Out of the Senseless

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A teen boy explores the mysteries of the tragedies in his life with his great grandfather.

Submitted: March 13, 2013

A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 13, 2013




My mom found out that I played Russian roulette, so she got my great grandpa to lecture me while he's still in town. Even though it was a punishment, I wanted to finally meet him. Great Grandpa Zeke was a 105 years old. He had seven times more experience than me. Zeke traveled the world, living off chess and card games. He did that for thirty years, ever since his wife and all his kids died.

I shivered out of a dream, and there he stood at the foot of my bed. Zeke looked like Clint Eastwood, only taller, darker, and older. He wore a black trench coat. It draped below him from his hunching.

“Dylan, right?” He didn't sound old. Just deep.

I sat up and nodded. Cool air reminded me that I wasn't wearing a shirt. I folded my arms to hide my hairless chest and my bulging ribs.

“I'm Zeke,” he said.

I gave him a nod. “Wanna see my rock collection? I have a really cool one.”

“No.” He pointed at an oil painting on a wall behind me. The painting showed a cadaver holding a revolver to his own head. “Did you paint that?”

“Yeah, it's a poster for a horror movie I made.”

Zeke stepped to the cadaver painting for a closer look. “Tell me the synopsis.”

“It's about a scientist who's trying to discover souls, so he cuts through layers of people's bodies-- their skin, and muscles, and organs.”

Zeke looked back at me. “How'd you think of that?”

I shrugged with one arm. “These things just pop up.”

Zeke pulled out my computer chair and eased into it like a hot tub. “Has to be something that inspired you.”

“Okay, I guess there was. So a while back my dad was eating a stack of pancakes, and he had a stroke. Few years later, he had another stroke while eating lasagna. That one killed him. You might've heard.” My arms unfolded and flailed to my words. “Notice that during the only two strokes in his life, he ate layered food both times. Now, my dad wrestled in high school, so he wanted me to wrestle, too. After he died, for him, I gave wrestling a chance. My wrestling coach taught me that if I'm being pinned, then it's best to lay on my side.” I fell onto my side. “See? On your side, it's easier to breathe.

That advice saved my life at a rock concert.” I rose to my knees. “The concert was in a basement-type place. Someone threw a Molotov cocktail, and the fire spread. Smoke hovered everywhere. People didn't know where the fire exits were, so dozens went for the same door. There were layers and layers of people on top of each other. I was somewhere in the middle. We could barely move, so I stopped trying. I jostled onto my side so I could breathe easier, just like my wrestling coach taught me. More and more people added to the layers, crushing the rest of us. There were gasping sounds all around me-- people suffocating. I was the only one who survived in all those layers of human.” I sat on my feet. “I examined all this like it was a Stanley Kubrick movie, and I figured it out. My dad's death was a sacrifice so I could learn how to survive the fire. The layers of pancakes, lasagna, and human symbolize that there's not a surface meaning. I have to dig deep into the layers.”

Zeke's eyes squinted into slits.

“That's how I found the real meaning, which is that someone is looking out for me. I have to be alive because, some day, I'm gonna do something totally significant. So when horrible stuff happens, it's not random. There is meaning in even the worst tragedies.” I stepped off my bed, not caring that I'm only wearing plaid boxers. “Okay, here's where it gets kinda weird.” I began pacing from wall to wall. “Few weeks after the fire, friend of mine invited me to shoot some trees with his brother's revolver. I met up with my friend in his kitchen, and he was eating three foods: a cup of pudding arranged in the three layers, chocolate, vanilla, and chocolate, again, a Pb and J sandwich with three layers of bread, and the last one was a Sandy's Slider with three patties.”

Zeke squinted so much I couldn't see his eyes anymore.

I stopped pacing next to Zeke. I sat on the edge of my bed in front of him. “These layers were a sign to dig deeper. It couldn't have been a coincidence that I saw these layers on the first day I'd touch a gun. It had to be a test of my faith and courage. Once I got my hands on the revolver, I opened the chamber, removed three bullets, spun the chamber, closed it, aimed at my head, and pulled the trigger.” I held up three fingers, then put them down. “I pulled the trigger three times.” A smile took over my face. “I passed the test-- earned the luck I was given. My friend thought I was crazy, so he told my mom.” I interlaced my fingers on my lap. “So I guess all that kinda inspired the horror movie.”

Zeke's eyelids pealed back. He leaned closer to me. “Dylan, in all my hundred and five years, I have heard many, many stories, but yours is the only one which has so much stupidity and arrogance that it is grotesque. I feel literally sick from it.” Zeke slouched in the computer chair. “Jesus Christ.”

Warm blood pooled in my face.

“You think out of all those people who died in that fire, you're the only one worth saving? Yeah, of course, none of them would've done anything significant, but you sure will, right?” Zeke leaned in so close, I felt his breath as he said, “I've known plenty of self-centered sons o' bitches, but-- goddamn, you outdo them all.”

My head tilted down.

“I'm sorry that your dad died,” he said. “All you have now is your mom, and all she has is you. Did you consider her well-being when you pulled the trigger three times?”

My back arched down.

“Listen.” Zeke swatted my wooden desk.

My head jerked up.

“I asked you a question.”

“No, I didn't think of my mom's well-being when I pulled the trigger.” Puddles of tears surfaced.

“In 1932, my wife gave birth to Nancy, my first child. Smallpox infected Nancy when she was two. All of her skin was covered in puss-filled bumps-- everywhere. My wife and I prayed for hours each day, but Nancy died anyway. Billions of children have died, and with no greater good. If you believe that a righteous force would only save you, then you either don't use your brain, or you don't care about other people.” Zeke coughed and leaned back in the chair. “Next time you see pudding, are you gonna play Russian roulette again?”

“I won't.” I let my back fall across the bed. My head hung off the edge. “What is wrong with me?”

“Everyone sees patterns in randomness, and everyone tries to make sense out of the senseless. I did for my first few decades.”

I sat up. “Really?”

“I have one story like yours. Happened a hundred years ago. When I was eating breakfast, my mom left her purse across the table. The weasel in me said that I should steal a nickel, but I decided that wouldn't be fair to my mom. A moment later, a basketball-sized asteroid shot through a window and over the purse, then crashed onto the floor. It would've crushed me. After that, any time I had to choose between good and evil, I always remembered that asteroid.”

I ran my fingers through my brown hair and said, “Woah. What happened to the asteroid?”

“I kept a piece of it, but I sold it recently. Some sucker bought it for four hundred bucks.”

“Four hundred bucks? Hold up. After my dad died, my mom gave me money to cheer me up, so I bought an asteroid on Ebay-- an asteroid that crashed a hundred years ago.” Half my mouth made a smug smile. “Now do you wanna see my rock collection?”

Zeke's head bobbled.

I reached for a dresser behind me and pulled out a drawer. I picked up the asteroid. It was shaped like a round, bumpy piece of lasagna, which is why I chose it. I held the asteroid below Zeke's eyes.

Zeke's jaw hung. “I owed a gambling debt. Without your four hundred bucks, I would've had to sell my wedding ring.”

I failed to keep a smile from taking over my face. “I want you to have it.”

Zeke picked up the asteroid with two hands. His eyes rolled up, then back down to the asteroid. “There's no righteous force, but maybe there's a force that's just having a good time.”

© Copyright 2020 AdamKadmon. All rights reserved.

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