Cucumber: i was strangely calm when i pulled you out though we were in the midst of something that had never happened before. i think i knew. i knew you. and i knew me for the first time. nobody had ever survived a fall into the water like that from that far up.
Yayray: where does that come from? experience? i hate being young.
Cucumber: it's just there are some things far more frightening than death.
Yayray: i'll keep that in mind. do you have a clean shirt? the dripping is getting annoying.
it's the store that's adjacent to The Store, Beirich, the one-stop shop for all of your goods and trinkets, and food. it's a local pop-and-pop store quaint to the picaresque villagers. they did what Yayray commanded-
Yayray: it wasn't a demand, it was a request, my stomach growled at me to more than me. that thing is a wolf.
-after a harrowing water rescue that was caught on viral. the hits were slow at first but you only need one Perez to make the thing go. it was now more popular than anything Atalan was doing in far-off exotic lands, which defeats the purpose of travel to some degree and increases the importance of always traveling with a camera.
Yayray is at the butcher's ice section with a dripping wet shirt. the rescuer Cucumber is also dripping wet but still looks cool in those shades and the scuba back tanks on his back. the ice flow of the breeze is solidifying the tears on Yayray's face. the rescuer Cucumber is also the butcher.
Cucumber: what'll it be?
Yayray: another shirt, preferably one that's trendy. i don't get trends. which is to say i don't know a lot about the world. i really want to learn more. in fact i want to know everything there is to know. the computer helps me, too much. my aunt says i should go outside but she only goes out to work. my dream is to be a contestant on Jeopardy. i'm young enough to still join the Kids Show but i'm setting a date for somewhere around the Teen Show and the Tournament of Champions.
Cucumber: no College Show?
Yayray: college is a waste of time and money.
an old man in a thin beige jacket and red nose crawls his way into the tomato-soup aisle. no, he literally isn't on the floor of the aisle, he's bumbling his way ON the aisle itself, stretching his hands and feet like suction cups on the next can as if he's climbing a mountain. except horizontally. and there's no rope. not even a carabineer. the carabineer is a can of cucumber soup. his hair is tousled but strangely combed at the base of each of his ears. he has more nose hair than head hair.
Yayray: what's your name, fool?
Cucumber: so i'm gonna go ahead and charge you for the filet mignon. don't worry, it was in white paper slightly scuffed by my boots, see? so that's a discount. hundred bucks clean. i hope your aunts are rich.
Yayray: they're not, they're agony. this oldblood would look like the dude from Up had i seen that movie.
old man (perfect diction but weary diction, sad diction): my name is Esid.
Yayray: Esad? eat shit and die?
Esid: no, Every Situation Is Different, but i deserved that. i'm lost, i thought i was so cool, so sure about something, but i'm not so sure anymore about that that in turn makes me existential about everything. it's The Dress all over again. you know Jock?
Yayray: of course i know who the Jock is, everyone's favorite alien, the alien that taught us about our humanity. they don't make actors of that class anymore. i can't do the sign with my fingers, i'l learn, i'm still young.
Esid: it's like riding a bike. i can't make the sign anymore cos of my finger osteoporosis. he was a good friend of mine but i had a previous engagement that seemed precious so i decided to skip his funeral.
Yayray: bad mistake old man, but we'll let it slide, you're probably senile so built-in excuse. Jock was an iconic figure, though, he was an everyman and a symbol of everlasting intellect to the scholars. he represented learnedness and culturedness and calm. he was an ally to jock and nerd alike. all jocks are secret nerds. i mean his funeral is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, it's never quite the same event ever again, like SNL's 40th. you REALLY had to go to this previous function?
Esid: but i helped people. i honored him, kinda, let the dead sleep and continue with the living as they say, or as i just made up. but the press don't care. the fans don't care, the fans wanted me at the funeral for their supergeek insta pics. truth, i didn't like the guy as much as people thought, we smoothed over our differences on set during the original run but that stuff seems to linger around, it's never quite over, it slurries in the subconscious, a more dangerous spot than the conscious. but Jock will always be the brother i never had.
Yayray: sounds like the aptest description of what a brother really is. i'm dreading my upcoming AP Test, i don't do well with book learning, i'm a google scholar. it's never smooth sailing always, hardly ever. love is the hard part, you can dispense with like on a whim. you were an actor? i don't recognize you.
Esid: were. was a legend. now i'm a pitchman for various companies, insurance, ducks, swans, that sorta thing. i dominate the con circuit. you seem to know a lot about Jock but not so much me, not that i'm jealous.
Yayray: when i'm passionate about a specific topic, i zero in on it fiercely and before you know, i've memorized everything there is to know about the subject. there is no knowledge, only memorization.
