SHORT STORY – Christopher S. Bell

PORRIDGE
Photo by Miguel Orós on Unsplash

Christopher S. Bell has been writing and releasing literary and musical works through My Idea of Fun since 2008.  His sound projects include Emmett and Mary, Technological Epidemic, C. Scott and the Beltones and Fine Wives. My Idea of Fun is an art and music archive focused on digital preservation with roots in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. (www.myideaoffun.org).  Christopher’s work has recently been published inAnti-Heroin Chic, BlazeVOX17, Drunken Monkeys, Hobart, Queen’s Mob Teahouse, and Entropy among others. He tweets @CScottBell

Mere Avoidance

Subject Chas Hartman, 28, leaves the comfy embrace of his marital mattress at 9:15 A.M. Friday morning. He showers, dresses down and makes two slices of avocado toast posted promptly on his Instagram story by 10:12 A.M with a green caption reading: “Da Shit,” LIT FIRE sticker GIFs on each side.

Subject Wes McGhee, 30, doesn’t see this photo until 4:11 P.M, upon his return home from work. He proceeds to watch the remaining three videos in Subject Hartman’s story.

The next is a superzoom on a packed brown suitcase with dramatic theme music; sweating smiley emoji pinned to a pair of blue-checkered boxers.

Then a strip of highway from the driver’s side POV, “America!” by Bill Callahan playing as a rusted white truck passes in the left lane. Pinned blue text attaches to the truck bed reading “American Asshole!”

The last video is a rainy view of smokestacks off in the distance before zooming out to a local sign reading: “Welcome to Sherwood” as Subject Hartman drives past.

Subject McGhee silences his phone and proceeds to nap from 4:13 to 5:06 P.M. Upon waking, he checks his Twitter feed. Subject Hartman tweeted once in the morning and once in the early afternoon.


Chas Hartman
@Chasman420

TFW your car makes a rattle you’ve never heard right before you’re about to drive 200 miles. #worried, #notreallyworried

8/17/2018, 11:21 P.M

Chas Hartman
@Chasman420

TFW you just ate 2 convenient store hotdogs in less than 2 minutes. #hungry, #notreallythathungry.

8/17/2018, 2:35 P.M


Subject McGhee then responds to a text from one Barbara “Babs” Edward, age 27, sent at 4:48 P.M.

BABS: Hey, so we getting crunk tonight?

MCGHEE: Sure. Chas is in town, though, so we’re gonna have to choose our watering hole wisely.

BABS: Yeah whatevs, talk to ya after I pound some bacon cheddar fries.

Subject McGhee proceeds to heat a Stouffer’s potpie in the microwave and watch the latest episode of Sour Variety until 5:50 P.M.

Subject Hartman checks his Facebook feed at 6:03 P.M. while sitting at his mother’s dinner table. Finding nothing new by way of friends or events in Sherwood, he texts his wife, Morgan, age 34.

HARTMAN: Hey, how’s the beach?


Morgan doesn’t reply until 6:39 P.M.

MORGAN: So lovely! I literally just got out of the water. Hope you’re having a blast back home, babe!

HARTMAN: Yeah, not so much, but don’t wanna ruin your vacation

MORGAN: And that’s why I keep you around. Call me later, when you’re feeling better.

HARTMAN: K, will do.

MORGAN: (Double Heart-Eyed Emoji)

At 8:11 P.M., Babs arrives at Subject McGhee’s apartment on Vine Street with a bottle of Jerdin’s red merlot in tow. Sitting on the couch, she crosses her legs and insults the record. “Not quite punk enough,” Babs claims.

“I didn’t know I was dealing with an expert,” Subject McGhee replies. “So I thought we were going out, not just getting drunk on wine inside.”

“It won’t take us long to finish this,” Babs says. “Then we’ll see where we’re at.” She twists the top off and prances into the kitchen, grabbing two wine glasses.

“You know it’s good when there isn’t a cork.”

“I know, right?”

The bottle is emptied by 9:10 P.M., their glasses at 9:34 and 9:41 respectively.

At 9:38, only four minutes before Babs makes the suggestion to Subject McGhee, “Let’s hit up our old hotspot,” Subject Hartman is being confronted with a similar quandary.

“You gotta come out for at least one beer.”

“And a shot.”

“Yeah, probably a shot too.”

Overanxious modern degenerates, Sal Palmer and Marv Danver, stumble upon Subject Hartman in line at the Snack ‘N Stop, single half gallon of milk in hand. “I don’t know guys,” he replies. “I haven’t seen my mom forever. I was probably just gonna chill in and catch up with her tonight.”

