Jan 21 2016

One More Ride: Chapter 7: Home

Norville took the long way home. It gave him time to think and to reflect, he told himself. It gave him time to avoid responsibility, he knew.

Norville was tired of being responsible. Not that he was tired of being held responsible for things, but simply tired of being reliable. Why couldn’t he have just stayed in perpetual adolescence like Fred? Sure he’d be living hand to mouth, but Fred seemed to do all right. He would just have to find someone more responsible than him to mooch off of.

“Responsibility sucks,” he thought.

The rain seemed to feel that its attempts to drown the entire county were inadequate, so it redoubled its efforts, buffeting Norville’s car with great sheets of angry water. The wipers tried and miserably failed to improve the situation, and visibility vanished. Norville’s pulled over to the side of the road and waited.

“I don’t know if I even have Daph’s number anymore,” he rationalized to himself. He checked his phone–her number was still in his Favorites, below Velma and above Fred.

“It’s not like I’ll get a signal in this rain anyway,” he tried. Then he tried the call.

One ring.

“She won’t pick up.”

Two rings.

“She probably–”

“Shaggy, is that you?”

Crap

“Crap.”

“What was that, Shag?”

“Sorry–had food in my mouth.”

“I figured as much. Why don’t you come down to the office? Maybe you’ll be ready for some lunch by the time you get here.”

Crap.

But he was hungry again.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Nov 25 2014

One More Ride: Chapter 6: Keys

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

Velma drove Norville back to his car parked at the cemetery. The rain had largely abated and was nothing more than a heavy mist. Norville prepared to retrieve his spare key from beneath the car.

“Can you hold this a minute,” Velma asked, practically shoving the pizza box full of leftover pizza into his hands and reaching into the back of the Jeep.

Before he could figure out what to say she had already slim-jimmed his door open and replaced the tool back in the Jeep.

Norville stood there, dumbfounded.

“If you could do that, why didn’t you do it earlier?”

“It was raining earlier, and besides, you looked like you could use a bit to eat,” she said, smiling as she wiped the mist from her glasses.

“I guess I owe you one,” said Norville, smiling.

“I guess you do,” Velma smiled back as she got into the Jeep “so go talk to Daphne!”

Velma put the Jeep in gear and pulled away, waving goodbye.

Norville wasn’t smiling anymore.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 4.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Nov 27 2013

One More Ride: Chapter 5: Food

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

Norville tore into his pizza not quite savagely. People always told him growing up that eventually his metabolism would slow, that his freakish ability to consume and process copious amounts of food without weight gain would ebb, that his days of eating whatever he wanted without consequence would be over. So far he was in his late 30s and every single one of those people were still wrong–and living with the consequences they promised he would one day endure. He could rub it in their faces, but why bother? They were already miserable and envious–you could see it every time they appraised his lanky frame. And besides, it wouldn’t bring him any joy anyway–he had food for that.

“Do you think he’s OK?”

Norville snapped out of his pizza euphoria. He was so hungry he had completely forgotten Velma was there with him.

Awkward swallow. What had she asked?

“I said, do you think he’s OK?” Velma repeated, clearly reading his mind.

Euphoria gone. Norville put on his best smile, but he could tell by her eyes that it wasn’t working.

“I don’t know. I want to say that he loves himself too much to do anything drastic, but I suppose we all have our limits. I mean, a guy could deal with rejection from Norville, but from Velma? That’s entirely different. I couldn’t take it.”

Velma’s brow first furrowed at Norville’s mention of her part in Fred’s story. Then she cocked her head in amused curiosity–had Shaggy said what she thought he said?

Norville flushed so fast his face burned. Yet again he had said something–not that he didn’t mean–but that he didn’t mean to say out loud.

“He–he’ll be fine,” he said, hiding behind another slice of pizza.

“You know we have to talk to her,” Velma said quietly.

Norville loved to hear Velma’s voice–he just didn’t care for the words being formed at the moment. He didn’t want to have to do what she was suggesting. He wanted to say, “Yeah, you should do that,” because, you know, they were both girls. But they weren’t really that close anymore.

Besides, Norville knew that when women said, “we should do this,” what they meant was, “you should do this. And with some sense of immediacy.”

