I think I have a problem.
The problem is thus: I am unable to keep myself from writing Super 8 fics. My doctor recommends that I continue to do so; I'm going to fire him tomorrow.
This is purely experimental. No plot, no nothing, just lots of appearances by the phrases "mint, production value, shut up, and holy shit."
While you read, listen to Jim Lang's "Groove Remote;" you can find it on Youtube. Not the Abner version or the Lockjaw version; just the original.
Nobody belongs to me. The terrible handling of their characterization should make this painfully obvious.
"I can't believe you invited Alice Dainard to play baseball with us." Charles sounded either extremely astonished or extremely disappointed; Joe honestly couldn't tell.
The sun was pulling down behind the trees and the sky was a darkening canvas of orange and rose. The procession of the five boys paraded along the sidewalk, not silent for one moment; Joe Lamb, his white-and-black ringer shirt stained with scabs of green, held a baseball bat up on his shoulder with a mitt hanging off the end; Charles Kaznyck was walking right in time with him, his cheeks red and shiny; Cary precariously followed on his bicycle with a bulky gray backpack; Martin hobbled in their wake in crutches and Preston straggled behind, face obscured by the pages of The Green Lantern.
"Who even cares that Joe invited her?" Cary exclaimed as the front wheel of his bike wobbled. "What matters is that she totally creamed us. All five of us." He paused and glanced at Martin. "Uh. All four and a half of us." Then to Preston. "Make that three and a half."
"Shut up, Cary," Martin snapped. His face was contorted into a scowl behind his glasses. "You're not funny."
"Oh, I'm sorry, Smartin. Did you lose your sense of humor in an accident or were you born that way?" Cary bit back, rolling his eyes.
"Yeah, Alice was great, though, wasn't she?" Joe said distantly. Charles looked to the heavens as if for mercy and shoved Joe forward.
"Just shut up and keep walking," he grumbled. "Nobody wants to hear you getting all mushy."
"Did you see the way she looked at me when I told her she threw like a girl?" Cary breathed, sounding terrified.
"Yeah, dude; she looked like she was gonna castrate you with an egg beater," Charles said with a shudder.
"Reminded me why we call her All Ice," Preston interjected, sounding half-interested as he turned a page. Cary nodded in serious agreement.
"Called," Joe corrected him, his voice still completely distracted. "We called her that. Like, forever ago."
"I always forget that a week is forever to Joe," Martin jibed, his crutches hitting the ground at a steady beat.
"Hey, let's go this way," Joe said, starting to turn left, toward the long, flat stretch of rubble that had once been an avenue of snug condominiums. Tall weeds and Queen Anne's Lace had begun to slither out from under the slabs of concrete and planks of burned wood. Cary let out a loud, completely unsubtle groan.
"I can't ride my bike on that, dumbass! It'll tear my wheels apart!"
"The obvious alternative is that you just don't ride your bike," Preston offered with a sniff, turning another page.
"Are you nuts? What the hell is the point of having a bike if you don't ride it?" Cary shrieked, sounding so appalled that one would think Preston had just thrown out a box of fireworks.
"Come on, guys. Production value!" Charles added the last bit in a tantalizing singsong.
"You're saying that like we care, fatty," Cary growled. Charles ignored him and plowed on unimpeded.
"I've got this great new idea for a movie. It can be kinda like that, uh, what was it; that really gooey French one—"
"It wasn't French, you idiot; it just took place in Paris."
"—Shut up, Martin! Anyway, it can like, explore the inner workings of young love and all that bullshit, except against the backdrop of like this totally wasted city, with like rubble everywhere and dead weeds and decay and sorrow—"
"Wow, Pugsley. If I didn't know any better I'd think you might actually be some stupid Hollywood director."
"Go to hell, Cary."
"I'll say hi to your mom when I get there!"
"Diane Lane was so weird in that movie, though," Martin managed to interrupt, limping forward with renewed vigor. "She looked like some kind of… I don't know, skunk."
"A skunk?" Cary repeated, turning to stare at Martin as though extremely underwhelmed. "That's the big metaphor you come up with? A skunk? That's not even funny!"
"That's not a metaphor, actually," Preston corrected them, still not having raised his gaze up from the pages of The Green Lantern. "That's actually called a simile, a comparison using 'like' or 'as'—"
"God, why do I hang out with such pussies?" Charles wondered aloud, sounding disgusted. He turned to the four behind him accusatorially. "Why do you guys let me hang out with you? You must be real douches."
