John and Henry

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
John and Henry are two strange friends.

Submitted: February 03, 2015

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Submitted: February 03, 2015

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~~JOHN AND HENRY

 John and Henry were neighbors in the apartment complex where they lived. They had been best friends since grade school. Now, in their mid-forties, they were growing old together. Not to say that being in one’s mid-forties is old, but the two had given up on things like marriage and children, such that all that was left them were memories of the past and building drinks consisting of glasses of cheap beer. Their lives were passing them by, one gray hair at a time.
 John and Henry frequented each other’s apartment often, but now they most often met in John’s apartment. The reason is that Henry had the habit of expelling his own petards to be hoisted (pretty much the only thing one can do with one’s own petards, thanks to Shakespeare) upward to mix with the noxious miasma in his apartment. Not completely unsurprisingly, the part-time philosopher Henry had developed a scatological eschatology. He was also fond of deceiving his therapist by seeing his pharmacist behind her back.
 John had his own issues. He would often stay up late into the night and watch infomercials about (so-called) collectors’ items, which he invariably ordered. When these items arrived, he wouldn’t even open them. He would just toss them into his coat closet in the living room. It was getting to the point where there was no longer any room in the closet for coats. The packages were spilling out into the floor such that upon entering the apartment, one had to step over them. Also, when John was younger, he had boasted a somewhat svelte physique, but now he was beginning to succumb to his familial genetic code and was developing an enormous gut; so big that one could almost fashion an entire other person out of the fleshy protuberance.
 John and Henry were both chronically underemployed (or maybe not). Henry was a cashier at a chain retail store, and John worked at the local movie house.
 What more shall I say about them? Perhaps the best way to glean their particular brand of rapport is to listen in on them:

