This is a short story I wrote at the age of 16. It appeared in The American Drivel Review, Volume 4, Number 1, Summer 2007. I’ve had some requests for me to post it online, so that’s what I’m doing. Please bear in mind that I wrote this years ago and it does not reflect my current style of writing. I adapted it from a joke that I heard from someone named Wesley Sladek. About 95% (word-wise) is my original stuff though. In retyping this I found a lot of places where I would like to make cosmetic changes (however I wholeheartedly stand by my excessive use of phrases such as “so anyway”, “was all like”, and “and all”), but it is presented here in its original form–including my penname at the time and even minor grammatical errors added by the publisher. However, I note that this website seems to have a tendency to remove many (but not all) of my paragraph indentations. Before you embark upon this literary journey, I give you a word of warning: If you’re having a happy day full of sunshine and rainbows, come back and read this another day. I haven’t written anything for this blog yet; sorry if this is too dark for your portal, Ralphie!
By Doctor Justin J Unne O’Brien
So once upon a time there was this kid, right? and this kid’s walking to school one day, when he passes by this bum muttering to himself. And the kid can’t make out much of what the bum’s saying, except that he says “purple passion” multiple times. And so naturally, the kid’s like, Huh. What the fuck is purple passion?
So at school during lunch, the kid tells his friend about the crazy bum, and his friend’s like, “What was ‘e saying?”
And the kid’s all like, “Uhh, it sounded kinda like purple passion,” and then all of a sudden his supposed friend is beating the shit out of him, just beating the fucking shit out of him like it’s the only thing in the whole fucking world that anyone could even conceive of giving a shit about.
So eventually some of those lazy ass cafeteria monitors saunter on over and casually break up the fight. And yes, it is a fight as far as those dead deluded grunts will ever be concerned. It doesn’t matter to them if one little snotfaced junior meathead goes around punching everyone and they call him names for it; as far as their safe sugarcoated little world of arbitrary rules and blanket statements will ever require them to see it’s still a goshdarn FUCKING fight and everyone who even got hit is in the same trouble.
So anyways, those dystopian prison guards just so happen to be oh-so-gracious as to let the kid see a medic prior to interrogation and psychological torture. My god, it just touches my big warm fucking heart to see how much they really care for the children. So anyways, as the nurse is putting salt–uh, iodine–on his wounds, she asks why Haley–that’s his friend’s name, by the way–got angry at him. That’s right, “got angry.” Haley’s one of those perfect little girls who steps out of her dead (I do not always mean literally when I say dead, by the way) perfect mother’s SUV every morning with her hair all prissy and all the clothes the cool people on TV wear. Her lunch is packed in accordance with whatever the current government nutritional standard is. She has nice white baby teeth, and if her permanent teeth happen to grow in crooked, her rich parents will get her those invisible braces so that their little ideal self-image–uh, pride and joy (sorry, but I sometimes have to edit to meet the standards of the Society of Warmly Ingratiating Niche-fitting Extroverts, which pervades all of society almost all over the world and indeed nearly all media and literature is screened by them)–can continue her reign of perfection and popularity. In a few decades she’ll be a suicide bomber. That may sound terrible, but if it wasn’t so she’d just end up dying of liver cancer, which would be much more painful and boring and wouldn’t get her the kind of attention she’ll be looking for.
So anyways, at this point in time, Haley just happens to be excelling in academics, athletics, and whatever the fuck that last thing is. So of course she’s quite popular with all the so-called teachers and whatnot. And anyone who went to school knows that when such a little rat would normally have been in a fight, they’ve “gotten angry,” rather. Or maybe at your school they used some other phrase. It doesn’t really matter what kind of bull the shit came from, although it can be an interesting fact if you’ve got nothing less depressing to think about.
So the kid says, “We were just talking and I said purple passion and then–“
And the nurse is like, “You said WHAT?!” and then that bitch takes a pinch of salt from her pocket for real this time (all school nurses carry some) and grabs the kid by the ear, the one that Haley like halfway bit off, and takes him down to the principal’s office with this gleeful smile on her stupid fucking fat face.
So once the kid’s face-to-face with the principal, that phony old stale-coffee-breathed asswipe is all like, “Now, I understand that you said sump’m very hurtful to Haley. The nurse, bless her dear heart, couldn’t even bear to tell me what it was that you said.” Then he gets all after-school-special like and says, “Would you like to tell me what it was that you said?” He looks into the kid’s eyes–looks down into his eyes, mind you–and says in this hilarious pseudosincere voice, “You can trust me. I want you to know that.”
And the kid knows how full of shit this guy is, but what can he do? So the kid’s like, “I just said purple passion and then–“
And the principal’s like, “You said WHAT!? Oe my God oe my God oe my God…” He calls the kid’s house and the mom picks up the phone.
