My first submission... POET, a short story
Every man has a man he hates, someone he despises. When thought about, bile will fill up in the man’s mouth, and he will be forced to spit out the thick slimy mucous that puddles up in his mouth like a mossy swamp water. This hatred brings blood to a boil. It makes your adrenaline flow to your fists and take action. It brings out the worst. It brings out things men didn’t think they were capable of. It pushes out thoughts darker than most men can achieve. It squeezes the warmth out of good situations and poisons those within distance. Every man has it. Every man must go through it. Every man has, or will have, one true enemy. How they choose to deal with that enemy, well, let’s just say, changes from time to time.
This man’s name is Garret. He is young, twenty-two, and ordinary to everyone else. He thinks he is nobody, and that is how they see him. Though however much he tries to blend in, there is a gift inside of him that aches to be seen. Garret is a writer, a poet. His words are moving yet often disturbing. These locals in this little city, they don’t see his promise. They fail to find the brilliance in his oddly constructed lines. They are unable to comprehend his modernism. His poetry is new and different, and the only literary minds to see his work were close minded and foolish. Their horizons were not broad enough to take in his poetic sunset. It is sad to see such a gift go to waste because a select few couldn’t see the beauty in the fact that he could move you to tears and lead you into nightmares with just a handful of pages.
He tried desperately to sell his words to the public. He sent samples to publishers. He sent out his poetry in hopes of winning a contest or finding a page in some locally circulated paper or magazine. Garret never got one letter back. His mailbox was empty, there were no phone calls, no messages, no e-mails, and no signs of light.
He ventured into mainstream coffee shops to attend poetry readings and hopefully spark some sort of interest within the thinnest of crowds. They ignored him. They yapped and text on their cell phones. They ordered overly-priced coffee. They looked away. What he said aloud didn’t agree to what their superficial minds thought was important. His readings ended with silence and slow pity claps. His clothes, haircut, his attitude didn’t fit in with these crowds. They were turned off the minute he walked through the door. They judged his abilities decades before they heard his words. It wasn’t long before he quit going to those types of places. It wasn’t long before he quit going anywhere, actually. He was a joke, an unknown tumor on the hide of the literary world.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the street, per say, there is another man, another writer, another poet. Though his words are dull, his face is full of blonde hair and blue eyes. His smile is bright. He is proud of himself, almost too proud. He is cleanly shaven and remarkably naïve. His name is Rich, and he is, like his name, very wealthy.
Rich writes about sunny days and the green grass. He writes of happy times and memories of splashing in the lake on a good summer vacation. He writes about tasting the salt in the ocean, but he doesn’t make you taste the salt in the ocean. He can tell you about sadness, and he can tell you alright, but he can’t make you cry. His poetry is unable to move, only to occupy. Like Garret, Rich sent his poetry off to contests and readers. Unlike Garret, he was written back. He won contests. His readings ended with a warm applause from a full audience. He was a small-town small-minded boy on a stage, and he was treated kindly to the small-minded folk who listened. He was everything Garret wasn’t, including untalented.
Rich won a contest that made him, well, rich. He won something close to a figure something like ten-something thousand dollars. He got a deal, a nice contract. They flew him out to some big-little city to meet with a couple big-little executives and they ate up his shit like the dogs they are. They made him a book. They published eighty-something of his poems, and it sold. Men bought it to steal one-liners for their anniversary cards or the tiny quarter-cards on flowers. Women bought it to broaden their horizons on how a real sentimental man should be, full of bullshit and unable to write.
Garret and Rich knew many of the same people. For Garret, unfortunately, that meant they also went to many of the same social gatherings. They were both young and in college. Their friends were all young and in college. At parties, Garret would be in the back, with his group, smoking marijuana and talking of the downfalls of various establishments. Outside, within the ‘in’ crowd, Rich was encircled by far too many people, all deliriously drunk and demanding words. He would spit out some drunken impromptu poetry that was both horrible and unintelligible. The group would hang on his every phrase like a swarm of teenage groupies. It is disgusting. If it wasn’t for the need to exit his parent’s basement, Garret would have quit going to these types of places as well.
