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Virtue by Jordan Dumer

Smashwords Edition, 2018

Chapter 1, Engineering a Nuclear Family

He sits on the couch strumming his guitar wearing a Iowa State University hoodie. His father walks in wearing a business suite, falls onto the sofa next to him and flips the TV to FOX NEWS. He stretches his arms out. Chet pauses, letting the guitar notes ring out to slow death. He sets the guitar down on the couch between them.

On the TV is the image of a oil rig out in the ocean spitting up hot flames. Its a blazing inferno.

“Sounds good, son” said Jerry.

“Thanks dad. I've been thinking about majoring in Music Therapy, maybe even in Classical Guitar” said Chet.

“What? I thought you wanted to be a software engineer like your old man” said Jerry.

“Music is just as hard, and just as rewarding as software engineering. Plus you get to work directly with people, plus travel” said Chet.

His old man smiles back at him.

“Well look at the bright side, if your dreams never come to fruition, you can always be an acoustic or sound engineer” said Jerry.

The two of them laugh.

“Sounds like a good life” said Chet.

His father giggles.

“Granted. Not as fun as being the next John Williams” said Jerry.

“I've been working on an album. Care to hear it?” asked Chet.

“Now's not a good time with our vocation starting tomorrow. If your mother knew I was in here watching the news instead of packing, she'd kill me” said Jerry.

Chet laughs.

“When do you leave for Peru?” asked Chet.

His father looks down at his watch.

“Twenty minutes ago” replied Jerry

Chet laughs and shakes his head.

“What? I already have a back up plan” said Jerry.

“And what's that dad, buying your way out of trouble?” asked Chet.

“Hey, wait till you have a steady career with all the trappings. I'm an engineer for Christs sake. If I couldn't buy my way out of trouble, than the worlds in bigger trouble” said Jerry.

His mother walks in frantic, running around the house checking on things, while looking for something else all together.

“Jerry! Are you watching news at a time like this!” shouted Linda.

“Linda. Seriously. I literally started my vocation less than an hour ago, and you're already bossing me around” said Jerry.

“I'm sorry, honey. I thought you would be a little more helpful considering your the one who bought these tickets in advance” said Linda.

“That's why I had our bags shipped to Peru in advance. Because I just knew Johnson would make me stay late to work on the new app. I just frickening knew it” said Jerry.

She runs over and kisses him. He fishes the keys out of his pocket and tosses it Chet's open hands.

“Well son, the place is all yours” said Jerry.

They walk out of the house. Chet smiles, picking his guitar back up.


That night Chet wrestled with his bed sheets. He saw the inside of the airplane. He saw passengers sitting down. Their heads filling row up after row. He watches as the flight attendant pushes the cart of refreshments down the aisle.

Then a loud noise shakes the plane. The passengers look nervous.

“This is normal folks, nothing to worry about” said the flight attendant.

Then the engines go silent. They float their outside of time for a few seconds before the plane begins a head dive. The flight attendant with her cart fly back pass the guests as the oxygen masks pop out from the compartments above. They scream and pray as they place the masks on and fasten their seat belts. Jerry and Linda look into each others eyes.

“I love you” they said in tandem.

The airplane explodes as water rushing in, blasting and burning at their faces. Chet jumps up in bed screaming his lungs out, covered in sweat. His phone rings. He hesitates before answering the call.

“Hi. Is this Chet Paul? I have some tragic news about your parents” said the calm voice .

Chapter 2, The Chinese Restaurant

Chet sits alone at the bar after work, his cloths dusty, his hands still part dirty after washing them throughout the day, his pants stained with clumps of tar. He sits with pain in his eyes and anger on his lips. He sits at the bar and says nothing to no one. He looks around at all the smiling drunks and feels so alone. He takes another swig of his bottled Heineken when Les, his good friend, walks in and sits down next to him. Les is wearing a dark gray T-shirt. The shirt says The Outsiders by HP Lovecraft. He has long hair going down past his shoulders and wears bottle cap glasses. He orders himself a cheap domestic beer and asks to leave his tab open. Chet says nothing, only sips on his beer.

“What kind of work you been doing, Chet?”asked Les.

“I've by doing waterproofing for the past couple months waiting for the insurance money to roll right in” said Chet.

“What all does waterproofing entail?” asked Les.

“First we set up the job site, than we break open the concrete around the border of the foundation in the basement while another crew does the same thing to the dirt on the outside, then we add in the drain pipe, connect the drain pipe from the outside with that from the inside, fill it all back in with stone and dirt on the outside and concrete on the inside, pack up and do it all over again” said Chet.

“Sounds expensive” said Les.

“Yeah, for the homeowner maybe, not for us, I only make 8 bucks an hour”said Chet.

“That's shitty bro” said Les.

“Oh yeah, nothing beats working for a company whose owner wishes with all his black cold heart that we bring back slavery. Oh, and he expects us to remain loyal like we're a fucking union or something. Did you know the workers of the Teamster's Union made more money in the 1950's under Jimmy Hoffa than they do right now? How screwed up is that? Shit, give it a few more decades and he might get his wish” said Chet.

“Why don't you just quit? It's a free country after all” said Les.

“Because I have to make money somehow until the insurance money rolls in otherwise I'll lose the house. And I don't know if you know this, but the bank is hoping to capitalize on my parents death” said Chet.

“Sounds like you're getting paranoid” said Les.

“Really? Because the other day I came home to an insurance inspector checking out the value of the property” said Chet.

“That's messed up man” said Les.

“Tell me about it. It's bad enough my boss eats my lunch. But now I have to worry about the bank taking away the whole damn pie while the insurance companies spend this exuberant amount of money to make sure my parents really are dead so they don't have to pay me” said Chet.