“Hello, this is the principal down at your child’s school, and, well, your child said something very serious and, well, offensive.”
“What’d he say?”
The old windbag gets this look of semi-embarrassed horror on his face and tells her to come pick up her kid and then he hangs up.
So once the kid’s mom’s come down enough to look up her husband’s work number, she calls it. Some lady picks up. “Hello?”
“WHAT THE FUCK!? I NEVER HEARD ANYTHING ABOUT A FEMALE RECEPTIONIST! ARE YOU FUCKING MY HUSBAND!? ARE YOU!? TELL ME THE MOTHERFUCKING TRUTH! YOU FUCKING BITCH!”
Familiar scenario. The receptionist puts the call through to the kid’s dad.
“HEY ASSHOLE DRIVE DOWN TO YOUR MOTHERFUCKING CHILD’S SCHOOL AND PICK HIM UP!”
“BECAUSE I FUCKING SAID SO!”
“You know, if you learned how to drive, we–“
“I SAID PICK UP YOUR FUCKING KID, OKAY!? WHY ARE YOU ATTACKING ME!? WHY CAN’T YOU JUST FUCKING LISTEN TO ME YOU BACKSTABBING SON OF A MOTHERFUCKING BITCH!? I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU I HA–“
He hangs up and drives over to the school.
“So,” he says to the kid once they’re in the car, “what did you do to get you sent home?”
Due to the reactions he’s gotten so far, he’s a bit hesitant. But this is his dad. The one person he knows he can trust. He could come to his dad with anything and not be judged. Through all the bullying from his schoolmates and his mother and his teachers, through all of the fucking difficulty and confusion and mistakes in life, he’s always been able to count on his father. And besides, “purple passion” is just two words, or thirteen letters or a bunch of vibration moving through the air or whatever. “Well, I don’t even know what I did. I think it has something to do with something I said. ButIdon’tevenknowwhatitmeansand–“
“Hey, it’s all right. Just chill. Whatever you said, it couldn’t have been that bad. Besides, it’s not your fault everyone has stupid hang-ups about certain arrangements of letters or patterns of vibration or whatever.”
The kid smiles. He feels warm inside, knowing he’s with his dad, his mentor, his only true friend. No matter what happens, he knows his dad will always be there for him, “I said purple passion.”
His dad pulls over, opens the passenger door, and shoves the kid out. Without looking at the kid, he says, “You’re not welcome in my house again. Thank God your mother isn’t here. I’ll just tell her I killed you.” He gets this I’m-gonna-get-my-brains-fucked-out-tonight grin on his face, slams the door, and speeds off.
So the kid just sits there and cries for awhile. Then the pay phone nearby starts ringing. There’s no one around, no cars, no sign of life in the apartment complexes. At first he doesn’t pick up the phone, thinking it might be a bomb or poison gas or something. But that phone rings for one hell of a long ass fucking time. Eventually the kid gets around to thinking it might be a bomb or poison gas or something, and in hopes of being put out of his misery, picks up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Hey.” The person has an old-raspy voice. it’s indiscernible whether they’re male or female. “You’ve been getting a lot of shit for saying purple passion, right? I know exactly what you’re going through. I–“
“What. What is it? Why does everyone hate me so much for saying purple passion?”
“Fuck you!” echoes from blocks away.
“Hey,” says Old Raspy. “Cool it. I can tell you why and how to fix it. But not here. Not now. Here’s whatcha do. Find the tallest building in the city, right? It’s abandoned. There should be some empty crates somewhere around there. Stack them up and stand on them. Jump and grab the fire escape. Climb it until you find a cracked window. Smash it and go inside. You’ll see part of a corpse. Find the femur. That’s the only bone that’ll do the job. Ya gotta smash the wood in front of the elevator. Take it down to the first floor and from there go all the way up the stairs. There’s a ladder on the top floor. Find it and make a hole in the ceiling using that femur. Get on the roof and yell purple passion as loud as you can. You’ll see me. Trust me, you will. Come.”
“Huh?” But then Old Raspy hung up.
So in his mind, the kid’s like, So, the tallest building in the city right?, right? So he looks around and sees this massive apartment complex. He figures it’s been something of a potentially supernatural day already, and besides, he’s got nothing left to lose, so what the hell, why not? So he starts walking toward the building. The journey there is uneventful. He stops for a couple minutes to observe some graffiti on the side of a sunshiny Pollyanna fake-introspective the-world-is-just-so-fucking-beautiful culture-type coffeehouse with fliers in the windows for a poetry, prose, and short story contest with a $500 first prize. The graffiti reads: PROSTITUTE: 2(n)–One who puts one’s skills or talents to unworthy use, esp. financial gain.
