Category Archives: 15 Minute Read

Humanitarian of the Year

I

It never occurred to me that I would be sitting on this hard as fuck bench that smells like piss and dirt on what has to be the hottest night of the year with nowhere to go.

I never thought that everything I own would fit into this carrion bag. I was hoping for a godsend or a lifesaver, but all I got was till the first of the month. Even as I was selling everything that ever meant anything to me, I never thought that this would be it.

My net worth is now a few t-shirts, a couple changes of underwear, a suit I couldn’t sell because I burnt it with my last joint, and a pair of shit-stained jeans that I couldn’t sell for obvious reasons. I can’t fucking believe this shit.

The idea that selling everything I owned wouldn’t even cover a security deposit on an efficiency in Little Havana makes me want to kill myself.

Part of me still doesn’t believe it. The optimistic part of me is still waiting to wake up in my bed thanking God it wasn’t real. That I wasn’t really sitting at a bus stop with a carrion and no idea where any of these buses even go.

I always wondered how people became homeless. I can’t believe this is how I’m finding out. Are you fucking kidding me, man? What the fuck?

Had I fucking known that I was gonna end up here I would have done everything so differently. I wish I had known this before G-E-D and B-M-W and D-U-I.

All of those letters make me wanna fucking kill myself. F-U-C-K U-P. That’s me. That’s my autobiography. I wish I had known this before I sent all my friends to H-E-L-L.

I wish I had listened to D-A-D or G-O-D and become a P-H-D or a C-E-O. I wish someone would send me a genie to grant me these wishes. I would wish for it to be less humid.

I wish someone had told me that I wasn’t gonna be taken care of for the rest of my life. I would have learned a fucking trade. Then again, no I wouldn’t have because if that were true I wouldn’t be in this predicament.

I wish an angel or the devil would have come to me a year ago and let me know that this was gonna happen ahead of time. Then again, I wouldn’t have listened to an angel or the devil back then anyway. I would have thought it was just a bad trip.

Jesus! I hate myself so much right now. No wonder I have fucking no one. I don’t even fucking like me. I can’t stand being alone with myself and it’s only been a few hours.

And this fucking bench… I wanna know what ASSHOLE decided to make this bench so hard, the backrest so short. And who the fuck thought it was a good idea to make the armrest out of steal or whatever the fuck metal this shit is made of? I can’t even lean on my elbow because it feels bruised. My back is aching and my ass is sore.

The only thing that’s keeping me on this bench is my pride. I’d rather be waiting for a bus to I don’t know where than be wandering the streets with a carryon bag twenty miles from the nearest airport.

My underwear is already damp with the humidity and my armpits are moist. Not to the point where I smell, but to the point that I feel gross and want to take one of those quick showers I took for granted.

I never thought you could take a shower for granted.

I should have shaved my head and my pubes and every hair on my body when I still had a bathroom. It’s so hot all I want to do is take off all my clothes. My face feels greasy and my balls are sticking to my leg. My thighs feel like they are a hundred degrees hotter than the rest of my body.

I hate these jeans. My ankles are sweaty and I can feel the sweat dripping from the hair on my legs.

I don’t understand why I’m being made to feel more uncomfortable than I have my entire life on a night like this. God, haven’t I been through enough?

I know I’ve been a fucking douche, but there are a million people who have done worse shit and I’ve never seen them out on their asses. Why me? What the fuck did I do that was so bad?

I still don’t get it.

Why cant I just pay for all my sins when I die, like in purgatory or something? Why do I have to go through this now? Why am I even still alive? I should have been dead the night of my DUI, the night I overdosed, the time I got beat up.

Why the fuck didn’t I just die then? I didn’t give a shit if I survived any of that.

I wanna just lay down on the pavement and hope for someone to run me over, but I doubt I’d be that lucky. Some sick fuck up there wants me to be a survivor for some twisted reason.