Rich didn’t deserve his fame, and a handful of people knew that, none as much as Garret. Garret read the horrible ‘works of art’ and he could smell the rat from a mile away. These were poetry clichés, not poems. The fool tried to rhyme too much. He made everything happen, nothing flowed. Nothing brushed along your skin like silk. Nothing caressed you.
It was painful for Garret to see the fool shine instead of the artist. He dealt with it though. He buried his hatred within the pages of his notebooks. He pulled Rich apart, piece by piece, with each of his delicately chosen words. Within all those pages, Garret leaves Rich as a bloody piece of meat. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Rich, well, there wasn’t a thought in his self-infatuated little mind that could have led him to believe someone thought ill of him. He was the top of the food chain. He was loaded. He had his own house. He had a nice car. He was published. He was a big face in a little town that turned out to be a tinier pond. His face turned out to be a fish. The fish would throw parties and try to constantly entertain. He used his money as a means to lure in the other fish, the smaller ones. He would sweep by them and gulp them up in one bite. They let him too. They let him swallow them whole, leaving them in his stomach to turn to goo. That goo will be pushed out his stomach, through some rounds of intestine, and eventually find its way out of his tight little fish asshole. His crowd, his bobbling fools, they want to take the ride.
The most irksome, for Garret, however, is the fact that Rich never has a problem getting women. Constantly, this poetic jester is courting beautiful women. Left and right, these women just wait for him. They sign forms. They take numbers. One by one they each try and make him fall, each prettier than the last. All these women, it’s so funny to watch them try to be ‘the one.’ It’s hilarious to watch them try to bring the realest of emotions into one of the fakest lives. They want him to fall in love. They want a poem named after them. They want their beauty recognized by literature. Each wants to be a page in his book, which is more like a notch on his belt. Either way, through notch or page, no love resides.
And while this pompous rich fool named Rich takes woman after woman to bed, Garret is alone. He sleeps alone. He wakes up alone. It’s been so long, Garret can’t remember what a woman feels like. He’s forgotten the sensation of a pair of soft lips, bright with saliva and lipstick, pushing against his. He longs for companionship, but there is no one for him it seems. He writes about these things as well. He writes about himself, what he knows and what he cares for. He writes for himself, not some publisher. It’s such a sad way of being to overcome, loneliness, especially for a man. It’s bad for women too. It’s been noted. However, women have a way of dealing with emotions that men seem to lack. A man can focus on his loneliness until it’s the end of him. He dwells on the issue of whether or not he will die alone until there he is, pale and ghastly on his deathbed, ready to die. There is no one next to him. He has no children to cry over his corpse. No good woman that made his life complete. His name will die with him. He wonders where all of his time went, and in his last living moment he realizes the horrible truth. He spent it all focusing on his failure to find and secure love. While trying to find a way out of it, he kept himself in it. Women, they don’t tend to do that. They do tend to die, though.
Rachel Stevenson was a close friend of Garret’s. She was one of his ‘what if’ girls. A ‘what if’ girl was one that Garret thought he could get emotionally and physically involved with, but he ended up just being friends in the long run. All the while, she left Garret thinking ‘what if.’ Rachel got in a car crash. There was rain, the roads were slick, and her little coupe met a SUV face to face. There was a rumor that it was the seatbelt that killed her. On newer vehicles, when a collision is detected, a motor activates quickly retracting the slack of the belt. What this does, is pull the driver or passenger into an upright position so that the airbag can cushion them correctly. In Rachel’s case, it pulled her upright into the seat while the engine of her coupe combined with the front end of the SUV crushed her completely. If she hadn’t of worn a seatbelt, she might have been flung from the vehicle instead, like the driver. She might have only ended up with a broken knee, a few busted ribs, and a collapsed lung, but she would have been alive.
The wake was strange, and the casket was closed. The funeral was massive. Rachel was part of a large family, and her attitude kept her part of an even larger group of friends. Garret and Rich were among the guests. They were both set to speak, Garret because he was good friends with Rachel, and Rich because he was a famous poet.
Rich got up to speak nearly halfway through. The nights before he had spent writing a poem that he thought others would want to hear. He wasn’t necessarily as close to Rachel as many of the other people were and he was quite nervous. He killed. He was sure of himself as his voice left his mouth. He projected it well. The poem was simple and a little too long. The grievances he spoke of were generalized. In the end they applauded him generously. Afterwards people patted him on the back and shook his hand. They said he was brave.
