Short Story via Literary Fiction: Jimmy’s Friend

Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013

Roll: 4,4. Result: Short Story, Literary Fiction

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Jim was a short boy with an ambition too tall for his stunted frame. He grew up in the outskirts of an industrial city in Nebraska, where his parents were both geologists and the local church knew everyone by name.

When Jim was in fourth grade, he told his teacher that he just wasn’t cut out for this life, and strolled out of the classroom. His best friend at the time applauded as he strutted out, but the teacher was dumbstruck and didn’t react. Jim managed to get all the way out of the building and then walked straight home, where he broke in through the doggy door and started gathering scrap metal and old electronics together in the garage. When the cops showed up, Jim yelled to them as he hammered and soldered that he wasn’t supposed to let strangers into the house, so they had no choice but to wait. Jim’s parents came home shortly after, furious that the school had let him out of their sights. By the time they got into the garage, Jim was touching two wires together, repeatedly flexing a small robotic arm with the hand of a stuffed animal stuck on the end.

This, at least, is the story he just told his friend Gordon, at the coffee shop in the lobby of his office building in Lower Manhattan. Gordon sits and stares at Jimmy, shaking his head and laughing.

“Oddly enough, Jimmy, I believe you, I do. Unreal. It just all happened at once, one day? You realized what you wanted? And so young?”

Jimmy laughs, looking up at Gordon from his own stool. At the very least, he didn’t lie about being short. “All at once.” He smiles, enigmatically.

Gordon’s watch buzzes. “Oh shit, Jimmy, I’m sorry, I gotta go. Thanks for the story. And this,” he says, holding up the macchiato.

“Anytime, Gordon. You know where to find me.” He stands up, shakes Gordon’s hand, and retreats back into the near elevator, which seems to have foreseen his stylish departure.

“Sheesh,” Gordon mutters, smiling. “That fucking guy.” His watch buzzes again, in response. He swallows hard. I can do this.

Gordon turns the corner into the food court proper, bursting into a fake smile at the sight of Lily. He waves enthusiastically, mentally preparing himself as he nears, leans in for the kiss, then deposits his bag and sits. His movements feel stiff, and forced. He grows uncomfortable as he thinks that she must have noticed, and that she must have noticed him thinking so. And that she must have noticed him thinking about her noticing him, and so on.

“What’s wrong?”

Shit. Not a good start. “Look.” He releases a heavy, grievous sigh. “We need to break up.” Oh no!

She starts. “What? Are you serious? Tell me you’re not serious.” Her eyes grow wide.

Gordon returns the gaze. “No.”

Silence.

Lily cracks a smile.

“No, of course not!” says Gordon, rending his lips apart, in awkward mimicry of joy. She doesn’t notice his internal agony.

“You really had me going!” She slaps him. “My God!” Loud, relieved laughter.

“I’m a jokester!” says Gordon, laughing uneasily. “You know me!” More forced ha’s. He looks down at the table.

“That’s not funny, you know.” Gordon can hear the smile fade from her voice. “Gordon, it’s not.”

Gordon stares down, burning a hole in the table before he looks up, stone-faced. “I know.” A pause. “I was serious.”

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