Short Story: Where Shelter Must Be Sought Outside the Home

A short, dumpy, lumpy middle-aged man, with a bulbous nose and an orb-shaped head trudged aggressively up to Daniel. Daniel was sitting on a bench outside the Find it-Get it-Go convenience store, but he stood up when this bumbling, unnerving idiot accosted him.

“Please sir, please, I have a favor to ask,” the man begged.

Daniel found himself shifting his weight away from the man, maintaining his position but reluctantly so. The man’s eyes were racing; his comb-over was clumped together by the copious sweat dripping from his scalp.

“Uh…Wh…What can I help you with?” Daniel stammered.

“Please sir, I’ve made a terrible mistake, and I need someone…you…to punch me in the face. Really give me a sweet one, black eyes, bloody nose, knock me to the dirt!”

“Why would I want to do that? You haven’t done anything to me,” Daniel inquired.

“Sir…I need you to hit me. I need someone to knock some sense into me, and the only way I’ll get any sense is if you bash me with it.”

This ridiculous logic struck Daniel as very odd. Daniel believed that no matter how hard he hit this man, nothing other than physical damage would be accomplished.

“Pleeeease, I have cheated on my wife, I never talk to my little boy, the weather in my head is always cloudy,” the odd man was suddenly emboldened, he stood more erect and lifted his chin, “Give me Sense, sir.”

Daniel stood there, thinking about it for nearly a minute. Though the logic did not make any sense to him, he was a bit stressed himself. Daniel, too, had fallen by the wayside in his love life. After two years of honeymoon stage, and a third year of nothing but torment and frustration, he had ended it with his girlfriend in May. It was now September, and not a night since that day in May, had Daniel spent sober, whether drunk on vodka or stoned, most often an excess of both. He couldn’t stand being alone. It was not that he felt loneliness, at this point he didn’t care if he ever had sex again, it was just that he no longer had someone who could calm him down, to make him feel relaxed when his mind began to tremble, when his despondency began to fester.

He took one step back, and electing to choose his weak hand, his left, laid a fat hook directly across the man’s lips. The man let out a howl, and fell to the ground hard. After a few seconds of rolling around, yelping pathetically, the man composed himself and rose to his feet.

“Oh, thank you, thank you so much, my generous and benevolent benefactor!”

The odd man sprang off down the road giddy with elation and epiphany, in what were now the tattered, rumpled clothes that only added to his pitiful condition.

Lighting a cigarette, Daniel sat down on the bench again, quizzical about the man’s strange request, and even stranger reaction to being pummeled. It was now three o’clock in the afternoon, and it was his day off. He worked multiple jobs, one as a grill cook in a diner, where the owner decorated a quaint, rustic motif by installing an old wood stove, an antique cupboard, and upon the walls, pictures of relatives long gone. One such picture was his great-great uncle returning from a rabbit hunt, standing on his porch clutching three dead rabbits by the ears in one hand and a long muzzle-loader in the other. Another was of his great-grandmother pretending to play the piano as she smiled pleasantly at the camera. His other job was substitute teaching at the middle school over in the next town, in which he always reveled in getting the chance to teach a history class, but for mathematics, he would merely hand out whatever problems the teacher had left for the students and sit at the desk, twiddling his thumbs, wishing they still allowed smoking indoors.

Most of his days off were spent in similar fashion as today. The Find it-Get it-Go was only a couple blocks from his house. On a daily basis, he would go in and buy a pack of Marlboro Reds and a large coffee, then sit outside on the bench, chain smoking and watching pedestrians and cars flash by in the hustle of their active, fulfilling lives. He never ceased to be fascinated by them, the other people of the world. Drivers would cut each other off then scream obscenities at the vehicle they cut off, as if they were at fault. People would walk by chattering business talk into their cell phones, or relaying harrowing epics of their grocery-store fiasco to the receptive listener on the other side of the line. He was puzzled by how everything he found so trivial, was treated so relevant and urgent by other people.

It was now six o’clock. Daniel sat up and walked down to the liquor store, then walked down a few blocks more to where his acquaintance, Eric, lived. A few minutes later, he walked out onto the sidewalk again and returned home.

In his kitchen, he tore open a bag of Ramon Noodles and placed a pot of water on the stove. In a separate pot he heated some frozen vegetables. He had already mixed up a vodka and Sprite and finished it before the water even began to boil. When the noodles and vegetables were finished he drained the water from the vegetables and mixed it with the Ramon. Sitting at his kitchen table he opened up his copy of “Becoming Visible: Women in European History” and read while he ate and drank.

After his meal, he rolled up a fat jay, plugged his iPod into his sound system, and blasted his mind while Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place” blasted from his stereo. Later on, he fell asleep on the sofa, while sexual performance enhancers advertised in thirty-minute segments, mumbled on the television.

The next day he was subbing for Mrs. Dewey’s sixth grade Math class. The students were acting rowdy, not really working on the assignment their teacher had left for them, but he didn't really care. He was again reading Becoming Visible, but his mind was elsewhere. He was preoccupied with thinking about the last five months of his life. He was fatigued by his lethargy and his over-analytic predisposition. Change must come from outside of me, from somewhere else or from someone else, but why should I expect it to come to me, why should I expect anyone to give a damn?

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Comments 22 comments

BumptiousQ profile image

BumptiousQ 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

Jambo, good oddball vibe with the dude in search of a pummeling. Definitely snared my attention!

My recommendation: Keep developing that comic, offbeat style. It most assuredly suits you!

jambo87 profile image

jambo87 6 years ago from Outer Space / Inner Space Author

Thank you BumptiousQ. Humor always makes a story more fun to read (and more fun to write)

BumptiousQ profile image

BumptiousQ 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

I definitely agree with that, man!

