[story] Friends and Foes

This was written in February 2009 for Literary Traditions IV – we have to write a short story as our “term paper” for the class, and so early in the semester we had to write a scene as practice (the scene didn’t necessarily have to be related to the story). And it had to be “realist” fiction, which is not what I usually write (since I hold Gene Wolfe’s views on the matter – speculative fiction is the true mainstream in literature). But I had a go at it and produced this.

My teacher liked it but thought the character’s motives made no sense, saying: “The scene lacks sufficient context […] You suggest that there’s a psychologically fraught backstory w/o giving us nary a glimpse of it.” Now, I found that odd, since the main character is basically me, and the events in the story basically did happen… but I guess that means I have a “psychologically fraught backstory”. Cool.

Friends and Foes

“Want to come up?” she asked as we walked back to the apartments from dinner. “There’s some people over. You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to.”

Why not? I hung out with Mary, sometimes, not enough, almost never with her friends. Not all together. It might be interesting; you never knew. Train wrecks often were. I spent too much time at my own place playing Smash anyway. It’d be good to get out.

We walked up the stairs. She knocked at the door while I waited off to the side, hands in my pockets, not out of sight but feeling that I ought to be. Someone opened the door and Mary walked in, silently inviting me to follow. I stepped into the frame, then paused.

The jabbering of the crowd had quieted as Mary entered, and they turned to the doorway — to me. I stared back. An awkward silence descended.

I knew most of them; I didn’t dislike perhaps a third of them, a third scattered throughout the swarm. As I should have expected. Nowhere to go, and Mary had begun to mingle.

Too many of them grinned hospitably. “Look who it is.”

The simpering door-opener turned toward me. “The more the merrier.”

I stood there dumbly. Most of them turned back to their conversations. A girl there I was actually friends with made a prediction. “He won’t stay.”

Mary turned back to me, smiled naively. “Come on.”

I didn’t. What had I expected? She belonged there, but… those two-thirds — they would have welcomed me.

I hesitated, then slowly closed the door and walked away. I trudged down the stairs and across the courtyard to 23A, safely away from the harpies’ nest. Three of the guys were gathered round the television, controllers in hand. “Hey.”

They clicked away at the red and green and yellow buttons. “Hey.”

I sat down, picking up the fourth controller. The game ended, I joined as Wolf, and a new round began.

Left, left, smash left, B, dodge right. “Damn, I’m already at 40%!”

Left, A, A, A, up smash, up smash. “Dude, Wolf’s up smash is BS.”

Up smash, dodge left, side smash. “You’re Bowser, ‘course you got pwned.”

Up, right, up, side-B. “Huh, I thought I would make that jump. . . ah well.”

“Maybe next time.”

“Maybe… All right then, final battle, Final Dest.?”


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