Chapter 6

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

May 24 2013

One More Ride: Chapter 4: Heat

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

Warm air gushed from the vents with the power of one of those annoying hand dryers they put in truckstop bathrooms. Norville had ridden in several Jeeps before; rattly angular things full of crevices for wind to blow through, designed by men who either did not know or did not like each other. The ones that had had heat were the ones in the sun. But with the heat coursing out of Velma’s Jeep’s vents, she could have brought home a pizza or a bucket of chicken without them getting cold. He could really go for some chicken right now. He leaned over the vents letting them shoot the warm air up his sleeves and across his back. His eyelids drooped. He wondered if some weird part of the body secreted some kind of happy hormone when you had greasy noodles, or good coffee, or the rush of hot air across your cold, soaked back.

“Freddy told me what happened.”

Carp, thought Norville. He tried to think quickly, what excuse could be come up with for having been such a jerk to their longtime friend?

“I told him he had it coming.”

“What?”

“He came to me looking for sympathy and I told him he had it coming, you telling him off like that. He was a selfish jerk who didn’t have a problem bumming food from you and yet him still expecting you to treat him like he was a huge celebrity. Then I told him if he was looking for someone to blame for all his problems he could go home and look in the mirror.”

Norville was incredulous.

“You really said all that?”

Velma was silent for a moment.

“No…I didn’t. That was what I wanted to say, but I just couldn’t. After he told me I just stood there silently, wanting to, but I didn’t have the heart.”

Norville gave a weak wan smile as Velma continued.

“It didn’t matter…while I was standing there not saying anything I guess he read me well enough to know what I was thinking.”

“Was he mad?”

“I thought he’d explode. But he just kind of…shrunk, like a balloon that’s gone wrinkly. Then he left.”

Norville just sat there, not sure what to think. He was elated to find that Vel wasn’t mad or worse–disappointed. He felt vindicated that she backed him up–or was at least willing to. But surprisingly, he mostly felt sorry for Freddy. Vel was always the one everyone turned to when they didn’t feel like they had a friend on the entire planet–because she never gave up one you. Yeah, Fred had turned into a big, alcoholic, womanizing jerk that took advantage of his friends, but….

Velma put her hand on Norville’s.

“Why don’t we get something to eat?”

Chapter 5

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Nov 24 2012

One More Ride: Chapter 3: Anniversary

Chapter 1
Chapter 2

Norville drove down Mystery Lane and out onto state highway 10, past the orchards and further out of town, then hung the right on the recently paved Little Texas Road. It wasn’t named after the state, or the cheesy country band, but after one of Theodore Roosevelt’s horses. Fitting.

He pulled off the road alongside the cemetery fence behind a shiny, green Wrangler. He took a deep breath, blew it out, got out, locked and shut the door. Then unlocked the door, retrieved the package from the dash, locked the door again and shut it.

As he made his way among the tombstones he wondered who owned the Jeep, as there appeared to be no-one else in the cemetery. Caretaker? Someone out for a run in the country? He glanced around, trying to solve the mystery when a hooded person jumped out from behind a six foot granite monument.

“OOGA BOOGA BOOGA!” the attacker yelled.

But instead of dropping into a fighting stance, Norville dropped his package, clutched his heart, and stood there swaying. Looking ridiculous. His attacker doubled over giggling. He recognized the voice.

“What’d ya do that for?” he yelled, his voice cracking comically.

“Oh come on, Shaggy. It was funny!” said his attacker, sliding her hood back over her chocolate brown hair.

“I uh, I kinda I go by Norville now, Velma,” he replied, gently.

“Well I kinda go by Professor Dinkley now, Norville, but you’ll always be Shaggy to me. Come on. Let’s walk together.”

Norville couldn’t think of a time in his life since he had met Velma Dinkley 18 years ago that she didn’t make him flustered, at least a little bit. They had been so close to each other, and so close to a real relationship—twice, in fact—but it just never worked out. He walked in kind of a haze, mesmerized by her hair as it bounced with each step, listening to her chatter about… something. What was she talking about? It seemed like no matter much time had passed between them seeing one another that she was able to simply pick up right where they left off. And each time he wasn’t able to speak clearly, just like he was seeing her for the first time. Seeing her freckles, her trademark glasses that veiled her big, brown eyes.

“Shaggy?”