“Crazy world we like in bro. You know the rule of business, profits before people” said Les.

“Stupid corporations. They're all golems here to do the dirty work of their masters. And like Frankenstein's monster, their hell bent on destroying anyone who looks at them cross-eyed” said Chet.

“Yeah, that about sums it up” said Les.

Les orders himself and Chet another beer

“I just bought your beer snob ass another Heine”said Les.

“Thanks”said Chet.

“Speaking of Heine, when's the last time you got laid?” asked Les.

“I don't want to talk about it” said Chet.

“Well, I bet you could have any woman in this bar. You're in good shape, a talented musician and have a large payday on the way. I mean damn, if I was you, I would be getting some connections and building myself a stable” said Les.

“Yeah, maybe you're right” said Chet.

A young woman their age sits down next to Chet and orders herself a drink. She's thick, borderline obese, but has a pretty face under her pound of jewelry and makeup. They look at each other and smile. Les bumps Chet on the shoulder before standing up and walking over to the pool tables.

“Hi. I'm Chet”.

“Hey. I'm Sandra”.

“Beautiful name. Do you live around here?” asked Chet.

“Yeah. I live on the outskirts of town” said Sandra.

“That's pretty sweet. I live in the city” said Chet.

“Kind of a long way to get drunk?” said Sandra.

“I don't drink much. I prefer to smoke pot. I mostly come out this way because I grew up around here and know a lot of people” said Chet.

“Not me. I love drinking. I'm here all the time” said Sandra.

“Hey, to each his own” said Chet.

He raises his glass as she does the same. They tap drinks together and laugh.

“You working tomorrow with the holiday and all?” asked Chet.

“Nope. I have off, why?” asked Sandra.

“I was thinking about getting some dinner if you care to join me?” asked Chet.

“Sounds great” said Sandra.

“I hope you like Chinese food” said Chet.

He gets her phone number before walking over to Les who was knocking some balls around on the green felt table. Chet picks up a pool cue and takes a shot, hitting the eight ball in the corner pocket.


The Chinese restaurant was dimly lit for nuisance. The walls covered with watercolor prints and everything including the tables and chairs are framed out with a matching oriental design.

Sandra wears a dark black t-shirt and blue jeans while Chet wears a nice polo and khaki pants. He orders General Tsu's Chicken and she orders the Mongolian beef.

“So you're Wicca?” asked Chet.

“Yes. I'm a witch. I worship nature and the mother goddess. Next summer I plan to go down to New Orleans with some of my girlfriends. You know, to reconnect with the origins of our beliefs” said Sandra.

“Sounds fun. What do you plan on doing down south, some rituals?” asked Chet.

“Oh, we have some ideas planned” said Sandra.

She giggled in a way that made her feel superior for having dark secrets she kept to herself.

“You know the Wicca movement has strong ties to the mid West?” said Chet.

“No clue” she said.

She looked upset, like her identity was being attacked by an outsider.

“Yeah, the Spiritualist movement was big here in the Midwest during the second half of the nineteenth century. And actually, its origins doesn't begin with Voodoo in the south, but out east in northern New York in the region known as the Burn Down district. And what's even more interesting, is that its also where Mormonism began” said Chet.

She gives him the evil eye before reversing her mind back to a state of tranquil superiority.

“How much you make an hour?” asked Sandra.

“I make about 8, why, how much do you make?” asked Chet.

“I make about 12 an hour” she said.

She felt a little better knowing she made more and did less work for it. It made her feel smarter and an many ways, superior to him.

And so they chit chatted away, talking about trivial things when their food arrived. Chet gobbled it down, his sore muscles still trying to rebuild themselves after a long week of labor intensive work. He finished his plate in record time as she hen pecked at her delicious Mongolian Beef. She was busy texting as they ate, so absorbed in her phone, she didn't even bother to look up at him.

“Ever been to Master Z's?” asked Sandra.

“Nope. Never heard of it. What is it?” asked Chet.

“It's a bar. I have some friends their right now. He's getting married and invited me out to celebrate. I told him I was on a date and he asked me to invite you along” said Sandra.

Chet thought about it for a second.

“Sure, why not. It'd be nice to get out and meet some new people” said Chet.

She got a doggy bag to go, her food barely touched and they left.


“Hi!” shouted an excited male voice.

He walks over and hugs Sandra before shaking Chet's hand.

“Hi. I'm Rick, and this is my fiance Natalie” said Rick.

Rick was tall, but not too tall, he was however, way to skinny. He wore a cowboy hat and a long sleeve dress shirt with a cross stripe pattern. Natalie was the opposite, short and plump. She was also quite and reserved. Rick was wild and shouted things like Yippee and Ye-haw at the excitement over his engagement. Sandra slips away to the bar unnoticed as Chet stands their talking to the couple.

“How long have you known each other?” asked Chet.

“A couple of years now, we both work at the same Walgreen's” said Rick.

“Well, you seem like a nice enough couple” said Chet.

“We do love each other” said Rick.

“That's right” said Natalie.

“Want to know a secret?” asked Rick.

“What's that?” asked Chet.

“My girl's still a virgin. I must be the luckiest man in the world, Ye-Haw!” shouted Rick.

Natalie elbows him in the shoulder before her face turns a few shades red. Chet smiles and shrugs his shoulders.

“To each man his own” said Chet.

He looks around.

“Have you seen Sandra?” asked Chet.

“Probably at the bar getting herself something to drink” said Rick.