I don’t know why. I have nothing to contribute to this world. I’ve been on this earth for a quarter of a century and I’ve never worked an honest day in my life. The only reason I haven’t killed myself is because I couldn’t do that to her.

All I wanna do right now is run to her grave and break through the sod and the soil with my bare hands and pull her out of there and hold her like she used to hold me and tell her not to worry about me and that I’m sorry and that I love her and I will always love her and that I wish it was me who was down there all by myself and not her.

I want to smell the way she smelled before she got sick.

I want to be with her so badly right now. My mind does not comprehend why we can’t be together. It feels unnatural that she be kept away from me. The image of all that dirt surrounding her makes my heart weigh more than I can carry.

I wonder if this feeling will ever go away. I wonder if my heart will ever feel light again. Right now it’s so heavy I can’t breathe.

I just want to feel her presence. I want to pretend that none of this ever happened and I want to be home.

I don’t want to be here in the middle of nowhere with nowhere to go.

Alone.

I’m alone. The feeling makes me want to vomit. I feel a pressure in my chest like it’s about to erupt. I feel the weight of everything I have to do right now just to survive.

I wish I would have spent more time just sitting next to her in the living room watching TV or reading magazines. Or heeded her warnings about wasting my life.

I can’t give in to this reality. I’m still hoping to wake up. The fact that I have nobody and I have nowhere to go and that everything I have done in my entire life has gotten me to this bench that smells like piss and vomit makes me want to hide my face.

I feel so exposed. I can’t face this. This can’t be reality.

If I accept it, it becomes real and I’m not strong enough to deal with that kind of reality right now.

Now I understand why bums always spend their money on booze. Who the fuck would want to be conscious of the fact that they have nowhere to live and nothing to live for? The thought alone makes me wanna smoke and drink myself to oblivion.

Worse still is the thought that I am one of those bums. I’m gonna be just as dirty and smelly as they are in a couple of days, my clothes are gonna get all raggedy and I’m gonna be all unshaven just like the bums I would walk by on my way to clubs downtown back when I was somebody.

I wish I were young enough to be an orphan.

I wish I were sick at the hospital. I’d take the physical pain. People take care of you when you’re in physical pain. I’ve never felt so betrayed by my health before.

I resent GOD and life and everything else that fucking exists for making her sick and giving me health that I don’t FUCKING deserve or want.

Holy shit.

That guy scared the fuck out of me. He’s wearing what seems to be a waiter’s uniform. Normally, I would be a little scared to encounter someone on the street in the middle of the night, but right now it just makes me feel less alone. I’m glad I’m not the only one that has to deal with this isolation from comfort.

He’s probably wondering what some random pussy in two hundred dollar jeans is doing at a bus stop in the middle of the night. And what’s up with the fucking suitcase?

I’ve become that bag lady I used to see at McDonalds way back when. Oh God, why did I make fun of her with her three suitcases and all her newspapers? Is that why I’m here? Is that why I have to suffer like this?

Now I wanna tell her I’m so sorry for making fun of her in my head. I wanna go back in time to help her with her luggage. I want to tell her I don’t care that she smells and I know that she acts insane because if she looked at her situation rationally all she would do is cry.

I want her to know that she doesn’t have to carry that baggage by herself.

I want to see her smile. A real smile, with light eyes and a light heart. Even if it only lasts five seconds. That’s the only thing on earth that would make me feel better right now.

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten high, gotten drunk or gotten off. I don’t even know when the next time I get off will be. It’s not like I have anywhere to jack off.

I wish I were in my room the way it was before she got sick, listening to Sinatra in my underwear with a glass of wine.

I loved the dark blue walls of my room and my autographed movie posters. Not mine anymore, actually. They are now the property of some motherfucker that bid like fifty cents more that the highest bidder at the last second of the auction. I almost didn’t want to send it to him for pulling that shit cause I hate that, but I needed those fifty fucking cents. Not that they ended up helping much in the end. I’m still here.

Sweaty, stranded and singular.

