What’s happening, hypothetical readers? Here’s a little something I cooked up in the past few hours while trying to respond to a prompt for my creative nonfiction class, which asked for a piece that focused on use of dialogue.
Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
It’s one of those crisp nights in late October, where the air tastes like barbecue smoke and rotting leaves. The cicadas are dead, but there are still crickets shrilling, underneath the distant sound of cars on 250, which is about a mile away from Sean’s house. Most of us are there: Me, Will, Charles, Jeremiah, and Sean, on one of the first weekends of our senior year of high school. Jeremiah and me are smoking cigarettes, there are a few half-drunk bottles of cheap beer on the glass table, and a bong may or may not have made a couple of turns around our little half-circle. We’re sitting in wicker chairs on the concrete patio under Sean’s house, with Marley, Sean’s pup, lying underneath the table between us.
[David Attenborough Narrates]: What you are about to observe is the ritualistic bullshitting of the young human male. Here, in the suburban wilderness of Charlottesville, Virginia, a group of these fascinating creatures has gathered to engage in the telling of tall tales. Let’s listen.
“So, uh, Charles,” Will asks, already grinning, “what happened on Friday, bud? Nick says you literally almost died. Did you literally almost die?”
“Yeah he did, asshole,” I deadpan, and try to blow tobacco smoke at him without moving from my comfy slump.
“It was pretty stupid,” Charles says. “A bunch of us were balling on the courts behind school with Adam and them, and afterward, I was messing around in the car, and I tried to park Jay in.” Jeremiah shakes his head. “So, my car was in the middle of the lot, and Teddy was also trying to get out, and I was messing with him too, right? I was sitting up on his hood, and for some reason he floored it, and went right into my parked car.” He slams his hand on the arm of his chair. “Bam. My car is fucked.”
“The crazy part is,” Jeremiah cuts in, “The crazy part is, though, that his legs were hanging down in front of Teddy’s car. If he hadn’t moved them at the last second, he would have been hamburger.”
“Damn, dude. Is Teddy’s Stepdad heated?” asks Sean.
“I mean, he’s not here, right? He’s for sure grounded.” I reply.
“Dude, Nick, this reminds me of the time on the Downtown Mall with Jack and Bensah. You know what I’m talking about?”
“Oh, shit, yeah, the freemasons!” Will cuts in, “I was with you guys that night.”
“Yeah,” I say, “I remember. It’s right across from Bensah’s mom’s store.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Charles asks.
“Okay, so it was like, freshman year or something,” I say, “Before you and Sean came from Montessori.”
“We came freshman year. I had lunch with you and Jack.” says Sean.
“Wait -” I toss my butt into an empty bottle and fish around on the floor to find the case. “Shit, really? Riiight, I’m thinking of-”
“Anyway, tell me about the masonic lodge.” says Charles.
“So,” says Jeremiah, taking up the thread. “A bunch of us were on the mall, walking around, y’know.”
“We used to do that all the time,” I say.
“Yeah, and so we were really bored, and we decided to go into the Freemason building on the mall,” says Will, who is now peeling an orange he brought from inside the house, and flicking the pith onto the table. “There’s this stairway that goes up to this big meeting room, and there was just three old dudes chilling up there, totally silent. So creepy.”
“But here’s the good part,” I say, “We kept freaking each other out, so we ended up going in there again.”
“They flipped shit on us,” Will says. “Said they’d call the cops if they saw us again.”
“Pretty reasonable though,” says Jeremiah. “I mean think about it. You’re just chilling somewhere and some random kids come in, not once but twice?”
“Yeah,” I say. “It was still scary though.”
“What happened to Jack and Bensah?” asks Sean, “I haven’t seen either of them in a brick.”
“Jack is over at Miller.” Jeremiah says around the cigarette he’s lighting. “We still hang out occasionally.”
“And Bensah’s at Albemarle.” I say, “Me and Will saw him at the game on Friday.”
“Y’all got killed,” says Jeremiah.
“Shuup,” says Will around a mouthful of orange.
“Hah, Albemarle.” says Charles.
“Yo Will,” I say, sitting up and cracking my back, “Are there more oranges?” Will nods. I look a question at Sean.
“Yeah, it’s cool. Grab me one.”
I slide open the glass door to the house, walk up to the kitchen and grab a couple of oranges from a bowl on the table. Inside, all the lights are out, and the only sounds are from the fridge and the muffled conversation outside. I glance over at the clock on the microwave: 12:17. I think about checking my phone, which is in my bag over by the front door, but decide against it. I can worry about my folks later; I texted them that I was staying over, so hopefully I’m good. As I make my way back downstairs, I grab a wooly blanket that’s hanging over the back of the couch, it’s pretty chilly out there.
[David Attenborough] Soon, the bullshitting will reach a critical mass, and one of the group must issue a challenge.
I slide open the glass door to hear: “and Wade’s about to call a taxi, he’s freaking out so bad…”
“Wait, what?” I ask, sitting back down and tossing an orange to Sean.
“Oh, god, don’t tell it again,” says Charles, who’s leaning forward with his head in his hands.
“Okay, so it was last year after you guys played Albemarle in baseball,” says Sean, grinning when Charles groans. “And Jeremiah was driving me, Charles, and Wade Kamauff around in the car.”
“And we decided to go fuck with their field,” says Jeremiah, also grinning. “We went to Lowe’s and bought some spray paint.”
“How have I not heard this?” I ask, mouth hanging open. “Aren’t there cameras?”
“Yeah, but we were thuggin’!” says Sean, and he throws his sweatshirt’s hood up. I chuckle.
“Anyway, we drove to Albemarle and covered their outfield with paint, and then Charles -”
“God damn it.” Charles says, laughing now from between his palms.
“Charles shit on their pitcher’s mound.” Jeremiah barely gets this out, he’s cracking up so bad.
“But you don’t even play baseball!” says Will, “Charles, what the fuck?”
“I know. I know.” Charles says.
“Were you fucked up?” I ask.
“Not evennnn.” Charles moans.
There’s a pause. Crickets whine in the silence. Then –
“Bullshit!” Will says. “There’s no way.”