Chet walks towards the bar. Sandra isn't there, so he orders himself something to drink, a domestic beer, leaves his tab open and walks back over to Rick and Natalie. She's not there either, so he walks around until he finds her talking to a guy with a big smug look on his mug, busy working her over with his charm. He even pulls out a piece of paper and writes his number down on it. Chet says nothing and walks back over to Rick and Natalie. They applause his presence, lifting up their drinks. He taps drinks with them before taking a sip of his beer. He hated the taste but said nothing.

“Where's Sandra?” asked Rick.

“Oh, she's over in the other area talking to some strange guy” said Chet.

Natalie and Rick look at each other and laugh.

“She's a good friend, but not really the dating type if you know what I mean” said Rick.

“I get that now” said Chet.

“It's better if you don't take it personally” said Natalie.

Rick finishes his drink, goes over and buys three shots. He hands one of the Fireballs over to Chet and they slam it down fast.

“Where do you work?” asked Rick.

“I'm doing construction work” said Chet.

“Cool” said Rick.

“I wish I was doing something less hard on my body for slave wages” said Chet.

“We have an opening over at Walgreen's. Here's my phone number if you ever need a referral” said Rick.

“Thanks” said Chet.

Rick writes the number down and hands it to him.

“You seem like a good Dude, Chet. And if you're a hard worker like you say you are, even better” said Rick.

“Well thanks again” said Chet.

He finishes his beer and goes out to the smoking area to puff on a cigarette. He passes Sandra who is now talking to a different man. He finishes his cigarette in silence, watching the other drunks puff away, laughing loudly like animals at pointless trivial things. He felt uncomfortable around all these heathens and wanted to go home. He felt out of place and wanted the night to end. He steps back into the bar to say his goodbyes when he bumps into Sandra.

“This is my ex-boyfriend Sam” said Sandra.

Chet shakes his hand, Sam's hand as limp as an overcooked noodle.

“Nice to meet you” said Chet.

Sam only twitched his shoulder and looked over at Sandra.

“Yeah, we've known each other for sometime” said Sam.

“And what the other guy, is he also one of your ex boyfriends” asked Chet.

“Oh no, that's Steve. He's a cool guy” said Sandra.

“Oh” said Chet.

He walked back over to Natalie and Rick. They looked happy to see him.

“Hey buddy, want a beer!” asked Rick.

“No. I don't really drink” said Chet.

“Oh, come on. Drink with us! This is a big day and we need all the support that we can get” said Rick.

Rick walks away, leaving Chet and Natalie alone. Chet waves at Natalie as Rick walks over to the bar. She waves back.

“How long have you two been engaged now?” asked Chet.

“Oh, since this afternoon” said Natalie.

“No wonder he's so amped up” said Chet.

“Yeah, he's usually not like that” said Natalie.

Rick walks back over with four beers, hands one to each of them and then goes to find Sandra. He walks back over with Sandra and Steve and Sam trailing behind them. They drink, chatting away at nothingness and laughing at pointless antidotes with no punchline.

Chet is about to say his goodbyes when Rick invites everyone out for a smoke break. Chet follows along as they all walk out for a cigarette.

Steve stands up tall, hovering over Sandra who sits lazily on one of the picnic tables. He looks like Captain Morgan from the rum label.

“So?” asked Steve, “when did you all lose your virginity?”

They all took turns answering except Chet who said nothing. He was a little embarrassed with being a virgin, so let them pass him without saying a word. When everyone was done smoking, he said his goodbyes and walked out the door.

When he got in his truck, he started it up, and sat their smoking another cigarette happy this awkward moment was all over with. But as he switched over into reverse, out barges Sandra with her ex boyfriend Sam kissing on her. Chet rolls down the window.

“Hey Sandra” said Chet.

“Don't worry about me. I'll find a ride in the mourning” said Sandra.

Sam stood excited, his chest puffed out, ready for some good old fashioned American fun.

“No. You forgot your meal” said Chet.

He hands her the Styrofoam container and drives away. She tosses it on the ground and they both walk home towards his place.

Chet quit his job that week after applying for a position at a local grocery store. He saw Sandra alone at the same small town bar he first met her, but he never bothered to talk to her again.

Chapter 3, A Selfish Heart Devours all Light

Chet walks in zombie like, pale and sad. The tears still pooling up along his eyes. But he had to work before the insurance money started to roll in. And this is what was available for him in the moment. He had few friends and even fewer connections since his parents...

The timely death took a big toll on him and he needed them now more than ever.

“Whose the new guy?” asked Alissa, the skinny brunette with the tough little hook on the corner of her lip.

She was talking to Jaun, the eighteen year old college student peacocking it in his flashy red and black graphic hoodie. It had the image of a rose and skull. He wore it over his blue work polo. His name tag hung around his neck, the word Juan standing out in bold black lettering under the company logo.

“Who, that fag?” he asked, nodding his head at Chet stacking apples.

They both giggle as Alissa sticks her tongue out aggressively at a sharp point.

“I think his name is Chad, or Ted, or something stupid like that. I don't know, who cares” said Juan.

Juan cuts the tape, collapsing the last cardboard box freshly plucked from the freezer. He's already scanned all the items with his plastic scan gun, the list already built into the computer system. He takes a deep breadth, pushing the cart of cardboard down into the backroom, tossing it into the paper compactor before sliding down the gate and pushing the button.

Juan walks back with his empty cart. He finds Alissa on her lunch break. She's eating an apple as she flirts with Chet. Juan's smile mangles into a smear. He slips his hoodies black hood over his head, slips on some gloves, and barges through the double doors leading into the freezer.

Chet grabs some items between text messages on his phone. He grabs the last of it when Alissa walks in wearing a hair net.

“His names Chet, and be nice to him, his parents just died” said Alissa walking out with a cake ready to be frosted.

Juan scoffs after she leaves.