The sun had dropped beneath the horizon now, and its faint tinges of yellow were beginning to bleed out of the sky as it deepened and dimmed. Stars were beginning to glitter sparsely above them and the moon, a mere sliver – Cary said it looked like a broken thumbnail – glowed feebly over the trees. The Queen Anne's Lace swayed in the breeze as though dancing. (Joe thought of Alice.)
"Why don't you try to make a movie like Woody Allen's? Like Manhattan. Except…" Cary spread one hand out in front of him as though envisioning a title on a marquee. "Lillian."
"That's such a stupid idea!" Charles snarled. "Who would want to watch a movie about Lillian? Jesus! Nothing ever happens here!"
"Yep," Cary said as he kicked at a twisted hunk of metal that used to be a car door. "You got that right."
They walked by the hollowed-out remains of a house that had been ripped open by one of the rogue tanks. Joe couldn't help but think of Halloween when he passed them, of carving pumpkins and scooping out all the insides and throwing them in the garbage, making faces when the slimy stuff got all over his hands. That was what a lot of the houses looked like.
"Joe, did you suddenly forget how to talk or something?" Charles suddenly shouted in Joe's ear, and he jumped considerably, letting out a yelp. Cary and Martin started cracking up.
"You scream like such a girl!" Cary squealed, his voice cracking with amusement. Joe flushed.
"What are you even thinking about, anyway?" Charles pressed him, squinting suspiciously. "Ever since the game you've been acting all weird. And you and Alice, like, left for fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes! That's fifteen minutes I lost for scripting time!"
"It really wasn't much of a game," Preston muttered. "It was more of a… stand-up comedy routine."
"Shut up, paste-for-brains; you weren't even watching!" Charles yelled. Joe cringed. He'd come to notice that Charles seemed to derive some grand enjoyment from raising his voice. "Seriously, though, Joe. What the hell?"
"I think he's in wuuuvvv," Cary teased, pretending to swoon and lose his balance. He managed to do more than pretend, actually, and at the next moment he was on the ground and a cloud of dirt was rising around him.
He wheeled furiously on Martin, who was standing behind him, looking bemused at the sudden obstacle in his course.
"Smartin, you were supposed to catch me, you dumb turd!"
"I'm using crutches!" Martin protested angrily. "I can't catch anything, much less you!"
"Don't be such a sissy!" Cary hissed, leaping to his feet and picking up his fallen bicycle before stalking ahead. Martin shook his head in frustration but said nothing.
"I'm fine," Joe managed to say after Charles had punched him in the arm and interrogated him another few times.
"I'm fine," Cary repeated in a high singsong.
"Tch, you are such a bad liar."
"Oh, hey, my house is this way. See you tomorrow, guys?"
"Not if we can help it, Smartin!" Cary retorted as Martin turned off onto Laurel Street. Martin pulled a face like he had swallowed a lemon and rolled his eyes.
"Wait. If that was Martin's street, didn't we already pass yours, then, Cary?"
Cary let out a wail of astonishment before picking up his bike, turning it around, and starting to run back in the direction they'd come. Charles grinned in satisfaction.
"Ah," he sighed happily. "Every time he leaves, I feel like I just got a brick taken off my foot."
"That would actually be very painful," Preston chimed in. "Studies show that pain increases when pressure is removed from a wound or sore spot because pressure cuts off blood flow and—"
"Dude, GO HOME! Your street's right there; GO AWAY!" Charles bellowed, pointing in the direction of a nearby cul-de-sac labeled "Baton Ct." Preston straightened under his tirade and scurried off.
"There goes another brick," Charles exclaimed with glee, striding forward to catch up with Joe. "God, I can't believe we have to go back to school next week."
"Yeah, it's lame," Joe agreed, wiping his running nose with the back of his hand.
"At least now we'll have a girl who hangs out with us. That'll make us look cool," Charles mused. "Even if it is Alice Dainard."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Joe asked defensively, frowning at Charles. Charles had seemed to blame Alice's returned affections for Joe on the fact that she was either some kind of nutjob or someone extremely cruel. She had not intentionally done him any wrong by liking Joe, and she felt guilty about it – so guilty that she had pulled Joe aside during the baseball game, taken him under the bleachers, and kissed him so hard he'd thought he would pass out. He was still a little dazed. He supposed he could commend her ability to go after what she wanted.
