190 pages) in two sessions. Yes, it must be for a class. But at least it isn’t the class I dropped.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that if I had sacrificed my morality, I would be much better along in my academic career. It doesn’t make it better. The ride is almost at an end. Ha ha ha.
Thank you for the book, though I am not quite sure what it says of me that you would think a book of insults to be an appropriate gift. I wont argue with it. Despite the fact that I have swore not to, I have let most of my anger fade away. It has made many things worse, but nobody else notices one way or the other. What do I really have to be angry about? Many things are my fault; it sucks, but its true.
At any rate, I have been toying with a few story ideas.
[Original note – apparently intended for Debbie Trueblood, which is only discernible because of the mention of the Christmas gift – preceding the text. Of course I have read several books in two days now, don't really consider morality as the impediment of my life, and am not convinced that death is quickly approaching.]
I don’t know what made me remember. It wasn’t so long ago, and we were all so close that I wouldn’t think it be easily forgotten. Still, much occupies the mind as one ages. It was a while ago, at least in terms of where we are now. Those of us who are now.
It isn’t fair for me to tell the story; it isn’t my story. I was on the outside, and I didn’t know until it was too late. I was busy trying to prove my worth in school, and with the fact that I finally was in the relationship I wanted. Still, how could I have missed it? It started in the dreams.
* * * * * * *
Carver and Pudenski were driving in Pudenski’s beat up pickup. It cruised down the road that split the local corn fields. Larry Pudenski was known for taking Mike Carver – or Pete Carver, or anyone – along for a trip out to the trucker bars. Their course could have taken them to one of the more notorious bars, Russ McGan’s. Given Pudenski’s propensity to drink, it should have been their destination.
Instead, Pudenski turned off before he hit Route 30. There was nothing but corn now. More than once, Larry drove through the fields to find another road. He finally hit upon a dirt path that ran between two fields and followed it for a little under two miles. That was not something Pudenski did often, if at all.
Carver got out in synchronic fashion with Pudenski. Larry went forward and sat on the hood. Carver stood by the passenger door, a quizzical look on his face. At least he realized it was odd.
“Its in the bed,” Pudenski shouted. Normally this would have meant the stash they would be drinking that night. Instead, Carver pulled forth a shovel. He walked past Larry and into the headlights’ glow. He surveyed the ground in front of him, then deciding that it could be anywhere, surveyed the land around him.
Larry took the question calmly. Lifting a small bottle of whiskey he had hidden in his vest, he indicated a spot directly in front of the truck a mere pace or two from where Carver stood. Mike shot him a glare but began to dig where he was told to. He did not dig quickly, but Carver managed to produce a hole one would expect from a professional digger, grave or ditch. After fifteen minutes, Carver removed his t-shirt and wiped the sweat from his face.
“Tired?” Pudenski asked. Without waiting for a protest, he tossed Carver a beer he had retrieved from the cab. Carver drank it quickly, and once done returned to his digging. The two did not share stories or even words. The night was quiet, but it did not seem still. There was a purpose waiting in the night. Carver was covered in grime and sweat and topsoil when he was done. He stood impatiently, waiting for Pudenski to finish off his whiskey.
“Now what?” Carver had thus far endured Pudenski’s odd behavior, their friendship so strong as to not be threatened by this one incident. Still, a man need not suffer for his friendship. Pudenski almost shrugged. What Larry did do though was reach for the small of his back. From it he produced a gun. This changed little as he always had a gun near him.
Strange, though, that Mike found the gun pointed directly at him. There was no fear, no reaction at all. Mike was still awaiting an answer, and no matter how much Larry wanted to jerk him around there was a task at hand. Pudenski still sat upon the hood of the truck.
Pudenski raised the gun up, sighting Carver’s head in the pure aim of relieving a body of carrying such a weight. Pudenski looked quite sane. He pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. Carver still stood, awaiting an answer. Pudenski pulled the trigger again. Still nothing happened. It was if all of this had been for nothing. Pudenski looked down at his gun and it announced the problem. He had not the revolver he had been thinking of, but instead his father’s military sidearm, an automatic pistol that needed to have a bullet chambered. Larry smacked his hand upon his head and then chambered a round. Again the gun rose. Again the trigger was pulled.