“Fuck that new guy, bitch. It should be me not him frosting your cake” mumbled Juan to himself.

He finishes loading up and steps back out of the freezer. His cart is full of frozen goods towering high above his head. He looks over at the bakery department. Alissa is gone. The department stands empty, the lights lowered for the night. The fresh baked bread already a few hours old. He glances over at the produce department. Chet is gone.

When Juan got home, he couldn't concentrate on homework, and everyone he gunned down on his violent shooter games reminded him of Chet. He thought of Chet and Alissa sucking, and bumping uglies, and it upset him deeply. It slowly, minute by minute, burrowed its way to the core of his narcissistic ego.

He did not sleep that night, instead, he spent those calm dark hours thinking of ways to please Alissa and hurt Chet. And when he shows up for work the next day, Juan is as aggressive and jealous as the night before. And having seniority over this new fucktard, this piece of shit white trash loser, Juan was more determined than ever to exert his dominion over the land.

“Hey Juan” said Betty.

Betty was the baker in charge of bread, and a true sweetheart. Juan walks pass her without saying a word. He had little interest in her. She was a thick blonde dating one of the black guys from the late shift. They'd gone out bowling a couple of times back when Juan was dating one of the twins working in the bakery department. He thought she was cute, but his beef was how to get over on the new guy. Juan honestly thought that it was his duty as a man to conquer that white pussy under the new guy's nose. And a white man on top of it, that made it even better, and the sex that much hotter.

A dirty light popped out in his head. He had a genius idea. He knew just how to bang Alissa in no time.

Later that night, after his shift was over, and the bakery department was closed. He took one of the company pens, slipped into the freezer undetected and smashed it repeatedly into one of the cakes.

“Like that, don't you bitch?” muttered Juan.

The next day Juan walks into work with a smug look on his face. He has a certain air about him, a rekindled sense of superiority and confidence over the new guy. A member of management walks up to him.

“Someone ruined one of Alissa's cake. If you know anything about it, come talk to me in my office anytime. Thank You”.

They walked away as Juan stares down Alissa. She shivers all over as he stares her down with his dominating eyes.

“Let the sex games begin” muttered Juan under his breath.

For several months, Chet and Alissa chat on the phone and at work. They get to know each other quite well, and Chet began to develop some genuine feelings for her. He even thought about asking for her hand in marriage.

Then one day, on his way to the produce department, he passed the bakery department standing around Juan. They were clapping for him, shaking his hand and congratulating him on the close call. Alissa looked down in shame before turning around and walking out the front door. Chet was confused before all the signs fell into place. They were clapping for Juan and Alissa's miscarriage.

Hurt and disgusted, Chet quit the day his insurance money came in, and decided then and their, never to work a corporate job ever again.

Chapter 4, 10 Years After

Chet sits among a pile of dirty clothes and dishes, playing his guitar in the dark. He did this until he began to feel the notes, almost smell them.


Chet plays solo guitar as his best friend Chris plays along on Rhythm guitar. His buddy Les plays along on upright Bass. One of Les' friends, who goes by the name Stacks, follows along on drums. The music is sounding sweet and crisp. The crowd is listening along, a couple are on a date, talking between the magic moments on guitar. A loner in his early twenties sits alone at the back of the shop drinking coffee and using the WIFI. A small group of retired people also sit and watch, sharing a large pizza.

When the song was done, Les sets down his large instrument, and ran for the nearest garbage can. He dove in head first, vomiting, and grossing out the customers. A member of management walks up and escorts him to the bathroom. Chet and Chris look at each other sideways.

“Well so much for getting a paid gig anytime soon” said Chet.

“Yeah, no shit” said Chris.


In the years leading up to his parents death, Chet became the kind of musician who felt more comfortable in a library than at a rave. A loner, he spent many hours alone playing guitar and writing poetry. It brought him much joy from a life otherwise full of grief. And besides working odd jobs, he didn't have many motivations.


Chet drills slabs of soundproofing material into the walls of the basement. The customer watches as he works, sipping on a beer. Chet finishes, admiring his work.

“This is the best place to start because the slight slope from the foundation settling uneven distorts the natural residence of the room. I'm going to try my best to even out the room to get the best acoustics out of this space. But I must tell you, there is some killer software that can replicate the sounds of a cathedral hall or even an auditorium, but naturally, this room is perfect for heavy metal”.


He lived his whole life off a dwindling nest egg, but somehow learned to keep it all together. It was enough to live off of the rest of his life, be it was a simple life, and he was more than comfortable with that. He had his custom made acoustic guitar, some cigarette money and a nice house to himself. His life was humble, unlike his emotions.


One of his customers introduces him to one of his daughters, she is a lovely young woman, well put together from a good family. She smiles at him. He smiles back at her. She giggles a little at him.

“Since my dad introduced me to you, maybe you could introduce me to your mother”.

“My parents are dead” said Chet.

“I'm sorry, I didn't know. Dad, you should of told me, idiot!”

Chet starts to cry, embarrassing himself before walking away from the awkward situation.


These weren't the best of times for a poet to be living in. The wages had dropped, the work hours had risen, and the quality fell with it. He hated the idea of working a nine to five with almost zero chance for mobility.

He drives home covered in sawdust. He passes an abandoned factory with its glass window panes falling out to shatter on the concrete floor below. Its large loading bay molded out by large amounts of concrete left cracked and crumbling, littered along the corners with debris. Soiled grocery bags, empty plastic bottles and dollar store toys littered its corners with bright colors fading fast from neglect.


He's walking in the park, soaking up the sun after a long harsh winter, when he comes upon a young man playing some basic chords on his acoustic guitar. He's never heard the song before, and walks up to the stranger curious of the piece he was playing.