Where the fuck am I supposed to go? What happens if I get too tired to sit up? What if I get hungry? What if it rains? What if I get a cut or get beat up? I can’t go anywhere I’ve been before.

It would be too humiliating.

They’ll probably laugh in my face. This motherfucker finally got what was coming to him. What a fucking idiot. Burning what little money he had left. Selling all his shit on eBay and still foreclosing.

He should have thought of that before he threw so much money away on all those bottles, that grass, that blow. That’s what he gets for being so frivolous.

That’s what he gets for not caring enough about her to sober up when she was dying. Let him sleep outside for a while. It’ll be good for him.

FUCK ME.

I should just wait for this bus to come and take me out of this town. I need to start over. But I don’t want to be away from her. If I leave what’s left of her here, I’ll have less than I do now (if that’s possible).

Oh God please don’t tell me that pain in my stomach means I’m hungry.

I don’t wanna deal with that right now. What the fuck am I supposed to feed myself? The money I have in my pocket won’t get me dinner anywhere I used to eat.

I could go to Publix and buy something, but what? I don’t have a fridge or microwave or utensils and I can’t leave my shit outside. Someone will steal what little stuff I have left.

I should just fucking starve to death. Mom used to always tell me I would if she weren’t around.

Oh God why did you take her away from me? Why did she have to be the one to suffer? Why is it always the ones who don’t deserve it?

I wish I could go back to when I was small enough to crawl onto her lap and lay my head on her chest and listen to her voice when she talked on the phone the way it sounded when I was in her belly.

I just want to feel what it’s like to be held by my mom again. I want that peace of knowing that there will always be someone there for me even when I don’t deserve it.

Why did she have to die? Why did she have to feel so horrible? Why couldn’t she live a long life like so many other people? It’s not fair.

I want to be dead with her. I don’t want to be here without my mom. It’s too hard. Every time I feel like I may be able to keep on living I think of her and I can do nothing but cry.

We are so helpless as human beings. We can’t control half as much as we think we can. We can’t stay healthy even if we tried. We can’t control the weather. We can’t stop people from dying no matter how bad we want to. We can’t even control our own thoughts, our emotions, or even our hunger. We need so much.

Why did God make us so needy?

Why can’t we just be?

The only reason I have to thank God right now is that my mom didn’t have to see this.

I’m sure she knew it was gonna happen. I’m sure that’s one of the main reasons she didn’t want to die. I know she wanted to live as long as possible to make sure this didn’t happen to me, but life had other plans.

I can’t not go along with it. That’s what sucks about reality. That lack of control you have over it. Maybe that’s why I was always out of it.

That I could control.

I could make myself feel really good. I could escape from it. Not that it got me anywhere.

When you go get to a certain age virtually unscathed, you start believing you are invincible and you do stupid shit that will inevitably lead you to a place like this.

Now how the fuck do I get out?

When you’re sick you go to the doctor, when you are hungry you go to a restaurant, when you are homeless you go to… a shelter?

Do they accept people at any hour of the night? Do you have to be recommended by like, a priest or a psychiatrist?

Is it a big warehouse with a bunch of cots with bums clutching their bags while sleeping with one eye open?

Do you have to like prove you’re homeless? Do you have to like register yourself with the city? Do they make you get a job?

I don’t know how the fuck I’m supposed to get a job. I’m a gay ex-con with a GED and a suit with a hole on the crotch. I don’t think that qualifies me to do anything other than mop the floors at Popeye’s Chicken.

Chicken.

My fucking mouth is watering. I’m gonna have to get up before I get so freaking hungry I pass out.

It’s just that first step that’s killing me.

I don’t even know if I should go left or right.

What’s the closest place that serves food and is open at this time? I wanna say there’s a McDonald’s a couple miles east of here.

Miles.

I have to walk miles to put food in my stomach. I remember when I would complain when Mom would make me go downstairs and sit at the table to eat.

God, if I keep on thinking about those times I’m never gonna get off this bench.

