I’m just gonna drop this here. It’s a random short story I wrote while commuting on the train about 20 years ago. There are a few of these floating around. The stories are unrefined and are not great, but maybe they mean something about who I am…who I was…who I will become?
A Plastic Pause
He stared at the humongous fish tank that severed the restaurant in two and wondered what the waiter’s reaction would be if he demanded the pale orange guy hovering near the plastic diver.
“Do you even hear what I’m saying,” Michael asked? “Cause I’ll tell you what, Con, you’re running out of time, and the answer’s sure as hell not in that tank.”
Connor wished the answer was in the tank, buried under fish shit and gravel.
His older brother Mike meant well, but the conversation was going to result in nothing more than rows of neatly arranged sugar packets, tiny anthills of salt, and a better understanding of contained aquatics.
Throughout their childhood, Mike had always kept a watchful eye on Con while their parents encased themselves in selfish bubbles that floated in opposite directions. By no means was he a surrogate father, but he was there without fail when it counted the most. And in turn, Connor could think of more than a few occasions when he kept Mike’s earth on its shaky axis.
The waiter, sporting a 5 o’clock shadow that was two days past its expiration, sauntered over to the table and announced that the pair looked like they could use some dessert. Connor needed a lot more than that.
“Why not try our new dessert bento box with sweet coconut sushi, candied wasabi, ginger –“
“No thanks,” Mike snapped, instantly realizing that the waiter was taking this all way too personally.
“I think we’re cool, right Con?”
“Yeah. We’ll just take the check, please.”
And with that, the waiter pulled the bill from behind his back, some chocolate-covered fortune cookies from his front, and placed them in the center of the table, muttering something about how he hopes the gentlemen dine with them again.
Mike struggled against the wind to open the restaurant door, and when he finally did, it was totally worth the fight. The autumn air had prematurely evolved to winter chill status as if it had missed the message that Halloween had yet to pass. After sitting in the stifling restaurant for more than two hours waiting for a response from his younger brother, Mike was pissed and wore it on his sleeve.
Wow, by the time you finally give me an answer, it’ll be the fucking dead of winter,” he said, as he kicked some parking-lot gravel into the air.
Michael and Connor both knew this was by far the toughest decision they would ever have to make, and the pressure that consumed them, projected on one another. Their individual frustrations boiled over and foamed down to the pilot light, where every ounce of anger corralled into a reservoir that begged for release. Connor, with his hand on the valve, knew this was no different from open-heart surgery; likely a success, but glaring with the indistinct risks and uncertainties that each patient brought to the table.“Feel that?” asked Mike, “It’s like the wind is gonna blow us into Suffolk.”
The rough air shook the little Honda with the rusted bumper and rocked it back and forth like a clueless first-time dad trying to get his son down for the night. Connor was not only contending with his older brother for an answer, but the elements were soliciting for closure as well.
Even though they weren’t speaking, the rattle and hum of the car, coupled with the fiercest winds either of them could ever remember, filled the space with a thick and solid sound.
A large plastic garbage can casually meandered into the middle of the road and stopped the brothers dead in their tracks. The blue Rubbermaid with the “Please Recycle” sticker stared the Honda down. The trees continued to shake as burnt orange leaves accumulated on the cold hard pavement. Streetlights swayed like hammocks as red and green trails of light offered the opportunity to neither stop nor go. The world was twirling as they sat suspended, waiting for the garbage can to blow out of their way. Traffic ceased to exist, except for the two young men who somehow managed to get themselves in a one-car jam. The standoff between plastic and man took just enough time off the clock for Connor to decide what he had to do.