“Hi. I'm Chet. Nice to meet you”.

They shake hands.

“I was wondering what that song was you were just playing?” asked Chet.

The young man smiles behind his beanie and skin tight jeans. “I made it up, bro”.

Chet smiles. “It sounds a lot like a Bach piece I know. Are you familiar with classical music?”

The young man nods his head and hands him the guitar. Chet plays the piece through, the young man is both mesmerized and ashamed at his lack of skill and experience. Chet hands him the guitar and walks away a little embarrassed. The boy glare at him with the same level of intensity he once felt in Juan back when he worked at the grocery store. He felt uncomfortable with his abilities.


He was a strange fella, not Creepy Pasta strange but like so many eccentric individuals, misunderstood. This is often the trouble with unique expression and transcendental thinking. He was however far from perfect.


He installs the softwood pine floor. He hums to the rhythm of the nail gun, a symphony dancing through his head, the notes writing themselves on the ethereal canvas of his mind. The nail gun stops working. He looks up to find his boss over by the air compressor. The raw swirls of sound and emotion some to an abrupt stop.

“Go home Chester, you can finish tomorrow” said his boss.

“Sorry Mr. Reinhardt, I was getting into my work” said Chet.

“I know Chet, that's why we keep you around. Hell, I'll be honest, you're knowledge of Acoustics surpasses anyone I ever met. I just wish you weren't lost in your own little world whenever I need you to do something” said Mr. Reinhardt.

Chapter 5, Sweet Jane

The funeral was quick and to the point. It was the immediate family, his loving widow and Chet, his best friend. Chet looked over at the widow crying as they lowered him into the ground. She didn't notice his look of concern as she stood their mourning. The tears fall thick down her face. He looked at her sorrowfully, but said nothing.

He left the graveyard, went home, changed his clothes and drove over to her house where she was hosting the wake. He parked the car, walked up to the house and knocked on the door. She answers without tears although her eyes were black from all the crying. She looked so worn down and beat up.

“I'm sorry for your lost. Chris was a great dude, and a damn good rhythm guitarist” said Chet.

She moved out of the way, letting him in out of the sunshine into the gloomy little house. It was the peak of summer but everyone stood around or sat wearing black. They all wore long sleeves and looked at him like they'd been rained on. He stepped inside, waved at everyone, his cheerful mask hiding another layer of sadness.

The tight yet cozy room was scattered with only a dozen other people, most Chet never met. Chris and Carol's two sons were with his grandparents. Out of all the friends and acquaintances Chris made over the years, these were the hardcore ones who stuck it out to the bitter end. Now they were here like Chet, to support Carol, still half crippled with shock.

Rightfully so, Chris' death was a blow to everyone, an abrupt and embarrassing suicide. He liked to hang gently from a rope as he masturbated himself. He was found with his pants around his ankles when Carol arrived home after work. Everyone in that room including Chet knew the cause of death, Auto Erotic Asphyxiation.

“Hey, Les” said Chet.

Les walked in with an open beer already in his hand. Les was one of Chet's closest friends along with Chris. Les had to work and couldn't take time off for the funeral because he already burnt up his sick days on the Summer Concert Lineup.

“Why if its not Chester and Lester” said Les.

Les was already slurring his words. His drunken demeanor becoming more obvious.

“Not so bad, although its a little gloomy in here like everyone just came back from a funeral” said Chet.

Les laughs, grabbing a paper plate and filling it up with potato chips, mash potatoes, potato salad and a nice plump burger grilled to perfection. Chet grabs small portions of the same sans the potato chips, saving up some empty space for a deviled egg and a slice of delectable homemade cheesecake. Chet asks for a fancy beer he finds in the cooler, a Sierra Nevada Indian Pale Ale, and stands next to Les eating their small mountains of food.

They drank and joked, but didn't say much, eating their plate to completion, everything tasting delicious. And when they finished, it was right around the time Chet got buzzed. Les had already finished three beers to Chet's one beer and was in a state of Semi-Consciousness. Chet was ready to say his goodbyes, thanking Carol for her hospitality, when Les interrupted him.

“Goodnight” shouted Les.

He waves at everyone, stumbles to the door and fidgets with the brass door knob before barging out into the sunny late afternoon.

Carol and Chet both look at each other and laugh.

“Should we get his keys?” asked Carol.

“Naw. Les lives right up the street” said Chet.

Then, as the party was resettling back from such a rude disruption, Les walks not stumbles back in holding the Custom Fender Acoustic guitar he inherited after his brother died. He strums the first chord, and Chet is shocked to find his hands move like that of a musician, his head still bobbing around like a fighter seeing stars in the midst of battle. He began to play Sweet Jane by Nico and The Velvet Underground. He plays the song through, singing along to the lyrics, all without a single mistake or blemish to voice or instrument.

“Chris!” shouted Carol.

Les finished the song, let the final chord linger, and left, crashing into the garbage can on the way out, knocking it over onto the floor. Les forgets to close the door behind him, the sky going very black, as rain falls for a few moments before clearing back up to its normal seasonal mode of hot and sunny.

Les screeches down the road. They all look at each other stunned. Chet went over and started cleaning up the garbage.

“Chris used to play me that song all the time. It was his favorite song” said Carol.

Chapter 6, The Girl with the Rose Colored Phone, Part 1

He puts on a clean shirt and a pair of blue jeans. He slips on a pair of old tennis shoes, and grabs his wallet. He grabs his keys, but doesn't lock the door. He walks pass the car in the driveway, and strolls down the sidewalk three blocks pass the 7 Eleven, and pass the tavern with the tasty burgers. He waits for the traffic to slow down from both directions. He rushes across as a Chevy 3-Ton Pickup truck speeds by, a few seconds later a cargo-less Semi-truck brambles along on its way to transport another load. He takes no notice.