BennyTheWriter profile image

BennyTheWriter 6 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

Hey man, interesting story! This is really different. As BumptiousQ said, that opening hook with the offbeat humor really drew me in. I was expecting the odd guy to pop up later on, but what's interesting to me is the fact that he didn't. Instead you took us more into Daniel's thoughts and recent events in his life. It's making me wonder whether the odd guy in the beginning means more than one might think.

Nice work! I'm interested in what made you write the story the way you did.

jambo87 profile image

jambo87 6 years ago from Outer Space / Inner Space Author

Thanks Benny, I'm glad you liked the wacko too haha. And you're absolutely right, he does have a purpose (it corresponds directly with Daniel's concluding thoughts).

This story actual made me upset when I finished it. I wrote it from beginning to end, and when Daniel reaches his painful realization at the end, it really hit home. I was actually reluctant to return to this piece but then decided, "what the heck".

I'm discovering a pattern in my work: the juxtaposition on two themes. This one is comedy/introversion. Similarly, "Faulty Trousers" is comedy/violence. I always hope that I will make the reader laugh, or at least smirk.

BennyTheWriter profile image

BennyTheWriter 6 years ago from Northeastern U.S.A.

Good stuff. I like the juxtaposition pattern you're going with, and I think the theme of introversion is particularly interesting (maybe because I have some of the qualities of an introvert). It works well with comedy. It sort of brings comedy into the realm of the intellect and philosophy.

Awesome title, by the way.

My suspicion was right, then! But was that wacko guy the "change" that Daniel was seeking? Or was it his crazy logic? Is there a deeper, hidden message in what that guy said and wanted? (if there is, don't give it away too easily; I'd like to reread and see if I can discover it.)

Haha, sorry for asking too many questions!

jambo87 profile image

jambo87 6 years ago from Outer Space / Inner Space Author

Thank you Benny. Yeah...I'll leave the interpretation to you, my friend.

Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder

Very interesting story. I find change is hard to come by, no matter how one goes about it, and it is often painful, even when wanted.

jambo87 profile image

jambo87 6 years ago from Outer Space / Inner Space Author

Agreed Ivorwen. Thank you for your comments.

McHamlet profile image

McHamlet 6 years ago

I agree with the consensus here; it's a very interesting story. The first part in particular drew me in and was very well written, you had me with every word and I really wanted to know what it was all about. The second part in itself was also interesting and I share many of the feelings of alienation and bemusement at the nonsense and trivia of this world that the character expresses. My only critique (if you're interested) would be that the two parts didn't gel together quite well enough for me although I appreciate you are doing something different here and that has to be considered as well. If it were me I would probably try to integrate the second part into the end of the first. Anyway, good read and interesting, original approach. Cheers.

(Glad you mentioned one of my favourite tunes by Radiohead here by the way)

jambo87 profile image

jambo87 6 years ago from Outer Space / Inner Space Author

Thank you McHamlet, I'm glad you enjoyed it and thank you for taking the time to offer some advice. I do agree with you, the parts are like night and day. Often I try to combine two motifs or themes in my stories, and I don't think I've found the best way to do it here.

p.s. what a beautiful song, one of my favorites too, along with about most of their other songs!

SilverGenes 6 years ago

I'm also on board with the general consensus here. You had my attention right away and kept it. The second part seemed like a separate story but I'll leave that as McHamlet has covered it nicely. You have an interesting stye and are not afraid to experiment and that's what it's all about. Good stuff!

jambo87 profile image

jambo87 6 years ago from Outer Space / Inner Space Author

Thank you for your kind words SilverGenes. I don't know if I'm experimenting, I think I'm just weird.

bluejay900 profile image

bluejay900 6 years ago

I like your writing style a lot! You're very descriptive, and I loved the hub!

jambo87 profile image

jambo87 6 years ago from Outer Space / Inner Space Author

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it Blue.

atienza profile image

atienza 6 years ago from Northern California

I believe the oddball in the story is what Daniel fears becoming (or is on the road to being). Both men believed that internal change is driven by an external force. Liked the story and the delivery.

jambo87 profile image

jambo87 6 years ago from Outer Space / Inner Space Author

Exactly! Thank you, glad you enjoyed it.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Gosh..this is the best piece of writing I've read in a while. It's alot to ask...pleading for someone to smack you in the 'change your life'...but the oddball man 'found it-got it-and went'. I strongly identified with Daniel and his Ramon noodles and what I saw as his detached, escapist ways. Well done.

jambo87 profile image

jambo87 6 years ago from Outer Space / Inner Space Author

Thank you so much! I'm flattered. I think we've all been like Daniel at least once in our lives.

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

I laughed at the name you gave the convenience store, and the weird little man who "needed" sense knocked into him (and thanked Daniel for doing it) was right on. The introspective ending jarred me a bit, but your pattern of juxtiposing two disparate elements in a story is both experimental and brave. JAYE

jambo87 profile image

jambo87 6 years ago from Outer Space / Inner Space Author

Thank you Jaye, I happy to have made you laugh.

wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 4 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

This is a fine literary story. I must say the flow was smooth; it was over almost before I realized it had begun. Your prose is a pleasure to read in and of itself.

I looked at McHamlet's commentary, and as much as I respect him, I must say I don't share his critique. He said that the two parts were as well integrated as they could have been.

Frankly, I don't see it. First of all, I wasn't even aware of the story being in two parts. Yes, I saw the extra spaces, but I just thought it was a formatting decision, you know. Both 'parts,' flowed seamlessly for my money.

Anyhow, keep up the good work.


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