Mike Carver fell directly into the hole. The aim had been affected and the bullet had impacted in Carver’s chest. No blood sprayed forth from the wound; it must have found a lung. No sound came forth from the hole. Nothing but the sound of the single shot cut through the night. A dead night.
Larry Pudenski lazily walked over to the hole. Damn near perfect. He kicked some of the soil onto Carver’s body. Damn! He had sought to do this with so little effort. Sometime later, the pickup drove out to Rus McGan’s. In the warm glow of neon beer signs, Larry Pudenski gloated.
* * * * * * *
Larry didn’t share the dream right away for fear that some might think him mad and that others would be too amused. Larry wasn’t as disturbed by this dream as he had been by others that had infiltrated his sleep of late. At the very least, Larry knew Mike Carver. The only part that truly bothered him was that he knew the place where his dream occurred. It made it seem so real. He didn’t even remember the last time he set foot inside Russ McGan’s, and yet his dream had it not as it was. He dreamed the remodel that was underway now. He prayed that this was not his future.
His day went on, externally, as would have any work day. He began the day at the warehouse and loaded his work van with a combination of three inch pipe and bundles of multi-colored wire. His multitude of tools were already housed in the van. Larry’s brother, Don, arrived as Larry was ready to depart. The two shared light banter of job sites and workers and life. Larry waited while Don prepared a pot of coffee and took a cup of Kona blend with him.
Larry had worked since he was fourteen. His father’s company, R.A. Pudenski Electrical Contractors, had gone from having a handful of employees and run out of Mr. Pudenski’s basement to a thriving business, now with more than fifty full-time employees, and several others who were hired on as needed. At present, six of those workers were scattered over the five job sites. Larry had two of them. It was taxing to work with these people, being either unfamiliar with procedure or just not knowing much at all. Larry could find himself too busy with them to remember his dreams.
By the time Larry arrived at the restaurant, everyone but Jason MacLeod had ordered. “Because there is no reason for a man to eat alone in the company of friends.” Jason didn’t necessarily mean it. He filched food off of Melissa Brooks’ plate and she was permissive of such. It was still hard to see how they had become a couple. Jason seldom had time for her, and they acted towards each other only as friends. At least in public.
Larry ordered a beer and a burger and attempted to understand the conversation at hand. Jason was in a program at UC – paid for by the school, of course – but had taken a break from his studies and analyzing his friends. Mike Carver looked somewhat confused , as though he did not understand the basis of the conversation. It must be television, mused Larry. Mike didn’t own one and he would care about TV shows unless it was about the psychology of Star Trek. Melissa held herself in reserve, not wanting to draw away from Jason. Dave Burke sat disagreeing with everything that J.B. had to say on the subject. It was about some sitcom and Larry could not have cared less. Larry ordered another beer before he finished his first. Jason did the same.
“I had the weirdest dream.” Larry knew that Jason would shift into psychologist mode. That wasn’t what Larry wanted. He wanted a subject that everyone could come back to. If Jason went off on this, Melissa would have Larry’s head. “Did you ever have one of those dreams that just seemed a bit off?”
Jeff Binghampton was the first to catch the new subject. He set down his soft drink and peered deviously at Larry. “So, Pudenski has had a scary dream? Or not. Tell us the visions that dance in your mind.”
Melissa reached out for Larry’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “J.B. is just joking,” she said softly. She gazed into Larry’s eyes, making sure that he had calmed down.
Larry often wondered why Jason let Melissa be so familiar with the guys but he knew that nobody would go after he while she and Jason were together. It wasn’t Jason who was the cause for pause. Melissa simply wouldn’t let it happen. Maybe she cared for Jason as much as many claimed he cared for her. Jason never said “I love you.” She never said it back. They were together, and as much as Melissa’s touch pleased Larry he knew it was just the reassurance of a friend.
And it wasn’t visions in his head. “Did you ever die in one of your dreams?” Not even Jason would know that Larry was lying about his dreams. Then again, who was to say that he didn’t dream of dying.