This was his normal procedure. He had a strange habit of walking everywhere in walking distance. He rode a bike back when he worked at the factory up the street. The only time he ever really drove was when he worked out of town, stopping over at a friends or just taking a joy ride. He didn't remember the last time he took a joy ride, or the last time he stepped out of town. He didn't have to walk, his parents left him plenty of money. He walked because it reminded him that he still had legs and he could use them.

He steps in from the sunlight into the dull florescent light of the grocery market. He walked, so he couldn't grab much. He marched in a straight line to the vegetable crisper. He bought some eggs, an onion, a head of lettuce, a green pepper, a loaf of bread and a pound of hamburger. It took him several minutes to find the bread. He was confused with the new store setup two months ago. But it was worth it, because now he has his choice of meals. He could have hamburgers, or make a taco salad, and breakfast was a toss up now between french toast and a Denver omelet.

He was happy with his small purchase, and headed to the twelve items or less check out counter. He put his items on the counter. And when he looked up, he saw her.

She was tall with long slender legs, and a tight stomach. She had the wild beauty and glance of Artemis like she grew up on a farm somewhere out in the boonies. Her blues eyes sparkled as clear and calmly as they sky, lit up by the sunny sparkle in the corner of her eye. And how could he forget her hair, those thick curly brunette threads highlighted different shades of blonde and ember. And when she finally smiled at him, he noticed how slender and symmetrical her cheeks bones were, and his heart melted away. Her beauty was inside out, and knowing it, Chet stammered around his words.

“Are you new here?” he asked.

She smiles, letting out a fluid giggle. Chet returns the giggle by letting out an uncomfortable “ha”. It was off tune and full of accidentals. He grabs his bag and walks out.

“That went smooth” he thought to himself.

He walked straight home without saying a word, the whole time thinking about how he should have talked to that girl. Thoughts of him confidently asking what her name before smoothly asking if she's on social media. But he soon forgot it as a new song ruptured in his head, his mind already writing it down on paper, note by note in front of his eyes.

When he got home, he slid aside the cola, the kind that can strip the dirt off a penny, and hopefully through scientific reason, would have the same affect on his colon. He set the bags in the empty space once occupied by the cola. He checked the eggs. They were all safe.

“Ah piss, I forgot the cheese” he said. “Speaking of piss...”

He went to the bathroom to drain the monster. When he was finished, he shook it twice for drips (he always shook it twice, never once because it wasn't sufficient, and never three times because than he would be playing with himself), tucked it back into his cotton cave, and zipped the dragon back up in its layer. Thankfully he was wearing a pair of pants with a locked fly. He hated those magic zippers that fell open unnoticed, leaving a gentle breeze to brush against his loaded gun.

He went over to the mirror, and felt instantly ashamed. He was so deep into his music studies the past four months mastering Paganini's Caprices, that he forgot to shower for days. His hair was long and unkempt. His beard, if you want to call it that, was more of a soul patch with a bunch of pubic hairs growing around it. Even his skin looked looked unclean and disheveled.

“I might as well have crawled out of rock” he thought to himself.

He grabs his electric razor, strips down and jumps in the shower his his razor buzzing away in hand.

Chapter 7, Girl with the Rose Colored Phone, Part 2

He plays his heart out. His music sounding sweet to his ears, so full of the beauty and pleasure of life. He plays the first four of Paganini's Caprices before standing up and walking into the kitchen towards the fridge. He opens it up and looks inside. He finds the fridge is full of soda. He looks in the cupboards. He finds them full of cans and jars. He has enough to sustain himself for the next year. He looks in the bathroom and finds toilet paper staked from the low shelf up to the ceiling.

“Maybe I should go pick up some Dr. Pepper” he thought.

He gets in his car and drives up to the grocery store in clean clothes. He looks healthier, taking more walks and practicing karate in front of his mirror. He watches videos on fighting before slowly practicing them in the mirror. However, he had to be careful, as he already knocked himself out after punching his reflection in the mirror.

He grabs the soda off the shelf, heart beating fast, trying to rip itself from his chest. She was there, waiting for him, or so it seemed to his mind racing out of control. It was a thousand thoughts spinning like movie reels, a million neurons triggering a billion emotions through every atom of his being. His thoughts crackled and spun, his mind rushing full of tangent imagery of kissing and wedding bells, and candlelight dinners spent talking with no end in sight. He walks up with his purchase, her smile melting him into a pool of jelly.

“Hi, McKenzie, long time no see. How are you?” he said to her.

“I'm doing find, Chet. Busy with school” said McKenzie.

“That's great. What are you studying?” he asked.

“Music Appreciation” she said.

“That's amazing! I play classical guitar. Ever hear of Paganini?” he asked.

“Nope. We haven't gotten that far. I'm still working on Gregorian Chant's”.

“Have you studied any of the ancient stuff? I know quite a bit about Ancient Musicology” said Chet.

“Not really. It's mostly early Western” said McKenzie.

The way she said Western rubbed him the wrong.

“Oh, you mean the early Christian Church. Of course, those particular chants were first written in Turkey and are based on the scale structure first thoroughly documented by the Greeks” said Chet.

“I'm sorry to have offended you” said McKenzie.

Her intentions sounding pure as she said it.

“Don't be, it's not all your fault. People now days seem to have little respect for ancient cultures. As if not having a smartphone makes you an inferior human, or something. I might be wrong, but I sense that is the stigma people have now days towards our ancestors. Of course, the Greeks did their best to program their minds to the point of photographic memory They weren't perfect by any means, but I feel their contributions to the advancement of our culture should be recognized for their brilliance. I mean imagine living in a world without phones, let alone computers, and yet somehow certain individuals found a way to collect, organize and present information in a way that would have a direct and profound influence on generations to come. How beautiful is that?” he said.