“Oh, would you to listen to this little fancy pansy right here,” Sal says.

“I know,” Marv adds. “Wants to spend his night inside with mommy. Does she make you wear a cute little outfit around the house too?”

“No, that’s my wife actually,” Subject Hartman jokes, only to have both stand stone-faced.

They make their purchases and reconvene in the parking lot, Subject Hartman eventually agreeing to follow Sal down Blue Ridge Hill to Dave’s Bar, taking a Snapchat of the old cemetery as he passes.

Babs watches Subject Hartman’s snap at 10:21 P.M., holding an ear to her phone speaker, trying to decipher what song is playing in the background. “Do you know this one?”

Subject McGhee takes a sip of beer and listens, while scanning the crowd at Milo’s Tavern, all equally-entranced by flashing screens. “It’s Nirvana,” he finally replies.

“Oh, well don’t I feel like a dumbass now,” Bab throws the device back in her purse.

“Whose story was that anyway?”

“Someone we’re not talking about,” Babs rolls her eyes, before smiling.

“Hey, when have our conversations ever had limitations? Feel free to talk about whoever you want.”

“It was Chas’. He’s heading down the hill.”

“Do you think he’s coming here, to our spot?”

“Anything’s possible. I almost forgot this was our spot.”

“Well maybe we should commemorate the occasion,” Subject McGhee snaps a picture, catching Babs off-guard. She howls from their corner of Milo’s, a few patrons paying them stray glances before Subject McGhee posts the picture on his Instagram feed. Caption: We here, come and get us!

Comfortably dumbfounded at Dave’s Bar, Marv spies the photo at 10:44 P.M. on his feed. “What’s the deal with these two anyway?” he asks.

“They’re fucking,” Sal replies. “Obviously.”

“Who?” Subject Hartman asks, a bit disoriented after smoking a joint with his cohorts in the parking lot at 10:32 P.M.

“Wes McGhee and Babs Edward,” Marv says.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Subject Hartman replies.

“Didn’t he used to be your boy?” Sal asks.

“Or I thought she used to be your gal,” Marv suggests. “Chas and Babs, right? Weren’t there posters?”

“That was high school,” Subject Hartman states. “Clearly, you two haven’t moved on.”

At 10:52 P.M. Subject Hartman punches Marv Danver in the right cheek following a loose comment about his wife. Marv and best friend, Sal Palmer, retaliate in a rush of fists and sweat eventually pushing their fellow classmate out into the parking lot; Subject Hartman quickly retreating into the seedy underbelly of Sherwood. Rather than give chase, Marv and Sal return to their bar stools for another round.

Subject McGhee and Babs exit Milo’s Tavern at 11:26 P.M., visibly-intoxicated. They sit in Babs’ 2006 green Nissan until 11:34 when she pushes Subject McGhee out of his seat and into the gravel parking lot. Many claim she then screams some kind of obscenity although there is much debate over the exact phrase. “You’re supposed to suck then lick,” is usually misconstrued as “You fuck boy, prick,” or “Fucking limp dick!”

Startled, Subject McGhee considers his best route home, stumbling towards Fifth Avenue, only to retreat following the abrupt flash of red and blue police lights on Sixth. He then doubles back, before casually strolling four blocks to the bottom of Blue Ridge Hill. Subject McGhee finishes the long and arduous climb by 12:16 A.M., crossing the road only to drop his cellular telephone on the pavement.

At 12:17 A.M. Subject Hartman reaches the top of Blue Ridge Hill, driving thirty-seven miles an hour. Subject McGhee stands from the ground at the exact moment Subject Hartman’s headlights hit him. Braking, Subject Hartman skids on the road only to stop right in front of his former classmate, both nervously-profane. They exchange a brief look in the darkness, before Subject McGhee flicks off the driver and jaunts to the sidewalk. Subject McGhee reiterates the same gesture then speeds off down the road.

At 12:41 A.M. Subject Hartman tweets before bed.

Chas Hartman
@Chasman420

Almost killed a guy in my car who was standing in the middle of the road in my hometown. Something tells me he probably deserved it. #drunkasshole, #Butnottheonlydrunkasshole.

8/18/2017, 12:41 A.M.

Only to delete it the next morning before Subject McGhee wakes and checks the feed. These two men won’t cross paths again for another eight years, seven months, nineteen days and twelve hours, both remarkably sympathetic at Barbara Edward’s funeral.

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