As fucked as it is, this is my new reality. I can’t help but think of all those people who told me I couldn’t walk a mile in their shoes.

I’m finding it impossible to even take a step in mine. They’re not even technically mine. She bought them for me.

You know what? I’m never gonna get up to feed myself. I don’t give a fuck about me. It has taken all this time that the only thing I really ever cared about is gone.

I have nothing left.

But she does.

I may have fucked things up when she was still here, but I believe she’s in heaven.

I know she’s probably looking down on me hoping to God, who probably has his arm around her, that I start to listen to them.

That I start to get it. That I stop being the idiot I have been my entire life. That I get off this nasty bench and take my first step in the right direction.

And for the first time in my life, I want the same thing for myself. I want to get the fuck off this nasty, hard, smelly bench just as much as they want me to. I want to be as far away from this bench as possible, and not only as a measure of distance.

But I don’t wanna ask God for help.

I’m afraid I’d be struck by lightning if I ask for more than I’ve squandered in this lifetime.

I’m just gonna have to muster up all the courage I’ve ever dreamed of possessing and walk into that McDonalds with my embarrassing suitcase, feed myself, find a place to sleep and figure out the next step from there.

All I have to do is take the most difficult step I’ve had to take in my entire life. I have to do it myself and I can’t let the next one scare me into staying seated.

That’s how I got here in the first place and i don’t ever wanna be here again. I never want to see this street again and I don’t even want to see a picture of this bench for as long as I live. This bench represents everything that is fucked up about me.

Or maybe I should take a picture of it when I can afford a camera again and show it to people to make sure that the only people sitting on this bench are waiting for a bus to take them somewhere.

I don’t want anybody else to ever feel like this.

I’m gonna be the angel and the devil I needed before because that’s the only reason I can think that God has kept me alive.

And I want to make her proud of me.

I couldn’t do it when she was here because I was a fucking idiot, but now I get it.

I have to start believing in her belief in me.

I have to believe it because I have nothing but that and a carryon bag to get me off of this bench, on my feet and in any direction but where I came from.

II

“Tonight we honor a man who managed to lose everything, earn it back tenfold and give it all away again in the name of charity. He is truly an outstanding citizen and recipient of this years award for Humanitarian of the Year, Mr. Jorge L. Rodriguez.”

“I am so humbled by this award that the only way to express my gratitude is to thank God for two things. I want to thank God for giving me the time that I had with my mother on this earth, and I want to thank God for showing me how to love. And not necessarily in the romantic sense, although I do love and appreciate you, honey.

As most of you know, I became homeless a few months after my mom died. I was twenty five and had no idea how I ended up sitting on a bench after midnight with nowhere to go. It wasn’t until years later that I came to understand that the ‘where’ wasn’t the problem. It was the ‘who.’

After my mom died I had no loved ones. And it wasn’t because life was cruel to me, it was because I was cruel to me.

I never let anyone love me because I didn’t love me. The only person with enough unconditional love for me to withstand my self-destruction was Mom. And as soon as she was gone, I imploded.

After that I spent most of my time trying to kill myself in cowardly ways. I abused drugs, alcohol and sex in the hopes that they would kill me accidentally and I would be able to make my exit from this world quick and painless.

Fortunately for me, although I resented life for it at the time, they didn’t kill me. They just robbed me of everything but a pair of soiled jeans that I still look at today every time I think life is becoming too difficult.

I thought it would be so much easier by now, but it’s not. I can’t help but still want my mother here with me, to show her the man I’ve become.

I’m sure she had something to do with it from up there because I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere without her.

I am so grateful for this honor and the people in my life, many who are in this ballroom tonight, but I can’t help but still feel resentful to life for taking my mom away from me.

I want to dedicate the award to her for being the only person who believed in me when nobody else did.

Not even me.

For her unconditional love, because I now know how hard it was to love me back then.

Mom, if I had one wish tonight, it would be to go back in time and tell you how much I loved you while you were still alive. I was never able to give you peace back then, but I hope to make up for that by the time we meet again.