Garret didn’t recite his piece until they were out at the gravesite. Many of the guests had left to head to the reception. It was now a more intimate crowd. The friends were closer, the family was tighter, and for some unknown reason, Rich was there. Rich, he watched in estrangement as Garret spoke the most beautiful words he had ever heard. The only suit Garret had ruffled slightly in the wind, while the suit that Rich had bought specifically for this occasion stayed just out of reach from the breeze. He thought it was strange how Garret spoke such a beautiful poem from memory. He had no paper before him. His hands were in his pockets the whole time.
Garret’s poem hit a lot of people in a strange way. The women, they showed their tears openly, but the men did their best to hide it. His words were personal. His pain was raw. He looked out into his small audience, giving the deserving few unfaltering eye contact. He even looked to Rachel’s grieving mother during a couple of his lines and gave her a soft smile. She smiled back at him from behind her tears and red puffy eyes. Those words that Garret spoke, that one poem holding all of his talents, would resonate in the minds of those friends and family for years to come. And years on after that.
After Garret spoke, he placed a white lily onto the immaculately polished wooden casket. Her mother, she stood up next to Garret and threw lilies in as well, as did everyone else. When the casket was covered with an over abundance of white flowers, when it was, just for a moment, beautiful, they lowered it into the ground. The mother, she looked away. She looked towards Garret. She pulled him in tight like he was her own blood. She grabbed a fistful of his black hair just above his neck, and she pulled him into an embrace. She said to him, while crying on his only suit, “I couldn’t have asked better for my baby girl. Thank you. Thank you, dearly.”
They talked for a moment afterwards. They laughed over old memories where a certain woman’s child was still alive and well. Before she left, she finally inquired about the poem. She wanted to know the author. She wanted to know how he found it. It was perfect, she said. It was just like it was written for her little girl. It was like that poet knew just how much they would miss her.
He told her it was from a small book of poetry he found from his mother. He said he wasn’t quit sure of the author, but that he would try and get with her about it. He said he could probably find the book somewhere. She begged him for a title. At least give me that, she said. What the World Will Miss, but Not as Much as Us, was what he told her. He couldn’t tell her the real title, not if he wanted to keep his secret. He couldn’t tell her that scribbled with blue ink, in his odd handwriting, at the top of the page of loose leaf that the poem was written was Rachel’s Poem. After that, the crowd began to dwindle down quickly. For some reason or another, Garret lingered around. It wasn’t long before there were only two men left.
Rich made his way cautiously towards Garret. He was confused at what had just happened. He was amazed at what he had just heard. He walked and stood beside Garret, and old suit next to a new suit.
“You wrote that poem, didn’t you?” he said. There was no reply, only their silence and the wind blowing the branches of nearby trees. Garret let out a long sigh. This was not the man he wanted to be standing next to at that moment, at any moment. “I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t take credit for it.”
It was the first time Garret had actually been up close and looking into the eyes of his enemy. With hands still in his pockets he said “I know I wrote it,” and he walked away. When he was a ways away, he stopped to turn around. Rich was headed off in the opposite direction towards his brand new German luxury sports sedan super-mobile. Garret looked back towards the now empty gravesite. It was far away now, distant, but the pain was still very much close at hand. He looked into the sky and he said “I stayed around to tell you that I hope I did you justice.”
When Rich got a ways away, he stopped. He looked over his shoulder and saw Garret walking in the other direction. He pulled out a small notepad from his pocket along with a pen. He already had two telephone numbers from two different attractive women he met while smoking a cigarette before the service. Under the numbers, he began to write feverishly. He filled a couple of the tiny pages with scrunched up and barely legible words before he got into his vehicle.
Two different men, walking in two different directions, both made it to their cars at the same time. They both stick their keys into the ignition. They both crank their engines, and their cars both start. They leave the cemetery, both headed in the same direction. Why Rich was going, no one probably knows, but they headed to the reception.
For once, Rich wasn’t the focal point of a gathering, and he didn’t exactly know how to take it. He sat alone at the reception, nibbling at a plate of food, gazing around the room like some sad old dog yearning for a good scratching behind the ears. No one was scratching. They had better things to do. Rich continued his gaze across the room until it landed on Garrett, who was oddly surrounded by a small group of people. Rich wanted to know why they thought he was so important.