 Henry entered John’s apartment late one afternoon.
 John looked up from his computer where he was surfing for porn, and greeted his guest.
 “Hey. What’s happening, fish?” (John had never called Henry “fish” before and probably would never again.)
 “I just ordered some food from that new French restaurant down the street, and these appetizers are great. I brought some over for you to try. Have you eaten?” Henry asked, as he proffered the Styrofoam box in his hand.
 “No, I haven’t had a thing all day. I’m extremely inhungrinated. (One of John’s favorite hobbies was making up words.)
 He ravenously devoured the items in the box. “Wow, you’re right. These are great! They amuse my mouth.”
 “Hence, the name applied to them by my new Francophile friends.”
John’s mother’s favorite grandcat, “Boots” smelled the food and promptly began begging by meowing loudly.
 “Wow. Even Boots smells how good the appetizers are,” said Henry.
 “Don’t fool yourself,” said John. “Boots just wants any food.” John went to the kitchen to feed him. “It’s not like cats care what kind of food they eat. Boots probably doesn’t even remember what he had to eat this morning.”
 “I’m guessing cat food,” said Henry.
 “Well, yeah. But he doesn’t remember what flavor.”
 “Do you?”
 John looked up and to the left. “No. No I don’t. Maybe my memory isn’t so good, either.”
 “Is he still throwing up a lot?”
 “Yes, he is. We may have to move out west for his health.” (John watched too many Westerns.)
  Henry sat down on the ragged sofa. “Actually, I wanted to ask you something: My DVD player stopped working so I have to buy a new one. Can I borrow some money just until I get my next paycheck?”
 “Sorry, pal, all my money is tied up in cash.”
 “That’s cool. I can wait a week.” Henry sat back on the sofa and gazed upward. “You know, you should really clean up there. You have tons of cobwebs.”
 “Those are my Halloween decorations.” (Never mind that it was July.) “I’ll probably leave them up until next Halloween.
 “Did I ever tell you about the time I visited our mutual friend, Mathew, out in California?” Henry asked.
 John lied and answered in the negative, even though he had heard the story at least three times. The reason for this was twofold: Henry always reciprocated and allowed John to tell stories he had already heard, and because it was fun to listen for the embellishments and revisionist history of the stories. In fact, Henry had already begun to embellish this story: He had gone from saying, “my friend Mathew” to “our mutual friend Mathew”, even though John had never met Mathew.
 “Mathew and I went on this horseback ride from hell,” Henry began.
 Always the horseback story, thought John.
 “At a local bar, Mathew met this guy who took people on horseback rides. His name was Graham,” continued Henry. (In the original version Mathew didn’t meet Graham until the day of the horseback ride.) “Mathew thought it would be a fun thing to do during my visit, so he arranged for it to happen. On the day of the ride, Graham asked us how experienced we were. Mathew lied and told him we were both extremely experienced because he didn’t want Graham to take us on this little merry-go-round ride, which incidentally was the closest I had ever been to a horse in my life. Well, Graham proceeded to take us on this harrowing ride through the woods. One of the inclines we navigated was nearly straight down. (In the original, the incline was steep, but not anywhere close to ‘straight down’.) “I felt like I was about to die. As we got close to the stable, I was incredibly relieved that this ‘pleasure’ ride was about to end. Besides, I didn’t know how to ride, so my groin hurt for a month. (In the original, his groin only hurt for days.)
  Henry had hit a deep shot to left. But now, it was John’s turn at bat. “A funny thing happened at the movie theatre a couple of days ago.” (The ‘funny thing’ had actually taken place over a year ago, but every time John told the story, the incident had happened ‘a couple of days ago’. Also the two occurrences that he was about to relate took place months apart and had been told to him by two different co-workers.)
 “When a movie lets out, an usher stands nearby and holds up one of the velvet ropes so that patrons are directed out the exit doors instead of wandering around. If a patron needs to get by to use the restroom, the usher lets him pass. Well, when this one particular movie let out, George was holding the rope. The sun was starting to set and it was streaming through the glass exit doors and blinding everyone. The patrons came out of a darkened movie theatre and into blinding sunlight. Several patrons (really only one) smacked right into the glass panels beside the doors.”
 “Also, we were all familiar with this old guy who came to the movies a lot. No one had ever talked to him but he always looked disheveled and for some reason, he burped a lot. Well, Senor Burpalot wanted to get by to go to the bathroom, but George tried to direct him out the exit. Turns out that whatever problem the guy had that made him burp all the time was severe enough that he couldn’t speak. So, to get by George and the velvet rope, he just reached up and slapped George in the face. As George stood dumbfounded, the guy walked by to the bathroom.”
 John had just hit a vicious backhand down the line. But Henry got to it in time and hit a deep lob over John’s head as he approached the net.
 The deep lob was a story that Henry had told John many times before about highway misadventures. But it used to be a story that a friend of a friend had related to Henry. This was the first time Henry had actually been in the car. Also, one of John’s co-workers had told him almost the same exact story and it was starting to seem like an urban legend.
 “I was riding in Drew’s car one night. You remember that Drew has this weird sense of humor. (John had never met Drew.) He did this thing where he would speed up and get in front of another car, and then slow down to a crawl so that the other car would pass him. Then, he’d speed up again and pass the car, get in front of it, and slow down again. Well, usually the people he’d terrorize would turn out to be a family or an old couple, but this time the car he was terrorizing was filled with three Marines. We drove to our old pal Landis’s house (John had never met him, either) and these Marines followed us. When we got out of the car, this angry Marine got out of his car and confronted Drew about this highway ‘game’. He proceeded to beat Drew to a pulp. The weird thing was that the Marine was pretty short in stature and Drew was a big old football player. Drew could have easily taken this Marine in a fight. But I guess Drew felt it was his come-uppance. It wouldn’t have seemed right to him that he had terrorized this guy on the highway and then kicked his ass for good measure. So he allowed himself to get beat up, and he never played the highway ‘game’ again.”
 Henry had come strong to the hoop, so John had to get the rebound and come strong, himself. He decided to pull out all the stops and inject some sex into his next story:
 “Remember we used to spend a week at the beach every year?”
 Henry actually did remember this. John’s parents used to rent a cottage at the beach every summer and generously allowed Henry to visit for a couple of days between his work shifts.
 “Well, after you left last year, Naji and Zell showed up. (Naji and Zell were pretty female co-workers of John’s. He had long intimated that he had had sex with both of them. In actual fact, he had had sex with neither. John had invited them to the cottage. The only reason they came was because now they had a place to crash after hanging out at the beach all day.) You might guess that things got pretty interesting when they both showed up (it wasn’t interesting at all; the girls were best friends). One night, we were all walking along the beach (There was a long walk along the beach, but John wasn’t there.) It was just about to turn into a Penthouse Forum letter. But earlier, we had eaten dinner at a seafood restaurant, and Naji didn’t know that she was allergic to shellfish. Her face ballooned to twice its original size. We ended up spending most of the night in the emergency room, but if that hadn’t happened, we undoubtedly would have engaged in a threesome under the stars (no chance in hell that would have ever happened).

 They traded embellished old stories until late in the night. In order to keep their mouths well-lubricated, they drank copious amounts of beer. What shall I tell you next? One may think that because John and Henry occupied so much of their time with oft-told stories, the two seemed a bit unusual and unlike anyone one else. But the reader must please to remember that one could also make the case that they were remarkably similar to everyone else.


© Copyright 2018 Stephen Huether. All rights reserved.

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