A Condition: A Short Story

Hey, I wanted to ask you something.  Don’t worry, don’t worry, I see you’re a smart man, don’t worry, I am too.  I know what smart people want and what smart people don’t want and what they don’t want is unnecessary time wasted.  Let me breathe for a second.  A second.  You’re the first person I’ve come across who isn’t aggressive or drunk.  Pardon my heavy breathing, I got tar in my lungs.  It’s a weird condition.  Walking from over there, the other side of campus, I was behind a bus and the exhaust blew up my insides.

I’m glad you’re listening.  I just need someone to listen to me.  You seem like a nice guy–what am I saying?  You are a nice guy.  You’re listening, aren’t you?  Did you want to get out of the rain?  We can go into your car and talk if you want, protect us from the rain.  No?  I got this condition, the rain, stirs my skin hairs and makes them sword fight till I bleed from my pores.  Sincerely.

Can I ask you something?  I’ll put you in my story if you’ll let me.  Are you as isolated as you seem?  You’re the only person I’ve seen with nobody else around.  You have a virus?  I have this virus, it causes my knuckles to crack on their own, and then I try to crack them and then I can’t grip for three hours.

You know I can’t spell anything with a Q?  My mind works this way, it’s all kay-double-you for me.  When I was younger my typewriter lost the Q in a freak accident, and so I learned how to spell without Q’s and so they’ve been deleted from my memory.  What freak accident?  Oh, I thought that’s what you said.  I’ll tell you anyway, I have this condition where–it’s a little gross, but my body produces more fluids than normal, and it functions like an overinflated water balloon, and–I usually just sweat a lot, but this time my dog excitedly punched a hole in my wrists with his nails, and I leaked all over my palms, swishing and sliding everything I grabbed, and I was holding a wine bottle for my alcoholic grandmother, trying to open it with a corkscrew and they both slipped out of my wet hands, landing directly onto the letter Q of the typewriter.  But the bottle was upside down, so the neck faced downward and the Q cracked it open–cuz she always bought cheap bottom shelf–and without realizing it I poured my grandmother a glass of wine with the letter Q in it.  Yeah, she drank it.  Choked on it.  Vomited blood for the next hour.  My dog licked it up, thinking it was wine.  It was her dog.  Anyway, they both died right there and since then I’ve developed a minor stutter that only surfaces when I think about cowboys or peanut butter.  G-g-give me a s-s-second.  Okay.  I have to think about Indians and jelly to get rid of that.  I learned that the hard way.

Hey, I know you have to go, don’t worry, I’m on it.  I just need a moment.  It’s so nice talking to somebody willing to listen.  I had a nightmare of a day.  Literally.  I have this condition where sometimes what I dream comes true.  Last night I dreamt–sorry?  Okay, okay, just let me get this out, I know you have things to do, you’ve got people who are expecting you, I wish I could say the same for myself, but I just moved here two weeks ago, and I’ve been having trouble meeting people.  I have this plate in my cheek right here and so it’s hard for me not to make constant eye contact.  What?  No, I can’t stop staring.  I’m trying to remember your face.  I have trouble with that.  Everyone’s a stranger through my eyes.  My junky father shoved–no, I’m telling how I got it, just hold on–my junked out father shoved my infant face into my mother’s metallic, pointy bra by mistake–she was a big Madonna fan–and it chipped off a piece of my face.  I had to wait until I was old enough to generate new flesh before they could put the plate in.  It’s the reason I can’t brush my teeth without getting a nosebleed.

I see you have a tattoo there.  I have one–you can put your bag in your car at least, don’t make me feel like an asshole over here–but my tattoo–hang on, I’ll take off my shirt so…on second thought, the rain is going to get on my chest hair and cause the bleeding I told you about, so you’ll just have to visualize.  I got this tattoo on my shoulder blade, the right blade, but you can barely see it–much less in this light, another reason for me not take off my shirt, but it’s supposed to be a winged-wheel, like the Red Wings, but my skin turned it into a “surface temporary”, according to the doctor, and it ended up inking my bone.  So my shoulder blade is a Red Wings fan for the rest of my life.  Unremovable.  It soaked beneath my skin, like pouring water on a rag and finding the puddle beneath it.  It stained my marrow–is it marrow when it’s all the way up here?  You’d know, smart guy.  Is it?  Ah, I don’t know, but you get what I mean.

Oh, you smoke, I see.  Could you do me the favor of blowing the smoke away from my face?  I told you about the tar in my lungs.  Thanks.  No, no you don’t have to go because of that: I’m a first amendment guy!  I accept your right to smoke.  I got this condition, see, it’s like voice-throwing-tourettes, so I wasn’t the one being rude, it was my puppet.  See?  I got a sense of humor, you have to when you’re as afflicted as I am.  I have to be able to laugh just going to the bathroom.  You see, my urine doesn’t…uh…dispense properly.  I’m a bit ashamed to tell you this, being as I just met you, but you know the pee diversion that comes after lots of sex?  I have that constantly.  It stings and I have to stand sideways against the toilet, like a gun in a holster that can’t be removed.  And instead of a gun it’s a penis.  You see the metaphor?

My life’s a metaphor–oh, you have to go now?  Okay, okay, I won’t keep you, I just have one more question.  I got this condition where money doesn’t stay in my pockets.  And I need–hey, where you going?

Jared Stroup

Studied Film at Eastern Michigan University, the movie store and movie theater he used to work at, on his own, and with friends. Jared is also a playwright, screenwriter, director, and short story writer. You can read more of his work at two other websites: The Man in the Movie Hat and Film Monthly. He lives, works, and walks his dog in the Detroit area, where he's willing to obsessively discuss The Simpsons or the films of Paul Thomas Anderson at a moment's notice.

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