AN: This story isn't really a bunch of short stories with tragic endings.
Disclaimer: I don't own SP
Warnings: Swearing, mild slash which won't happen for a seriously long time. Patience is definitely needed while reading this. You've been warned.
Short Stories with Tragic Endings
Is death the last sleep? No, it is the last and final awakening. -Sir Walter Scott
I look out my left window as I drive down the snowy road. I'm ten years older and I'm finally returning to my old hometown of South Park, Colorado. Since my parents had first moved to San Francisco they hadn't really looked back.
Seeing a couple kids in the distance sledding, my mind remembers a similar setting with Stan and me when we were younger. Even though we'd been best friends since kindergarten, after leaving South Park we lost contact. At first we had written, called, and emailed each other. Stan even got to spend a week with my family in California.
But as we grew up apart it became harder for us to keep in contact. Especially when my father got promoted and we ended up moving to another area in San Francisco. Our tight childhood friendship hadn't been able to survive a year of distance.
Now I'm back, but not for the reason I would have wanted. What finally convinced me to return to this small mountain town was not the mere idea of seeing old friends like it should have been. Instead, it's a funeral. Kenny has finally lost his tormented battle with God and hasn't returned after his last death.
I'm not looking forward to the funeral and not for obvious reasons.
Imagine my surprise while I was typing up an essay in my dorm room at Stanford when I received a call from a voice I barely recognized. It was a voice from the past, an older and much angrier voice. How Stan had gotten my number I hadn't asked. I simply agreed to come to the funeral when I heard the news and tied up a few ends on my side before heading out the next day to South Park.
As I near the town I subconsciously pat my straight and significantly darker red locks, play with one of my two earrings, and adjust my dark sunglasses. I ignore the gleam my sun kissed skin makes when compared to the snowy white area. To say I looked different is maybe an understatement. California had straightened and darkened my hair, and it gave me a permanent tan I didn't think red heads could get.
I know I look different.
I take a deep breath when I see the sign that reads 'South Park.' I'm here, back home… no, not really. California is home to me now. I glance down at the digital clock that is on the radio. I still have a good hour to be at the church for the funeral and knowing this town, everyone is probably gathered at someone's house going over how much of a shame it is that Kenny has died.
I decide to pass on finding that house. I don't want to talk with my old friends and old neighbors just yet. Instead I decide to eat something to pass the time along. I cruise down the main street of downtown South Park looking for some place of interest.
The town looks exactly the same. Major business chains have still not managed to take over this town, and all that remains are the local places. Though, I stop my car in front of a restaurant I don't remember from my childhood called 'Cherry Kiss.'
It sounds a bit fruity, but it looks good enough so I park and get out. I inhale the mountain air and look around. So far, I don't recognize anyone. Walking into the little restaurant I decide I like it right away. Soups, salads and sandwiches; the food my new west coast body prefers is what's offered. The place isn't packed, but it does have quite a few people talking and eating. No one is wearing black though, a good sign.
Making my way to the counter as I look at the menu, I become aware that I'm being looked at by every person in the restaurant. I sigh in slight annoyance. Does everyone have to blatantly stare? I remember quickly something. In a restaurant of a town full of people where the normal dress code is t-shirt and jeans, I stick out like sore thumb in my trendy bright clothing.
As I stare back at the people behind my shades I hear a deep voice.
"What can I get you?" he asks.
"Yeah, I'll have a-" I stop when I turn to look at the person taking my order. "Chef?" I mutter in question at the slightly older, but still plump man I had known in my past.
"You'll have me?" He raises his eyebrows, "sorry you can only have what's on the menu."
He doesn't recognize me. Although I've assumed a large portion of people might not recognize me, I guess I'd hoped the ones that knew me well when I was a kid would. It looks like I'm mistaken.
"No, sorry I'll just have a Turkey and Ham, a side Caesar, and a large water," I respond.
He rings me up and I hand over my card.
"Debt or credit?" He asks automatically and I tell him my preferred payment option.
I watch as he glances at my card before looking back at me curiously. "California?" He asks swiping my card through the computer before handing it back to me. "What's a guy like you doing here in this little town?"
"Business," I mutter out. I'm not sure why I'm reluctant to tell Chef who I am. I thought he'd at least glance at my name on my debit card, but I'm not surprised that the sunny Golden Gate background image on the card caught his attention first.
"Business here?" He looks uncertain as he hands me a slip of paper to sign. I scrawl my illegible signature on the slip before handing it back. He gives me my copy of the receipt and continues to look at me curiously.
I say nothing to his inquiry.
"You know kid, you look a little familiar," Chef says titling his head to the side and frowns. "Have we met somewhere?"
Deciding to give him a break I lift my sunglasses over my head and let them rest on my head. Chef's eyes widen as he looks at me. "Kyle-Kyle Broflovski?"
I grin sheepishly and nod. Chef laughs to himself and walks around the counter to give me a tight hug. He then pulls me back to look me over. "Kyle you look and sound completely different."
"Yeah," I say as I become very aware of my appearance.
"How've you been, still in San Francisco?"
"My parents are, I'm at Stanford for school."
"You go to Stanford?" Chef asks and I nod. "Well good for you Kyle. Not that I'm surprised, you always were a bit smarter than the other children."
I say nothing to mention of my old friends but turn the conversation to Chef instead. "You work here now?"
"Not just work, but own," Chef says proudly. I grin, happy for the only adult I've ever trusted.
"I should have guessed, I mean Cherry Kiss?" I laugh as does Chef, but he quickly stops. "What's wrong?" I ask.
He frowns before answering. "Oh, Kyle. I don't know if you've heard, but Kenny's died. For good this time. His funeral's today."