Thank you all and God bless.”

back to Short Fiction

Mendiola Delivers Another Platinum Bomb

Part 1

“How do you think the release of this video will affect the sales of your upcoming album?”

“I haven’t given it much thought, really. I leave sales up to management and the label,” Derek responds with ease.

It’s a sunny spring afternoon in Miami Beach when Derek Mendiola, the gay Marine whose career exploded in 2005 after he won a nationally televised singing contest, sits down for press interviews on the terrace of the Tides Hotel overlooking Ocean Drive. With his third studio album to be released within a week, he has done nothing but press during his short visit back to his hometown.

“I see. And when was the footage taken?” Mr. Guilfoyle probes.

“How is that relevant to this interview?”

Craig Guilfoyle, staff writer for X Weekly, ignores Derek’s objection to his line of questioning. It has been less than a month since a sex tape featuring Derek and a former boyfriend leaked and the singer has yet to comment publicly about it.

“Were you aware that you were being filmed?”

“Look, my job is to sell my record, not your magazine, so feel free to write whatever you want about anything else.”

Guilfoyle smirks. “It’s funny you mention record sales because there are some who say that you leaked the video yourself to make up for the poor performance of your first single. Would you like to address that instead?”

Derek’s mouth is shut, his jaw popping with agitation. He looks away from the table where they are sitting toward the tourists walking down Ocean Drive. The sun could not be any brighter, the air thicker. Derek wishes he could enjoy being back home. He turns back to Guilfoyle, who is waiting for an answer.

“Wow, so someone leaks a five minute video of me taking it up the ass and suddenly civility goes out the window?”

“Are you saying you had nothing to do with the release?” Guilfoyle asks.

This is the final interview Derek has scheduled for the day. He considers stonewalling until their time is up, but decides to ignore the advice of his publicist and engage.

“When’s the last time you had sex, Mr. Guilfoyle?” Derek asks.

Guilfoyle rolls his eyes. “Mr. Mendiola, if you don’t want to address the sex tape that’s fine, but you have to understand that it’s my job to ask these questions. I’m giving you the opportunity to set the record straight here.”

Derek looks at Guilfoyle in disbelief. “Sorry, but it’s not my job to tell you what you wanna hear.”

Guilfoyle laughs. “Do you really think I flew here from LA to jot down some talking points from your publicist about your record?”

Derek looks away for a few seconds then turns back to Guilfoyle, who is sitting quietly across the table waiting for a response. “I’ll tell you what. If you wanna capitalize off my exploits, you have to give me what I want first.”

“I don’t have to give you anything.”

“No, you don’t, but I have something you want. So, we can either sit here in silence until our time is up or you can play along.”

Guilfoyle looks at Derek with consternation. He is tempted to get up and leave, but he can’t go back to LA without an exclusive. “What do you want?”

Derek laughs in satisfaction. “I want you to suck my dick.”

Guilfoyle blanches.

Derek erupts into laughter. “Relax, Bro. I’m only kidding.”

“Well what the fuck do you want, then?”

“I want you to answer all of the questions I ask you. I will match every one of your answers with an answer of my own.”

Guilfoyle looks at him for a few seconds. A smirk slithers onto his face. “Okay, but I ask the first question.”

Derek reaches over the table and shakes Guilfoyle’s hand. “Shoot.”

“Did you leak your own sex tape for publicity?”

“No, I did not,” Derek says, matter-of-factly. “My turn.”

Guilfoyle begins to think he may have gotten the shorter end of the stick. “Go ahead.”

“Well, I’m assuming that you’ve seen the video in its entirety – you know, for research – and I’m curious about what you thought of my performance.”

Guilfoyle shakes his head the way a parent would when their teenager acts up. “I think you looked desperate.”

Derek laughs. “That’s not a review of my performance, Mr. Critic.”

“I agreed to give you an answer and I did. Now it’s my turn,” Guilfoyle responds.

Dale.”

