The Sympathetic Universe Part 9

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“C’mon, Eloy,” said Bert, “I’ve got your ID right here.”

“Cool, thanks!” Eloy took the id, “Hey, man, why does it say I’m 24? Shouldn’t 21 be enough?”

“21 is too exact, yo! It makes ’em suspicious!” Bert spoke with his whole body, throwing his hands in the air, his curly red hair bouncing as he bobbed his pale, freckled face up and down. He shone in the streetlights, like he was glow-in-the-dark.

“I don’t want to get in trouble, dude. My mother will get mad AF if she finds out.” Eloy didn’t want to disappoint Bert. He was literally the coolest friend he had ever gotten to hang out with. Every time someone remotely interesting came his way, he’d go right away again. His Mom nixing the deal was the best outcome. More often, something else even weirder happened. Freddy taught Eloy what “ass” meant in fifth grade, then became mysteriously allergic to his clothes or something. He couldn’t come near without breaking out into hives. Jack suggested he thought graffiti shouldn’t be a crime in middle school, then an hour later, his dad showed up in class and announced his decision to move the whole family to Iceland that afternoon. Wally offered Eloy a joint sophomore year, then just plain vanished. One kid insisted he saw his feet in the bathroom, and then he blinked and they weren’t there. He climbed under the locked door and just saw a half-smoked reefer floating in the bowl. Wally’s parents said they’d never had a child. Eloy felt vaguely guilty for putting Bert in so much danger, but the universe itself seemed to have made a pact with his overprotective mother, and he desperately needed to rebel.

“You’re 24 years old?” the bartender looked Eloy up and down.

“Ha ha, yeah, we get that all the time,” Bert jumped in, “he’ll have a Miller Lite.”

The bartender shrugged and pulled out a pint glass. Eloy’s adrenaline was racing. Was he finally going to get to do something bad? He watched the bartender fill it with frothy beer. Terrified that at any second the beer would disappear, the glass would shatter, or the entire bar would vanish and reappear in Quebec, he grabbed it the moment it hit the table and chugged it down.

It tasted like water. Eloy was underwhelmed. Bert was impressed. “Whoah, you’re a natural!” Bert downed a Coors

“Give me one of those,” Eloy said.

This one was bitter. That’s more like it!

Bert downed another Coors. Eloy had three more. Bert had two more, Eloy chugged another, and Bert followed suit.

“Am I drunk?” Eloy asked after a while.

Bert lifted a finger, swayed back, and jabbed it straight in front of Eloy’s eyes. “You, sir, are the heavyweight champion. Are you sure you’ve never had beer?” The pointing finger became an open hand that pressed against Eloy’s face as Bert used it for support.

“I’ll have another Coors,” said Eloy. The bartender gave it to him and he made as if to drink it, then he put it down. Fuck if his fucking magic mom wasn’t thwarting him again. “Bert, try this,” he said.

Bert guffawed and reached out to accept the beer. Instead, he fell off his stool. His head hit the bar top as he went down. “Fuck,” whispered Eloy.

“I’m ok,” Bert slurred from the floor, “could somebody help me get to the bathroom?”

Eloy didn’t know exactly the right thing to do, so he stayed with Bert while he threw up. So this was the new plan, huh? Just make sure fun things aren’t fun? This situation smacked keenly of the movie he’d just seen where the drunk guy’s friend takes his keys. So this was another learning opportunity, huh, Mom?

“Bert, give me the keys. I’m driving us home. I’ll take an Uber from your place.”

Bert raised his head, his face somehow even paler than before, “Yeah… yeah, man. You’re a good friend.”

Eloy sighed, defeated again.

“Do you think God has a plan for us?” asked Bert in the car.

I think God has a very particular plan for me, because my mom is God. Eloy knew he couldn’t tell anyone that.

“My mom says God just made the universe to run on its own like a big clock. He doesn’t have any particular plan for any of us.”

“I don’t care what your mom thinks, dude. What do you think?”

“You know what I think? I think she’s full of shit. God arranges our lives as learning experiences to prepare us to be better people. God is a micromanaging fuck.”

Bert guffawed, “I take it back what I said about holding your beer. God, maybe I should try Miller Lite.”

Eloy’s wristwatch said it was half past one in the morning. He pushed the door one millimeter at a time. Five seconds in, he heard a voice, “Just open it the rest of the way, Eloy Geoffrey Addison. I promise you won’t get more grounded than you already are.”

Mom didn’t like being called out on her witchcraft. The last time he tried to confront her she said she was going to send him to a psychologist. The next day she acted like nothing had happened. When he brought it up, she even played dumb. It was the only time he’d seen her play dumb, and she was good. You’d think she really had selective amnesia.

When he pressed her she got upset and told him she’d never said it before, but this time she really would send him to a psychologist. After she sent him to his room, she just left him in there for hours until he called down the stairs to complain and she said “I never sent you to your room.” After that, he had just stopped talking to her about it. He couldn’t handle the craziness.

Eloy couldn’t play Gamecube when he was grounded, nor could he visit friends. Mom and Dad were too cheap to buy cable internet and they didn’t like the phone tied up, so internet surfing on the dial-up was out of the question. He sat on the couch watching staticky TV.  As Spiderman, Tobey Maguire rushed into a burning building to save an old woman, only to learn that she was in fact his nemesis, Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin. Adventure ensued. Eloy sighed.

The next day walking to school, Eloy saw a curious sight. One of the houses was on fire. Great billowing flames lit the pre-dawn twilight. He snorted and kept walking. He couldn’t be late for first period.

“Help!” Eloy heard a voice and looked all around to see where it was coming from, “my grandmother’s in there!”

Nobody was saying it. Mom was just using her witchcraft and summoning voices. Eloy kept walking. “Help!” said the voice again. A woman was behind him now, “My grandmother is in there! Can’t you help!?”

Eloy sighed and slouched, “Fine.” He began to trudge toward the fire.

She had better not be Willem Dafoe.

By Sam Munk

Science fiction and Fantasy author with a focus on philosophical inquiry and character-driven drama.

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