“Very beautiful” she said.

“And did you know the first composer in history was Enhdeuanna, the daughter of Sargon, and high priestess of Mesopotamia” said Chet.

“The first composer in history was a women?” asked McKenzie.

“The first composer was a women” said Chet.

She smiles and blushes. He looks behind him to find a small line starting to grow. The man next in line was starting to get red in the face. He smiles back at McKenzie.

“Well, I should probably get going. I will see you around. It was fun arguing with you” said Chet.

“The pleasure was all mine. I better start doing some reading so I can get you next time” said McKenzie.

He walks out of the store smiling, walking home forgetting that he drove up to the store. When he got him, he remembered driving up to the store, so he turned around still in a daydream, and went back up to grab his car.

Chapter 8, The Boy with the Purple Flower

The feeling inside surged through him. His blood rushed through his veins. And he felt full, satisfied, the first time he felt this way since his parents were alive. And his music sounded sweeter, more alive and upbeat, and above all else, it felt complete. His students could feel it to as they sat outside on Chet's back porch practicing their acoustic guitars.

When Chet first bought this house sometime ago after selling the bigger, lonelier house he inherited from his parents, he got deep into gardening. His backyard was small, but closed in with a six foot wooden fence that kept this area isolated from the whirring traffic of the main road. It was beautiful with its trellis covered in vines and small purple flowers. He also had roses but they were still growing. But his favorite were his Japanese Mable as it grows slowly bushing out a little more every year, and his Tiger Eyed Sumac's that swung now high above his head. It was a little jungle out there, and he almost forgot all about it. He hadn't weeded in a while, and after pulling out the weeds, planted some giant sunflowers.

His student finish's playing the scale, and sets the guitar down. Chet watches the giant sunflower as it bobs its head around. The bright peddles reminding him of her, so wholesome and welcoming like the mourning sun.. A lot reminded him of her, as he thought of her often.

“Well... did I play it right?” asked the young student.

His name was Brighton Meadows, a nice well mannered twelve year old with a passion for guitar. He keeps smiling.

“I would have said something if it wasn't. Excellent C Major scale. Now it's time to explore the whole mode up and down the scale, but before all that, we'll explore scale variations. The boy looks at him, his brain swarming.

“When will you start teaching me to play some real music?” asked Brighton.

“I can teach you to play a song, or I can teach you to play any song. It's up to you... and of course your parents. So be patient young one, you have much learn, and much to practice. Do you have the music I gave you to practice?”

He holds it up. It's the C Major scale and its modes written out on music paper.

“I want you to practice this with a metronome starting at 30 BPM before working your way up to 60, and then 90 BPM. It's all in quarter notes so it should remain an even 1-2-3-4 pattern all the way through. Get good enough at it and next week I'll show you how to apply this to some songs before we get into some basic chords” said Chet.

They heard a car door slam from the street beyond the fenced in garden. It's followed by a knock.

“We're out back, Mrs. Manning! Come in through the fence” said Chet.

She walks up to them, smiling, holding an envelope full of money in her hand. Chet takes it from her, thanking them both for the opportunity.

“I hope he wasn't too much trouble” said Mrs. Manning.

Brighton stands up, puts his guitar away in its soft travel case and walks pass them. A moments later a car door closes shut.

“Not at all, Brighton has plenty of potential, he just needs to quit trying to get better without practice.”

“I guess patience is an art in itself, Mr. Paul. Thanks for your time” she said.

“You have to crawl before you can stand, stand before you can walk and walk before you can run. And right now, Brighton is still learning how to stand. But no worries, give him time, and he could be running for gold in the Olympics” said Chet.

She shakes his hand smiling before walking away. He plays her one of Paganini's Caprices as she walks out to her car, and as he finishes, she drove away. He smiles to himself, feeling pretty good about things. He had the Caprices about mastered, was successfully teaching guitar lessons and was even composing the music for an album. All he needed was a band, and of course, his girl. HIS GIRL. She wasn't his girl yet, even though it was impossible to tell his heart otherwise. He started playing a pretty little tune. It was an original little tune, nothing he ever heard or played before in his life. And as he played, thoughts of marriage started to run through his head.

“I do” said Chet. He was lost wearing a crisp new tuxedo. He lifts the vale, revealing a burning glow of golden aura, pure and beautiful as it pools out. He smiles as he plays, the chords he strikes sounding crisp and clean.

His imagination runs away further into the future. This time they sit alone along the Mississippi River eating Subway sandwiches and drinking champagne on the sun scorched grass. He can feel it, the grass so dry and firm. And he can see it, the sun burning its radiation through the blanket laid down on the uneven embankment.

Then the sun descends as an orchestra plays the Star Spangled banner from the out door auditorium, the Bix Beiderbecke stage along the river at Le Clair Park in Davenport Iowa. He liked to think the river traveled the music down to the coast, pushing it out of the coast to all corners of the world. Fireworks shoot up, the colorful sparks breaking open across the heavenly sky. He smiles, his notes soft and sweet.

He kisses her, as the stream of daydreams takes him to an intimate moment. Their naked bodies grinding together, his hands slowly messaging her breasts. He sucks them, kisses them, as they fuck passionately, the whole time feeling like magic.