“Were you aware that you were being filmed?”

“Yup,” Derek offers. “Have you ever had sex with another man?”

“Oh come on.”

“That’s not an answer, my friend.”

Guilfoyle is ready to wrap up. Derek’s admission is good enough to make his editor happy, but now he feels personally violated. “No, I haven’t. Now, how does it feel to be more famous for a tape of you being sodomized than for all of the mediocre songs you’ve recorded over the past few years?”

Derek is taken aback by the aggressive turn Guilfoyle has taken, but he doesn’t let on. He giggles, rubs the inside of his thigh, and looks up at his adversary. His initial inclination is to dodge the question with a sarcastic response, but he decides to play along instead. “Honestly, I mourn for the people that value voyeurism over art. More so, though, I loathe the people who perpetuate this false paradigm by sensationalizing things like celebrity sex tapes while ignoring matters of social importance.” Derek pauses. As much as it pains him, he decides that he will give Guilfoyle the true story just to get it off his chest. “I made that video with my boyfriend of five years the weekend before I left for my first tour in Iraq. I wanted him to have it while I was gone since we would have to spend the next year hiding our relationship from the military.” Derek wants to leave it at that, but he realizes that he has not addressed the leak. “We broke up a few months ago and I didn’t even remember that tape existed until I got a call from my manager about it a few weeks ago.”

Guilfoyle sits across the table without reacting. He knows celebrities to feign sincerity in interviews for their own purposes and can’t help but remain skeptical.

Derek is ripping a white cocktail napkin and staring at the pieces of paper piling up next to his sweaty glass of lemon water. “I’m sure the truth will put your readers to sleep, so feel free to print whatever you want. Call me a nympho, call me shameless or out of control, whatever sells… I really don’t care.”

The lack of eye contact lets Guilfoyle know that he has gotten all that he will get out of Derek. “I think I have all I need here. Don’t forget to check out next week’s issue of X.”

“I don’t read X,” Derek says. He walks down the front steps of the art deco hotel without acknowledging Guilfoyle again.

Crossing the street toward Lummus Park, he takes off his shirt, revealing his tan torso. He has a USMC tattoo on his vascular arm, a six pack and a platinum crucifix hanging around his neck. Within seconds, he is lost in the flashes of cameras and crowds of tourists.

Part 2

A few days later, Derek is back in Los Angeles rehearsing for the countless performances he would give on most of the major networks when his publicist, Geraldine Micheals, calls.

“I’m gonna take five,” he says, and steps outside to take the call.

“Great news, D. You look fabulous on the cover of X this week. I just picked it up on my way to the office. Those abs… Hot!”

Derek wonders what angle Guilfoyle decided to take with the cover story. “What about the review?” he asks.

“Right, right. Before we talk about that let me ask you a question: what exactly did you say to Guilfoyle during the interview?”

Derek freezes like a kid who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “Why?”

“Well, he doesn’t seem to like you very much, so I’m gonna assume you didn’t stick to the talking points I sent you earlier that day.”

“The guy wouldn’t shut the fuck up about the tape.”

“Oh God, please don’t tell me you hit him, Derek. I’m running out of excuses for you here. I mean, we love publicity, but you can’t be portrayed as violent anymore. The public will turn on you and move onto a less aggressive bad boy. We discussed this last time, remember?”

“I didn’t hit him.”

“Well you must have done something to set this guy off. He did everything but post a picture of himself taking a shit on your CD. I mean, it’s not like anyone is gonna actually read the review, thanks to the photo spread, but Jeez. He went for the jugular.”

“Well, I don’t care what that low life thinks about me,” Derek says. He hears another phone ring on Geraldine’s end.

“That’s good, Honey. I’ll let you get back to rehearsals, then. I have New York on the other line. Ciao, Caio!”

“Bye.” Derek walks over to the black SUV he came in and pulls his laptop out of a gym bag to check out X online. He knows that he could have handled the interview better, but he had hoped that his sincerity would show the guy that he was a normal person just like everyone else.