Norville snapped back to reality and realized they were at the grave, and had been for several seconds.He smiled weakly. He set the wrapped packaged of Scooby Snacks down on the ground in front of the stone. Velma slung off her backpack and produced a wrapped package as well and set it beside his. Her gift might have even been a little bigger than his. It was no surprise, really.

It had been 10 years since Scoob had passed away. The vets said he shouldn’t have lived as long as he had—17 years was a ridiculously long lifespan for a dog of that size. Chihuahuas, yes; living 20 years was no big deal for the annoying little Mexican rats. For Great Danes, seven years was considered a good long life. Norville still couldn’t see the justice in that. Scoob had lived as long as he did largely due to Norville’s willingness to spend any amount of money to take care of the closest friend he ever had—and probably ever would have. Besides, he had the money. Replacement hips? Done. Experimental radiation treatment? Done. When Scoob lost all of his fur, Norville shaved his own head. Scoob’s hair eventually came back in, thick as it was before; Norville’s came back in wavy, almost tangly. That was one of the reasons he kept it short now.

When Velma took his hand, Norville was jostled back to reality for the second time. He hoped she didn’t start reminiscing about Scoob. Every time anyone brought up fond memories of him it was like a kick in the heart, and the loss stained every good memory with anguish.

But she just stood there with him in silence. They stood for 20 minutes, each alone together. It began to mist, then to drizzle, but Norville was oblivious to it. Then the rain began in earnest, the cold rain of late October. Norville, his shirt now nearly soaked through, remembered his jacket on the back of the kitchen chair. He shivered visibly, almost the way they had drawn him on the old cartoon.

“Come on, Shaggy. Let’s get you warmed up.”

They headed back to the cars in silence, save for the chattering of Norville’s teeth.

He reached in his pocket to get his keys to unlock the car but found nothing. He looked through the window to see them sitting on the edge of his seat. He must have dropped them when he went back for the Scooby Snacks. Stupid keys.

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, I just locked my keys in he car. I’ll just get my spare from under the back fender.”

“The ground is soaked, Shaggy, and so are you. Hop in the Jeep at least until he rain dies down.”

He looked first at her, then at the small lake that appeared to be isolated to the ground under his car. He trudged to the shiny, green Wrangler and climbed inside.

Chapter 4

 

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Nov 20 2012

One More Ride: Chapter 2: Two Tragedies

Chapter One

Norville just stood there in the kitchen, angry. Angry at Fred for his alcoholism, for his philandery, for his temper, for his stupid remarks. But mostly angry at himself. Why had he let stupid Fred stupid get to him? Stupid.

Then he remembered the anniversary. He sat down in his chair to finish his coffee and drown his misery. He could feel one of his glooms coming on. They usually started with something small—burnt toast or a dinged door—then magnified into an uncontrollable black that would take hours or days to shake. They used to be a lot harder to manage. Now he just tried to ride them out and avoid making any major decisions that he would regret while ‘on the gloom.’

He sat drinking his coffee, then the rest of the pot. After he finished the pot he still needed more Dunks, but he had used the rest for their dinner. He picked up Fred’s mug wondering how cold it was. Very.

Nevermind. I’ll just go to bed, he thought. I’ll just go get my phone just in case anyone needs me and then get in bed. Where’s my phone? In the car. Of course. It might as well be on The Titanic. The car is all the way out in the freakin’ garage. He started to just shuffle his way up the stairs to his bedroom. Fine. Whatever. I’ll get the phone. Stupid conscience.

He walked onto the cold concrete of the garage floor and around to the driver’s side. Why had he left the garage door up? He couldn’t remember doing it, though he did do it sometimes. But usually there was some purpose—changing the oil, sweeping the garage out, getting out the gardening tools. But today? The attempt to remember was making his head hurt. He produced his keys and unlocked the car. The door clicker had given out three years ago but he still hadn’t gotten it fixed.

Norville reached his lanky arm in to retrieve the phone. His fingers touched it just enough to knock it loose from the cup holder and it slid under the seat. I should have gone to bed, he thought. Stupid phone.

He climbed into the car, put his key in the ignition and started the car. Why did I do that, he thought. Force of habit I guess. He reached down below the seat to retrieve the phone and as he did so he saw the package on the dash. He closed his eyes, the tightness drained from his shoulders. The anniversary. That’s why he had left the garage door open. He was already in the car. No point going back to bed now.