Esid: well young man, carry on and stop when you no are calm, that's your body signaling to you that you need to smell the roses, reflect on your life, and make better decisions. when it's never gonna happen again, that's when you do it, when it can happen again, those are the ones you skip. seems a pretty simple rule of thumb. but nothing's simple at my age, i don't have a simple thumb to give you a thumbs up with, it's osteopororised to fucking hell. would you help me move myself? can you reach for that roll of wax paper? thank you. i'm gonna skirt out of here wearing sunglasses so i don't draw attention from the paparazzi, go home, bake the peanut cookies i would have taken to the funeral, then wrap the wax paper over them, never eat them, pray over them, and have a moment of smelling silence where i'll smell them. and then i'll drape the wax paper over me and go to sleep.
Yayray: sounds comfy, i miss my blanket, but my aunt stole it.
the young man stalks a nice woman in the next aisle. or he stalks some ingredients and the nice woman happens to be there.
woman (sweetly): hello. sweet tooth?
Yayray had already been taking out a bottle of cinnamon sugar, loosening the cap, and downing the entire container of powder down his gullet.
Yayray: nah, just hungry, well hangry. now i'm back to being just hungey. i've calmed. Snickers effect.
woman: same. Snickers at midnight, i love those. so you weren't doing the cinnamon challenge?
Yayray: i don't know trends. you won't tell your manager, right? come on, they won't notice a little cinnamon. Bonnie and Clyde?
woman: we are rebels, fire across the galaxy. i don't work here right now. i'm Pear.
Yayray: Pierre? Pirror?
woman: hold up. mirror? no, Pear. like Princess Peach's dumpy sister they keep in the mushroom basement. it's cos of my body shape.
Yayray puts his fingers inbetween Pear's breasts.
Yayray: babygirl, i don't care about outward appearance, i care about getting inside you. it's what's in your soul that counts, that holy space between ya tits.
Pear: funny meeting you in a place like this.
Yayray: right? my stomach is the master and i'm his wild dog on a leash. oh yeah, i keep forgetting, i have to pick up a cake for my stupid aunts.
Pear: did anything else happen to you today?
Yayray: nah, same old. my mornings are so stressed. i'm trying to learn, y'know, and my aunts don't provide a conducive space for it. wallab.
Pear: i hate stupid Twilight.
Yayray: exactly. i think of wallab and i have to look it up on urbandictionary. i know it's probably not a word but it might lead me to a word i don't know so i can't take that chance. it never ends cos there are an infinite number of letter combinations. this is the struggle of the scholar.
Pear: here's sugar, salt, bleach, flour, cumin, those cute little spoons, high fructose, batter, and don't forget the cake pan, you won't get a shape without it. dough and lots of icing, you can always cover your mistakes by slabbering loads and loads of icing on it. are you sure you haven't been through a trauma? you seem frazzled.
Yayraj: thank you for getting all this stuff for me and putting it in my overstuffed little basket, saves me the time though i have to reaarange all the items you put in to fit it all in, that'll take time i don't have, i'm trying to learn, and my aunts leave a mess in the kitchen for me to clean up, i don't have the time, dirty pots and pans and greased silver spoons and floors mysteriously spotted with drips of cola. i had to pick up and put back a mucousy tissue that had fallen from the bathroom trashcan. and wash my hands again for the seventeenth time. that takes time i don't have. i hate my stupid aunts.
Pear: no, you just hate always being in a time crunch. i've helped you with that. give people a break, you don't know what they're going through, you'll only ever truly know what you're going through, it's an obsession with people cos it's all they know.
Yayray: i wish i was rich, rich wishing, i wish i could afford a maid and a chef and a bathroom attendant in top hat and tails and kid gloves and a red lining on the bottom of his slick black shoes to do everything so i'd always have time to think. i'm obsessive about thinking.
Pear: obsessions are good, that's how you learn, it's not worth it unless you can focus in on the worthy topic and memorize it to the bone. you can't learn about it half-assed, it's all or nothing, your brain starts to lose retention the older we get, and we're all getting old. by the second. you are rich, you just don't know it. at the end of a lifetime, what matters are the people you were with, the people we never chose to be with, that will always overflow with monopoly money.
Yayray: i'm awkward around girls, i haven't had much experience, i'm still young, but i just want to say awkwardly fits-and-starts stops-and-go minimart that you have been beautiful...to me today right now.
but she is not there anymore. Yayray is at the card-and-candy station. across is gardening.
Pear: may be meet again.
this sends Yayray on a subconscious concussive depressive carpet ride
WAVE, CLICK HERE, RIGHT HERE AT THIS LINK.
