Mind the Funk

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

The scene takes place before, leading up to, and during an occupy (insert your choice of town or city here) protest. It's a portrait of two friends who are polar opposites: she's outgoing, involved, and upbeat; he's introspective, depressed, and slightly withdrawn. It's also a portrait of the dire reality (hinted at) facing today's youth - for that matter, much of the nation.

Mind the Funk

I come out of a deep sleep. I thought I heard a knock. But there are just the usual suspects—the sound of traffic, my neighbor (three doors down) fighting with his girlfriend, a dog barking. So I drift back to sleep.

A few moments later I hear it again.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, I think. They always come around at the worst time, like when you’re—

“Jason, I know you’re in there,” a voice says.

I know that voice. It’s Lila. What could she possibly want?

Shifting and squirming under my mound of blankets, I peel myself free and crash to the floor. Groping my way to the bathroom, I tell Lila to hold on a minute. I look in the mirror. I seem older than I am. I look at my hair. There’s one gray hair. Correction: there’s another one. I pull them both out. My eyes are bloodshot, and I haven’t been drinking. I stumble to the door and open it. Lila’s standing there with arms akimbo, just staring at me. In a blue sweatshirt and tattered jeans, smelling of jasmine perfume, hair slightly tousled, she looks and smells, well, like she came here to—

But she didn’t, of course. When I speak, it seems as though someone else is speaking.


“What’s goin’ on?” she says. “You’re not answering your phone.”

“It’s turned off,” I say, with a yawn.

She brushes past me.

“You’re feeling depressed again. Why it is so cold in here?”

“They’ve cutoff the electricity.”

“That figures,” she says. “Come on. You’re getting dressed.”

“Where are we going?”


So I get dressed and out we go, for a drizzly Saturday morning stroll. At some point during the journey, I become conscious of a part of me—a childlike part—that simply wants to know what's in store. It’s like the part that never grew up, the part that still likes to build forts and wage wars and stage mock sword fights, the part that secretly longs for conquest and adventure. It's the part that says yes to life and loves surprises (correction: absolutely adores them), but wouldn't mind at all if now and then you threw in a hint just to whet its appetite.

“So where are you taking us? Or are we walking for the sake of walking?”

“You'll see soon enough,” she says. "It's a surprise." Then adds, “Jason, that’s your problem. Life is not all about purpose or having a destination. You need to learn to relax. Do that and things will open up for you.”

Life is about that, I think, conscious now of another part of me, the adult part, that loves order. It’s good to know you have a purpose and to know where you’re going. And these days you're lucky just to have a job.Food runner—that was my last gig. That was like two months ago. One day I showed up to work and I’m like, “Why is everyone standing outside?” And they’re like, “They locked us out.” It didn’t take me long to figure out what was up. Like me, Lila has a college degree. But hers is in chemistry,and she can’t find work.How she makes it is a mystery.

At that moment I hear voices—people shouting, chanting, singing. As I draw closer, then round the corner, I hear more sounds: drums and guitars this time. The primitiveness of it all excites my inner child. But the adult, ever setting limits, ever pooh-poohing the fun stuff, pushes the child out of the way, and says, “Oh no,that's an—”

“Yep. You got it,” she says, smiling. I look at her, and she seems joyful, almost giddy with excitement.

And so this is how we arrive at the scene: me depressed, looking for the nearest exit, Lilaas high as akite.

Turning to meshe says, “Where are you?”

“I’m here,” I say, scratching a spot behind my neck, wondering if it might be cancer. “With you.”

She shakes her head.

“You’re so lame.You’re totally somewhere else. I mean, it's even in your face. You're so not in the moment.I can't believe I even brought you here.”

She turns away from me to look at the people, as if in disgust. Then she turns away from them to look at me again—now from the corner of her eyes. Then she purses her lips. We’re like mostmarried couples we know: theydesperately love each other, but can’t stop fighting to save their lives.

Sticking that familiar needle deeper into my flesh—in the thousand ways couples kill each other—she says, “So where are you?”

“I’m a million miles away. Okay?"

"You're still thinking of her."

"I'm not . . . Okay, I am, so there," I say, sticking my tongue out. "I am. I'm thinking of her."

Lila bites her lower lip.

“Good. That’s what I want to hear. For once you’re being honest . . . with yourself, I mean. That’s good. I think we can build on that. But you need to let it go.”

Whatever you say, doctor.

Newshounds thread their way through the crush of people and signs. One of them is particularly aggressive. Paparazzo-like, she pushes her way towards me, thrusts a microphone in my face, and says, “Sir, can you tell us why you’re here?”

I look down at my Chinese-made tennis shoes, as if they hold the keys to the universe.

“I don’t know,” I say.“Kim Kardashian?”

Lila gives me a nasty look, then rushes in to hog the microphone. A couple of people witness the moment via their iPhones.

“He’s twenty-eight and two years away from turning thirty.”

The crowd gasps. Lila looks me up and down.

“That’s like middle-aged. Anyway he’s going through andropause andhis body’s producing estrogen.”

People shake their heads. Lila looks at one of the cameramen.

“And the reason his body is producing estrogen is because he’s overweight and writes all day and doesn’t exercise and eats way too much junk food. Estrogen is not good if you’re a guy. That’s why his nipples are sensitive and he feels depressed all the time. But the real reason he’s here is because he needed to see this, to see how much of a tool he is and what he can do to make a difference and to make his voice heard. But not by saying ‘Kim Kardashian.’ ” Shaking her head and smiling, she adds, “I mean, where did that come from?”

People laugh. Lila looks at the ground.

“Anyway, so yeah, that’s why we’re here—to make a difference.”

She hands the microphone back to the reporter, who turns to one of the cameras and says, “So there you have it. The reasons why people have turned out today seem to be as diverse as the people themselves, as you just witnessed. But if there’s one theme that unites them, it’s this overall sense of frustration with where the country is headed and that things desperately need fixing, everything from the quality of education to crushing student loans to the lack of affordable healthcare to the widening chasm between the rich and the poor. Dave—”

Submitted: November 12, 2011

© Copyright 2021 Howard Splendour. All rights reserved.

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