Sunday, November 1, 2009

november 1st, 2009



This is a short story I wrote a couple of years ago in my poorly lit, desolate Santa Barbara apartment.  Every night I was convinced the apocalypse had come and somehow I was the lone survivor.  Nothing but the sound of crickets and stench of skunk after sunset.  Trying to fall asleep in dead silence is so lonely and awful.  What I'm trying to say is the apartment was delightful.


the unexpected but crucial epiphany of eldrick riley

This story is about Eldrick Riley.  But having already glanced at the title like the attentive reader you are this should come as no surprise.  Eldrick lives in Sherman Oaks, California.  He works in Santa Monica and commutes every weekday, and has for the last 8 years.  That equates to 2,922 days, 70,128 hours, or 4,207,680 minutes; all of which he will never ever have back.

Eldrick, or Eli as he introduces himself, is 30 years old.  He believes his full name has as much appeal as a slice of tree bark for breakfast.

This particularly morning, the morning of April 7th, 1999, Eldrick embarks on an epic journey of personal reflection and change.  This inexplicable occurrence will forever change his outlook on how to live, how to find love, how to succeed, how to be happy, and how to die with a satisfied grin plastered upon his rotting face.

He wakes up drowsy similar to any other morning.  Work starts at nine, so between the grueling commute you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy, and his grocery list of morning routines, he wakes up at six.  The sound of his favorite radio station blasts through the cheap alarm clock.  This morning Zombie is the culprit behind the opening of Eldrick's crusty, quiet eyes.  He is moderately fond of it, but would have preferred an R.E.M. song.

Eldrick doesn't believe in hitting the snooze button because of the million different times his mother told him You snooze you lose.  He wakes up with a bit of trouble, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Letting out an impressive yawn by his standards he reaches for the glass of water carefully placed on his nightstand.  He takes a sip and pulls himself out of bed.  He lives alone in a one bedroom apartment.  The building hasn't been painted in 35 years and the elevator is known to give new comers shaky hands and a new appreciation for life.

He walks to the bathroom to freshen up.  He starts the shower and strips down.  He looks in the full-length mirror and is disappointed with the slightly overweight figure, lack of abs, and self-proclaimed short dick.  He takes a shower, dries up, scratches the necessary areas, brushes his teeth, flosses, applies his daily acne medication (which consists of five three-minute lotion rub-ins), cleans his ears, cuts his fingernails, messes with his hair for nine minutes until it is just right, picks his nose, washes his hands with cheap soap that couldn't kill a suicidal germ, walks out of the bathroom and steps into the kitchen.  This is where he makes himself two scrambled eggs and a pathetic excuse for bacon (five packs for $5) every morning; rain, shine, snow, tornado, monsoon, blizzard, anything.  A stroke couldn't stop Eldrick from his routine and his ritual breakfast.  On July 19th, 1994 he was horrified to find himself out of bacon and substituted it with a bowl of Cheerios.  He wasn't the same for weeks.

This routine, including the viewing of his favorite half-hour talk show Good Morning Sleepyheads, takes almost two hours.  He finishes the show each morning by washing dishes and messing with his hair for yet another nine minutes.  He never likes the way it looks.  He leaves for work at 7:50 every morning of every day.  He is never late and takes the same route every time.  Eldrick avoids change like a person suffering from arachnophobia avoids the interactive spider exhibit at the zoo.  This morning he walks past his microwave/clock to see it is 7:54.  This causes him to nearly lose complete control of his bowels, like an honor student missing a final.  However, he is able to gather himself and walk out the door, down the elevator, and into his 1995 champagne Ford Taurus.

There is awful traffic on the way to the freeway and Eldrick takes a sharp right to go the alternate route.  Regret surprisingly does not consume his body.

The choice proves to be successful and he puts his right blinker on to get on the freeway.  The light turns green and the dreadful bumper to bumper mess begins. 

Nearly halfway there Eldrick changes the radio station to listen to The Times They Are A-Changing.  He never changes the station, but on this particularly morning he does so without even noticing.  It is at 8:31 when Eldrick begins his metamorphosis*, you could say. 

Suddenly Eldrick enters a coma of sorts.  All the clouds in the sky turn a darkish gray and rendezvous over the 405, directly over Eldrick's Taurus.  There is a bellowing shot of violet lightning to accompany this.  Eldrick is not aware of any of this as he his eyes are glued open and body totally frozen, incapacitated in every way.  While the clouds lounge menacingly over the car Eldrick goes through his metamorphosis.  It lasts less than three seconds, but to Eldrick it feels like days.  It is during this bizarre that event Eldrick looks deep inside himself and is able to sort everything out.  He finds the secret to everything restraining him from a life he has always desired, a life he was bound to never live.  This epiphany shows Eldrick how to get a date with the girl from his office he is too afraid to talk to.  It shows him how to get out of his lonely apartment and into a place he can proudly call home.  It even shows him how to make sense of a David Lynch movie he recently watched alone.  It shows him everything he begs to know, everything he pushes himself to do but fails.  It shows him the secret to the perfect life according to Eli Riley.  It gives him all the necessary courage to go to sleep knowing he is the man; the man not to be reckoned with, the man capable of absolutely everything, the man with the power of Zeus and then some.

This metamorphosis, or miracle if you prefer, shakes Eli up and spits him out the most confident man in the universe at that exact moment in time. 

The radio comes comes back on and Man on the Moon by R.E.M. blares through the speakers as Eli glows.  He exits the freeway and pulls into the nearest gas station.  He fills his car up to the brim and decides to drive to San Francisco.  He has always wanted to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and today, Tuesday April 7th, 1999, seems like the right day.  This is Eldrick's day and he is celebrating. 

 

*************************

 

Just before crossing the bridge he stops at a bar and buys a bottle of the most expensive champagne.  He pours himself a glass, sits, and drinks with immense enjoyment.  He finishes, tips the bartender generously, and offers the remaining bubbly to a gorgeous woman sitting next to him.  She graciously accepts as she watches Eli strut out into the cool breeze of a perfect day.  Who was that?  She grins and blushes a color as red as the Golden Gate Bridge the day it was painted.

 

 

*Eldrick has always been fascinated by the fact that after a butterfly goes through metamorphosis he is able to fly without any practice, knowledge, or guidance.  The epitome of how amazing and dumbfounding nature is, says Eldrick.

 

2 comments:

  1. "It gives him all the necessary courage to go to sleep knowing he is the man; the man not to be reckoned with, the man capable of absolutely everything, the man with the power of Zeus and then some.

    This metamorphosis, or miracle if you prefer, shakes Eli up and spits out the most confident man in the universe at that exact moment in time."

    "...She grins and blushes a color as red as the Golden Gate Bridge the day it was painted."

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