Part 3

Mendiola Delivers Another Platinum Bomb
*
Review by Craig Guilfoyle

It comes as no surprise to most that the release of Derek Mendiola’s latest musical endeavor, Shut the F**k up and Listen, coincides with the leak of another, less artistic, Mendiola release. I was asked to sit down with the star to discuss the new album in Miami.

Unfortunately, it seems that Mendiola was not as interested in discussing the record as he was his sexual exploits. And after hearing the record, which Z Entertainment made sure did not leak prior to its release date, I understood why.

This album follows the same formula for pop mediocrity as Mendiola’s previous lackluster attempts: a single with beats from the latest ‘it’ producer, a mediocre cover of a song made famous by a female vocalist and nine or ten album fillers. The material that Derek presents would not have been acceptable as a B-side by any other male vocalist. However, every other make vocalist out there does not have the media coverage and Internet notoriety that Mendiola does.

It is clear that the success of his music can only be attributed to people’s fascination with his public indiscretions and the media coverage that follows. Hardly a news cycle goes by without mention of his antics. His music, however, generally slips under the radar.

I feel it is beneath the integrity of this publication to actually dignify the record with more than one star. I would not give it a single star if it meant that someone would opt out of buying another album to give this one a chance. There are dozens of truly gifted musicians who cannot break because every entertainment news outlet is too busy vying for more news about Derek Mendiola, the celebrity.

If Mendiola really wanted to make a decent record, he would take from all of these sensational experiences we are forced to hear about ad nauseum and express himself through music, not his sexual dalliances. Being a celebrity and having decent sales opening week with a minimal investment in marketing should not green light an album like this.

I refuse to review another Derek Mendiola album until he decides to take music seriously and put out material worthy of its distribution, not only because it liberates me from throwing away another forty five minutes of my life, but because he represents everything that makes pop music reprehensible to anyone with an ear.

Hey Derek, why don’t you shut the f**k up until you have a decent album to release?

Part 4

After reading the review, Derek sits on the black asphalt of the parking lot and takes in everything that Guilfoyle wrote. His first inclination is to get him on the phone and challenge him to say all of that to his face, but then he remembers what Geri told him about fighting.

Derek closes his laptop and grabs his mobile phone. He wants to call Geraldine back and figure out how to go after Guilfoyle, but he realizes that going after his critics and creating yet another public spectacle would only play into his game.

He opens the computer instead and re-reads the review. Derek has spent most of his career fighting for the opportunity to release his own songs, but his label insists on having him stick to formulaic pop written by up-and-coming producers to please his young fanbase. He has never felt more alone and frustrated both personally and artistically.

He closes his computer again, and instead of reaching for a phone to call the media, he grabs his guitar. He begins to strum the chords that speak to his soul – none of which appear on any of his records.

His five minute break from rehearsal is almost gone and the idea of going on every network to perform songs that mean nothing to him makes him want to run away from the whole thing and get a job at a VA hospital, writing music on his guitar in his spare time. Then he remembers the contracts he has signed with labels, concert promoters, radio stations, agents and management. His sadness quickly turns to anger.

Before going back into the rehearsal space, he places his laptop in the middle of the parking lot, picks up his acoustic guitar and begins to smash his computer with it. Still somewhat intact, he grabs the laptop and hurls it against the white exterior wall of the building, chipping some of the plaster and shattering the computer screen. His guitar strings are broken, so he rips them off and uses the neck of the guitar to smash the body until he is standing above yet another mess.

“Yo, we need you back onstage, Bro,” his tour manager says, completely ignoring the shards of wood and silicone chips that surround the star.

“Alright,” Derek says calmly. Before going back in, he kneels down and sorts through the pieces of his laptop until he finds the hard drive. He walks back to the SUV and places it in his gym bag, then walks back into rehearsal. “Can you have somebody clean that up before I’m done with rehearsal, please?”

“No problem.”

back to Short Fiction