Garret wanted these people to quit asking him questions about the poem. He stuck with his lie throughout the reception. He told people the poem was from an unknown author. He told them he didn’t know much about it, only that it fit the situation. He played the poem down as much as he could. The ‘not-so-big’ thing he made it out to be turned out to be huge. He wouldn’t budge, though. He wouldn’t bathe in this limelight. The book was old, he said. Some of the pages were even falling out.
Garret said his goodbyes and went home. He took off his only suit and collapsed into bed. He fell asleep with tears in his eyes and had ‘what if’ dreams that left him with a longing and sadness that no one could mend except time.
Almost a month later, when time was just beginning to do its job, Garret came across something in a literary journal. It was a sample from Rich’s new collection that was about to be released, Another Side of Me. The title of the poem was Gone Forever. He was about to flip the page. He was about to go on reading some young comer’s award-winning short story, but the opening lines of Rich’s new poem caught his eye. They didn’t catch his eye because of a fond uniqueness or hidden interest in Rich’s work. No, those words caught his eye because they were his. He was reading his own words under a different author’s name.
It was the poem he read at the funeral. How could he steal that? How could he steal that from Rachel? He didn’t only just steal it. He changed it. He added the Rich flair to it. He ruined everything. He set off the balance. He changed the ending tone. He gave it a horrible title. He stole Garret’s work of art, the unknown poem that would be talked about for years and years to come, and he made it ordinary.
His fists shook. He tore up the journal in a fit of rage. He screamed a horrible and violent scream. It echoed off the cold hard walls of the basement. Without notice, he was up and moving. He climbed the stairs out of his basement, and he walked through and out of the house. He walked down the driveway and got inside of his car. He started it and threw it into reverse. He gave it a little too much gas, so the tires chirped as he sped backwards out of his driveway. He headed off down the street, driving furiously. He knew where he was headed. He just didn’t know what he would do when he got there.
He parked three houses away from Rich’s. He gripped the steering wheel tight as he looked out the windshield. He saw the fancy German sports car, and then he was reaching in his glove box for a pair of leather gloves. He put them on and left his car. There was no time for rationality. There was no real time for him to think. Action was the only item that had precedence in his mind at that time. Within a breath, he was at the front door. He didn’t bother knocking. He twisted the knob, and the door gave way. If it had only been locked, oh, if only…
He made his way along in a house that was not his, looking for a man that was barely a man at all. He found him, in a back room hunched over a laptop, hard at work. Thief, he screamed. It came out like a battle cry. The fake writer, he jumped in his seat. He pleaded for calmness, but calm wasn’t happening today. “What do you need this for?” he asked as he picked up the thief’s laptop. “You don’t need this to write when all you do is steal your work.” He threw the laptop against the wall. Some of the plastic broke free and flew away like shrapnel. The screen formed a spider web of cracks as it hit the floor. Rich was pale, horrified. He stared into the face of a mad animal.
Garret hit him. There was a thud as his leather-covered fist met skin. He hit him again. There was blood this time, pooled up around his mouth. It felt good. A couple more hits, and he was down. Sprawled out on the floor and bloody. He tried to plead through swelling lips, broken teeth, and blood. Garret didn’t hear him.
There was no inner voice to cease Garret’s actions. Every part of him wanted what was happening. He got down on top of Rich, pinning him to the floor. In a flurry of limbs, Garret’s hands found a throat. He squeezed down on that throat like a vice. His grasp could crush bones. Rich’s face was reddish purple due to lack of oxygen. Garret’s was scarlet with rage. He squeezed tighter, and through clenched teeth he hissed “It wasn’t your poem to take. It was hers, and she didn’t deserve what you did to it.” They dying man tried to say something, but it was wordless. “You’ll go,” he said as he squeezed the breath out of him, “You’ll go and apologize to her. Face to face.”
The muscles in his arms burned. He shook with tension. There was no letting go. “You go,” he said. “You go.”
He went. His eyes rolled back under his purple eyelids, and the body finally went limp under Garret’s grasp. Rich’s lower jaw flopped open, lifeless. His tongue rolled back. Still, Garret held his grasp. He held on for awhile longer.