So when he gets to the tallest building in the city, he sees it’s condemned and abandoned. The door and all the bottom-level windows are all boarded up and everything. So he walks around the perimeter of the place until he finds the fire escape, right? But the ladder’s, like, all high up and shit. So then he remembers what Old Raspy said about the crates and he goes around the place looking for them, but he can’t find any, so he starts, like, kinda freaking out, right? But then he finds them. So he takes these wooden crates and drags them over to where the fire escape is, right? And so then he stacks them up and stands on them. But he still can’t reach the goddamn ladder. So he looks in the dumpster and finds this old rug, and he’s all like, Aww, I can use this to reach the fire escape! So then he drags the filthy old rug over to where the crates are and folds it up and tries to pull it onto the top crate, but they all fall down. So he stacks them back up and puts the folded rug on top and climbs up, and then he jumps for the fire escape, and he grabs the bottom rung and it’s all jagged and rusty and all and it tears into his hands but he holds on and climbs up the goddamn thing to the part where there’s, like, stairs and platforms and shit. His hands are all bloody and torn up and all.
But anyways, he goes up the stairs until he sees a cracked pane of glass where it seems like boards and plywood should be. So he breaks the glass, which bloodies up his hand quite a bit more. Then he’s like, Oh, I should’ve, like, put my shirt over my fist or something. But oh well. So anyways, he goes in the building.
So once he’s inside, he looks around. He’s in an abandoned apartment with all this old dusty furniture that isn’t covered with sheets. It fucking stinks, and before the kid has time to consciously wonder why, he sees the reason. There’s part of a dead human in the corner. It’s like someone got their head, like ripped off by a rope tied to a train or something and then their body was cut laterally in half with, like, a steak knife or something like that. I dunno.
So he goes over to it and tries to tear the leg open. But then he finds out he can’t, cuz see, this corpse is decomposed to the point where it’s all rotten and disgusting and all, but not, like, mushy. So he looks all around the room for a knife or something, but finds nothing. So what he ends up having to do is, he reaches into, like, the part of the body that’s cut down the middle, and he just starts fucking digging out muscles and organs and ripping the skin and stuff. He gets part of the skeletal structure exposed and starts working to get the femur free. But that bone is fucking STUCK. So eventually he just bites through the tendons or ligaments or whatever and gets the femur.
So he smashes the door to the apartment and goes into the hallway. The whole place is as broken and dusty and cobwebbed as you’d probably imagine. The door to the stairs is thick steel with a heavy-duty padlock. The entrance to the elevator is just boarded up, so he smashes the wood and takes the elevator to the top floor. When it opens, he sees that the half of the room with the elevator has no floor. It’s the same way for dozens of floors below. So he takes the elevator to the first floor.
When the elevator opens, he walks over to the stairs. The door is all thick and like, metallic-like like the other one, but there’s no lock. So he takes the stairs all the way up to the 63rd floor (cuz it turns out the building has 63 floors) and looks for the ladder. It turns out it’s hanging from the edge of the huge hole that fills the half the room. And it’s all covered with ants. So the kid grabs it and pulls it up with all of his strength. Then he uses all of his strength again to pull the spike out of the floor that’s holding the rope that’s holding the ladder. Then he uses all of his strength again to pull the spike out of the floor that’s holding the ladder. Blood flows profusely, cuz of the cuts and the exertion and all.
He looks up at the roof. Steel. But then he sees this one spot that’s boarded up. It’s between a rafter and the part of the ceiling that’s right over the edge of the hole in the ground. To get to it, he’d have to rest the top of the ladder against the rafter and have the bottom be like a centimeter from the edge. Fuck. No way to make it work. So he starts kinda having this mental breakdown, where he’s, like, writhing on the floor and kicking his legs and clawing his torso and arms and violently biting his lip and making this miserable pained sound, like he’d like to cry more than anything else in the world but can’t.
But then he remembers about the spike. So he uses the femur to pound it into the floor where the bottom of the ladder would preferably be and props up the ladder and climbs it. The ants seem to really dig it, cuz they can choose either the fresh blood from the kid’s hands, or the old bacterial fluids from the corpse.
So the kid climbs up the ladder and guess what he does. He smashes the wood on the ceiling. Then he climbs up the hole onto the roof, Yeah! He made it to the top. “PURPLE PASSION!”
And from all the windows of all the buildings he can see emerge arms and hands which flip him off. Except one. The window on this one little house that’s only a few blocks away opens up, and someone sticks out their arms and waves. The right arm is old and gnarled; the left looks young and nearly perfect but intensely rigid, like the elbow’s just at a permanent 30-degree angle.
So the kid goes all the way back down the stairs and smashes the door. He runs to where that one house is. As he’s dashing across the street, he forgets to look both ways. A car hits him and he dies.