My own smile fades. "I know. That's why I'm back, that's the business I'm here to attend. Stan called me."
He looks surprised, "you and Stan are still friends?"
Are we? No, friends stay in touch so I shake my head.
"I hadn't thought so. I'm actually about to close up shop soon so I can head to the church myself. Why don't I push everyone out, make you your food, and we can go together?"
It sounds perfect, I'm a little apprehensive about arriving there by myself but I shake my head. Even though it'd be nice to show up with Chef there's too much on my mind to bother with having company and trying to keep conversation.
"I think I'd rather show up alone." I tell him.
He nods slowly, after studying me for a long moment. "Well then," he walks back around the counter. "Sit down anywhere and I'll get your lunch."
"Thanks," I give him a tight smile and sit in a far corner away from everyone else. I never thought I'd feel like an outsider in South Park, but I am, and everyone else in the restaurant knows it too.
Eventually Chef walks over and hands over my meal, and instead of going back to work he sits across from me. I welcome his familiarity. Hesitating after taking a bite of my sandwich I have to ask him…
"So… how is everyone?"
Chef sits back awhile and thinks about the question. "When you say everybody, do you mean everybody or Stan?" My eyes dart to the side and out the window before falling back on Chef. "I guess I mean Stan."
"Stan is good. He's going to South Park Community College and he lives in the middle of town."
I stare at Chef. "That's it?" I ask after a length of silence has passed between the two of us.
"I think you should ask Stan yourself how he's doing. You two were inseparable when you were little."
"But that was almost eleven years ago."
"I'm sorry Kyle but it's just not my news to tell."
"News, what sort of news?"
"…Ah fudge it, the cats out of the bag now. Kyle, Stan is getting married."
"Married? He can't get married he's 19!" Chef shrugs as I continue, "who's he marrying, is it Wendy?"
"Wendy? Oh no," Chef shakes his head, "you've been gone too long Kyle. Wendy and her parents moved from South Park five years ago. Apparently they just got tired of the stupidity. In any case, Bebe was pretty upset by the whole thing; they were best friends after all. Stan was there to comfort her and before anyone knows it, they're engaged."
"Jesus Christ…" I whisper out looking at my salad.
"Speaking of which, we'd both better head to the church soon."
"Y-yeah, um, can I change in your bathroom? I'm not dressed for a funeral," I ask gesturing down at my bright clothing.
"Of course, go on ahead. The bathroom is down that narrow hallway to your left."
As I toss out my garbage away I start toward the door heading for my car so I can get my black suit out from the trunk.
"Oh and Kyle?"
I turn to look back, "yeah?"
"It's good to see you back here."
In spite of everything I smile, "thanks Chef."
When I park my car in the parking lot I turn off the ignition and stare. I don't remember the large white church building looking so foreboding when I was younger. I finally get myself out of the car only to stop outside of the double doors, willing myself to take the first steps in order to enter. I take a small tentative one with my right foot, but firmly place it back down in the spot it had been originally. Damn it.
Without looking at my watch I know I'm late, really late. Late to a funeral. No matter the situation, it is never right to be late to a funeral and now I am. Now I have to walk into the church, hoping that no one will notice me as I take a small seat in the back.
People will notice of course.
In the silent mourning of a funeral while the priest talks everyone listens intently; so hard that every sound is heard. With such silence, the opening of a door quickly echoes throughout the room, and people will turn their heads. They'll turn and see me, a few might automatically turn back, maybe mutter an insult to me, the person late to a funeral. But a few eyes will linger, because those few will recognize me.
I can't help but wonder if Stan's noticed I haven't arrived yet, then I chide myself for thinking it. Stan's thoughts are probably not on me, but on the sermon where they should be. I wonder if Bebe is beside him. I wonder if Wendy returned for the funeral. She didn't care much for Kenny, but maybe she felt an obligation to come back. I wonder if she'll see Stan and Bebe sitting together and wonder why they are… But maybe she already knows, maybe she and Bebe kept in contact like Stan and I weren't able to do. She might already know all about the wedding, she could be in it as Bebe's maid of honor…
Focus on the funeral Kyle, I tell myself. The funeral.
It's strange, because even though I haven't seen the guy in years I still remember Kenny well. A lot of friends from my elementary school years I have fuzzy memories of. I hardly remember themmuch, and honestly Kenny should be one of them because he was in the background so often. But he's not, all my memories with him, as with Stan, are ones I can clearly envision. Ones like his perverted personality, I'll never forget that. And of course that orange hoodie, he wore it everyday.
But what sorta hurts the most is my inability to think of his specific facial features. Was he a light blonde or dark? I can't remember. What color were his eyes? Blue, no maybe they were green. I want to be able to remember before I have to see his pale body in a casket. I don't even know what he looks like now. I could end up looking at the body of a complete stranger. The thought of saying goodbye to a body, that I don't recognize…this is why I'm late. I'd been musing too much on the way here and then suddenly as I had been driving everything struck me as hilarious and I had to pull over to laugh.
To laugh at the absurdity of me coming back. I kept thinking what was I doing here? I don't belong here, because I don't know any of these people anymore. I kept thinking would other people do this? Would they attend the funeral of a friend who they haven't seen or spoken to in over a decade? Or was I just crazy and the stress in school had gotten to me? Maybe this was my subconscious's way of telling me to take a break, to go on vacation. But what sort of twisted subconscious thinks going to a funeral is a vacation?
Far too much thinking. And now I'm thinking again. Well, fuck it. I ignore the pull in my stomach and walk to the doors. I step back when they open and a huge swarm of people come out. I jump to the side to avoid their pace. I see all the black and all the lingering tears, and I hear the mutters about the sermon and about Kenny.
And I realize something; I fucking missed the entire service.