"Oh – no, no, nothing like that," Charles amended hastily. "It's just… she's not like, a hottie or anything—" Joe's frown deepened into a glower. "No, I mean, she's mint, she really is! But she can be kind of… I don't know. A smart alec? No, that's Preston. And Martin. And Cary. Do you know what I'm saying, though?"
"No," Joe replied flatly. Charles' cheeks went red.
"It's just—" He paused, thinking. "Well, I dunno. Nobody's going to think much of it unless she's somebody's girlfriend or something."
"She is," Joe said without thinking. Charles froze and gawked at him.
"She is? Holy shit, whose?" he shouted at the top of his lungs. Joe stared at him, not sure if he was joking or not.
"I, uh, I thought you kn—"
"Oh my God, it's not that asshole Sid Johanssen, is it? That guy's a total bean-head! And he smells like mushrooms all the time!"
"It's," Joe mumbled, still dubious. "Uh, it's not Sid Johanssen."
"Jesus, please tell me it's not Dwayne Eisenberg!" Charles moaned to the heavens. "He looks like a goddamn guinea pig!"
Joe shook his head.
"Holy shit!" Charles had grown fonder and fonder of expletives as the summer had pressed on. "Is she a lesbian?"
Joe stared at him for a brief second in silence before bursting into laughter. Charles looked extremely miffed.
"Dude, there are so many other guys at school besides that! Of course she's not a lesbian."
"Okay, good," Charles panted, clutching his chest as though recovering from a coronary. "Crisis averted. You can tell me now."
"It's m…" Joe caught himself. Charles was watching him earnestly, expectantly, and a tsunami of guilt suddenly crashed down on Joe. He swallowed. "…mmmmy secret. Just ask her if you wanna know so bad." Nice save.
"You're such a turd sometimes, Joe," Charles grumbled, twisting a knuckle against Joe's temple. Joe squirmed away, laughing, and soon Charles was laughing too. At last, they came to the street that split off to their respective houses, by which time it had gotten dark.
"You wanna come over and watch a movie or something?" Charles offered.
"Nah," Joe said regretfully. "I'm kinda tired."
"Pussy," Charles grunted, but the smile on his face assured Joe that he was joking. "See you tomorrow, okay? I'm working on a scene for the new movie!"
"Okay, cool." Joe beamed and waved as Charles retreated up his driveway.
When his friend was safely out of sight, Joe let out a sigh and put a hand in the pocket of his jeans, running his fingers over the tiny gold chain inside it.
"I figured you might… want another one. You know, since…" Alice had eyed him cautiously at the ball park that day – they'd gotten there early, before any of the other guys had, and sat under a spreading maple tree. In Joe's hand was Alice's dainty gold necklace with a charm on the end that no one could ever decipher (Cary said it looked like a tampon).
Joe had jerked his head up to gawk at her, and he had shaken it in denial, extending the necklace back to her.
"C'mon," he had muttered. "I can't take that. It's yours."
"You can give it back to me later," Alice had huffed. "I just… wanted you to have something for a while. So you could… put your hand in your pocket and not look so depressed anymore, like something really important's missing. It's really sad and I want…" She had sighed, scooting closer to him, her legs crossed. "I want you to be happy for a while. Is that…" Her head had been bowed, but now it was tilted up toward him, and she blinked her huge deer eyes pitifully. "Did that sound dumb?"
"No," Joe had replied giddily, sounding all too pleased. "No, it totally didn't. Thanks. Thanks, Alice."
"What the hell are you two doing over there?" Charles' voice had boomed over the grassy baseball field. "Quit being such pussies and get your asses over here so we can play some baseball! Jesus! I swear to God if you two don't quit getting so mushy I'm going to film it and show it to everybody at school!"
"Don't you dare even try, Charles!" Alice had screamed back as she got to her feet, brushing her knees off. Joe followed.
Maybe that was why she had beaten them. Even though Joe was the best player on the team of him, Charles, and Cary, one hand had spent the entire game in one of his pockets, gripping the chain of the necklace for fear that if he released it, he would be sucked into an abyss, an abyss with dimness (not darkness, dimness) and fog and not a single glimpse of blue eyes and blonde hair and laugh crinkles on noses.