Burke was the first to respond. “Yeah. But everyone probably does. You distinguish yourself by how you die. Falling? Everyone dreams of falling, but to die in that dream? Imagine the agony.”
Larry turned to ask Jason if he knew what it meant. Melissa was just about to ask but she didn’t seem upset at being beaten to the punch. Jason merely shrugged. “I’m not a Freudian. Hell, I haven’t even finished my Masters’ yet—”
“You already know more than half your professors,” Melissa interrupted.
“—and besides, Industrial Psychology doesn’t really focus on dream analysis. Even if it did, I wouldn’t lie to you and tell you that there is common criteria for explaining everybody’s dreams.”
“But, Jung...” Larry offered.
“Nothing is universal.”
J.B. and Burke argued over whether or not someone was insane if they dreamed of death often. Mike Carver, Nancy Klein, and Vicki Souser talked sports. Larry and Jason ate. Melissa sat quietly. She knew everyone gathered at the tables, and she was good friends with most of them; all of them but J.B., but he and Carver were fast friends. She missed Larry’s old girlfriend Lynn. But Lynn was in New York, and that sure wasn’t Big Phil’s Bar & Grill.
As was usual, Vicki collected Burke and took him home. Larry alone wondered if those two had something going. Everyone else thought it impossible. Dave Burke was quietly obnoxious and awkward. He looked much shorter than he was, and due to those with whom he had long associated had earned the nickname Troll. Vicki Souser was a dark beauty, though there probably was some white in her background. She grew up with money and had the grace that befitting a rich girl. They shouldn’t ever have been thought of as a couple, but that is exactly how Larry imagined them.
Vicki just didn’t trust Burke on his own. And, as she had Sean, the hell with anyone who thought that she was doing something else with Dave. He didn’t come close to even being a consideration.
Nancy picked up some guy – maybe thirty, maybe older. She wasn’t going to spend a night out like this without some company. She wasn’t really a slut. She just acted like one. She would only have sex with this guy if she wanted to. She was the one in control.
Jason and Melissa left soon afterward. There were no days off for Jason and Melissa had to head back north. She had yet to graduate, though this was her final semester. Then she would be under the same magnifying glass as Jason. Together, they seemed like students. Larry Pudenski and Mike Carver worked for R.A. Pudenski Electrical Contractors. Burke worked at Dmajor Music and lived with his cousin in a rat-trap apartment on the wrong side of the canal. J.B. was an EMT – a waste of his degree and an unacceptable delay on the plan to go to Med School. He wanted to go into radiology, convinced that it had some allure that others simply missed. Vicki had money. Nancy was Nancy. Jason and Melissa were the students. Of course, Melissa was two years younger than most of them. Except for J.B., those who had jobs were lucky to have what they did what they did with a Bachelor’s or less.
J.B., Carver, and Pudenski moved on to Bailey’s Pub to drink more seriously. All three had faith in their ability to pilot their vehicles despite any alcohol induced impairment. J.B. should have known better. From Bailey’s, the trio moved on to the Waiting Room. It was close enough to a hospital that few joked the name referred to the service. The Waiting Room was stark white with little illumination and the dull colors of the patrons made it look like any other bar. But the doctors liked it a lot. So did J.B.
Friday night drinking. It wasn’t all that different from high school, to college, to life. Not for Larry or Carver. Larry was taking a night class in business. He was still three classes away from a degree, but he and Don were getting the family business no matter what. The degree would be for show. Carver had gone from high school to working for Mr. Pudenski. That was almost seven years ago. Seven years buys a living wage. That made it near adult. Well, the occasional sex partner made it a lot different from high school.
“To the impetuousness of youth!” J.B. offered as a toast. Carver and Pudenski downed their shots of whiskey while J.B. gulped down his beer. The night would go on back at J.B.’s apartment if his girlfriend, Sarah, didn’t show up. If she knew he was out drinking, she would. It was the only way to keep him faithful. J.B. was as likely as Nancy to go home with someone he didn’t really know. That was how he got Sarah in the first place.