Thursday, September 29, 2005

How I Met Josh Brewster

In the Fall of 2004 I signed up for what was called the "Liberal Arts Committee," a collegiate organization of Liberal Arts students devoted to campus projects and school-wide events in order to distract themselves from the fact that they have no useful skills to offer society whatsoever. Or at least, that was the pretense. At the time I was an idealistic young man who foolishly thought that, maybe, with the right effort, courage, and willingness to engage in devious acts on the most nefarious of levels, I would be able to maybe, just maybe, plant the seeds of my future into the fertile manure of college, and water it with daily with the fluid of dreams until it sprouted into the growth of promise, after which it would mature into leaves of success which could be smoked by the bong of retirement, and LAC seemed like just the shitty star to hitch my shitty wagon to. For you see, words like "committee" look good on a resume (or as the French call it, "the el resume"), and if you follow Dungeons and Dragons rules, add + 4 to credibility and charisma. But then again, words like "liberal" and "arts" both subtract 3 points from reknown. But then you would be forgetting that the involvement the Liberal Arts Committee has with the Student Government adds a whopping +3 to all Universal Saving Throws. In the end, everything balances out, provided you have a respectable strength modifier and shower regularly.

Sadly, I was mistaken. LAC was not about engaging in campus events to distract ourselves from our painfully, painfully obivous worthlessness. Rather, it was a committee set up to [i]talk[/i] about distracting ourselves from our worthlessness, and then make petty compromises about the most mundane and ridiculous of topics. Sometimes I wasn't even sure who people were arguing with. Sometimes they were arguing with themselves, making deals with their own self-worth, reducing such activites as fixing up homes for the elderly and poor to simply driving by the homes of the elderly and poor at a very high rate, and then maybe donating some petty cash to a small and dysfunctional charity, such as Debtor's Anonymous or The Molested Parrot Shelter of Greater Ohio, which would also be a pretty good band name.

Now, I am not an idealist, even though I just told you I was. That was a bold-faced lie. I also told you I was "young" and a "man," and I think I might've said thrown something in there about being the Herald of the Rapture, too. But, regardless, the truth is, I am not a determined, idealistic person. No, these here hands have spilled blood in every state from Colorado to Connecticut; sometimes my own, sometimes other people's, sometimes a mix of the two in what the Eutaw, Alabama Daily Times called "easily the most repulsive Easter Sunday in American history." But, still, I would much rather do something than just sit on my ass talking about how I should be doing something, or sit on my ass talking about how I am sitting on my ass and scheduling later hours to come in and sit on my ass and talk about doing something, which was usually the case. But that was exactly what we did all day, or at least what we were supposed to be doing. I mainly sat in the back of the room drawing pictures of monkeys in cowboy hats engaging in ruthless knife fights with pirates. If there's one thing those pictures taught me, it's never to trust a monkey who's skilled with a knife. Or a pirate. They truly are the scum of the earth. Also, cowboy hats are funny, especially if you add a jaunty feather.

So, towards the end of the Fall semester, I was disillusioned with the promise of success LAC had promised me. The whole thing just didn't look right to me anymore. Maybe it was the squabbling. Maybe it was the disorganization. Maybe it was the fact that I had gone legally blind from drinking too much. But either way, I would not stay. And, given the choice between either quitting or staying in for the long haul and trying to change LAC for the better, I chose option C, which was Going Down in Flames and being kicked out. I thought this was a great idea, namely because I'm too much of a coward to tell people I hate them, but never not enough of a jackass to miss out on inspiring their hatred and contempt on a massive scale. You might say that there's some flaw in that logic, or that there's just something gramatically wrong with that sentence, but then again you might also say that gravity doesn't exist and the force we perceive is just millions of invisible hands holding us down on the face of the earth every hour of every day. But if you said that, you'd be an idiot, and people probably wouldn't want to give you a home loan or something. I rest my case.

So when it came down to me to participate in interviewing new volunteers for LAC, the opportunity seemed too fat and plump to pass up, like a Wendy's or a Taco Cabana, but not like an Arby's because their roast beef is weird and they charge too much for their other sandwiches. They scheduled me to meet a Josh Brewster in one of the conference rooms in the Student Services Building. The board was set, and the pieces were moving, and there was nothing to fear but fear itself, and something about an iron curtian and drinking tea with glass in it.

"Dress nice," they said. "Act friendly. Ask personal questions. Get to know them."