Yayray is shaking hands with the special-needs floorsweeper like he usually does. he always feels uncomfotable in these situations cos he doesn't know quite what to say. he doesn't want to make fun of the poor kid of few cringing words but he also can't help but feel intellectually superior to the boy. Yayray is terrified his true self will shine through in the end.
Yayray: but you are my friend. i am genuine in this. no, really. you're the only person i've ever met that drops his broom and takes time to listen to what i have to really say. i appreciate that, i really do, inb4 i ever say anything condescending to you, i'm younf, still elearning.
Natalie (with pauses): you are-------my------kind of kind guy. how are you, Natalie? i mean i'm Natalie, how are you, my friend? whats you anme?
Yayray: that's okay, i forget it sometimes, too, it's hard to spell, easy to pronounce if you know the spelling.
the two chums proceed to start smelling the new boxes of scented garden bags and the new scratch-and-sniff anniversary cards.
Yayray (after a huge sniff): yeah, that's the stuff...think you'll ever get married?
Yayray: yeah i get so compulsive i convulsion. i have to learn every single tidbit. sometimes when i'm in the aisles i see weird brand names that are sort of like words i already know and thus don't have to look up but sort of not. like it's not Tree Brand olive oil, it's Taguha. taguha? is that worth my time? do i have to look up taguha in urbandictionary? that can't possible be a word. but maybe it's a non-English word. better look it up to make sure. this all takes time out of my life. suck it, Trebek.
Pear: are you okay? you'll lose your space in line if you don't move.
Yayray is in line to check out. he sees Pear both in back of him and at the register as a cashier.
Yayray: i'm losing spaces of time. i don't rememeber. i don't know...my space, my place. myspace is dead. and a new space forms, a new space that could be our place, that's what time is. i was talking to you when i became lost in a tabloid i was reading waiting to check out about that beloved reporter Miles who had a limb removed after a freak accident. i feel so sorry for him, i love his erudite way and sense of humor, why did it have to be him? he's so smart and funny and a good man, class. when did this happen? i never found out till now, i'm slow on the upkeep, i don't know what others know. it reminds me everyday that all of my nitpick bothers are just that, they're nothing and will never be nothing compared to a lost limb. i have to keep burning that into my mind every day like i'm a child, it's not that bad, you'll get through it, people have it worse than you, it's not a nightmare like it is for others, it's a dream.
Pear checker: no you are keeping up the line. no, this is the lane for ten items, you have 11, remember what i got for you in your basket? no you were talking to me about how worthless you felt, you wanted to be someone, someone in the spotlight, you wanted to get noticed, you wanted to be worth the birth.
the angry mob of the line starts to clap. the tension in the room goes from manageable to uncomfortable for Yayray.
Pear: but my dear boy, you are famous, you are something special, you are a survivor. we were talking about anime and you said your favorite was Neon Genesis Evangelion though you had never watched it. that is my favorite as well.
Pear and the ones in line and the manager comes out of her wood-door office and all the other shoppers and cart-luggers and card-buyers and florists stop what they're doing and start clapping right at Yayray. Yayray covers his ears but the din becomes louder, the din that's supposed to be singing.
everyone (clapping hard in unison to the beat of the song): HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU...
Yayray never knew how much he hated that song and how much he liked that Regular Show episode on hating the old Happy Birthday Song and pining for a new one till now. he looks at the black conveyor belt and there is one item, a birthday cake all frosted and made and gooey iced with the icing HAPPY CONGRATULATIONSDAY YAMON. the clapping never stops. Yayray falls to the ground but the eyes get closer. there is nothing else to watch but Yayray. Jeopardy comes on at 7, seven years later, it's just the wet shivering boy in the middle of the circle.
the crowd (half singing/half shouting): CONGRATULATIONS, CONGRATULATIONS...
the mob (barely discernible melodies interspersed throughout the phony cacophony): CONGRATS ON SURVIVING TO YOU!
fainting is a short sleep, not an escape, not a final escape, not long enough to mean anything substantial. Yayray gets up against his will and willfully declares to Pear:
"you're the wet boy. you're poisoning me."
Pear: but you never drank anything.
water coughs out of Yayraj's mouth, ocean water in fits and spurts, comes out, comes out, vomits out.
Yayraj: no, in the spiritual sense of poisoning. the clapping won't end. it's more like the limbs of fists stomping together like the clanging of metal baseball bats.
Yayraj looks around and sees people in a new light. he thought Cucumber was a harmless soft cucumber, Esid was a prune, Pear was the Starbucks siren, but a sweet siren, and Natalie was a pie. now he sees them in a new light, like The Dress, Cucumber is a pickle, a sweet disgusting pickle, Esid is Esad, Pear is the Starbucks harpie, and Natalie is a stuffed dragon with plush red fire coming out his mouth.
the clapping will never end. birthdays should never be also deathdays. this is on the internet.