He checked the phone for messages then put it back in its cup holder, buckled his seat belt, locked the door, pulled out of the garage, and hit the remote garage door closer. Do I have everything, he asked himself. Wallet, phone, keys, package. That seemed like everything, but he couldn’t shake the feeling he was missing something as he pulled down the driveway.

Probably just the gloom. Stupid gloom.

And that’s how Norville Rogers left home in late October without a jacket.

Chapter 3

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Nov 28 2010

One More Ride: Chapter 1: Down and Out

The doorbell was ringing.

Again.

Norville Rogers walked from his study in the back of the house around the left staircase, across the parquet floor, past the marble Venus to the front door. He stood there a moment as the bell continued ringing. He took a deep breath, blew it out, and finally answered the door, cheerily greeting his guest.

“Hey, Fred. How’s it going?”

“Lousy. As usual.”

Fred had obviously been drinking. As usual.

“Come on in, Fred,” said Norville, cheer ebbing. “I’ll get you something to eat.”

Fred shuffled in and followed his old friend to the dining room, where Norville set meats, cheeses, lettuce, tomato, onion, bread, and condiments on the table.

“How come after all this time you still don’t have a servant to do this for ya?” asked Fred.

“Aw, come on, Fred. We’ve been over this. I like doing things for myself.”

Fred looked irritated. He was in a bad mood, and he wanted to share his misery.

“I guess I’d wanna do things for myself too, if I was used to people doing things for me all day long.”

Norville sighed; they’d done this so many times. Despite their friendship of twenty odd years and Norville’s continuing good will, Fred still resented him. The first time he had voiced it, it had hurt Norville considerably. That was five years ago. Now, it just rolled off. It rolled off Fred’s tongue, as easy as saying ‘hello,’ and it rolled off Norville’s back just the same.

Usually.

“Nope. You wouldn’t let anyone do anything for you, would you, Fred?” Norville asked politely as he made Fred’s sandwich.

“Dang right I wouldn’t,” Fred said bitterly. “I take care of myself.”

Norville resisted the sudden urge to punch Fred in the mouth for his blatant hypocrisy.

“You haven’t taken care of yourself in three years, you lying, cheating, pathetic, alcoholic has-been!”

That was what he would say. Fred had it coming anyway. But he looked at Fred, who was already tearing into his sandwich like a man who hadn’t eaten in days. The sad thing was, it was the literal truth. Norville knew Fred spent what royalties he still received on booze. He made the long walk up Mystery Lane to Norville’s house when he didn’t have anything to eat, which was about twice a week.

Norville got mugs down and poured coffee for both of them. They sat eating in silence, Fred wolfing down his sandwich and Norville enjoying some dried fruit from the cabinet. Norville had checked the calendar this morning, mentally noted the anniversary, and had called into the office to let them know he wouldn’t be in. Now he waited.

Fred finally finished his dinner, and seemed to be in a better humor.

“That was a good sammich, Shag.”

“The name’s ‘Norville,’ Fred.”

Fred’s brief good humor was gone. He readied his vilest remark.

“You know what, Shag? You’ve sold out. You’re a sellout.”

Norville had heard this before, and he had alternately either been wounded or shrugged it off. He put down his fruit and started his reply calmly.

“You’re right, Fred. I’ve sold out. Norville Rogers has sold out to ‘the man’. Not only that, he is ‘the man’, because he knows where his next meal is coming from. He’s sold out because he owns a successful company and drives a nice car.”

Now Norville was starting to raise his voice, unconsciously, of course, but his tone of voice was moot: what he was about to say couldn’t be said in any polite way by anyone.

“But most of all Norville Rogers is a big sellout because he didn’t blow all his money on booze and repeatedly cheat on a woman who loved him more than anything until she left him all alone, a penniless broken-down derelict who has to beg for food!”

He expected Fred to get angry, and he kind of hoped he would; Norville had had his black belt for years and never gotten to try it out.

But Fred just sat there looking sad. When he spoke again, his voice had lost all its vitriol, and had a resigned quality to it.

“You’re right, Shag. It was my fault that Daph left me.”

He sighed.

“And you put up with me long past what any other friend would’ve. I’ll let myself out.”

Fred got up and walked out of the kitchen to head to the front door. He looked like a deflated balloon.

“Aw, come on, Fred. You don’t have to go.”

Norville heard the front door open and close quietly.

Chapter 2

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)