When he finally let go, he fell back. He was breathless, running on an adrenaline high. What he had just done, it hadn’t registered yet. It took a moment or two for him to take real notice at the dead body that lay in floor next to him. He scurried away from it, afraid, as if it had just appeared out of nowhere. He stood up and almost fell back down. His knees were jelly. His arms still shook. His breath came in quick gasps. He was frantic.
He left the house in a hurry, leaving through the back door. The sun had started to go down, and shadows were building up within the neighborhood. He used those building shadows to sneak back to his car. He drove home, ran inside, and locked the door. He burned the gloves in his charcoal grill. The smell was disgusting. The gloves must have been more plastic than leather. After destroying the evidence, he tossed and turned in his bed for hours trying to get to sleep. He ended up having to take damn near half a bottle of sleeping aids to get a wink. He didn’t have any ‘what if’ dreams that night.
The time that went on was strange. Days went by first, of course, then weeks, and then a month. The police never knocked on his door. He was never taken in for questioning. The body was found. It was all over the news. A local poet died tragically, said the news. Over and over, they showed pictures, interviews, and beautiful crying women. Everyone missed him. The world would miss him, they said. They didn’t say that about Rachel, he thought. She was ten times the person he was. She was ten times the creative. She was original.
Though Garret didn’t actually have a plan, if he did, one might say it backfired. Rich’s death only helped move his horrible poetry along. Greeting card companies bought a lot of his works, and now Rich will be forever immortalized through cheesy Valentine ’s Day cards. His publisher went through his house, even went through the hard drive from his busted laptop, to find Rich’s unpublished works. There was quite a bit of material, none of it good. All his works were published in a three-piece set. The numbers these three little books brought in were ridiculous. Everyone wanted to read them. Everyone wanted to find out more about this promising young poet who was taken so violently. It was like they thought they could really solve the mystery of his death by reading his poetry. It wasn’t long before literature classes started dissecting his work. What’s the symbolism here? What do you think he really meant there? Rich now had a big name in the big world of popular poetry. Rich’s death made him more famous than he ever was before. Women still lined up to see him. Now, they line up to put flowers and candles and bits of their own poetry next to his headstone instead of lining up outside of his bedroom.
This all ate Garret up from the inside. Whatever was left of him after the incident, it was gone now. He hasn’t written in months. He barely leaves the basement. He is more alone than ever, and his happy moments are too far and few between. There is a parasite inside of him, reducing him to just the shell of a man.
On the day when he finally decided to quit, he picked up a pen again. His goodbye to the world was his ultimate piece, far surpassing what he read aloud at that funeral. It took him no time to write. He must have been planning it for days. He folded up his final work of art and placed it in an envelope. On the outside of it, he wrote ‘find me.’ He placed the envelope on top of his poetry notebooks. He put all his notebooks on a table.
He stood on the chair, and then he climbed to the table. He removed his belt from around his waste, and slid the tip through the buckle, making a loop. He tied the other end around a wooden beam that ran across the basement ceiling. Scouts paid off for something, he thought to himself. The loop, he widened and slid around his neck. The leather of the belt was warm. There were no second thoughts. There was no moment where he thought about not going through with it. He stepped right off the edge of table, and he fell. The belt slid tight around his neck. His weight worked against him as it pulled the belt tighter against him. A white light began to circle around his vision. He was unable to focus after long. He didn’t pull at the belt, desperately trying to free himself in the last moments. His legs kicked, and he made horrible sounds as his body, not him, struggled to breathe. From the time he stepped off the table, to when his only movement was the light sway from his belt like some slow moving flesh pendulum, his hands were at his sides.
The funeral was large, much bigger than what he would have thought. His mother and father were a wreck. No one ever saw his mothers face. It was buried in his father’s chest the whole time. Her shoulders shook and she wailed nearly the whole service. Rachel’s mother sat in the back with tears in her eyes as well. So many people were there. So many people thought he mattered.
A few of his good friends, they found something to put on his headstone. They showed it to his mother and father. They wept and said it was the right choice.
One day this world will set us free
that's it... i hope not everyone hates it... don't stone me, please. Sorry about the formatting too, I can't get it to sit right... alll the paragraphs got messed up, and i'm sorry about that, but i have no idea what to do... perhaps weep. Anyways, hope you like it, thanks much in advance for the praise and/or despise.
Have a great day, all.