His heart races, as his mind swims with these picturesque musing dancing on the surface of his psyche. His penis now starting to tingle, it swells up as he stands up to shake it off. He sets the guitar down and goes inside. He looks around at the mess- dirty clothes thrown around, unclean dishes and every floor in need of being vacuumed and washed. He rolls up his sleeves and gets to work. He even finds eighty five cents in the couch. He pockets the five pennies, seven dimes and two nickles. And when he was done, he looked around at the clean house, and felt good.

“Now is the time” he thought.

He took a shower, taking the white shopping bag into the bathroom with him. When he got out, he was freshly shaved, and even wore some cologne. He had on a silky blue polo shirt and brand new khaki pants. He stuffed an expensive box of jewelry in his front pocket. It was a solid gold necklace with white diamonds masterfully crafted to perfection. He was so excited that he shook all over in anticipation. He was ready for the game with its endless hoops and obstacles.

He hated modern courting with its ruthless business model. He found the whole ritual backwards, viewing it more as a job interview than as a romantic engagement. He'd been on bad dates in the past where the woman would focus on a flaw or find a blemish, and exploit to their means. He found that more and more people in the modern world viewed romance as secondary to security and self-gratification, and anyone who stood in their way of self interest was an enemy of their cause. But none of that mattered now, he found the one, and found all those bad dates were lessons set up to make him strong for this very moment.

He decides to take his time and walks up to the grocery store.

“McKenzie” he whispers.

His eyes grow big, as he turns around. He walks through the back gate leading into the garden, and walks over to the trellis. He picks the biggest brightest violet flower hanging from its vine. He restarts his trek back to the store, not just the store but her store. How he swooned. And as he walked, he felt a little like Pepe le Pew, and it ashamed him a little bit.

“Why so negative? Guys with far inferior intentions play their games all day long. What makes my kisses feel like assault? Stupid society, I am more than just a cartoon skunk” he thought.

He never felt so alone in his entire life. He knew he was all alone, and that didn't bother him much. The cars also didn't seem to mind as they passed him and each other down the road. He passes the Pizzeria famous for its Quad Cities style pizza known for its minced sausage and real Wisconsin cheese. He passes the line of houses, and the tavern that serves the tasty burgers. He crosses the street, walking across the parking towards the automatic sliding doors of the grocery market.

The room was cold, unlike the bright circus colors of the boxes and bags, jars and bottles stocked neatly on the shelves. The sales floor smelled sterile like cardboard with subtle whiffs of cool mist from the vegetable crisper, and the sharp stench of the deli with its crab, lobster, tuna steaks, fresh cut strips of Prime Rib and T-bone, lunch meat, cheese slices and freshly wrapped tamales.

He walks to the other end of the floor, scanning aisles, and row after row of cash registers, yearning, hoping, praying that she would be there. He looked everywhere for that bright yellow hair like a moth wandering aimlessly for a flame. He searched the whole store for that bright burning smile. His heart pumping hard, the blood running marathons through his veins.

She was no where to be found. He felt his heart fall, and only managed to catch it with a dark mean glare behind his usually calm eyes. He grabbed a bottle of Dr. Pepper from off the shelf, hurried to the nearest empty cash register, made quick chit chat, grabbed his bag and rushed out the door with a flat line across the face.

“I hope someday she'll look back on all this come to appreciate my shy little attempt at being romantic, but I doubt it. No one ever seems to think about anyone until they hurt their own feelings” he muttered to himself.

When he walked through the door, he took the flower out of his pocket and tossed it on the floor. It lands on a small pile of decaying purple flowers. Their pedals crisp as toast. He grabs his guitar from outside and sits down on the couch. He plays a few notes. They sound like cats fighting over territory as he throws the guitar across the room.

Chapter 9, Girl with the Rose Colored Phone, Part 3

For weeks he sat alone drinking, depressed.

“Hi Brighton. Is your mother around?- no? What's going on? I haven't seen you for three weeks now?- What's that, you're taking lessons somewhere else. I see. Well if your mother ever changes her mind, she knows how to get a hold of me” said Chet.

His face was a mess. It looked like the wreckage after a train derail. His face was once again unshaven, his hair all disheveled. Even his eyes looked like they been through hell, with their empty look all watered over. He set his guitar down. He hardly played it in the past month. It sounded like grapes gone sour every time he struck it. Oh how quickly the great wine of life had turned to vinegar, and all he wanted now was to get rid of the bitterness left lingering on the tip of his tongue.


Some months went by.

Alone he sat, writing poetry from that empty place in his bosom, and slowly the memory of her face faded. The sense of lost on the other hand, only deepened, leaving a scar on his very soul. And it was on one of those days, while marinating in the fragments of past desires with its bitter acidic after taste of ferment left upon his tongue, that an urge burned through him.

“McKenzie..” his mouth rambled off into a melancholy psychosis.

And with that said, Chet scurried over to his computer, and onto social media where he began to search for her name, place of business and location. He scrolled down through picture after picture, page after page, studying the profiles and their updates. And after many hours, he finally came upon her profile. His face and soul reborn again in that empty pit of his chest. He went to friend her but stopped. He froze up, the mouses little arrow over the friend button. He dared not click it.

“She would see me as a stalker” he thought to himself.

And so despite the urge to communicate, he ignored her profile for several more weeks, and slowly, began to pull himself out of his slump. Whenever he needed a pick me up when he was feeling blue, he would get online and look at her photos, yearning to hold her, kiss her, touch her body and suckle on her breasts. His mind again filling with sweet fancies, and in a small demented way, he was happy, if even for just a moment.

Chapter 9, Girl with the Rose Colored Phone, Part 4

Then one day, he couldn't stand it any longer and began to send her his poetry. It was some of the most beautiful stanzas ever written by man, and some of the best never read. No response. No matter, he kept writing, first poetry, and then a song, followed by another song.

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