Following the Geroge Costanza method of success, I showed up wearing a gin-soaked KISS ME I'M SHITFACED T-shirt and a pair of jeans a family of possums had recently vacated when conditions had become too awful for their lofty standard of living. I also stole my friend's sports coat at the last minute, just to class things up, but being that he was a giant fat guy it looked like I was wearing a very sombre circus tent. I figured that would add the perfect je ne sais quoi (German for "shattered feces") for the meeting. I took the volunteer dossier with me, along with plenty of crayons and a sharpie so I could draw a face on my hand and perform a puppet routine in front of the bathroom mirror should the whimsy take me.

As I waited, I read over the form this "Josh Brewster" had filled out. I immediately noticed the lack of headshots, and I noted this by writing "PIX PLZ" on the top of dossier and drawing arrows randomly pointing all over the paper indicating places where said pictures could conceivably go. I decided to rectify the situation myself, and made sketches of what I considered Josh Brewster might look like.

When he showed up, he immediately lost points for refusing to conform to the standards I set. Not only was he not 90 feet tall, but he also lacked the required scales, prosthetic limbs, and the ablitity to spew rich, creamy Hershey's chocolate. Instead, he was a tall, scrawny kid with golden curls, rippling forearms, and eyes you could get lost in for hours. Unstatisfactory.

"JOSH: 0," I wrote. "ROBERT: A BILLION."

"Come in," I said.

He smiled at me. What a fag.

"Are you Josh?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

Too trusting.

"Take a seat," I said. As he did so I wrote "ICHIRO SUZUKI SUCKS BALLS" in the "date" portion of the dossier.

I glanced up.

"Are you sure you want that chair?" I asked.

He blinked and smile a little. "What?" he asked.

I looked at him for a moment, letting the silence slowly pregnante, and then smiled coldly, like the smile you give a lover just as you're leaving after sex, because you know you're going to take all the pizza with you on the way out the door and then not call.

"Nothing," I said. "It's nothing."

"I WOULD LIKE SOME PIZZA," I wrote in the "major" portion.

"Is that your shirt?" I asked him.

"Um," he said. "Yes."

I smiled and nodded sagely. "Good. Cool. All right." I stared at him for a moment, letting it go on just a little too long. I counted his blinks. There were seven.

"I tell you what, Josh," I said. "Can I call you 'Josh,' Josh?"

"Uh-"

"You seem like a straight shooter, Josh, so I'm gonna shoot straight at you."

"Okay," he said.

"Great," I said. "You look like a digger," I said. "Do you dig a lot, Josh?"

"What?" he said.

"You've got digger's shoulders, right there. Well-toned triceps and meaty deltoids, yessir, that's digger's shoulders. We have a lot of need for a man who can bury things around here. I'll be honest, the last four didn't cut it. They couldn't bury a dead cat, let alone a live one. I know, I followed them around for days in my van. They don't dig for pleasure or for sport. They don't even own their own shovel. Not even a pickaxe. You know, you can tell a lot about a man by the way he buries something, Josh. It's a crucial thing."

I leaned back in my chair and took out a highlighter. I cracked it open, removed the ink filter, and proceeded to smoke it like a cigarette. It might've looked odd to old Josh, what with how my face was dripping with pink ink, but I was deep in the heart of Flavor Country, headed for the local Flavor Saloon and then, more than likely, the Flavor Brothel to nail some Flavor Whores in their Flavor Asses, and then I'd probably try and skip out paying them the Flavor Money, which is pink, like everything else is there, and on the one Flavor Dollar bill is a picture of a woodpecker, but I don't know why. Josh wouldn't understand, what with his snooty, lack-of-chocolate-spewing attitude.

"Yeah," I went on. "Every once in a while a man has to go out in the woods and bury something. Sometimes a man buries a thing, sometimes a thing buries a man. Sometimes you're the thing, and sometimes you're the man, and I suppose sometimes you're the shovel, if the digger had managed to fashion a crude shovel of some sort out of your bones. It's the circle of life, that's what it is, Josh. I suppose if you were really determined you could 'bury' your way out of the hole the thing buried you in, but wouldn't that just be digging, Josh?"

"Uh-"

"Yes, yes it would, Josh. And I will not tolerate digging here. That's one thing we have to get clear. I will not. Tolerate. Digging," I said, forcefully tapping the desk with each word.

"Didn't you just ask me-"

"No," I said. "I don't ask. I never ask. Instead, I 'put a question to you.' There's a difference. One's more aggressive. For example, what's the difference between me saying, 'I want to put the wood to you' and 'I'd like to ask you to fuck me?' The difference, Josh, is that one doesn't translate well into Welsh, while the other is downright delightful. That's the difference, Josh, and that's what makes LAC different. You have to think outside the box, think about the tone of questions. Always think outside the box, Josh, especially if you're burying it, because the dirt's what's outside the box. Just you and the dirt and the shovel. Also, you probably don't want to look inside the box, because more than likely you were told specifically not to, and it's probably all freaky and crazy anyway. And if you do, then what do you do when that big fat Hawaiian guy finds out and comes after you by the side of the road with a beretta?"

Josh stared at me so hard I thought his eyes were going to fall out. If that happened I was going to jump over the desk and punch him right in the face, because there's no better time to punch a guy than when he's got no eyes. He won't see it coming, unless his eyes are still capable of relaying thoughts to his head even when they're separated, like they're little wireless cameras or walkie talkies or something, and that's just plain nuts.

"I'll tell you what you do, Josh," I said, "You lead him into the woods with a series of deceptive bird calls and then you wait for dark, and then you kill him with a shovel. Then you've got two things to bury, Josh. All because you wanted to look inside the box. And what did looking inside the box get you, Josh? Did knowing that that Hawaiian guy wanted to bury a severed clown's head make you a better person? Huh, did it, Josh? I don't think so. Not at all. Now, I'm not saying I have a problem with clowns, Josh. I love clowns. Do you love clowns?"

"Fuck, yes," Josh said. I noticed he was breathing hard and quivering slightly. "I love clowns."

"Hmm," I said, and wrote, "M-O-O-N, THAT SPELLS EAT SHIT" in the line that read "applicant's signature"

"I love clowns," I went on when I was done. "I love them to death. Not physically, mind you. I don't care for the greasepaint. No, I love them for the entertainment. I just think they should get taxed more than regular folk, because they terrify children, and dammit, that's my area of expertise. I don't see why they should get paid to terrify children and I shouldn't. Why, if I had my way, I would lead them all out into the woods at night with a series of deceptive bird calls and them kill them one by one, BANG!" I said, hitting the table with my fist. "RIGHT IN THE BACK OF THE HEAD!". I'm fairly certain that at that moment Josh shit his pants. If he didn't then, he sure did later. I demonstrated the edge and angle of the shovel with a chop of my hand.

"Not a lot of people can take a shovel in the back of the head, Josh. You think a clown might be able to, what with all the big curly red hair, but that's no cushion. Maybe it would be, if the hair was made out of steel wool, but who would want that? The hair would scatch up the other clown's crotches when they sat on each other's shoulders! And that's just awful, isn't it, Josh?"

"Yes," Josh said, but his voice was very hoarse.

"Do you think you can take a shovel to the back of the head, Josh? Because I can guarantee you can't. I've had people bet me they can take a shovel to the back of the head, but they never can. They never bet me with 'words,' so to speak, but they bet me with actions. By, say, cutting me off as they merge onto the highway, or being female and fairly attractive and not giving me any attention. It's the abstracts that matter, JoshShovel. It's the abstracts that matter in life, and it's the abstracts that matter here at LAC. At least I think they matter, but to be honest, I'm not sure what LAC does. When I joined I thought it was a lifeguard training organization, or maybe an elite Burying Things Organization, but instead all they do is get all red when I yell and then they ask me to leave. I think I was supposed to ask you some questions here, Josh, so I guess I better get down to that. First off, where do you live, and how many windows does it have that are accessible from the street?"

But when I looked up, Josh was long gone. All that was visible of him was his non-scaly backside fleeing into the neon corridors, running at a full sprint. That was a shame, because I wanted him to watch my puppet show. I would've even paid him in Flavor Dollars.

I leaned back, stubbed out my highlighter cigarette, and wrote "CASE CLOSED BY ROBERT ANTONIO ST. AWESOME" on the bottom of the dossier. I handed it in in the morning.

Within two weeks, Josh was safely concealed in a police safehouse, and I was dead.

3 Comments:

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September 29, 2005 at 12:40 PM  
Blogger required said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

October 7, 2005 at 10:13 PM  
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October 7, 2005 at 10:15 PM  

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